Other Music New Release Update
October 25, 2000

In This Week's Update:

Godspeed You Black Emperor
Aluminum Group
Margo Guryan reissue
Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow's "Brainfreeze" mix
State of Bengal
New Orleans Funk comp.
Club Africa 2 comp.
La Planete Sauvage soundtrack reissue
The In/Out
Gunter Muller & Le Quan Ninh
Mountain Goats
Nick Drake tribute

Fluxus Anthology
Birdie, domestic

Featured New Releases:

GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like
Antennas to Heaven" 2xCD/2xLP $15.99/$17.99

Godspeed now lead the large-ensemble rock movement with merely one
full-length and an EP under their folding chairs. "Lift Your Skinny Fists?",
a 2CD, 2LP release, catches them up quick. This many-membered band
of Canadians have a penchant for dramatic timing, as they unveil more
soaring strings, majestic horns and spindly, affected guitar lines in time
with tense, moving beats. They still weave odd sound bites and field
recordings into quiet moments for obscure epiphanies, this time occurring
more often. The first part of the album, 'Static', nods to Stockhausen and
Xenakis, a headphone-friendly, melodizing collage of scrapes and piercing
jags. And just when they graft in sad, lilting strings, an evangelist sample
comes slithering underneath. Each song continues as it morphs, fades and
explodes into movements of the same piece. Their best album yet. [LG]
LP /perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=66656100121&refer_url=email

THE ALUMINUM GROUP "Pelo" (Hefty) CD/LP $12.99/$8.99
On "Pelo", the Aluminum Group chuck their smooth '70s am radio production
(along with producer Jim O'Rourke) for sounds easier traced back to jazz,
yet they keep a little Steely Dan gloss here and there. Stuffing their songs
with little tics and bubbles of sound, the CD is a twitchy pillow full of bugs
and hoofbeats, collective strums in unison, humming vibraphones, and
soft echo jazz. This very 'adult' pop is basically Aluminum Group going
post-rock, losing nothing in the process. Of course, they've got the
post-rock cred: a big chunk of Tortoise performed/produced. There are
still smooth vocals, sometimes as if projected down a long corridor
(reverb mush by the time they hit the mic) provided by the Navins,
the excellent Amy Warren and the Mekons' Sally Timms, her alto slightly
crushed. The songs have the same themes: artist tributes as imaginary
scenarios (this one is to Tom of Finland), the man with the detached
girlfriend/wife. A centerpiece of three songs stand as some of their best,
but also oddest, musically; these are flanked by some wispy instrumentals
and songs with melody skipped, which obviously give less impact. Lovely
highs hit! [RE]
LP /perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=60840100251&refer_url=email

MARGO GURYAN "Take a Picture" (Oglio) CD $15.99
An album that we've wanted tell you about ever since it was first reissued
in Japan a few months ago. High prices and limited supplies forced us to
bite our tongue, but this very welcome domestic release changes all that.
Simply put, "Take a Picture" is a long-lost classic of '60s soft-rock that
easily ranks among the best of its genre. That may not seem like much to
those who dismiss this stuff as impossibly lightweight -- but what's
meaningless pap to one is timeless pop to another. And for me, this is as
about as good as it gets. Guryan, a classically-trained musician with a
fondness for jazz, crafts deceptively simple melodies and subtly
sophisticated arrangements on "Take a Picture" creating dizzy, dreamy
sunshine pop. Her wispy soprano, often double-tracked, is layered high on
top of the mix perfectly complementing the lush production and rich
textures underneath. On one of the album's many great tracks she delivers
an absolutely sublime pop moment as she coos a delicious "Mmmmmm" over
the rising trumpet flourish of Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'. There's
not a dud among these 14 songs (three are bonus tracks), and this one album
easily trumps the entire Claudine Longet oeuvre. This may be bubblegum pop,
but it's not to be taken lightly. [TC]

CUT CHEMIST & DJ SHADOW "Brainfreeze" (Sixty 7) CD $15.99
The formal release of this very sought-after DJ mix from Cut Chemist and
DJ Shadow, originally only sold on their Brainfreeze tour last winter. A
remarkable turntablist tour-de-force: Chemist and Shadow on four turntables
at once, cutting and blending original rare groove 45s. Chemist's
scratching is remarkably precise, it's even more amazing when you realize
that every bit of vinyl they're working with is a 7" -- anyone who's ever
tried to beat juggle a 45 can attest to the difficulty of those maneuvers.
Selling on ebay last week for upwards from $150, now you can save that
money for a rare Oleta Adams 45, just like Chemist and Shadow would.
If you have even a passing interest in exploring the raw matter of hip-hop's
foundation, get this. [DH]

STATE OF BENGAL "Visual Audio" (Six Degrees) CD $15.99
Here's a record to interject some life into a sub-genre that went drab
fast, the british/asian underground. Sam Zaman, aka State of Bengal, has
been a regular force at London's Anokha club, spinning along with Talvin
Singh in that very popular scene. Zaman merges tinny, Cologne-style sounds
with giant beats, Indian percussion, keening horns, even '50s twang guitar.
Just as filmi music of the last 40 years appropriated weird styles beyond
the Indian sphere to make profoundly interesting music, so does Zaman,
only, because this is the modern world, his juxtapositions sound natural,
rather than crazily incongruous -- and they make great club music. Unlike
contemporaries Asian Dub Foundation or Badmarsh & Shri, his beats are made
of the 'ethnic' stuff, chunks of harmonium rocking back and forth to make a
beat, an Indian vocalist performing in a style nearly identical to Jamaican
'diggity' toasting. Percussion isn't pasted-on like a garnish; Zaman sits
the fluttery beats _around_ the tabla. Do you like Talvin Singh, DJ Cheb I
Sabbah? You'll like this. [RE]

[V/A] "New Orleans Funk" (Soul Jazz, UK) CD/LP $22.99/$27.99
New Orleans is a wellspring of one kind of funk, one raised under tarpaper
rather than on top of the pavement, one that comes out of funeral parades
(where the bands play jubilantly for dancers/marchers), not club glamour,
one who heard more Hank Williams than Duke Ellington in the playpen. Coming
in with Professor Longhair's odd, bouncy piano rhythms, New Orleans started
to funk early, but it was a different kind of funk. This compilation is an
excellent overview of its birth and flowering. It's not full of rarities (I think
every track here has appeared on one CD or another) but this grouping
_is_ particularly nice. You get the Meters' sparse, even sour form,
slipping a twang between gurgling bass notes. Classics from Eddie Bo and
Allen Toussaint (the impeccable, yet raw 'Get Out of My Life Woman'), and
Nevilles all over the place. As a whole, it sits closer to soul, the songs
barely break the three-minute mark -- Marilyn Barbarin's or Mary Jane
Hooper's soul belters went straight to 45, never the disco 12". Over 24
tracks, certain patterns emerge: there's an ever-present, empty melancholy
behind the music of New Orleans. Even something as innocuous as Robert
Parker's 'Hip-Huggin' can contain a slight bitterness along with the party
vibe. Dr. John might fills the holes in songs, but he makes those holes,
too. Which all makes sense: as the second-line dancers strut down the
street, they think of their friends in heaven, resting between the up beat
and the down beat. [RE]
LP /perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=09999141291&refer_url=email

[V/A] "Club Africa 2" (Strut, UK) CD/LP $22.99/$17.99
Volume two of the series, this one contains as many obscure performances
as the "Ouelele" and "Racubah!" comps. Really fantastic tracks by knowns
(Masekela, Dibango, Olatunji, Ayers) sit next to the unknowns (Living Funk),
the hard-to-finds (Max B), and the original-vinyl, incredibly-expensives
(Ginger Johnson, Exile One). Frankly, it beats Volume one, gathering
together some Afro-Brazilian fusion, Afro-Latin-funk fusion, and tracks
where you can't remember if the beats are Nigerian, Cuban, or both.
There's lots of wicky-wicky guitar, electric piano, less but still some jazz
and even farfisa. While it's hard to find most of these, ironically the best
track here is probably the easiest to find. From Letta Mbulu's 1970 LP on
Chisa, 'Mahlalela' made my jaw drop well below sea level the first time I
heard it; it may still be my favorite song of the last two years. Make sure
you listen to the RA above. [RE]
LP /perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=67586530007&refer_url=email

ALAIN GORAGUER "La Planete Sauvage Soundtrack" (Intoxica) CD/LP  $17.99/$14.99
When first viewing "La Planete Sauvage" (The Fantastic Planet), a wild
animated French sci-fi film, I was equally enamored with the surreal tale
of the "Oms" and "Draags" as I was with the gorgeous, effects-laden
soundtrack. Finally available on CD, the soundtrack to "La Planete Sauvage"
stands alone, with swirling space age effects, wah-drenched guitars and
echo washed vocals. Full of unusual, swirling orchestration and layered
production, this sounds as if David Axelrod had produced the Pierre
Henry/Michel Colombier classic "Psyche Rock". The original LP is a
frequently sampled collectable, most recently used on the Quasimoto album.
Composed by Alain Goraguer, best known for his arrangements for Serge
Gainsbourg, the soundtrack to "La Planete Sauvage" is a psychedelic
orchestral masterpiece that works magically even without the accompaniment
of the animated film. [PW]
LP /perl-bin/OM/CD_Add_To_Cart.cgi?sku=501768771331&refer_url=email

ROCK*A*TEENS "Sweet Bird of Youth" (Merge) CD $13.99
On this, their fifth album, the Rock*A*Teens formula is still in place:
charging guitars, angsting vocals, a rockabilly goth sound (think Roy
Orbison as a frustrated teenager, and you're in the ballpark), and
production that makes everything sound as if recorded in an airplane
hangar. But they're starting to decorate their stark, crumbling pad.
Harpsichord, whistling, accordion, marimba cover the songs in infiltrating
fanciness like kudzu covers a lawn. As this happens, you realize that
singer Chris Lopez is beginning to write songs that he himself, and at the
very least his voice alone, can't live up to! Much as I love their sound,
and by extension, this album, I find myself wishing for a record where
unreasonably gifted torch singers try their hands at Lopez' Southern gothic
tableaus. Number six? [RE]

GUNTER MULLER & LE QUAN NINH "La Voyelle Liquide" (Erstwhile) CD $13.99
Music dedicated to water all too often ends up as a pleasant new-age
listening experience of yawns and yawns and more yawns. "La Voyelle
Liquide" (the vowel liquid) is different. Drawing inspiration from Gaston
Bachelard's "Psychoanalysis of Water," Muller and Ninh (Swiss and French
percussionists, respectively) explore the similarity of free improvisation
to water: the ways in which the artists constantly reconfigure and
transform themselves, fluidly, both yielding and forceful. The sounds they
create move, and as they move, they restructure themselves just as water
restructures itself to fit a landscape, obstacles, or vessels. Primarily an
electronics album, the artists' typical scraping and cymbal bowing still
occurs as the players rapidly switch off between electronics and
percussion, along with some bubbling in tribute. But these sounds play a
minor part of their ungraspable whole which ranges from fragile, nearly
inaudible sound droplets to oceanic droning waves. Just as water is rarely
in a static form, this work constantly seeks to redefine itself, and
becomes a bold, hopeful statement on the future of sound improvisation.

THE IN/OUT "A Living Memorial in Deutschland" (Dark Beloved Cloud) CD $13.99
The In/Out grow out of their The Fall-imitation phase, into one that
embodies the late '70s/early '80s artpunk sound, or channels it, at least.
A little clangy '90s rock, a little Mission of Burma, a little early grit new
wave ala Cleveland or Kansas City (especially when they add keyboards);
there's even a track of surf-instrumental spazz with sax. Todd Nudelman
still has the Mark E. Smith whine and pacing, but no mock-Mark scrawling
drawl in the phrasing. The record is all elbows, jockeying with itself as
it jabs across 37 minutes. Yet this is not from ferocity or a predatory
nature, it's all planned out ahead, and jiggly from the nervousness of
action. [RE]

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS "The Coroner's Gambit" (Absolutely Kosher) CD/LP  $13.99/$9.99
Before we go any further, I must address John Darnielle's title: is it a
chess strategy? Title of a lost Hogarth etching? Slang for a Cricket move
or a not-so-stable building support? No, it's (most likely) entirely made
up. But, like a lot of Darnielle's music, what is made up always works as a
metaphor for something else, some grand, yet hidden statement. I see 'The
Coroner's Gambit' as the process of having a rug pulled out from under you,
that whiplash/landing on your butt effect, being blindsided, of being
surprised in a not-so-pleasant manner. Originally part of a full-band album
that was supposed to come out on Ajax Records, Darnielle used some of
those tracks here, then added his more traditional man-with-guitar or
man-with-boombox songs for his first album in years. Nice surprises come
from wavery violin, pizzicato playing, the use of his soft voice along with
his strident one. He still builds his lyrics from the same blocks: a couple
on a trip, plant imagery and fertility, weather, divine interventions, dire
predictions, blood. But Darnielle's growth happens in inches and not feet,
so you know what to expect here, that is, if you've heard him before --
otherwise, listen to RA tracks above! [RE]

[V/A] "Sculpting from Drake Vol. 1" (Elsie and Jack) CD $12.99
This is something like the fourth or fifth Nick Drake tribute CD put
together in the last 10 years, and it's probably the most varied, or
at least the furthest 'out'. And it highlights the differences between
passionate and dispassionate renditions, between reverent and casual.
You'd think that the better art might be made from the passionate, the
reverent. In fact, that's not the case on this. For instance, Archer Prewitt
attempts to recreate the Drake effect so completely, that the song may
as well not exist at all, absorbed as it is into it's evocation of Drake --
there's no Prewitt in it. On the other hand, Ray Speedway take a song
that is so close and dear to Drake fans, the inimitable 'Pink Moon', and
makes it into?a funky hardcore tekno track, the "pink moon, yeah, it's a
pink moon" becoming the accent to the dancefloor beats. It's silly fun.
The best track here is Electroscope's nine-minute, wide-ranging electronics
and muddled, humming machinery, which nestles 'Things Behind the Sun'
within. Ben Vida's drawn-out solo guitar track sounds at first like a slow
improvisation, yet gradually you realize he's following the melody of 'Horn'
with a steady grace. Of solid, perfect character, Drake's songs glitter through
whatever arrangements are piled around or on top of them. The overall
sense here is a cross between dark, reverb-y 4AD style and Time Stereo's
noise-becomes-pop aesthetic (the man at the intersection of those two
labels, Warn Defever's own track here is in ESP-family antique hillbilly
mode, as if recorded on the worst, most decayed wax cylinder he could
find). [RE]


[V/A] "Fluxus Anthology" (Anthology, Italy) CD $17.99
The only CD available at the moment that captured an art movement never
meant to be frozen. So as I'm resentful these were caught, I'm also
grateful. Without them, I'd have less of a picture of Fluxus' pointed,
gleeful randomness. The CD is not a Fluxus' Greatest Hits -- no Joe Jones
Mechanical Orchestra, no Charlotte Moorman, no George Macunias, no Richard
Maxfield, no Japanese artists, either (except for Yoko, making that toilet
flush). Ideally, to keep it in Fluxus mode, this aural document should be
tossed to the winds at least, free to all, but I don't think you'd EVER
find one of these tracks on Napster. You need this for: Robert Filliou's
bird call-imitations. A tiny fragment of La Monte Young's Dream House, the
singing/gargling version! A number of self-referential monologues (which
don't raise an eyebrow now, but did in 1971 -- listen to Ben Vautier above).
Joseph Beuys' new wave anti-politik song -- admittedly, it's a little late
at 1982, and not quite in the same spirit, but it's nice to have it
nonetheless. Plinky, random piano bursts. Early turntable noise goofiness.
Thundering masses of blankness and static. As these things should never be
'performed' in revival (the whole point, the freshness of the gesture would
be removed, rendering the pieces meaningless), the only thing better than
this CD would be a video of the happenings as they happened, or, okay,
being there the first time 'round. The whole package contains long essays
and personal chronologies of various characters associated with the
movement, copious notes and charts, done up what is now the Fluxus
'aesthetic'. [RE]

BIRDIE "Some Dusty" (Kindercore) CD $12.99
Birdie is the project of Debsey (formerly of Dolly Mixture) and Pete, who
were brought together, musically, when both accompanied Saint Etienne on a
tour. Sweet, British, twee, slightly retro -- exactly as you'd expect.
Reminds me of Confetti, in the duo-aspect, simplicity, and stylized
approach (in the "we've a stylist" way). Best where they venture gorgeously
into ascending and descending harmonies? Finally available at a domestic
price. [RE]

This week's newsletter penned by: Tom Capodanno [TC], Robin Edgerton [RE],
Lisa Garrett [LG], Michael Goodstein [MG], Duane Harriott [DH], Philip
Waldorf [PW].

Thanks for reading.
-all of us at Other Music

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