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Fog Heart 

New discs

Wednesday, Nov 15 2000

Self Gizmodgery (Spongebath) Gag me with a tune, he played all his rock music on toy instruments, and what a meaty, squishy sound. This Tennessee peckerwood’s pudding pop is promising, he packs loads of good ideas in his breeches, big-ballin’ thrash-psych-hop beats and brevity, even polytonality, and everywhere: XTC/Beck hover like hams. “Gotta Truck Fulla Amps, Motherfucker” goes “Mother . . . fucker” for emphasis — a Beck parody. Beautiful chocolatey bridges, wondrous shadings, hi-larious/straight version of “What a Fool Believes.” E-Z smartass stuff, all right, but sheer cleverness can teach us things — sometimes.

Doves Lost Souls (Astralwerks) Doves soar, flange out, arc & turn: desire/regret/fear, some kind of passion for mapping emotions. Initially Floydish, like the opening-suite instrumental with its recurring niggling motifs, the songs are never what they seem to be: a Wire-like band high on John Barry and Truffaut; minor keys a dark plus, surprising chord shifts, and all three boys credited with samples, as is often the case with your “groups” these days. Plaintive (as in across the plains) but not hectoring sounds, and it grows and grows irrefutable . . . they are an elliptical band, not jolts but odd swerves, and their overall intent is never clear, which is exhilarating.

Dry & Heavy Full Contact (Beat) Catcha buzz to this tight, phaatt & phunky freaky dub family from Japan, dub suites the way they oughta be — messed up! Nice to hear the language (patois & music) warped even further. They got the timbres right (rounded, muffy, munchie), offer a nice line in lovers-rock, too — flutes — and plenty old-school spring reverb. They’re the Sly & Robbie of Japan, more variety in their stash, though, like “Private Plan”’s seeming Lee Perry/Gentle Giant/ Beefheart/Jethro Tull homage and foolish grow-your-own lyric. Now, can I have a bite of your sandwich?

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Freight Elevator Quartet Becoming Transparent (Caipirinha) Gosh, what a prissy name for a record. Straddling art and beat-music, and if A then B also D, FEQ pimps cello, drums, guitar, vocals, straps on electronics till everything’s stippled, chipped, aborted and deep-fried. Copious gentle, dreamy ’scapes, jogging drums, looped and fondled but not horsing around as such. Again, everybody plays and has a hand in effects, samples, etc. (it’s a trend), but if you peeled away the electric devices it’d be liteweight, and tee-jus in melody/harmony. Then they’d say that’s not the point, and I might agree, since, okay, I know that in much music the sound is the music. Fortunately, this album gets heavier, though the drum & bass w/ cello & electronic showing off is deadeningly too prismatic, like nervous-system music that stays in the brain and doesn’t really get into the nervous system. Rather like reading about paintings, though “Connection You Didn’t Think Possible” partly makes up for all of the above because its thicking/thinning and corroding textures are constructed, and don’t settle on one mood — shape is much more interesting than sound.

Björk Selmasongs (Elektra) What it is is presence — you’re in the company of someone with charisma, or at least character. The razzle-dazzle of these orchestrations will throw some Björk fans who haven’t seen the film (sob!), but there can’t be many of those. There’s weird life in Björk, so some of us can’t help loving her — I think you’re supposed to fall in love with Björk to really succeed with listening to or watching her. Along with Björk’s bursting passions on the big show tunes, her own self-performed cooing/gurgling/whispering cuts with celeste and scratchy loops are potent interior worlds — you can’t buy an ear for affecting sound like hers, an affected voice of exaggeration, longing and circumstance, and sex, I guess. Björk the person and the musician is far more useful than any abstract art; she makes a perverse then ecstatic hash of the cold realities that dominate our lives.

Goldfrapp Felt Mountain (Mute) There’s a Björk in Alison Goldfrapp, too, in her love/unlove singer-songs, lovely insular wishing. But she Goldfingers it on this mood music’s quietude-into-panoramas and foreign intrigue, Shirley Bassey high on pine in the Alpine sun, a stranger with binoculars. This thoroughly modern production drips with twice-removed emotion, florid not fetid tone colors of Morricone/Barry/Portishead and everything widescreen, where sultry females roam; the strings and brass are pretty unto audacious, electronic effects itch and guitars subtly mock — a far-reaching romanticizing of a certain type of feeling, something alluring but ill-fated . . .

U2 All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Interscope) “I’m just trying to find a decent melody,” sings Bono. Something has happened: U2’s song — the one they’ve been filling albums with for 20 years — is nagging in my head . . . Amnesty. Greenpeace. They’re good guys, like Springsteen, and somehow I never enjoy bagging on ’em (and a great rock drummer is Larry Mullen), but I just can’t hear Bono’s soul-striving style, which directly affects my ability to value his believably heartfelt though somewhat banal lyrics (stay the course: questions of faith, organized religion, “righteous” wars). Their music is strong but gray (small Eno/Lanois production seems very subdued and adult). Then comes “New York,” where the grayness is grand, addressing failure even as a glint of hope peeps through.

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