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 #296 reviews
Pray for Me By Name EP
Five songs that sound to me like a modern rendition of the electric piano-driven songs penned by Alan Price (remember the Animals?) for the Malcolm McDowell film O Lucky Man!. For those of you not tied to my Netflix queue, that translates into kinda soft-rockin', rootsy stuff that sounds utterly sophisticated when played out through the keyboards or guitars.
Gorgeous pop songs, the kind of things that would be soaring anthems if Ahearn trended that way. He doesn't, though, and the result is immeasurably more enjoyable gems, subtly crafted and sublimely played.
Unrushed, intricate pieces that instantly dance upon the ears. Perhaps Ahearn will take a bit more time off from Ill Lit and do us a full length. Sure would be nice.
Stuff that might have been released ten years ago. Anthem In traffics in tight melodies and insistent rhythms--more often alternating the concepts rather than melding them together. I'm more of a synthesis guy myself, but I must admit a certain attraction to this sort of deconstruction.
It's slightly schizophrenic, of course, but that's cool. As long as the engine keeps firing away, it doesn't much matter which gear the band finds itself in. The disjointed structure doesn't do much for song cohesion, but the craftsmanship is so high that most songs do, in fact, hold together.
I'm not really tied in to what's popular these days, but the reference on the press sticker to Pinback makes sense. There is a Rob Crow influence in the off-kilter build of the melodies. I'm a sucker for that.
An unsettling disc, but I think that's a good thing. Anthem In isn't out to make a bunch of kids hold up lighters. I think the band has more ambition than that.
Ultra-sharp orchestrated pop, produced by (no surprise here) Mitch Easter and Rob Keith. Keith is the band's main songwriter. Mitch Easter is...oh, c'mon. Let's Active? Produced Murmur?Etc.? Thank you.
He still knows what he's doing, by the way. As does Baskervilles, which might well have crafted the first orchestral garage album in history. I suppose that's not quite right, but it's closer than you think.
Most important to the sound is a lugubrious pop bass line that seems to burble through every song. Some might think that such a thing could just be programmed in, but an awful lot of bands seem to forget that as the bass goes, so does the butt. And if your butt doesn't feel the groove, there is none.
Mine's shakin' plenty, and yours will, too. These bright, peppy songs keep on coming until fourteen have passed. I hope these folks didn't wear themselves out. This is going to be a tough act to follow up.
Phil Western and Mark Spybey reconvene ten years after Download's first demise. Spybey is the guy behind Dead Voices on Air (reviewed in these pages 13 years ago), Zoviet*France and other similar projects. So maybe funky is a subjective term.
This is, however, much more delicate than, say, Download. It's also much more accessible than DVOA. The gist of the album is a series of wig outs, of course, but more cerebral than raucous. Western and Spybey work hard to get inside their sound. It's an almost impossible task, but sometimes they succeed.
And then that happens, the world actually turns upside down. If you're not careful, your brain will escape to balmier climes and you'll be left wondering who turned out the lights. Don't worry; I've been there. Just wait out the disc and you'll find your own way home.
Beehatch travels far afield, but the journey is most rewarding. Conscious thought is your enemy. Let the music take control and everything will be alright. Trust me.
The Low Life
It took me a while to comprehend why this disc stuck to my brain like a whiny three-year-old. And then I listened to a couple of old Kepone albums and it hit me: Rhythmic bliss.
Trios are kinda uniquely qualified to create seriously rhythmic music. The bass and drums take on more melodic responsibilities (as it were), and one of the ways to do that is to blister the rhythms to an almost impossible level.
Such is the greatness of Dropsonic. The guitars stick to the rhythmic path as well, and that makes these songs pop out with that much more fervor. Strident and striking, to be sure.
Dazzling Killmen also come to mind, though Dropsonic is bit less bombastic and a bit more sly. I hadn't heard stuff like this in ages, and now I crave it like no other. Dropsonic made me lapse. Bastards.
Steven Hess/Miles Tilmann
True story: When my wife and I were preparing for the birth of our first child, our childbirth instructor suggested we bring some CDs that might help my wife meditate during labor (so as to have a natural childbirth). The disc she liked best was Miles Tilmann's Underland EP. For a variety of reasons, we never used the CDs, but I've always had a bit of affection for that EP.
This album is much more abstract than that EP, but I still feel some sort of kinship with Tilmann. The sounds are subtle, but the ideas have force. You just need to wait for them.
Well, and perhaps turn up the volume. This one isn't going to surprise you with sudden lurches into fortissimo; it's merely going to amaze with the breadth of its thought.
This one would be good for the hospital, too. Lots of meditative possibilities, but hardly boring. Quite stirring in its own way, actually.
Steuart Leibig/Tee-Tot Quartet
I tend to hear Leibig's work as straddling the avant-garde and accessible worlds. Most of the time, I'm an avant-garde kinda guy. But I tend to like Leibig's more straightforward work best.
This album, however, seems to straddle the straddle, as it were. Leibig's contrabass work here is fairly conventional in a melodic sense, but his pieces are anything but. In particular, Dan Clucas's work on the cornet is spectacular. He kinda flits through the universe as Scot Ray on dobro and Joseph Berardi on drums keep order.
Each player takes his share of solos. Ray's dobro work is exemplary, and he takes his turns with aplomb. But these pieces seem written to feature the cornet, and Clucas is the clear star here.
I'm cool with that. These are well-constructed pieces played with style and emotion. In the end, I'd say this is one of my favorite Leibig efforts. Very nice.
Smile Like You Are Somewhere Else
A solid Albuquerque pop band that doesn't try too hard to sound like an Albuquerque pop band (if you know what I mean). Lean melodies, some sweet keyboards and fine jangle.
Indeed, the feel is cool all the way. I don't know if the "robot" in the name is a reference to the keyboard sound, but there's more than a bit of the new wave in that element.
Nowhere else, really, which is what makes these guys so interesting. Most of this is straight garage pop, produced with an extremely loose hand. The sound is bright but thin. It kinda screams "indie" at the top of its lungs. And that works with these understated songs.
Nothing spectacular or otherworldly. Just cool music kicked out with an extreme lack of pretension. So no, this doesn't sound that that ex-Albuquerque pop band. But it's quite good as well.