Music Reviews



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Artist: Orange Drink (@)
Title: The Widowmaker
Format: CD
Label: Hemlock Records (@)
Distributor: Hemlock Records
Rated: *****
Since there’s no category for lo-fi indie post punk garage bands on Chain D.L.K., this CD is getting put under the Experimental/Avant-Garde category for lack of a better choice... .. The band’s one-sheet opens with the statement, "If SIX FEET UNDER’s Claire Fisher ever had a favorite band, it would be Chicago’s Orange Drink." Isn’t that show a little dead, buried, and way past it’s defacto-hipness-endorsement prime now? If Claire Fisher ever had a favorite band that sounded like Orange Drink, it must have been the episode where her friend slipped her a drug that put her in a deep state of psychosis. I can’t for the life of me figure out what this band is trying to be- post punk, indie art-folk-rock, experimental garbage or what. There is no continuity between song styles, random weird junk comes between songs and it all sounds like it was recorded in somebody’s basement... on a cheap tape recorder. One song is frenetic punk basher, another is an acoustic guitar driven number about a handlebar moustache. Not quite the Violent Femmes... .They can’t really sing, but does that matter in the post-punk lo-fi indie garage music world? The recording quality is abysmal, there are coughs between vocals, ground hum from guitars, feedback, and all the amateur sonic atmosphere you can imagine a band playing around in basement in mom & dad’s house can muster. They list their influences as Guided by Voices, Neutral Milk Hotel and Beck, but fall short of any of them. They make the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound slick and professional by comparison. The weird thing is, these guys could be the darlings of certain college djs and outré garage-rock shows on radio stations like WFMU, KAOS, etc. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned up showing up on some movie soundtrack Three CDs from now they could be in amazon-dot-com’s top-ten in the indie lo-fi genre. But for now, I think they have to try harder. A LOT harder. I never did care much for orange drink... always thought of it as watered down orange juice with too much sugar added... leave a nasty taste in your mouth too.
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Artist: Derek Keller (@)
Title: Impositions and Consequences
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Rated: *****
Philly-native Sacramento-based award-winning guitarist/composer/conductor/vocalist/ Derek Keller holds a Ph.D. in music composition and has been actively involved in the Sacramento avantgarde scene as a performer, teacher and curator for a while.
John Zorn's label Tzadik releases his 5th release "Impositions and Consequences", a 20 track CD (except for two, mostly very short pieces) that makes a point in drawing intersections between classical music and avantgarde music, utilizing drums, upright bass and cello, piano, mellotron, baritone sax a soprano and of course Keller's guitar playing (as well as a small tenor part he sings). The music is intense, daring and wild, juxtaposed, of course, by calmer pieces that however maintain the level of tension high throughout. Keller strums a steel guitar but also frantically plays his heavily distorted guitar (I can tell he must have a headbanging past). If you are familiar with Tzadik you obviously know what to expect and you also won't be surprised when Keller's klezmer influences slip through the cracks. Tzadik never fails to astonish for the originality of the releases and Keller's fits in well.
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Artist: Wet Cookies (@)
Title: Earthling
Format: CD
Label: Collision (@)
Distributor: Groove Attack
Rated: *****
[NOTE: I only put this CD in the experimental category because there is no category for jazz here. Not my choice, you have to pick something, and this isn’t synthpop, techno or industrial.]
My first experience with this CD was popping it into the car CD player while I was tooling down the highway, not having the slightest clue what I was in for. Shortly after a few seconds of atmospheric opening, a groove started to take form, and a horn that recalled Miles Davis circa "Bitches Brew" blew coolly over a Herbie Hancock stew of 70’s style funk complete with horn section, electric piano and guitar. My first reaction was, "what the-???... Then I got sucked in. This was pretty sweet stuff! Okay, cool NuJazz, but what is this CD doing HERE at Chain D.L.K., home of dark or at least grey area music? I didn’t know, and for a good amount of time, I didn’t care. There are touches of Weather Report in the music, so it came as no great surprise to me that trumpeter Daniel Nosig spent some time working with Joe Zawinal. In fact, most of the other guys in the band (Jurgen Mitterlehner- sax; Michael Steindl – flute, Flip Phillip – vibes; Thomas Uhegbu – piano, rhodes, moog; Gustavo Dantas – guitar; Roman Weihs – E-bass; Herfried Knapp – double bass; Alee Telfa- percussion; Bjorn Klein – drums, band leader) seem to have impressive past credits. Same goes for producer/ additional synthesist Axel Hirn, who did a good job production-wise on this disc, with a few reservations.

So I’m all set for a smooth groove funk-fest, when the next track. "Weirdoz of Bop" comes along and knocks me for a loop. Thomas Uhegbu is a madman on the keyboard showcasing a frantic bop style that takes it two steps beyond. This is incredible! Some of the wildest piano playing I’ve heard this side of Powell or Monk at their maddest, but the structure stays intact. Amazing! An ensemble piece follows with a solid medium tempo upbeat groove laid down by the rhythm section, segueing into a 70’s jazz-funkathon that lets Flip take off a bit on the vibes while the horn section provides some solid tight riffing. Everybody gets to stretch out a bit on this one, and now you just know these cats are bad. Dissolving perfectly into the slow tune, "Lucky We Were", it’s time for a change of pace. Nice ambience, but somewhat compositionally aimless as it meanders over smooth changes that sound pretty but lack direction. The next track, "You Somehow", could be at home on any acid jazz compilation. Just the right tempo and styling, a completely integrated smooth groove. Some things on this album don’t exactly work, like the next track- "Slut Machine", where punch-drunk horns moan over a pseudo-industrial beat with old-school moog farts interspersed. Not my cup of java. The next couple of tracks run smooth to acid jazz, good music for cocktails in an upscale bar. The "dub" versions of the previous "Lucky We Were" and "You Somehow" I thought were unnecessary and didn’t really add anything, The strangest piece on this CD is the last one- title track "Earthling". A bit of experimental piano and synth atmospherics that goes on for nine minutes. I’m a little confused by this. Although it’s closer to the kind of music I usually find myself reviewing, it seems out of place on this album. Since drummer Bjorn is the leader of this outfit, I find it odd that he let this one pass. I can only imagine producer Axel Hirn is somewhat responsible for this. Considering the music set the tome for the whole CD, this is too much, too little too late to wander into avant-garde territory. The band itself is really great. These are high-caliber players who definitely have a future working together. (I’d love to hear them live.) But a few rough spots keep this from getting an over-the-top rating. Still, Wet Cookies are absolutely worth checking out. Visit the website, groove on a sample song, and you may just get hooked.
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Artist: BLACK ENGINE (@)
Title: ku klux klowns
Format: CD
Label: Wallace (@)
Rated: *****
Some newjacks with an new release looking for an hot spot or just to get your attention? He, he, you're in the wrong lane, given that the moniker hides Zu together with Eraldo Bernocchi, the odd pair should immediately put forward we're in front of an all star band. Due to the tracklist I've been mislead by the first approach, infact I was afraid the Zu element was a bit too overpowering, it took me more than a few listening to arrive at the core of the project. Thought the weight of Zu is considerable, the whole record pays an heavy tribute to forerunners like Painkiller and God, at last that was just one of the common elements Bernocchi and the romans had buried in their DNA. Ku Klux Klowns starts sailing in the uneasy waters of jazz-core but ends sinking in the midst of the post-industrial/post-metal ocean mixing fast machine-gun rides and slow bone crushing anthems that could have been featured in "Anatomy of addiction", just try "A Wolf Day" and let me know if I’m wrong. As I've wrote, "to pay" a tribute is not a matter of creating a sterile copycat of those now defunct demigods, the Black Engine is running and while showing the influences is still working in an independent way. The funny thing is how Bernocchi's touch is light and non intrusive so that I'd like to see what could has happen if his personality would have been more overwhelming. If you're into Zu, Ruins, God or the glorious Painkiller here's something you won't regret.

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Artist: THE MIGHTY VITAMINS
Title: Take-Out
Format: CD
Label: Public Eyesore (@)
Rated: *****
Never heard anything on Public Eyesore? If the answer is negative take for granted their catalogue is really heterogeneous and is well portrayed by the adjective "weird". If "weirdness" was a religion I can't say if Mighty Vitamins could be "popes" but sure they'll be very important people down there at the Vatican. This improvisational/structureless music with its roots in some american legend like Captain Beefheart (Trout Mask Replika era) and Zappa, but obviously even if following Einstein "Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, all is transformed": you can bet they evolved the original idea of their inspirators. Even if here and there they explode in those characteristic free-jazzy detonations, the quintessence of "Take-Out" is "bluesy" (that's why I think they're so close to the "Captain"), the fact is many times they "remove" where other bands "add" (honour to Miles Davis for having been a mastermind of this philosophy). Sometimes the whole release is much closer to electro-acoustic music than to "improvisational" works, but that has to do with the prudent playing of the musicians. I guess Mighty Vitamins listened numerous releases coming out of the sixties/early seventies since there's a strong psychedelic/oniric atmosphere in their music and that in some way it brings them close to AMM (take a song like "Nakatani" and tell me if Eddie Prevost is or is not the father of a whole generation of unconventional musicians). This release sounds "old" in a positive way but at the same time is incredibly personal, let's say Mighty Vitamins represent for free-electroacoustic-impro music what Jackie O' Motherfucker represent for no-psych-folk.

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