July 21, 2004  




Sufjan Stevens (Reissue)
Melchior Productions
Low (Box Set)
Simon Finn (Reissue)

Mike Fellows
The National
Sonic Youth (Vinyl)
Antony & the Johnsons (Reissue)


A Certain Ratio (Reissue)
Tom Lucas (Reissue)
United States of America (Reissue)

JUL Sun 25 Mon 26 Tues 27 Wed 28 Thurs 29 Fri 30 Sat 31



A Free Screening
Neil Young's Rock Opera

332 East 11 St. (Between 1st & 2nd Ave.) New York, NY
Monday, July 26 - 8:00 p.m.
Limited seating so get there early, popcorn is free!

The screening is free but you can guarantee your entry to this special night by clicking here. First 25 entries will have a reserved seat for you and a guest, plus two complimentary drinks to wash down the free popcorn! Winners will be notified via e-mail.

JUL Sun 18 Mon 19 Tues 20 Wed 21 Thurs 22 Fri 23 Sat 24


The Blueskins are making their American debut tomorrow at the Bowery Ballroom opening for Hope of the States. The show is sold out but it's not too late to catch this great new band from Yorkshire. Other Music is giving away two pairs of tickets to this show along with prize packs from Domino Records!

To enter, send an e-mail to: contest@othermusic.com and include your name and a daytime phone number. The two winners will be notified by 1:00 pm Thursday, July, 22.







A Sun Came
(Asthmatic Kitty)

"We Are What You Say"
"Super Sexy Woman"

Last year, Sufjan Stevens' opus to the great state of Michigan seemed to come out of nowhere but instantly won the hearts of thousands. Though Stevens had been making music for more than a few years as a member in Michigan's Marzuki and as an occasional contributor to the Danielson Famile, not to mention his own lo-fi recordings, Greetings From Michigan was the multi-instrumentalist's introduction to the world at large. His follow-up, the sparsely arranged Seven Swans received equal acclaim and was an album full of Stevens' most personal thoughts. But the singer-songwriter's display of his deeply religious beliefs weren't a call for conversion - it was a record in which spirituality wasn't off-putting, but something very human and heartfelt that any listener could embrace regardless of their religious persuasion, if any. In a short amount of time, Stevens has earned a very devoted following simply because of his gift of storytelling and the beautifully diverse instrumentation he uses to compliment each and every narrative.

The reissue of his 1999 solo debut, A Sun Came won't be a surprise to any of his fans. Anyone familiar with his more recent works could probably guess that like any prodigy, Stevens' was creating amazing music from day one. Recorded on a four-track while he was still in college, he incorporates well over a dozen instruments. Super organic, acoustic guitar, banjo, recorder, sitar, xylophone, percussion and light electronics are creatively layered; the mood of his music is mind blowing, swinging from Middle Eastern influences and psychedelic or British folk, right into dissonant guitar-fueled indie rock, post-rock and lo-fi pop.

Though not as overtly religious as Seven Songs, Stevens flourishes his songs with spiritual imagery that is super introspective and will cut to your soul if you listen too close. But then there's a whole other side, songs like "Super Sexy Woman" which is playfully lusty and would certainly make any preacher raise their eyebrows. Little bits of spoken word and odd little recordings are scattered throughout this 70-plus minute album. Though his best work was still to come, A Sun Came is a remarkable and ambitious solo debut for this young creative songwriter which both the uninitiated as well as the diehard fan will equally love. [GH]







The Meaning

"The Party"
"Zukunfit in English"

One of the most 'traditional' sounding deep house artists to be part of the Playhouse label crew, London based Melchior Productions has previously released tracks, relatively unnoticed, on their own Aspect label, some in collaboration with Baby Ford under the name Soul Capsule. This collection contains their new album of entirely new tracks (no cheapskate cheating by putting their 12" tracks on the album) entitled The Meaning, plus an entire CDs worth of previously released Aspect label recordings tacked on as a bonus. (It is a nice bonus too -- a tad tech-ier.)

Don't be scared away by the use of the word 'traditional' though. Melchior Productions is, simply put, modern deep house. There isn't a lot of strain to deconstruct anything or turn anything on its head. This is deep, very effective house that will turn on classic house heads and discerning minimal snobs alike. Track 3, "The Party" comes across like a cross between Perlon's Pantytec and minimal John Tejada/Arian Leviste with more actual 'soul' than both put together. (No offense guys, but it's true.) Long grooving coasters that percolate along and ascend at their own natural pace (nothing dramatic), made up of little bits and pieces but not flat and dry like Pantytec.

This stuff is moist and funky. The classic bounce and shuffle (not schaffel) and synth stabs of house are celebrated throughout the album. Also unlike the typically dark feel of German house, this album is full of the deep, moody yet optimistic feel of classic late night/early morning house (see track 6, "Over the Rise"). As the Villalobos quote on the label sticker says, "The later the evening, the more of a fan you become." Selectively recommended, not for the uptight. [SM]





CD Box



A Lifetime of Temporary Relief

"I Remember"
"Because You Stood Still"

As a rule b-sides and rarities box sets make few new converts for a musical group. A Lifetime of Temporary Relief will surely prove to be no exception. What this self-released collection will do is to make a lot of those already initiated into the band's efficient minimalist aesthetic very happy. Spread out over 3 CDs and 1 double-sided DVD, and culled from the band's first 10 years together, the 52 audio tracks, 11 music videos and 3 documentaries that make up the set nicely complete even the most avid collector's catalog of all things Low…and all for less than $10 a disc.

As most fans already know from their live shows, Low are not afraid to cover a song now and then. I once saw Alan shut up a heckling audience member by granting him his ridiculous request for Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." They also did a Halloween show in '98 as the Misfits doing Low songs (downloadable at www.chairkickers.com). Thankfully included here are a handful of homage's to Wire, Bee Gees, Beatles, Spacemen 3, John Denver, Beach Boys, Jandek, Smiths, Pink Floyd, and several others. Most notable are Tom T. Hall's "I Love," with a line that only Zak could deliver with any degree of honesty, and Journey's "Open Arms," complete with Sparhawk's unedited and uncontrollable laughter at the absurdity of his delivery. As a courtesy to the consumer with tastes differing from theirs, Low bravely included virtually everything, so be warned: there's a good reason that a few of these tracks saw limited distribution.

Though I wouldn't consider myself much of a music video fan, I must say that I enjoyed Low's take on what has become a nearly artistically bankrupt medium. The surreal well-intentioned man with balloons and slow-motion ballroom imagery of "Shame" perfectly compliment the song's bleak mood. My favorite video moment though is the depiction in Canada of just how difficult it usually is for a band to cross into that country to play a show. If there's one thing that the Canadian government has perfected it's how to prevent the untaxed and unauthorized import and sale of a struggling musician's merchandise. Way to go eh.

Of the documentaries, "Closer Than That," which follows the band on tour and at home in Duluth, Minnesota, is the most insightful. There is candid talk from the band members about their spirituality, songwriting, and place in the music world. With live performance and backstage footage, interview awkwardness, and accolades from fans (including director John Waters), it's everything you always wanted to know about Low but were afraid to ask. Add to that commentary on the material by the band in a nice 32-page booklet…what more could you ask for? [KC]







Pass the Distance

"Where's Your Master Gone"

I can't tell you how many people have unsuccessfully come into Other Music in search of this album, which until now has only turned up every once in a great while in our used bin, and even then in a non-official version. Durtro, the label run by Current 93's David Tibet, is responsible for the first-ever legitimate CD reissue of Simon Finn's incredibly rare and sought-after 1970 album Pass The Distance. This is psychedelic folk at its finest: Intuitive, immediate, vulnerable, emotional, chaotic, dark, lonely, world-weary, naive, incredibly human.

While recording the album, Finn was joined in the studio by several accompanying musicians, one of whom was a very young David Toop. Toop was given free reign to play an incredible number of instruments including guitar, mandolin, flute, harmonium, accordion, and violin. The fact that he admittedly didn't know how to play many of them explains for the strange bare-bones arrangements. As with some of the best works of art, the so-called mistakes make the work all the more fascinating. Parts of the record are beautiful and idyllic, but there's an unsettling and sometimes terrifying undercurrent to some of the music that reminds me of Comus. There are several moments when Finn sounds like he's on the verge of a total breakdown, and it's a miracle that the songs don't ever fall completely apart around him.

Finn's legacy looms large over the music of contemporary folk revivalists and experimenters like Richard Youngs and Devendra Banhart. Pass The Distance has been remastered from the original tapes, and it sounds a whole lot richer than any of the old bootlegs. It includes liner notes by Simon Finn, David Toop, David Tibet, and Mushroom Records owner Vic Keary, plus some great shambolic Donovanesque folk-pop bonus tracks (one of which Finn wrote at age 12), and photos of the enigmatic singer-songwriter himself (he actually looks a lot like Devendra). Simon Finn is still around, living in Canada and apparently working on a new album, and best of all he's supposed to play in Brooklyn in August. Rumor has it that this disc might not remain in print for long, so don't hesitate if you're interested in picking this up. One of the year's most essential psych reissues. [RH]







(Soul Jazz)

"Knife Slits Water"

Originally released in early-'82 on Factory Records, A Certain Ratio's second proper album is arguably the Manchester band's watershed release. Recorded soon after the release of their breakthrough To Each, Sextet shows ACR further expanding Afro and Latin rhythm influences while incorporating more electronic textures into their dissonant post-punk-funk mix. Simon Topping steps back from the microphone and allows Martha Tilson to take a more prominent vocal roll, her float-y voice gives an almost discordant juxtaposition against ACR's dueling slap bass melodies, horns, and polyrhythms. Spacey and funky, all of A Certain Ratio's strengths are on full display with classic tracks like "Lucinda," "Knife Slits Water" and "Skipscada." Sextet is one of post-punk's most forward thinking albums and an early-'80s classic. This Soul Jazz reissue also features two bonus tracks. Essential! [GH]








"Soft Feminine Boys"

Baby marks the rock and roll return of Shudder To Think's wiry, wild frontman and vocal acrobat Craig Wedren. Since that band's demise, Wedren has kept pretty busy, mainly focusing on soundtrack work; some highlights have been his songs included on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, and the scores to High Art and School Of Rock. But Wedren is a born showman and rock-star, and that type of controlled studio work can only satisfy for so long, so he has returned to the NYC scene with a new gigging band, and now a self-released and self-titled debut, Baby. Straight up, fun and danceable glam-pop, the band has all the elements of summer radio synchronicity, albeit circa 1985. Hooks, style, sexy back-up singers, and Wedren's charismatic lead vocals. The multi-talented singer, songwriter, arranger and producer could use a more powerful foil to clash and collaborate with here, as the band is always spot-on and good, but rarely flashes with intensity and brilliant abandon. But his fans should be overjoyed regardless just to know that he is back in the game. [JM]







Red Letter Day

"One Eyed Gods"
"Down to the Ground"

It's always exciting to stumble across a rare LP from a past era that you've seen listed or reviewed as a gem from reputable collectors. While so many of these elusive, private recordings really aren't as good as you want them to be, this is not the case for Tom Lucas' 1975 LP, Red Letter Day.

An album that was almost definitely released himself (New Fate Records, a mere 500 pressed), Red Letter Day is a synth-drenched, New York art rock record with nicely crafted songs, produced in a definitive 1970s-style. The lyrical content is scattered with social and political themes but the music rocks quite steadily as to not get too caught up in folk leanings. Most of the songs will no doubt remind the listener of the '70s top rock leaders (Bowie, Reed, but especially Neil Young), yet Red Letter Day is far more experimental and Lucas' writing style is quite original once given a proper listen.

There is really nothing known about Lucas himself other than releasing one other LP in the early-'80s titled Lifeboats (also on New Fate). Red Letter Day is one of the more interesting lost titles to be re-issued in the last few years and will likely please anyone with an interest in mid-1970s New York art rock and/or lost underground, outsider recordings. [BR]







United States of America

"You Can Never Come Down"
"The Garden of Earthly Delights"

The United States Of America were one of the finest and most eccentric psychedelic rock bands of the '60s. The group was formed by an ambitious young composer named Joseph Byrd, who had come across Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and Steve Reich as a student at Berkeley, and had come to New York City as a disciple of John Cage. In New York, he studied electronic music with Richard Maxfield and performed with David Tudor and other avant-garde giants. Later, he was a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at UCLA and became a staff arranger for Columbia Records. Needless to say, he was more than qualified to make pop music, which explains why the unprecedented music left behind by the United States Of America is about as original as pop can be.

There's really no explanation that can prepare you for this completely overwhelming and legendary album. The music is melodic and catchy, rooted in Dorothy Moskowitz's lovely vocals, but it can also be quite aggressive, heavy, and sometimes dissonant. The brilliantly weird use of electronic instruments and effects -- wave generators, keyboards, tape-delays, ring modulators -- was years and years ahead of its time. The group made brilliant use of over-the-top orchestral arrangements la Harpers Bizarre, even including an echoey Gregorian chant as the intro to the album's second side. George Martin's studio wizardry on the Sgt. Pepper album looks like simple child's play in comparison to what the United States Of America were up to at the same time. Child's play might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the United States Of America were easily 100 times more adventurous than any of their contemporaries, which is one of the many reasons why their record sold poorly upon its release.

Reasonably priced CD imports of the band's lone 1968 album have been more or less easy to come by for a while now, but this brand new domestic reissue from Sundazed is truly a treasure. The new edition includes a whopping 10 bonus tracks, two of which are alternate takes of songs from the record, plus six awesome songs that have apparently never been available anywhere. Three of the new tracks, taken from a never-before-heard Dorothy Moskowitz solo recording, showcase her beautiful voice in a more mainstream rock/folk setting than anything on the US Of A record. The liner notes include a brief but thorough history of the band written by Byrd himself, and a great new interview with Moskowitz.

If you are a fan of Broadcast, you should know that this band is probably their biggest influence. Many parts of last year's incredible Haha Sound practically sound like a tribute to the United States Of America. This album is an absolute masterpiece, quite honestly one of the best records ever made. If you aren't familiar with it yet, you're in for a real treat. [RH]









Limited Storyline Guest
(Vertical Form)

"Way I Love"

Mike Fellows has just released a stunning new album that with an even heavier emphasis on traditional bluesy and folksy elements than his Mighty Flashlight album. Considering that the multi-instrumentalist has graced many a great "alt-country" records by artists like Smog, Palace Brothers, and Silver Jews, it should come as no surprise to hear John Fahey-esque picked guitars rubbing against achingly beautiful melodies, harmonica and sparse layers of piano, with light flourishes of electronic accents sprinkled throughout.








Cherry Tree

"Wasp Nest"
"Cherry Tree"

A great, great new EP from NYC's The National, this one cements their place in my heart for good. Moody, orchestrated rock that owes a debt to the Tindersticks and Nick Cave, yet stands firmly on its own two feet with excellent songwriting, subtle playing, sad and lovely poetry, and Matt Berninger's dark, woozy vocal delivery. Do I need to say more? Listen to it. [JM]





2- LP




Sonic Nurse

"Paper Cup Exit"

As many readers of this update already contend, Sonic Youth have been perhaps the prime movers in American underground rock music for nearly the past quarter of a century. What's even more remarkable is that they've managed to re-inform their aesthetic yet again, this time with such poise as to make the hairs on the back your neck stand on end. They also make you question just which of this band's prodigious output, if not Sonic Nurse, is your favorite. I suppose only time will tell, but for now suffice it to say that the latest dose is some very impressive material.

The mood of Sonic Nurse is similar to that of 2002's brilliant Murray Street -- tense, gentle, jubilant, fierce and sassy -- but the writing and delivery is even more confident and controlled. In addition to the patience that only years of playing together with the same people can bring, we seem to hear relative new-comer Jim O'Rourke stretching out a bit within the SY paradigm, unafraid of lending new arrangement ideas and newfound harmonic and textural elements to the already rich sound of the band. The majority of the album finds SY perfecting the art that they started to teach themselves 23 years ago, utilizing the considerable tools that they've picked up along the way.

The three vocalists of the band turn in some of their most inspired performances in years, all aptly supported by Shelly's sympathetic and metronomic drumming. Moore's "Unmade Bed" and epic "Dripping Dreams" both gradually build until they open wide and swallow the listener, the latter with one of the most beautifully oceanic passages found in the SY catalog. Kim Gordon makes a fantastic showing with the whispery "I Love You Golden Blue," maybe her most moving moment since Evol's "Shadow of a Doubt." She also shows she can still growl with the best of them on "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," a funny and tragic exposition of pop superstar Mariah Carey's breakdown a while back. Renaldo's "Paper Cup Exit" is fantastically nervous punk rock paranoia, with its critique of the so-called Patriot Act. As catchy as it is uneasy, this may be the jewel of the record.

One hopes that the song's assertion that "new ears are listening" is true. It'd be a shame if a new generation didn't get to feel that chill of discovery that we experienced the first time we heard a new SY album. I think they will. [KC]









Antony & the Johnsons
(Secretly Canadian)

"Cripple and the Starfish"

"Antony has been compared to everyone from Brian Ferry to Lotte Lenya. His songs are alarmingly beautiful, sorrowful, gospel-inspired, and transformative. The Johnsons feature piano, strings, drums, bass, flute sax, clarinet, and harp. Their soundtrack forms around Antony's voice, which stands in a class of it's own. Here, he narrates archetypal tales of alienation, apocalypse, victimisation and transcendence with an impassioned sometimes almost evangelical fervor."
--David Tibet, Durtro Records.

Originally released on the Durtro label, Secretly Canadian has finally brought Antony & the Johnson's self-titled debut back in print! Antony's nihilistic narratives are spellbinding; cabaret has never been so haunting.




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[KC] Kevin Coultas
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[JM] Josh Madell
[SM] Scott Mou
[BR] Brooks Rice

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