Refined Sound

Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.

Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.

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The company’s epigram says it all, “Refined Records is dedicated to furthering

the art of acoustic instrumentation. By minimizing ‘plug-ins’ – synthetic sound

production and computer programming techniques – the music is freed from impurities,

cultivating a subtle, polished, and cultured gem.” Find out more about this

exquisite label on the Web. Two

titles out now from the label exemplify its ideals. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

mates American-styled pop jazz vocals ala Nat King Cole with the swinging gypsy

jazz of the acoustic Robin Nolan Trio. Fun and sophisticated, this album delivers

fresh renditions of 15 standards such as “Route 66”, “Take the ‘A’ Train” and

“Caravan”. These songs suggest travel and the meeting of the worlds creates

a wondrous passage to a singular collaboration

of European jazz instrumentation and American vocal styles. Randy Greer is not

a member of the ensemble, but is featured on this recording as the group explores

the possibilities of this fusion. It is Robin Nolan’s turn to be featured on

Turkish Blend. This is the album of guitarist Johnny Hepbir. Hepbir learned

his Gypsy-jazz guitar style by immersing himself in Gypsy culture. Beside Nolan

for additional guitar, Hepbir has his own Stephane Grappelli in Baz Stanescu

adding free-spirited violin.</p>


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Listen to or Buy Boulevard at Amazon.com</a>


to or Buy Turkish Blend at Amazon.com</a> </p>


Vulgar Friendly Rich is the Tom Waits of Brampton, Ontario, and you owe to yourself

to find out more about this crazy creative’s music. Rich has helped out by compiling

an electronic press kit that condenses all the insanity into a short video.

Visit his site and follow the links

to the low-bandwidth

or high-bandwidth version.



Slow Gun Records has been quietly flying under the radar of the independent

music scene for the past five years. Many labels stick to their favorite genre,

but Slow Gun covers all aspects of a punk/indie/rock music connoisseur’s collection.

After releasing more than a few 7” records from bands such as the Icarus Line,

the infamous Gayrilla Biscuits, and Over My Dead Body, Slow Gun is concentrating

on developing bands and releasing full lengths, such as the new records by Swindle

(out now!) and Crashcart (out soon!). For more information, check out http://www.slowgunrecords.com!


– David Gillanders, http://www.corsairmedia.com



300 miles west of Oslo, Norway a sheep’s head hit a concertgoer, fracturing

his skull at a concert by metal band Mayhem. The sheep’s head was launched into

the audience after it came off the knife of lead singer Maniac. The band separated

the ovine pate in the act of carving the animal up, this being part of the stage

show. Though the victim, Per Kristian Hagen, is a Mayhem fan, he filed involuntary

assault and battery charges against the band. The charges carry prison time.

Mayhem’s Rune Eriksen, a.k.a. Blasphemer, said the incident was unfortunate

and promised Hagen a free ticket to the next Mayhem mayhem. Norwegian police

began an investigation into the extreme Norwegian concert ritual.



Surf to http://www.pogogallery.com/

to read an interview with scanner and download any of the half-dozen Scanner

MP3s available there. Says Scanner, the files are “textures and sounds that

you [are] welcome to download and use in your own creations if you so desire.

You can also view some beautiful photographs of the Garches hospital project

in France where I created the soundtrack for a working morgue.”


VINYL REVIEWS ******************

US Bombs

Art Kills

TKO Records

US Bombs is upset with what it sees as government crimes of a conspiratorial

nature. Here the group delivers its case in melodic but potent and punchy punk

rock. The B-Side is “Framed”, a laundry list of reasons why the band feels Timothy

McVeigh was framed. The title track on the A-side features nice guitar work

and anthemic group vocals.

Last Target

What Caused the Problem?

TKO Records

This is the debut release from Last Target, put out as the band headed out to

Japan to tour with The Boils. The band has a distinctly ‘77 punk style. They

make themselves stand out by trading male-female vocals in the songs. One

of those vocalists is Ryoko Naitoh, former guitarist/vocalist for Thug Murder.

The band constantly tours the U.S. and Japan, winning fans with their unique

Tokyo take on the vintage punk spectrum offering street and melodic styles.


Head Hits Concrete

Hope, Fear and the Terror of Dreams

Intolerant Messiah

Unfettered malevolence, unrestrained violence launches off this densely packed

33 RPM 7”. The Winnipeg grindcore band is a rare example of the extreme scene

in the Great White North. Typical of the grindcore formula, these are short but

brutal blasts of music allowing the group to pack five songs onto each side of

the release. (3)


Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

In Concert


A blues showman in the tradition of Aaron “T-Bone” Walker, multi-instrumentalist

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown regales a German club crowd with guitar and fiddle

in this 10-song set. The 1995 concert is an entertaining example of Brown’s Texas

blues fusions style, a mix of blues, country, R&B, Cajun and some jazz. Brown

rose to prominence in the post-War blues scene and has 50 years of experience

to draw on in this excellent, varied performance that includes “Take the A-Train”,

“Long Way Home” and “Mojo Workin’”. (4.5)


p align=”center”>More

on the DVD from Amazon.com</a></p>


Live in San Francisco

2B1 Records/MVD

Yellowman became famous with American college crowds in the ’80s for his sexually

explicit dancehall style. Much of this was seen as homophobic and sexist and the

‘90’s saw Yellowman entirely reinvent himself. This 1998 concert from the Maritime

Hall in San Francisco is a socially aware Yellowman encouraging condom use and

directly warning against mistreatment of women. Full of energy and racing across

the stage, Yellowman packages most of these tunes into medleys of songs. Along

with his dancehall pieces, Yellowman works in many covers. Some work much better

than others. For example, “Girl Watcher” comes off very well, but the rendition

of “Blueberry Hill” does not fit. The encore gives a touch of old school Yellowman

slackness for the fans. Special features on the DVD are a photo gallery, discography

and poster catalog. (3.5)


p align=”center”>More

on the DVD from Amazon.com</a></p>

Irv Cass

Almost Elvis

Blue Suede Films/MVD

This fascinating documentary centers on Elvis impersonator Irv Cass. The Niles,

Michigan performer prepares for a final attempt at the national crown at Memphis’

“Images of Elvis” contest, a title he has been the runner-up for multiple times.

While exploring Cass’ struggles to succeed and battling with the diet decision,

we are introduced to other hopefuls. These include Quentin Flagg and Robert Washington.

His extreme youth may hold Flagg back and Washington may have an obstacle to the

crown in the color of his skin. Regardless they are among the talented contestants

that are Irv’s colleagues from his South Bend, Indiana regional to his chance

on the Memphis stage. Beyond the colorful characters that are the impersonators,

this documentary also explores the Elvis impersonator community made of up talent

judges, fans, costume designers, agents and more. Almost Elvis is an entertaining

and illuminating view of this sub-culture that is the ultimate in retro. (4)


p align=”center”>More

on the DVD from Amazon.com</a></p>

Various Artists

Modulations: Cinema for the Ear


This DVD is am ambitious overview of both the history of electronica and its myriad

contemporary forms. The producers, also the makers of Synthetic Pleasures,

feature interviews with or clips of Scanner and John Cage, Derrick May and Robert

Moog, Genesis P. Orridge and Atari Teenage Riot and more. Largely in the form

of candid chats, these clips form an enlightening mosaic of the growth of electronic

music, its own genesis and its power of self-creation derived from internal inspiration.

That is, innovators server to inspire the next seminal innovator. Interestingly,

in all this chatter and reflection, the implicit fact that electronic music came

in two waves is never explicitly acknowledged. The birth of electronic music from

Stockhausen to John Cage arose from purely aesthetic or purely inventive motivation.

Later came a utilitarian wave of beat music purveyors characterized by Orbital,

The Future Sound of London, Roni Size, etc. Very little is done to explain how

the dance music forms first grafted onto the art and academic movement, though

producer Teo Macero’s comments on ’50s production techniques suggests much. Also,

the current state of that art and academic movement is not touched on except through

the appearance of Pierre Henry. (3.5)


p align=”center”>More

on the DVD from Amazon.com</a></p>

Various Artists

That Old Black Magic

Morningstar Entertainment/MVD

In the 1950s, CBC’s Toronto studios were a safe haven for black performers seeking

to promote their art away from the segregated United States. Black jazz, R&B and

pop stars appeared in variety shows produced there. This DVD culls from high-quality

kinescopes compiled as part of the studio’s 50th anniversary. Thanks to the CBC

Archives Department, we now get taken back to that golden era for a short narrated

biography and performances from a playfully nimble Cab Calloway (“Minnie the Moocher”),

Dinah Washington singing Bessie Smith murder ballad “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair”,

smooth Billy Eckstine (“September Song”) and opera star Marion Anderson. Also

featured are Ella Fitzgerald and Della Reese. Sampled from variety shows are appearances

by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nat King Cole. The main star is Duke Ellington. We get

five songs from Ellington as he opens and closes this excellent DVD. (4)


p align=”center”>More

on the DVD from Amazon.com</a></p>


The Cutters

In the Valley of Enchantment

Blackjack Humboldt

Bright and uplifting, smile-inducing indie pop continues to come in quality from

the camp of The Cutters. The album is ten tracks long, with an eleventh unlisted

track called “Sluggish”. That leaves the listed experience bookended with the

clarion call to joy, a power pop anthem called “(Back In The) 20th Century” and

ending with a cocktail of alcohol and attraction blended with fiddle called “Partly

Cloudy”. Be that as it may, it is always sunny with The Cutters and this disc

is sunshine on a spinning platter. (4)


Noise for the Sake of Noise

TKO Records

The Vault of ANTiSEEN continues with the resurrection of this Southern

brand of white trash punk from ANTiSEEN. The album, originally, was an Australian

release. Like many early Australian punk bands, this album is a primitive, noisy

affair – as the title suggests! At this point, the group was so punk they could

play a Dylan song (“Positively 4th Street”) … with keyboards, and get away with

it. (At least offering enough high-octane fuel to hurdle this speed bump.) The

five bonus tracks include four live cuts featuring a James Brown-inspired “Death

Train (In a Cold Sweat)”. (4)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Murder 1

On High

The Music Cartel

The power blues punk of Murder 1 reincarnates the spirit of Blue Cheer. This heavy

slab marks the band’s third release, and is more stylistically consistent and focused

for maximum stoner rock energy. The group now sports a new vocalist (Will Naga)

and piano/keyboard player going by the name Bram Phetamine. On songs like “White

Horse Trail”, Phetamine offers a funky keys break that gives the song the shadow

of R&B soul. (3.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Squirtgun/Teen Idols

The Dysfunctional Shadowman

Asian Man Records

Pop punk bands Squirtgun and Teen Idols get together for this four-song split

CD. The four tracks are alternately ordered so that each band follows the other.

Teen Idols packs more of a punch with a melodic leaning toward street punk. Squirtgun

has more charm with backing female vocals adding confection to their speedier

brand of indie rock. This is a good introduction to the two bands now both signed

to Fat Wreck Chords’ imprint Honest Don’s. (3.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Maria de Alvear


Christina Fong

This is the first recording of the extended viola piece composed by modern European

composer Maria de Alvear. Performing the piece is Christina Fong; know for premier

recordings of newer music. The piece is sixty-six minutes and rarely does she

compose anything lasting less than an hour. De Alvear uses the single, brown-toned

instrument to impressionistically deliver a potent monologue on strength, intensity,

vigor and force that can all be used and is best used with art, skill, style and

passion. (4.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>




On Icon Jonas Hellborg, bass icon with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Public Image

Ltd. and more on his résumé, continues to explore the possibilities of Indian

music in a progressive jazz setting. This album uses the Indian tradition as a

basis and Hellborg does little to obscure what is there. Guitarist

Shawn Lane is on hand to add electric guitar, but he also does not get in the

way. The core of this album is vocalist V. Umamahesh (a verbal acrobat) backed

by the two percussionists (Umashankar and Selvaganesh) on konokol and other instruments.

Hellborg sees improvisation as the heart of both jazz and Indian music, making

the two sympathetic on that level. (4.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>


Take Your Skin Off

Bulb Records

Mind Flayer is a two-main collaboration: B. Chippendale (Lightning Bolt) and Mr.

Brinkmann of Meerk Puffy, Force Field and more. Noisy and clamorous, grating and

cacophonous, this is a harsh, mind-flaying assembling of kit drums and angry electronics.

Take Your Skin Off is an adrenalized cross between Foetus and the Dungeons

& Dragons Monster Manual. (3)

Harry Manx / Kevin Breit


Northernblues Music

Jubilee brings together two of Canada’s best modern blues guitarists: Harry

Manx on the mohan-veena Indian guitar and lap-slide guitar along with journeyman

session guitarist Kevin Breit. After an impromptu jam with Breit’s Folk Alarm

in 2001, Manx discovered he and Breit made an exquisite sonic alloy. Luckily for

us, they got into the studio mere months later, resulting in this exquisite album.

Their styles are a union of opposites. Manx has an atmospheric, detached quality

touched by Indian music. His music has the gift of flight. From Breit we are taken

down, inside and into a world of whiskey in a Mason jar and down home blues. Breit

also delivers exquisite mandolin on this album. In the blended result it is Manx’s

style, unexpectedly, that comes through the most. Jubilee is a laid-back

album that gently rolls forward from track to track like drifting downriver on

a warm, sunny day. (4.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Bob Holroyd

Without Within

Six Degrees

Subtle, relaxing ethereal electronica is the fare here on this album from Bob

Holroyd. Holroyd offers a formula of relaxed beat music making a canvas for impressionistic

inclusions of ethnic sounds. In this, Holroyd has a large, and admitted, debt

to Peter Gabriel. Holroyd pays homage to the master with the album’s strongest

track, an excellent rendition of “Games Without Frontiers”. The criminally underrated

Happy Rhodes does an excellent job here singing the verses made famous by Kate

Bush. (3)


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Led by a female trio of vocalists, this Finnish ensemble celebrates their 20th

anniversary with Iki. “Iki” is the “primal, eternal breath” and this album

celebrates that sacred respiration by focusing on songs full of intertwined melody

lines and minimally supported by acoustic folk instrumentation. Some songs, like

“The Blacksmith’s Son”, offer a deep, indulgent beat and jazz feel. The group

continues to evolve over time and still features vocalist Mari Kaasinen. The album

also features producer Janne Haavisto, known for previously successful collaboration

with the large, Nordic folk ensemble in ’90s albums such as Aitara and

Kokko. (4)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Silent Kids

Tomorrow Waits

Two Sheds Music

Vintage equipment and an affectation for ’60s pop give Silent Kids a penchant

for catchy, uplifting psychedelic pop. They use their formula for not only creating

the music but in recording it also. This hip and rugged sound came from analog

eight-track recordings made at band members’ homes. The group dresses up their

lo-fi indie rock with Moog, tape loops and samples. This building up of instrumentation

makes for a vintage-sounding recording rich in texture. (3.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

David Darling

The Tao of Cello

Valley Entertainment

Originally released in 1993 to only the most limited distribution, this is the

re-issue of Darling’s early masterpiece. The solo, instrumental cello pieces are

improvisations upon themes taken from the Tao Te Ching, an important work forming

the basis of Taoism. The warm, ambient sound was recorded in a Connecticut barn.

Just reading the titles is relaxing and reflective; “Just Do What Needs To Be

Done”, “Yield and Overcome” and “Knowing Others is Wisdom” being some of the titles.

Darling’s short improvisational pieces further enhance the contemplative nature.



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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

Linda Draper


Linda Draper

Producer Kramer (Urge Overkill, Galaxie 500) opted for an understated, unadorned

sound for the simple, basic songs of anti-folk singer-songwriter Linda Draper.

This works very well for Linda, who has clear and uncluttered delivery that needs

no extra help. Her quickly strummed but hardly stated chords snap along with a

regular, locomotion rhythm. This percolating guitar work removes anything haunting

from these sparse songs, making them instead brightly delivered, witty observations

from a former church choir soloist. (4)


Hot New Spirits

Sonic Unyon Recording Company

Toronto’s Tangiers has a quivering, quavering delivery for Richard Hell-inspired

punk rock. A harmonica-like blast that could be keyboards on “Keep the Living

Bodies Warm” is one of the tricks Tangiers does to keep the music fresh. “Here

Come the Pieces” is like The Buzzcocks through a Goth-rock lens. More on the variety

front occurs in “Return to the Ship” which varies from cooing ooh-ooh vocals to

a frantic explosion of verses from the lead singer. This is somewhat of an unexpected

direction of the quartet. Drummer Marco Moniz is ex-Killer Elite, a garage rock

band, and the other three members come from The Deadly Snakes, another T-town

garage band, but with a Southern feel. The keyboard cleans up the sound and

makes the album a post-punk power pop throwback, and a very good one at that.



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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

The Cinch

The Cinch

Dirtnap Records

This five-song CD EP is full of energy and punch. The female voices sharing vocals

add diversity to the songs as the arrangements change. The bright, full-sounding

indie rock of “Once a Week” precedes a song of spurned attraction that varies

from indie pop to, once again, the full-throttle guitar approach. The two-guitar

band provides four originals and a cover of Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked”. Packing

their sound full of distorted guitars to juxtapose against the bright, perky ladies

singing, this group hails from Vancouver. (3.5)


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The Briefs

Off the Charts

Dirtnap Records

The Briefs is a pogoing time machine, using their original music to take us back

to an early punk sound that was about fun, the energy of wild youth, skinny ties

and outrageous sunglasses. The music bounces with the feel of “Banned from the

Pub” and rings anthemic like 999’s “Homicide”. Just as those songs are packaged

on endless punk-era retrospectives, so do songs on this album like “Outer Space

Doesn’t Care About You” and “(Looking Through) Gary Glitters Eyes” also define

that vibe and would fit just as nicely on those compilations. (4)


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Blackmore’s Night

Past Times with Good Company


This double-CD live album includes Ritchie Blackmore’s renaissance-flavored band

doing not only the mighty minstrel thing, but also Deep Purple (“Soldier of Fortune”)

and Rainbow (“16th Century Greensleeves”) tracks. Vocalist Candice Night does

an excellent job sweetly and distinctly leading the group through this varied

material. The turbo-charged folk melodies are in no way devoid of their rustic

charm or simple elegance, though each is briskly and boldly delivered as any Deep

Purple arena rock anthem. The material was recorded May 2002 in Groningen, The

Netherlands. The instrumentation features much traditional tools, like recorder

and shawm. Besides electric and acoustic guitars, Blackmore also plays mandolin,

mandola and more. (4)


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Nineteen Forty-Five

I Saw a Bright Light

Daemon Records

Hunter Manasco sings his lines like a husky folk-country singer-songwriter and

sometimes he screams like an angry punk. Katharine McElroy weaves in her vocals

that mollify the blend, the triple sec in this indie rock cocktail. The trio arrangement

lends a rugged simplicity to the simplicity. This was also echoed in the recording

on vintage equipment in the band’s basement studio. Beside the noisy indie pop

recalling The Pixies, some tracks like the melancholy “Someday I’ll End It All”

have a fragile, folk-like beauty that suggests the K Records sound and bands like

The Microphones. (3.5)


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French Kiss Records

S PRCSS (S Process) offers noisy but melodic art rock that sometimes waxes spacey.

“Hi-Yah is a Karate Chop” recalls Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd in the intro. Vocalist/guitarist

Bob Doto sites Sonic Youth as a major influence. When drummer Daneil Mazone leads

a song (“Spring Garden Drive-By”) there are clockwork rhythms and near-rap vocals.

All this variety and texture makes for something that it is hardly minimal. (3.5)


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Listen to or Buy at Amazon.com</a></p>

David Clement

Your Free Gift

Show Dog Tunes

Brightly and precisely produced, this shining gem of an album showcases well the

upbeat songwriting of David Clement. It was a New York visit from his high school

classmate Liz Phair that prompted Clement to get serious about music and set about

recording. After building a solo career, Clement now works with a band and attracted

some serious talent for this album. Chris Cochrane (Suck Pretty, No Safety), Marc

Ribot and even Rob Bailey (Anastacia, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Lisa) all are on hand

to handle guitars. Drumming is split between Richard Dworkin (Alex Chilton) and

Marty Beller (They Might Be Giants, The Negro Problem). In all that, Clement was

tangled in legal difficulty with this Hard Candy release on Mercury. Impressive

to Liz Phair and subsumed into a sought-after bootleg, the content sees new light.

Unable to use the original recordings, Clement re-recorded 12 of the 14 songs

on the album here available as the peerless and inimitable classic

of excellent songs: Your Free Gift. (4.5)


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Rotary Downs

Long After the Thrill

Static on Vinyl

Easley/McCain Studio on Deadrick Street is just south of midtown Memphis. The

room at Easley/McCain has a warm sound and the studio uses analog tape and vintage

microphones. Rotary Downs showed up to capture an intimate sound for their small,

closely worked songs featuring appearances by pedal steel, viola and piano as

well as Moog, Mellotron and Wurlitzer. Rotary Downs calls this focused approach being vintage without being blurry “mid-fi.” The group hails from New Orleans,

but seems unaffected by the Crescent City’s musical traditions. This indie rock

band ready for your favorite college stations must be an anomaly in their hometown.

Wherever they got their inspiration, they chose wisely and crafted exquisite songs

with such lyrics of vivid metaphor as “In a cold squall at the sea wall/Every

sea gull was a sym-bol” (“Hole in the Heart of Bama”). (4.5)

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