Alan Licht/Loren Mazzacane-Connors
Alan Licht and Loren Mazzacane-Connors have recorded two beautiful duet records together on the very fine Road Cone label that avoid the excesses of each other's work (check out Licht's Sink the Aging Process and Mazzacane's Calloden Harvest to get the idea), so you can be forgiven for thinking that this is a third installment of this. It's not at all -- well, almost at all. The first track hits some of the feeling that they've reached before. Then, the second track kicks in and...this is where I should mention that there are no less than ten guest players on this record, with backgrounds from jazz (Ken Vandermark) to experimental (Jim O' Rourke) to heavy hardcore (Darin Gray of Dazzling Killmen). So, the result is a bunch of guys in a studio making a free music spew, with occasional spurts of musicality.
Now, I'm not against free music spews by any means. I have plenty of records like that -- which is exactly the problem here. Rather than combining to some distinctive sound, the combination of disparate players just leads to a lowest common denominator generic free sound. Even when it's sparse, it's not particularly distinctive. If you're not a fan of this quasi-genre (like most human beings), this won't convert you. If you are, you probably have plenty of records like this, and despite the pedigree you don't have to pay $12 or whatever (like I did) for another similar-sounding disc. Seek out their other two (true) duet records (Two Nights and Mercury), or Mazzacane's 9th Avenue or Licht's The Evan Dando of Noise?, for some far sweller examples of what these minds can do on their own or in tandem without the entire Chicago music scene sitting in with them. (DD/Fall 1999)
(Drag City -- P.O. Box 476867 Chicago, IL. 60647)
Lullaby for the Working Class
I Never Even Asked For Light
No, despite the onerous band name, this is not a leftist political record by Billy Bragg wanna-bes. Rather, this six-piece (at least live -- lineup included a fiddler, accordionist, stand-up bassist, pedal-steel/banjo player, singer/guitarist, and drummer) is part of the burgeoning set of musicians that use what might be identified as western-style instrumentation to present their songs with. (See Joel Phelps' Downer Trio and Pinetop Seven for other recent examples.) While this instrumentation evokes many of the themes of loss and isolation common in western music, the songwriting is by no means beholden to the traditional country/western structure (not that it's wildly experimental, but it's no cowboy song either).
The thing that makes LFTWC so great, in my mind, is that they work hard at creating a varied yet cohesive record without making it obvious that they're doing just that. It's easy to make a bunch of songs that sound the same, and only slightly harder to make a bunch of songs that sound really different (and usually incohesive). But to couch a variety of songs into a greater common work -- yeah, I know, an album -- is really rare these days. Radiohead did it with OK Computer, and this record has different intents and goals, but to my mind this record works just as well as Radiohead's, and it doesn't have the stigma of being a "concept album" to boot. And if you're not convinced, well, they carry it in Columbia House now (along with a bunch of Matador stuff), so buy it and 11 others for a penny, and if you like it buy LFTWC's other record so that you're actually giving them royalties. They've got six mouths to feed, y'know. (DD/Fall 1999)
(Bar/None Records -- P.O. Box 1704, Hoboken, NJ. 07030; firstname.lastname@example.org)