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 #335 reviews
March 2012
  • Bakelite 78 What the Moon Has Done (self-released)
  • Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands Muses and Bones (self-released)
  • Command V Command V (Mush)
  • Bobby Conn Macaroni (Fire)
  • Dance Hall Pimps Beast for Love (Lakeshore)
  • Eux Autres Sun Is Sunk EP (Bon Mots)
  • Is And Of The Handpainted Glow (Mush)
  • Baron von Luxxury The Last Seduction (self-released)
  • Cheyenne Marie Mize We Don't Need (Yep Roc)
  • Morningbell Basso Profundo (self-released)
  • Susurrus Station Antinomie (Aio)
  • Vuurwerk Me/Plus EPs (Mush)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest

    Bakelite 78
    What the Moon Has Done

    Absolutely absurd, completely addictive mood americana. Bakelite 78 rolls the red carpet back to the days of Tin Pan Alley and Dixieland, and lays the metaphors (both musical and lyrical) on with a trowel. But the band fails to fall prey to cliche (unlike this hack reviewer, sad to say).

    There's something about the sound of a walking double bass, banjo and saw (yep, saw) that makes me smile. Yes, there is the echo of the past, but these songs have their feet firmly set in the present. Listen closely; the writing is utterly present-day.

    This is the second iteration of the band. Founder Robert Rial wandered around the Chicago area for a few years (recording a couple of albums) before heading all the way west to Seattle back in 2009. This is the first set for the reconstituted group. I think it holds up the high standards of those earlier efforts.

    You'll laugh, you'll cry--and sure, you might scowl as such silly fare as "Lurid Lounge." This is one band that doesn't take itself terribly seriously. Which only serves to make this album that much more fun. A complete blast.

    www: http://bakelite78.com

    Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands
    Muses and Bones

    Crystal Bright has wandered just about everywhere, it seems, and she likes to cram all of her travels into her songs. This album uses the loping rhythms of the Roma as her base, grafting all manner of ideas to that fluid and engaging style.

    Over the top? Yeah, just a bit. Bright pretty much insists on your full attention from the first minute. I didn't mind, though. These songs are immediately arresting, even if the sense of drama within them might feel a bit contrived now and again.

    That's okay by me. Bright enlists so many "Silver Hands" to flesh out her ideas that the album resembles the carnival that its musical underpinnings suggest. If that last sentence didn't quite make sense, well, I'm under the influence. Of Bright, that is.

    Lovely, stirring and generally enthralling. Bright's breadth of sound is almost unbelievable, and this album moves along with power, grace and style. Must remember to breathe. In a moment.

    www: http://crystalbrightandthesilverhands.com

    Command V
    Command V

    While still wandering the electronic streets, Command V is quite the departure for Mush Records. These folks are from a different coast and a different time (metaphorically, anyway).

    This stuff is chilly, with hints of Suicide and other New York antecedents. The vocals are assertive and assured. Unlike most Mush artists, Command V could care less about the beats. This is all about the feel and the songs themselves.

    What Command V adds to its influences is a slinky sense of songcraft. There are some serious grooves in these songs. And there's very little droning or repetition in general. Just a greasy throb.

    Electronic music is rarely understated, but Command V does a fine job of flying largely under-the-radar. These adventurous songs blurp along with wry senses of musicality and humor. Most engaging.

    Mush Records
    1742 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www: http://www.mushrecords.com

    Bobby Conn
    (Fire Records)

    It's been a long time since I last caught up with Bobby Conn, but I'm glad to hear that he's still staggering through similar new wave-tinged electronic r&b territory.

    I'm not kidding with that description. Conn may have moved a bit toward straight pop and a hair away from the r&b, but there's still plenty of soul here. Once you get past the assembled sound and Conn's decidedly affected voice.

    Oh, that voice. It's just another off-kilter piece of this remarkably messy affair. Just about every song relies on incongruity in order to hold together. Do you know how hard that is to maintain?

    And then every once in a while there's a gem like "Face Blind" that will make non-doctrinaire Marvin Gaye fans smile. Lord have mercy, that's a stunner. There's too much here to quantify, but it's easy to praise the quality. My ears runneth over.

    www: http://www.firerecords.com

    Dance Hall Pimps
    Beast for Love

    Cross banjo picking with hard rockin' riffage and an almost impenetrable rhythm section and you're starting to get the idea. This is the worst band name I've come across in ages, but the music more than makes up for that. The center of these songs is pure rockabilly, but the middle is thicker than Alex Ovechkin's thighs.

    What I like is the way that the old time rock and roll manages to outdo the heavy-handed production. And with a bit of banjo and piano leavening the mix, these songs really roll down easy.

    The band is relatively new, but the members have been around since forever. Jeff Jourard was in the Motels (among others) and just about everyone else has a similar story (the name Tom Petty keeps dropping everywhere). In short, we're talking about session guys who are having a blast doing their own thing. Singer RJC (R.J. Comer) has a fine rasp, even if he hasn't been singing for quite a while.

    As might be expected, there is a by-the-book feel to a few of these songs, but the performances are so solid (particularly the reed work of Steve Carr) that it's much easier to get carried away than bogged down in details. Let the good times roll.

    www: http://www.lakeshore-records.com

    Eux Autres
    Sun Is Sunk EP
    (Bon Mots)

    Nothing complicated. Nothing subtle. Nothing intricate. Just delicate pop songs played and sung with punchy grace.

    Not much of a progression from Broken Bow, but then, why should there be any? That album was chock full of blissful wallflower pop, and so is this EP.

    The usual, which is pretty damned awesome. Few bands have the confidence to restrain themselves the way Eux Autres does, and even fewer have the songwriting chops to make it work. And believe me, this works.

    Bon Mots Records
    www: http://bonsmotsrecords.com

    Is And Of The
    Handpainted Glow

    There is no description that can do this justice. Drew Bandos (who is Is And Of The) seems to have transcribed his brain onto these astoundingly accessible experimental electronic pieces. I'm not sure how else to explain.

    An exceptionally gentle touch guides these songs, which is the main reason they flow into the brain with such ease. There seems to be almost no filter between thought and music, and at times I feel as though I can read Bandos's mind through the music on this album.

    That feeling isn't unique, but it is addictive. And once hooked, the more experimental asides roll by with nary a shrug. It all makes sense, you see.

    One minute is enough to hypnotize, but it will take many listens to begin to get a handle on how this album came together. Bandos deserves high praise for his writing, but the assembly and production are what make this album so brilliant.

    Mush Records
    1742 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www: http://www.mushrecords.com

    Baron von Luxxury
    The Last Seduction

    I guess Robin Blake decided that "Luxxury" was too pedestrian a moniker, so he added "Baron von" to class things up a bit.

    The obvious reference point here is Giorgio Moroder, whose pillowy synths and throbbing bass lines pretty much defined the mid 80s. Blake uses both of those elements to great effect, and he adds in some catchy tunes. Nothing exceedingly aggressive, but utterly entrancing.

    Indeed, if your idea of a fine night out is losing yourself on the dance floor, this is the best such album I've heard in quite a while. Yeah, there's plenty of cheese. That's the point.

    Settle into the Luxxury life. It's fully of cushy couches and slushy drinks served in strangely-shaped glasses. And ear candy. Lots and lots of ear candy. Delicious.

    www: http://luxxury.tumblr.com

    Cheyenne Marie Mize
    We Don't Need EP
    (Yep Roc)

    I got a promo copy of this album last fall, and just before I was about to publish a review I was told that Mize had a deal with Yep Roc. So I decided to wait.

    This isn't the first stuff I've heard from Mize, but it is the first that I've really liked. "Wishing Well," the first track, is an kinetic percussion-and-vocal piece that showcases how versatile one can be with the whole singer-songwriter thing.

    The rest of this EP is a bit more pedestrian, but Mize takes a lot more chances with these songs, and the results are accordingly impressive. If she continues to improve at this rate, she's got a long career ahead of her. Keep an ear on this one.

    www: http://www.yeproc.com

    Basso Profundo

    Took me a while to get on board with this one. Morningbell isn't straightforward with its approach. That's cool. I'm used to soundshifters. But these folks simply refuse to stick to any consistent sound whatsoever. Well, except for the upper register-to-falsetto vocals. Those are pretty constant.

    Juxtapose those vocals with the title of the album, and you are starting to understand the humor that underlies both the music and lyrics. This stuff is drier than the Sahara, but it is infinitely more amusing.

    On the whole, this is modestly poppy rock and roll, but Morningbell infuses so many other influences (and unusual instrumentation) that it can be hard to get a real handle on any given moment. Acceptance of this state is essential if you plan on enjoying this album.

    And you should. Morningbell has all the cool of Steely Dan combined with the modern wigginess of Radiohead. Sly grooves and brain-tickling lines. And then some. Ultra solid.

    www: http://www.morningbellonline.com

    Susurrus Station

    Experimental, but not exactly electronic. These folks noodle around a variety of sounds, and while there do seem to be a few programmed elements, most of this seems to exist in the analog realm.

    And that's about the only rational realm Susurrus Station inhabits. Oh, these songs have a few nice grooves and some really intriguing tangental lines, but there's really nothing to grasp here. These songs circle around a vast nothingness. That lack of center is rather effective in creating a strong sense of ennui.

    Not toward the music, which is constantly challenging. But rather, a decided ambivalence toward life as it actually exists. The world Susurrus Station inhabits is one that relies on few of the physical laws of our universe. But it's one that I'd like to whirl around for a while.

    Few bands can transport so completely as these folks. I don't have any idea how this album tripped its way into our relatively static universe, but I'm sure glad I got a taste.

    www: http://www.aiorecords.com

    Me/Plus EPs

    Jealov decided to become that much more inscrutable, and so Vuurwerk (Dutch for "fireworks") was born. These two EPs came out in the last half of 2011, and each of them is bizarre, glorious and transcendent.

    The beatwork is sharp, if trippy. The samples and assembly create shifting palates of sound that leave the mind nimble, not unstable. Indeed, these EPs are astoundingly stimulative in nature despite their chill-out grooves.

    Sure, this is the outer edges, but you've never had a more comfortable seat at the rim of the galaxy. Fireworks, indeed.

    Mush Records
    1742 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90036
    www: http://www.mushrecords.com

    Also recommended:

    Advance Base Our Cat single (Orindal)
    Advance Base is the latest project of Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone). It's even more stripped-down than CFTPA, and just about as breathtaking. Oh, and there's a cover of the "WKRP in Cincinnati" theme song thrown in for fun. Full-length to follow in the spring. Excellent.

    Chris Alvy Band Art Noise (self-released)
    Art? Well, it's good music. The Chris Alvy Band kicks out backbeat-laden blues rockers that tend to toward the irresistible hook. Nothing complicated or, well, arty, but just solid rock and roll. The kind of thing that is becoming more and more uncommon. Right in the wheelhouse.
    www: http://www.chrisalvyband.com

    Avec Avec Plastic Soul Redux EP (Mush)
    A slice-and-dice rendition of old school and modern soul sounds, all run through an electronic food mill. Your enjoyment of this will depend on your patience for noodling through thick grooves. I kinda like the herky-jerky, myself.

    Thavius Beck Amber Embers Volume 3 EP (Mush)
    You know, if Thavius Beck were to issue these three EPs as a single album, it might well be the best of the year. This funky-good, skittery groovin' set is just as incendiary as the first two. Holy smokes, these beats are positively blistering.

    Blue Sky Black Death Rebel To The Grain/Slapbox With Jesus single (Mush)
    A couple of deep, groovy tunes. The sound is assembled, but it's also so organic that it's not hard to imagine a band back there. There isn't one, of course, but that only deepens my admiration.

    The Bodies Obtained Who Knows Who's Right (self-released)
    Arty prog electropop. I've been getting a lot of this sort of thing lately, but this album sticks out for its devotion to whimsy. There are a ton of things going on, but nary a whiff of pretension. Feel free to wig out in a comfy chair.
    www: http://thebodiesobtained.com

    Bristle Bulletproof (Edgetone)
    A reed-and-string quartet that revels in the intricate dissonance those instruments can create. This isn't yer usual Edgetone improv set, though. These pieces are focused and painstakingly written, with room for the usual tangents, of course. For all the noodling, this album is surprisingly moving.

    Cheers Elephant Like Wind Blows Fire (self-released)
    Pull up the website and check out the hair. Wow. These dudes are seriously 70s. And the gentle-rollin' rock (replete with falsetto harmonies) doesn't dispel the impression. Gosh, these are some catchy tunes, even if they do go straight to the hips.
    www: http://www.cheerselephant.com

    The Creepy Crawlies Get Buried! (self-released)
    Back in the day, we would call this a tape-trader. Chris Donlon and Kate McLean recorded this album separately for three years, and then they stitched it together. The title track is the best thing on this album (and it's great enough to carry the whole enterprise, to be fair), but these slight laptop-ish songs turn out to have more going on than first surmised. This one might sneak up on you.
    www: http://music.thecreepycrawlies.com

    The D.A. You Kids! (self-released)
    Harnessing the chilly synths of new wave and the jaunty insouciance of laptop pop, the D.A. throws out plenty of modest attitude. These El Paso folks don't quite find the grooves on these songs, but there's something interesting going on within all that herky-jerkiness.

    Dislocation Mud Layer Cake (Eh?)
    Sonic dislocation, to be sure. These live tracks are busy, noisy and utterly jarring. They rarely come together, preferring to crash along the surf and explore the limits of music and noise. The ferment is the thing, and it is in full flower here.

    Mike Dunkley Corpus Clock (Record Label Records)
    Atmospheric electronic bleeps and burbles. Dunkley generally assembles his pieces into some sort of song structure--but don't hold him to that. The sounds are more adventurous than the construction, but it's all intriguing.

    England in 1819 Alma (self-released)
    Not British, of course, but rather a group of Shelley fans from Baton Rouge. These dramatic songs roll in slowly, and they're built for the long haul.
    www: http://englandin1819.bandcamp.com

    The Forty Nineteens No Expiration Date (self-released)
    Featuring a couple members of Mary's Danish and the Leonards, the Forty Nineteens play modern rock the way it was supposed to be played twenty years ago. Plenty of pop, a bit of crackle and hooks you can stick to the wall. Not especially complex, but loads of fun.
    www: http://thefortynineteens.com

    The City and Horses We Will Never Be Discovered (Paper Garden)
    Something of a highbrow version of King Kong, the City and Horses lopes goofily through math-y lines, tight grooves and plenty of horns, wind and string instruments. Perhaps a bit too clever at times, there's no denying the loose charm of this album.

    Cuppa Joe Tunnel Trees (Dromedary)
    Vaguely-anthemic indie rock with a few americana trappings (banjo, etc.). These songs meander and roam, but generally they come home again. Settle in and enjoy.

    Hoots & Hellmouth Salt (self-released)
    Philadelphia boys who play at playing americana, but this is more along the lines of the eclectic textured roots rock of John Darnielle. The craft is rather affected, and that can slow up some of the songs. A little smoothing in the rhythm section would work wonders, though these songs do have plenty of charm as is.
    www: http://www.hootsandhellmouth.com

    Justinus Primitv Children of the Law of One (self-released)
    Justin Prim isn't the greatest rapper around. He kinda sounds like a dorky robot. But that works so well with the sounds he's assembled behind the rhymes. Oh, and he's got plenty of interesting things to say as well. Let all the pieces collect themselves in your frontal lobes, and you'll have a fine time.
    www: http://justinusprimitive.bandcamp.com

    KBD(uo) Any Port in a Storm (Eh?)
    Miochael Kimaid (percussion) and Gabe Beam (guitar) try very hard to not play their instruments. Then they add some electronic emoluments. Lots of squalls and unusual thuds; in any case, this album certainly does resemble a gathering storm. Don't try to get your head around it. Just let the clouds pass overhead.

    LEIF(kolt) & Dusty Nix Nothing for the Vultures EP (self-released)
    A lot of this sounds like an incisive parody of goofy white-boy rap, but LEIF(kolt) is straight up. Well, straight up sarcastic and dead on with his bombastic beats. Often harshly loopy, but most engaging that way.
    www: http://www.leifkolt.com

    Nearly Beloved Where's Bob (Attaboy)
    Matthew Lacques (or Matt Lax, as he seems to prefer to be called) leads this group of gents on a tour of steady-rollin country-blues. There are no sharp edges anywhere; indeed, many of these songs are closer to western swing than anything else. An anachronism, to be sure, but a most enjoyable one.

    No Motiv Winterlong EP (Siren)
    These boys are getting a bit long in the tooth for such sharp, earnest and tuneful punk. There are a few nods to hardcore, but this trends more toward the bright and shiny. A bit faceless, but powerful nonetheless.

    Pail Bug Pail Bug (Generate)
    Two double basses, piano and percussion. That's a lot of low-end power, if you know how to harness it. Pail Bug tries hard to avoid the obvious in these low-key improvisations, but it can't get away from the rumble. And on the whole, the rumble is what carries these pieces into some wonderful realms.

    Palo Verde Zero Hour (Phratry)
    If Neurosis were a stoner rock band, it might sound a bit like this. Tangental trips to the edges of the atmosphere, with plenty of thick power in the back. Long songs, big ideas and tuneful noise. Trudge along with a smile.

    Pressed And Imbue Up (Record Label Records)
    Andrew Hamlet and Mat Jones live out in the chillier electronic climes, but the ideas are white hot. There's a hint of space rock here and there, and some occasional kickiness, but mostly there are just masses of ideas bounding about.

    Rah Rah Rahmixes (Young Soul)
    A collection of remixes from Breaking Hearts. More like complete reimagined versions of the songs, which makes this most cool. Best of all, the remixes are all over the map, leaving almost no sound unspoken. The epitome of a remix set. Very nice.

    The Sexy Accident You're Not Alone EP (self-released)
    One new song (the title track) and a couple alternate versions of songs from Mantoloking. I've always found the Sexy Accident to be something of a more playful Cowboy Junkies, and this set simply confirms that thought.
    www: http://sexyaccident.com

    Skaller/Holt Duo Music of Mark Dresser (pfMENTUM)
    Mark Dresser is a well-traveled double-bassist who is also a highly-regarded avant garde composer. He doesn't have much use for traditional forms, but he still binds his songs together with powerful ideas. Philip Skaller and Danny Holt do a fine job of presenting minimalist, two-piano versions of five Dresser pieces. This is a whole new way to hear Dresser's work, and the album is most impressive.

    Sonolumina Solar Logos (Symbolic Insight)
    If you're interested in rhythms that make the body move, then Sonolumina is ready for you. These hypnotic pieces borrow from all sorts of international traditions and throw them into a modern, electronic atmosphere. The playing is inspiring, and there simply no way to keep the hips from swaying.

    Kae Sun Outside the Sun EP (self-released)
    Kae Sun lives in Canada, but he's from Ghana. And he merges folk styles from both continents on this all-too-brief EP. Pretty, expressive songs laid out with a minimum of production. This is pretty much Sun and his guitar, recorded in an almost transparent sound. Definitely something going on here.
    www: http://www.kaesunmusic.com

    Ticktockman Ticktockman (self-released)
    Oh yeah, there's a definite Mars Volta vibe here, but Ticktockman sprays what I can only describe as Yngwie Malmsteen juice into the proceedings to put a slightly different sheen on the sound. Well, it's still kinda close, but at least it's good. These songs do smoke.
    www: http://ticktockman.bandcamp.com

    Jack Wilson Jack Wilson (Fluff and Gravy)
    Yet another example of the difference between west coast and east coast attitudes toward the whole americana thing. Wilson takes the rootsy ideas and kinda creates his own version of the classic American song. A lot more arty than most who head into these waters. Even so, Wilson lets loose often enough to keep this album balanced. Intriguing.

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