Welcome to A&A. There are 14 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #276 reviews
The Benevento-Russo Duo
Play Pause Stop
Somewhere between prog, indie rock and laptop pop lies the Benevento Russo Duo. I've been grooving on these folks for a quite a while, and they've been playing for even longer.
Marco Benevento plays keyboards (with generally two or three things going on at once) and Joe Russo supplies the skin work. And while these songs are impeccably written and arranged, it's the way these guys work together that really makes their music wonderful.
The sound on the album is slightly fuzzy--Benevento prefers that different lines have different sounds, and one of them is a slightly-distorted electric piano--which lends these songs a vaguely off-kilter feel. In no way, however, does this take away from the astounding melodic instinct of the band. And unless I miss my guess, these songs were recorded live to tape (or whatever). If not, these guys are even more talented than I've guessed.
These guys have been playing together for something like 15 years. You can hear it in the way these songs come together. We're not talking about mere anticipation...these two know what the other will be doing. And that rapport helps these intricate pieces come together most impressively.
Slyly dancing through the back roads of Americana, Black Fiction actually creates an amazing amalgam of modern music. Looping bits and pieces of roots flavor into the mix, Tim Cohen and Evan Martin show a deft hand with disparate material.
Oh, yeah, the lyrics are completely whacked. Sometimes they make sense. Personally, I like it better when they don't. Makes me think. As if the music here doesn't already.
This album was assembled on an 8-track Tascam 388 (not hard to guess, given the intentionally choppy nature of the pieces), and so there is a vague demo feel to the sound. 21st century demo, of course. None of that blasted old school incompetence. The sound is sharp, almost too sharp. But I'm sure that's the point.
Quite the romp. Probably best suited for those who prefer a little experimentation with their tunes. Black Fiction never plays it safe. The guys simply play it good (or is it well?).
When I Live by the Garden and the Sea EP
Take a cryptically-named band and add cryptic song titles (in addition to the leading name of the title track, the first piece is "I Will Not Forget that I Have Forgotten") and you get folks (or in this case, one folk: Matthew Cooper) who must be trying to be obtuse. Well, yes. And damned if it doesn't work out for him.
Eluvium (my dictionary doesn't have the word, though I'm guessing it has little to do with effluvium) produces soundscapes (that awful word which many of my music critic friends have sworn off using), but that's really beside the point. These are achingly pretty songs, and relatively short ones at that---the title track is the longest, and it clocks in at barely seven minutes. The four pieces here are frighteningly good, enough to make just about anyone cry.
I'm not exaggerating. The press has a couple of reviews that compare Eluvium to Brian Eno. Kinda, except that this stuff has much more soul--not a dig on Eno, but a complement to Cooper. These songs not only paint the landscape, they flesh out the story as well. Wowsers.
(Words on Music)
Breathy, dreamy Britpop that always manages to keep the ball rolling. These songs rarely get bouncy, but they're always kinetic. Nothing dawdling or dull here.
Not bouncy, but often bright and shiny. The underlying rhythms to the songs are quite playful, and the melodies often shimmer with grace. Simple they may be, but that simplicity translates into something most wonderful.
These is nothing complicated about the arrangements or the production. Fiel Garvie plays things straight up, and that serves the songs quite well. No need to pancake a pretty face, and there's no need to gussy up gorgeous songs with studio bombast. Add just enough adornment to emphasize the strong cheekbones and let the rest go.
I've liked everything I've heard from these folks, and this album doesn't change that. Quite impressive.
Lying on the floor mingling with god in a tijuana motel room next door to a veterinary supply store
And I thought Eluvium was being obtuse with its album title! Ah, well. Good thing I like these songs so much. Robbie Martin has been making electronic music for ages, and his assembly technique is impeccable. He never dwells too long on a particular sound or idea. Better to cut the sample short and repeat it than let it run too long.
An awful lot of folks could learn from that. Editing is difficult, but particularly important in collage-style electronic music. Martin uses his samples both as "melodies" (such as they are) and rhythms. Sometimes he uses the cuts as a something approaching a rhythm track. Like I said, he's good.
Good enough to make an experimental electronic album that is warm, even though it's filled with pops, crackles and other odd bits of energy. There's never a sense of chaos. Martin imposes a strict order on things even as he is willing to ply the edges of the musical sphere.
One of the best strictly electronic albums I've heard in a long time. There are so many layers to the pieces, it's gonna take me a while to peel through them. And don't worry: I will.