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Chef Menteur, "The Answer's in Forgetting"

Chef Menteur’s second full length retains the sense of a group setting obscure crossword clues while working out what their equipment will do. The sound is deeper and tighter but doesn’t completely abandon post-space-drone- audio-collage.

 

Backporch Revolution

Alec Vance and Jim Yonkus remain from Chef Menteur’s 2005 debut, We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire. That’s all well and good, but Dan Haugh’s drumming and (on one track) Brian Abbott’s banjo and sitar, bring fresh energy and discipline into the mix. Not that either of them seems responsible for the biggest surprise: the first bars of this album feature Vance simply strumming an acoustic guitar. Given the band’s previous catalogue and performances it’s as unlikely an opening as if they’d covered “Do You Think I’m Sexy?”

However, The Answer’s in Forgetting does not completely kick out the jams. “Parasitic Oscillation” goes back and forth between darkness and nothingness in a pointless manner before providing perfect contrast to ”Tonalli,” which swings in on percussive breaks and a lovely piano figure. “1491” scorches along like the comet of that year which came closer to Earth than any other. Again the track provides neat contrast when it bleeds into “I.E.D.,” a Mogwai-esque excursion that shows the benefit of Haugh’s dynamics and actual melody in the guitar lines. If they keep this up they’ll write an actual song with verses and a chorus!  As if to scratch that thought, the subdued drone of “Goodbye Callisto” follows— an ode to sandals, a nymph, a moon, or more likely a tribute to Xena’s nemesis. “OT III” ends the disc in a brief punchy swirl of banjo, sitar and synth which perhaps references the band’s “Oceanic 23” track from a WTUL radio compilation, or not.

Some of the pieces here rival Chef Menteur’s finest earlier track “W.A.S.T.E.” which used the voices of New Orleans trash collectors as the basis of a sublimely rhythmic nod to Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.  Given a pleasing penchant for the obscure it can only be a matter of time before they title a piece “Remembering the Octahedron”.

For now the band eschew lyrics but, given that they (or possibly just Vance) enjoy linguistic puzzles and literary references, that too could change. Best keep a dictionary handy, anyway, as they understand the value and fun of naming a track “Trebuchet” rather than, say, “Shoebox Diorama.” With The Answer’s in Forgetting and Potpie’s Potpie Plays the Classics the back porch revolution continues to gain momentum.

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Review of the Day

Bad Company UK, "Shot Down On Safari"
System
Electronic music has had many casualties over the years, but none probably as depressing as the death of drum n' bass. Unlike many genres who have fallen victim to the same ultimate fate, drum n' bass (which for the sake of this review will encompass all subgenres that would fall under the larger grouping) found itself divided inside itself as well as commercially exploited in a ruthless manner. In the end, corporate trend vultures and shady admen reduced the music to 30 second loops, while those who originally loved the music splintered off into "new" genres such as garage and breakcore. Still, there are artists out there plugging away and writing music truly evocative of the genre. However, the question lingers: does this effort even matter anymore? If Bad Company is any indication, then the answer is, sadly, no. In order for a genre to thrive, the music must remain interesting. Over the course of two CDs (one album and one continuous mix), Bad Company's Shot Down On Safari represents the stagnancy that helped bring down drum n' bass. From the overused ragga vocals (particularly on "Mo' Fire") to the same old tired breakbeats and synth effects, it becomes abundantly clear why so many people jumped ship for more progressive sounds. Admittedly, my tastes in drum n' bass have always leaned in the darkstep / techstep direction, but this album just doesn't offer anything up worth mentioning. If for some bizarre reason after reading this review you still feel like you want "Shot Down On Safari," rest assured that the mix CD offers quite a few older tracks that reflect the brighter days of drum n' bass.

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