erasing clouds

6 Music Reviews

AAM, Kraut Slut (Static Discos)

There's a subterranean quality to AAM's Kraut Slut, as if it's happening far underground, as if we're listening to this while buried. I think it stems from the skeletal structure of the music, and the low quality of what's there – how it's bass, beats, and unusual noises. To be honest, though, it's also those noises themselves, how there's tones that remind me of submarines, of those booming noises we associate with submarines. AAM is Antiguo Automata Mexicana; AAM is Angel Sanchez Borges of Monterrey, Mexico. This semi-dance music, underground in sound, seems unassuming at first: on its own streamlined path, not particularly in-your-face. But at the same time the music is exceptionally unique, for the strangeness of the sounds, for how that strangeness is subsumed as part of one rolling force. Also for the structure: dublike in an echoey, architectural way, but very forward-moving, not lost in a haze. Dance music, but the dancing's being done by shadows, under the sea. – dave heaton

Accelera Deck, "Songshape/Sunclimbing" 7" (Lathelight)

This shiny, colorful picture-disc 7" doesn't even look like a record that would play, more like a piece of art. Shows how little I know. It plays, and wonderfully so. Two more songs from the fuzzed-out rock side of Accelera Deck, not the jittery electronic side, "Songshape" and "Sunclimbing" both carry a lot of mood – foggy, mysterious, thoughtful – but melody too. And noise; can't forget the importance of feedback, how inspiring it can be in and of itself sometimes. – dave heaton

Beef, Showers and Sunshine (Sparticus Stargazer)

I don't know why I neglected to play this album for many months, considering it's a product of DJ Ordeal's Sparticus Stargazer Productions, and he's never let me down before, with his lo-fi mixes reeking of classic Hollywood drama and glamour. This one's something different, though: the voice of one man (this shadowy character Beef, apparently) singing classic old pop songs like Lerner and Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live" or Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke's "Here's That Rainy Day," plus new songs in that same tradition. It's split into "shower songs" and "sunshine songs." The simplicity of that sad/happy split says a lot about the direct, straight-to-the-heart approach of this record as a whole. It's one person singing – quite expressively at times, though never "professionally" -- showing the way songs communicate feelings to listeners. It all reminds me of a couple acapella Chet Baker tracks that I've been fixating on lately – him singing "Blue Room" and "Spring Is Here" completely solo. This Beef LP is riveting in much the same way, for how it gets to the essence of things, strips away the glitz and gets right down to it: my heart is broken, my heart sings with joy. Some fuzzy interludes add an unsettling quality, but there's something unsettling about such a stripped-down recording anyway. We're not used to it, and that makes it all the more powerful. – dave heaton

The Besties, "Rod 'N' Reel"/"Working Title" 7" (Hugpatch)

A really gorgeous 7" from the NYC indie-pop trio, I'm head over heels for it. A great A side and an even better B side, both showing songwriting growth from, but also the same friendly exuberance as, the group's 2006 album Singer. On the A side is "Rod 'N' Reel", a sweet but also sharp pop tune of beckoning ("take a walk with me") which paints an enticing portrait of carefree island life. The flip side, "Working Title", is completely lovely – a sing-along number with the same encouraging tone ("wake up / the night is on fire"). Gorgeous sing-along pop vocals, in classic style, with a peppy pace and a gently dynamic tone… and also a killer electric guitar solo part intrudes at one point, reminded that even the cutest, most endearing music can have its edgy side, in the right hands. – dave heaton

The New Rags, Take Jennie to Brooklyn (Silent Stereo)

At this point I think there's enough two-person indie-rock groups – one drummer, one on another instrument – to call it a trend. The cover of Take Jennie to Brooklyn has Tom Merrigan and Andy Pierce – the drums and Rhodes Piano player, respectively, of the New Rags – facing each other with rock n' roll faces, looking like Lightning Bolt or at least the Black Keys. Musically they're closer to the later, if their blues was filtered through Ben Folds/Paul McCartney-style pop. They do have a live, unleashed sound – and the live drum sound is always the selling point for a band like this – but these six songs live and die on their melodies. Some seem lukewarm, others kind of sweet ("Hate to Leave You", "Love of My Life"). The weakest are carried by energy and noise, which may go a long way at first, but wears off soon. – dave heaton

Mike Nicolai, God Fatigue in the Post Atom Age (Eclectone/SMA)

The aggressive time-frame of the music-reviewing cycle – write about the newest latest releases as soon as you hear them – means often great albums go unwritten about, if they don't immediately grab me. I try to avoid that trap, but still quality albums will sit around for a long time – a year, even – before I realize I like them. That was the case with this album, which must have come out forever go, but still deserves words of praise. Mike Nicolai is an old-style troubadour folk/blues/country singer, with a pop-rock edge at times, like on the apocalyptic title track. That song, like all of his, has a sharp wit to it, as he tweaks the hypocrisy of religion and other institutions of power. He holds nothing back, and his worldview isn't a hopeful one. Take this, from "Lifesucker Waltz": "And aspiring to love means nothing / compared to the proven cash value of ritual slaughter / and futures of power fucking each other out of health / out of home / out of whatever." Games are always played with people's lives: that story is told here in cleverly worded rants of anger but also in tale-telling form, like "Snakes", which resembles a kid's book, yet with a haunting punch of an ending. People's dreams, smothered or unexpressed, are at the heart of it, and a theme elsewhere. Nicolai has a way of voicing people's fears (real people's, little people's) in raw but also often surprising song-tales. – dave heaton

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