erasing clouds

8 Music Reviews

by anna battista, dave heaton

Click on a musician's name to go directly to the review, or scroll down and proceed through them all.

Belle & Sebastian, Dick Smart 2.007, Les Georges Leningrad, Okkervil River, Sexy, The Original Soundtrack, Un uomo da rispettare , Young and Sexy, The Young Tradition

Belle & Sebastian, Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade)

The follow-up to Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant and first record with their first contract with Rough Trade, Belle & Sebastian's fifth album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, might turn into a bit of a disappointment for the band's purists. Mostly recorded in London and produced by Trevor Horn, the man behind some of the greatest pop hits of the century such as "Video Killed the Radio Star", Dear Catastrophe Waitress definitely sounds more poppy than Belle & Sebastian's previous stuff. The album opens with "Step Into My Office Baby" which recalls a bit "Legal Man", and continues with the track that gives the title to the album, the story of a waitress having a bad day. The old Belle & Sebastian sound isn't completely gone and this is proved by the dreamy "Asleep On A Sunbeam" and "If You Find Yourself Caught In Love," or again in the beautiful melody "Piazza, New York Catcher", a very fine ballad about love and baseball. It's in tracks such as "Roy Walker" with Stevie Jackson and company snapping their fingers a la the Addams Family theme to create a unique atmosphere, or the final track, "Stay Loose", an electro-pop track, complete of processed voice, that the record betrays Horn's touch a bit too much. Allegedly, Trevor Horn has got the Midas touch when he's in the recording studio and whatever he touches becomes gold. Perhaps by touching Belle & Sebastian he's made them more accessible to those who never bought their record or simply hated them. If every record has got some kind of message behind it, then this album is telling us that Belle & Sebastian travelled miles away from the days of If You're Feeling Sinister. Nostalgic fans can rejoice in the fact that Horn hasn't anyway turned the pride of indie boys and girls into Tatu. Fortunately. {}--anna battista

Dick Smart 2.007 - Music composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene (Hexacord)

The soundtrack from the legendary 1960s Italian spy film Dick Smart 2.007, directed by Franco Prosperi (co-director of Italian cult movie Mondo Cane, 1961) and featuring actors Richard Wyler and Margaret Lee, this album of music composed by Mario Nascimbene is a mix of sensational exotica and action music taken from the original masters and remixed by professor Roberto Zamori at Film Music Art Studio. Born in Milan in 1913, Nascimbene started composing film scores in the early '40s and became later a successful composer, the first Italian musician invited in the States to work for Hollywood. Dick Smart 2.007 reflects the way he made music, he was indeed able to pass from a rhythm to another, from a genre to another. Hence, this album can only contain the most disparate musical genres. "Dick Smart 2.007 (The Amazing World of Dick Smart)" is a cocktail music jewel; there's the bossa nova beat of "Dick Smart 2.007 (Swimming Pool Bossa Party)" and the samba-tastic feeling of "Dick Smart 2.007 (Samba for Dick)", while the drums on "Dick Smart 2.007 (Discoteque Party)" incredibly sound like the drums in Beck's "Devil's Haircut". Fans of the movie should also check out the end title song "Dick Smart 2.007 (Il Tuo Sguardo Atomico)", the only track with vocals, a bit surreal, but absolutely fantastic. Released for the first time in its entirety in a limited edition which also includes rare recording sessions, this album can only be dedicated to Mario Nascimbene, a great composer, an absolute score genius. What you doing still there? Go out and buy it. NOW!--anna battista

Les Georges Leningrad, Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (Blow the Fuse Records)

The photo on the inside cover with the band members wearing masks might have you thinking of The Residents...and sure enough, Les Georges Leningrad do a cover of that group's "Constantinople." But main link is sheer weirdness, for this Montreal-based quartet is on a whole other plane. A manic juggernaut of surrealist punk (where the singer lets out her rage, but about god-knows-what, and in a voice that sounds like a blurring of languages and states of being) and trippy experimentation, like Devil's Night dub played with alien tools as instruments. Jagged post-punk guitars, laser beam noises, and a song where I swear it sounds like someone's knocking from inside my speaker, trying to get out. This thing's all over the place. It's as exhilarating as the best roller coaster, and twice as dumb-founding. --dave heaton

Okkervil River, Down the River of Golden Dreams (Jagjaguwar)

Confession time: until we ran an interview with Okkervil River on the site last week, their latest CD Down the River of Golden Dreams had been sitting on my desk unplayed for nearly a month. What a mistake that was! Filled with both raw emotion and a poetic sense of mystery, the songs on Down the River… take you on a dream-like trip through America and the hopes, fears, and ghosts lie within it. Okkervil River's country-ish rock songs are bespeckled with organ, banjo, brass, strings and more, giving singer/guitarist Will Sheff's raw, heartwrenching stories a pretty, textured bed in which to lie. That combination is fitting for songs that feel both like the real-life stories of your down-on-their-luck neighbors and like dreams that you half-remember. In other words, he writes about real pain like he's writing a fantasy novel, so you feel the pain while you're entranced by his words. Sheff (who has a rough, yearning voice) continually sings of people who are caught up in sadness or haunted by their own mistakes, but seek redemption, people who want to love despite the hurt they're wrapped up in. The world of Down the River… is filled with beauty and tenderness, but also terror and hardship. "Hey I love you, it goes without saying," he sings at one point, and then "I would give you the world on a tray, though they're already tracing a line across you throat." Death is everywhere, but maybe we can evade it, or at least it's pretty to think so.-dave heaton

Sexy, The Original Soundtrack, Armando Sciascia and His Orchestra (Hexacord)

Remember. Remember those Italian titillating movies such as Tropico di Notte and Mondo Caldo di Notte? Remember how they were dubbed "mondo-movies" and were often conceived as documentaries in which anecdotes on exotic foreign towns (though the scenes were often fake and shot in studios…) were employed to show sexy scenes and semi-naked women? If you remember them, then you might also remember their soundtracks penned by Armando Sciascia. Composer and violin virtuoso, Sciascia is indeed a central figure in the history of Italian groovy film music. Hexacord, directed by soundtrack expert Roberto Zamori, has now re-mastered the soundtrack to the film Sexy, (1962) directed by Renzo Russo, which, let's admit it, is absolutely cool. The album follows the releases of the series Hexacord by Night (Tropico di Notte, La Donna di Notte and Mondo Caldo di Notte) and contains 14 tracks, each one groovier than the other. "Easy Macumba" starts like the theme for your average '60s spy movies, after a while it becomes a brilliant lounge piece, then turns into a great jazzy tune; "Sexy World" performed by Norma Gladis, 'Miss Mondo' ('Miss World'), is less than three minutes long but is nonetheless a great track with cheesy though irresistible lyrics which ooze a '60s atmosphere. The album also contains "Hot Twist", a relentless catchy twist which will have you dancing all night long, "Mare Calmo" a soothing melody and "Festa Indiana", a pseudo-Bollywood track. Featuring the best jazzmen in Italy and containing also "Rumeno Swing", a track recorded only once with Sciascia playing the violin and directing his orchestra, including in the booklet a reproduction of the original poster for the movie, Sexy is not your average '60s soundtrack, it's pure art. --anna battista

Un uomo da rispettare - Music composed, orchestrated and conducted by Ennio Morricone (Hexacord)

Probably one of the most important Italian musicians in the history of film music, Ennio Morricone is most famous for writing music for Sergio Leone's western movies. Morricone might be well known for other soundtracks, but this one is particularly interesting to listen to because it gives the listener another perspective on the composer's art. The movie Un uomo da rispettare (1972), directed by Michele Lupo, featured Florinda Bolkan, Giuliano Gemma and Kirk Douglas. It's basically a cop movie, and the tragic and doomed music of its soundtrack very aptly adapts to the main themes of the film. The title track is a long (almost 12 minutes long), symphony; "Un tempo infinito" is an example of experimental music, whereas in "Prima di lasciarla" and "A Florinda" the listener will recognise Morricone's melancholic and beautiful touch. There's also a touch of light in this bleak and dark soundtrack with "18 Pari", a bit of a boss nova track, very '70s, that proves Morricone's music is eclectic, refined and boundless and that Un uomo da rispettare is another gem in Morricone's discography. --anna battista

Young and Sexy, Life Through One Speaker (Mint Records)

The Vancouver-based group Young and Sexy creates low-key pop-rock songs that pair fetching but subtle melodies that sneak up on you with lyrics that articulate the everyday terrain of the individual heart - feeling lost, lonely, and hopeful - with an perspective somewhere between journalism and confession, leaning lightly towards the former. On their second album Life Through One Speaker they cloak their songs with a sexier, more sophisticated sonic sheen (with electric pianos and synth moved up to a starring role) which holds everything together brilliantly, though it also makes the songs run together a bit on first listen. No hook jumps out at you as forcefully as those on their last album, yet ultimately the songs here feel deeper and more affecting. The songwriting is more complex but just as good. Take a song like "One False Move," where a pretty pop song is graced with soft atmospherics, but then the song transitions into rock mode without losing the delicate side or making any awkward steps. Young and Sexy have managed to give their songs a more coherent sound while also throwing in more sounds than before - in doing so they've created a splendid example of how pop music doesn't have to be simplistic or obvious to really work magic on listeners. --dave heaton

The Young Tradition, California Morning (Matinee)

"California sunbeams heavy in the air/but there's nothing left to wish that I was there," Brent Kenji sings at the beginning of The Young Tradition's debut CD, a three-song single which sets California summer-pop music with sadder feelings more fitting for a winter landscape. Kenji sings softly about heartbreak and loneliness over equally soft and gorgeous music, mostly played by Swedish musician Erik Hanspers, the "winter" half of the duo. The group's 2 original songs are Beach Boys bright but have a melancholy center, a combination that pulls at your heartstrings while making you smile, and the CD is nicely rounded out with a stark yet gorgeous cover of Poundsign's "Isolation."--dave heaton

Issue 16, October 2003

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