First review in this week's gullbuy, and my favorite disc of the week. 'Zero Trick' has a noir feel like the books of Andrew Vachss, Raymond Chandler, or James Elroy, plus Chubby Checker 'Twist' samples and an air of danger and mystery. From the Elektrotwist website: 'Elektrotwist are Uwe Moellhusen - a modern artist who crossovers media, conceptualizes and organizes exhibitions - and Joerg Meyerink, computer connoisseur, sound twiddler and 3-D animator.' There are no musicians or instruments in Elektrotwist. The songs are patched together from old sources including hipster beatjazz and smoky exotica. This is the way it should be! Their music sounds a bit like the Russian band Messerchups. I am very impressed with Newbury Comics for carrying this. I have never heard of Elektrotwist in any of the wide variety of sources I troll in search of new sounds. Based in Cologne, Elektrotwist have the same skill in extracting the best parts of antique underground culture that the German label Trikont showed in their 'Flashbacks' series. Last week in the gullbuy I talked about the way that Seelenluft honored traditional Les Baxter / Martin Denny exotica on his latest EP. Elektrotwist also honor the old masters directly through their samples, but add an element of trash mystique making them feel more like Stereo Total than Loungemasters. There is a vinyl only compilation that came out in the early 90's called 'Beat Jazz'. It had beatnik styled cuts on it, including the ultracool 'Go Go Kitty' by The New Bangs. 'Prostitution' (#5) samples that song, and I should not be surprised that these 2 guys have found such an obscure tidbit of cool to load into their samplers. You've just got to listen to: 1,2,5,6,8,9,11,12 .
July 31, 2001
Sympathy has done it again: another great female-fronted power poppy/punky/rock band. And this one has a pedigree that includes Rich Coffee (Gizmos, Thee Fourgiven, The Unclaimed, etc) and Janet Housden (Red Cross). Ok, so Janet left the Excessories before the CD even came out, but she still plays bass and sings back up all over the album. The lead singer, Melanie Coffee, was in the band Sluts for Hire (at least one fun 7" on Sympathy), and is now married to Rich. The CD reminds me of a lot of bands that I dig, like The Fastbacks, The Muffs, The Decals, and Nikki and the Corvettes (though Melanie's got a better voice than the some of those other bands -- not as screamy). And how can you not like the album title, a nod to Nick Lowe's 'Pure Pop for Now People'?? My favorite tracks are 'Summer,' 'Teenage Daydream' and 'The Earthquake Song' (an obscure cover, originally done by the Little Girls). There's also a great 'answer song' to the Dead Milkmen's 'Punk Rock Girl' called, of course, 'Punk Rock Boy.' It would also play nicely back-to-back with the Queers' 'Punk Rock Girls.'
Reissue of an album from 1974 with full relevance today. Steve Harley to me was almost equal to David Bowie at the time this came out. What Cockney Rebel added to the glam stylings of Aladdin Sane was the idea of using a plucked violin in place of a guitar. This band was part of a scene that included Sparks, Be Bop Deluxe, T Rex, and David Bowie. Each of these bands used vocal styles and lyrical content that challenged ideas of sexuality. Steve Harley's voice is over the top, the way he emotes in his vocals. He did not use outrageous costumes or props like Bowie - he dresses entirely simply and played acoustic guitar throughout his show. He was kind of like the Bob Dylan of glam. But the songs.... The songs are what make this amazing. Psychomodo starts off with four songs in a row that are almost unparalleled to this day. 'Sweet Dreams' will strike you right off. It has a vocal style like Ray Davies in the prime of The Kinks. 'Sweet Dreams' goes right into 'Psychomodo' (they should be played together). 'Mr. Soft' has the kind of dissonant piano that the song 'Aladdin Sane' had. Add to that the circus keyboard and the background vocal and you have another cool song holding one of Steve Harley's incredible characters created in lyric. 'Singular Band' uses a samba rhythm (not done in rock at the time). It has an addictive rhythm and great structure. After these 4 killer songs are a few that are more sleepy than I'd care for at this time. The other song I love on this CD is 'Sling It!'. It is the loudest song on the LP. The vocal has a megaphone effect for a verse, with intensity equal to a megaphone even when sung regularly. If all you've ever heard form Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel is 'Come Up and See Me Smile', you've GOT to hear what he was capable of when not massaging the charts with that mega-hit. Faves: 1,2,3,4,8
July 2001 marks the return of the Stereolab. They haven't done too much since last summer's Last of the Microbe Hunters mini-album, but a new full length is due out soon. Apparently two members of the band weren't feeling busy enough with that, so they got together with a couple other folks to release the Horizontalist 7inch. This may mark the return of the endless flow of Stereolab side project 7". Fortunately, Mary Hansen and Andy Ramsay are, in my opinion, two of the more interesting members of the band. They've participated in nice Z-adored stuff like Miss Mend. And I must say I enjoy the B-side of the Twenty Feet Behind 7inch, 'Sudden Death Overtime'. It has more of an analog sound than recent S-lab, and doesn't have the super-rich, 72 instrument, 300 track mixer feel. Whether or not the rest of the Lab will follow suit and go with simplicity over weak 'jazz influenced' droll... only time will tell. The Horozontalists contributed music to the soundtrack of the video 'Speed Queen' by Ulrika Kubata
More of a bonus cd to last years excellent 'Museum of Imaginary Animals' then a new and proper full-length - there are 3 new tracks (2-4), one re-recording from that CD (1), and 5 remixes (5-9). This allows Pram to show a more experimental side and I think it works because not only do you get the typical cinematic/kid-like eery sound of 'live' Pram (on tracks 1-4), you also get the re-interpretations in the remixes courtesy of Plone, Balky Mule (Sam from Movietone's alter ego), Terry:Funken, Andy Votel & Sir Real. This cd may not convert you if you aren't already a fan of Pram, but if you already love them along with other bands like Broadcast this cd has a lot to offer. Faves: 1, 6, 8
Carsten Endrass has emerged from his small village in the woods of Bavaria, miles from the cosmopolitan centres of Cologne, Berlin, and Frankfurt to release his first CD. And it couldn't come at a better time, with the interest in German electronics growing apace. Markant has, in the past three years, released no less than thirty EPs. None of them bore any information. Not even an email address in the run-off groove to keep the trainspotters happy. Now, with ten tracks culled from his 120 track catalogue, and an email address, Markant emerges from the shadows. His music reveals certain influences that are unavoidable, and not worth mentioning. Suffice it to say that this collection of incandescent, melodic pieces is unique. Perhaps Endrass' isolation led to the vein of sadness that runs through the tracks here. They each have a distinctive groove, uptempo one minute, and up to 120 BPM the next. But one is left with a sense that Markant lives close to the current of a fallen world.
Spacy as all heck. Koen Lybaert is a Belgian producer who records as Starfish Pool using guest musicians. On this CD he uses 2 female vocalists - one from NYC (Ivy Smits) and one from Mexico (Esther Santoyo). He also uses the tools at hand to create songs with no conventional vocals which succeed wildly. 'Passing By' (#7) starts as an instrumental that emerges foggily into a conversation between two guys. With no pause the song changes to 'Break The Sea Below' (#8) with vocals. Ideally songs 7 and 8 would be played together on air, though the combined length is fifteen minutes. 'Arised' (#5) has what sounds like operatic vocals (the call of the Valkyrie?) heard from a boat at sea floating just out of range of proper hearing, reliant on a breeze to bring the sound to your ears. 'Sinked' (#3) starts with a sound like rolling waves in the distance. An electronic pulsing wash wafts in reminding me of how it must feel when you are shipwrecked and floating in cold water - your body slowly fades out and bells fade in like when you faint. In the Starfish Pool website, Koen (somewhat abstractly) says: 'Starfish Pool is the electronic project of Koen Lybaert. Other people can play a role as well, especially live, but on studio work they never become involved. It's an electronic project where rhythm will appear in, in all its aspects. Since the very start it is the manipulation of loops - the basic idea of the way tracks were created as Starfish Pool. This concept that has nothing to do with the sound but more with the way that tracks are practically made.' This CD is on Hymen Records. Their website says 'hymen records was founded in june 1997 to present rough technoïd & ambient music.' Hymen is associated with the label Ant-Zen, though I'm not sure which label is a subsidiary of which. Faves: 3,5,7,8
The Walkmen are a new NYC band composed of three members of Jonathan Fire*Eater and two members of The Recoys. The vocalist sounds like Bono from U2. The music sounds like The Pixies with a healthy dash of C86 styled trebly guitar. At first I was very put off by this 4 song EP due to the vocals. After a few listenings I came to like the second and third songs. My favorite is the third song 'The Crimps'. It has a very distant (almost shoegazer) guitar and organ. My second fave was 'We've Been Had'. It has a piano part that sounds like an old fashioned western player piano. The last song could almost be the spacy side of Mazzy Star with Bono singing. The first song is just centered on the Bono vocals a little too much for me. On the positive side, this band reminds me a little bit of the 80's NYC band Certain General. Faves: 2,3
A grab bag of obscure late 60s French rock n roll in which most of the song themes are sex or drugs or both. Similar in sound to the Sexopolis compilation from a few years ago this cd contains plenty of go go sounds: fuzz guitar, funky bass, horns a blaring, sound effects and male/female French vocals. Starting out strong with the go go sound, Les filles c'est fait pour fait l'amour by Charlotte Leslie reminds me of the song the In Crowd (it translate from the French: 'Girls are Made to Make Love'). Other highlights include: Rouge-rouge by Christie Laume (France Gall sound-a-like), A Dègager by Les Fleurs de pavots (sounds like Dutronc), Sexologie by Danyel Gerard (has a great guitar sounds like sitar riff), Je m'ennuie by Richard de Bordeaux (an organ driven romp), Les Papyvore by Les Papyvores (great echoed dual male/female vox), Avec les Oreilles by Monique Thiubert (a re-interpretation of a Brigitte Bardot song) and La drogue by Messieurs De Bordeaux & Beretta (with funky wah wah and a stellar mournful male vocal which probably most strongly epitomizes the drug rock sound of this disc). While none of this compilation appears to be crucial on its own (De Bordeaux & Beretta are the only acts I would be curious to hear more by), and the go go sound effects ladden sound could be written off quickly by a too-serious too-tired critic, I think grouped together as a whole we get quite a glimpse at the 'Psychorama Francais' scene between 1966 and 1971. Be sure and read the liner notes in English online at the website above. Faves: 1, 5, 8, 11, 13
Along with Simian, Zero 7 have been called 'the British Air'. This CD has a very summery feel. There are 12 songs, 4 of which are instrumentals. The instrumentals are all highlights: 'Polaris' (#2) reminds me of Bent, 'Give It Away' (#4) and 'Red Dust' (#6) remind me of High Llamas. 'Out Of Town' (#9) is Bacharachian downbeat. When you get to the vocal songs, it gets harder to pick out immediate pleasures. Many of the songs have a high quotient of 'soulful' that makes me like them a little less than I may have. 'I Have Seen' (#1) starts off with vocals sounding like Robert Wyatt, but moves towards soulful crooning. It is a good song mind you - just not what I would usually listen to. My favorite of the vocal songs are 'In the Waiting Line' (#8) and 'Likufanele' (#11). 'In the Waiting Line' has female vocals and the 'Air' like sound. It is a great cut that I've listened to again and again. 'Likufanele' has an African styled chorus vocal that gives it a worldbeat feel. My feeling on this CD is that while the instrumentals are my personal faves, the vocal cuts are the real gems if you like soulful beach styled music. Faves: 2,4,6,8,9,11