pixies, "wave of mutilation"
There's a dead horse over here that needs some more kicking. Honestly, this collection takes me back,... way back, to say, two years ago when the last compilation of Pixies was released. As of this release, Wave of Mutilation: Best of Pixies, Pixies now have as many "officially" released albums as "officially" released collections. This collection is by far the most pointless as it offers nothing that can't be found anywhere else. I refuse to believe anybody reading this review has never heard Pixies or the hype that has built up since their death in 1992, so, commenting on the music is almost pointless at this time. They were a perfect band at a perfect time and I liked them a lot in my teenage years. They helped to usher out the hair bands of the 1980s, perhaps indirectly, as their confrontational style of pop, dissonant guitar leads, and abstract lyrics were big hits with music snobs, record store clerks, and musicians, but never digestible enough to crack the top 40. I loved the group, but they recorded four albums: all of which can be bought at midline prices without having to buy this pointless piece of environmental waste. 4AD is sitting on a mountain of great music but rather than feed the fans a DVD compilation of Lonely Is An Eyesore, Cocteau Twins music videos, or a CD collection of out of print single-only tracks from various artists or anything that's out of print, junk like this is peddled to the consumer. There's a number of reasons why the music business is on the decline: one of the primary ones is that record companies don't listen to what fans want. This disc is a record industry tool. It's a way to make a more affordable hits collection to be in the shops while the band stages the "we need more money" comeback as well as it's a chance for 4AD to finally make the money without paying a dime to AOL Time Warner Elektra. So I'm jaded, but, hey, wasn't their attitude all about challenging The Man to begin with? I might talk less smack when a video compilation is released, but for now, this is the only thing sitting on my desk (as I stare at it with disgust). - Jon Whitney
The music of David Y. Wang, who has releases on Bpitchcontrol, Tigerbeat6, and Violent Turd, suffers from a case of nostaglic schizophrenia with a touch of sentimental aural influenza, and as a result some technique-obsessed modern day electronic music listeners will undoubtedly have trouble with Uzumaki. Well fuck them. Fragmented sounds and fractured samples litter this short album like beer bottles on a public beach in a way that reminds me of the good ol' days circa I Care Because You Do and Tango N Vectif. Whether intentional or not (as many patients are often unaware of their illnesses), Mochipet has created a charming little retro IDM disc, with occasional fits of childlike grumpiness mixed with carefree playfulness. "Labha" starts off almost innocuously like a symphony orchestra tuning their instruments over a bed of subtle digital errors. Unable to restrain itself, it ultimately erupts into a hardcore techno drum assault, truly setting the tone for the rest of this dizzying release. "Adosa" almost sounds like a tender love song or lullaby for a special someone with its clean guitar plucking, even with its skittering sliced snares and cymbals. Of all the tracks on Uzumaki, "Alobha" stands out with a quirky melodies battling with one another over spastic beats that would make most breakcore producers blush like schoolgirls. On the remix front, Schematic's poster boy Otto Von Schirach provides a typically unbalanced, uneven remix of the track "Polka Electronic Death Coutry," where hysterical samples, pitch-shifted soul hooks, and speed metal riffs and groans do battle for control, ultimately leaving no clear winner and not offering much. Component artist Xyn, however, brings the album to a close with a far more coherent reworking of "Doboro," offering up something akin to an upbeat version of Boards Of Canada, if you can imagine that. Considering how many IDM acts these days spend more time harping on the process than the melody (*cough* Autechre *cough* *cough* Richard Devine), I imagine many jaded electronic music listeners will get a well-deserved simple pleasure from the enjoyable sounds of Uzumaki. - Gary Suarez
BASIL KIRCHIN, "CHARCOAL SKETCHES/STATES OF MIND"
Chancing upon Basil Kirchin's previously unissued album Quantum: A Journey Through Sound in Two Parts released on Trunk last year was like stumbling onto a briefcase full of large, unmarked currency. The densely structured combinations of time-stretched field recordings, jazz improvisations and tense atmospherics had that dreamlike, dark, subconscious quality that I had previously attributed only to 1980's underground cassette heroes like Roger Doyle and HNAS. Technically, Kirchin's works could be described as musique concrete, but his unorthodox, hallucinogenic collages of squawking geese, autistic children and backwards-tracked saxophone solos seem well beyond the spectrum of academia to me. The Quantum release was one of my favorites of 2003, and it led me to seek out Basil Kirchin's amazing soundtrack to The Abominable Dr. Phibes and his pair of early-70's experimental masterpieces, both entitled Worlds Within Worlds. With Charcoal Sketches/States of Mind, Trunk continues their schedule of unearthing never-issued works by Kirchin. The Charcoal Sketches of the title are three brief instrumental improvisations, overlaid with the now-familiar recordings of birdsong, slowed and mutated to resemble the bellowing hoots of a wounded gryphon. This material was recorded during the nascent period before the Worlds sessions, and it doesn't share the same furious and unpredictable fieriness of the other albums. The musicians appear to be playing off of the mutated birdcalls, cautiously weaving through a sparse work of gentle radiance. At times, the smooth funkiness of the guitar and bass, mixed with the otherworldliness of the fluttering whoops and chatters, reminded me of the soundtrack to Fantastic Planet grafted onto In a Silent Way-era Miles. States of Mind is considerably more disturbing, a collection of nine brief instrumental sketches each meant to illustrate a different mental disorder. This music was used in the soundtrack for a short film shown only once at an international conference of Psychiatrists held in 1968. The title of "Plaques and Tangles" refers to the brain degeneration caused by Alzheimer's Disease. The track begins in a chaotic swell of competing neuron fires, and eventually digresses into a dark fog of confusion. Frantic evocations of mania and paranoia are supplied by Evan Parker's frenzied saxophone solos. My only complaint is that the most of these tracks are far too brief and fragmentary, with not enough time given to fully develop the tantalizing themes. Consequently, it's not nearly as immersive and powerful as Kirchin's other works. Although I realize that this is inherent in the original sources from which these brief sketches are drawn, I hope that Kirchin chooses to revisit this material at some future point and weave it into the kind of masterpiece I know he is capable of. - Jonathan Dean
Eluvium, "An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death"
Eluvium's Matthew Cooper has eschewed the use of electronic and digital manipulation for his second album on Temporary Residence, preferring instead to sit down a piano, turn the microphone on, and record the pure output of his fingers on the ebonies and ivories. What I came to enjoy most about last year's Lambent Material (a beautifully narcotic album) was the stark monotony of the tones. There was very little variation in a given song: piano restructured by way of electronics and effects. Each measure was laid out economically and in the perfect amount to satisfy the movement of the piece. Here, however, Eluvium produces an undiluted and more robust sound, full of virtuosic piano suites without any tampering on the end production. The pace is slightly faster, the playing more frenetic (sounds simply slide into each another), and the output is altogether a different experience. The sound is palpably lonely, as if you are peeking in unnoticed on a master at work alone is his studio, a painter engaged in the first brush-strokes on a canvas. Likewise, Eluvium grants us access to the very inner workings of his musical creations, isolating the sub-atomic particles of them. These particles are kinetic and lush and elegant in their spareness. The pensiveness is evident in every song regardless of length, be it only one-minute long ("An Accidental Memory") or seven-minutes ("The Well-Meaning Professor"). Ironically, a song like "Nepenthe" is more lambent than anything on Lambent Material: notes flicker and collide, gliding up and down in arpeggios and cascades. It is not a long album; 27 minutes and suddenly the end hits. I feel as though I've been truly listening in on a daily practice session (half an hour of piano playing squeezed in between a biology lab report and the Proust reading). Throughout my listenings of this album, I could swear that I heard a telephone ringing, not in the background of the music, but somewhere in my apartment. I don't know what aural resonance or vibrational frequency was causing this phenomenon, and so it makes me think that someone, somewhere is trying to get through to me. But I don't care. The music is still playing and I am a little transfixed by what I hear. - Joshua David Mann
Vinny Miller, "On the Block"
After a long wait with no signs of life of any kind, Vinny Miller is set to confound the world on his debut full-length for 4AD. Signed over five years ago and with only one song released on a 4AD compilation, Miller is the label's longest signing without a record to speak of, and On the Block shows exactly why. Listening to the record, I got the overwhelming sense of someone who is looking for the sound that defines him, moving in all directions at once, and wrestling with the whole process and the voices in his head all at the same time. There are moments when, no doubt in my mind, he's figured it out and he's created a song that moves and completely crushes the soul at the same time. There are also moments when he's lost the plot completely, and yet I think it's important to him that people hear those moments more than the others so that he can grow as an artist. Either way, it is a genuinely confusing album with sketches of brilliance from time to time that hint at a much greater work that will obliterate us all. The album opens with a recording of Vinny calling into a radio program quiz show where not saying yes or no is the key, and the DJ's reaction to speaking with him. Then, seamlessly, the first true song begins in "Breaking Out of Your Arms," and it's a stunner. Just Vinny and a guitar rend absolute heartbreak from even the staunchest joy, and he even reaches a bit to provide some histrionics that do not disappoint. His voice is a very fragile one on most songs, due mostly, I think, to attempts to soar out of his range, but it suits the material perfectly. The pace continues on the mellow side, but then on "Pigpen," Vinny unleashes the dark side. It doesn't seem like it at first, but in the middle of the track he shifts immediately from pan effects and minimal percussion to all out burn. It's delicious, and even though it seems a bit schizophrenic, my whole body shook with the force in the speakers. The more bizarre moments ruin such a brilliant progression, however, with the vocal blends and grunts of "Cromagno," destroying the momentum just before the calm returns. And so it goes on, with highs then lows continuing to war for control with neither fully winning. The awkward starts and stops intermingled with the annoying side tracks that go nowhere blind the wonder of it all, and thus I'm left with the feeling that this is a fine debut, too long in the making due to the artist's confusion. I'm more than inclined to give Vinny time, though, because the best moments of this album eclipse entire catalogues of other bands. - Rob Devlin
GENESIS P-ORRIDGE & ASTRID MONROE, "WHEN I WAS YOUNG"
This dismal new offering by Genesis P-Orridge was made in collaboration with a well-known producer, who prefers to go under the assumed name of Astrid Monroe for this release, presumably out of sheer embarrassment at the outcome. I'm certain that I'm not alone in having been underwhelmed by most of Genesis' recent musical work, most especially 1999's Thee Majesty, P-Orridge's vanity "spoken word" album of apoetic, repetitive blather that featured the painfully dull ambient sound settings of the talentless Bryin Dall. "When I was young, there were two reasons for me to look in a mirror," Genesis intoned on Thee Majesty's debut Time's Up, "The first reason was to see if my parting was straight. The second reason was to see if my tie was straight. Now I'm older, and there's a third reason." Apparently, this sort of thing passes for profundity over at the P-Orridge household, and perhaps among a small legion of TOPY holdovers, but for those who are not altogether convinced that Genesis is a transsexual alien prophet-shaman-guru whose every utterance must be the very voice of God, it can't help but seem a little trite. It should come as no surprise my abject disappointment when I discovered that When I Was Young is nothing but a rehash of the same non-revelatory prattle that populated Time's Up. Filtering out the minimal, dark-ambient backing tracks from the original material, Astrid Monroe reuses Genesis' vocal tracks, adding heavy distortion and vocoder effects, placing them in new settings of laughably swanky, nocturnal trip-hop outmoded by at least a decade. It's hard to say who exactly the real Astrid Monroe might be, but judging from the dubby, overproduced atmospherics and syrupy strings, I'd place him or her squarely in the Massive Attack camp. Sci-fi theremin and ring-modulation effects are used to contribute to a druggy, night-clubby atmosphere, which sounds frankly ludicrous accompanying P-Orridge's space-cadet proselytizing. It should be noted that Genesis P-Orridge is a great artist and a massively important counter-cultural figure who has been at the vanguard of art, music and culture for thirty years. Even now, with his transgender surgical mutations and his recent resurrection and transmutation of PTV and Throbbing Gristle, he is proving that he is still a vital and relevant figure. Many complained when Psychic TV began experimenting with acid house back in their mid-80's Infinite Beat phase, but in Genesis' defense, it hadn't yet become a hopeless clich?, and PTV were able to innovate and expand the definitions of the genre, influencing a generation of producers. Unfortunately, When I Was Young comes more than 12 years too late to be even slightly relevant. - Jonathan Dean
Red Snapper, "Red One"
Was there a time when Red Snapper was good? I seem to remember that time, but all that I get from this remix 12" are bits of Red Snapper distilled for a mindless club audience. Red One is the 12" release of remixes from the Lo Recordings CD that must be inevitable because there's little point to any of these mixes outside of a club or sneaker commercial. Radioactive Man takes a stab at remixing "Four Dead Monks" into a nondescript jumpy techno/break number that I'm sure some DJ pool has a genre name for but that leaves me as a casual listener pretty cold. "Ultraviolet" begins with a minimal arrangement of soft tones and sparse high hats before kicking in to beat so generic it could only have been designed to make people mash their bodies together. The out-of-time bassline tries to give the track some sexy funk but winds up only smearing things into a mechanically unfunky mess. "Drill" as remixed by Jakeone is a welcome change of pace on the B-side, mixing a hip hop vocal over rubbery electro that falls on the European side of Afrika Bambaataa but is nonetheless groovy and deep. It's also the only track exclusive to the 12" which is a mixed blessing as it's the only one really worth searching out. Lastly, never name the last track on your record "Regrettable" for obvious reasons. It's just fodder for those of us who are sent copies of these releases to review. If you have to include a track called "Regrettable", at least have the decency to bury it in the middle of your record so that the listener/reviewer's last impression of your record is not... well, obvious. - Matthew Jeanes
Andre Ether with Christopher Sandes featuring Pickles and Price
Don't let it turn your brown eyes blue, and don't let them turn your blues beige. Andre Ethier takes a break from his day job with the Deadly Snakes to take a stab at a record whose components could be found strewn across dozens of other releases. This is no cut-and-paste pastiche work of interpolations, but rather a slab of traditional (read: tired) old blues motions compiled into original works. Ethier indulges in an brusque exploration of the blue-eyed blues (though I admit not knowing what color his eyes are, really), strumming an acoustic guitar along the same world-weary twelve bars that musicians have been walking for decades, with or without the benefits of a bass line. It's difficult to hear the performer through his influences, with the arraignments paying a slavish tribute to the core of most songs released before 1970 and Ethier's Dylanesque phrasing leaving very little room for interpretation. "Little Saddy" is a notable offender, with the regrettable formula of repeating the first line of the verse twice before reaching a new thought. A standard blues move if there ever was one, though such moves only work when that line is particularly sharp, or delivered with some kind of intense conviction. Unfortunately, when the Dylan recedes, the listener is left with only Ethier, sounding completely hollow and flat. On "The Hanging Man," Ethier asks his band mates for a big finish just before the final bars, and the response is an abrupt thud that makes for a curiously anemic close. Without a doubt, there are elements of this record that will appeal to some. There are the lingering glimmers of Ethier's influences that haunt every song, and the purist trappings of the fully acoustic setup and live to tape recording process. The former, however amusing the familiar sounds might be, does not make for a compelling record, only a catalog of weak versions of other people's hooks, meticulously straightened out and made dull. That it was recorded live to tape is part badge and part excuse, providing a raw and unfettered version of Ethier and company's performance togethera claim that the neat and tidy recording does not back up. The ensemble is extremely reserved, daring not to wander out of the linear structures of their songs. I don't mean to say that they should have devolved their trad-blues into some kind of psychedelic freak out, but that their homage is far too pristine and clinical to ever capitalize on the crackling, devil-may-care lineage they seek to identify their music with.
- Michael Patrick Brady
DJ Kensei & DJ Quietstorm, "In Time, Like This: Chapter 2"
Nakameguro Yakkyoku Recordings/Cisco Records
Every once in a while, a DJ set comes off so well that it's actually worth releasing as an album, and the original In Time, Like This was a pretty good trawl through a crate of head-nodding hip-hop history. Four years on, the DJs responsible for it have released a sequel that broadens its sights a bit, and it suffers for the lack of focus. For one thing, the "four turntables, two mixers, and nothing else" credo of the original is gone: the Doctor Who sound effects that covered up quick transitions in the original have been replaced with dubby echoes and digital delays, and that unfortunately open up the door for sometimes-house-DJ Kensei to dump the tired sounds of his other job into the mix. It would be hypocritical to knock the duo for blending genres on a music-geek site, and the racks of any DJ shop will tell you that plenty of clubs are only too happy to get some peanut butter in their chocolate, but the lame-dance-club stink of house is too strong a reminder of hip-hop's more embarrassing "shake your ass and damn The Message" tendencies to ignore altogether. When they start playing records even a bit outside of the usual club fodder, though, the results improve: Deep Purple getting rear-ended by a conga beat and a rocky drum kit while some zippy high-pitched scratching goes on is worth hearing, and it only gets better when some Yello/Art of Noise-ish loops and shards of Missy Elliott worm their way into the proceedings. Unfortunately, the good stuff only goes on for a couple of minutes at a time, and it's almost always dragged to a halt by invitations to wave your beer in the air; the fact that In Time 2 is a competently-mastered room recording, or perhaps badly-mastered soundboard output mixed with one, even lets you hear the audience doing just that. I'm not sure what the rationale for the crowd noise is, but it really only reminds you that you're not at the Liquid Room and/or drunk enough to really get caught up in the moment and just enjoy things. For 2000 yen, it's a lot cheaper than going to the show would have been, but that really just softens the edge of the disappointment. - Taylor McLaren
Rosy Parlane, "Iris"
Ineffable and at the limits of experience, the sounds inside this gorgeous little package break experiential limits. Though the imagery in the booklet suggests a cold and drifting place, I imagine the music to be more akin to viewing the sun from only a few thousand miles away. Rosy Parlane's rich and vibrant pulses eminate and exude away from a center boiling over with the unspeakable. Divided into three pieces, Iris sounds like the universal Om hissing in through subjective ears, playing with the phenomenology of experience, and coming to rest in the form of a vision: perhaps a certain place or a certain time will flash back from memory one listen and, on another, my mind will simply blank and release itself from troubles and worries. The bulk of the music isn't all zen-like meditations on existence, though. "Part 2" hums and modulates away over the organic sounds of glass, chains, and textured friction washing by in an organized concerto for metal surfaces and brooms. "Part 1" rolls along slowly, almost like a lullaby, until the processed sound of white noise begins raining down over the calm. Raining is a completely apt description; Parlane manages to create a digital rainfall out of bits of white noise that, while going to sleep, had me wanting to get up and check if clouds were rolling in. Iris naturally moves into the melodic at times; layers upon layers of sound will suddenly match up in perfect sequence to create moments of strange beauty. The layers drift by eachother eventually and return to the unknown, but these brief forays into familiar territory are welcome when they happen and never break the trance of the drones create. "Part 3" is perhaps the most stunning of the three pieces and the most carefully constructured. The rhythmic popping and snapping mix perfectly with the organ flows passing above and beneath them. Strangely enough, this last track was an exotic and ominous soundstrack to a drive into the city - the music can be heard a thousand different ways and different people I've played this for have described entirely different visuals. The end of the record runs away like the sound of a projector at the end of the film roll - it's a movie where everyone sees something different and where the images stay unbroken in the mind for days to come. - Lucas Schleicher
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