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 #291 reviews
(Pox World Empire)
Pox's seat of government sits just on the other side of downtown Durham from my old place. That said, I was unfamiliar with Audubon Park. Luckily for me, that situation has been rectified.
These boys play all sorts of music. The only thing that really ties all the styles together is an obdurate looseness that always threatens to rips these songs apart. Wander through the CD, and it's easy to get the sense that there's nothing at the center.
That would be wrong, though. The willful deconstruction is somewhat lessened by the kinetic power of the playing--there's lots of energy here, even when it sometimes feels like the pieces are being fed through a jet engine or something.
I like that. Pop music (in just about every form you can imagine) fed through a jet engine. And then swept down a drain. Some of these songs do feel like remnants, but that's cool. Sometimes sloppy has nothing to do with seconds.
East L.A. Breeze
(South China Sea/Vendlus)
Pretty much the opposite of Audubon Park. Brazzaville trafficks in ultra-crafted smooth pop. Sometimes with laptop beats, sometimes not. In any case, these songs are as tight as this year's F1 championship points race.
But, y'know, much quieter. Brazzaville sets up a groove and then spins little gems within it. The sorta sound that is immediately arresting. What makes these folks so good is that they keep these songs fun.
Even when the songs are serious, I hear jokes. Or, at least, self-deprecating asides. Very dry, of course, but there is levity. For all the hard work that is (almost too) apparent here, these guys still know how to have fun with their music.
I do wish the band would unwind just a bit. But when you've cut the diamond this nicely, it's really hard to tone it down.
In the Marshes
(Words on Music)
Some loverly, almost new wave-y beatwork on these pieces. Both "live" and electronic, mind you. And the other two guys play off the rhythms with some quality atmospherics of their own. But these songs key off the percussion.
The sound is vaguely goth, though filtered through mid-80s U2 and that sort of dramatic rock. Ringing guitars, inobtrusive bass (which is why I didn't compare For Against to New Order) and moderately soaring vocals.
It's an exceptionally uncomplicated formula, but most folks try to do too much with it. This trio keeps things simple, and so the pleasures of the songs are what strikes the listener first. The sound is cool (especially for someone who was in high school in the middle of the 80s), and it works.
I suppose there's an element of retread here, but For Against brings these "old fashioned" ideas up to date nicely. A most solid disc.
The Ginger Envelope
(One Percent Press)
One of those "hey, we should be in a band together" sort of things (there are members of Dark Meat, Venice Is Sinking and South San Gabriel within), the Ginger Envelope roams around the subdued rock universe with laconic grace.
I kept waiting to get bored. This sort of midtempo-at-best feel is not my sort of thing. I usually tune out after a minute or so. My theory is that anything you can say quietly sounds a lot more convincing when you scream it at the top of your lungs. The Ginger Envelope begs to differ, and I think I can hear the point.
Those who do like getting mellow more than me might be surprised at the amount of texture within these songs. There's a lot going on, especially when the band seems to be standing still. And I'm not talking about background stuff. The Ginger Envelope is so hypnotic that it's possible to miss sounds that are right on top.
Something of a sonic sucker punch, I suppose, though these folks seem far too mild-mannered for that sort of thing. Or maybe not. There's more here than meets the ears--at first listen, anyway. Well done.
If you're wondering, Cordless is something of a boutique label within Warner Brothers. One of those experiments the majors are conducting to try and figure out how to stay relevant in the music business. Just so you know. Now, on to Jupiter One.
Tight and bouncy pop, with just enough reverb in the guitar to sound, well, cool. This is not just crafted, but conceptualized as well. I wasn't surprised in the least when I figured out where the Cordless offices sat. Nonetheless, I always tip my hat to a major when it actually releases interesting music.
Jupiter One is most interesting--and it's certainly accessible, as well. It might help to think of a brighter and lighter Flaming Lips. I do wish there was a bit more depth to the songwriting--these pieces seem to be exactly what they are--but I can live with that.
I'd like to hear these folks step out on a few more limbs. I think the band has the chops to do it. Nonetheless, this is a fine little disc. Summer may have passed, but the next wave has yet to break.
The Kindness Kind
Take the vaguely nasal vocal style of a Hope Sandoval--but this time, throw it in the middle of a band that knows how to rock. Alessandra Rose (that's not her real name, is it?) kinda tosses off her vocals, and that offhand delivery is exactly what the music demands.
These are songs, I suppose, but they sound more like canvasses to me. The pieces aren't always constructed in a straightforward fashion, but again, that's one reason why the energy of the band and the almost uninterested vocals work so well.
The sound is very much assembled. There are all sorts of little bits and pieces (extraneous sound, etc.) sprinkled into the songs. That sort of thing can get tedious, but here it's done with subtlety and restraint.
Perhaps that "band that knows how to rock" was a bit of an overstatement. The Kindness Kind can certainly kick out the jams when it wants to do so, but most of the time it is content to conduct intense explorations into the softer side of music. That's okay. There are no drones here, just good music.
You, Me & Everyone
Pedro is James Rutledge. And James Rutledge likes to take criminally thrilling beats and infuse them with all sorts of flavor.
There's the general electronic flavor, the trippy rock flavor, the big beat flavor, the prog and pals flavor and more. Best of all, Rutledge doesn't confine himself to just one flavor per song. These pieces explode with a full variety of forceful and subtle sounds.
The overall sound is electronic. Rutledge leaves no doubt that these pieces are assembled. And I think that works. Some folks prefer a more organic feel, but Rutledge goes on so many extreme flights of fancy that he really can't hide where he's coming from.
Where he's coming from, of course, is the realm of musical polymath. There are so many ideas burbling around on this disc that only an inspired writer and master craftsman could slot them together in any sort of coherent context. Rutledge does better than that. He makes these songs sing.