Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #290 reviews
At Funeral Speed
Automatic 7 reminds of Social D. A lot. Except that these three guys are more bluesy. And a hell of a lot more rock and roll, too.
If I can be clear, early Social D was louder and more ragged. The major label stuff (before the complete abandonment of punk, that is) was more crafted. Automatic 7 relies on heavy duty riffage much more. These riffs are blistered at full volume and with plenty of energy, to boot.
The best of both Social D worlds, I suppose. And I also suppose that Automatic 7 would like me to write this review without all the references to another (much moire famous) band, but the truth is that anyone over the age of 35 will hear one song here and say, "Wow, Social Distortion hasn't sounded this good in ages."
Which is why I like this so much, I guess. It would certainly make things easier on my conscience if these boys owned their sound, but no matter where these songs come from, they're loud, tuneful and lots of fun. Turn up, tune out and let the rest of the world keep spinning.
Bear in Heaven
Red Bloom of the Boom
Seven songs that sound like they were created by a couple of mutant geniuses. There's a wiggy electronic (even ambient) feel to these songs, the sort of thing that generally doesn't lend itself to a band.
But Bear in Heaven is a band. And these intricately loopy songs are played more than assembled. Color me impressed. In the end, though, it's the final sound that matters, not how it came to be.
And this does sound like the inner musings of a disturbed mind. There is no set "sound," as one piece might be a relatively traditional "song," while the next piece is a sublime bit of experimental whimsy. Sometimes that sorta thing shifts within one individual song. That's when you know there's something cool going on.
It would take years to properly dissect the sounds here. Imagine if Aphex Twin was inspired to interpret 60s and 70s Pink Floyd in his own style. And that's just the starting point. I'm rather blown away. The ambition here is so far beyond what I can imagine that I simply must bow in awe.
...By the End of Tonight
Complex Full of Phantoms split LP
...By the End of Tonight bashes its way through near-manic angular instrumentals. Tera Melos is just as geeky, but there are vocals. Sounds like a winning recipe to me.
And it is. BTEOT is something of a lighthearted Don Caballero, featuring plenty of strength but also remarkable agility. These songs turn on a dime, but they make sense all the way through. I like the way these songs think.
Tera Melos plays music that's even more intricate and involved, and the guys play it faster. The vocals tend to be used more like instruments rather than lyrical vehicles--I've always like that approach, myself. Sound at the speed of light, with added brighteners.
If I haven't lost you yet, this album might. It's high-octane, well, music. Lots of speed, lots of power...almost a sensory overload, really. My brain is bleeding and I couldn't be happier.
and the Gove County Philharmonic
Time Stops to Visit... (2002)
Jim Connolly and the Gove County String Quartet (2007)
While listening to albums for this issue, I heard the String Quartet album first, liked it and tossed it in the "full review" pile. A couple days later, I listened to the Philharmonic set and did the same thing. I didn't realize I had two albums from the same artist until I sorted out the piles. These must have come in the same envelope and gotten separated.
Which is cool. I like it when I have two validations for a given review. It means I'm not losing my mind. Yet.
The String Quartet album is just that, a set of pieces played by a muscular string quartet. It is the newer album (recorded this year), though I'm not sure that matters much when we're talking about classical music. Classical with a hint of the avant garde, I suppose, but classical nonetheless. The melodies are often haunting, but the rhythmic passages really set this album off for me. This baby moves. Exceedingly well.
The Philharmonic album adds clarinet, trumpet, accordion and piano to a basic string trio (violin, viola and Connolly on bass). This album (recorded in 2002) moves, too, but in a much more conventional way. This one feels like a day at the fair: playful, exciting and ultimately exhausting. Sometimes the songs run themselves into the ground. In a good way.
It's easy to hear the progression in Connolly's writing. Where the older album is often manic without apparent motive, this year's effort is purposeful--almost stalking--in the way it moves. Both are vibrant and alive in ways that most music (of any sort) is not. Quite a two-fer.
A Manual for Free Living: Installation EP
Dylan von Wagner has a certain way about the way he sings. Imagine a restrained Eddie Vedder with a greater flair for the dramatic. The band itself seems capable of playing just about every side of rock and roll.
And it does on the four songs here. By and large, the pieces are piano-driven (ah, my not-so-secret weakness), but that doesn't really tie these guys into any particular sound. They can whip out a raver and they can take the slow burn the anthemic heaven.
Well-crafted, but even more importantly, well-played. The energy level is high, and the emotional impact of these songs is substantial. A full-length would be most welcome.
Jeff Hatch is the singer and songwriter for Ponyno. He did some time as drummer for Green Ice, who passed through Seattle in the mid-80s. I'm not familiar with that band, but I'm betting these 70s-influenced country rockers don't sound much like Hatch's old outfit.
They do sound awfully good, though. Hatch has a wonderful easygoing feel for his material, and the songs rollick and roll along. There's more than a bit of Gram Parsons in the harmonies here, but the general song structure is more straightforward pop-rock.
Throw in a little pedal steel and organ and the sound is almost perfect. Hatch's experience-worn lyrics are wry--and often wise as well. This album has sunset written all over it. I'd like to call this a "shine on" sound, but I don't know if that makes sense even to me.
Whatever you call it, please call it good. Ponyno is one of those projects that kinda comes out of nowhere to really impress. The sorta thing I simply can't put down.
Muscular and energetic (not to mention angular), not unlike the ...By the End of the Night/Tera Melos split. Except that this is nothing like that at all. Think more Minutemen than June of 44.
A lot more tuneful, of course, and somewhat more construction-conscious than D., Mike and George. But who isn't? This is some glorious noise that happens to groove on a funky math-hardcore axis. Push-Pull is really none of those things--far too strident and sparse in its sound--but the influences are obvious. It's the final execution that's most impressive.
These boys take solid ideas and kick them out as impressionistic works. Loud, wild and somewhat improbably technically superb. I want to know where these guys are going.