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Japanther, Yer Living Grave (Menlo Park) Rating: 7
Sometimes the line between greatness and crapness is very thin. That's especially the case when you're doing things on the fringe, where excellence is scarcely separable from indulgent wankery. And here's Japanther to separate the champs from the chumps. A sound so flavourous you can taste it, so hardcore they wrote this lying on the floor in the basement. Yer Living Grave ain't no walk in the park. It's a tough, dense racket, but this two-man crew isn't so esoteric as to jettison giant charging hooks. It's repetitive, melodic groove-noise and it's immediately likeable and sufficiently provoking. Practically veterans of the Brooklyn scene, Japanther has been putting out music since the 2002. Hardly qualifying as an EP, this release is a swift eight tracks that ends with the wow-flexing "Furrs Is Gone". They've gone and drowned New Order in paranoia and violence and it won't swiftly wane from the brain. With the Japanther aesthetic there ain't no half-stepping. These hard-bitten blip punks offset a self-consciously artistic inclination with a sound that's visceral and inviting. [Portions of this review were adapted from Erick Sermon's "Full Cooperation"]
Le Dust Sucker, self-titled (Plong!) Rating: 5
It's time to put on your roller skates and DISCO! Le Dust Sucker is a project that combines the efforts of Fabian Grobe and Markus Sch÷bel, who together have come up with something that sounds like the well-meaning but less popular brother of Daft Punk. This self-titled album, the first CD released by the Plong! label, is a reissue of a double-LP released in 2004, which itself compiled some of Le Dust Sucker's previous singles while adding some new tracks. The most popular of the previously-released bits, then, would be "Mandate My Ass", whose title is more an excuse for a humorous vocal sample than any sort of political statement. "Mandate My Ass" is actually one of the stronger selections on the disc, with drums that go beyond the typical "boom-ch" heavy disco sound into something a little more tribal, and a second half that begs for flashing lights and disco balls. Opener "(Formally Known As) Satisfaction" is just as solid, with beats that won't quit and synths that are enough to plant images of giant boom boxes in your head. Unfortunately, Le Dust Sucker's lazy tendency toward silly sex samples in tracks like "All Day" (sample: "...feeling really horny all day") and the no-explanation-needed "Lick Lick" distracts from the beatmaking. Le Dust Sucker is perfect background for a late-night disco party -- decent enough to dance to, but breaks down if you actually sit down and listen.
Saeed Younan, Remixed (Star 69) Rating: 6
A nice, if unchallenging, mixed set from DC-born DJ Saeed Younan. It's a problem that there is only really one rhythm for a lot of these tracks, but maybe that's just great mixing. I love Nadia's cooing of "sexy motherfucker" on Stephan M & Nicky Scanni's "Go Deeper", but I'm not sure why Club 69's version of "Warm Leatherette" is included, except maybe to clear a dancefloor. For me, Younan's own tracks are probably the highlight of this disc, from the fun squelches on "Rock the Rhythm" to the sexy growly vocals on "You Know I Got It.
Aeroplane Pageant, He Is Fire (Inner Flight) Rating: 6
Can you really judge a band by an EP? Particularly when that EP is less than six songs and nowhere close to 20 minutes? Well, Aeroplane Pageant don't give a rat's behind about all that, and the four songs here are well-crafted and finely executed. "Kind as Killers" saunters along like a cross between Wilco, the Smiths, and the Killers. The lead singer brings his own style to the proceedings, although you get the idea he had a Simple Minds or Psychedelic Furs poster on his wall as a teen. "The Air Went Pink" is more subdued, despite a bouncy backbeat. The songs aren't bad, not by a long shot. I just wish there were more here like the melodic pop effort "Sunlit Chairs", which sounds like lightweight but stellar Arcade Fire. Closing with the winding, somewhat prog-like "How Distant", Aeroplane Pageant should be someone to look out for in '06. They definitely leave you wanting more!