Grab Bag:July 2007

By: Chris Pacifico

Welcome to the first installment of a new monthly album review column, where Chris Pacifico explores the outer reaches of sonic space…

Album of the Month:
Stinking Lizaveta: Scream of the Iron Iconoclast (At a Loss)
The time has finally arrived where headbangers and jam fans can hold hands and embrace in an organic unity of earthy ass kicking to this sound, which is soothing AND bruising. This instrumental Philly trio is led by guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos (quite possibly the coolest dude ever named Yanni), who occasionally howls into his pickups sounding like a hideous wolf-guitar hybrid monster. With his brother Alexi on the upright electric bass, tossing in free flowing Jaco Pastorius-like grooves, and drummer Cheshire Agusta – who is quite possibly the baddest bitch to ever shred the skins, to put it mildly – Stinking Lizaveta rain down riffs and toss in Soft Machine and Zappa-esque free jazz, prismatic math metal and zig-zagging time signatures. Be it the chamber doom of “Secrets of the Past” or the sinister sashay of “Unreal,” SL is a colorful journey through the realm of razor sharp prog-jazz-metal and the most psychedelic pummeling that your ears will get this year.

Runner Up:
Black Milk: Popular Demand (Fat Beats Records)
Curtis Cross (aka Black Milk) loves making beats with his Akai MPC2000 XL so much that he’s holding it on the cover of his much-anticipated debut. Having already worked with and produced the likes of Pharoahe Monch, Cannibus, and the late, great J Dilla, Black Milk is on the same ship with Slum Village, Guilty Simpson and, of course, Dilla – artists who are to Detroit’s burgeoning hip-hop scene what Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May where to the Motor City’s techno movement nearly a quarter century ago. Produced, mixed and engineered by Cross, Popular Demand is suitable for banging out the party jams or just kicking back with Milk’s verbal current – a flow that’s up-in-your-face but laidback enough to dive into and break down what he’s rhyming about. As for the beats, the bass gurgles like a hungry stomach with an abundance of sampled, pitched-up soul melodies and guest spots from that shine from emcees such as Phat Kat and Fat Ray. Got, Black Milk?

Gene Clark: Gene Clark w/ the Gosdin Brothers (Young God)
The first of the Byrds to fly on his own wings, Gene Clark’s solo debut remains an overlooked gem in the annuals of rock and roll, partly because its original release in 1967 just happened to coincide with the Byrds Younger than Yesterday. Nonetheless, Clark’s vagabond lyrics merge harmoniously with the country styling peppered with feathery baroque, psych pop and jangly Americana, making a blueprint for the Laurel Canyon sound of the early seventies.

Leng Tch’e: Marasmus (Relapse)
Belgian grindcore artisans Leng Tch’e are proof that there’s a little piece in all of us that gets fed up with the modern industrialized world, a point where we all you want to go ape shit like Michael Douglass in Falling Down. Powered by Sven De Caluwe‘s tree-shredding drums and Boris Cornelissen‘s gurgling vocals, Leng Tch’e paves their path with a brutal bombardment of clustering riffs and drops the glove in the face of war, greed, and capitalism, relying on lyrics that delve into society’s ills instead of the usual gratuitous plethora of blood to get their point across. Warning: Leng Tch’e is not responsible for concussions or whiplash induced from impulsive headbanging.

Dalek: Abandoned Language (Ipecac)
Dalek is probably the only hip-hop duo that can start an album with a ten-minute opener and still keep it real. Oktopus’s eerie and layered atmospherics channel through downtempo, ambient and trip hop. Abandoned Language‘s slithering beats and fuzzy bass make for the most disturbing and sinister grooves heard on an album of eerie dub and illbient hip-hop fusion in the last dozen years since the release of Tricky’s landmark debut, Maxinquaye.

A Northern Chorus: The Millions Too Many (Sonic Unyon)
A Northern Chorus show that the Arcade Fire aren’t the only band in Canada who dress like a pack of ultra cool Mennonites and make soaring pop. ANC have a gift for a chamber folk suffused with string tones, urgent melodies and emotive harmonies intertwined with the most crescent of cello and violins. Think, a less earthly Fairport Convention with more of an emphasis on their teeming pop backbone.

Earthless: Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky (Tee Pee)
The image of the average stoner metal fan is a hairy, portly troublemaker looking for a good time. Earthless is for those who like to nurse gravity bong hits until you’re on the floor and can barely move. The instrumental San Diego trio rides through a galaxy of luminous boogie metal with Southern fried riffs. Dishing out just three songs in 45 minutes, Rhythms is caked with resin on the droning suite “Godspeed,” while the doom blues of “Sonic Prayer” etches arid drought cracks in the listener’s heads long after listening.

Fields: Everything Last Winter (Atlantic/Black Lab Records)
Okay, so you’ve probably read enough blog buzz about this British/Icelandic band that you’re ready to throw a rock through your monitor, but sit tight because their much-anticipated debut delivers and then some. Fields are like the baked Alaska of shoegazer music. Their tunes are intricately layered with super sweet and icy cold layers of breezy pop and enchanting singing with tones reminiscent of something congealed like a fossilized gem unearthed from the vaults of Creation Records. It’s also like the indie pop soundtrack that Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are never had.

Lesbians on Ecstasy: We Know You Know (Alien8)
Lesbians on Ecstasy spell “women” with a “y” in place of the “e,” which I find awesome because I’ve long spelled “team” without the “a” and an “i” before the “m”. Nevertheless, We Know You Know is like Emma Goldman came back to life to take over dance punk and broody electro, adding in the fury of industrial death disco and Riot Grrrl. LOE uses dancing and anthemic lyrics as a weapon against outdated social values. We Know You Know instantly goes down as a key moment along with Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and Le Tigre’s Feminist Sweepstakes, where the listener can dance while thrusting a striking blow against gender politics and narrow-minded thinking.

Amandine: Solace in Sore Hands (Fat Cat)
Amandine is one band that will leave the folks at the Secretly Canadian label kicking themselves in the asses for not signing them. Hailing from the Deep South (of Sweden), Amandine is a lush serving of Olof Gidlof‘s vocals weaved up with dark country and eerie, feathery, pastoral Americana folk twanginess, with floating banjo plucking and a peppering of ranchero trumpets. A must have for any fan of Sun Kil Moon.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: In Glorious Times (The End)
Over the years, know-it-all critics have been quick to pin SGM as merely “classical metal” – and such elements are omnipresent – In Glorious Times has the Oakland-based crew seeming like true renegades of the Enlightenment Era, had metal music prevailed in 19th century Vienna. Bulging with abrasive cabaret influences including ferocious glockenspiels, xylophones, trombones, Carla Kihlstedt‘s unique autoharp and the gurgling vocals of Michael Mellander and Dan Rathburn, In Glorious Times will enlighten and scare the piss out of you all at once.

The Teeth: You’re My Lover Now (Park The Van)
Having already made a name for themselves in their hometown of Philadelphia, The Teeth are out to conquer the world with their rickety, spunky brand of ramshackle power-twee pop. It holds true to the aesthetics of Pavement and Big Star while managing to coast through on their own hyperactive strain of indie pop that is punchy, wired, spiky, and, most of all, contagious.

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