Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #322 reviews
The Inside of Out There
Largely the work of one J. Campbell, who seems intent on defining americana as broadly as possible.
So you've got some Byrds (both with and without Gram Parsons), a dash of Love, more than a passing glance at Big Star and the fuzzy, epochal sweep of BJM. This is his third release, and it sure sounds like the kid from Gillette, Wyoming, has figured out what he wants to do.
One song might be spacey, but the next is just as likely to be an intimate romp. Campbell has full command of his arsenal, and each of these songs radiates confidence. They are simply a joy to hear.
It's rare to pick up an album, fall in love and then do it all over again as each song rolls by. The songs here are impeccable and played with an irresistible energy. One of the best I've heard in ages.
Hold Your Breath
There is a template for solid-rockin' americana, and Daniel Christian follows it closely. And while his ardor for that formula can lead to an occasional stumble, by and large Christian fills in the lines with style.
Think Jackson Browne with a fuller, more modern sound. Christian's voice is an unremarkable instrument, but he tailors his songs well and makes all the parts fit nicely.
Craft never quite overcomes passion, which is what saves this album. It's safe to say that there's nothing wrong with any of these songs. Often enough, there's something very good.
A stylish spin through a style that has become very popular with the singer-songwriter crowd. Christian's writing is superb, and almost works himself to death shining these songs up until they blaze. Sometimes working too hard is exactly the right thing to do.
Absolutely outstanding peppy downer pop. Imagine Shonen Knife with all the happy-happy-joy-joy scraped off. Same perky drumming. Same simple structures. Same aggressively sparse production. Just, you know, not so blissful.
I've always held that pop music is the perfect format for the blues. Eux Autres seems to have the same opinion. These aren't ruminations on death and dying. Just frustration and disappointment. Death by small cuts, if you like.
Power pop can be utterly irresistible, but I often prefer the more open feel that Eux Autres uses. Each instrument and voice is clear in the mix. In a way, all that space between the sounds makes the overall that much more powerful.
This third album from Eux Autres offers more than enough proof of mastery. Yeah, a lot of these songs are downers. And they'll make you feel so damned good. Genius.
Majeure is A.E. Paterra of Zombi. On this, his first solo release, he gives up on any pretense of rock and roll and simply flies into the ether. Comparisons to Tangerine Dream or Vangelis's score for Bladerunner are obvious, but they won't tell the whole story.
For example, "The Dresden Codex" almost sounds like a remix of themes from Bladerunner. The rhythm riff (everything is keyboarded, with the exception of some live drums) is a slightly-reworked take on the insistent burbling that infused the film. But then he moves on and finds something new to say with the sound.
It's easier to do that sort of thing when your songs are between ten and nineteen minutes long. The three pieces here are involved and immediately absorbing. There is no energy wasted. Paterra starts each piece relatively simply and then builds. And builds. And builds. He knows what he's doing.
The three "original" pieces are stunning. The three remixes (by Steve Moore, Justin Broadrick and Black Strobe) are equally fine. If you ever wondered what the future of electronic music might sound like, this is a good place to start. Let your mind wonder, but make sure you keep up. Majeure doesn't wait for stragglers.
Eclectic means different things to many people. Allow me to say that just about everyone will agree that Seafarer plays eclectic pop.
That is, the music is pop in format and sound. There's just a lot of other ideas wandering in and out as well. The feel is generally jaunty, but there's plenty of clutter to weigh down any excess of joy.
And then there's Patrick Grzelewski's singing, which is hardly conventional. Every note is quavering, though sung with plenty of strength. The feel is most disconcerting, which is a positive. The unusual vocals simply underscore the unusual nature of these songs.
Not too quirky in my book, although I have more tolerance than most. In the end, the songs come together. That's my only criteria. A most interesting set.
Seven That Spells
Future Retro Spasm
Churgling proggy stuff that may (or may not, depending on your point of view) veer a bit closer to jazz than rock. In my book, this is rock. But of a very specialized kind.
Imagine, if you will, the Jesus Lizard as a prog band. With a saxophone replacing David Yow's vocals. But the same pile-driving, groove-laden rhythm section and the same aggressive tendencies. Something like that.
Far more visceral and emotionally-engrossing than most prog bands. I'm not sure that label really fits, anyway. But there's some serious technical precision here, and the songs bristle with bits and pieces of classical music theory. So, you know, there's that.
More to the point, great music is what there is. Outstanding stuff. If the first ten seconds excite you, then this album will blow your mind. Otherwise, well, look somewhere else. I'll be right here, turning the sound up another notch.
One Less Heartless to Fear
It's been a while. Too long. Years and years ago, I fell in love with the whole post-Chicago-via-Louisville-oriented heavy groove rock thing. June of 44. Rodan. Jesus Lizard. And, representing both a figurative and literal distillation of all that, Shipping News.
Don't expect anything new here. In fact, this album hearkens back to the pre-Shipping News days of hyper-heavy, bone-throttling rhythms. The notion of these boys being some sort of math rock influence? Sent to a neutral corner. Any pretense of melody? Pretty much wiped away. What's left is mind-crushing riffage, utterly infectious rhythms and generally shouted vocals.
House-crushing, too. I turned up the volume a bit too loud, and the vibrations sent glasses flying off the shelves. For a few seconds I wondered if the tinkling sound I heard what something on the album. Then I turned around. Oops.
I'm always happy to sacrifice glassware in the cause of good music. Shipping News has returned with easily the most powerful album of its career. Special bonus: There's no need to think. You just have to survive. Good luck.
Songs About Girls & Outer Space
For those who remember the joys of 90s no wave and 80s indie rock, the Sleep-ins are a lovely tonic. Loud, raucous, seductive and often a complete mess. Glorious.
The album title is a reasonable description of the themes of this album, but it doesn't begin to explain the musical density of the songs. While these songs generally build around one sludgy guitar riff or another, that riff may or may not have much to do with the song by the end.
About half the time, the Sleep-ins stick to a relatively traditional rendition of jaunty pop--albeit played as a series of caterwauls. The other half, though, is deconstruction in one form or another. Yes, there's a lot of thought behind the carnage, though you can also simply ride the wave of slow-burning anger if you like.
Unlike almost anything that I've heard recently. The Sleep-ins seem to believe in punishing the listener, and I'm down with the program. On my knees, actually. Submission comes naturally when listening to songs like this.