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 #282 reviews
It's Free, But It's Not Cheap
Also known as Matthew Alsberg, Antimc (as in not an MC, of course) dishes out some fun and occasionally crunchy electronic beats--leaving just enough space for a few MC friends to drop by and spin some rhymes.
I have to admit that I like the straight instrumentals better, though. The guest shots are decent, but the vocals don't add anything. They're kinda like heavy window dressing. These treatments work just fine on their own.
Alsberg does spin in William Orbit's, um, orbit, but he likes to range far afield. There's even some acoustic guitar now and again.
And, finally, Alsberg isn't afraid to get silly. When the sounds get really incongruous, you known you're being set up for a joke. Fine by me. Color me amused.
Arriving at Night
The sort of vaguely-jazzy minimalist electronic fare that I seem to recall emanating from Hefty. Not that this label can be pigeonholed, of course. I'm just saying this sounds like the classy sort of stuff Hefty has brought forth in the past.
Howzat for sucking up? Anyway, Bermon is a college student in Perth (Australia), and on the side he writes these contemplative compositions. The sound lies somewhere between laptop pop and somewhat ethereal electronic stuff, but the songs themselves are intensely grounded. There is a strong sense of structure within them, so much that even the slightest shift in rhythm or tempo tends to cause something of a tectonic shift in mood.
All that means is that Bermon is a master of putting together systems of patterns, and he knows well what happens when you shift. A lit professor of mine called it "dramatic tension." You know, the sort of thing that makes you want to pay attention to what's going on.
I swear, this is one of the lamest reviews I've ever written. But hell, take my word for it: This is one sweet album. Bermon sets a mood and then revels in occasionally ripping the carpet out from under your feet. That, friends, is something wondrous.
Sublimely disjointed songs. Paul Brill may write these songs straight, but somewhere between concept and final product he strips everything down. And his rebuilds are nothing short of miraculous.
Some might consider his approach a bit too meddlesome. At times Brill does seem to take a perfectly beautiful thought or melody and just bash it all to bits. The remnants survive, but in an almost unrecognizable form.
Still and all, this is music that hits on a gut level. In other words, Brill's evocative arranging is designed to affect the soul, not the mind. I can appreciate what he's doing, but I have no control over my visceral reaction to these songs.
It's a strong reaction, too. Without even thinking about it, I somehow gave myself up completely. Looking back, I can kinda explain why--Brill's deft ear and intuitive collage technique create some of the most arresting sounds I've heard in ages. Still and all, the heart leaps first. And that's always a good sign.
That old-fashioned low-lonesome sound, if you will. Tom Brosseau takes a seriously minimalist approach to country-folk ballads and in so doing manages to make everything sound larger than life.
There are hints of pedal steel and the occasional backup vocals. But most of this is guitar, voice, bass and drums--and that rhythm section stays out of the way as much as possible. This sound makes tough demands on the songwriting, but Brosseau is up to the task.
Indeed, these songs are so intimate that dressing them up further might well diminish their raw beauty. Not to mention that Brosseau would have to sing louder, and I don't think he's got the voice for that. At this volume, he has one of those vaguely quirky, endearing voices. You push that, and he might end up sounding like a strangled squirrel.
But he doesn't. Brosseau stays in pocket, these songs shimmer and the album rolls most pleasantly toward its conclusion. Exceptionally solid.
Clair de Lune
When this package from Deep Elm arrived last month, I said (out loud, I swear), "I sure hope this is a new Clair de Lune album." And damned if that wasn't one of the things in there. Sometimes things work out as well as you hope.
The easiest touchstone for these guys is the Mars Volta, except that Clair de Lune stays solidly in the punk. The guitars can get proggy or mathy, but the sound has been sanded down a bit. That lends just enough softness (or a ragged edge, if you prefer) to the sound, so that whatever tangents these boys may follow, you always want to return to base.
Clair de Lune seems to specialize in writing songs that almost break down before they resolve in some of the most mind-blowing ways imaginable. As if I could imagine where these guys would go.
Okay, I've heard two Clair de Lune albums and I must admit to having a feel for what might transpire. Nonetheless, these guys are some of the most creative and yet accessible songwriters around. There's a lot going on, but there's always a road map lying around. You'll never get lost--unless you really want to, of course.