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
William Orbit: Pieces in a Modern Style (Maverick) Ambient tech-pop whiz (and Madonna producer) Orbit gets serious with the old ”electronic interpretations of classical favorites“ routine, ’cept he‘s rather holy about the material. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, the Pachelbel‘s Canon of the ’90s, is played straight -- from the movies. These are ”can‘t miss“ classics with small ornamentations and a very thin string-synth sound for emphasis on the artificial. He does a nice job of turning Cage’s ”In a Landscape“ into a space-pop ditty; his Satie is all low-key burblings and floating clouds; there‘re many electronic bleeps over undeviating run-throughs of revered melodies and harmonies. All very bee-u-teeful, but I’d actually say Tomita did this shtick better, ‘cause he mucked about with the material and had all the critics’ bowels in an uproar. Likewise, if Rick Wakeman had put out this album, know-it-alls‘d laff their heads orff. You can understand Orbit’s need, and his current prerogatives.
Ovuca: Lactavent (Rephlex) Finnish weirdo. Fukdtup electronic beatsdistortioncrown of thorns. Because he can, and did. Dirtytrashy, sick synth needle-adornments, nastee noise and radio squawk. Hey, this isn‘t very ambient; on headphones, it hurts, actually. But that’s how drum ‘n’ bass can turn out, as roughly compressed fuzzball flies with knives at your bleeding orifices and rusty lemonade seeping out the tear ducts. No-compromise adrenaline is similar in effect to our own Electric Company, a virtual heart attack Ovuca has been saving up for years and now gets his turn. And as if he‘s made you work for it, No. 15 is an enchanting flickering-flame of orchestral snatch and plucked guitar.
Lee Hazlewood: 13 (Smells Like Records) Peculiar singersongwriter, respected sort in the ’60s, ‘70s, chronicled in zippy ’70s-style pop-funk charts, wry words and wily-uncle vocal delivery. You get tight studio drums, wah-wahs, cheesareeno horn sections, barroom bluesy piano and guitar, and some genuine fine Southern-soul kinda playing on ”Rosacoke Street.“ All this beefs up Lee‘s wanderin’ tales, loved & lostwho cares tunes and several drinkin‘ songs, so when he tells his loser stories, it’s not a drag. Lee lived in Sweden for a long spell, by the way, and he‘s a real American character, likes of which . . .
DJ Spooky vs. Scanner:The Quick and the Dead (Beggars Banquet) The American and the English sound theoristsbigmouths square off, letting their electronic gear do the arguing. Spooky lapses again into his skanky reflex, Scanner his borrowed vocal scraps, then they hash it out in a medley of (at its best) sci-fi-ish future terrorisms. It might be jungle-ish, plenty of wicked panning and wired death rattles, and the odd hackneyed bass line -- somehow, dub-style comes into it, paying tribute to rhythm, internally, like a chromosome, and as it fissures it keeps plunging forward, on and on. Sit still long enough and witness gargantuan electronic glory: Nos. 4, 5 and 6 flow into each other for low-heat risings and fallings of multitones and campfire mood, and it all warrants some effort to soak in -- although one could argue that new shapes are in order, not endless blobs of sound, that digital ease is producing more mere aural ectoplasm and is incapable of producing any real musical tension. Meanwhile, much of this sounds original, and, uh, ill.
Dirty Three: Whatever You Love, You Are (Touch and Go) Six epic songs, wistful, ”ballsy,“ beefy poetics by the Aussie instrumental three-piece (no dang bass). Violinist Warren Ellis layers his ax with guitars on ”Some Summers They Drop Like Flys,“ and it’s all swelling waves, cresting, crashing, slipping back into the blue. They‘re a saloon orchestra, always something manly-emotional ’bout tit. Terrific restraint shown on drums and guitar, and Ellis plays fiddle, not violin -- rougher intonation -- on these non-weepy laments. Most any tune here is seasick and starry-eyed, builds with knocking drums, anthemic guitar mess and ardent violin saws. They wear their hearts and hard-ons on their sleeves, and you feel sympathy.
Mouse on Mars: Niun Niggung (Thrill Jockey) German electronic duo collab it up with real live horns and other ”instruments,“ not quite warming the sound but that being irrelevant. You‘re taking a stroll through a digital garden, or minefield, and curious, gleeful and droll are on the menu: Treated shards and lines of melodytexture rest among ska-ish jazzy horns and electrobeats, all crumbled up texturally but propulsive and ”catchy.“ The arrangements come by way of random-access editing, for often comical though hardly capricious juxtapositions; every sound is tightly compressed, which accommodates fresh use of distortion -- noise that’s physically satisfying. But if their electronically fabricated memories of soul music are full of surprises, it‘s all very busy joy-of-a-toy, and, lo, a sameness lurks, and its going-my-own-way neutrality begs the question of its commitment to anything but new technology.
June Tabor: A Quiet Eye (Green Linnet) This devastating album is a partnership between the English customarily folk singer and the Creative Jazz Orchestra of London. Tabor’s husky, seen-it-all voice fits wonderfully on several trad tunes plus contemporary numbers by Richard Thompson and Maggie Holland. In entangled-love songs, thwarted-love songs, an intelligent fire rages, a grave vocal prowess matched by trim, sympathetic band charts, stately piano. On Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain‘s 1938 ”I’ll Be Seeing You,“ she smolders economically as no American ever has, like she respects your intelligence. Thompson‘s ”Pharaoh“ is an anti-oppression song, fitting an ongoing theme of sorts. There are so many heartbreaking moments: When Tabor gets to her version of ”It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,“ no kidding, it‘s thrilling, and her a cappella ”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face“ is the most deeply moving I’ve ever heard. Choosing substance over saccharine, in fact A Quiet Eye grows in dignified melancholy toward its conclusion. It holds out the smallest glimmer of hope for love, yet it feels victorious.