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
While America has a seemingly insatiable appetite for Britpop and its derivatives, more “traditional”-sounding U.K. bands (Reef, Moke) have struggled here. Perhaps there are already more than enough homegrown acts covering these bases to render pasty imports superfluous, yet Stereophonics’ endearingly optimistic soul-searching may still be worth a second glance. (Paul Rogers)
EVAN PARKER Lines Burnt in Light (Psi)
British saxophone virtuoso Evan Parker entered musical history as one of the most important and gifted of the first generation (late ’60s, early ’70s) of British free improvisers. As a member of several early improvising groups, and especially in duo with electronic percussionist Paul Lytton, Parker did the seemingly impossible and created a new sound for both the tenor and soprano saxophones: not only the growling, sinewy lines one would expect from a man originally inspired by American free jazz, but a long, slow, breathy duck-honk that splits the note in two, often just before exploding into bursts of sound fragments played at incredible speed. And in duo with Lytton, he took improvised music into almost scary, unmoored regions of harshness, painting sonic pictures of unrelentingly bleak, dramatic and compelling scraped-metal landscapes. (Were they reading Burroughs then?) The 1976 Parker-Lytton record RA 1 & 2climaxed with an early example of Parker’s awesome, tranceworthy circular-breathing patterns on soprano saxophone — a kind of continuous, honking bagpipes-in-metal sound sustained by piercing high squeals that seem to juggle and propel the kaleidoscope of endlessly changing midrange notes. In your mind’s eye, it’s like watching molecules dance. (And cranked loud enough, these strange patterns play waffles in your ears.)
Since 1975, Parker has documented this technique on a series of solo albums, and Lines represents the current, highly complex state of the art — a fully integrated, virtuosic horizontal line of intricate complexity on which fluttering motifs emerge, repeat at times and submerge back into the flux, recombining endlessly. (The superhuman speed is still there, but it sounds softer.) Parker likes to quote Paul Klee’s remark about “taking a line for a walk” to describe this, but these tightly packed DNA coils of twittering duck calls and bird chirps rather remind one of Heraclitus’ famous river, the one you can’t step into twice. (Tony Mostrom)
CONVERGE Jane Doe (Equal Vision)
One of metalcore’s top dogs, the Boston quintet Converge are a reliable source of migraine-inducing decibels, baroque precision and trainloads of tensile strength. You might despise their chops-intensive racket — plenty of aggro kids do — but after several spins of Jane Doe, you will come away respecting the band.
Despite the reputation Converge earned with 1998’s When Forever Comes Crashing and being fought over by underground labels like Relapse and Hydra Head, Jane Doeis proof they have no interest in being math-metal poster boys. Dig the meaty riffs on “Homewrecker,” “The Broken Vow” and “Bitter and Then Some” — barre-chordy goodness fulla midrange bite. The band have dialed down their technical tendencies, but the itchy fingers of guitarists Aaron Dalbec (since departed) and Kurt Ballou; the whomping, void-filling bass of Nate Newton; the in-and-outta-pocket hammering of Ben Koller; and Jacob Bannon’s filtered harpy shriek ensure that, even while playing conservatively, Converge let loose with the righteous power of an orchestra.
In contrast to Scandinavian black-metalers, who need corpse paint and chain mail to frighten, Converge will raise the hair on the back of your neck with sound alone: “Fault and Fracture,” “Distance and Meaning,” and especially the exquisite spookiness of the title track, an 11-minute finale of grainy squall, theremin airiness and castrati-from-hell vocals that would be perfect for any Dario Argento flick. Bruised eardrums don’t blind the mind’s eye. (Andrew Lentz)
CHEMICAL BROTHERS Come With Us (Astralwerks)For all of the radio-friendly, star-fronted and maturity- ridden songiness of the Chemical Brothers’ last album, Surrender, the best track still turned out to be a throwback burst of techno psychedelics, with the chimes-maddened buildup of “The Sunshine Underground” eventually popping open as if it were a secret bloom of nirvana. It’s still my favorite C.B. track ever. Perhaps building on the popular opinion that the best reaction from fans is still a chemical, neurological one, the name and cover art of the duo’s new Come With Us promise the epic exercise of a mind on a journey, not unlike the promises found on a mid-’90s desert-rave flier. Of course, since the album’s chemically enhanced, somewhat retro concept has been masterminded by sophisticated entrepreneurial veterans (still the most recognizable promoters of electro), there’s none of that overzealous and often icky newbiness of Missy Elliot’s drug-pushin’ “So Addictive” (her sick beats notwithstanding).
But Come With Us is too much of a mixed bag to induce a full-length journey; it’s best experienced in short walkabouts. It doesn’t have the revolutionary startle of Dig Your Own Hole or the consistent, well-rounded satisfaction of Surrender. What the new album does have is the second greatest track the Brothers have ever produced, “Star Guitar” — after a slinky whir of Balearia and processed guitars, whispered atmospherics take you by the ears: “You should feel what I’m feeling/You should take what I’m taking.” Forever, man. The track’s bookended by two other phenom moments: the acid-wobbled block-rock funk of “Galaxy Bounce” and the folk-breakbeat amalgamation of “Hoops.”