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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
12 June 2006
Head Control System, Murder Nature (The End)
Metal music can be incredibly incestuous at times, with side projects sprouting up in every direction, featuring numerous members from different bands, but as compelling as many of them are, few manage to sounds as fascinating and attention-grabbing as Head Control System does. The brainchild of Portugal's Daniel Kardoso (from Sirius) and Norway's Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg (he of Ulver and Arcturus notoriety), Murder Nature has the duo sidestepping the refined black metal of their bands in favor of an absorbing hybrid of art rock and melodic metal. Kardoso is the brains behind the music, incorporating the rhythmic riffing of Meshuggah, the mechanical sounds of Fear Factory, and the majestic, tuned-down chords of Tool, but it's Rygg who makes the album so enthralling. Arguably one of the very best male vocalists in metal today, he brings his usual knack for melodies that blindside the listener, best exemplified by such tracks as "Skin Flick", "Baby Blue", "Masterpiece (of Art)", and the darkly gorgeous "Wonderworld". Underlying it all is a strong sense of eroticism, lurking in the cascading piano, the abrasive guitars, the pulsating drumming, and Rygg's falsetto, ranging from enigmatic innuendo to pure unadulterated lust, the likes of which we rarely hear in the often asexual realm of cutting-edge metal. A tremendous album.
"Skin Flick": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Belle Rose, Place Your Bets Mixtape (Plug Entertainment)
While hype has been building on the West Coast for up-and-coming MCs A.C. Tatum and B.no of Belle Rose, their latest mixtape, Place Your Bets, proves them not quite the "future of West Coast G-funk" that they claim to be. They flow well, competently, and adequately, but often only that: they're better than your average mixtape MC, but there's nothing really stellar or mind-blowing to differentiate them from legions of regional prospects. The production is similarly professional but unmemorable, with few exceptions: "Give It to Me" mixes sadly contemplative chills of synth with thumpy-thundery drums, while "Just Love Me" is a nice soul groove and "G'd Up" an uptempo bustle of zippy bass and clattering, busy percussion. Songs like "Dreams" and "Tell Me" show hints of deeper lyricism from the pair, but every track in this vein is balanced out by a "Take Your Bitch" or boasting "freestyle": "Up in the suite, you could prob'ly fit your house in it / The hot tub, yeah, I'm chillin' with your spouse in it". In general, Belle Rose do just enough, and they do it well, even garnering a mixtape-opening spoken introduction from West Coast g-funk king Snoop Dogg himself -- but maybe there's a reason he didn't stay to drop a verse.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Ugetsu, Live at the Cellar (CellarLive)
Ugetsu is a Canadian sextet ostensibly influenced by Art Blakey's early 1960s Jazz Messengers and certainly a considerable advertisement for Vancouver's Cellar Club. Since they can't possess Blakey's greatness at the drums, and are musical and intelligent, they adopt a different balance. Blakey was prominent and not unsubtle, Bernie Arai is subtle and settles nicely behind Andre Lachance's splendid bass. The opening trumpet solo after a great entry displays Brad Turner's nice big tone out of the Clifford Brown bag, Jon Bentley's tenor saxophone is soft in the line of Benny Golson, maybe Hank Mobley, and the mellow side of the music is clear in "That Old Feeling", largely a solo feature for Ross Taggart's piano, the one venerable standard in a programme which begins with Wayne Shorter's "Backstage Sally" and lets Arai show his tom-tom facility behind Turner in Joe Henderson's "Caribbean Fire Dance", distinguished later by Taggart's entry to give Rod Murray's trombone solo its second wind. The other five titles are from band members, Jon Buckley's "Chowder" opening with nice ensemble -- Murray a notable presence -- before the composer takes off. Checking a detail when writing this review I found Lachance's bass had got my foot tapping. This is a very good band, presumably on their best nights some patrons of the estimable joint where this set was recorded live will ask: why do we need guests. Well, presumably some of the biggies these guys have played with put them on their mettle. And on their mettle they hear surely are!
Robert R. Calder
song samples: [streaming]
jazz / Township Jazz
Tim Lee, Concrete Dog (Fundamental)
Tim Lee is a Southern musician, so it's no surprise that this album is power pop with Southern rock or alt.country flavoring, particularly on the jangle-y title track that kickstarts the record. Supported by a nifty and seasoned supporting cast, Lee glides through these tunes without much problem as the gritty, Byrds-ish "Half-Life" brings to mind an early Steve Earle prior to Exit O. Formerly one half of the Windbreakers with Bobby Sutliff, Lee is able to make the most out of the rapid "Alone Together" that recalls a Tom Petty b-side. And "Get Up, Get Up" has that crunchy, boogie feeling that John Fogerty mastered long ago. It still holds up here though. Generally, Lee excels on the tight, power pop of "Real Bad Habit", not reinventing the wheel but just giving it a spit shine instead. The lone problem is how many of the songs, although strong, seem to blend into one another such as "Live Through Me" and "Black & White To Me". But thankfully "Greyhound From Jackson", with its Neil Young overtones, is a surprising jewel.
multiple songs: [player]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
rock / Alternative Pop / Jangle Pop
.: posted by Editor 7:24 AM