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Showcasing his repertoire on the keyboard, sampler and mixing console under the alias of A Grape Dope, Chicago-based drummer John Herndon (Tortoise, Isotope 217) presents six new varying tracks that make up his latest EP. No stranger to the producer's chair, in recent years Herndon has provided re-mixes for other artists, while also releasing a few of his own dub-influenced compositions via the Hefty Records Immediate Action series. "Action: Showered Us" leads off the disc with its infectious live samba school-styled rhythms and muted basslines that kick the track into high gear, complete with handclaps. From the Hip Hop collective Anitcon, Dose One lends his distinct, multi-layered vocals to the bouncy "Red Hat Attack" over busy programmed machine beats, staccato low-end and near dissonant organ drones. The compositional sounds and juxtaposition of car crashes and toddlers-in-the-park themes make for an odd yet very interesting track. The disc's biggest surprise and definite highlight is the soulful ballad "I'll Spread It" which features Herndon's emotional vocoder stylings along with some tender bass and chord progressions that lilt and sway just beautifully. The underlying purr of additional electronic elements round out the composition nicely. Herndon's interesting compositional style and shifting rhythms draw from several different influences, yet still come across as distinct in their own setting. The strong, at times angular compositions on Missing Dragons should dispel the myth that drummers are only capable of counting and hitting stuff. 



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American Music Club

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Review of the Day

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, "Pig Lib"
Invariably, the image of an artist has to have a measured effect on their music, be it a positive or negative one. Some bands are all image and can't muster a good song to meet it, while others have full sounds and amazing songs but absolutely no image. Pavement certainly fit in the latter category, a band that had so little self image they couldn't even properly announce their own demise. With Pavement gone, Stephen Malkmus emerged from the ashes to make music that is all image, little substance, and completely mediocre. What with the pin-up shots for men's magazines and interviews about his sex life, it seems Mr. Malkmus has had little time to formulate anything besides a passable effort on his second solo LP, which also marks the first time he's shared the bill with his backing band the Jicks. He still has a knack for quirky, understated lyrics, and no one can take that away from him, but the music on Pig Lib is in stylistic shambles. Some fans have tried to explain it away with terms like "indie prog" and lengthy descriptions of the darker imagery, but they can't describe around the fact that it's dull. True, Malkmus gets closer to the Pavement sound on this record only in that it's sloppier than his last release. The band does sound more in tune with each other, like these songs are creations of the whole crew, but they trip along like a wounded animal rather than stroll or strut. From the playful nature of "Water and a Seat," with its call and answer and cacophonous backing vocals to the too long jam of "1% of One," Malkmus does sound more comfortable in his voice and the melodies are pretty catchy. That makes it all the more disappointing when there's no pay off. The songs that have promise are too short, and the ones that have nowhere to go get there and stay there far too long. I started getting into the album a little on "(Do Not Feed The) Oyster," but was turned away by the drum roll break into jam territory. All over the album are annoying sounds and noises, usually the overly campy keyboards from Mike Clark and Malkmus himself. Anchoring it all together is an overwhelming feeling that this record exists only as a marketing tool, released just so Malkmus can say he "stretched his legs" on a release and "tried something different." Malkmus' image is the only thing that holds this record together and the reason why rabid fans have already bought every copy on the shelves in the local record shop. For most fans, the man can do no wrong. For me, he certainly tried to do wrong all over this record, and sometimes he succeeded beyond all doubt or reason.


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