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
Suv’s solo project is called Desert Rose, a debut full-length for himself and the label Full Cycle, and with the very fine exception found in the Spanish ambience of “Flamenco Cybernetico” and “Nina,” the album is mercilessly anonymous, plodding away with those murky murmurs and morbid bass-line abysses that have made the current sound of d‘n’b the musical score of a heart-attack drowning. True, the soullessly dark reaches of today‘s d’n‘b is a topic beaten to death, but it makes no sense in giving up when you’ve got A Guy Called Gerald producing something like “Humanity” and J Majik recently dropping “Love Is Not a Game,” awesomely vital vocal tracks that prove there can be a deeply humanizing response to the genre‘s cryptic mechanized groove.
Why isn’t there a proper vocal track on Desert Rose? That‘s not to say that the woman’s voice is the only way to lead d‘n’b out of its dead-end corner, but surely Suv could have put individualism in perspective and learned from the success of Reprazent and his own side project Reel Time, which features the beautiful songstress Virginia. Let the girls sing, man, let ‘em sing! (Tommy Nguyen)
BEULAHThe Coast Is Never Clear (Velocette)
Summer records come in many varieties. These days, the best ones happen in hip-hop, because hip-hop is the sound that seems most relevant blasting from the backs of jeeps, gruff guys going on and on about asses and such. Song titles are usually irrelevant. Summer 2000 belonged to Sisqo (“Thong th-thong thong thong”); while Lil’ Jon & the EastSide Boyz‘ chant of “Bia! Bia!” didn’t quite make it to the top of the charts in 2001, it certainly did impact the memory via the eardrum.
Hip-hop‘s dominance doesn’t keep punk and pop and rock guys from creating invitations to think light thoughts and live in the moment, though. They‘re just more likely to mine the sonic archive, writing songs that transport us away from the here and now. In June and July, New York was ablaze with the gritty sound of “The Modern Age,” a single by the Strokes. It was dirty and hot and fueled by their fandom of New York punk circa ’77 (Television, Lou Reed). I imagine the Midwest was riveted by the White Stripes‘ raw, candy-striped punk-blues. Their fusion of Led Zeppelin and Blind Willie McTell made even me long for a bong hit in the basement rec room of the three-bedroom ranch-style house my family never had. In California it sometimes takes us longer to figure things out, and though we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox, only now has last season‘s record arrived.
“Do you feel afraidthe days are getting shorter?” asks Beulah’s new album, The Coast Is Never Clear. “And what will you do when your sun tan has faded and the summer‘s gone?” Listen closely to lyrics like this, and you’ll realize there‘s more going on here than mere escapist fare (e.g., “When the city spreads outjust like a cut veineverybody drownssad and lonely”). Read the song titles and you’ll know this album is about lingering upon the recent past, rather than forgetting about today (“Night Is the Day Turned Inside Out,” “Cruel Minor Change,” “Burned by the Sun”). But Beulah‘s front men, Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan, deliver their harmonies with too much twee to have a bummer-inducing impact, and you might prefer to listen to their jumbled genre collage of orch-pop and poppy punk as a way to lose track. That prevents unfruitful comparisons to predecessors like the Association, the Beach Boys or even Belle & Sebastian.
And, really, melancholy isn’t the point here, just an armature upon which Beulah hang fastidious arrangements -- choral harmonies, trumpet blurts, keyboard layers, multiple Mellotrons. In this way, The Coast Is Never Clear is somewhat of a California tragedy, an album of deeper sadness masked by a cool veneer. (Alec Hanley Bemis)
MONDO GROSSOMG4 (Sony Imports)
In Shinichi Osawa‘s garage, every vehicle blings like a gem. But there’s some real guts beneath those hoods. Take the Rogers-and-Edwards-on-a-string-orchestra-overdose opener, “MG2SS.” Osawa and arranger Tatsuya Maruyama‘s swooping lines are virtuosic and showy, but not merely ornamental. Against a monochromatic, stuttering two-step break, they splash big colors with fervor and skill.
Osawa’s vision is in full flower on MG4 -- gorgeously warm instrumentation, soulfully sweet vocals, and blazing samba and speed-garage backbeats that can‘t stop, won’t stop. An all-star lineup -- N‘Dea Davenport, Monday Michiru, Amel Larrieux and Brazilians Tania Maria, Ed Motta and Lino Crizz -- spins narratives of journey and return, with the irrepressible Maria especially enchanting on the piano groovers “MG4BB” and “Samba Do Gato.” But the real find here is Osaka soul-jazz chanteuse Bird, whose performance on “Life” lifts a brilliant guitar-in-Rio groove into the realm of the indelible.
In an era of bedroom minimalism, Osawa and his collaborators dream big, play purposefully, choose soul over irony, are never afraid to appear nostalgic. Nowadays critics often sneer at “jazz” aspirations on the dance floor, as if to say that if it’s big and it grooves, it ought to be dumb. Osawa shreds that trite mind-body binary with ease, creating a fluid music that moves just the way folks move on the street. (Jeff Chang)
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