Tag Archives: 2004

Margerine Eclipse – STEREOLAB – 2004


A hypnotic bass-drum-keyboard groove introduces me to this very interesting 90’s group. Part Neu!, part pop, part French, part prog, Stereolab sound like nothing else you might have heard recently. It’s not a kick to the sternum like Muse, but as far as original and eccentric British groups go, they’re up there, filling the air with their Dido-like vocals and repetitive grooves. Excellent.

I'll be coming back again.

For those who are interested, I suggest you explore British indie music. They come up with very fascinating pieces of music that lie more at the cross sections of genres and in the realm of lets-see-what-happens mash ups than starting at a genre and working from there. This one at its best tends to sound most like The Beatles at their Sgt. Pepper days (Notice I don’t say ‘Sgt. Pepper heights’ as I think they peaked in the White Album). Sample the psychedelic-electronica that is “Sudden Stars”. The chords are kinda Beatle-y as well. Watch out for the very complex-yet danceable drum pattern as well.

And then the slightly more deranged things start. Perpetual keyboards. Whimsical sounding basslines. And time-signature changes. SO MANY time signature changes. “Cosmic Country Noir” and “La Demeure” leave me in no doubt about these guys not wanting to do that which has already been done. This is interesting music. Worth coming back to. Again and again. Especially the excellent “Cosmic Country”.

One common thread among all these songs are the relatively high-pitched, thumpy, mobile basslines by I don’t know who. Their thumpiness goes well with the subdued rhythms of the drummer and contrasts with the sustained keyboards. They are often the most catchy and memorable parts of the songs, as the vocal melodies or guitar work aren’t catchy at all. They prefer to float over the rhythms, providing the multiple atmosphere changes that are characteristic of Stereolab. Very interesting. Sample “Margerine Melodie”. Sounds like the love child of Squarepusher, Jamiroquai and yes, The Beatles.

Now, we come to what I as a first timer think are the polarizing issues. French lyrics and the singing. Yes or no?

Probably the first indie band that I've liked in the first go.

Well, no. I don’t always like the singer. The French is OK, but I think a bit too try-hard at roping in a Francophile and pseudo-intellectual audience. That’s one problem. The other problem is that amid the changing structures and mad harmonies, the one thing I hope to latch on to are strong vocals. Unfortunately, the vocals here are rather weak, sounding like Dido without the character, choosing to float over the music with not very captivating results.

This fault aside, Stereolab are good. They are fresh, sound genuinely indie and are musically very interesting. This sounds right.

-El Bajista

More ALTERNATIVE/ GRUNGE/ INDIE reviews HERE.  

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Leviathan-MASTODON-2004


There are no glosses. No melodic breaks. No piano. No orchestra. No female sirens. No flashy solos. No gimmicks. You either get the rhythm section right or get out. For the most part, Mastodon succeed, but this kind of approach to heavy rock album making results in tired ears, a headache and a longing for such hits as “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “How Deep is Your Love”.  I can roughly state that the lyrical matter and concepts deal with some weird kind of Moby Dick fantasy about the deep waters, huge whales and sinking ships.  In the beginning all the songs will seem interchangeable, but some stand out due to the rampaging, heavy as shit riffs and fantastic lead guitar breaks. Recommended. Also has some Southern Rock-esque riffs clouding the airwaves in a couple of places.

Recommended Songs: – Hearts Alive, Megalodon

-Baba T


Automatic Writing – ATAXIA/ JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 2004


Ataxia (from Greek α- [used as a negative prefix] + -τάξις [order]: meaning “lack of order”) is a neurological sign and symptom consisting of gross lack of coordination of muscle movements.

Hm.

For some reason, all I can think of is John Fru. and co. hinting at some chronic incontinence. And really, it opens this experimental group to all sorts of cracked.com level humor. Unfortunately, as is the wont of us reviewers, I must tackle yet another of my favourite guitar player’s pet projects away from his bread (and Grammy) winning fare with the Chili Peppers. I got this disc, like the other Frusciante music, from a friend who ‘highly recommends’ it.

Meh.

All the tracks here follow but one pattern; Joe Lally (on bass, from Fugazi) lays down a repetitive, shoegazer-ish bass line, over which there are various wierded out guitar textures with some singing. What is surprising that despite this pretty bloody limited premise, the trio branch out admirably well into screeching guitar rock, stoner thingses, percussion that can only be described as spacious (a Frusciante hallmark) and some highly introspective and often doped out lyrics.

Um…aside from that I don’t have much to say. All of these five (long) tracks follow this template, with “The Sides” being the only one which follows any discernible structure. “Dust” is probably the strongest track here, with a great melody and with Frusciante singing in two very distinct voices, as if to capture the age old conversation between his artistic and commercial tendencies. Or something.

The extremely long (12 minutes!) “Montreal” is probably the more stoner oriented track here, with a couple of muted bass chords over Lally’s still more muted vocals providing proper acid-trip fodder, not in the least because of the cacophonic synth solo at around 10 minutes.

A small note. I’ve reviewed an earlier collaborative effort between Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer (A Sphere in the Heart of Silence) and there, the only tracks which I found weak were the ones on which Klinghoffer sang. The same is this case with “Another” in this album, on which Klinghoffer sings. His singing style, while distinctive, is something that I personally don’t like at all. It gobbles up syllables in what seems to be a drunken parable on some obscure topic whose meaning is very hard to discern. It is frowned upon.They're bringing stonerback.

Anyway, what must be clear to you by now, is that this stuff not for everyone. Infact, I will go so far as to say this is for nearly no one. But in the Venn diagram of the music which this album combines, the very small bunch of people who can handle a mad combination of stoner, electronica, psychedelia and god knows what else will love it fanatically. Me? I can’t help but relapse into poop jokes. This is a bit too out there even for me. Yes, Automatic Writing has its moments, but generally, it doesn’t sound right.

- El Bajista

More JOHN FRUSCIANTE reviews HERE.

More PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC reviews HERE.

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At Home – AVISHAI COHEN – 2004


Ah, completionism! The refuge of the ones without enough to call their own. The domain of the nerd. The zone of no return for those who choose to have something just because enough isn’t enough. Even so, it is also the scourge of the flighty, the oft distracted and musically unfocussed. For that last reason alone, I choose to be a completionist. And..err.. because Baba T and me chose to fill out our burgeoning categories of music before moving on to newer artists. Anyway, so here I am, aspiring to complete Avishai Cohen‘s (not insignificant) contributions to the world of arty-farty jazz music.

“Madrid” is probably the most immediately likeable track here, with a strong central melodic theme and with the obnoxious snaps and ticks of upright bass soloing replaced by wholesome bottom end goodness.

The other Cohen album I review recently (Gently Disturbed), is much more sparse in terms of arrangements. That was just a bass-piano-drums trio thing. Here we have the piano and bass and drums holding the fort down while assorted flautists are being flute-like and horn players are being…err….horny. Also there is not so much ‘drums’ as there is ‘percussion’. Witness the African touch throughout “Leh-Lah” and the incredible drum n’ bass like speedery on “Renoufs Last Tooth “. The Parkinsons-meets-ADHD drumming continues on “Gershon Beat”, which is insane by all yardsticks that I have heard till now. Drummers, this one is for you.

“Remembering” starts to bring forth a beautiful, lilting piano melody ably pushed along by the bass and percussion. Impressive shit. That said, this piano player, Sam Barsh, has none of the melodic grandeur and tug-the-heartstrings finish of the piano player in Gently Disturbed, Shai Maestro. I suspect this is purely because Shai Maestro has the most awesome name in the history of history besides John Rambo. Anyway, it is clear that Sam Barsh is the accompaniment player in this trio, and not the seed from which the songs spring. Of course, there are a few cuts where he exhibits his considerably skill on the piano such as (the not at all punk) “Punk”, but he is clearly not the star here. That title goes to percussionist Mark Giuiliana and the ensemble cast of flautists and horn players. Its a surprising deviation from the usual jazz norm.

He might seem happy on the upright, but he is pure 0wnage on the electric bass.

The other major surprise is “Saba” which has the most amazing electric bass solo by Cohen. FINALLY, the man shows his chops on the electric bass. Why doesn’t he always play the it!? This is an excellent example of a chopsy, sinewy, very well thought out solo. Do listen. The rest of the tracks are all so-so, and sometimes tend to veer into easy-listening which, children, is not on for a jazz stalwart. The whole vibe of the record is quite relaxed, and even on a bad day, I couldn’t call this a shit record. Some cuts are great, some are not so great. I won’t be coming back to this again, but this generally sounds right.

-El Bajista

More AVISHAI COHEN reviews HERE.

More JAZZ/JAZZ FUSION reviews HERE.

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