Categories
Music Reviews

Urban Dance Squad

Urban Dance Squad

Mental Floss for the Globe

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Life ‘N Perspectives of a Genuine Crossover

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Persona Non Grata

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Planet Ultra

Triple X

First, let me commend Triple X on doing a reissue right. These discs, representing Urban Dance Squad’s four US releases, are available individually. More importantly, all artwork appears to be duplicated verbatim. Even more importantly, each disc comes accompanied by an entire second disk with a live set from around the same time as the original album. This is exactly how things like this should be done — make it as close to the original as you can, then throw in some luscious goody for the true fans.

“Original” would be the key word here. If the oldest of this albums (almost a decade) were to be paraded as new stuff, it would pretty much fool anyone. Urban Dance Squad’s mix of funk, rap, rock, jazz and Low Country sensibilities may have had only a brief flash in American alternative radio (historically speaking, that is), but even today, their sound would be classified as progressive and original, and not at all dated.

Mental Floss for the Globe was the band’s Stateside debut. Between their tight playing, diverse influences, and off-the-cuff moments, the band stomped flat any possible box that could contain them. “Deeper Shade of Soul,” with its slow groove and old school delivery, was the ultimate head-nodder, as were other tracks like the slippery yet rubbery “No Kid.” The band ably proved that they could rip through the rough numbers with the best of them, too. Life ‘N Perspectives continued a similar trend, sending exploratory tendrils into some territory not covered previously.

Persona Non Grata saw the band lapse into the same rut that was being worn by 311 and Rage Against the Machine at the time. Perhaps the departure of DJ DNA is to blame — regardless, it was as if rather than using its lead on other funk-rock-rap acts to its creative advantage, Urban Dance Squad dropped back to join the rest of the pack. Still, I’ll have to admit that overall it’s no worse than anything in the rapidly-growing category, and when it works, it’s still much better.

The last album on this set, Planet Ultra , is clearly the result of UDS’ experience and growth in the music industry. Key figures were recruited to help with production (Andrew Weiss, Rob Schnapf/Tom Rothrock) and things came out a bit loopy, though not exactly blazing new territory. I’d have to say this is my second favorite of the lot. The live disc accompanying Planet Ultra , a fall 1997 show at NYC’s Continental, features the return of turntablist DNA for a truly sizzling chunk of funk.

Pick and choose your favorites — Mental Floss is definitely a must-have, but there’s something for just about any branch of the tree UDS planted that you may care to swing from.

Triple X Records, P.O. Box 862529, Los Angeles, CA 90086; http://www.triple-x.com

Categories
Features

Television

OK. I guess it’s time to do television. I’ve been dreading this one. I’m gonna say a whole lot of stuff that’s gonna go straight against the grain of a whole lot of people’s most ingrained habits.

The television, more than just about anything except child molesters, has the power to fuck up your child.

The damned TV sitting in your living room can foul things up but good with your child in an amazing variety of ways, all of them serious.

The TV is like radiation. When it comes to doing damage to you and your child , you can’t feel it, you can’t hear it, you can’t taste it, you can’t smell it, it’s eating away at you and you’re utterly unaware of the damage as it’s being done.

Television Poisoning is insidious.

Kinda like drugs, in a way.

One little snort of coke probably won’t do diddly to anybody. And so, those who go in for the stuff think it’s not doing anything to them and they do more. Never feeling the minute incremental erosion of their personality. Coke makes ’em feel good. By the time they feel any overt damage, they’re in a seriously deep hole and an awful lot of them never manage to climb out.

TV works the same way.

You think that all it’s doing is keeping you entertained, whiling away the dull hours of the day. But the whole time, it’s working on you in subtle ways that slowly turn you into somebody you’re not.

Sneaky.

I suppose that in order to understand what the TV’s doing to us, we’ve gotta understand what the TV is .

And it’s right here, at the very beginning, where people go seriously wrong. After all, what the hell kind of dumb question is “what’s a TV” anyway? Everybody already knows what a TV is, right? It’s a box that shows pictures and sound that you watch to see programs you like. Right?

Wrong.

Horribly, insidiously, wrong.

The TV is a machine.

A machine with a strange power.

As you know, machines produce things. The machine that is the motor in your car produces power to make the car travel down the highway. The machine that is your vacuum cleaner produces a clean (we hope) carpet. The machine that is the Space Shuttle produces satellites that fly in space.

Your TV produces something too. Something that no other machine in the world can produce.

Your TV produces PEOPLE.

People like you. People like your child.

The entire sum and purpose to justify the existence of TV is its power to produce a swarm of people who sit and watch it. And who therefore also watch the COMMERCIALS and other promotional crap that pervades all of television programming.

YOU are the product that your TV produces.

Not programs. Not commercials. Not news. Not sports.

People are the product that TV produces.

You, your child, and millions of other people.

Understand this, and understand this well. Once you’ve learned to see the TV in light of its power to produce an audience, many odd little facts about TV that may have puzzled you over the years will fall neatly into place.

Unfeeling and uncaring mega corporations use the power of the TV to persuade you to subsidize them with your hard-earned money.

They care for NOTHING except that money in your pocket.

NOTHING.

They will cheerfully swallow up their own children in their endless quest for your money.

They will also swallow up your children, too.

In the fierce competition for a limited supply of dollars, the corporations that employ the TV recognize no bounds, no limits, other than those that are imposed upon them by force by governmental agencies.

It’s total war, no holds barred.

And this war is waged upon every last one of us from the moment we are born.

Remember a while back there, where we talked about the salutary effects of merely EXPOSING your child to the greatest number of different words? Even before your child could ever hope to understand any of them? Remember that? If not, go back and read it again, it’s important. You need to understand it. I’ll wait here.

That business of EXPOSING your child to a great variety of words is, at the heart of it, the very same principle that television advertising works on.

The concept of familiarity.

Feeling comfortable with something.

Whether you know why you’re comfortable or not.

You’ve been exposed to it.

And so, when you go down to the store to get something, of the various brands you can choose from, you’ll oftentimes go with that brand that you feel most comfortable with.

Guess where that feeling of comfort came from?

Television, likely as not.

Now this might seem like an overly long harangue here, but bear with me on this, OK? I’m gonna tie all this together in a minute. Stick around.

The business of exposing you to things extends far FAR beyond the bounds of the advertisements on the TV.

Unnoticed, like radiation, it pervades the entire fabric of what’s on the television.

Directly, as in characters on a TV show using this or that product that has its label in plain sight, or indirectly, as in all of the characters looking a certain way, or wearing a certain style of clothing.

The giant mega-corporations KNOW that many many many of the people who view TV will be drawn to their product directly or indirectly.

What’s the cool lead guy on this year’s hottest new show drinking? I’ll have some of that. What’s the femme fatale on the same show wearing? I want a dress like that.

See how everyone looks so beautiful. I want to be beautiful too.

Hear that music they’re listening to? I want that record too.

How about those shiny new cars they’re all driving? I want one just like the ones they drive.

Listen to how cool they all talk. I want to sound cool too.

They’re all making fun of the nerd that gets straight A’s. I don’t want to be a nerd.

They’re all glamorous. I want to be glamorous too.

Sign me up.

And it’s not enough that this shit pounds away at your brain hour after hour every day from your television set. You also get it in amplified and distorted form from everybody else around you who watches the same rot.

THEY all want some too.

And they’re REAL people.

Real, honest-to-god, flesh and blood people.

All parroting the same mindless, corporate sponsored, rubbish.

The effects of Television Poisoning expand and multiply like some kind of crazed breeder reactor, producing more plutonium fuel than it uses. The shit gets slung far and wide by the damn TV, and bounces back from the surrounding world bigger and more virulent that it was when it left the TV.

But, like a breeder reactor, there’s a terrible price to pay. A long term cost that the people who want you to buy their breeder reactor never talk about. Or, if cornered and questioned closely, will lie through their teeth about.

You can’t trust them motherfuckers.

They’re selling poison, plain and simple.

Cheerfully mortgaging away the future in a horribly nearsighted scramble for short-term monetary gain.

So OK. Now we know WHAT the TV is. Let’s go talk about how it affects your child. Television causes trouble for your child in more ways than I’m capable of properly listing here. So don’t go thinking that the ones I’m gonna talk about are the only ones. They’re not. There’s plenty more monsters under the bed than the ones I’m gonna describe.

Television Poisoning eats away at your child’s brain in different ways, depending on your child’s age. Not all of what I’m talking about here happens simultaneously. Some does, but not all.

The EXPOSURE angle kicks in from the day your child is born. Over and over, again and again, your child hears and sees things on the TV. As a tiny baby, she can’t possibly understand any of it, but it’s soaking into the pores of her brain all the same. Slowly, insidiously, working itself into the very foundation of her personality.

Things. Cars. Clothes. Computers. Food. Drink.

They’re training her from the very beginning to WANT those things.

Instilling within her the desire for material objects as a vehicle to make her happy.

Note the MAKE in the above sentence.

This is something from the outside, having a direct effect on the workings of your child’s brain, inside.

Your child comes direct from the factory with all the mental horsepower required to keep her happy INTERNALLY. Well-adjusted people are remarkably self-contained and do not need a constant supply of things to keep them from slipping into some kind of self-induced depression.

It’s the television’s job to destroy this well-adjusted self containment.

And, judging by what’s walking around out there on the sidewalks with us, it’s done a damn good job of it.

And so the TV drones on in the background, working its evil magic on your child, while you, in your bovine stupidity, didn’t so much as lift a finger to stop the damage and destruction.

Wake up, dammit!

Another horrid effect the TV has on your child is to take that child away from you. Even while the two of you remain in the same room.

People go nutzo and have Category 5 hissy fits at the thought of some stranger taking their child away from them. And then blithely let the damn TV do exactly that. Every minute that a.) your face is glued to the TV, or b.) your child’s face is glued to the TV, is one less minute in a LIMITED SUPPLY OF MINUTES allotted to each lifetime that you and your child could have shared together. Soon, soon enough, your child will be grown and gone. And so what do you do with the precious supply of minutes allotted to the two of you? You squander them on reruns of I Love Lucy or some damn talk show. You fool, you!

The TV drives itself between the two of you as a wedge. A wedge that with each passing year is hammered in deeper and pushes the two of you farther apart.

As you’re sitting there, watching some show or other, ignoring your child, you’re sending your child a message. The message is “You’re not as important as what’s flickering across the front of this box.” Not a pleasant message for a small child to endure. And by enduring it long enough, your child eventually learns to send the very same message back to you. Can you blame her? Once again the “breeder reactor” effect of Television Poisoning is manifested in unpleasant and ubiquitous fashion.

As your child grows older, the TV exerts a stronger and stronger influence over her. None of the old influences ever go away, and they are added to by an ever-lengthening list of new and more insidious influences as the years roll by.

You strive to instill in your child a sense of your culture. Your morals, your values, your individual and national sense of self and sense of belonging to your community. The television spits in your face and wipes away all your best efforts with a sneer. Your child’s brain is placed into a hellish blender and all traces of individuality are ground to an unrecognizable pulp. The TV chuckles to itself, but wants more.

Outside, on the streets, swarms of other children, reeling from the unfelt effects of Television Poisoning, wait to greet your child when she steps out of doors. What shall you do, lock her inside? You can’t. And so she’s thrown to the wolves to fend for herself as best she can against the breeder reactor effects of Television Poisoning.

Shall your child travel through life in isolation, or shall she make friends and join the group?

A cruel question.

The group is intoxicated by Television Poisoning and importunes your child constantly to be like they are. Wear the right shoes, wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, or be expelled from the group as an object of ridicule. We’ve already talked about the effects of ridicule. Remember? Not good.

And so, from a VERY early age, you must teach your child about the realities of television. The fact that it’s a machine with the power to place her in front of itself in order for large, uncaring, corporations to extract money from her.

A child who has been raised wrong, one who may have poor regard for himself, is much more susceptible to the television than one who has been raised to be well-adjusted and self-contained.

Yet another good reason for raising a well-adjusted self-contained child.

Children who have not been taught to draw happiness from within themselves are sitting ducks for the powers of darkness who rule the TV with siren songs of “buy this, you’ll be happy” or “buy this, you’ll get the pretty girl” or any of the rest of it.

You must gird your child’s loins for battle and arm him with the heaviest of weapons in the fight against the hypnotic lure of the TV.

Time to break out the atomic bomb.

RIDICULE.

Nuke them bastards back to the stone age with RIDICULE.

From the very earliest days that your child begins to talk, hammer away at the TV by teaching him to sneer and laugh at it.

Commercials need to be exposed for what they really are.

Laugh at the TV together.

“Can you believe that ANYBODY would be stupid enough to fall for that?”

“No, you’d have to be pretty dumb, wouldn’t you?”

“REALLY dumb.”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re not dumb, are you?”

“No.”

“You’re pretty darn smart, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Guess they’ll have to go find another sucker then.”

“Yeah.”

Things weave together. At the same time you’re fighting off the evil effects of the TV, you’re also reinforcing your child’s self assessment as a smart person.

What could be better than that?

Take note of things on the TV. Mention how odd it is that every last person in the beer ads is young and beautiful, and then maybe take a drive someplace where there’s real, fat, ugly, old, beer drinking people hanging around. Your brother-in-law’s, maybe.

Dissect the dialogue on any sitcom. Nobody really talks like that. And real life doesn’t have a laugh track. And what the hell’s the laugh track for, anyway? I mean, if this stuff was really funny, you wouldn’t need to be prompted when to laugh, would you? Examined closely, the dialogue on sitcoms is one insult after another. Mean, low comments disguised as “humor.” It’s not.

And do we even need to discuss talk shows? Or any of those schlocky “Through the keyhole” shows? Or any of those garbagey cheap Saturday morning cartoons with all the fights and explosions?

Remind your child that the world isn’t NEARLY as violent and twisted as the news can give you to believe. Unless maybe if you live in “gangsta” country. And if you do, get the hell out of there, NOW. Vote with your feet. You’ll get by. And your child will have a fighting chance of not being sucked into some rathole existence that a dog doesn’t deserve.

Ridicule the TV.

And pray to god it works.

Needless to say, if you’re sitting around watching the damn TV eighteen hours a day, all of the above is gonna be pretty much useless.

It’s not enough to make fun of the TV. You’ve got to radically cut back on your OWN viewing. Or at least, if you’re a member of the vast swarm that stares mindlessly into the depths of the box day in and day out.

When it comes to curbing the influence of the TV, you’ve got several options. You can, of course, just refuse to own one of the damnable things, or simply refuse to turn it on. That’s pretty extreme. With a functioning TV in the house, you can leave it off MOST of the time and still manage to watch a thing or two every once in a while that isn’t too terribly toxic. You can also let the damn thing run, but just keep the volume turned off. Put some music on and let the TV flicker mindlessly. Without the volume on, it’s extremely easy to pick the programming on the TV to bits and have a good laugh in the process. Encourage your child to join along in the fun of laughing out loud at all that stupid stuff flickering phantasmagorically with the volume turned off. My own personal ploy is to put it on the Weather Channel and keep the volume off. Excepting the commercials, the Weather Channel is mostly non-toxic and can be trusted not to ruin your child’s personal development. Or yours, either. And with the volume off, most of the commercials have been sufficiently defanged to be reasonably safe while providing a fine source of targets to ridicule.

Humans are creatures of habit. If your child knows of no other method for viewing the TV except as described above, he’ll never think he’s missing anything. He will have formed the habit of properly ingesting television. Even years later, when he owns his own TV, he will still be STRONGLY inclined to turn the volume off and poke fun at the stupidity. Nice, eh?

As for you, well, habits can be LEARNED, can’t they? So what are you waiting for? Get with it.

Categories
Music Reviews

Dismal Euphony

Dismal Euphony

All Little Devils

Nuclear Blast

Neo-classical melodies, gothic overtones, and prominent female vocals have been trendy touchstones in the black metal scene the last year or two, so in that sense, Dismal Euphony’s All Little Devils is a “trendy” black metal record. But in another sense, if more “trendy” black metal records were as well-executed and stylized as All Little Devils , perhaps we’d have a new movement of substantial import on our hands. On the musical front, Dismal Euphony blends progressive rhythmic measures unusual for the genre, guitars that function equally well melodically and rhythmically, and alternatingly somber/explosive keyboard lines that perpetually spiral downward. On the vocal front, a male and a female battle it out, Armageddon-style, with their demon whispers and falling angel wails, respectively. On the lyrical front, the band prefers the good ol’ fire ‘n’ brimstone approach, as evidenced by such song titles as “Days of Sodom,” “Rage of Fire,” and the title track. With all that in mind, add clean ‘n’ clear production, bucketfulls of polish, and grim, unholy conviction and execution, and you have a “modern” black metal record that doesn’t suffocate from its own pompous weight.

Nuclear Blast America, P.O. Box 43618, Philadelphia, PA 19106; http://www.nuclearblast-usa.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Built For Speed

Built For Speed

A Mötörhead Tribute compilation

Victory

At long last, a tribute to one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands ever, Mötörhead — much praise to Victory for getting its shit together. Of particular note: With a song as immortal as “Ace Of Spades,” hardly anyone can fuck it up, thus, Blood For Blood does the deed with considerable big-cocked aplomb and all the burliness the Boston brutes are known for; same goes for the eternal “Motorhead,” given a fully gassed ‘n’ gonzo treatment by (formerly R.E.O.) Speedealer; Integrity chugs its way through “Orgasmatron” with the utmost evil, and frontman Dwid sounds, well, like Dwid kareoke-ing Lemmy — hair-raising, to say the very least, giving the original serious competition for superiority. Performances range from excellent (Electric Frankenstein’s “We Are the Road Crew,” Zeke’s “I’ll Be Your Sister,” Dropkick Murphys’ “Rock and Roll,”) to forgettable (Skarhead’s “Sweet Revenge,” Fahrenheit 451’s “No Class,” Groovie Ghoulies’ “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.”). Nonetheless, Victory’s giving “the kids” a much-warranted history lesson, so that there will be less Earth Crisis rip-offs in the future.

Victory Records, P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Sam Prekop

Sam Prekop

with Papa M and the Swimmer

The Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, MA • April 3, 1999

For those of you that don’t know (and it is unfortunate that you don’t), Sam Prekop is the front man of the Sea and Cake. Sam has released a new recording under his own name, but with the help of some of his friends (one of which is also from S&C – Archer Prewitt). The album is very comparable to S&C, but has a bit more of a lounge feel. I was glad to hear that Sam had a full band with him on this tour. After such a bad let down with the Olivia Tremor Control show the night before, I needed this!

The show started with local artists the Swimmer. Appropriately enough, the Swimmer has a sound similar to that of Slint. With very detailed repetitious guitar licks, thought-out, random time changes, and vocals that define the term “emo-rock,” the Swimmer brought back memories for us and the artist following them, Papa M, a three-piece band with powerful punches and very truthful expressions. I will expect to be seeing a lot from the Swimmer, at least up here in New England.

Now, I am not sure why, but Papa M is the new name for David Pajo’s recorded project Aerial M. The only reason I can think of is the term “aerial” is widely used with other artists. Whatever name David chooses to go under, it will kick ass… just like his first band he was in, Slint. I don’t know if he used other musicians for the Aerial M recording, but he did choose to play alone for this live gig. In fact, it was a bit difficult to understand that he was ready to play, since he was just sitting in a chair in front of Sam Prekop’s band’s set. It looked as if there should have been more people on stage.

After he began to play, it sounded like there should have been more people on stage! With the use of some equipment that I promised I would not name, David’s performance was based on layering guitar sounds. Just him, his Fender Amp, Gibson guitar, and a pedal he re-named “it doesn’t matter,” and anyone would agree that he made you feel like you were in another world! It was very interesting to see an artist create such soundscapes with the use of a guitar. Although he did not play anything directly off the Aerial M record, it seemed that these pieces were rehearsed.

So like most Middle East shows, there was about a 45 minute wait for Sam to come onto stage… and that is really long when their equipment was already set up. With the audience lights set at a low dim, and a cool wash overlaying the band, Sam and his little orchestra just cruised right into the first track on the record, “Showrooms.” If you closed your eyes, you would have forgotten that you were in a scummy club and thought you were sipping on a Manhattan in some back alley joint somewhere in the East Village of New York. Ahhh, how nice!

I think Sam had the same thing in mind early in the evening, because when he talked to the crowd between songs, it was quite obvious he had a few to drink himself. But it never kept him from his cool. In fact, he seemed to slip away when they played. Similar to a baby sleeping, Sam seemed so happy to be in his word and to welcome you into it!

As for the music, yes, it was very similar to just listening to the album, and I am usually one to agree that that is boring, but Sam Prekop deserves a lot more respect then that. He has stuck to his style of songwriting and always given us a different groove to fall into. So to see and feel this live, well… you either get it or you just were not there.

So cool, so easy… so simple was the night. No one was there trying to impress anyone. Just a good listening to enjoy. And every band gave their fair share. This one will definitely go down as my first favorite show here in Cambridge.

Categories
Music Reviews

Shotgun Wedding

Shotgun Wedding

A Big World of Fun

Whiner Brothers

This is the new album by several of the folks who used to be known as the Moon Seven Times, including Lynn Canfield and Brendan Gamble. A bit less ethereal and a bit more country-rock than M7x, Shotgun Wedding can also kick into a seriously cool lounge jazz vibe at times, as well as put out some excellent blues guitar licks and enjoyably retro Wurlitzer and Hammond organ.

As you can tell from that description, Shotgun Wedding covers a lot of ground on A Big World of Fun . Sometimes the band’s laid-back Midwestern roots show through, with visions of endless fields and fluffy clouds just waiting till you turn your back to dump a load of rain on you, like the very mellow fatalism of “Mondays & Twisters.” Other songs feel a bit like a tiny sad cafe in Paris, such as “A Big World of Fun,” with its drooping-beret accordion, sorrowful upright bass, and fragile piano.

A lot of the songs talk about love, loss, and the past, with mysterious lyrics that remind me of excellent but extremely personal poetry — you feel the words in your heart more than grasping them with your mind. Witness the enigmatic and lovely “Firefly,” with its slow-strummed acoustic guitar, tinkling keyboards, and wistful concertina, which is maybe a song about that crazy loved/hated person in all our lives we can’t live with or without: “I know I will miss you/ just as much as I wish you would go away.”

Through all this excellent music, though, the strand that keeps pulling me in is Lynn Canfield’s gorgeous, warm voice. Lynn seems to know just how to stroke you with her singing, and just how to stab you when you deserve it. Very nice stuff.

Whiner Brothers Records, P.O. Box 4041, Urbana, IL 61803

Categories
Gear Reviews

Armand Schaubroeck Blues Guitar

Armand Schaubroeck Blues Guitar

Guitar

Gibson

The Gibson “Armand Schaubroeck Blues Guitar” is a guitar that was designed by Armand Schaubroeck to fuse the original Mississippi Delta Blues resonator sounds of the 1920s and 30s with the Chicago Electric Blues of the 1950s and 60s. The guitar was built by Gibson master luthier Ren Ferguson and boasts a highly flamed maple body and neck, ebony fingerboard with deluxe inlays and binding, gold hardware and Bigsby tailpiece. The guitar also features a Dobro spider resonator with a Fishman acoustic transducer pickup, active electronics and a single Gibson humbucker in the neck position with coil-tapping capability (accessible through the push-pull tone control). Wired for stereo, the guitar offers separate outputs for acoustic and electric pickups or a blend of both, stereo or mono.

Categories
Music Reviews

Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash

Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash

Brand Spankin’ New

Knitting Factory

Wayne Horvitz is a composer, pianist, and keyboardist who has performed extensively over the world, working with John Zorn and Naked City, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, and Butch Morris, among others, making him one of the lead musicians in the Avant Garde/Knitting Factory scene in NYC. After playing with so many experimental bands, he wanted to move away from that, and simply play some groove oriented funk. To fulfill his need to play the sounds he was after, he assembled Zony Mash (named after a Meters song).

Following the tradition of their first album, Cold Spill , Zony Mash play their own brand of intricate funk with touches of Horvitz’s more experimental sounds. Unlike the first album, the keyboards are the predominant instrument while the drums and bass lay down a solid yet flexible base for Horvitz to bounce his Hammond, Moog, and electrical pianos grooves off. Brand Spankin’ New reminds me of the first two Charlie Hunter records. The drums and bass are similar to CH’s, but with Hunter’s guitar/bass experimentation replaced with a similar style of keyboard playing. It’s nice to hear experimental funk that has a solid rhythm section that counterbalances the experimental parts played by the organs/keyboards. Just the right amount of complexity mixed with groove-oriented jazz.

Knitting Factory Works, 74 Leonard St., New York, NY 10013

Categories
Music Reviews

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco

Up, Up, Up, Up, Up, Up

Righteous Babe

“Half of learning how to play is learning what not to play. She’s learning the spaces she leaves have their own things to say and she’s trying to sing just enough so that air around her moves and make music like mercy that gives what it is and has nothing to prove.” Prediction: Ani DiFranco will have a child and quit touring.

Righteous Babe Records, P.O. Box 95, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205

Categories
Music Reviews

Amorphis

Amorphis

Tuonela

Amorphis has always been a band to live up to their name. Not since their early self titled 7″ in 1991 has their sound failed to progress, keeping them always one step ahead of their death metal peers. While their early material was not much different or better than most other brutal death metal bands, in the early 90’s, their subsequent releases, The Karelian Isthmus and Tales From the Thousand Lakes , began to dabble into epic structures, folk melodies, lyrics derived from ancient Finnish folklore, and contrasting vocals. Their 1996 release, Elegy , was a true metal masterpiece, and one of the best releases for that year. Psychedelic keyboards and a new vocalist brought in for the “clean” parts brought them into their prime. Elegy was one of those albums you had to listen to beginning to end, not a single track deserved to be skipped over.

Now, I know that they had to progress from their last disc to this one, but Tuonela seems more of a regression than anything. When I heard that guitarist Tomi Koivusaari would not be performing any vocals, I didn’t realize the dire consequences it would have. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person to disown a band just because they stop doing the death-grunt thing; hell, I even like Sentenced’s and the Gathering’s new material! But the contrast between vocalists was one of the most important parts of Amorphis’s sound on Elegy . In fact, if you cut all the heavy bits out of Elegy , you pretty much end up with Tuonela . Gone too are the epic structuring, most songs go the typical verse-chorus-verse structure. Sounds very radio friendly, in fact. And no longer are the lyrics derived from classic tales, but now are written by vocalist Pasi Koskinen. Only the track “Greed” (the only with death metal vocals) sounds like a true Amorphis song, but yet, the contrast in that song still isn’t as powerful as anything on Elegy . Old school Amorphis fans will be VERY disappointed, but maybe some fans of Elegy or the My Kantele EP will stay on deck. Me, I’ll just try to jump boat and drown before this once incredible band finds a way to let me down again.