HOPE SANDOVAL & THE WARM INVENTIONS Bavarian Fruit Bread (Rough Trade)
No one whos ever heard Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval in action with that blue-lit group would expect her to break out a Bollywood showgirl strut on her first solo group album. Still, even by Mazzys formidable narcotic standards, Bavarian Fruit Bread is something of a blissed-out, 10bpm yawner: more mood than melody, more glacier than mountain stream. Which is cool when you have a coo as sexy as Sandovals, a voice that becomes more bewitching as the tempo slows and the hues darken.
So, Miss Dourpuss Steps Out this is not. What it is, is deeply desolate laconica firmly in the Mazzy tradition, with Mazzy guitarist and co-founder David Robacks rather significant absence filled out by a range of downbeat musical approaches. Like Nico, Sandoval displays good taste in selecting collaborators and cover material. She partners here with Colm OCiosoig, drummer for the now-defunct My Bloody Valentine, who brings more of that bands lush, womblike ambience to the Warm Inventions music than you might have reasonably anticipated. But the albums major coup is an appearance by legendary British folk-blues guitarist Bert Jansch, who flutters and plucks his way across two tracks, including a cover of Butterfly Mornings, a gorgeous song from the fairly obscure 1970 Sam Peckinpah film The Ballad of Cable Hogue. (The albums other cover is a major remodeling of the Jesus and Mary Chains Drop.) Sandoval herself remains the country-goth-folk singer who writes lyrics like Im gonna spend all my money making you cry. Shes the sad-eyed young woman who hangs round the funeral parlor, the lonely damsel in the tower who refuses to let down her auburn hair.
But Bavarian Fruit Bread is not without a sense of levity: Just look at that ridiculous title. Even better is the chorus of the stately, slo-funk Around My Smile, in which Sandoval does an almost self-parodying version of a Lil Kim vamp, breathily intoning, Ive got it going/Ive got it going/Ive got it going . . . onnnn. Mmm. Indeed she does. Lights out . . .
THE AVALANCHES Since I Left You (Modular)Photo by Steve Gullick
Partiers like the Avalanches, who get so fiendingly high from the sampledelics of their cut-and-paste gear, sort of remind me of wigged-out liberal-arts scholars rummaging through the history of recorded narratives, extracting the passages and motifs that might cause a stir, and then making the far-out connections between seemingly disparate worlds. Of course, these sample-addicted future-culture producers, like pot-smoking scholars, mostly get off by startling themselves with those connect-the-dots revelations. But the six-member Australian collective defend their masturbatory revisionism with such sure-handed orchestration that you inevitably get swept up in the possibilities that musical tradition likes to hide from you. Sure, now it makes perfect sense . . . why wouldnt Nancy Wilsons elegant blue-note whisper be the logical development from the nasty Southern booty-funk smackdown of Blowfly?
Though the dauntingly extensive footnotes of Since I Left You will also refer you to the works of Mandrill, Marlena Shaw, Prince Paul/De La Soul, Mama Cass, the Isley Brothers, Kid Creole, the Osmonds and even Madonna (the copyrighted-material girl gave unprecedented permission for the use of Holiday on Stay Another Season), the Avalanches feverishly animated, groove-fitted, often relaxing sound (mostly accompanied by analog synthesizers) is more likely to persuade you to check out their like-minded contemporaries: the Freshmaka, DJ Punk-Roc, Dimitri From Paris, Lemon Jelly, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Riton and perhaps a little bit of Daft Punk and DJ Shadow. Smooth body-rock tempos like Live at Dominoes and A Different Feeling, featuring a hypnotically sweet Debbie Reynolds breakdown borrowed from her 1957 song Tammy, easily brush away the pejorative sense of recycled music and prove that connecting the dots is not only a critical skill, but an art form particularly if you have no idea what youll end up drawing. (Tommy Nguyen)
DEAD MEADOW Howls From the Hills (Tolotta)Listen to Dead Meadow : Real Audio Format Drifting Down Streams
The wah-wah pedal is one of the great inventions of the 20th century. You dont need to be a good guitarist to connect with a wah; in fact, if you are good its best to forget that, crank up and barf away, like Ron Asheton in the early Stooges. It will sound great, guaranteed.
Jason Simons guitar chops couldnt feed a shrew, but hes God Almighty of the wah-wah one of the reasons that Dead Meadow is the most chortle-inducing new rock band of the last several years. It wouldve been hard to surpass last years debut, Dead Meadow, whose bonged-out grooves these three D.C. youths perfected over many months of religious woodshedding. And with Howls From the Hills, they havent. Instead, theyve exhaled a monstrosity so full of lazy spontaneity that it makes Crazy Horse sound clinical.