Avail4 AM Friday
PO Box 11374, Berkeley, CA 94701
How can you not like this band? Hailing from Richmond, VA, these guys play some of the most energetic, driving, inspiring punk rock anyone could ask for. Not really poppy, not really crusty, not quite metal, not hardcore, not even close to being garage... Avail combines a lot of different styles in their blend of electrifying music. Their past two albums are fantastic: so upbeat and sing-a-long, you can't help but want to jump around. The lyrics are usually very sincere and personal, and revolve around events happening in their lives (Avail's, especially Tim's). However, most people can draw something from them and relate on a personal level. This album carries on in the same vein, but it didn't grab me on the first listen like the past albums did. The fact that I didn't immediately click into each song isn't a bad thing; usually the longer it takes me to like an album, the more intensely I like it. It wasn't as immediately catchy, and a bit harder to sing a long to. The songs seem a bit more serious and aggressive. However, after several listens, I love it. More great driving stuff, and sure to be one of my favorite albums this year. Check out the track "F.C.A.," the album title comes from the chorus on this track (or the other way around), and it rocks. I can't get it out of my head. Avail kicks ass. Don't miss their live shows: the albums are great, but they just can't compare to the energy and emotion of the live show. Rock on. (Secret Agent)
Make'em Mokum Crazy comp
It appears Amsterdam has once again spawned a new wave of music that's likely to never make a splash on the West Coast, and this time it's called popcore. It's guaranteed to put a silly smile on your face while driving your neighbors to insanity. Basically, it's somewhere between techno-minded oompah music and circus music going at about 200 bpm with some of the most hilarious samples, but unfortunately some of it crosses so far over into the female-songstress house sound that it gets a little too syrupy. The main selling point seems to be the European smash hit "I Wanna Be A Hippy" done by Technohead, aka Greater Than One (who the Dude, You Rock show immortalized with the track "Metal"), as well as a couple of other Technohead tracks. Besides an oompah techno cover of "Hava Naguila" and The 5th Dimension's "Aquarius", there are tracks with lyrics like "Friday night can kill ya if you try to hitch a ride" (Milk Bar), "Have you ever been mellow, have you ever tried?" (Party Animals), and "I wanna be a hippy and I wantta get stoned on marijuana" (Technohead). If you're picky about the quality of music you listen to, you won't want this; but if you feel like getting stupid, this is a good place to start. (Chanel)
Historic 6th Ward
Charalambides are a hazy and humid Houston-based group whose music ranges from wheezing and flickering preciousness to assertive but never macho distorto-guitar drones somewhat akin to a neutered Jesus And Mary Chain.
Their recently reissued Historic 6th Ward (handpainted cover art!) is a quiet storm of fuzz guitar with a keen sense of melody. The newer LP, Market Square is a more varied affair. One can hear vestiges of the power of the ocean, drained of energy not through force but with gentility. Eerie singing and acoustic guitars meander through snail's pace tracks devoid of rhythm and build slowly into unbelievably tense bouts of angry buzzing electric guitar.
Discover Charalambides' charms through either of these improvised, yet finely crafted and ultimately gorgeous albums. (Gabe)
Unit Moebius is a most versatile dancefloor genre-bender, covering styles from house to trance to techno to the minimalist scratching and banging "popularized" over the past year by Oval and Panasonic.
The house track on "Status" is abysmal so maybe Unit Moebius should avoid that area in the future, but their high-wire act on the thin line between dancefloor dynamics and cerebral nodding is masterful. Early on, the album features sound collages which acquire their rhythms not from any individual bit but from the interactions of the parts. As such, the rhythms are constantly shifting into new mutations. The middle part of "Status" features more mainstream electronic dance music with goofy but oddly descriptive song titles ("Binky Boy", for example). For all their accessibility, these tracks still reveal new sounds over repeated listenings.
The standout track however is the closing "Millenium", a dark tunnel of sound into which the listener is compelled to march, inexorably, to his or her doom. Music as ambivalent social commentary in the finest tradition. (Gabe)
Local folk singer Stephanie Mechura's 2nd CD, Crush, is a rare work. It's rare because a) it is better than her debut, Ellipsis, which is uncommon for a 2nd release of any singer-songwriter that comes just over a year after her first CD, and because, b) I like it more, even though Crush is more produced, with the addition of studio musicians - something I generally don't like as much as just a voice and a guitar. The more I listen to this CD, the more I am impressed with it. From the sunny sway and catchy poppiness of the title track "Crush" to the slightly tense lullaby of "Peace," Stephanie Mechura has produced 10 tracks that have graceful lyrics and smooth melodies. With the impeccable and subtle accompaniments, sometimes just drums or violin and bass and sometimes with a full band, this new CD is a highly recommended addition to your library. (Kara Whacked)
Eddie Lee "Mustright" Jones and Family
Yonder Go That Old Black Dog
Back in 1965, folklorist Bill Koon and a friend decided to take a walk over to the old deserted governor's mansion in Lexington, Georgia, and happened upon a house on the way. On the front porch of this house, sitting in a rocking chair, playing his guitar was Eddie Lee "Mustright" Jones.
Eddie Lee Jones was not a famous blues musician by any right, but what Bill Koon saw that day was something that people needed to hear. At first Eddie Jones didn't want to play for him or want him to hang around, because in those days it wasn't a regular thing to see two white men hanging around an old black man's house, wanting him to play music for them.
After some coaxing, they all sat down and he played. He played for hours. Bill Koon left and came back with a reel-to-reel recorder and started to record him. When Eddie Lee first heard himself on the machine, he jumped in the air and said, "He's got me in there!".
That night, in that little two-room house, they recorded hours of some bare-knuckles low-down country blues with him, and the rest of his family. Most of the songs were spirituals or were songs written by him. Since he really didn't have access to other recordings at his home, and not knowing who a lot of the great blues artists of the time were, he pretty much did his own thing just for the pleasure of it.
Songs on the album like "Yonder Go That Old Black Dog," "I'm Talkin 'Bout You," "Let the Liar Alone," and "I Got A Yellow Gal" sound reminiscent of early 1900 old-timey country fiddle songs. The sound quality on this CD is surprisingly good. With the occasional whoop and holler of his family in the background, especially his wife, this is a great chance recording of a not-so-famous musician and his family at home doin' what they like best: singing, dancing, and having a good time. (Coles)
The Bezerker EP
Do you like scary grindcore, death metal, or noisecore? Do you have an open mind? Industrial Strength has put forth an insane record to top all others I've heard from the label (Bastard Loud is a subsidiary of Industrial Strength). The Bezerker, an Australian project, has a name that fits the music--looped, heavy guitar samples, insane gabber beats, a mixture of death metal growls and crusty yapping, spoken samples, and loads of distortion. I put my money down that the guy behind The Bezerker (Luke Kenny) has been listening to bands like Blood Duster and Anal Cunt. Big thumbs up! (Chanel)
The Splatter Trio
CD release party at Beanbender's, Berkeley, May 8
What do you do for a CD release party when you're an improvising trio (give or take a few guest musicians)? You can't very well just play the "songs" from the CD. You could just do more improvisations but then what does that have to do with the CD at hand (Hi-Fi Junk Note on Rastascan, in this case)? Given that the CD includes rearrangements of some previous live performances, the now obvious answer is to re/de-construct the CD to celebrate its release.
The Bay Area's Splatter Trio employed three CD players and a friend with a sampler, and improvised along with snippets, segments, and skipping scraps of its new disc, as well as parts of one-off solo recordings that each member had made.
I hear Dave Barrett blowing sax. But wait, he's holding a remote control, not a saxophone. He's fast-forwarding to a particularly cool solo on the disc. But now he's picking up his sax and playing along with and against himself. But what's that third sax I hear now? Oh, it's guest J.A. Deane letting loose with some samples of Barrett's smooth skronks. And then Barrett responds to THIS new provocation, this challenge to his status as the sole improvising saxophonist on the stage.
Suddenly, a bedpan flies out of the audience and lands at Barrett's feet! It's Eric Muhs, guest sound terrorist, blowing on a rubber tube and stomping around wearing bedpans like slippers.
Gino Robair on mutated drums, toy horns, party favors, and suction cup balls and Myles Boisen on guitars also each provided just as many moments of sheer fun and invention as Barrett. This was a surprising, amusing, and just plain excellent CD release party. If only more musicians were similarly inclined to have fun with their own recorded music. (Gabe)