July 28, 2004  




Comets on Fire
Monk Hughes & the Outer Realm
McNeal & Niles (Reissue)
Kings of Convenience

Badly Drawn Boy
Martina Topley-Bird


Bigg Jus
Mikey Dread (Reissue)
James T. Cotton
Sergio Sampaio (Reissue)
The Temptations (Collection)

Hans Edler (Reissue)

AUG Sun 08 Mon 09 Tues 10 Wed 11 Thurs 12 Fri 13 Sat 14
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Rogue Wave



Wednesday, August 11 @ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 15 @ 7:00 p.m.
Monday, August 16 @ 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 25 @ 8:00 p.m.

15 East 4th Street NY, NY
Free Admission/Limited Capacity








"These Are Your Friends"

It's impossible for me to begin a review of Fridge bassist Adem Ilhan's solo debut without mentioning his bandmate Kieren Hebden. At this point, Hebden's own project as Four Tet has easily surpassed the popularity of the electronic post-rock trio where they both cut their teeth. So to be honest, I assumed Adem's Homesongs would be an example of another Fridge member with decent cut 'n' paste skills who would also probably fail to reach the bar that Hebden set with Four Tet. It was a rush of judgment that turned out to be very unfair.

While 'organic' is a descriptor that's justifiably thrown around quite a lot when describing Four Tet's dreamy sound collage melodies, Adem's album is a strict interpretation of that word - meaning no laptop reconstructions. Bedroom recorded yet far from lo-fi, Homesongs is an almost all acoustic pop album that's steeped in folk music tradition filled with quiet hesitations and melodies that seem to be the musical equivalent of watching the sun go down.

This is beautifully apparent with album's opening song. Amidst the soft swells of a harmonium and the pensive strums of a guitar and autoharp, "Statued" slowly creeps with stretched pauses that emphasize the feeling of the desolation that looms from the song's sparseness. The weary voiced Adem sings, "Let this be the moment, that you won't forget, 'till you die."

The wistful romanticism throughout Homesongs is only made more real by Adem's unconscious throaty strain. His melodies resonate with the familiarity of a lullaby, and then naturally build into a sort of quiet falsetto anthem, and then fall again. Each layer of sound -- the gently plucked banjo, glockenspiel accents and subtle hand percussion -- is thoughtfully placed; but equally important, if not more so, is the silence that exists between the notes. Even the upbeat "Everything You Need" is cautiously hopeful.

During the closing track, as Adem's elastic melody twists around the droning chords of an accordion, it's easy to think of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum, only here surreal psychedelic imagery is replaced with a humble invitation: "There will always be room at my table for you." At its core, the warm pastoral folk of Homesongs is filled with timeless human sentiment where insecurity and loneliness also brings hope. [GH]







Blue Cathedral
(Sub Pop)

"The Bee and the Cracking Egg"
"Wild Whiskey"

Brilliantly over-the-top in all the best ways, the third full-length album from Southern California rock masters Comets On Fire is the perfect antidote to your late summer boredom. Blistering guitar riffs race against fuzzed-out bass and pounding drum onslaughts, while Ethan Miller's powerful, gravely voice echoes endlessly from speaker to speaker. Then the guitar solos come in, and the dueling six-strings sound like they're either made of rubber or ready to shatter into a million pieces and blast off toward every imaginable corner of the universe. And it's not all loud, balls-to-the wall madness either. When things get quiet and melodic and come back a little closer to Earth, you'll be reminded that Ben Chasny a.k.a. Six Organs Of Admittance is now a full-time band member. Finally, a record offering proof that heavy, ass-kicking rock doesn't necessarily have to be stupid, goofy, or macho, and that constantly attacking the whammy bar isn't necessarily a bad thing. I can't imagine how often these guys must have to re-tune. Comets On Fire could give Dead Meadow a run for their money, Blue Cathedral is the best heavy psych rock record released by one of the big indie labels since last year's phenomenal Shivering King And Others. I declare it to be stupendous. [RH]








Tribute to Brother Weldon
(Stones Throw)

"A Piece for Brother Weldon"

Flexing more musical muscle than Mr. Clean, Monk Hughes (a.k.a. Madlib, a.k.a. Otis Jackson Jr.) finds inspiration from the under-rated keyboardist Weldon Irvine for his latest trip to the "Bomb Shelter". More fusion based than anything he's done before, his use of keyboards, fuzz bass, and splattered and shimmering drums and cymbals is spot on this time. Definitely less straightforward than his hip-hop and rare groove inspired instrumentals a la his Shades of Blue or Stevie tribute albums, this one is more free jazz. Think dancefloor jazz vamps or prog-rock jamming. Sun Ra meets Weather Report meets Rashied Ali meets Can and Art Ensemble -- all get referenced in this heady, free form, and surprisingly inspiring tribute.

Tight drumming and loose, soulful ambient washes fill out the space, and not a boom-bap beat in sight. I'm not sure how many members of Yesterdays New Quintet are actually Madlib, but if the rumors are true, he really is hip-hop's one-man band. Fans of the nu-jazziness of artists on Compost, Sonar Kollective, Matthew Shipp's Blue Series, or even Jan Jelinek, should take a listen. Recommend. [DG]







(Chocolate Industries)

"Ja Ja"
"Summer Time"

It is always a pleasure to be able to review a funk album that I can recommend to people who aren't solely funk fans, per se. It's gotta have that something special which sets it apart, you know like the kind of magic you find in Shuggie Otis or ESG. McNeal and Niles' 1979 opus Thrust just may have what it takes. Rescued from hopeless obscurity by Chocolate Industries and purportedly previously plundered by the likes of Prefuse 73, Thrust elusively manages to stay one step ahead of any attempt I make to categorize it. So perhaps I'll just fall back on that cynical, yet nevertheless no so truer than in this case, rock critic signigier, Sublime.

McNeal and Niles seem to have one foot in the soul jazz stylings popular a decade before their sole album's conception, and yet another firmly planted in the atmospheric New Wave and Disco movements that were then popularly entrenched. "Summertime" in particular can't seem to decide if it wants to be Dub Housing or Chic, while other tracks seem to arrive at exactly the point where musical integrity and broad appeal meet. Which incidentally seems to be the exact same place current like-minded artists such as Yesterdays New Quintet and Poets of Rhythm are trying to reach. And incongruities like that are exactly what you'll love discovering throughout the length of this brilliant record. [MK]







$16.99 LP


Riot on an Empty Street

"Stay Out of Trouble"

Quiet is still the new loud, at least on the block where Kings of Convenience live. Erlend and Eirik aren't really breaking any new ground with their deceptively titled Riot on an Empty Street but would you really want them too? Their hushed, high and low vocal harmonies as well as the acoustic guitar and lush string arrangements play out like Norway's answer to Simon and Garfunkel. There are a lot of perfect folk-pop songs on their new album and Riot on an Empty Street seems more focused in both the depth and consistency of material. The breathy melody of "Misread" accompanied by the light upstrokes of an acoustic guitar and the tinkling piano between the verses are as comforting as a warm glass of milk before bed. The baroque string passages and the walking stand-up bass provide the perfect, wistful backdrop for the sad goodbye happening in "Stay Out of Trouble." There's also a guest appearance from Broken Social Scene's Leslie Feist, who sings on both "Know How" and also "The Build Up." During the latter track, you'll get goose bumps when her voice unexpectedly takes over the verse and brings the album to a close. [GH]







Black Mamba Serums v.2
(Big Dada)

"Dedication to Peo '97"

"Mind exercise for survival by a B-Boy thoroughly entrenched in the culture and forever on the front lines"

Brushing aside subtlety and delivering his intent directly through his liner notes, Jus proceeds to simultaneously embrace the culture that harbored him while seething with the socio-political hypocrisies that hip hop and the world encompassing it has contained, also. Immediately after the dissolution of one of the most politically, culturally, and socially relevant artists of the '90s (if not ever!), Company Flow - whom I seriously believe would save the world - Bigg Jus got down to work as a solo artist. Popular belief within critics and fans alike lays in the misconception that El-P was the sole radical member of the group, but one listen to Black Mamba Serums will convince you that Bigg Jus is an artist to be reckoned with, independent of preconceptions, relational ties, and past ventures.

Black Mamba Serums
drops almost three years after the criminally ignored Plantation Rhymes - but for those who missed out on the debut, this record serves as a comprehensive collection of works from 1997-2004, including b-sides, exclusives, new cuts, and 10 mp3 only tracks from Japan-only releases. Jus attacks almost kindred to Rammellzee, with an explosive production front of cryptic and nightmarish beats laced with dense, warped lyricism- spitting math and science for us to wrap our brains around. Tales of irony, b-boy-ism, trials and tribulations of a graffiti writer (Justoleum, rustoleum - get it?), and glory days creep over amazing, bluesy, soul & jazz influenced sounds and beautiful piano samples. Old fans of Company Flow will not be disappointed, and new fans will definitely be welcomed. [MT]







African Anthem Dubwise

"Resignation Dub"
"Technical Selection"

Deluxe re-issue of Mikey Dread's (Michael Campbell) groundbreaking dub masterpiece African Anthem Dubwise, it comes loaded with bonus tracks never previously heard on CD before, as well as engrossing liner notes by reggae scholar David Katz. This one has long since entered the canon and is an absolutely essential listen. In many ways this album is an amazing synthesis of the towering influence provided by those twin giants of dub, Lee Perry and King Tubby.

Mikey Dread was an electronics wiz as a youth and a serious scholar of reggae music's early history. He had tracked down and interviewed countless legends while in high school, then put his prodigious knowledge and connections to good use by starting a 24-hour a day, all reggae radio show. The late-night-night shift provided him with ample opportunity to experiment and put his electronics skills to good use, he had an endless capacity to create inventive jingles and outlandish segues that would later serve as the kaleidoscopic background for his own productions.

African Anthem Dubwise was recorded at King Tubby's studio (who'd lent Mikey all of his studio production manuals) and mixed by Prince Jammy. The post-production was handled by Mikey himself, and you could certainly say he favoured a kitchen sink approach to his craft. The roots rhythms are almost overloaded with sound effects, making a blissful cacophony that takes many, many listens to unravel. Mikey Dread was absolutely intent on slapping his listeners out of easy complacency, constantly stunning them with surprise after surprise, and here at least he succeeded in creating one of the most outrageously joyful and good-humoured albums you could hope to ever hear. [MK]







The Dancing Box

"The Drain"
"Press Your Body"

This is the debut album from the overachieving Ghostly label owner, and it's really good. Old school acid techno seems to be the main influence here, but it has the analog keyboard-y melodic sense of classic IDM (like Music Has the Right-era Boards of Canada, and Aphex Twin ), but it doesn't sound derivative or nostalgic. Cotton is definitely using these influences as a firm base, on which to build his own unique musical vision of techno. It ain't downtempo that's for sure, Cotton wants to make you move. Any fans of Matthew Dear, Juan Atkins, or any of the aforementioned artists would probably love this album. Worth checking out. [DH]







Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua
(Universal Brazil)

"Filme de Terror"
"Da Maria de Lourdes"

Wonderful post-tropicalia approach to Brazilian pop-rock circa 1973, recorded with a crack band and produced by legend Raul Seixas. As far as I can tell Eu Quero é Botar Meu Bloco na Rua must not have fared well commercially because he didn't release another album for the remainder of the '70s, which is too bad because both Sampaio's singing and songwriting on this album compare favourably, even stands alongside, contemporaries like Veloso, Gil, Tom Ze, and Os Mutantes. There is a refreshing diversity to the tracks, with off-kilter rockers finely balanced by ballads that could easily fill a soccer stadium. The production manages to be interesting without hitting you over the head with willful cleverness. As I don't speak any romance languages, Eu Quero... is one of those records that is better than I could possibly hope to make it sound. Rewarding listening that I've been returning to for weeks. [MK]







Psychedelic Soul

"Take a Stroll Thru Your Mind"

In 1968, at the top of their game and on the top of the charts following such monstrous hits as "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", the Temptations shockingly severed ties with David Ruffin, their silk-voiced frontman, after months of infighting. Motown's classic male vocal combo had always been a group effort, but nonetheless this was a bold and shocking move, and no doubt their future was unclear at best. What followed, however, was an incredible second life for the group, as they undertook sharp stylistic innovation to keep pace with the turbulent change in the world all around them, and a long string of critical and popular successes as they trail-blazed a new type of black music that came to be known as psychedelic soul.

Dennis Edwards took over the vacated fifth spot in the group, and his raw, powerful delivery gave the band an undercurrent of rage that matched the sounds emanating from crumbling American inner cities all around them. With Norman Whitfield writing and producing, the Temptations dropped "Cloud Nine", a streetwise rhapsody on the truths of inner-city life, drug use and escapism, which combined with Dennis Coffey's wah-wah guitar hook was a bold mission statement for a group better known for sad paeans to lovelorn heartache. The tune was a top 10 pop hit, and won Motown their first Grammy, and a new era began for the group. For the next five years, Whitfeld and the Tempts rode the wave.

This stellar 2-CD collection covers all the biggest singles and album tracks of this period, including songs from the albums "Cloud Nine", "Puzzle People", "Psychedelic Shack", "Sky's The Limit", "Solid Rock", "All Directions", "Masterpiece", and 1973's "1990". The big hits are here, including classics like "I Can't Get Next To You", "Slave", "War", "Smiling Faces Sometimes", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", and stunning alternate versions of "Psychedelic Shack" and "Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)".

All they left off is the sound of the walls of soul music convention toppling, as Whitfield and the Temptations follow their muse into uncharted territory. They often blow off traditional pop form by abandoning the verse-chorus repetition and three-minute time limit that are radio staples, with a majority of these songs clocking in at well over five, or even 10 minutes. They pioneer what has become a hip-hop calling card with rapid-fire alternating lead vocalists, as each man steps to the mic to take a stanza. They inject politics and anger back into black pop. And they open the door for the psych-soul that is to follow, from Parliament-Funkadelic to the Rotary Connection and beyond, creating mainstream, chart-topping success out of the modern black urban experience. Angry, poignant, and intense, this ain't no Big Chill, and this collection is the best introduction you can find to a classic and still-relevant period in American music. Be tempted. [JM]





$15.99 CD




Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts


The French import of M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts was one of 2003's most requested albums for our shop; we couldn't keep the Gooom pressing in stock. A year later, Mute finally delivers this epic record to the masses and tacks on a bonus CD with tracks not found on the import as well as two videos and a Cyann & Ben version of "In Church." Like Air, M83 are a French duo with a fetish for old synthesizers and rich orchestration, but that's where the similarities end. The aesthetic of Nicolas Fromageau and Anthony Gonzalez is far more epic, stretching and layering minor chords of dense, buzzing analog sounds and guitars over drum machine beats and occasional voices hauntingly manipulated via musique concrete inspired techniques.

Their second album, appropriately titled album, Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts opens with what sounds like a radio broadcast from another planet. The hypnotic repetition of a robotic voice rises from the din of birds and static, and then gives way to a moody theme carried by the droning chords of an electric guitar and brooding synthetic strings. Like the tide, waves of sound come crashing in and then quietly dissipate. Much in the spirit of Alain Goraguer's score to La Planete Sauvage, M83 songs are otherworldly yet sensually human at the same time, while the pastoral nature blended with warm, compressed washes of guitar drones feels like Boards and Canada making music after stealing Kevin Shields' stash. Much in the same way as BOC, My Bloody Valentine, Mum and Sigur Ros, M83 will gently nudge their way into your hazy subconscious and stay there for weeks to come. [GH]





$16.99 CD




One Plus One Is One

"One Plus One Is One"
"Easy Love"

Badly Drawn Boy (known to his mum as Damon Gough) has weathered the ups and downs of incredible hype -- Mercury Prize-winning debut; the much ballyhooed soundtrack for About a Boy, the second film adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel -- and emerged making the records, the gorgeous, studied, melodious records, that he'd probably have been making anyway. After spending time in L.A. recording About a Boy and Have You Fed the Fish?, a glossier, more deliberately produced disc, Gough retreated home to North England to make One Plus One Is One with Andy Votel, his early collaborator, his co-founder in the Twisted Nerve label.

The album is at once increasingly intimate and more expansive. Little here will surprise Gough's fans. His voice remains Lennonesque and his lyrics echo the beloved Beatle's effusive positivism on the title track, a swirling mini-symphony ("Please give me some peace," Gough implores). The Nick Drake/Elliott Smith influence in his acoustic guitar picking surfaces most apparently on the dreamy "Easy Love." The shuffling "Four Leaf Clover" suggests his jaunty About a Boy tunes, even romping through different segments in a soundtracky way. Even more redolent of his big-screen work is the instrumental, piano-based "Stockport," which'll have you squinting at the credits to rule out Vince Guaraldi as a contributor.

But it's his modest glories that first won fans for the ski cap-clad wunderkind, and their crushes will undoubtedly be rekindled here. There's the soaring chamber pop of "The Year of the Rat" and the eight-minute album closer "Holy Grail," both of which employ a children's chorus in a totally uncloying way. The demo-like "Life Turned Upside Down" is the flipside to the coin, a stripped-down affair with some playful production tweaks on Gough's vocals. Sometimes just being yourself sounds pretty damned good. [LV]







$16.99 LP




(Astralwerks / Source)

"Everything is Everything"
"Victim of the Crime"

Phoenix are one of the more enigmatic "secrets" in all of music these days. Fans of their debut "United" generally employ the perhaps appropriately inspired language of studious devotion to them, and to all that they represent. Which is where it gets tricky for some, the question of what it is they represent. Whereas an act like the (fantastic) Strokes achieve currency inside of an amiable, though urgent demeanor, the just-as-accomplished Phoenix seem to be strolling through what IS a deceptively urgent, yet on the face of it not, eternal halcyon villa at dusk. Those who accuse them of embodying the perceived qualities of a cynically, or just lamely, conceived throwback never seem to have any explanation for, say, the impeccably modern attenuation of those perfectly crisply ringing halos of a tempo-marking, digitized-crossbow variety that wonderfully support almost every track.

There is as well the singer's remarkable facility with parsing such a consummately detailed court of spark, and his ability to then grace it with a thankfully hyper-human (as opposed to an indistinct confessional), true pop face. What they represent (and maybe the Strokes too) is a throwback perhaps, to a mythical time when pop didn't have to cycle through various forms of resentment in order to answer for its own purportedly false conceit, and when pop songs could tell something to someone about their existence by means of an unabashedly formal, and suitably conversant, grace. [DHo]










"I Still Feel"

Martina Topley-Bird, the voice that adorned the first three Tricky albums, finally releases her solo debut. Beginning with a multi-tracked voice and bell intro, we get a rootsy, bluesy, rocking, and trippy mix of emotion, mood, and character. Produced by members of Queens of the Stone Age, David Holmes, Tricky, and herself, about half of the album is mostly acoustic, seeing Martina croon, coo, and sway her way through a varied collection of backdrops. Acoustic, slightly country-esque guitar gives her room to breathe on "Anything". "Soul Food," a slow '60s R&B number with Fender Rhodes, a horn section, and strings arranged by David Arnold, is reminiscent of a frail Aretha Franklin in her Memphis era.

The sweet "Lullaby," with reversed piano, again acoustic guitar, and brushed drums, is something of a rare piece, reminding me of a cross between Devendra Banhart, Bjork, and Karen Dalton. She still possesses the beautiful honey coated, haunting ghost of a voice that made her input in the Tricky project so memorable. She knows her voice, range, possibilities, and motivations; she uses them skillfully, playfully, sweetly, and just right. Fans of Via Tania, Martin Gore, Bjork, Portishead, and of course Tricky should check it out. Recommended. (This domestic edition features 10 of the 13 songs first available on last year's import release, originally titled Quixotic. The Tricky produced track "Stevie's" is not included on this domestic version.) [DG]








Elektron Kukeso
(Boy Wonder)

"Original Basic"

First released in 1971, Hans Edler created what is quite probably the first computer produced pop record. Recorded in Stockholm's Electronic Music Studio (EMS), the computer was gigantic and lacked a keyboard; its console took up a whole room. His overnight sessions were painstakingly long with many bouts of lost data and computer crashes, however what resulted was a one-of-a-kind pop record that seems born from the odd coupling of Stockhausen and melodic inspiration from swinging '60s London. Self-released on his independent label Marila, this bizarre album, full of psychedelic influenced electronic music, would soon enough become a hard-to-find collectors item until this recent re-release on the Boy Wonder imprint. Reissue includes bonus recordings, a 24-page color booklet and a reprint of the original 1971 promotion poster.




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[DG] Daniel Givens
[GH] Gerald Hammill
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