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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
14 July 2006
Fernando, Enter to Exit (In Music We Trust)
While it might seem like simple PR to highlight the fact that Fernando's Derek Brown and Jeff "Chet" Lyster have also played with Eels, there's more than a passing resemblance between the two outfits. But it's not just some similarities in instrumentation -- Fernando Viciconte has much in common with the qualities that make Mark Oliver Everett's songs so compelling, not least of which is a comparable ability to marry melody with melancholy. So Fernando is certainly in the vein of Eels, and if you like the latter, you'll probably enjoy the former. Viciconte has his own spin, though, and much of the music on Enter to Exit consists of McCartney-isms filtered through a vaguely Wayne Coyne-like pop sensibility. And while Fernando may draw many comparisons, there's a distinct variety to these tracks, ranging from the bubbling "The Reluctant Deity" to the psych-tinged "Another Day in My Head" to the acoustic folksiness of "The Change in Us" to the buzz of "My Magnetic Field", all of which offer different canvases for some poetically downtrodden lyrics. Fernando doesn't challenge the listener with novelty, but it plays with familiar tropes in charming, sometimes captivating ways, making for a consistently rewarding listen.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Pop
Té, If That Is What Is Being Thought, Liberated Sound Talks the Depth of the Musical World (Status Quo)
If That Is What Is Being Thought, Liberated Sound Talks the Depth of the Musical World starts loud and ends loud and features a lot of loud all the way through the middle. The stadium-rock guitars charge at a stampeding pace, and the drum kit thrashes alongside like a whipped horse. Té are a Japanese post-rock band who sound something like Kinski. Their music wants to move outside the strictures of lyrics and three-minute hit singles, but beyond that it doesn't have a strong identity of its own. It doesn't have the scornful weight of a Mogwai, or the spaciness of a Sigur Ros, or any of those touches that makes a band immediately recognisable. It's wordless rock, all heave, slam, and large, dramatic, empassioned gestures. They play well, and it's evident that they believe in what they're doing, but it's hard not to feel that you've heard it all before.
"A thought would never let people watch what they choose. Instead, it let them see what they hope to see": [MP3]
"Avarice would speak with every word, it acts every part and it even pretends to be not avaricious": [MP3]
Street Drum Corps, Street Drum Corps (Warcon)
Street Drum Corps might claim to be a combination of DIY punk and the tribal rhythms of Stomp, but having seen this act in person, it's clear this war painted SoCal trio lack the ingenuity and creativity that made Stomp such a ubiquitous entity in the '90s. They milk the "found materials" gimmick to death, banging on everything from garbage cans, to beer kegs, to fire extinguishers, but hammering tired alt-rock and hip-hop rhythms for 20 minutes can get painfully monotonous, whether you're pounding it on a regular drum kit or a pile of trash. Their debut CD actually marks a considerable improvement over the live experience, as the threesome bring in various samples and electronic elements to keep things interesting, most notably on the exuberant "Flaco 81", the drum and bass inspired "Achilles", and the closing track "Bang!!". The disc is a paltry 24 minutes long, which is actually a good thing, and to give the kids some bang for their bucks, there's a supplemental DVD that comes with the album, containing 45 minutes worth of clips, including footage of their rather silly live set. It's harmless stuff, but ultimately quite witless, too.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Kim Chi, Kim Chi Music (self-released)
"Cho-nun wonswugi-nun p'iryo opsoyo." ("I don't need a monkey.") "Willhom issoyo!" ("It's dangerous!") "Swugon! Torop!" ("Dirty towel!") Look at all the exciting things I can say in Korean now that I've listened to Kim Chi's ebullient new dance pop record! This short and lighthearted slice of electro-pop incorporates samples from Korean language tapes into its synth and drum-machine driven anthems. So if you like machine-drilled four-on-the-floor beats, sugary-cute girl harmonies and handclaps along with your cultural improvement, this is for you. Best of show goes to "Cold Food Dirty Towels," a wickedly synthy guide to how to deal with sub-par hotel accommodations. Weirdly enough, Kim Chi is from Kansas City and none of the three members are Korean. "Isang han-ne" ("That's strange") indeed!
multiple songs: [MP3]
Indie / pop
Helvetia, The Clever North Wind (Static Cult)
Helvetia stinks of aspirations toward self-conscious neo-prog, an art-rock band for artists, a band who writes songs with names like "Statica" and "Voltaire", both of which can be found on their debut album The Clever North Wind. There's nothing wrong with aiming for "art" with your music, it's just that Helvetia ultimately achieves a rather lazy form of art, one steeped in in-jokes and unintentional simplicity. "Beezlebub" (sic, and pronounced "Beezle-boob", apparently) ambles along like One Foot in the Grave-era Beck, while "Deirdra of the Sorrows" and closer "The Drowning End" play tricks that Flaming Lips already numbed us to, employing synthesizers and odd vocal melodies to strangely unimpressive effect. There's very little joy to be found in these tracks, unless you count the silly "This is the end of the song" lyric at the end of "Now & Formerly" or the aforementioned toying with the word Beelzebub, both of which come of as slightly conceited (as if they're already at the point where they feel they can get away with anything), not to mention silly. The awful-sounding production (which was, apparently, entirely intentional as an attempt to preserve the sound of the album's four-track demos) doesn't help. If I can find one redeeming quality in The Clever North Wind, it's in the title track, which is actually a not-bad slice of unpredictable indie-rock. Otherwise, this is 65 minutes for masochists.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:32 AM