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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
01 June 2006
Various Artists, Exponential Presents: Collapsing Culture (Exponential)
San Antonio-based record label Exponential freely admits that Texas is not quite world-renowned for being on the cutting edge of indie music, but as they so grandiosely state in the press release, they plan on changing that. Their new label compilation, Collapsing Culture, showcases the work of five San Antonio electronic/trip-hop artists (Ęther216, Theory of Everything, Darby, Mnolo, and A.M. Architect) and proves the city surprisingly apt, in this particular subgenre at least. While they each have their own subtle stylistic variances, there exist clearly apparent similarities as well, and at points their songs are almost interchangeable. That's not to say they're bad, however: they range from tone sketches to fully-developed melodies, but the general vibe is gentle and pretty, and there are often buried surprises. "Little Prince" creates contrast between building, soaring string loops and the sharp, jabby beeps that unexpectedly subvert their energy, while "Fall from Grace" hums along, dark but subdued, until the unearthly distorted orchestra shimmers into view in smooth, precisely-spaced slices. And "The Birth", by Mnolo, grooves for a bit on flutey chirps and stutter percussion before it completely unhinges to introduce a swirling operatic sample, finding a new, slower vibe and then gently righting and unrighting itself as the track continues. As far as paintings go, these are not masterpieces of sharp-eyed realism: Exponential's aural paintings are impressionistic little abstracts, solid colors and shapes and random boxes that subtly reveal their hidden layers. And despite its ambitious title, Collapsing Culture collapses no culture, really; rather, it's an hour and change of experimental electronic trip-hop, a chilled-out, coolly-paced mood piece of laconic synthesizer thrums and often beautiful sounds. It could easily become simply background music, there's no doubt about that, but as far as pretty background music goes, you could certainly do much worse.
"The Antidote": [MP3]
"Theory of Everything": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Electronic / Downtempo / Hip-Hop
The Post Office Gals, Esbeohdes (On the Rise)
You could play some games with this disc. Right now I'm wondering if this full-length album will end before I can type 100 words on it (it will). I'm also wondering if I can say any of the titles in less than that song's running time ("Good I'm Glad" is a cinch; "No Patent Leather Shoes for Catholic School Girls" isn't). With their blend of a grindcore speed and attitude, an electro-ized sound, and exhumation of the fun in both styles, the Post Office Gals might be on to something. They've even got that biting social satire you want. Oh, wait, it's over.
"The Bitter Irony of...": [MP3]
"Good I'm Glad": [MP3]
"Right Click My Heart": [MP3]
Rock / Progressive / Screamo / Thrash
Edison Glass, A Burn or a Shiver (Credential)
Edison Glass (a purported collaboration between Philip Glass and Albert Einstein [what?]) is one of those bands that's unsurprisingly easy to peg down: they're basically trying to be the Mars Volta with everything you like about the Mars Volta taken away. Actually, their lenience towards 40-minute song suites is scant (the longest song is the seven-minute closer), and they carry more musical common ground with At the Drive-In offshoot Sparta. "If I'm unable when you call / and if I'm unable / when all we have is taken" is one such fracture-sentence that is peppered throughout the LP. The album is well produced and the guitarists no doubt talented, but the songwriting lacks any real propulsion, solidifying something most any upstart prog band should already know: before you conquer Mars, you got to conquer Earth first.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock / Indie / Pop
Joe Algeri / The Sugarrush, Split 7" (Rhythm Barrel)
You can feel the love in the room on this one. Australian singer/songwriter Joe Algeri wrote a song about Finland's The Sugarrush, and The Sugarrush respond in kind by writing a song about Joe Algeri. Awwwwww. Cute idea, but to listen to this four-song split seven-inch is like listening to an in-joke that was probably best shared between friends. Not that it isn't horrible: Algeri's Sugar Rush boasts some nice melotron, and the four songs collected here would be catchy enough if you caught them on a static-y AM radio. But the melodies on both groups' songs seem pretty standard and recall other, better bands more worthy of homage. The Sugarrush's 3 Chords for Joe even reminded this reviewer of Phoebe from Friends singing Stinky Cat. Enjoyable to a point, but not really worth repeat spins.
Rock / Pop
.: posted by Editor 7:22 AM