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
Which is why Designer Musicis such a fitting follow-up to Programmed. A collection of Craig remixes, this compilation is a boon for techno vets but, more interestingly, offers an exposition of both the marginalized music of techno’s more immediate history and the uniquely fluid artistry of the remix. Craig remakes Johnny Blas’ rendition of Tito Puente’s mambo classic “Picadillo” with all the grace that seemed missing from Innerzone; synthesizers cruise over percussion until the original’s piano resurfaces with rumbling low-end bass effects. Craig’s work on Japanese spy-jazz combo United Future Organization yields still more fusion on techno terms. The rest of the tracks are either disco detritus, or house and techno classics. For the former, Craig takes Incognito’s groovy vocal jazz, Telex’s Belgian electro and Alexander Robotnik’s choppy Italian synth-pop and re-applies their ideas in an extended format, showcasing their signatures within his own pristine structures. For the latter, BT, Spacetime Continuum, Ron Trent and Inner City are Craig’s masterful partners in techno-loving-techno — examples of rewrites that don’t assert re-authorship, but re-form and revolve the layers of shared electronic space.
“No more sorrow/nothing borrowed/in the good life,” Craig echoes alongside Inner City’s 1991 club anthem “Buena Vida.” Borrowing something implies that you’re supposed to give it back when you’re done, but these remixes are fully rewired and recast as fresh A-side achievements from electronic music’s dance-floor avant-garde, free from rented jazz tropes or aesthetic recidivism. (Daniel Chamberlin)
VARIOUS ARTISTS Caroline Now! The Songs of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (Marina Recordings)
Record collectors are generally a surly and argumentative lot, quick to champion their own pet obsessions while deflating those of others (“Aw, c’mon man, everybody knows that Amon Duul II was better than Gong!”). But when navigating the shadowy, greasy-fingered realm of the record weasel, there are two truisms that will allow you to pass unscathed: 1) Brian Wilson is a genius, and 2) all tribute albums suck. To argue with the former would be tantamount to treason, while disputing the latter would instantly mark one as a sucker. Because while tribute albums can be a stone gas for the people who compile or play on them, they usually wind up as little more than sorry object lessons in what happens when enthusiasm outweighs inspiration.
A 24-track delight released by Germany’s Marina label, Caroline Now!, is a happy exception to the second rule, and one that actually sheds some interesting light on the first. Instead of leaning hard on tried-and-true favorites from Pet Sounds and the “Fun Fun Fun” years, Caroline Now!mostly offers a variety of obscure and unreleased Brian gems, rendered with palpable love and understanding by an intriguing array of artists, including Alex Chilton (“I Wanna Pick You Up”), the High Llamas (“Anna Lee, the Healer”) and Saint Etienne (“Stevie”). Most of the songs date from between 1968 and 1980, a period that’s generally hazy to all but the most devoted Beach Boys fans, partly because Brian was MIA for much of the time. Happily, entries like Eugene Kelly’s wonderfully Spectorian adaptation of Dennis Wilson’s “Lady” and the Secret Goldfish’s lullabylike approach to Mike Love’s “Big Sur” offer clear-cut proof that Brian wasn’t the only talented composer in the group.
But the best part of Caroline Now!is the way its 78 minutes actually hold together. While most of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits were good-time anthems, the majority of the songs featured here are charming (and often poignant) miniatures. Even with such disparate entries as the Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra’s Dire Straits–meets–Sun Ra interpretation of “Pet Sounds” and Kim Fowley’s smarmy reading of “Almost Summer,” the album creates a subtle and addictive vibe similar to that of, say, the B-Boys’ Friends or 20/20. This is one tribute record you’ll pull out almost as often as the original artifacts. (Dan Epstein)
THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION Three (Touch and Go)
Opening for the newly re-formed Wire a few months back, San Diego’s Black Heart Procession briefly transformed the El Rey stage into a sort of Rose Parade for the depressed. Vocalist/co-founder Pall A. Jenkins wore a giant red heart on his chest that lit up and throbbed dully all the way through the band’s set. Periodically, he leaned over a musical saw, drawing out eerie coyote moans that seemed to emanate from his own guts rather than the bent steel in his lap. Beside him, co-leader Tobias Nathaniel brooded over pump organs, hand drums, toy pianos. The effect was surreal, sad, a little frightening, a little tedious, like a polished circus-clown act in slow motion.
Even without the visuals, the Procession crafts the same sort of atmosphere throughout Three, their latest release. Tempos range from lilting to dirgelike. Jenkins delivers the lyrics with obvious relish, scattering cheery nuggets like “What holds you now/will bury you then.” What’s most remarkable about all this — and what saves it from bathos, or just plain silliness — is the total lack of affectation. Where gloom-funk specialists such as Portishead dress up essentially detached songs with operatic angst, the Black Heart Procession articulates a much more earnest and uncomfortable melancholy with understatement and the occasional sly smile. Jenkins’ flat drawl never leaps registers — it barely even shifts pitches — and all those saws and trumpets and echoes and waterphones give even the darkest Procession material a surprisingly inviting sparkle.