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 #327 reviews
From deep the heart of folk space, Ancestors create some of the least epic prog anthems of all time. And trust me, that's one hell of a complement.
There are three songs on this album, which clocks in at 29 minutes total (so maybe we're talking EP here; you make the call). The technical skill is impressive, but I like the way these songs start from just about absolute zero and then slowly build to a quiet climax. Yes, there's power here, but it is understated and often merely understood. I mean, you know Ancestors could rip a hole in your ears, but that doesn't happen.
Rather, this album is a subtle delight. I like overbearing prog as much as the next non-fanatic (I know that's a seriously qualified statement, but the stuff does have its place), but Ancestors show some welcome restraint and craft seriously moving songs.
I'm not sure how all this plays out live, but it makes for one hell of an album. Turn down the lights and walk through the door. A world of wonder awaits.
Is the Future of Everything
An ever-changing collective whose sole mission is to keep new music alive, Anti-Social Music has been making some of the most vital albums of the last decade. This album features three suites and some assorted (and occasionally vaguely-related) songs.
When I saw new music, I mean new music. This isn't rock. It isn't even avant garde (though one of the suites has the fabulous title "Grunt Work for the Avant Garde"). No, this stuff is completely new. The works borrow from almost every tradition imaginable, and each one charts new territory. Simply put, you've never heard stuff like this.
There are those who are put off by such effrontery. I understand, but I cannot sympathize. Anti-Social Music doesn't play this stuff because it's weird. This music is on this album because of its essential power. I'm not much for labels, and neither are these folks. That might be why I like them so much. Or, just maybe, ASM is the future of everything.
Nah, that's just a joke. Just close enough to the truth to make me think about it. This generous helping of 20 tracks (three suites and six separate songs) is more than a mealful. It'll take me months to piece it all together, and even then I'll be finding new ideas to explore. Yes, you will have to think. But you'll have a lot of fun while you do so.
We Bleed Fluorescent EP
If you recall such electro-pop groups as Emperor Penguin or the sample-heavy Corporal Blossom, you might get your groove on with Botanical Bullets. Yes, yes, I know I could reference LCD Soundsystem, but this New Jersey trio plays things much more on the edge.
For starters, the melodies often hide behind or even within the electronic riffage. Everything revolves around the soft electro beats--and then things get silly.
That's really the kicker for me. Botanical Bullets insists on having fun, even if that fun gets just a wee bit dorky. That's cool by me. It's always best to be yourself, no matter who that is. Botanical Bullets have that lesson down solid.
Deliberate and desperately earnest, Arron Dean warps the whole folk-pop-americana sound into something seriously eccentric. Perhaps its his jazz background, or maybe it's just the result of moving from South Africa to New York and then wandering through this fine nation of ours.
The most arresting thing Dean does with his songs is to multi-track his vocals. But most often, we're not talking harmonizing. Rather, when the tracking really stacks up, the effect is one of modest dissonance. It sounds really cool.
The songs are well-written and performed with precision. I'd like to hear a slightly looser hand on the music, but that would really go against the entire feel that Dean has going. I'll have to live with his need to craft to the nth detail.
And the crafting isn't annoying, even if it sometimes renders the odd song almost surreal. With so much effort put into the making and producing of this album, almost anything could have gone wrong. Very little did. And that's most impressive.
A Toronto native who plays in almost more bands than is imaginable, Ryan Driver's "solo" efforts are almost pedestrian compared to his other pursuits.
But listen closer. Driver couples Paul Simon's talk-sing delivery with stellar guitar work and world beat riffage. Most often, the effect is to leave these songs understated and sparse. That's a very good place for them to be.
Driver's writing needs little embellishment. I'm sure a producer might be tempted to dress up these small gems, but that would be a grave error. This album sounds like it is in Driver's own voice, which happens far too little.
Take the time, and this one will win you over. Let its peace soak into you, and let its optimism heal your soul.
Alms of Morpheus 2xCD
There are some things I don't ask questions about. Like, say, why a person with a perfectly weird stage name like Peat Bog would decide that he needed another weird stage name like Earthmonkey. The answer to that (not exactly) unasked question probably explains the music on this album.
Earthmonkey delves into just about every possible electronic sound around, with the general attempt to make it all as funky as possible. There are echoes of Joe's Garage in the guitar work and a general feeling of disconnectedness in the arrangements.
Two full CDs worth of this tripped-out stuff. Despite the excess, I never found myself bored. Annoyed? Once or twice, but that always happens when people push boundaries. After all, if you know how an experiment will work out, then it's not an experiment, is it?
Long, engaging and utterly mind-warping. I need to dig up my blacklight and velvet posters. I know they're hiding somewhere in my attic.
(Future Media Research Lab)
Heavily-processed indie pop. That is, lots of keyboards and electronic beats in addition to the usual paeans to maudlin bliss.
Falcon sounds like it is simply tossing off these downbeat little gems, but the behind-the-scenes craft isn't entirely invisible. Truthfully, there's so much laid over the basic band sound that it's not that hard to hear how the production tightened and expanded the original concept.
A good job, in any case. These songs rumble by at a mid-tempo clip (or occasionally slower), and leave me feeling lighter despite their general downward cast.
That is the wondrous thing about indie pop. When it works, the more bummed out the songs are, the more uplifting the music. Achingly beautiful.
Antique Electronic Synthesizer Greats 1955-1984
(Record Label Records)
Robbie Martin, who sometimes records as Fluorescent Grey, has a history of parody and provocation. So is this album a series of rerecordings of old electronic pieces, or is it just the product of his own twisted mind?
Mostly the latter. Martin took bits and pieces of old electronic works and melded them together into his own compositions. The results are utterly stunning.
As in, "What planet is this from, and why won't my butt stop moving?" Yes, there's a heavy experimental element to all of this, but the pieces are often catchy as hell.
There are 27 tracks, but only 15 loops. How did he do it? Listen a few dozen times and you'll begin to get the idea. But once you've deconstructed this stuff, you'll simply love it even more in the altogether. Fantastic.