Dialing in frequencies sublime and rhymed

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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News And Views

Sublime Travelogues

Sublime Frequencies continues to be a source of ear-opening sounds collected from the Orient by experimental folklorist Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls). Continuing to mine a rich vein of forgotten music on Sumatra, Alan compiled and edited Folk and Pop Sounds of Sumatra, Vol. 2. This compilation brings together folk and pop from the ’60s through to the ’80s. The music is vibrant and bright. It is an exciting blend that applied musicologist Bishop places into a taxonomy of styles such as Minang traditional and orkes gambus (oud orchestra)… Beside collecting performed and recorded music, Bishop puts together audio collages of radio programming, as with the Cambodian material presented on Radio Phnom Penh. What Bishop found is that most of radio in that capital city is programmed with remixes of material from Cambodia’s pop golden age in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In exploring the radio side of Indonesia on Radio Sumatra: Indonesian FM Experience, Bishop finds that this peculiarly FM-only radio collage mix approach called dangdut is that radio staple there, too. This rich collection of dangdut field recordings is presented without sound processing or overdubs… From the remote ceiling of the world, Robert Millis collected for our wonder Chinese-sounding pop radio and novice Buddhist monks at work for Harmika Yab-Yum: Folk Sounds From Nepal. Another remote area is Laos and the Isan region of Thailand. From here is collected the material for Molam: Thai Country Groove From Isan. The molam vocal music here comes from the ’70s and ’80s when electrification and Western instrumentation first crept into the arrangements. It is a unique time capsule from the region… From the stolen land of Tibet, Zhang Jian collected recordings of street musicians and environmental sounds for Streets of Lhasa. The album has a restrained exuberance, and at other times a gentle mystery (“Prayer”).


Each month I try to find a CD or two sent to me that is perfect, soporific audio to drift off to sleep to. Mind, you this is not a slam against the CDs. Indeed, I am recommending them for relaxation. This month Clair Ritter Greener than Blue does the trick. Ah, what better a palette from which to paint the image of perfect slumber than forest green and midnight blue? These are the exact shades that come to mind slumbering to the impressionistic piano pieces on this instrumental jazz album.

Book Reviews

Krist Novoselic

Of Grunge and Government

RDV Books/Akashic Books

In the last paragraph of Section IV of the classic Civil Disobedience, Thoreau asserts the supremacy of the individual in relation to the State, and further insists that democracy is not the last step in the evolution of government, as there is still greater room for the State to recognize the freedom and rights of the individual. Thoreau concludes saying such a State is one he has imagined “but not yet anywhere seen.” This work became a bible for the future international non-violence movement and other progressive movements. Krist Novoselic’s Of Grunge and Government taps the same vein and conjures the same ideas of the hope for and promise of a more enlightened democracy. The down-to-earth language can reach any of those that know him from Nirvana while the closer look at instant-runoff voting (IRV) and full representation offer real grist for the political junkie to chew on. (3.5)

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DVD Reviews

The EforFilms Jazz Memories DVD series is exclusively distributed by Music Video Distributors . Three new titles in the series are biopics on prominent black pioneers in popular music. Each trailblazer ran into the same racist obstacles, but handled them differently. Nat “King” Cole sought to rise above the fray by always being a gentleman and, while this made him a star on the charts, it failed to win commercial endorsement of his TV variety show, the first hosted by an African-American. Lena Horne sought to avoid the issue, but as she was forced to show her hand by McCarthyist blacklisting and more she became more focused and successful in attacking racism in America. Billie Holiday put “Strange Fruit” out there and remains a testament against the most brutal forms of prejudice. Of course, there is also much music and other career highlights on these three enlightening DVDs: Lena Horne: The Incomparable Lena Horne, Billie Holiday: Genius of Lady Day, and Nat “King” Cole: The Legendary Nat “King” Cole.

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More on the Cole DVD from Amazon.com

Dead Boys

Live at CBGB’s 1977

Music Video Distributors

Video producer Rod Swenson (Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith) used three cameras to capture (contain?) the explosive, crass and wild energy of Stiv Bators leading his band through an important incarnation of the rebellious punk spirit at the legendary CBGB’s. The dangerous nine-song set includes “Sonic Reducer”, “All This and More”, and “Search & Destroy”. Special features include an interview with the band from that year as well as present-day reflections by guitarist Cheetah Chrome and manager Hilly Kristal. Also not to be missed is a bonus video clip of Steel Tips tucked in here. This group was a bizarre no wave circus fronted by a dancing schoolgirl and a beefy biker type. (4)

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Family Style


All rock that is worthwhile stands on the shoulders of such ’60s and ’70s giants as Rolling Stones, The Who and AC/DC. Occasionally, since then, we have heard glimpses of the same undeniable spirit. Such an example was The Cult Electric, and now Jet Family Style. This excellent concert DVD is the type of thing that makes you glad to have a huge plasma TV hooked up to a killer sound system … or it may make you rush out to buy one. However, there is one aspect that is keeping this band from having that final push off the cliff. That is, the singer needs to shave, liven up and make a second, more serious pass at the second-hand clothing store. The DVD includes a tour documentary and several videos. (4.5)

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Jazz Legends

The Golden Age of Jazz, Part 1

Quantum Leap/Music Video Distributors

This lively overview of big bands and swinging ensembles includes Cab Calloway (“Smokey Joe”), Buddy Rich & Artie Shaw (“Take Your Pick”), Louis Prima (“China Town”) and more. Standout selections of these short jazz films include Ian Rae Hutton’s all-female big band (“Truckin’”), Sammy Davis Jr. pre-glass eye doing ocular gymnastics (“Boogie Woogie Piggie”), a cappella trio The Mills Brothers in a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along (“I Ain’t Got Nobody”) and Duke Ellington with dancers Florence Hill and Bessie Dudley (“Stormy Weather”). (The Duke Ellington sequence is from Bundle of Blues, produced at The Cotton Club in 1933. There are three Fred Waller featurettes here.) All told, there are 22 tracks from different artists on this classic collection. Extras include artist biographies and discographies. (3.5)

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Psychic TV

Black Joy

Jettisoundz/Music Video Distributors

This DVD unites two Psychic TV shows previously available only as separate VHS titles. The first concert on the DVD, Joy, includes lysergic renditions of Hendrix (“RU Xperienced”) and Velvet Underground (“Candy Says”). This 1989 Manchester show finds the band ramping up on its acid rock phases. The rich inclusion of imagery makes the extended crowd-swept stage a backdrop for an acid mosaic of druggy visions and flesh. After a video for “IC Water” is the 1992 concert known as Black. This finds the group at the frenzied height of its acid rock style again immersed in such weird and flashing video editing of included images that it is not unlike a Subgenius video. All that dizzying video editing adds to the concerts and makes both better than I remember Genesis P-Orridge when he brought his band through Detroit during this time period. (3.5)

More on the DVD from Amazon.com

CD Reviews

Bob Marley And The Wailers

Fy-Ah, Fy-Ah


This deep history of Bob Marley’s roots of reggae work explores through the Jamaican interpretation of R&B, the roots of reggae soul (“Bend Down Low”) and ska (“Dem a Fi Get a Beatin’”, sung by Peter Tosh). This is all on Disc 1, which like the other two discs in this set, includes “version”, or instrumental takes on some songs of that disc. Disc 2 focuses on 1969 and 1970 (the Leslie Kong era) and leads off with a smiling, shuffling, arms waving take on “Sugar, Sugar”. Going to the other end of the spectrum of human inclinations is the spiritual “Selassie is the Chapel”, a highly sought and compelling early Wailers single. Disc 3 gathers together material recorded by the label with ace American session people during the JAD years, including Hugh Masekela (horns). This was all part of the Marley movement to an international presence through a springboard in the important U.S. market. While it hints less of the rebellious Marley that evolved, the quality 1968 recordings on this disc complete the mosaic picture of early Marley captured here. (4)

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Hungry Eye

This Bay Area band uses its Casio keyboards to produce an art-damaged, gothic feel to its Suicide-like sounds. Spare and sinister like much of the Virgin Prunes, the primitive sounds here are a welcome time capsule for the black-on-black crowd. RIYL: Christian Death, Siouxsie and the Banshees. (3)

Charlie Tweddle

Fantastic Greatest Hits


This album was originally recorded in 1971 and self-released in 1974. This Companion Records reissue includes a half-dozen bonus tracks recorded between 1971 and 1973. This is Appalachian acoustic folk psychedelia from an obscure and eccentric multi-talented wandered with a Dylan-like voice. In short, this is a clear-cut cult classic that you do not want to miss. The primitively recorded songs include 25 minutes of chirping crickets and sound fragments, which was side two of the obscure classic. RIYL: Michael Strange, The Holy Modal Rounders, Hasil Adkins (all at the same time). (4)


Bear Tamers Music

Sub Rosa

This is the music – at times spastic and at other times transcendent – of a trio of gypsy nomads from Romania. The enthusiasm of the roaming musicians is infectious and mostly vocal. The instrumentation is wooden barrel, spoons and other primitive percussion. The percussive backing the primitive music and the natural vocal harmonies makes this a street musician classic of the real roots folk scene. (3.5)

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Bill Cosby

Fat Albert


This is the first CD edition of the classic 1973 comedy album from Bill Cosby. The kids-oriented carton show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was in full swing on CBS and this is a more adult set of hilarious routines that include an older Fat Albert in misadventures. The laughs you will have from “Fat Albert’s Car” from this master storyteller producing his own sound effects are well worth the price of admission. (4.5)

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Elton John

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy


When I was a child, I marveled at the cover art of this album for its fantastic imagery and its scatological and sexual elements. Shrunk down to about 20% of its original area, the cover art suffers somewhat, but the digital remastered album is bigger for the ears. The album includes three bonus tracks: “Philadelphia Freedom”, “One Day at a Time”, and the standout and somewhat reggae cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Like Tumbleweed Connection, this is an Elton John and Bernie Taupin concept album. The album reviews the pair’s rise to success and offers the hit “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”. This is a pinnacle in the partnership and succeeding albums pale in comparison. (4.5)

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None More Black

Loud About Loathing


This EP will tide over None More Black fans until the Fat Wreck Chords full-length release later this year. The raspy-voiced vocalist fits well with the tight and punchy hard rock music that covers the spectrum from Dischord-like progressive hardcore to Southern boogie hard rock. This post-punk indie rock band benefits from effectual use of such rock ‘n’ roll tricks as cool breaks and catchy choruses on such standout tracks as “iScrapbook” (video in production as I write) and “I’ll buy you the Fucking Single”. (3)

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The Shitgiveits

Freedom from Reality

In Your Face

Crude recording quality emphasizes a gloomy doom-punk element to such tracks as “I Don’t Care” but the overwhelming feel is snotty old-school punk. While the album is evenly good, it is so even no particular tracks standout. Despite the use of choruses and catchy repeated lines full of rebellion and angst, nothing here rises to the level of a punk anthem. (2)

The Sound of Animals Fighting

Tiger & the Duke

Stars And Satellites

This Drive-Thru records supergroup has members of Finch, Saosin, and Rx Bandits. The screamo vocals of Anthony Green and the Rx Bandits guitars with the progressive rock knob up to eleven will give you an idea of how this punk rock opera sounds. The four acts of post-emo sophisticates noise rock opera are connected by electronic interludes. The exciting, energetic, ambitious release succeeds well and harbingers well as the debut release on TSOAF member Rich Balling’s (Rx Bandits) label. (3.5)

Parchman Farm

Parchman Farm

Jackpine Social Club

The Mose Allison song “Parchman Farm” was recorded by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers under that name but as “Parchment Farm” by Blue Cheer. Cross the two varieties of power blues and you have an idea what this neo-stoner rock band sounds like. The primitive rock ‘n’ soul band has an exciting album here that will go over big with fans of Queens of the Stone Age. (4)

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Friendly Rich

Parade of Noises 2004

Music Roots Seminars, Inc.

Friendly Rich is an experimental musician whose weird, scatological and often engrossing music has drawn my favorable attention in the past. In a more academic and educational, but no less experimental direction, Rich travels into Canadian public schools helping students design, build and play their own music instruments as Music Roots Seminars, Inc. This CD is a live recording of over 700 Grade 4 students playing in a park in Brampton, Ontario. Ranging from a funeral procession-like dirge (“Parade Ostinato”) to a childhood improvisation ensemble fantasy (“Humpty Dumpty Variations”), this is a weird and wonderful example of outsider music writ large. (4)

Rob Levit Trio


Symbol System

Rob Levit Trio has the ability to sound hip and slick (“Singularity”) as well as polished and contemporary without being smooth jazz (Sting’s “Fields of Gold”). Indeed, this guitar-led trio offers an earful of pleasure on this album of instrumental jazz. Along with ten tracks of quality original compositions, this CD of modern jazz has two other covers, tastefully done: “Waiting in Vain” (Marley) and “Footprints” (Wayne Shorter). RIYL: John McLaughlin, Brand X, Steve Hancoff. (4)

Sun City Girls

Carnival Folklore Resurrection


These collages of found sounds, radio broadcasts and more present a headspace world of surreal beauty where headphones may be the best ticket in. Experimental noise, vintage music and exotic sounds drift in and out as the ear’s journey start with “Chameleon Street Hit Parade” and ends 36 tracks later with Ennio Morricone’s “Man Without a Harmonica”. (4)

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Master Musicians of Bukkake

The Visible Sign of the Invisible Order


This is an eerie album of graveyard soundscapes and ceremonial nights in the spirit houses. Founded after recording John Schuller’s Lesser Angel of Failure Master Musicians of Bukkake is a loose-knit Seattle collective performing ceremonial music. Beside Schuller and core members Randall Dunn, Brad Mowen, Don McGreevy and James Davis, this debut features violinist Eyvind Kang. Also performing are Alan Bishop and Charlie Gocher of Sun City Girls. (4)

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Parker & Lily

The Low Lows

The Warm Super Computer

Grown from the deep and abiding melancholy of the breakup of their 10-year affair, this is a moving and compelling album of sad beauty. This album contains the apt elements of crying-moist reverb and harmony vocals by Lily far and away from Parker’s breaking voice. Perhaps it was therapeutic for the pair to put their pain so poignantly and purposefully on this public platform. Perhaps they are merely professional and “the show must go on.” Either way, you should enjoy being drawn into the mesmerizing sparse minimalism of these odes to love lost. (4)

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Michael Perlowin

West Side Story

This is Michael Perlowin’s pedal steel guitar incarnation of Leonard Bernstein’s music for “West Side Story”. The arrangement is pedal steel and drums (Dave Beyer) in the main. Perlowin was inspired by the Falla Guitar Trio recording of this music and enlisted FGT arranger Kenton Youngstrom to provide guidance on this treatment of the music. The tasteful, background drums make this largely a pedal steel pieces and is thus a light, airy, floating version of the music that gently rises above its own imagined cityscapes. One song, “I Feel Pretty”, was done with Hawaiian steel guitars as opposed to any pedal steel on this instrumental album. (3.5)

William Shatner

Transformed Man


This is not the first CD edition of the ultimate golden throat classic. The 1968 album, which will always have a following, is here remastered from the original tapes (the sound is excellent) with a booklet of many Star Trek-era photos. For those that unfortunately have not yet experienced this unique opus, it is basically a series of pair dramatic readings and songs. The first four tracks are Shakespeare with popular music. Alone worth the price of admission is the contrast of the arrogantly cocksure “Theme from Cyrano” with the admitted “total psychopathic subservience” approach to “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Surely Mr. Tambourine Man would have gotten a restraining order against Shatner for the way Shatner chases Mr. Tambourine Man around the studio while the chorus soldiers on as if nothing unusual were happening. (4.5)

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Satoko Fujii Orchestra



This is the fifth album pianist/composer Satoko Fujii has produced with her 16-piece all-star New York City ensemble. Besides husband/trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, this ensemble includes Ellery Eskelin, Tony Malaby, Briggan Krauss and more. This is an incredible, unpredictable album that takes the listened on a wild ride of ensemble warmth bright with horns to the controlled chaos of an intense episode of fiery free jazz. Listening to the music strikes one as both a natural and serious progression of the traditional big band idea. The tight but limber arrangements and challenging material shows the amazing potential of jazz when you have not only quality, but quantity too. (5)

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Ginger Leigh

If I Should Die Tomorrow

Ginger Leigh

This is electronic music with cinematic depth from an experimental palette. With one foot in Middle Eastern music and one foot in industrial music, Ginger Leigh presents an exotic and substantial blend. This instrumental music is not unlike Throbbing Gristle, Muslimgauze and Steve Roach in a blender with Pigface pushing the buttons. Overall, the work is an evocative and mysterious travelogue over an antique and foreign land where the lone and level sands stretch far away. (3.5)

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Far Corner

Far Corner

Cuneiform Records

Bass, piano, cello and percussion gives this agile ensemble rock quartet a full bottom end. However, this group is more King Crimson than it is Morphine. This basic instrumentation (it is varied and added to) grafts a mystery and depth to the progressive rock band’s music. This is a particularly strong debut that bridges the post-classical and the prog worlds. In the jazz-like tradition of shared roles, each member and thus instrument leads some pieces. This adds variety and texture to the album’s instrumental tracks. RIYL: King Crimson, Univers Zero, Mick Karn. (5)

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Ani DiFranco

Knuckle Down

Righteous Babe Records

In DiFranco’s long discography of albums, now comes the first co-production. Co-producing the album is Joe Henry. This album is diametrically opposed to, yet uniquely balanced with Ani’s previous Educated Guess. There she played everything and even recorded all the material herself. Now she is back in a rich ensemble setting that includes Andrew Bird, Tony Scherr and more. The varied collaborative work is still uniquely Ani marked by her voice and her personal DiFranco cadence that comes across on such songs as “Studying Stones”. This is also a mature and personal album from Ani. “Studying Stones” finds Ani reviewing her own family and songs like “Manhole” maps the rugged topography of love. (4.5)

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Terry Bozzio

Prime Cuts

Magna Carta

Magna Carta culled through its many sessions with drummer extraordinaire Terry Bozzio for the exciting selections on this instrumental rock album. The album begins with “Sick Jazz Surgery”, a percussion tour de force recorded especially for this album. Another previously unreleased track is “Walking Dream” from the Bozzio Levin Stevens sessions that resulted in Black Light Syndrome. Filling out the album is tracks recoded by Bozzio with James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess, Billy Sheehan and more. These tracks come from other Magna Carta releases. This is an enhanced CD with a candid and personal video interview with Bozzio as well as an Explorers Club MP3. (4.5)

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Corky Siegel

Corky Siegel’s Traveling Chamber Blues Show

Alligator Records

This album is a live document of Corky Siegel’s lively and spirited chamber approach to blues. “Chamber” because Corky marries rich percussion and a string section to his fiery harmonica jams. The combination as Siegel (Siegel-Schwall Blues Band; Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and his ensemble delivers it is irresistible. This is intelligent blues that is still very hip, progressive blues that still swings. (5)

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Brian Bennett

Aim High


This is music Brian Bennett of The Shadows recorded for music library KPM. Bennett contributed to 35 KPM albums and although the “Aim High” television series was never produced, the instrumental mood and action music sites square with the best of the genre. The fictional television series stands in as an umbrella under which to gather the cream of Bennett’s output for KPM from 1973 to 1976. The mood here is generally that of the “cop funk” variety, which is the perfect mood for an exhilarating car chase sequence with the good guys after the bad. Sprinkled in are more subdued pieces, such as “Reflections On A Misty Morning”. The liner notes include Bennett’s own remarks on each track, which are engaging and revealing about the methods of a veteran soundtrack musician. (4)

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Different Days


The music of L’Altra is easy, mellow and uninterrupted, like a Sunday when the phone never rings and there is a marathon of Mike Leigh films on, commercial-free. There is also an alluring, natural sexual charm to the vocal tradeoff between keyboardist Lindsay Anderson and Joseph Costa. The duo fleshes out its gentle pop with rich instrumentation from a bevy of guests, including Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) and additional programming from Marc Heller (pulseprogramming). The song-oriented electronic of L’Altra (“the feminine other”) is a sad and sweet masterpiece. (3.5)

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Maxïmo Park

Apply Some Pressure


Maxïmo Park is punkish power pop with a hard edge. There is a frantic, desperate energy to the group’s rushing songs. However, this strikes one as more stimulated than stimulating. There is a nice blend of the melody and the manic to this accelerated indie pop from Britain. For those on the lookout for songs that reflect basic properties of physics, the title track instructs us “When you apply some pressure/You lose pressure”. This elucidates plainly why one can never accurately assess tire pressure on a car. Slower pieces on this four-song EP, like “The Coast is Always Changing”, have a bouncy feel reminiscent of The Pogues. (3)

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Luna provides a beautiful, shimmering example of hip, easy rock that recalls early Lou Reed solo material. The opening track (“Malibu Love Nest”) jives nicely with the cover artwork of a lovers’ tryst in the banal surroundings of a hotel room’s outdated interior decorating. Another standout track is the oddly charming update on the nursery rhyme (“The Owl & the Pussycat”). This and other tracks reinforce the theme of a rendezvous for two, and this is an ideal soundtrack for just such an intimate gathering. (4)

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Jet By Day

The Vulture

Future Farmer

Lack of variety in this indie pop album makes it tiresome after a few songs. The wallowing in self-pity and exploration of excessive drinking does nothing to lift the album up. Jet By Day needs to step away from the rotting carcass of tired ideas and drop the vulture idea. Interestingly, the scientific family name for these birds is “Cathartidae” which is etymologically tied to “catharsis”. Maybe this is a hint Jet By Day is purging and we can expect new ideas next time. (2)


Sunshine Barato


The English- Portuguese title (“cheap sunshine”) echoes this easybeat pop album on two levels. First, it reflects the international makeup of the trio Brazilian singer Juju Stulbach and two Americans (singer-guitarist Chris Root and keyboardist whiz Jon Marshall Smith). The title also reflects the content, which is a celebration of such easy pleasures as lying on an empty beach, dancing in the rain, or falling asleep next to someone you love. Every time bossa nova makes a visitation into the American consciousness, it wins hearts. This Brazilian-sounding pop album has just that style of tropical, relaxed and smoothly hip charm. (4)

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Fold B-Low

Low Tuned Output


This album offers vertigo, or whiplash, inducing abrupt shifts from Cookie Monster death metal to lighters-held high-emotional, melody-metal segments. The quintet is from Germany and the promotional B&W 8×10 is, of course, of them looking hard and mean in front of a brick wall. (2)

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From Satellite

When All is Said and Done

Pat’s Record Company

This is a well-produced album obviously from an adequately appointed studio from whence came artful knob twiddling. However, the music is largely without soul. Even an eager promising opening to a song, like “Mouth”, turns into another all-out, everyone-plays-at-once sense of arrangement. What these songs need is more of the less-is-more approach. What When All is Said and Done requires is the soul of Miles Davis and a “When Less is Said and Done” feel. This band would benefit from knowing what not to play. (2.5)

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