Various Artists, KTRU Live Vol. 2

Various Artists, KTRU Live Vol. 2

When KTRU Local Show co-host Ian Wells handed me a copy of KTRU Live Vol. 2, the second in the “KTRU Live” series (two discs wrapped in a cool, halfway-DIY cardboard sleeve with sweet, quirky art by DJ/artist Lindsey Simard), back at this year’s Summerfest, I’m pretty sure neither one of us would’ve predicted that barely three months later, the station would be fighting for its life, put up on the block for sale to UH. That knowledge makes listening to the compilation feel like a glimpse backwards at something that may not be around for much longer, at least not in its current form. It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling.

Vol. 1 of the series played it pretty safe, relatively, focusing primarily on better-known, mostly-adored local folks — and yes, all the artists on both releases live in and around Houston, at least in part (I’m pretty sure all but one of The Sour Notes make their home up in Austin, these days, but hey, their lead singer used to live here, so y’know…) — from the indie-pop/rock/punk scene, people like Young Mammals, Hearts of Animals, News on the March, The Tontons, and Born Liars. All of which is/was damn good, don’t get me wrong, but odds are that if you’re a fan of one of the bands on there, you’re probably at least familiar with the rest.

This time around, the KTRU crew decided to cast their net a bit wider, and organize things somewhat differently, too. Disc A bears a pretty close resemblance to Vol. 1, tilted somewhat towards the poppy end of things, but Disc B veers off the reservation entirely, dipping heavily into hypnotic noise and other oddball stuff. The reason for the shift becomes apparent when you read through the liner notes: the folks behind the comp broke up the two discs by the show at which the tracks were recorded.

So Disc A was recorded mostly on The Local Show or The Revelry Report shows, while Disc B comes from the Mutant Hardcore Flower Hour and Genetic Memory shows, for the most part, with one track from the Indian-music Navrang Show on Saturdays. All of which makes listening to the comp straight through interestingly like listening to the station itself on any given day, skipping through genres as you segue from one show into another. (And yes, it was all recorded live, right there in the KTRU studios.)

Now, I’ll freely admit that the music on Disc A is really more my cup of tea, with tracks by gloomily mesmerizing Civil War-era folk band listenlisten, who contribute “On A Rope” (an awesome, bleak-yet-rollicking tune), Roky Moon & Bolt, whose “Vampire” comes off like the bastard child of Marc Bolan and Jerry Lee Lewis, and bumping/squelching indie-electro-pop kids Ghost Mountain, who throw in a flat-out great version of “Nap In The Woods” that made me run to the CD pile and dig out the duo(trio?)’s CDs.

Even there, though, there’re a few surprises, like Robert Ellis‘s “Cemetery Song,” a gentle, somber track where Ellis sounds like John Samson of The Weakerthans more than anybody else (okay, or maybe John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats); it’s a far step from the more fully “country” stuff I’ve heard from him before, but it’s pretty great, nonetheless. Then there’s Buxton‘s majestic, fist-in-the-air country-folk anthem, “Bread,” which makes me shake my head in amazement at how fucking incredible the band is — think the Old 97’s covering The Arcade Fire, and you’ll be close.

There’s also Wicked Poseur, who’d never really caught my ear before now but whose “Rotation Of The Room” makes me think of a slightly tone-bent Interpol, in a really good way. And the aforementioned Sour Notes contribute a lush, gorgeous little pop tune that’s melancholy and sweet all at once, as is “Trees,” by Air Castle Mystery Solved, who I’ll admit to never having heard of before.

Fat Tony & Smash Bro pop up, happily, with an amazing, self-censored version of “Invasion” — I honestly can’t even imagine rapping and somehow remembering to not cuss everywhere you normally do, or at least say “ish” instead of “shit” every time. Tony & Smash sound like they’re having a blast, but they keep things rolling along beautifully.

Move on to Disc B, and brace yourself. The Homopolice kick things off loud and raw with “Learn to Hate (In the 80’s),” and No Talk (with whom the previous band shares a few members) throws in “Erotic Asphyxiation,” which could’ve fallen off the soundtrack to The Decline of Western Civilization, but surprisingly, I was actually more intrigued by the more experimental tracks on the CD. Legendary J.D. Emmanuel does an interesting analog-ambient synth thing with “Adrift in Alpha Centauri,” sounding for all the world like the title theme for a cheeseball sci-fi-horror flick from the ’70s (but far more entertaining), and I really enjoyed Wasp and Pear‘s “iPod Pregnancy Test,” with its hypnotic-yet-sharp groove.

I was bowled over by the Navrang track, too, the 12-and-a-half-minute long, nameless improv(?) by Shankar Bhattacharyya and Sri Gourisankar; I don’t generally get much out of sitar drones, but the pair make it work, and they kept me listening intently the whole time. Sandy and Y.E.T.‘s similarly-long “Dancing on Air” was also neat, in a minimal, guitar-feedback-y way, although I’m a bit confused by the track, since I thought Ms. Y.E.T. was a dancer & not a musician — did she dance in the studio while Sandy Ewen played?

The Secret Prostitutes technically close things out, but honestly, it’s the track before it, The Jonx‘s “The Scent of Earth” (another 12-minuter), that truly feels to me like the finale. I swear, those Jonx guys beat most of the instro-metal crowd by a mile, and they do it barebones-style, without a ton of flashy showmanship and soloing — the bass and drums fight for supremacy with dirty, rough-edged knives, while the guitars scrape and punch in where they can. It’s loud and heavy as hell, but still somehow trance-inducing in its slowly-mutating, rumbling way.

Take my advice and listen to both discs, all the way through, without skipping around or repeating tracks. By the end of it, you may not have necessarily liked everything you’ve heard — it ain’t all for everybody, for sure — but you’ll have gotten to hear a big pile of cool, interesting local music that you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. Kind of like what happens, say, when you listen to KTRU.

[Some of the bands on this comp are playing at the Concert for KTRU, 8/28/10 at The Mink.]
(KTRU --; Various bands)

Review by . Review posted Saturday, August 28th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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6 Responses to “Various Artists, KTRU Live Vol. 2

  1. creg on August 28th, 2010 at 3:33 am

    i bought this on record store day, and did not know what to make of it. it’s intense. i struggled with wanting to review it but being too disoriented by its energy to make sense of my feelings. you did a great job. the fact that it could be a swan song of sorts is dizzying.

  2. ms. Y. E. Torres on August 29th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    ” . . . I thought Ms. Y.E.T. was a dancer & not a musician — did she dance in the studio while Sandy Ewen played?” – to answer your question, YES i did DANCE in the studio while Sandy played. which is why we titled the piece “dancing on air” bc i danced on the radio! the ms. Sandy & ms. YET duo have performed live on KTRU twice. since my instrument is my body both times i danced in the small studio next to Sandy for our “on air” performance.

  3. Jeremy Hart on August 29th, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Hi, Ms. Y.E.T. — that’s awesome. I was just a little confused, that’s all, but the fact that y’all were performing together makes it perfect, even if your part’s inaudible on the track. :^)

  4. Ryan on September 7th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Hey does anyone know any info on V / A Daniel from disc one? It sounds like a ukulele but I’m not sure. I’m dying to have that song orthe LP!!! Any info on either item would help thanks.

  5. Jeremy Hart on September 7th, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    That one’s Cedar Boy Bailey, which I *think* is Sergio Trevino of Buxton, and yeah, I’m told that when he plays live he plays a ukulele:

    Sadly, I’m pretty sure there is no full-length, but Sergio’s playing at Dean’s tomorrow night with Framework, so you might be able to catch “Daniel” then…

  6. Donald B. Mayne on September 17th, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Thanks for the kind review! We appreciate it.


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