Welcome to A&A. There are 14 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #265 reviews
Aidan Baker/Thomas Baker/Alan Bloor
Three lengthy live pieces recorded from the sound board. That's about as pure as it gets. Aidan Baker plays guitar, Thomas Baker plays piano and Alan Bloor manipulates "amplified metal." Oh yeah, it's one of those.
The label ought to have tipped you off, of course. Public Eyesore traffics in all sorts of music, but all of it is significantly off the beaten path. I think that's why I like their stuff so much. In any case, these guys create an astonishing atmosphere. It's hard to believe that three people are creating this stuff in real time.
Contemplative, yes, but in an intense way. These guys set up recurring rhythms and ideas and then play with them. Not loops (this is live and supposedly not automated), but rather variations on a theme. Lots of variations and many, many themes.
I'll be honest; I can't stand listening to this stuff in a live setting. Puts me to sleep. But slap a recording like this on my home stereo and my senses jump. Everything becomes more real. I can see things I've been missing. Orgasms get better. I guess it's like crack for dorks or something. Anyway, I like it this way, and I like what these guys do. And that's more than good enough for me.
Bridge and Tunnel Club
Next Best Letdown
If you have a few hours, poke around the Bridge and Tunnel Club website. You'll see this explanation of the band: "The Bridge and Tunnel Club exists not as a band in the typical band kind of way more than it is there for the amusement of whoever gets involved with it. Which is to say, it is like a hobby, and like any good hobby no one really expects to make any money off of it." Doesn't get much more cool than that.
The website contains loads of information about the New York area, but it never really gets around to explaining who's in the band, past discussing previous projects by members. If we're talking about members and not simply one deranged fool.
The music? Well, it's drum-machine driven. Some songs have more "real" instruments than others. Some songs are kinda poppy, some are more straight-up rock and roll. And the rest are mutant versions of the same. Highly idiosyncratic approaches to rhythm and melody are the highlights here, though it must be noted that these songs somehow manage to come together in a highly endearing fashion.
Much more accomplished than, say, Half Japanese or Daniel Johnston, but these folks (?) certainly share a similarly warped view of the world. I can sympathize. This is one of those truly strange albums that is hopelessly charming. Simply lovely.
The Bright and Hollow Sky
Four guys from Austin (former members of Silver Scooter) who bring a nice post-rock feel to pretty pop songs. That's pretty much the story here, but damn, is it a nice one.
There's a cool math-y feel to the rhythms, and a semi-abstract approach to the guitar work. Past that, though, we're talking about understated stuff. Some nice harmonies, a few solid hooks and an overall warm feeling.
Yes, these folks are old pros at this stuff, and they put that experience to work here. It would be easy for any of the influences to take over the sound, but the Bright and Hollow Sky keeps everything in balance. Which does, indeed, make all the difference.
At first, this disc sounds innocuous and even innocent. But careful listening finds plenty of bite. This one might skate by on first listen. So be sure to give it plenty of spins.
Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus
Cloud Cult is one weird band. It donates 100 percent of its profits after expenses to environmental causes. It has performed on VH1 (on the show "Totally Obsessed") and made a significant dent on the national radio charts. And all this with a sound that can only be described as obsessive (there's that word again) proggy pop. Kind alike the Shins, I suppose, but much, much more idiosyncratic.
Craig Minowa is the main force behind Cloud Cult. He's an environmental activist (thus the Earthology label and the donations), but these songs tend to tackle the personal rather than the political.
The sound is unique and approachable, which may explain why so many folks in so many different places like the band. The loosey-goosey production sound keeps the adherence to craft toned down, and the overall sound sounds like the perfectly organic blending of a number of minds.
The web site and the press notes are a bit over the top. Cloud Cult cannot save the Earth from destruction, much less give my wife and I a fuller sex life. Still, the music is inventive and fun, and the insights trip out the speakers with regularity. Solid.
Year of the Beast
I've always been a sucker for politically-conscious hip hop, which is one reason why I've always been a fan of Def Jux. I'm also a big fan of collage-style production, especially when it sounds organic. RJD2, for instance. C-Rayz Walz comes hard with both on this, his first album since 2003's Ravipops (The Substance).
The songs are all over the map. Some are serious explorations, and others are obviously bits of fun. C-Rayz Walz trips all through it, his voice at once impressive and yet containing element of everyman as well. Approachable greatness. Gotta love that.
The sound is full and round. This is music that exists outside of the rhymes. Music that has a mind of its own. Music that complements the lyrical flow. That's the sort of thing that really impresses me.
Fall into this world and you might not want to leave. The lush beats and thick rhymes are quickly addictive. Yep, just another winner for Def Jux. Like you thought it would be a dud.