Other Music New Release Update
June 25, 2003

In This Week's Update:

British Sea Power
Gang Starr
Jay Farrar
Lost On Arrival (Naked Music Compilation)
The Mars Volta
Jagga Jazzist
Fat Truckers
Biff Bang Pow (Best Of Compilation)


Four Tet ("Dialogue")


MADLIB "Shades of Blue" (Blue Note) CD/LP $16.99/$14.99
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In more recent history, Blue Note records has let hip hop producers and/or
groups into their trusty vaults to bring the old to the new, legally. This
new release from Madlib, "Shades of Blue," is his excursion into the wealth
and beauty of jazz, recreating, remixing, and rebuilding his favorite songs
into a mix that is undeniably his own. Keeping the same titles and song
writing credits as the originals, Madlib (the son of blues bass player Otis
Jackson Sr.) never completely distorts or diminishes the integrity of the
core songs. He chooses classics like Ronnie Foster's "Mystic Bounce,"
Horace Silver's "Song for my Father," Donald Byrd's "Stepping into
Tomorrow," and Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" to re-sculpt and slightly
re-style, letting the composition breath yet bringing out its influence on
hip hop. Madlib replays the drums as well as his crew (all rumored to be
fake names) who replay Rhodes, vibes, flute, and guitar. This release is
most reminiscent of his Yesterday's New Quintet project (featured on Wayne
Shorter's "Footprints"), but with more funk, more drive, and overall a
clearer picture. If you've checked out his Trojan mix CD, or are one of the
lucky few to own YNQ's Stevie Wonder covers album (soon to get a legal
release), then you know what he's capable of, this is a complete package.
Including shout outs from jazz legends, fellow beat jugglers, and
interludes of archival documentary voice-overs and dialogue, he seems to be
having fun, and loving every minute of the process. The new rebirth of
cool? Yeah! [DG]
CD //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=72435364472&refer_url=email
LP //perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=72435364471&refer_url=email

BRITISH SEA POWER "The Decline of British Sea Power" (Rough Trade) CD $17.99
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There's a thread of late-'70s/early-'80s throughout British Sea Power's
full-length debut, but I don't hear the Joy Division ghosts that the press
keep mentioning. The band is far too inventive to just rehash the past. So
while the post-punk influences are present, the songs are far from morose
with vocal duties divided between Yan and Hamilton. (The group chooses to
leave out their last names.) I'm not sure who is singing what track, but
the voices are reminiscent of the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler, David
Bowie and quite often Ian McCulloch. Instrumentally, there's a lot more
than one era being represented. The album kicks off with a few songs that
boil at punk speed, complete with reckless, scratchy guitars; but there's a
noticeable change with the fourth track, "Something Wicked" -- the tempo
slows and warmer pop sensibilities appear. The album continues to grow and
shift with majestic arrangements, synths, some mildly psychedelic keyboard
passages and piano, with a few moments that, dare I say, hint at classic rock
minus the wince factor. (During "Remember Me," the band rocks with Dinosaur
Jr. spirit and Pixies abandon underneath an exuberant chorus that would
make "The Boss" proud.) The layered guitar technique can also be traced back
to Will Sergeant's style of playing, only with a little more bravado, and
overall, hints of Echo and the Bunnymen's "Ocean Rain" bubble beneath
the surface -- beautiful and just as dramatic but a little more
straightforward. BSP's debut is an impressive effort that doesn't get
pigeonholed into any one corner, yet seems comfortably familiar enough.
"The Decline of the British Sea Power" is instantly likable, original, and
with each listen it becomes even more captivating. [GH]

GANG STARR "Ownerz" (Virgin) CD $17.99
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It's been five years since Guru (another invitee into the Blue Note vaults)
and DJ Premier have come together as Gang Starr. Now recording for Virgin,
they sound as comfortable and good as ever. As a solo artist, Guru has a
tendency for me to be a little too chatty, cock sure, and dull, however skillful
or conscious he is. But the pairing of Premier and Guru, brings out the gritty
beauty in Guru's voice -- he should be as big as Nas or Jay-Z (both have been
produced by Premier). In the age of the "Dance Party" MC (check the
Clipse/Neptunes diss), or the mournful "ghetto thug waiting for love to
redeem him" MC, or the "on the fringe-experimental-space age" MC, it sounds
good to hear some, uncompromisingly tight and experienced, urban NYC tales.
Premier brings the butta beats as usual, recorded at legendary D&D studios
(nothing beats a good bass and snare), and cuts vinyl slices of jazz and
soul and other MCs with a flawless, precise, and purposeful touch. They are
experienced enough to go from hardcore to jazzy/conscious to R&B-flavored
formats with ease and still maintain their style and sound. There's
something to be said about maintaining themselves for fifteen years in this
disposable "like you now, hate you later" era of music. Guest include Fat
Joe, Jadakiss, M.O.P, Big Shug, Freddie Foxx, and a great verse from Snoop
Dogg. Also includes interviews, a concert, and behind the scenes footage.

JAY FARRAR "Terroir Blues" (Artemis) CD $16.99
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Jay Farrar was one of the two songwriters of the legendary Uncle Tupelo
who, along with his partner Jeff Tweedy, created the whole genre of music
that we call "alt-country". Uncle Tupelo made four amazing albums that are
true classics in the genre and that have influenced many artists for over a
decade. They say "all good things must come to an end," and the creative
tension in the band finally gave way with Jay and Jeff going their separate
ways. Jeff went on to form the critically acclaimed Wilco, while Jay formed
the band Son Volt who, after three albums, were dropped by their label. Jay
Farrar fell into hibernation for a few years, only to resurface in 2001
with an amazing solo album entitled, "Sebastopol." I have to say that Jay's
songs in Uncle Tupelo were my favorites and "Sebastopol proved that he
still had that special something that sets him apart from most contemporary
songwriters. Now in 2003, Jay has created his own label and released his
sophomore solo album, "Terroir Blues," filled with 16 proper songs and
interspersed with instrumental soundtrack like passages. Twenty-three
tracks in all (recorded with a lo-fi production technique), a small string
section accompanies Jay's acoustic guitar and trademark raspy drawl.
"Terroir Blues" is a somber collection of roots influenced country
songwriting and once again proves that Jay Farrar is an incredible
songwriter with a legacy that he more than lives up to, even in 2003.
Beautiful! [JS]

[V.A.] "Lost On Arrival" (Astralwerks) CD $16.99
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If you loved the Metro Area album and have been wondering what else is out
there, this is the record for you. Naked Music has deviated from their norm
to present that 'dirty disco' sound infecting all of NY and clubs from
coast to coast. "Lost on Arrival" is a mix of body-movin' jams with a
borderline electro (thankfully), negro-clash tinge designed to make you
carry that drink to the floor and let loose, and as OM's Scott finely put
it, "You can also eat dinner to it". Dance pioneer's Chicken Lips and Ray
Mang are joined by a host of newcomers including DJ T, Unai and
Trentemoller (this guy will be a star) whom each hold their own. Veteran
Daniel Wang gets remixed by Metro's Morgan Geist, while Dimitri from Paris
pays homage to the impeccable Peter Brown's Cosmic Force. This is THE party
to be at -- funky, slightly swank and you don't even have to break a $20 or
a sweat, unless you want to. [JD]

THE MARS VOLTA "De-loused In the Comatorium" (Universal) CD $9.99
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From the ashes of At the Drive-In, fans were left with two new bands to
choose from. Sparta offered a more traditional aesthetic of hardcore and
post-hardcore (ala' Quicksand or Fugazi) while Cedric Bixler and Omar
Rodriguez (the two guys with the afros) seemed to be interested in
exploring new sonic directions with their latest vehicle, the Mars Volta.
Following last year's "Tremulant" EP, their first full-length, which is
produced by Rick Rubin, does exactly that, shifting between hardcore,
metal, Latin, avant, prog as well as some ambient passages during the 10
tracks which parallel the true story of the suicide by a close friend of
the band's. Bixler's high falsetto is instantly recognizable (and perfect
in the context of a concept album) while the group spins from ethereal to
staccato, machine gun guitar blasts without any sort of warning. Eerily,
Jeremy Ward, Mars Volta's sound manipulator who is attributed to the spacey
textures, died of a heroin overdose a month before this release. Even with
guest appearances from Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and John Frusciante,
there's nothing blatantly commercial about "De-lousing In the Comatorium."
What you get is the most epic (in the truest most conceptual use of the
word) rock release of this year. [GH]

JAGA JAZZIST "The Stix" (Ninja Tune) CD $14.99
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The lines keep getting more and more blurry. Terms like electro, hip hop,
jazz, soundtracks, and IDM have been reconfigured to incorporate a wide
range of influences and ideas. Borrowing freely from a extensive palette of
references Jaga Jazzist create tight, shuttered electronic jazz, broad
sweeping cinematic canvases, and skittery drum and bass. A very warm
orchestration of vibes, upright bass, keys, strings and brass rest on top
of glitches and smoldering electronics. Rhythms and harmonies shift in big
bands of jazz composition and rock leanings. While the idea of a seemingly
unrelated collage of sounds pulled together into highly melodic
ambient/electronic jazz is not a new one (notably Tortoise, Four Tet,
Cinematic Orchestra, Boards of Canada, etc.), somehow this manages to sound
fresh and appealing. [GA]

FAT TRUCKERS "For Sale" (Roadtrain) CD $16.99
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Much like the Streets, people either love or hate the Fat Truckers. Instead
of mashing many sometimes-conflicting musical styles though, the FTs sport
their love for Cabaret Voltaire like a hipster in a trucker's cap. The
synth-based racket they create is the perfect vehicle for their very
British sense of funny. A bit of dry humor, simple programmed beats and
Moog and Korg debauchery with some catchy beats sums up "For Sale". "I Love
Computers" offers the most chuckles with its Happy Mondays' melody and
Shaun Ryder non-singing over analogue burbs. But the reason that he wrote
the song is so that he can sing, "I Love Computers" -- not for that fact
that he can sing at all. Recommended for those who think ARE Weapons can
only be tolerated while wasted. [LG]

BROKER/DEALER "Initial Public Offering" (Asphodel) CD $13.99
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San Francisco's Ryan Bishop and Ryan Fitzgerald have enrolled and graduated
with honors from the German school of minimal electronics. The duo, better
known as Broker/Dealer, introduced us to their form of bubbly, melodic
techno on Traum's "Elektronische Musik" series and made a splash on the
"Triple R" mix. Now they've released a full-length, "Initial Public
Offering", for Asphodel that is truly aurally appealing. Layers of dubby
basslines, warm synths and dry drums combine with a pop sensibility
creating these ambient to slightly meditative pieces that build into
dance-floor bliss. The album ends with a downtempo tribute to the San Fran
rock group "The Court and Spark" and is accompanied by an interesting video
by Delray showing exactly what we need to let go of to "Feel Free". Very
Pleasant! [JD]

BIFF BANG POW! "Waterbomb" (Revola) CD $15.99
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I can still remember back to what life was like when The Smiths broke up...
I was despondent, I didn't think anyone would ever be capable of writing
songs that spoke with such loss and loneliness as Morrissey & Marr. Then I
was introduced to the work of Biff Bang Pow, which served to satiate the
void in my life -- at least for a few years -- until they too called it
quits in 1991. The only band on Creation Records that never had to worry
about being dropped. Sadly they seem to now be remembered more for being a
band that featured Creation founder Alan McGee (now owner of Poptones)
rather than one of the best bands on the label. Having named the label
after the legendary '60s mod band it is only fitting that they would also
take their band name from a Creation song. Biff Bang Pow was formed out of
Alan's previous band The Laughing Apple, continuing a partnership with Dick
Green (now co-owner of Wichita Recordings) which would also result in
co-founding Creation Records. Often compared to Television Personalities,
they too initially looked back to the '60s mod movement for inspiration and
it didn't hurt that the line-up has featured appearances by two key TVP
alumni, Edward Ball and Creation Records co-founder Joe Foster (owner of
Rev-Ola Records). As the band progressed their songs became more and more
acoustic drawing upon The Hollies and Neil Young to point them in a unique
direction. The lyrics have repeatedly spoken from an unfathomable,
inescapable, and all consuming heartbreak yet always searching for some
evidence of love no matter how distant or unlikely. Rife with an obsessive
energy that is somehow stripped bare to the emotion -- at times
overwhelmingly personal but always inspiring -- it is in this later work
where I think they succeed at creating something timeless. This new
collection covers it all, there are a few songs I wish had been included,
but this only adds to the desperate need for someone to step forward and
reissue all of the Biff Bang Pow albums. Come on Alan, why not put them out
on Poptones? This is just a taste from such a great band, but if this is
all you can get... treasure it! Deserving of the same high praise as Josef
K, Joy Division, and The Smiths. [AG]

THE LOCUST "Plague Soundscapes" (Anti) CD $13.99
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Hi. I've decided to write my review for "Plague Soundscapes," the new
Locust record, in the style of their song-craft:
23songsin21minutes. seriouslycrippling. intensehardcorenoise.
humorouslyapocalypticsongtitles. listenifyourafan.


FOUR TET "Dialogue" (Output) CD $17.99
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("Dialogue" was Kieran Hebden's first proper album as Four Tet, originally
released in 1999.) Four Tet is the solo project of Fridge mainman Kieran
Hebden and takes the post rock formula to frightening new heights. Amazing,
all church organ and ratchet beats, woodblocks and bell-tone synth, and
just when you think he's driven in his point in one too many times, he'll
give you whiplash by throwing in something you didn't expect, or segueing
in new sounds so gently you didn't notice them until they took over. Unlike
a lot of monothemed repetoelectronix, Hebden actually uses the antique
song-construct of the bridge. One track might launch into experimental
shakuhachi sounds, and then pull out into pop backgrounds like a good
Everything But The Girl track (but with too many beats crammed in) then
jump into free-jazz saxophone. Backwards drums and wordless vox, murmuring
rap "heh hehs". Not quite like anyone else, but not NOT like everyone else,
either. Think Tortoise, Amon Tobin, Miles Davis, and countless others. [RE]

This week's contributors: Geoff Albores [GA], J Dennis [JD], Robin Edgerton
[RE], Lisa Garrett [LG], Andy Giles [AG], Daniel Givens [DG], Gerald
Hammill [GH], and Jeremy Sponder [JS].


To see a complete list of Other Music new releases for the week
ending June 24, 2003, use this link as a shortcut:

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Thanks for reading.
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