Lumerians, Transmalinnia (Partisan Records)
Even the most pointless and unusable departments of music have bands that do enough right that you have to sort of hand it to them. San Fran’s Lumerians are peddlers of drone, which metal band SunnO))) squeezed for every last ounce of cred it could produce several years ago, so nowadays the only way for a drone band to seem the least bit compelling is by welding some sort of other general vibe onto it. In this case it’s 60s Iron Butterfly, lots of reverb, like Warlocks trying to be tree sloths. Below the oldschool acid rock is an undercurrent of Klaxons, or Fujiya & Miyagi, a sterile, crippled sort of electro home brew, boredom personified. “Calalini Rises,” a tune that seems to drag on longer than a full Catholic wedding, throws in some tribal drumming and various shtick from PC games of the early 90s. Altogether non-horrible musically; the telegraphed punch that really makes you want to barf is the Dark Side of the Moon pyramid logo on the physical CD itself.
Grade: B- [Release Date: 3/1/11]
Omnium Gatherum, New World Shadows (Lifeforce Records)
Another slowed-down Cannibal Corpse heard from, but from Finland, which always raises a “don’t write it off just yet” flag for me. Finnish bands have a tendency to hold their folk roots stubbornly, thus post up a lot of compelling melody, and these guys are no different. In fact, often this is comparable to early Fields of Nephilim — there’s not much Neurosis/Cult of Luna-style bummer-ness to it, so I don’t mean a lot of washy chords and cursing of the gods — it’s doom metal to an extent but with a lot of heart to it, see. Guitarist Markus Vanhala obviously puts a lot of time into the structures of not just the solos (which are great) and the riffing (ditto), but even the oldschool attempts at shtick are cool — in the title track he tosses out a clever hammer-on fractal van Halen might have used back in the day.
Grade: A [Release Date: 3/1/2011]
Finlay Morton, Harvest the Wind (Stoneroom Recordings)
Mildly goth overtones on this straight-ahead bar-rock debut from Morton, a Scot whose path to making this LP had first to go through a long career in sound engineering and press relations for 10 Downing Street, yes, that 10 Downing Street — someone’s got to do it, you see. Similar product would be John Cougar, Tom Petty, and Sisters of Mercy for flavor (“In At The Deep End”), generic ideas to be sure, but it’d be unfair to slam this dude while turning around and talking up any old wizened fossil just because they’re on a hip indie or whatnot rehashing stuff that long ago went the way of weavy 80s hair, and while I’m at it, the life experiences of this guy include getting shot at in Afghanistan, not shooting up with Hendrix backstage at the Fillmore. Not that happy-ass 60s jangle-pop is a fascinating new frontier, but Morton does have a knack for it (“Do You Believe in Ghosts”).
Grade: B [Release Date: 2/29/11]
Primordial, Storm Before Calm (Metal Blade Records)
Proffering their (relative) Irishness to the ever-eager whitey masses comes Primordial, one of the more interesting power-sludge bands to be heard nowadays, owing to a slightly wonkish nod to their heritage. But only slightly; this ain’t Glengarry Bhoys, it’s what the kids call “extreme metal” with a great marketing angle — sludgy black metal with a pirate accent, for example, in “Fallen to Ruin,” like what would happen if Blackbeard came back from the dead to front [insert name of any pancake-makeup-metal band from Norway] (best part: the singer literally sounds like he’s getting strangled at the end of it). Things get downright theatrical in “Cast to the Pure” and “Songsof the Morrigan,” the main issue with the whole thing is the verisimilitude of the riffing, which seems to be one idea, in one key, with no way to escape.
Grade: B- [Release Date: 2/15/11]
Yellowbirds, The Color (Royal Potato Family Records)
Someday, the Royal Potato Family company is going to own Bonnaroo. You can always count on friendly, distinctly American, blatantly flawed records from them, like this spinoff LP from Apollo Sunshine’s Sam Cohen. Yellowbirds are from Boston, so there’s some Berklee-dropout guitar solos that absolutely blow doors, and they’re also, like I said, Bonnaroo bait, so although they profess a love for Roy Orbison, it’s a love tempered by a pressing need to impress Pitchfork and stuff, so there’s as much terrible melody as good stuff, like random decent hayloft-indie and Strawberry Alarm Clock ideas thrown in a transmodulator along with some Everly Brothers albums and Julian Casablancas’s sense of who-cares. Closeout track “The Reason” may be the suckiest song I’ve ever heard, if that helps any.
Grade: C [Release Date: 2/15/11]
Frank Butrey, Malicious Delicious (Lust For Toys Recordings)
Puttering, burning and filibustering from the Philly-based jazz guitarist. Somewhat typical example of this sort, power trio setup as jazz outfit, with Butrey switching deftly enough from Carlos Santana doodling to flamenco-plucking, then over to di Meola Weather Channel stuff, but the goal appears to be self-fulfillment over resumÃ©, particularly when, out of nowhere, Butrey pegs the brightness and explores a Pearl Jam-sounding workout on “Toast With A Ghost.” His modal sense is courageous and well-taught, but the experiments don’t get so out of hand that there’s anything to be ashamed of. Bassist Clifton Kellem, meanwhile, is a revelation, tabling some really tasty high-end Jaco Pastorius moves on the title track.
Grade: B [Release Date: 1/19/11]
The Big Pink, Tapes (!K7 Records)
Knob-rotation sluggishness, dream-pop and dubstep unite in this roughly concepted mix from Milo Cordell, the better half of UK nu-raving duo Big Pink. Focus here is on the new crop of Americans doing the haunted house thing, best example being Salem, whose “Dirt” appears here. By “roughly concepted” I mean to say that the net is cast a bit wide here as far as core sounds are concerned, but in the main it would work for a Halloween party where hipsters dress goth. Gang Gang Dance’s “Ego War” is Asobi Seksu-like shoegaze-chill; Joker’s knob-stuttering exercise “Snake Eater” reads like a scratched Jackson 5 single; Active Child’s “Body Heat” applies loud-ass Flashdance synth-cheese to a reverent Klaxons-esque chorus; Henny Moan’s “Vreg Dreams” leans dubstep as things begin to turn crack-screw, which extends into Smoke Leather’s monotone “Smoke Ov The Pvnk.”
Grade: B [Release Date: 11/16/10]
Soren Moller, Christian X Variations (Audial Records)
Pegged for convenience’s sake as a jazz artist, this Dutch piano guy often sounds more New York than anything you’ve ever heard, as evidenced on the post-bop burnfest “Kvartet II,” which gets some pretty whizzer beatnik drums from the concrete-solid Henry Cole and as well from sax-player Dick Oatts. The good part: Moller’s so into classical that it’s hard to tell where the deep-think ends and the improv begins. The not-so-good part: a too-prominent wood section tasked with some heavy-ass moves that aren’t accomplished completely without a hitch — either that or it’s the dissonant modalities Moller enjoys screwing around with, but either way there’s the stench of a high-school gym, that oldschool semi-big-band thing that makes you think of harried high school music teachers. But whatever, in straight-ahead mode, though, this guy has to be damn near unbeatable.
Grade: B [Release Date: 9/7/10]
Pet Shop Boys, The Most Incredible Thing: Original Score (Astralwerks Records)
There’s likely no band other than PSB more culturally credentialed and intellectually licensed to combine techno and classical toward the creation of a modern ballet, as this is — the stage production is a modernization of the Hans Christian Anderson story, which grew from his disgust with the pointless conflict of his own time, the Franco-Prussian War. Now, in contrast to the waltzes to which elite ears are accustomed, this music is often written in 4/4, sometimes lending an air of oafish pomposity to it. But there literally is no way around cribbing from the Trans Siberian Orchestra playbook in a 4/4 classical setting, while meantime the waltzes, such as “Risk,” drip with authenticity, and the experimental techno (the first “Clock” segment) is depthless. Mind, these aren’t just the guys who did “West End Girls,” this is those guys backed by Poland’s Wroc?aw Score Orchestra, thus the Tchaikovsky can really get thick (and charming) at times, as during “Physical Jerks.” And so a burst of trance, some military drums, a haunting neo-Broadway number (“The Meeting”), a few bars of soft-shoe, anything within reason goes — these guys have moved a mountain, successfully combining 2 polar-opposite worlds into a production anyone could adore.
Grade: A+ [Release Date: 3/22/11]
Voice of Addiction, Re-Evolution (D!i!Y! Records)
The resurfacing of this Chicago punk trio’s 6-songer from 2008 marks a revving up of their overall PR campaign, for what that’s all worth, which is, actually, a lot, considering that they’re flying into the wind of modern punk, that over-processed nonsense that’s really about as punk as Katie Couric interviewing Miley Cyrus. Voice of Addiction are pretty much the real deal, with low-budget production, Frank Black-style vocals, and overall Agnostic Front-ish sound. But this isn’t a one-minute-wanfkfest hoping for that one-in-a-million shot at being the next Bad Brains; past a few obligato ska references and whatnot there’s a lot of riffing going on here, not monstrously complicated but not moronic either — pretty much like The AccÃ¼sed, but cleaner, yeah, that’s it.
Grade: B [Release Date: 8/24/08]
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