erasing clouds

6 Music Reviews

Angil, Teaser For: Matter (Unique Records)

French singer-songwriter Angil, a.k.a. Michael Mottet, opens his album Teaser For: Matter with a song boldly titled "No More Guitars." He sings smoothly and enigmatically about free will over Kid A textures and after-hours jazz saxophone, until the songs a barrage of electric guitar. Enter Angil's palace of contradictions, where the intent is to continually surprise you, while keeping you hooked on the melodies and sentiments. "I've been abroad many times / but never moved at the same time," Mottet sings on "Beginning of the Fall," a track which contains one of the album's best moments, again using the 'hidden guitar' technique. A flute-accented, near-lounge music mood is harshly interrupted by a loud, bluesy electric guitar solo, and then turns back as if nothing happened. Teaser For: Matter delivers both really potent, textured folk-pop songs and an edge that's always threatening to break into the most comfortable scenes. With the exception of a few moments that sound like they're too manufactured as surprises to be authentically provactive, particularly the rap-jazz taunt "Sons of Benedicts", Teaser: For Matter is a compelling and complex album. - dave heaton

The Casting Couch, 5 Songs (self-released)

Much like those of fellow Texas residents Okkervil River, The Casting Couch's songs have an ancient ache and a rural-America patience that make it tempting to use the word "country", though that word doesn't tell the whole story, unless you think of country in terms of a feeling more than a genre. This 5-song EP is one of the most seductive introductions to a band that I've heard in a long time, filled as it is with endlessly engaging songs that have catchy melodies and a friendly demeanor, but also tap into authentic feelings of hurt. Singer Wendy Mitchell's voice trembles with sadness, and at the same time welcomes us like we're old friends. In terms both disarmingly personal and casually mythic, tapping into fairy tales and other shared stories, the lyrics forcefully, continually express the idea that life is a heartbreaker, and all we can do is reach for a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on. The lyrics phrase emotions we've all felt in new ways, while using well-constructed and beautifully played music to drive those feelings home in that unique way that only music can. - dave heaton

Owen, Masterpiece (Girl in a Box Records)

Masterpiece was billed by the lo-fi duo Owen as their "most ridiculous album yet" (they've released a few more since then, I'm not sure if that claim's been revised), and "ridiculous" is a fitting word. That's not because the music shouldn't be taken seriously. Instead, it is filled with atmosphere, melody, emotion, and above all creativity. No, this album is completely ridiculous because of how wildly it jumps back and forth across the musical map, because the two musicians (Zachary Carroll and Rev. Kenneth Martin) are so obviously letting the music go wherever they feel like, following whatever fleeting notion pops into their heads. In that way the music feels like an unplanned road trip, like 'Zachary and the Reverend see America'. Opening track "Stuart" has half-asleep harmonies that conjure up a Cali afternoon; the second track "South Sea" kicks off with the line "yesterday's crimes are behind me / I'm just living for today"; there's a song about riding a "Tijuana Trolley", one sung in an imaginary truck-driving bluesman's growl about pulling over to pee, and an album-closing one titled "Back Home in Missoula." The overall feeling on most of Masterpiece's ragged pop-rock songs is that of the brightest sunshine, but the pair also has a clear taste for absolute randomness. They sing in fake voices, talk in the background, mess around with drum machines, introduce track number 4 by saying "Track 10, Take 1", and record a track called "Helium" that's just them talking nonsense after ingesting helium. They like to mess with your expectations, taunt you to say "goddamn it, this is ridiculous!" That's great news for music fans sick of hearing band after band that tries so hard to find success that they end up sounding like every band you've ever heard. Owen are taking their own route, and that's special. - dave heaton

Radar Bros., The Fallen Leaf Pages (Merge)

The Fallen Leaf Pages, the fourth album from Radar Bros, is a simple, well-structured record, the thoughtful work of seasoned musicians. Though the musical components are few, the sparse quality of the songs is delicate and tasteful. The songs are carried by simple melodies in the vocals (a Pink Floyd / Flaming Lips feel) and guitars (single note leads that are minimal but expressive). Straightforward drums and bass provide a solid backing to these relaxed, sometimes lazy indie tunes. By lazy, I am not referring to craftsmanship, but to mood. There is a smooth confident quality in the music. Everything is tasteful and appropriate, never boring. Subtle unexpected shifts in chord progressions and vocal melodies keep it interesting. Some bare-bones synth work also adds texture to a few of the tracks, mostly as a blanket beneath the rest of the music. On “Like an Ant Floating in Milk,” some slow choppy strings enter in the verse that are appropriate but unsettling. The mood is creepy and a bit foreboding until the song breaks into a moment of clarity that is short but sweet. The song quickly returns to the creepy strings, then ends. Nice. Besides the smooth lazy songs, Radar Bros also create some serious head bobbers on this record. “Is That Blood” features a crunchy but distant guitar track during the chorus that chops along with the drums, making for inevitable head bobbing. Overall, a great record: relaxed, contemplative, and thoughtfully composed.-- brad amorosino

Slow Six, Private Times in Public Places (ITE Records)

The liner notes describe a "tension between structure and sentiment" as the driving force behind the three lengthy instrumental pieces which make up this CD. "Sentiment" emerges through the tender, melodic approach Slow Six take to experimental instrumental music. The opening track "This Is Your Last Chance (Before I Sleep)" has some especially lovely passages which exude feelings of both peace and concern, particularly those when a violin takes it place above the carefully meandering guitar and keyboard. "Evening Without Atonement" exemplifies an even more meditative frame of mind, though like the first track it occasionally moves forward with a sort of intense urgency, hinting towards a sense of discomfort underneath the generally soothing mood. "The Lines We Walked When We Walked Once Together" starts out on a quietly dissonant note, before mutating it into a more complicated sort of progressive lullaby or daydream, which alternatively marches, creeps and glides forward with notes that evoke both the sadness and awe of memory. – dave heaton

Tiny Idols: Transmissions From the Indie Underground, 1991-1995 (Snowglobe Records)

Tiny Idols is such a perfect name for compilation like this. Everything is relative, after all, and no matter how small a world you live in you always have heroes. This CD is a look at 20 bands that meant a whole lot to the people who heard them, yet whose names will draw blank stares from nearly everyone you know. "Transmissions From the Indie Underground, 1991-1995" is the subtitle for the project - you might scoff at the idea of anthologizing music from only 10 years ago, but how many have these bands are you familiar with? I'm familiar with about half, and a fan of two or three, but all of them sound good in this context; Tiny Idols comes off as a perfectly sequenced mix from a friend who's obsessive and passionate about the music he loves. Starting with Allen Clapp's gorgeous "Something Strange Happens" (off the excellent 100% Chance of Rain album) and ending with the eccentric mantra "We Will All Go Down Together", by Philistines Jr., Tiny Idols showcases wildly creative and emotional pop and rock music. Its compiler, Mark Griffey, has made room for all sorts of great musicians from that era: the Strapping Fieldhands, Bunnygrunt, Uncle Wiggly, R. Stevie Moore, Nothing Painted Blue. There's groups whose members went on to success with other bands (Sunhead was a precursor to Ladybug Transistor; Further begat Beachwood Sparks and the Tyde), and bands whose members haven't been heard from since. There's music from across the country - Tiny Idols demonstrates that good music comes from all over the country, not just the Coasts. More than that, it's an example of how creativity thrives when the musicians aren't concerned with commercial success. - dave heaton

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