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Astral Social Club, "Neon Pibroch"

Neal Campbell continues his strong run of releases as Astral Social Club. This album should satisfy fans of his impressive back catalogue, but the music here is good enough to deserve separate treatment and should not be caged in by references to the past.

Important

"Tripel Foment" begins similarly to Campbell's other experiments in ambient beatscapes. A bassy, four-on-the-floor techno pluse pushes the track along pleasantly. But the track becomes compelling when he ditches that rhythm and lets his sounds fly untethered. The song keeps its momentum as scraps of sound detritrus float over the mix like luminous insects. At 12 minutes, the pitch bends up sharply as the song hits its crescendo. A looped guitar riff breaks in while a tremeloed static whirls in the foreground, carrying the beat for a few more minutes till a sudden and jolting rest ends the song.

The rest of the album lacks the percussive backbone which holds up "Tripel Foment," but they hold their own unhurried vitality. The title track meanders for more half its length before finding critical mass. Reversed chime swells and subdued guitar picking float lazily into a thicket of resonate beeps and flanged bellowing. The signal processing fights against this dense buildup, diluting the racket until it becomes a limp mass, percolating into gradual silence. "Big Spree" has the same meditative pacing, being built around a cloudy snyth drone peppered with icy, ringing tones that build into a snow storm of radiant sound particulate.

As detailed as each composition on this record is, they are certainly not fast paced. No song here is under 12 minutes, but Campbell is not the kind of musician that mistakes subtlety for monotony. Stale sounds are gently taken away from the mix or processed into something entirely different. The basic components are very simple: a three note guitar figure; pieces of static; some bells and chimes. Isolated from the whole they would sound thin and artificial, but within the tightly wound arrangements of this album they take on a cosmic immensity.

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Monade

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Review of the Day

Cornelius, "Five Point One"; Belle & Sebastian, "Fans Only
Matador
Five Point One is comprised of two discs: a DVD compiling all ten the videos from Cornelius's 2002 album Point and an audio CD of remixes from the album contributed by fans as part of a contest. The videos, while creative, have a subtle, background feel to them, and seem to be intended more for use in Cornelius's live shows than on their own (and indeed, they were played as a backdrop during his tour for Point). While not wholly uninteresting, the videos are static in their content, usually relying on one or two primary images. "Point of View Point" shows cars and trains in motion, while "Drop" features a little boy standing in front of a sink while the water, synchonized to the beat, drips into the basin. The most enjoyable of the videos is "Tone Twilight Zone," with its images of two fingers walking (Yellow Pages-style) through a landscape of ordinary household objects. The remix CD, PM, is a mixed bag, running the gamut from electronic dance to japanoise to thrashy rock. Some are cute and catchy, and others are forgettable.

Fans Only takes on the task of documenting Belle & Sebastian's inception in 1995 through their seven years of recordings for Matador and Jeepster. Their videos and live footage from various performances around ther world are interwoven into behind-the-scenes material and interviews. The videos proper are largely charmingly appropriate twee shots of the band (there are at least a few where they're seen clutching various stuffed animals) and their friends using super-8 cameras and other low-budget equipment. Highlights include a rendition of France Gall's "Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son," recorded for French television and the video for "Legal Man," which features the band decked out in full mod regalia on stage in a decadent nightclub surrounded by freely flowing martinis and bellydancers, and a hilarious interview with the band for a Brazilian TV show. Clocking in at 136 minutes, Fans Only drags at times, but is for the most entertaining and does an excellent job of capturing the lighthearted, playful essence of the band. 
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