May 20 , 2004  




White Magic
The New Year
To Rococo Rot
Third Unheard (Hip Hop compilation)
!!! (12" Single)
Tracy + the Plastics
Pan Sonic

Death Comet Crew (Compilation)
Unicorns (EP)
Measles Mumps Rubella (EP)


The Streets
Pedro the Lion
The Divine Comedy
Terry Reid (Reissue)







$10.99 LP


Through the Sun Door Mini LP
(Drag City)

"Keeping the Wolves From the Door"

White Magic have been playing around New York for a while now, opening shows for artists like Will Oldham, Devendra Banhart, Cat Power, Black Dice and many, many more. This Brooklyn trio -- comprised of Mira Billotte on piano, guitar and vocals, Andy Macleod on guitar, and Miggy Littleton on bass and drums -- have been playing so many shows and honing their skills for this, their debut mini-album. I could not have anticipated this but Through the Sun Door is hands down, the finest debut of the year. This is no exaggeration. These songs are both haunting and beautiful with Mira's voice leading the way while the melodies themselves will stay in your head all day long. Her vocals are a bluesy mix of Karen Dalton, PJ Harvey, and Chan Marshall (Cat Power) while the songs are primarily based on late-'60s/early-'70s British folk with a little bit of soul thrown in for good measure. The tracks range from the piano driven folk of "One-Note," and the "The Gypsies Came Marching After," to the PJ Harvey-esque "Keeping the Wolves From the Door," as well as some psychedelic guitar picking in "Don't Need." Six tracks in all, this is the best 23 minutes of music that I have heard this year. This record is absolutely essential! [JS]







$14.99 2-LP


Since We Last Spoke
(Def Jux)

"Exotic Talk"
"Since We Last Spoke"

The anticipated follow to Deadringer by producer-cum-singer RJD2 is set to part the seas -- believers vs. non-believers. It starts off with a banger, the hyped-up, guitar led title track that could be an instrumental from Postal Service or Dntel. RJ (Ramble Krohn to friends and family) created this while listening to tons of the Beatles; he incorporates their splashy drums and slightly psychedelic overtones into his soul-hop fusion. He supplies most of the vocals, which shows an Erlend Øye-ish soft, sensitive side while weaving through dancefloor stompers, prog grooves and samba rockers. This one lies more in the instrumental indie camp than that of Def Jux, but this could very well be their cross over success...we'll see. [DG]







$12.99 LP


The End is Near
(Touch & Go)

"Plan B"
"Sinking Ship"

The New Year returns after a three-year hiatus with The End is Near, another elegant, minor key slow burner. Led by Bubba and Matt Kadane of the beloved and now-defunct Bedhead, the brothers are once again joined by bassist Mike Donofrio, Chris Brokaw (Codeine, Come, Pullman) on drums, and occasional Bedhead guitarist Peter Schmidt. Not surprising, their latest album begins with a song of contradiction, "The End's Not Near," as Macha's Josh McKay (who is listed as playing miscellaneous instruments) feeds a sad, circular piano chord progression that patiently builds after the addition of sustained guitar notes. The song slowly crescendos and hints at a climax with the promise of a coming beat, but the drums never join. The second track, "Sinking Ship" does move slightly faster and with a beat; still the quiet open chords and hushed voice is masterfully restrained.

The genius of the Kadane brothers' music is more than just the tension within each track's slow shifting dynamics; equally important is how each song interacts with the one before, and the one after. The album slowly winds itself up over three songs and by fourth track, "Plan B," it's as if the sonic floodgates have been opened -- all by simply shifting to a slightly faster medium-tempo and wrenching up the distortion on the angular guitar melodies. The song ends with a dense, weaving chord progression but by the next track, everything is quiet and fragile again. If from anyone else, it would be formulaic, but as with Bedhead, and for that matter Codeine, thoughtful restraint seems to be the only natural accompaniment for these common themes of disbelief and the tragic loss of hope. The End is Near is another somber yet majestic release from the Kadanes. [GH]







$13.99 LP


Hotel Morgen


One of the most consistent provocateurs of the post rock scene, Berlin based trio To Rococo Rot have always specialized in slightly robotic sounding pieces that are equally inspired by various strains of dance music as well as many of their German forefathers such as Kraftwerk. Stylistically speaking their fifth album, Hotel Morgen, may not represent any sort of grave departure from the formula that they have been refining since their early days, but it is an extremely well produced and pleasant listen. The beats quickly develop into slightly playful grooves that are then tastefully complimented by washes of synth and more melodic samples. To Rococo Rot blend acoustic and electronic elements effortlessly always positioning one ear towards the more accessible 'pop' side of things while the other delves momentarily into more experimental waters. If you are looking for an album with some catchy yet subdued nod-your-head rhythms and some almost hummable melodies then this is the summer jam you have been waiting for. [KH]







Various/Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983
(Stones Throw)

"Get Up (And Go to School)" Pookey Blow

"Million Dollar Legs" The Outlaws Four

This comp is AMAZING!! Seriously. Do you remember the days when hip-hop was fun? Hi-tops, shell toes, Kangols and name belt. Aaahh… the good ol' days. Stones Throw lets us in on a little secret; New York wasn't the only birthplace of what was to become known as rap music. Connecticut also has had its fair share of skilled producers, DJs, and MCs. You'd be surprised at some of the jams in store: Mr. Magic, Outlaw Four and Pookey Blow who was only 12 years old at the time! No need to hype this one, the music speaks for itself, a fantastic slice of history from back in the day when rap was nothing less than fun. Includes great liner notes and photos. Best comp of the year so far! Recommended!! [DG]





$4.99 12"

Pardon My Freedom 12-Inch
(Touch & Go)

It's apparent that these (many) dudes have an increased utilization of the recording studio in mind. When coupled as well with their even further fleshing out of an almost progressive and controlled, forceful dynamism (what, eight years in the making?), put forth on typically unabashed exhibition here, it should then become clear that any would-be peers have only an inability to fully reckon with them, or match them (ha!), to look forward to now. By "progressive" I mean to say that this song, "Pardon My Freedom," is for instance, just about three-songs in one.

It starts with a loping, sauntering introduction that is, however, in possession of some sinister overtones. Nic Offer's exclamatory vocals are largely responsible for this, but mixed semi-low. As perhaps there's no real contending with the rest of the group's galvanic semi-truck of rhythm, which is conversely heading seemingly straight for the listener's somatoplasm at all times. He growls and expresses more and more though, until the middle part becomes an 'Anger-Management Disco Experiment' not really explored since Die Warzau, a band who, appropriately enough, used to have house maven Ralphi Rosario mix their b-sides.

There is as well a Maurice Fulton instrumental mix here, who fulfills the same function for them, except he's becoming more like their Walter Gibbons or something (with way more of his !!! mixes to come too). The rasping anger and unit-borne propulsion fold into a choppy, dubbed-out cocoon towards the end, in a somewhat similar way as the space jam "Instinct" did, from that fabled split with Out Hud years ago. [DHo]







Culture for Pigeon

"Knit a Claw"
"This is Dog City"

For the uninitiated, Tracy + the Plastics is in fact a solo project of Olympia, WA video artist Wynne Greenwood. Her fun concerts are an integral facet to her music; here electro punk meets performance art as Tracy leads the show with images of her 'bandmates' Nikki and Cola (all played by Greenwood) projected on a video screen. During the performance, the three characters interact with each other challenging Tracy's control -- their band politics loaded with bigger concepts of feminism and their roles as queer artists. Compared to Tracy's previous album Muscler's Guide to Videonics, Culture for Pigeon is less beat driven and even more contemplative. The darker tone and less-is-more production allows one to focus more on Greenwood's warbling melodies that go from breathy to punked-up. Recorded in Brooklyn, fellow Olympians JD Samson (Le Tigre) and the Need's Rachel Carns assist with bass and drum samples. The accompanying DVD features two pieces, the first a 15-minute, behind-the-scene segment of a Tracy + the Plastics band rehearsal. The second is a more surreal accompaniment to the music. [GH]








"Pakoisvoima (Fugalforce)"
"Käytävä (Corridor)"

Let's just call them "Panasonic" since the group can't get sued for being called the "wrong" name… OK. Who knew Panasonic would release a FOUR CD boxed album? Before you accuse them of being too full of themselves, be aware that they were inspired by Francis Bacon's painting style and use of the triptych (not just their egos) to create a three-part album that turned into a three-part album, PLUS one more 60-minute piece added!!! The result is a 4-CD set, comprised of over four hours of new music under the title Kesto, which means 'strength' or 'duration'.

Both translations of Kesto come into play while interpreting the album. 'Strength', in the way, like Markus Popp's So album, there seems to be much more, hand-manipulated (knob cranked?) bursts/waves of analog static and texture. Where previous Panasonic albums were more about feeding the sound in and letting the machine spit it out with the occasional burst here and there, now, particularly in CD-1, there are broad, brush-like strokes of noise throughout the album. The beat structures are more physical versions of what began in their last album, Aaltopiiri -- basically minimal breakbeats that recall the dark hip hop sound of Scorn's Gyral LP. (When is the RZA gonna hook up with Panasonic?) Also, where other Panasonic records had a very "internal" (though physical) machine sound, Kesto seems to "project" more than usual.

CD-2 explores a more-subtle, stuttering, slightly macabre sound. There is a move back into their "internal" sounding atmospheres. Classic metronomic beats reappear here as well as the crisp breakbeats of Aaltopiiri. CD-3 and CD-4 are where the 'Duration' translation of Kesto comes into play. CD-3 is full of isolated silence where hums enter imperceptibly at impossibly slow graduations. The huge expanses of warm silence (how, I don't know) expand into a banging cacophony of analog textures that could only be considered beautiful when preceded by such stark silence. CD-4 is a Panasonic meets William Basinski loop piece that is made up of shimmering, crystalline waves of sound that create the atmosphere of an ice cave. Time becomes undefined as the piece seems to have no end.

As well as being an essential addition to the die-hard Panasonic fan, I have to say that Kesto would be my recommendation as an ideal "first Panasonic record" to try out (replacing Aaltopiiri). It has the range and personality of all the other releases, but in a way that is almost "mapped out" compared to the other starkly inhuman (seeming) albums. Recommended. [SM]







A Grand Don't Come for Free
(Vice/Locked On/Atlantic)

"Not Addicted"
"Empty Cans"

If Mike Skinner's (a/k/a The Streets) debut Original Pirate Material was many people's party album, his much acclaimed follow-up and concept album of sorts is the sound of the morning after. A Grand Don't Come for Free is filled with monologues brewing with frustration, agitation, bitterness, at times he even gets mournful. The beats are slower and Skinner can't seem to get beyond the conflict between going out with his lads or staying home and watching DVDs with his girl. Neither way seems to give satisfaction, both are met with confrontation. Dodgy friends, posing wanna-be gansters and pissed of "birds" all seem to be approaching from every corner. "No one gives a crap about my life that's why I'm acting nasty" -- I guess the theme lies in his thought that with fame comes a price and with stardom comes frustration, not satisfaction. There is a darker, more paranoid streak that I didn't quite expect with this album, it's definitely not a party record, but there's no doubt that A Grand Don't Come for Free is a product of Mike Skinner's one-of-a- kind pop vision. [DG]








"Amour Fou"
"Angels' Share"

With Devendra Banhart's star rapidly on the rise, music fans are liable to get excited about virtually anything he puts his name on. To be fair, Vetiver isn't really Devendra's band. Andy Cabic is without a doubt the leader of this San Francisco-based folk quartet. He sings lead on every song, and he is credited as the sole writer on every song save for two that were co-written with young Mr. Banhart, who plays guitar on most of the album and goes on the mic somewhat rarely. In comparison to the incredibly popular Rejoicing In The Hands, the Vetiver album is a little brighter and more straightforward. It isn't obvious or uninteresting in the least, but it also doesn't quite have the dark undertones or the bizarre surreal imagery of Devendra's work.

That said, its simple and understated beauty might actually make it more palatable and enjoyable for many listeners. Cabic is a more than capable songwriter in his own right, and the lovely arrangements of his songs make this record a really pleasurable listen from start to finish. It's no wonder that he was able to recruit Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, Colm O'Ciosoig of My Bloody Valentine, and Joanna Newsom to sit in with his band. It's been a great year for indie singer-songwriters, and the Vetiver album should whet your appetite if you like Lambchop, Iron And Wine, Sufjan Stevens, or any of the aforementioned collaborators. [RH]







Achilles Heel
(Jade Tree)

"Bands with Managers"

Wow. With the first track "Bands with Managers," Pedro the Lion has never sounded as, well, big. Still brooding, during the chorus Dave Bazan's voice reaches a falsetto that only Coldplay's Chris Martin could rival as the song churns along a slow wall of minor chords and sad sentiments. Achilles Heel is Pedro's most direct album yet, with Bazan's bittersweet and often-morose narratives (e.g. songs about paralysis, alcoholism and broken marriage) juxtaposed against music that's far more consistently upbeat than in his last few records. "Foregone Conclusions" moves along power chords while the dreamy, chime guitars of "Discretion" transforms into an anthem of a chorus. The harmony rich "Keep Smiling" is driven by a bouncy, playful bass as Bazan sings about a drunken 'accident' left in a hotel bed for the maid to clean up. After 2002's vitriolic Control, it's good to hear Pedro the Lion picking up the tempo and even sounding a little more happy, losing some of the religion while keeping the overall hope of redemption alive, and simply singing stories about life. [GH]







$17.99 LP


Chewing on Glass and Other Miracle Cures
(Ninja Tune)

"Storm Clouds & Silver Linings" (w/ Damo Suzuki)

Producer Sixtoo creates a stark and dark, beat-heavy tapestry for his outing on Ninja Tune. Best known for his work with Buck 65 and the Anti-con crew as well as the Vertical Form label, he blends live drums, bass, Rhodes piano, and guitar with slight, subtle effects. The live instrumentation helps give the whole album a rocky/prog feel reminiscent of DJ Shadow's debut and even Can -- Damo Suzuki guests on one track. Deep basslines, marching drums, stuttering guitars and synths create the atmosphere. An enjoyable listen, through dark and moody it never gets sleepy. Recommended. [DG]






Split the Difference

"Meet Me in the City"

Ever since the homogenized wave of post-Nirvana signings that changed the dynamic of FM radio, a la 'modern rock,' I think most discerning rock fans view any band with monster hooks and big production -- especially when a gruff singer is involved -- with at very least, trepidation. But since day one, Britain's Gomez have been one of the rare few to buck the trend. Their 1998 debut, Bring It On, an unusually strong first album steeped with great blues and roots based guitar work and diverse vocals, stood out during a time where space rock and trip hop seemed to be dominating the UK's music-scape.

Three albums later, the five piece return to ground zero, delivering a record that is as strong as their very first. Enlisting producer extraordinaire Tchad Blake (whose resume' includes music greats like Richard Thompson, Paul McCartney, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello) to spruce up their self-recorded album, Split the Difference is Gomez at their most refined sonically, yet absolutely diverse musically. Compared to 2002's more experimental In Our Gun, the layers of sound are more concentrated, allowing all attention to be on the guitar, bass and vocals; any sonic accoutrement via squelching electronic sounds or string arrangements are simply ear candy.

And talk about an album full dynamic shifts and style switching -- songs travel between hard, blues grooved rock, to acoustic driven Village Preservation-era Kinks, to some playfully catchy psychedelic noodling. Opening track, "Do One" as well as "Where Ya Going?" are the band's stadium rockers, anthemic and sure to get you reaching for your lighter, while my favorites are the shuffle-beat driven "These 3 Sins," the Matthew Sweet styled power pop of "Silence" and the surreal cover of Delta bluesman Junior Kimbrough's "Meet Me in the City." With a line-up that alternates between three very different vocalists, Gomez has never been a band to settle into one sound, but factor in top notch songwriting, layers of rich harmonies, and of course, the monster hooks, their musical ADD is distinctively their own. [GH]







Absent Friends

"Absent Friends"
"Sticks & Stones"

With the new Divine Comedy release, Absent Friends, Neil Hannon has effectively shed himself of his band with the exception of multi-tasking arranger Joby Talbot (a/k/a Neil's Nelson Riddle). As the CD face proclaims, the material was written and recorded between 2001-2003, during which time Hannon became a father for the first time, extensively toured the States, and moved to Dublin from London: all themes which are dealt with on the album. It's tempting to say that this album is simply a return to form after 2001's angry, less literary Regeneration, but it's much more. What we have is…ahem, a portrait of the artist as a mature man, honesty (warts) and all.

The mood of the record runs the manic-depressive gamut that most great art travels. Tracks like "Sticks & Stones" and "Leaving Today" hint at irreconcilable domestic strife in the house of Hannon, while "Charmed Life" is a nearly blindly optimistic discourse on the joy of parenting. All of his signature wit and sarcasm are present in the "The Happy Goth", with its gentle prodding into the sorrowful depths of an adolescent introvert. The gem here, "Freedom Road" expertly illustrates the joint bliss and drag of life "on the road", but ultimately resounds with the contention that the "clutter" of the "whole world and his Uncle Joe" are reason enough to leave such a contemptuous lifestyle. Actually, "Billy Bird" seems to come to the same conclusion a couple of songs earlier.

Musically speaking, the songs are neatly wrapped in the warmth of pop history's glow, equally Frank Sinatra, Scott Walker, and Michael Nyman, but always gorgeous and audacious. In fact the Eno influenced instrumental "Laika's Theme" allows for the idea that although the old space dog has died -- as foretold in the album opener -- there is hope and we must continue to explore. Classic! [KC]







Super Lungs - The Complete Studio Recordings '66-'69

"Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace"
"Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down"

Look no further for the perfect introduction to one of the most overlooked and under appreciated British vocalists of the 1960s. In his late-teens, Terry Reid famously declined offers to be the singer for both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and instead opted to pursue a solo career that was artistically fruitful but not financially successful. Before the age of 20, he had recorded both of the incredible full-length albums that are included on this collection in addition to a slew of singles, b-sides, and demos that appear here on CD for the first time ever.

It would be difficult to name another musician from his era that was as successfully diverse as Terry Reid. Singing mod-rock, he sounded as good as Steve Marriott from the Small Faces. Doing folk-pop, he rivaled Donovan. As a blue-eyed soul singer, he gave Van Morrison a run for his money. Under the right circumstances Terry Reid could have been one of the defining musicians of his generation, but he turned out to be more of a cult hero than a rock icon.

There have been plenty of "lost classics" celebrated in the OM update that would only appeal to a select few, but this is one reissue that has universal and undeniable appeal. Both of the albums in this 2-disc collection are masterpieces, even without all the great bonus tracks Super Lungs is an essential reissue for fans of any '60s rock, mainstream or otherwise. [RH]









This is Riphop

"At the Marble Bar"

In 1984, hip hop terrorists Death Comet Crew unleashed a new sound on NYC reconstructing beats, TV soundtracks and Wild Style rapping. Featuring Suart Argabright (Dominatrix, Ike Yard) and Rammellzee, includes unreleased live tracks recorded at the Pyramid. Full review next week.








The Unicorns: 2014 EP
(Suicide Squeeze)

"Unicorns: 2014"

Canada's Unicorns are back with an EP full of their bizarre brand of pop delights. Includes new songs as well as two unreleased tracks recorded during the sessions for Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone and a demo of "Unicorns: 2014."








Fountain of Youth EP

"Fountain of Youth"

Measles Mumps Rubella show off their best polyrhythmic moves on their brand new EP for Troubleman. Culling from bands like Liquid Liquid, PiL and 23 Skidoo, the DC band puts a new stamp on the current post-punk resurgence with edgy vocals and one of this year's catchiest dance punk singles. Includes a remix by Trans Am.



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[KC] Kevin Coultas
[DG] Daniel Givens
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[KH] Koen Holtkamp
[DHo] Dan Hougland
[SM] Scott Mou
[JS] Jeremy Sponder

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