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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
20 February 2006
Everlovely Lightningheart Cusp (Hydrahead) Rating: 7
One gorgeous and atmospheric track runs the length of this 40-minute EP, sweeping uninterrupted past lyrical runs of piano, through gritty intervals of abrasive mechanics, past tranquil tinklings of string-dangled chimes and through brief but chaotic percussive stomp-downs. This Los Angeles-based performance art/sound experiment collective uses traditional and alternative instruments to create a glowing, post-industrial landscape. Live, video and visual art accompanies each performance. Here we make do with an internal movie that manufacturers narrative out of shimmering electronic tones, the sound of grinding chains and violin that notes swoop like swallows through mysterious clouds of feedback. Despite the association with Hydrahead and tour slots with Pelican, Isis and Red Sparowes, there's nothing particularly metallic about this disc. Cusp turns loud, but not crushingly so, a couple of times, but only as a means to an end. That end is an ever-changing array of sonic landscapes, dreamlike yet full of mystery, charged with longing and half-heard secrets.
Reverend Glasseye, Our Lady of the Broken Spine (Music for Cats) Rating: 5
Lately, when I hear Reverend Glasseye's music, I can hear where he got the first half of his name -- it's easy to picture the good Reverend at the pulpit, seven feet tall and spindly, arms and legs like chicken-wire, skin so taut you can see the contours of the bone underneath. And he's got an impossibly tall, black top-hat. Lead vocalist and master of ceremonies Adam Glasseye admittedly displays none of these physical traits, but his character evokes this odd image, the preacher preaching doom, betraying an unsettling omniscience betwixt heart-rending humility and fire-and-brimstone assuredness. Most telling of all, his tales are told in first-person parable, Our Lady of the Broken Spine constituting a set of nine character studies in which Glasseye becomes each of the characters. At the outset, he is a prom king; at the finish, he watches an old man die. All of it is set to music that relies as much on organs, horns, and fiddles as much as guitars and drums, to create a concoction as fascinating as it is odd. Unfortunately, on this particular outing, the Reverend's sermons go a little long, as a number of six-minute songs nearly collapse under the weight of their molasses-thick arrangements. By the time the disorienting penultimate tale titled "King of Men" hits, the Reverend has morphed into the ragged, homeless gentleman in the street shouting The end is near! as his listeners close their eyes, bow their heads, and move quietly on.
Eastern Conference Champions, The Southampton Collection (Left Wing Recordings) Rating: 7
This five-song EP from a trio of guys from Bucks County, Pennsylvania gets off to a fast pace during "Nice Clean Shirt", a tempo that could be closely described as something Stereophonics might try at some point - brimming to the surface, briefly bubbling over before moving back down to the near breaking point. It's a very, very strong track worthy of any mix tape, er, CD. Meanwhile, "Holly Wood" is sounds like a cross between a Yuletide song with a haunting female vocal veering in and out. It would fit perfectly on a Ryan Adams album. The group is rock solid on "Power Hungry Mega Heart", a slow but steady track that is led by a series of guitars and Starsailor-like desperation in the vocals. "We're not in it for money," they sing and you get the impression they really aren't. However, with gems like "Gucci No. 3", Eastern Conference Champions have their fingers in something very good. A hushed intro to "Springsteen" leads into a lush arrangement that the Boss would be proud of. Hopefully the full-length is coming soon!
Doug Cox & Sam Hurrie, Hungry Ghosts (Northern Blues) Rating: 6
This teamup of pleasant folky bluesmen from the provinces is fine enough if you like pleasant folky blues. (If you don't, then you'll want to scoop out your earballs and toss them out the window.) They are both amazing instrumentalists, which is why the instrumental tracks and the covers ("No Expectations" and "Grinning in Your Face") are the best things here. The songwriting is hit-and-miss; I like Cox' sly wit on songs like "Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro)", but his oh-so-silly gooftrack "Nap Time for Sam" is yucky. Hurrie writes fewer songs, and is less corny, so he fares better.
.: posted by Editor 8:05 AM