By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Beanfield: Beanfield (Streetbeat) Munich trip-hop techno-funk electro-whatsit trio, tres cool due to their ultra-controlled thoughts about the space surrounding their oily pulses and airy, mechanical voices. Beanfield's got plump synth bass and funk-not-hip-hop drum sequences, minimal parts drawing the essence from the classics for max effect. Tossing in the electric induction noises, they have realized they're indebted far more to Kraftwerk than Kool & the Gang, and that is a big shift in the pop attitude.
Brian Wilson: Imagination (Giant)Not as good as his comeback album of about 10 years ago, 'cause the settings cry out for more zest, not more sheen. "Your Imagination" kind of lacks one, though dripping with Brian's radiant barbershop harmonies; it turns into a Coke commercial, but then he made 'em what they are today. "She Says That She Needs Me" is a Pet Sounds-ish epic with a hint of that special little swagger. His "Keep an Eye on Summer" remake has deluxe modulations and reharmonizations; he also redoes "Let Him Run Wild." There're audacious harmonies in "Cry," and no mediocre lyricists like Carole Bayer Sager to soften it up. With its "bad circus" vibe, "Happy Days" is eccentric and exciting - Brian laughs acidly at his pain, then plops pretty chord progressions into the chorus. It all gets to sounding okay - Brian's back - but he can do much better, and he will.
The Centimeters: German Verbs (Bzang) A local buncha cranks, the Centimeters seem Syd-like in their non-chord acoustic strumming and mumbled antipop; their sour tuneage and eerie sound patches are like a dare. There's a weird dirty grace in "The Eskimo Song" and its swirls of cheapo synthesizer, and in the pensive theme of "Procession." They play by their own bad-dream rules, so you're forced to admire the sardonic integrity within these "grooves."
Chika Chika: Chika Chika (WIN) They announce their own name on the opening cut, a smart move. Elsewhere, CC smears colors in cuts with many, many far-out instrumental touches. The opener is circusy, guitars and organs and substandard synthesizers - elaborate, a lot of thought and effort put into it. And such good humor! Tom Grimley's engineering touch of amp buzz on every song is getting old, but maybe these songs wouldn't have got made at all without his presence. Psycho-funny fun, like the Silver Lake-style sarcastic voices on "Tight Whitey," but another good arrangement. "Candy Shoppe" is in a funxploitation mood (a bit cluttered); the vocal version of "A Story So Old" is a tuneful drone with dramatic shifts in tone - its instrumental version is just plain different music, conjunctions of instruments into wide-screen glory, vast canyons of sound.
DeeJay Punk-Roc: ChickenEye (Independiente) The vibe is cast on the opener, "I Hate Everybody," where they don't sound like they do, just hate being hemmed in. What they like is old-school, anything so long as it's from the past. It's all jess plain fonky, man, all these electro, TV-kitsch samples, hypermetal/funk/R&B soundscraps (they make "Far Out" a vocal loop, like these muhfukkas are too smart for all that peace & love-type jazz), scratchin' and Doug E. Fresh-style boomin' bass drum sound, chintzy synth soundz, next to real pretty airy SHIT - juxtaposition is all, big fuckin d. "All You Ladies" is a sweet tune, actually, with trumpets, beats, fx, jazzy e-pianos, acoustic bass, all that kinda "urban" SHIT, and you'll have no shortage of vocoders, all of it in one nifty package, delightful dessert recipes too.
Fantastic Plastic Machine: The Fantastic Plastic Machine (Emperor Norton) With the pores of a sponge, these Japanese soak up lite and loose our common pop refs, spurt peppy disco beats and revel in tone color. It's a musical approach to dance-pop, invigorating pop-cultural tourism - like the Pizzicato Five, whose righteous Maki Nomiya guests on "Dear Mr. Salesman." The sparkle is in the deft stitching of the crappy organs, multicolour harp breezes and tight trumpets.
"Fantastic Plastic World (voice 'n' baroque)" has a colossal palette of finger cymbals, funky drums, thereminlike moan and harpsichord, like . . . why, like a new Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra record! Motown rears its pointy head throughout, and in "Filter," with its Herb Alpert honky horns and lovely, lovely angel's choir, one can see perhaps an Acapulco evening walk in the sand, in scarf and shades. And this is exactly the point.
Grupo Mono Blanco y Stone Lips: El Mundo Se Va a Acabar (Urtext) Rather scholarly effort at a new son jarocho (music of Veracruz, Mexico). As the notes succinctly point out, this is not an overtly sentimental sound, yet it's emotionally charged, a la baroque; the feeling comes through dense musical content. It's all about the wonders of spidery counterpoint, like minuets; these primly beautiful tunes are played on guitars, cuatro, violin, voices, percussion and piano. Gentle, wise, very relaxing.
Ketil Bjornstad/ David Darling/Jon Christensen/Terje Rypdal: The Sea II (ECM) Three Norwegians, one American, four longtime friends make a kind of sentimental, romantic new piano jazz that never gets the chance to cloy, as Rypdal's searing electric guitar cries keep nagging at it. A troubled beauty pervades, elegiacisms with startling chord changes and parallel-world unison lines, pulling you in. Ponderous, the good kind.