All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors
Turning Into Small
When I first got My Bloody Valentine's classic Loveless, I used to open all the windows on sunny days, crank it up really loud, and pass out on the couch -- it was an absolutely awesome way to spend an afternoon, trust me. And not to pigeonhole All Natural, etc., etc., but this disc makes me feel the same way -- Turning Into Small is a similar collection of beautiful, sweet, shimmery pop songs that drift and buzz and dance around in your head like a rocking sugar high. They combine both "traditional" dream-pop stuff (i.e., overdrive guitars and whispery vocals) with danceable beats, electronic soundscapes, kind of like Curve or Medicine (but much easier to listen to, for my money), and come out with a cool, intriguing kind of electro-dream-pop. My favorites on here: "You Can Never Tell," for the ultra-neato surprise MBV guitar break; the jumping, electronic "Puzzled Into Pieces"; the orchestral, dark "Snowflake Eye" (a track that'd serve well on a suspense-movie soundtrack, I think); and "Emergency Turn Off"'s quiet rhumba-ish tempo. (JH)
(Gern Blandstein Records -- P.O. Box 356, River Edge, NJ. 07661)
A Minor Forest
A common term used to describe the music of A Minor Forest is "math rock." Apart from the fact that this term has been applied to numerous bands that have vastly different styles, I dislike it because it implies that all math is identical. Which, is of course, ludicrous. The math of balancing one's checkbook is very different from geometry, which, in turn, is very different from calculus, and so on. Terms like "math rock" are silly because they oversimplify one type of music by oversimplifying another field of work at the same time.
If I did have to pick the type of math that AMF sound like, it would be what I think is called planar geometry -- at any rate, the type of math where various curves such as cardioids and lemniscates are drawn on a plane. It's an important distinction -- whereas other "math rock" bands chug away like they're solving a series of complex equations ("Okay, we've done the 17/8 part for 13 measures, now let's play in 5/4 for 11 measures, and then ..."), AMF manage to bridge their compositions nicely, so that the listener moves gradually from one extreme to another without noticing the transition. A nice trick, and an all too infrequently used one. Anyway, any fan of complex time signatures will like this, of course, but its appeal is broader -- they really just plain rock, and apart from a couple of bits of abstruseness here and there (the fake "oh my god my speakers are blown" effect in "The Smell of Hot," naming a song "...it's salmon !!!," etc.), you don't have to have a Ph.D. to "get it." I'd include a Venn diagram to explain, but Jeremy'd probably kill me. [Ed. Note: Nah. I'd only maim you.] (DD)
(Thrill Jockey Records -- P.O. Box 476794, Chicago, IL. 60647)
Amps for Christ and Two Ambiguous Figures
The Beggar's Garden
The future is about demographics. Actually, that's misleading, since even today is really about demographics. Specifically, more and more the idea of niche marketing to smaller and smaller groups with more narrowly defined preferences is becoming not just commonplace, but virtually expected. Business seems to say "Oh, you know what you want? And here's more of the same!" (Or slightly similar, repackaged so you won't taste the dust.) And this isn't any one-sided corporate evil. We reify it by seeking out publications and products that fit the demographics we are and/or want to be. We want our opinions to be supported; we like what we know. Think of it this way -- of the hundreds of magazines at any superstore, how many would you consider buying? Maybe 5%, tops ... but they all sell, or they wouldn't be there (or won't be for long if they don't sell -- retailers aren't dumb). Thousands of niches, each being filled by media that upholds itself.
I could go on and on about this (I haven't even mentioned how the Internet plays into all of this), but the simple point I'm trying to make is that this great new Amps for Christ record is, from a demographic standpoint, a pure nightmare. First of all, the Christ reference may not be ironic (I have no idea, myself), and a lot of indie folk get turned off by that. Second, this is purportedly a side project of a Man is the Bastard member. While I haven't heard them (feel free to send me review copies, though), I'm pretty sure they've got some power-noise-core thing going on, which is anything but what this record is about. Not only that, but it doesn't even particularly match up with the sound I associate with Shrimper -- Refrigerator, Diskothi-Q, Mountain Goats, etc. (To be fair, they've put out tapes by a wide variety of folk, so this is probably more silliness on my part than anything else.)
So, what is this? It's a sprawling collection of countless musical styles (everything from Indian-style tabla cuts to folk to marching music to David Tudor-inspired oscillating electronics), that, for absolutely no obvious reason, all fits together. (Equally astonishingly, none of the cuts are incompetent, which is a surprise on any record that tries on this many genres) To me, this reminds me of a really great radio show that you might hear on a good college station, leaving you both impressed with what you've heard and anxious to hear what might come next. I don't really know how many people this will appeal to, but the demographic of me is highly satisfied with this purchase. (Shrimper puts out lots of swell stuff, so write 'em.) (DD)
(Shrimper Records -- P.O.Box 1837, Upland, CA. 91785-1837)
Maxime de la Rochefoucauld
First of all, good luck finding this CD. It's got "alternative" paper packaging, a no-name label (Plastique -- never heard of 'em, have you?), and it's not really clear who the artist is from the packaging. (It looks like it should be Maxime De La Rochefoucauld by Automates Ki, but logically the reverse makes more sense; the liner notes obfuscate the matter further, but more on that in a second.) Plus, the music could (and probably will) be lumped into the "experimental" ghetto that swallows performers that have as little in common as Hijokaidan and Biota).
Second of all, find this CD. Despite all of this (and the pseudo-intellectual sounding song titles), this is actually a grooving enjoyable record for people who don't think they'd ever like anything "experimental." To name drop, it sounds like the instrumental part of Tom Waits' Bone Machine record playing some of the early aggressive John Cage percussion music. Cool textures, and it's not simply a repetitive groove but very well arranged.
To explain the title (and give some more background) -- it appears that the "Automates KI" are a bunch of robots ("automates") that perform percussion. (Apparently, they're "activated by low frequencies," which helps me not at all in figuring out what's going on.) The ringleader appears to be this Maxime de la Rochefoucauld character, who developed the system KI and plays numerous instruments, as well.
This all sounds horribly academic, I know, but trust me, it's not. It's highly engaging, and sounds terrific when you're drunk. Now go find one. You might want to go directly to the source: (DD)
(Plastique Records -- 345 Humboldt Street, Brooklyn, NY. 11211)