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19 More Music Reviews

by Dave Heaton and Anna Battista

Angus Maclaurin, Glass Music (Bubblecore)

Glass Music is possibly the most apt title I've ever heard, and it's also one of the simplest. No, this isn't a collection of Philip Glass recordings. For this collection, musician Angus Maclaurin went into a basement in a log cabin in Portland, Maine and recorded himself playing finely tuned glasses (as in drinking glasses), all carefully placed in association with the mics. Then he combined them into the eight tracks that make up the bulk of Glass Music (there's also a bonus remix of one track, done by Ranphorynchus). Before hearing this CD, it sounded like it might be one of those experiments that is intellectually interesting but not that fun to listen to. I also expected the tracks to pretty much sound the same, considering that a glass doesn't seem like the most versatile instrument. On both accounts, I was entirely wrong. This is a gorgeous, varied musical experience, one that is aesthetically pleasing *and* intellectually stimulating. Each piece on *Glass Music* sounds entirely different from the others, from "Fugue," which sounds like an intricate arrangement of church bells, with patterns and movements throughout, to the four-part "Ghost Ship," a spooky combination of ephemeral sounds with low, gutteral noises. The entire CD is uniquely compelling. Truth be told, a few other instruments (theremin, kalimba and bass guitar) do make brief appearances on two tracks, yet at the center throughout is glass, glass, glass. It's as easy to lose oneself in the sound and forget what instruments are being played as it is to listen in rapt wonder at the seamless way that such "ordinary" objects can be utilized to create such beautiful music.--dave Heaton

Melt-Banana, Teeny Shiny (A-Zap Records)

Jim O'Rourke produced their 1996 LP Scratch or Stitch, they toured with U.S. Maple, they played with K.K. Null and David Grubbs from Gastr Del Sol, noize terrorists to the core YaSuko, Agata, Rika and Sudoh AKA Melt-Banana are underground situationists, though overground insurrectionists, and this album proves it. Hell, YaSuko, who must have substituted her larynx with metal chords, is a machine gun rat-tat-tatting and threatens to break like a bamboo cane on the wind while she sings. "Free The Bee" consists in the same note repeated all over the track and it would be even palatable if it weren't for the nervous shouts of the singer stuttering, shouting, ranting with a brilliant effect of the guitar buzzing reproducing a maddened bee; "Lost in Mirror" contains a funny sample of an answering machine in Italian; "Third Attack" is the sound of a cat trapped in a bag; "Flip And Hit" sounds like a space rocket flying in the astral space, whereas the punky "Bright Splat (Red Point, Black Dot)" is perhaps the best track of the album and the jazzy beginning of "Moon Flavor" shows that yes, Melt-Banana are even able to do stuff that's not noisy, but what's the point if you can be riotous till you die? An album that lasts barely thirty minutes, but you're advised: it's thirty intense minutes of guitary mayhem.--anna battista

The Mountain Goats, The Coroner's Gambit (Absolutely Kosher)

John Darnielle, aka The Mountain Goats, somehow always manages to stretch further, lyrically, in a one-man song than anyone else--which makes his music really hard to encapsulate in words. He travels across vast realms of literature, history, geography, religion and nature, combing them for touching stories of human lives, which he then delivers in economically crafted folk-pop story-songs. The Coroner's Gambit is the universal story of people who are at their wits' ends. These are stories of death, despair, pain, loneliness and longing. His singing style is that of concentrated intensity, he's foreceful without being over-dramatic. Check out, for example, in the song "Family Happiness," the matter-of-fact way he sings the lines, "I mouth my silent curses at you/I can see my breath/I hope the stars don't even come out tonight/I hope we freeze to death," and the chilling effect they have on you as a listener. Notice, also, the moments of quiet understanding and gentle affection that Darnielle weaves into these tales of desperate people and their haggard lives. The Coroner's Gambit is, for me, the most affecting Mountain Goats album yet, within a discography filled with stirring musical panoramas of heartbreak and humanity. --dave heaton

New Amsterdams, Never You Mind(Heroes &Villains/Vagrant Records)

The ever-popular Get Up Kids play power-pop with punkish tones and a populist, crowd-pleasing bent. They rock for the people, to get the kids jumping around and having a good time. They're not necessarily the most original band, with a sound noticeably familiar to fans of Superchunk or Weezer, but a lot of fun. Take away the rock conventions, though, and you find not a hollow shell but pretty little pop songs, about love, goodbyes, and the other sort of things that heartwrenching rock is all about. The New Amsterdams' debut CD Never You Mind sounds a lot like what you might get if stripped the Get Up Kids music down to its pop essentials. That's not the mark of coincidence or influence, but genealogy: the New Amsterdams' main man is Matt Pryor of the Get Up Kids, and another Kid shows up as one of the three musicians that make up the rest of the Amsterdams. Never You Mind is a sparse, quiet album made up of relatively sad but sweet songs buoyed with pretty melodies and a truckload of pure feeling. A couple songs bear the same influences you might expect given the history, but most of the songs have an entirely different musical face, if a similar sense of passion. There's a lot of energy throughout, it's just propelled inwardly instead of toward an audience. Ballads like "Goodbye" and "I Won't Run Away" exquisitely project yearning against a background of mostly acoustic guitar, as Pryor sings his heart out. There's also two covers, the Afghan Whig's "When We Two Parted" and Boilermaker's "Slow Down," both performed with the same sense of musical sparseness and emotional longing as the rest of the album. On the whole, the New Amsterdams have delivered a musical tear-stained letter, yet it isn't the sound of depression or wallowing but catharsis, letting it all go. --dave heaton

No Watches, No Maps (FatCat/(Bubblecore)

FatCat Records, based in the UK, is always on top of the most innovative goings-on in electronic, ambient, and rock-ish music. They always have a refreshingly open attitude toward their position as a "business," as evidenced by this compilation. On it, for the sake of encouraging DIY musicians, they 19 take tracks from unsolicited demo tapes/CDs/MP3s that they've received and release them as a CD. The CD also comes with some information on self-releasing your music, and FatCat's web site will soon have a section dedicated to more demos, along with a storehouse for information on releasing your own music, something they hope "will provide a useful resource for those admirably pursuing the DIY route." While the reasons for and ideas behind this CD are certainly noble, the music on the CD is as praiseworthy, a super-varied mix of experimental, mostly electronic music. Some of the highlights for me include the Pole-meets-Afrika Bambaata future-funk of Phluidbox, Zooey's vibraphone/xylophone and strings-soaked movie music, Duplo Remote's quick burst of dreamy drum n' bass and Joseph Nothing's "Spanking (Albert Fish remix), which travels all over the place in less than 2 minutes, from ambient noise to a cartoon version of Digital Hardcore's manic beats. --dave heaton

Outrageous Cherry, Out There In The Dark (Poptones)

Matthew Smith, Larry Ray, Deb Agolli and Chad Gilchrist. Hmm, who they? Outrageous Cherry. Never heard them? No probably you haven't, still their melodies are so infectious that you will truly believe you've already heard their stuff somewhere else, who knows perhaps in your happiest dreams. Feasting on sunshine this album opens with the jangly "Georgie Don't You Know," continues with the stoned "Easy Come, Uneasy Glow", follows with the ecstatic "Tracy" to explode into a Carnival of colours and noises in "Only The Easy Way Down" and in the rockish "Song For Inoshiro Honda." The album seems to be split in two halves, a first one which is more jangly and innocent, with its echoing voices and happy drums and a second one which turns into a rockish record with mind-blowing melodies, really worthwhile listening to, such as "It's always Never" and "Out There In The Dark." Check of course the Velvet Underground-inspired "There's No Escape From The Infinite". Mmm…Languid psychedelic melodies. Compulsive.--anna battista

People Under the Stairs, Question in the Form of an Answer (Om Records)

If you believe MTV, Rolling Stone and other mainstream music media outlets, West Coast hip-hop is of the "gangsta" variety, the whole Death Row scene and so on. But from the Freestyle Fellowship, The Pharcyde and Hieroglyphics to Jurassic Five, Blackalicious and Ugly Duckling, there's a heartfelt strain of Californian hip-hop based around preserving the roots and traditions of hip-hop while pushing forward into the future through freestyling, DJing, breaking, etc. These groups are traditionalists and innovators at the same time, and are for the most part die-hard independents, both in terms of attitude and record label affiliation. People Under the Stairs are a central part of that movement. Their second CD is a thoroughly fresh celebration of hip-hop. The duo, Thes One and Double K, do just about everything on the CD: the rhyming, producing, writing, and recording (on an 8-track machine in Thes' bedroom). They are the music freaks who grew up flipping through records at garage sales and flea markets, searching for hidden bits of gold around which they can build funky hip-hop tracks. On the album's first track, "Crazy Live," the pair say they're "just fans with the chance to rock the stands for you," and this humble attitude carries through to the CD's end. In that song, one of them also says, "I ain't done, neither is my partner, right?/Then hit the panic switch let's keep em up all night." That pretty much sums up the vibe here. It's a late night party jam with 22 tracks. Each song is built on sparse, old school-style funk and soul tracks, and features the rhyming talents of both members, who seem to be equal partners in music. On one track, People Under the Stairs say they're trying to recover the bliss in hip-hop. Yet they're not on a hyper-retro, imitative mission. *Question in the Form of an Answer" is a funky blast of fresh air, one more sign that hip-hop is not in need of saving, it's as alive as ever.--dave heaton

Phife Dawg, Ventilation: Da LP(GrooveAttack)

A Tribe Called Quest's breakup left three talented musicians pursing their own endeavors. Though the media tend to focus on Q-Tip over the others, Tribe fans will likely remember a time when this wasn't true; for the group's first two albums in particular, their music came across as a collective effort. While now Ali Shaheed Muhammad spends his time adding texture to Lucy Pearl's soul jams and Q-Tip's Amplified found him trying to expand his horizons in directions both more accessible and more experimental, Phife Dawg's debut album has him concentrating on the raw elements of hip-hop and trying to bring the attention back to rhyming. Phife's style in Tribe was always a bit harder-edged than Q-Tip's, with a bit of gruff dancehall flavor. On Ventilation: Da LP, he mostly plays up the harder side, dishing out cutting criticisms of the record industry and some of his peers who focus more on glamour and fashion than on the basics of hip-hop. Yet this isn't all he does; other tracks are more party-oriented or deal mostly with relationship troubles. "Melody Adonis" eschews both of these habits in favor of a heartfelt ode to the love of his life. That track and the industry criticisms hit the hardest on the album, showing that Phife shines most when he has something personal to say. A few of the party jams are pretty standard, yet throughout the album the spotlight is on Phife's skills as an MC, and he does not disappoint. Working solo has also allowed Phife to stretch out a bit; on a few songs his flow is much different than in the past. I especially notice a KRS-One influence I hadn't detected before; not the "teacher" side of KRS, but the "Bridge Is Over"/battle MC side. Phife excels as a hip-hop word warrior, and throughout *Ventilation* he's helped at that task by some of the best (and most ubiquitous) producers around, including DJ Hi-Tek, Jay Dee, Pete Rock and Supa Dav West. In general, Ventilation continues Phife's career as a skilled MC with edge and humor. If all three Tribe members' releases fail a bit in comparison to the best Tribe albums, it's because together the three had something special, the magical quality of the best collaborations. Still, Phife's debut holds with the other two members' recent works as a solid fresh start. --dave heaton

The Places, The Autopilot Knows You Best (Absolutely Kosher)

Places singer/songwriter Amy Annelle sings with the same calm and coolness as the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins, but does so in a less genre-tied context. On their album The Autopilot Knows You Best, The Places float elegantly through 11 songs of tunefulness, a stargazer's sense of atmosphere, Velvets-ish trance guitar, and lyrics that are oblique and touching at the same time (an example, from my favorite track, "lazy days & castaways": "Pleased to meet this perfect you/Close my eyes and see you feeling blue"). The Places are also all about sonic-enhancing techniques, from echo and overlapping vocals to waves of background fuzz and "found sound" samples from a 1950's radio news documentary. In the liner notes is written, "This record is dedicated to headphones enthusiasts everywhere," and it shows. Their music encloses you in layers. Everything here is deftly gathered and formed, into songs that are both pretty and expansive. This CD reminds me in spots of long-forgotten favorite bands of mine, yet I can never determine which ones. That's a high compliment, for the Places manage to evoke what I like best about pop music without sounding too familiar.--dave heaton

Various Artists, Poptones: Radio 4 - A Collection (Poptones)

OK, let's admit it: a few of us really wanted to put our hands on Alan McGee after disrupting the Creation Label empire, leaving a few of our favourite bands alone in the dark. And yes, we probably would have done the right thing if he had abandoned forever the music biz and if he hadn't resurrected his positive impulses into a sort of new empire, Poptones. After signing a bunch of new bands and launching its first releases, Poptones has even started hosting club nights called Radio 4 at Notting Hill Arts Club in London. So, this collection is a bit of an introduction to Poptones new bands and new products as well as an example of all the gems that get played at the Radio 4 events: so you get Beach Boys-friendly Cosmic Rough Riders, The Montgolfier Brothers, who will turn you to mush, the poppy Captain Soul, the '80s sounding Ping Pong Bitches and Technique, the Mexican Elvis impersonator El Vez temporarily turned -into James Brown, the experimental A Quiet Revolution, the reggae-dub Mad Professor and Mission Control. And these are only a few of them. Grrr, snarl, barf…damn: that McGee guy has made it once again.--anna battista

Mark Robinson, Tiger Banana(Teenbeat)

Mark Robinson's career has basically been one long come-on. In both Unrest's ragged punk-pop days and their slicker, dreamier period, Robinson melded absurdist, romantic rhymes and images, an underlying tone of "please-take-care-of-me" sadness, a pretty-boy voice and a stunning knack for melody to ask you to come spend the night, please? In the post-Unrest years, he switched up his sound a bit, though not that much; Air Miami was giddier and pop-ier, Olympic Death Squad a bit darker, and Flin Flon more rhythmic and sparse, but all the phases shared Robinson's unique popwriting habits. And that's exactly how I'd want it, for I personally think he's written some of the most remarkable and sweet pop songs of the last 10 years or so. Tiger Banana is billed as his "first proper solo album," but it's pretty much the Mark Robinson you know and love. It's especially reminiscent of the slower side of Unrest and Air Miami. It's pretty much an album of dreamy ballads, with a few tracks touching on Robinson's rock side (like "Putting Up Good Numbers," which has a huge, cinematic sound reminiscent of Air Miami's classic "Dolphin Expressway") and his showman side (the chorus to "Full-length Taffeta Gown" is a hammed-up "Why don't you/come and join us on TV, oh!"). Overall, it's another nice collection of songs from Robinson, though I must quickly mention the album's biggest weakness. Robinson's always been interested in graphic design, and in always finding something new to do, but the packaging for this CD gets my vote for dumbest ever. The cover art and album information are all on a tiny piece of paper hung over the jewel case, but not attached. So when the CD is packaged, it looks like part of the cover, but when you unwrap it, the cover comes off, and you have a jewel case which just says it's part of Teenbeat's new "Warm Series," but gives no indication whatsoever as to the artist or CD inside. It's really annoying (almost as annoying as the Flin Flon LP with a lockgroove after every track), though the music's good enough for me to forget about the packaging fairly quickly.--dave heaton

Janek Schaefer, Above Buildings(FatCat/(Bubblecore)

Janek Schaefer's music on Above Buildings consists of silence, buzzings, whirrings, blips, knocks, shrill tones, metallic claps, radio crackles, percussion and ever-growing waves of noise. The sounds intermittently ebb and flow, from loud and mysterious to absolute silence. This is experimental music, and thus your reaction depends not only on your tolerance for the new but also on what mood you're on when you put it on. Above Buildings is alternately scary, pretty, dizzying and empty. The sounds flood your speakers and then disappear, over and again. These are the sounds that live in the sky above buildings, an hour spent listening the sounds that no one can hear. It's a trip into the unknown--if you're ready for it, it's exhilarating.--dave heaton

Superstar, Six More Songs (Camp Fabulous)

Look, look up there at the night sky: there's a star shining, but it's not a mere star. Instead of simply shining, glistening and glazing from its astral spheres, it effuses around a benevolent force, say, a musical force! Well, then my friends you are deeply wrong, that's not a star, that's…Superstar! Fave band of Scottish writer Alan Warner, Superstar are an underrated group at the core of the music elite. This is a special, mini album that contains just six more songs to add to their latest Phat Dat album and, surprise, the first 1000 limited copies contains tracks by the likes of Ben & Jason, Eugenius' genius Eugene Kelly and Muddy Pedals. Undoubtedly one of the best ingredients of Superstar's songs is love: try to listen to the all-encompassing sensual lullaby "Just Like Me," to the sweet "Life Is Elsewhere" and to the heartbreaking "More" and if that's not enough, then check the lovelorn "Romeo & Juliet Are Drowning" by Ben & Jason, the slow-motion charmer "Long Time Walking" by Eugene Kelly or the softly spoken "Had Enough" by Superstar. Romantic melancholic minstrels, Superstar's star shines in your heart and it will shine on. And on. ( battista

Teenage Fanclub, Howdy (Columbia)

Help: the Beach Boys are alive and rocking but segregated somewhere in Glasgow. Wanna free them? Naah, let the local bands fester on their music for some more time, especially if the supposed band festering on their records is called Teenage Fanclub. You know, there are traditions, legends and myths and Glasgow has got its own. One of these legends say that whenever Teenage Fanclub play, the sun shines and when it's heavily raining they manage to call back the happy yellow ball. Scarily this is not a legend, it's true and this weird phenomenon can be witnessed at Teenage Fanclub's gigs. Meanwhile, if you can't go and see them playing live, just listen to the sun-kissed "I Need Direction," their first single taken from this album, to "Dumb Dumb Dumb" which will turn you in an instant fan of the band, to the brilliant "Accidental life" and to the wonderful "Happiness." In the latter Norman sings "Happiness is what I need" and after listening to it, you will surely wonder why shouldn't such a talented band be happy and achieve success. The flawless "Straight & Narrow" and "My Uptight life" conclude the album on a melancholic note. There are a few truths we can cling to in our lives: amazingly one of them is called Teenage Fanclub and it warms my heart only to know that they'll be there forever and ever. Amen. ( battista

Vancouver Nights (Endearing)

Pop songs are a dime a dozen, but a perfect pop song? That's a rare beauty. The best songwriters write perfect songs with ease, or at least they make songwriting seem easy and make their songs seem perfect. Judging by Vancouver Nights' self-titled debut album, Sara Lapsley is one of those songwriters. This CD contains 12 peppy pop-rock songs, without one obvious flaw. Melody, harmony, piano, guitar, sweet vocals (by Lapsley and, on two songs, by guitarist Daniel Bejar)--all are balanced out into the right mixture of giddiness and serious musicality, songs that stick in your brain but don't seem like bubblegum at all. An album filled with exquisite pop music is a wonderful thing, but Vancouver Nights' album has even more to offer than that. In short, if these songs were inhabited by fluffy or vacuous lyrics, this would be one of those albums that sounds really good for a while but doesn't hold up over time. This is an entirely different affair, an album that reveals more each time around. Not only does the quartet hit all the right notes musically, but the songs, mostly written by Lapsley, add a few layers of depth through the lyrics. There's love songs where the participants intelligently question the games and traditions that people get tied to. There's "Naikoon Park," a detailed depiction of a nature preserve. Each song on the album is filled with both delightful pop sounds and genuine thought. There's also enough open places for listeners to think their way through the gaps. The last song "Slow Procession," for example, has enough poetry to make it impossible for me to say what the song's clearly about, or what the message is. But it's not impervious either; it's filled with lines evoking aging, death, rebirth, cycles, enough to get listeners' brains scrambling. When pop music can be both aesthetically pleasing and intelligently provocative, that is a wonderful thing.--dave heaton

V-Twin, Free The Twin (Domino)

Collection of the first singles released by V-Twin especially dedicated to all those who weren't present when they debuted on the roof of Glasgow's bookshop John Smith in Byres Road in 1998. Singer Jason McPhail and drummer Michael McGaughin, together with their cohort of Glaswegian friends belonging to a few local bands, introduce you to this mini album which contains the first Velvet Underground drenched single, "Thankyou Baby," mixed by kid loco, with its B-sides, the ballad "Derailed" and the languid spaced out "Lunan"; the latest single, the powerful, energy fuelled and venomous "Delinquency" together with the astral beats fuelled "In The Land Of The Pharoahs," that sounds like Sun Ra having a ball in Glasgow, a track written together with Bill Wells. V-Twin's sound goes from spaced out melodies to folkish songs to sugarstarfaced tracks. And what's most important is that it's great stuff. Just buy it. --anna battista

Wobbleshop, Bittergreen(BigRecordingCompany)

People make music for all sorts of reasons: to make a personal statement, to make a name for themselves, to express themselves artistically, to make money. On their latest album Bittergreen, the Southern California duo Wobbleshop project the plain-and-simple purpose of having fun, of making catchy pop songs that will make people smile. As far as I'm concerned, this is a worthy enough goal, as long as you have the songwriting talent to pull it off; Wobbleshop does. Their sound is built around melody, reminiscent in that way of all sorts of people, from the Beach Boys to Elvis Costello to lots of current "indie" bands. Yet there's also a certain rustic Americana feel, plus a heavy dose of laid-back California-ness. All together, this makes for entertaining music to hang around with, the sort of lazy summer tunes that make you feel good. Wobbleshop's two members, Brian Holmes and Levi Nunez, play a decent variety of instruments, and do so without drawing much attention to that fact. For example, one of the main instruments is accordion, but you hardly know it unless you pay close attention. They're not They Might Be Giants or a polka band, by any means. It's there, but not in the center, and not a gimmick of any sort. Accordion's part of the mix, as is guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion, etc. In a lot of ways, Wobbleshop sound like their songs should be all over the radio airwaves. They have a listener-friendly, easygoing sound. Their lyrics are universal enough that your parents could relate, but they're also mysterious enough to satisfy your poet friends. They can rock, but they don't wield that power like a sledgehammer. Their secret weapons are feeling and melody, and they use both in a truly endearing way. Writing a good pop song, one that doesn't overstay its welcome, is a tough task; on Bittergreen, Wobbleshop deliver 13 such tracks, and all are thoroughly pleasurable, memorable and repeatable. ( heaton

Wu-Tang Clan, The W (Loud)

On first glance, The W seems like a blatant attempt by the Wu-Tang Clan to return to the stripped-down style of their first album Enter the 36 Chambers, since it is generally considered more of a classic than its hyper-ambitious, double-album follow-up Wu-Tang Forever. On The W, the Clan has returned to a more sparse sound, and uses vocal samples from martial arts films more heavily than on Forever. Plus there are some surface level similarities that lead one to think that the Wu is trying hard to associate their third album with their first, like the song titles "Chamber Music" and "Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)", the latter of which duplicates a song title from the first album almost exactly. But even if the Wu-Tang Clan are trying to remake their classic debut, they can't do it, for the simple fact that they aren't the same people (personally and artistically) as they were before they knew any success. Quite simply, they matured, and don't have that hungry, "out-to-prove-something" air about them. And that's a good thing--the reason The W is such a success is precisely because they can't turn the clock back. On this CD, they've taken the bare-bones sound of their first album and infused it with the lessons they've learned over the years. The Clan's sound has been affected by the boundless energy Method Man seems to have coming off the success of Blackout, his collaboration with Redman, by RZA's greater experience and building tracks, and, generally speaking, by the maturity that each of the members has gained through doing work on their own. In a weird way, The W travels more ground than Wu-Tang Forever did. On that album, while they tried hard to have a huge sound, they at times ended up in a rut, with songs sounding too much like each other. Here they hit all sorts of territory. It actually helps that they've joined with a handful of guest stars. Though this fact has been commonly criticized as an attempt to piggyback on the success of others (as if the Wu-Tang Clan aren't a big-enough name to get by without the help of others), what it seems like on the record is the bringing in of even more new ideas. This is especially evident on the two tracks with reggae singer Junior Reid, which touch on new ground for the Wu. But even "Conditioner," a spliced-together track melding Snoop Dogg and a recorded-before-jail-time Old Dirty Bastard, comes off like an experiment, like the Wu's stab at lo-fi, home-taping hip-hop. The album also includes a few truly weird tracks, like "Careful (Click, Click)," a scary nursey rhyme accompanied by sonar tones. There's a handful of tracks, like "Hollow Bones," "Let My Niggas Live" (featuring Nas), "Jah World" (featuring Junior Reid) and, especially, the bizarre Isaac Hayes collaboration "I Can't Go to Sleep," that together form a treatise on modern-day life in urban America that depicts it as a living nightmare. Then there's two of the most accessible Wu singles yet, "Gravel Pit" and "Do You Really (Thang, Thang)." The fact is, every Wu-Tang Clan member is growing as an MC as the years go by. Everything they do might not turn to gold, but nearly everything the main members are doing is interesting. Put them all together again now, after they've each done their own things separately, and you get an entirely new dynamic, a mix of the dark and the bright, dense sonic architecture and light, catchy singles. Each Wu-Tang album stands alone, and this one's at least as good as any of the others.--dave heaton

Yo La Tengo, Danelectro EP (Matador)

The DanelectroEP consists of three instrumentals left over from the And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out sessions. They are quiet, acoustic guitar/acoustic bass/drums numbers. Each appears once in its original form, and then once remixed by one of today's more interesting sonic manipulators. All three use the originals as the clay but add their own personalities, and all three songs sound even more compelling in remixed form than as they were originally recorded. "Danelectro #1," a spooky one-minute bit, becomes a spacy hip-hop mood piece when handed over to Q-Unique of the Arsonists, and "Danelectro #3" gets free-jazz flourishes from Kit Clayton. But the most exciting is "Danelectro #1." A pretty, almost-ballad in its original form, it becomes a gorgeous, blissed-out epic with a fuzzy techno introduction in the hands of Nobukazu Takowura, a musician I'm not familiar with yet, but one who I plan to learn more about based on this track. Yo La Tengo have given their songs over to remixers before, and they always pick just the right people to do just the right things. That's what they've done here, and the result is a nice little diversion.--dave Heaton

note: some of dave heaton's reviews above appeared in somewhat different form on

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