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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
15 March 2006
Nassau, A Fire in the Ashes (Broadcast Recordings) Rating: 6
Psych rock. It's a cool thing -- and often seems a too easy thing. Playing that consciousness throttling drone fuzz doesn't seem to require much nerve. Set up the pedals and bask in your own meandering riffs and voilą -- assume your place in the lineage of the Seeds, the Rolling Stones and Brian Jonestown Massacre. But it's not enough to just coolly nod to your fuzzbox ancestors, because this stuff only resonates when it's played with conviction. Nassau floats in the gray areas of this psych question, somewhere between boring and blissful. Getting past the middling, breathy vocals, you'll discover wonderful song craft and some expectedly mind-bending guitar strumming on their debut record, A Fire in the Ashes. Jon McCann, former Guided by Voices and current Tangiers drummer, is the principal songwriter here and he does well to keep things chugging at a brisk pace. Only one of the 12 songs eclipse the four-minute mark and most of the tracks could stand alone as charming contributions to the contemporary psych rock canon. McCann and company don't tread in terribly risky territory, but the results are warm and fuzzy nonetheless.
"Falling Out": [MP3]
"How Long?": [MP3]
"Sick Again": [MP3]
"Sick Again (Repair mix)": [MP3]
Collective Efforts, Trail Mix (Arcthefinger) Rating: 7
On their 2003 debut, A Vision of Things to Come, Collective Efforts shone lyrically, with dense, flowing, and refreshingly positive raps from a trio of talented, relatively unknown MCs. When they faltered it was with production, the laid-back, rarely memorable beats and decent singing miring together and sounding disappointingly similar much of the time, but altogether it was a solid debut from the Atlanta underground. Now that their second LP, Trail Mix, has been released, it's clear that the first disc was merely that: a vision of better things to come. Where Visions of Things to Come opened with a chilled-out synthesizer, Trail Mix begins with soulful twists of electric guitar and a great, wailing chorus. MCs J-Mil, Ben Hameen and Bambu have stepped up their game from the last outing, flowing as tightly and dexterously as ever (and the whole positive-message thing never hurts); even more noticeable, however, is the almost exponential improvement in production. The tracks are all solid, but the standouts are exceptional: "Another Soulful Song" is a shimmery slide of violins, "Let It Alone" a sweetly reassuring guitar lilt. From the bright chirps of "Verseability" to the beautifully fluid "Growth Part II" (probably the best cut on the album), Trail Mix is a huge step forward for the Atlanta underground hip-hoppers that satisfies and still leaves listeners hungry for the next thing to come.
multiple songs: [MP3]
Super Numeri, The Welcome Table (Ninja Tune) Rating: 7
Liverpool's Super Numeri collective makes heavy, insistent, psychedelic, trance music with the emphasis on beats and repetition -- a brooding, down-tempo, grown-up mutation of '90s trip-hop, that has mushroomed in the void left by the death of dance music. "The Welcome Table", their second album, is clearly the product of a gang of 30-something musical hedonists who stopped going clubbing about 10 years ago and decided to stay at home with a very big drum kit and an impressive stash. The 24-minute opening track, "The First League of Angels", is the sound of Lanquidity-era Sun Ra jamming in Can's Inner Space studios with the ghost of John Bonham. It's a pig-headed and Neanderthal advertisement for hallucinogens, which absolutely will not let go until you are raw and bleeding. Super Numeri are due to receive knighthoods some time next year for services to the lava-lamp industry.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Plumb, Chaotic Resolve (Curb) Rating: 3
Plumb has been featured on a number of soundtracks. The resume include cuts on compilations from Loser, The Story of Us, Just Married, Bruce Almighty, and View from the Top. This is only a partial list. It makes sense. Plumb has an interesting voice that lends itself to the anonymity that many soundtracks require. Apart from that interesting voice, Plumb has little else going for her. Think of her latest album as a less significant Evanescence record with a singer who's not quite as strong and hooks that are decidedly not as strong. The songs are derivative in sound and scope, and the lyrics only make things worse. Mostly it's a terrible combination of a polished sound and a very unpolished songwriting. If Plumb wants any kind of notoriety outside of second-rate movie soundtracks and TV appearances, she'll need a better songwriter.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 6:28 AM