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High & Mighty, 12th Man (Eastern Conference) Rating: 7
A long time ago, Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi, a.k.a. High & Mighty, were on Rawkus Records, and had such big names as Eminem and Pharoahe Monch guess starring on their debut. However, despite their obvious talent, High & Mighty never really fit with the mainstream record industry, and stepped out of the big leagues to succeed on their own terms (all of this is recounted in their new album's funky autobiographical "Outta Here"). Perhaps it was Mr. Eon's pop culture drenched rhymes, think the Beastie Boys except a little more intense and a little less adolescent, or DJ Mighty Mi's unusually melodic and layered beats that separated them from other rappers. In any case, High & Mighty have only improved with their work on their own Eastern Conference Records, and 12th Man shows the pair growing into a pretty impressive duo. The fact that the hipsters who have idolized Atmosphere and Aesop Rock have not really latched onto High & Mighty is inexplicable, who else would better appreciate a band that makes references to Harvey Pekar and hip-hop collages based on Simpsons episodes sound downright gangsta. Although most of the songs flow into each other, creating less a collection of songs than an evolving soundscape where Mr. Eon can free associate, the stand-out tracks on 12th Man are absolutely devastating. "Unholy Matrimony" pits Mr. Eon with/against Princess Superstar in a hilarious and somewhat disturbing tale of the unfortunate marriage between two self-proclaimed "sex addicts". Even better is the closer "Dumb", three minutes of Mr. Eon rattling off a Rolodex of stupid things stupid people have done recently, featuring the funniest dis that the disee will never hear: "I'm 50 Cent dissing Ja Rule / And then twelve months later sounding just like Ja do". Classic. [Amazon]
One Umbrella, Solve (Tell-All) Rating: 5
With five tracks from their self-released Consider the Opposite EP and three from an upcoming full-length, One Umbrella's Solve serves as a calling card of sorts for the Austin, Texas-based duo of Carlos Villarreal (a.k.a. "Quebron") and Sarah Lipsante (a.k.a. "Novella"). If Austin bands can be said to have a geographically identifiable "sound", then One Umbrella is a fierce exception to the rule; the duo's music is far more in line with Houston's Charalambides than any of their hometown peers. With an arsenal of instruments ranging from the commonplace (guitars, piano) to the exotic (kalimba, glockenspiel) to the inexplicable ("Module No. PBKKL1", "Feederference"), Villarreal and Lipsante construct washed-out slabs of droning ambiance that range in length from 44 seconds to seven minutes. It's fairly nondescript overall, though the three newer tracks show the group's potential to grow from self-consciously avant-garde to stunningly orchestral with further refinement.
Rebbeca, Halfway in Love (Fat Northerner) Rating: 7
This Liverpool four-piece has brought with them a style, grace and elegance that makes current darlings Keane sound shoddy, unpolished and unkempt. The polished yet honest pop melodies are in abundance on the opening tune "Halfway in Love". It's a very lush, orchestral, "big" tune that the band delivers without any hint of being out of their league. The high notes are even higher than Keane's Tom Chaplin but not as high as Suede (now The Tears) Brett Anderson. "When Thoughts Lead To Emptiness" has more bite to it a la U2 but isn't as anthem-ic. Unfortunately, like most EPs, they're hard to judge since most bands would be idiots not to pick the three strongest tunes. "The Thousandth Man" is a lighter, acoustic tune that soars at times. On the whole we have another Brit band that is soon to eat up and spit out its influences.
Tears From The Sky, Power Symbol, (Life Sentence) Rating: 7
Bible belt preachers and upstanding moralists should pounce all over Tears from the Sky for promulgating the devil's music. Power Symbol is a raucous contribution, a part the insidious plot to tear apart the fabric of society. It is, after all, blitzkrieg rock: thunderous riffs and explosive lyrics delivered with lightning speed for maximum carnage (see every song). The sheer impact of their aural assault is enough to strip the skin from flesh, invading your thoughts with songs splattered with blood and gore. A six-song offensive, Power Symbol finds the group launching an aural attack on society. Blanket carpet bomb drumming creates chaos and the machine gun guitars are jammed on automatic. But it's the savage battle cry that will stalk you into your dreams. With a voice this grating, the harsh delivery overpowers the lyrical content, which is standard heavy metal fare. If you're gonna declare war against society, let this brand of thrash metal guide your way.
Various Artists, Delectronict V.03 (DEC) Rating: 3
Detroit is one of the most important cities in the history of American electronic music, rivaled in significance only by New York and Chicago. However, the cool elegance and quiet virtuosity that served as the hallmark for artists like Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May is in short supply on the Detroit Electronica Coalition's third regional showcase. Many of these artists are simply not ready for exposure beyond the local level. 4FR's "Who Will Survive Us?" reminds me of '60s garage rock as much as anything electronic. Enluften's pseudo-trance industrial brings to mind the worst excesses of the early Wax Trax! catalog. Doc Raymond succeeds with a pleasing slice of vintage techno ("House of Bang"), and Voltage Controlled Ficus' "The Drill" brings to mind the best of Frankie Bones, but the rest of the disc falls flat under the weight of redundant groups like Silvercord (NIN pastiche), CEOXiME (Garbage pastiche), and Humachine (which sounds, for the life of me, like "Weird" Al goofing on Stabbing Westward). Poor.