Dr. Walker & M. Flux: 16 Lovesongs for the Spice Girls (EMI/Harvest) Bass ’n’ beatz, beatz ’n’ more beatz, big ’n’ small, aggressive ’n’ squirrelly, bouncy ’n’ beefy, brutal ’n’ benign. These Cologne homeboys always bring the noise, some good laffs, too. Nothing too deep here, just 21 cuts illustrating possible rhythmic and textural interplays between bass synths, drum machines and computer-generated sound. Lots of electro-funk breathing room, repetitive, like Cluster jamming with the JB’s or something. Beware: some diabolically head-wobbling frequencies on this disc.
Shave: Jesus Shaves (Headchange) Tight, funky rahk from my Bong Leach homies Shave. They are jokers, they like to partay hearty, and they cast their aspersions on fuckin’ geeks who’re always hoggin’ the mike. They build great songs on bossy riffs and churlish vocals, adding peculiar samples sometimes, but mostly they are super-badass ’cause they don’t give a shit. Stops ’n’ starts, angular harmonies, weird time changes — they can handle ’em, all in logical service to tunes about drinking and driving, blowjobs and Los Alamitos.
Jacobites: God Save Us Poor Sinners (Bomp) Ex–Swell Map feller Nikki Sudden and his chum Dave Kusworth prize the notion that rock & roll is good and worthy and not at all inferior and subservient. But you have to play it tight/loose, and declare it, not sing it (at least not sing it well — though it usually doesn’t matter). In a set of Hoople-ish tunes, some better’n others, it all swaggers sweetly, melodically, piano-pumpingly. Two songs by Nikki’s late bro Epic Soundtracks, such as the sumptuous “Wishing Well,” are handled with love and just awful nasally non-singing by Nikki, whose Dylan fixation may appall you but whose Cave-esque charisma makes up for it.
The Fur Ones: Odd Numbers (Monorail) Right under our noses, here in L.A., lurks this mostly instrumental combo, the work of one Jon Huck on keyboards and samples and general MIDI stuff, along with art-rock friends like coolish vocalist C. Blackaller and percussionist Joe Berardi. Yes, bossa/lounge fuels the engine of these imperturbable themes and brief interludes. They’re inquisitive tunes with unexpected torques, like a more hi-techy Slapp Happy, and most simply erupt with invention. The adequate beats support a random-access-style arranging strategy, making for juxtapositions extreme. Inspired new equations for a “pop song.”
Family of God: We Are the World (Sugar Free) Adam Peters is the keyboardist of Echo & the Bunnymen, and his cohort is Chris Brick, an apparently seen-it-all chap who owns clothing stores in NYC. Basically, they’re recycling as if to make an issue of it, but their peculiar tastes — late-Floyd pomposity, Bunnymen beauty, electronic opulence and Madness channeling Zappa — combined with lyrics of stunning banality produce something profound. You never know what their point is, exactly, beyond some new kind of pure expression, and one that takes life’s dullness as a given. It’s intuitive pop holism and its inherent political dimensions, such as a lengthy, soundtracky instrumental veering into sort of glitter-pop romance and proggy grandiosity. Mysterious, not portentous; second-hand words & music about second-hand, received knowledge, addressed explicitly in the last cut, “Center for the Dull.” It’s a reflection, therefore — make up your own mind as to where we are collectively.
Blue and Holding: Hell (Casual Tonalities) There was a slightly embarrassed lull in the room last time I mentioned my deep and abiding like for goth bands. But this is a goth/lounge band, see, with trip-hoppy rivmic patches, Bauhaus guitars and a just plain bad as in terrible singer who it’d be very interesting without. I know it’s worth hearing because I can’t decide if it’s wretched or fabulous. Gargoyles, nighttime, cobwebs, gumshoes and seedy bars give a fairly delicious claustrophobia.
Eckart Rahn: Pachinko in Your Head (Blue Rahn Studio) Chaos theory applied to music has to do with seemingly random events that, when encountered in very large numbers, establish a new order of predictability, and beauty. Pachinko is a popular pastime in Tokyo, where people’s addiction to these pinball machines can be witnessed in the neon/mirrors/chrome magnificence of parlors seemingly five to a block. The machines discharge a constant battery of electronic ditties, whizzes and whirrs, while the steel balls shoot up through the brightly colored boards and roll back out again. In a typical parlor, there are maybe 100 or more machines, and the sound is spectacular. Eckart Rahn set up a recorder in the middle of Aladdin Pachinko Parlour in Shinjuku and let the tape roll; he requests that listeners capable of notating rhythmic patterns in the chaos of interfering sounds submit their results to him.
Charles Amirkhanian: Walking Tune (Starkland) He’s a good old-fashioned collage composer of chimerical countrysides where sports events, Native American chants, vast electronics, footsteps, ducks, kids and rustling leaves make music together, ribbons of quietude or towering clouds of consonance. Custom-stitched as if to teach us how to listen.
Fonda: Music for Beginners EP (Top Quality) Local pop group makes thrush notes lilt upon a thrash and a thump. This particular warbler, Emily Cook, sings prettily, as organ and guitars twine and strum, brazenly. A sincere and full-of-desire air pervades; the songs are peppy, tuneful and cheerfully snarly. Doesn’t sound a thing like Stereolab, yet one can picture Jane Birkin jamming with the Undertones and the Troggs, simultaneously.
Cockfight: Cockfight EP (Jinx) Rebecca 7 on flailing guitar used to be in Frightwig, and her husband Andy 7 is the one with the husky vocal star-power, reminiscent of Alex Harvey/Roger Chapman/Jello Biafra; he’s also wont to whip out a skewered sax bleat when pushed. It sounds great when they apply their commanding sloppy flagellations to these bluesy metallic rockisms, like their version of the Plasmatics’ “Sometimes I,” a terrif riff, a righteous thing.
Banyan: Any Time at All (CyberOctave) The L.A. supergroup headed by the ace drummer Steven Perkins of Jane’s Addiction/ Porno for Pyros renown and the godlike, omniscient guitarist Nels Cline plus heavy guest friends proceeds much like it did on its first one, lots of jamming around with funk-jazz riffs and “licks,” with guest vocalists lending songlike aspects. It can try one’s patience, them letting things drag on so long, though they stumble onto satisfying jazz-fusion à la Tony Williams’ Lifetime or several Scandinavians of the ’70s. I too can “get off” on “tasty” music, but these sessions were probably more fun to play than they are to hear.
Various Artists: Reich Remixed (Nonesuch) Several DJs and remixers take a stab at insinuating electronic patter-patters thru the mullioned windows of Steve Reich. This is source material that’s more harmonically and rhythmically complex than what they usually work with, so their corndog additional canned rhythms and gossamer string-synth patterns aren’t as annoying as they could be. I guess the real point is the mutation into something hopefully new, and to prove something about Reich’s influence on a young generation of musicians, to show “the links,” to erase “the lines.” Howie B.’s remixed Eight Lines is mesmerizing (but then, so was Reich’s original); Tranquility Bass’ “Megamix” is small, startled rabbits of sound; Mantronik’s Drumming adds a modern nervousness to the rhythms; Ken Ishii’s Come Out is psychotropic; all cuts sound like each artist’s best work ever.
Kemani Semal: Sulukule — Rom Music of Istanbul (Traditional Crossroads) The Gypsy people of Turkey prefer the name Roman, so now you know. Incredible set of folk-song-derived, ritual and light classical pieces, some to accompany the gyrations of the bellydancer. Sinuous, shifting polymeters, pittering frame drums, violin, clarinet, zither and solo vocal improvisations cast an earthy spell. An olfactorily palpable authenticity.
Savae: Guadalupe, Virgen de Los Indios (Iago) Fascinating and lovely fusion of indigenous American and colonial Spanish musical styles; the music comes from cathedral archives throughout Latin America. Renaissance vocal polyphony hovers and intersects with Aztec double flute, ocarina, teponatzli (log drum), clay drum, stones and rainstick; the rhythmic patterns are adapted from 16th-century Tepanec drummer Don Francisco Plácido’s Canticos Mexicanos.
Solid Eye: Fruits of Automation (WIN) Solid Eye plays serious music that can make me laugh. The trio of Rick Potts (guitars, “vintage” synths, toys, etc.), Joseph Hammer (tape loops, etc.) and Steve Thomsen (samples ’n’ synths) here make a hearty, semi-derisive stab at the short pop tune, the startling product coming out the way only dedicated avant-gardians would hear such a nebulous beast. Huge, caterwauling pterodactyls of electronic sound become hazy shades of processed tone color and jerky rhythms; the loops seem to both reinforce and ridicule what we think we know.
Various Artists: Out of Perspective (Soup)
Marvin Gaye: Midnight Love & the Sexual
Healing Sessions (Columbia)
Species Being: Yonilicious (GrauSpace)
Knee Jerk Reaction: Bandwidth (MBM)
Plastic People of the Universe: 1997
Rom = Pari: View (Sub Rosa)
Pigface: Below the Belt (Invisible)
Drumhead: Drumhead (Perishable)
Project Dark: Excited by Gramophones Vol.
Lazy Lester: All Over You (Antone’s)
The Peechees: Life (Kill Rock Stars)
Francoiz Breut: Francoiz Breut (Bella
Noam Chomsky: Propaganda and Control
of the Public Mind (AK Press Audio)
The Pastels: Illuminati (Up)