Music Reviews



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Artist: Cranebuilders
Title: Sometimes You Hear Through Someone Else
Format: CD
Label: Azra Records (@)
Distributor: Massive Music America
Rated: *****

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Liverpudlian proponents of gentle twee-rock sincerity, the Cranebuilders have apparently had a UK following before crossing the Atlantic via this stateside Azra/Massive Music release. This quintet features a frontman who favors singing near the very bottom of his register, much in the manner of an upbeat Lou Reed. The band display touches of Spacemen 3, early Sisters of Mercy and This Mortal Coil (in order of strength) throughout their sad odes to young love, lust, loss and awkwardness.

This 20-song CD (including 8 bonus tracks) overall is deceptively American-sounding, indeed even more so than anything recorded by the Red House Painters, whose glacial tempos and moods they affect with only a fraction of the brooding venom. It's all the more surprising that this band do not tap into their rich English tradition of liturgical vocal harmonies. Their female singer only seems capable of following along in unison, rendering the vocal deliveries as flat as cardboard cut-outs. This disappointing trait casts a pall over otherwise bright spots such as "So What Could I Do" and "Morning Cup" (the latter of which is just funky and driving enough to be saved from cringe-worthy descriptions of "sweet surrender"). She only manages to harmonize once, slightly, in track 9, "She Can't Find the Words." The best, most sublime and transcendent moment is track 11, "Advanced Directive," with its haunting, Spacemen-like 2-chord vamp.

I hate resorting to stereotypes, but with this CD the Cranebuilders fail to take more advantage of the wealth of native influence all around them, and have a lot more to answer to than they bother with. And so compared to most of their predecessors, who were much better at the English art of making dreary, drab, bleak existence sound cool, here they come up short.
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Artist: KAMMERFLIMMER KOLLEKTIEF/STRINGS OF CONSCIOUSNESS (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 10"
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
This spilt ties the knot between String of Consciousness I’ve just interviewed for Chaindlk (so watch out since you’re gonna read it sooner or later) and Kammerflimmer Kollektief I didn’t know anything about. This slab of vinyl has been a real surprise: I’ve been listening to the songs repeatedly and the first obvious conclusion I’ve come to is that this 10" joins a beautiful pair. I’m not just speaking about the top notch quality of both of the bands, what I’ve written is mostly referred to the fact if you listen carefully to the five tracks here included they all make sense on the same release even thought the bands are not that similar style-wise. Cinematic music takes over on both of the sides and I’m also tented to say that the matter is filmic but also nocturnal, it’s mainly instrumental material with a really elegant approach for what concerns arrangements and taste. Kammerflimmer Kollektief officially enter in the ranks of interesting bands, later I’ve found they’ve some material out on Staubgold which perhaps doesn’t mean that much, but you’ll agree with me it could be a good hint to suspect they’ve the quality trademark. An interesting bled of influences for they play with a subtle krautesque (... Can anyone?) aftertaste you can sense in both of the songs. Believe it or not the first track made me think to post-krau-tronic bands as we could have classified mighty Salaryman hybridized with the vocals of Meredith Monk, the second song instead reveals an all german taste for sadness, it could have been part of the soundtrack for one of those tv-dramas or even the main theme for Wender’s "Alice in den Städten" (if Can had not arrived first when we all were young and cute). On the other side of the 10" you have String of Consciousness with no famous guest and no vocals...does it cheapens the result? No, therefore turn down your skepticism since this’ the proof you needed if you were just trying to get if they "had it or not". S.O.C are probably one of the most jazzy bands hailing from the post-rock, post-modern, post-whatever scene, this probably what would happen if you put some ECM (let’s say Jan Garbarek), some New Wet Kojak, a good but discrete dose of electronic sounds and a spruce of Morricone in the same shaker. You think it’s an odd mixture?! Come on, think about it carefully and you will be with me thinking the combination was somehow quite logical.

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Artist: The Bad Hand
Title: This Is No Time For Modesty
Format: 12"
Label: Daly City Records (@)
Distributor: Massive Music America
Rated: *****
Pleasantly eclectic San Francisco band with jazz-alt-grunge-punk leanings give their utmost in this 11-song effort, yet have a ways to go to cement their overall feel. Most of this LP's instrumentals seem partially half-formed, as if still stuck at their "jam" phase of songwriting, and their incidental noise effects, farty kazoo and backwards-taped snippets of conversation do little more than add comic relief to the album's off-beat-ness. Nevertheless there is a certain charm about the shoegazerish, wispy female vocals on "Hell Bent" and "Grand Theft Bravo," and the way they work atypical instruments (Rhodes piano, Hammond organ, violin, mandolin, recorder) into the mix. But although they sound just the way a band like Guided By Voices might have sounded at one time, the Bad Hand's alchemy is not quite yet up to par.

If you are a local S. F. scenester, however, then you need to both own this album (on limited edition white vinyl, no less) and go to all of their shows because whether or not they become the next G.B.V., this is exactly the kind of unpretentious, non-commercial non-pop that every growing boy and girl of collegiate age should cut his/her canines on.
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Artist: SINKE DUS
Title: Akrasia
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
Rated: *****
Formed by a Swedish guy called Marcus Lönebrink, Sinke Dus is releasing for the Canadian label Cyclic Law its first full length titled AKRASIA. Behind this term there's a philosophic question: the problem goes back at least as far as Plato; Socrates (in Plato's "Protagoras") asks precisely how this is possible - if one judges action A to be the best course of action, why would one do anything other than A? [from Wikipedia]. Under the light of such dilemma saw the light the seven tracks of this album. We have: "The Premonition", "Acedia", "Remnants", "That which was lost", "The abyss", "That which lies beyond" and "Fortitude". I found intriguing and important to link a concept to sounds/ambience because it make you focus on a direction and it characterize a project. In this case Sinke Dus, presents 45 minutes of dark ambient made with synth patterns and light noises. The suites span from calm ambient moments to mix of ambient and dark minimal industrialism (see "Remnants" or the following "That which was lost"). This is a nice release, a little minimal but if listened into the right mood, it has really good moments (like the dark opus titled "The abyss").
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Artist: THE DOUBTFUL GUEST (@)
Title: Acid Sauna
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Distributor: Good Fellas
Rated: *****
Mixing acid house, drones, reggae, ambient and breakbeat, Libby Floyd's The Doubtful Guest is releasing its first full length. Presenting seven new tracks, ACID SAUNA, contains fifty minutes of obsessive rhythms, hypnotic loops, Rebirth like sounds (it is the Propellerheads' software which emulate different Roland gear famous to be used to play early techno/house music and now it is downloadable for free) and ambient intuitions. The album opens with the eleven minutes of "Slaves", a track which gathers TR-909, TR-808, TR-303 sounds and other synths just to form a sort of suite where we have the alternation of different moments (techno, acid, etc). The following "Tubby", mixes 2-step, ska and breakbeat melting everything into a ambient hypnotic blob. "Neighborhood" is the most "extreme" of the lot because of its controlled chaos, but the track I appreciated since the first listening is "Brulush" because on this one Libby uses different sounds which aren't linked to a specific instrument and it also has a subtle structure made of techno energy, ambient intuitions and dark ambience. The album is closed by L.H.S. mix of "Ruffpet", a track which blend gabber and acid house into a whirl of sound.
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