FAUST – 71 Minutes of Faust (1989)

Review by: Ed Luo
Assigned by: Dominic Linde

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The title pretty much says it all: seventy-one minutes of Faust doing what they do best, making noisy, raucous jam/sound collage mixtures. This album is actually a compilation of two earlier LPs, Munic and Elsewhere and The Last LP, both albums consisting of outtakes and alternative versions from their tenure in the seventies, taking out one track of each. Even so, this is a fun album for Faust fans that showcases all the various random shit the band does, albeit possibly not an album for newcomers of their music. Personal highlights include ‘Munic/Yesterday’ which sounds like their take on the Soft Machine’s ‘We Did It Again’, the totally fuckin’ wacked-out synch-grunting jams ‘Don’t Take Boots’ and ‘25 Yellow Doors’, the sixties garage deconstruction ‘Baby’, and the extended version of ‘J’ai mal aux dents’ from The Faust Tapes.

VLADIMIR OIDUPAA – Divine Music from a Jail (1999)

Review by: Alex Alex
Assigned by: Ed Luo

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«Divine music from a Jail» is a collection of, I believe, folk and semi-folk Tuvian songs featuring the throat singing – which singing style, I was told, is typical for the people of Tuva. There are also some traditional Russian songs executed in that interesting Tuvian mannerism.

More shit from Tuva. But, I can’t really say that and thus the marketing team has fooled me from the start. Feebly, I defend myself by changing the album title to “Divine. Music from a Jail” bringing up a John Waters reference but the marketing team is, I’m sure, consists of the native Tuvians and their American or other such capitalistic boss will ignore my unexpected and inapplicable erudition.

We had albums like that before, when the world was larger. In my country, we had Tom Waits because who the hell needs lyrics when everything is so divinely illuminated. As the time progresses, and if you pay for your English classes you are able to enjoy Tiger Lillies using the imaginable “lyrics on/off” button. After a while things become clearer in the same way as a little girl learns from her mother how to bake a birthday cake.

Same as with the birthday cake we soon realize that the in-house resources are scarce. And, after all, you can not really make a birthday cake for yourself unless you are in a horror movie. So we use the resources “reasonably” applying substitutes where possible since we actually know that the results are, anyway, guaranteed.

The results are the birthday of Satan. But before he arises, before that we will be having a nice divine birthday cake – this time from Tuva because, you know, there are jails in Tuva and because, you know, although here it’s mostly criminals we put in jails, but surely in Tuva they never admit you to their divine jail unless you are a bespectacled poet/lyricist and, surely, this is because “the regime” “out there” is so harsh.

Uh-huh. Those are not jails those are tourists traps, the inverted Potemkin villages. I am not buying this record. Not even illegally downloading it. There’s no regime. There’s no Tuva. There’s no divination. The Internet is not working since I forgot to pay for it.

REGINALDO ROSSI – Mon Amour, Meu Bem, Ma Femme (2012)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Victor Guimarães  

 

So as this record showcased here is a little outside my boundaries, this review’s going a be a tad short. Reginaldo Rossi was known in Brazil as the “king of Brega” – a style of Brazilian popular music characterized by a sense of melodramatic flair in the singing and its particular appeal to the lower-class population. This compilation album, which presumably covers Rossi’s most well-known songs (most of them released in the 1980s), is a nice collection of assorted three-to-four minute mini-dramas, mostly of the romantic nature guessing by some of the song titles. Musically speaking the songs vaguely remind me of early-to-mid 1960s European mainstream pop, with rock-style instrumentation, occasional orchestration and a singer in the forefront giving their all. I don’t feel I’m exactly qualified to choose any highlights, but the title track (coincidentally the earliest song in this album, released in 1972) seems like a prime example of this sort of music.

XIU XIU – Fabulous Muscles (2004)

Review by: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
Album assigned by: Ed Luo 

 

Fabulous Muscles might start off innocuously enough, with a bumbling 8-bit circus rhythm and a vague, softly spoken intro, but it doesn’t take long for things to ratchet up a gear and  the listener to find him or herself subject to the first opening barrage of histrionics and to experience the album’s prevailing mood of uncompromising psychic honesty. FM is a paen to emotional incontinence and tormented self-expression, a sort of musical approximation to the effects of primal scream therapy — or else you could also quite easily just dismiss it as one massive grown up tantrum set to precarious, ugly music. It’s supposed to sound prickly and erratic, and you’re supposed to feel like a voyeur for listening into something that sounds so vulnerable, so intimate: all of it pouring out straight from the Xiu Xiu dude’s tortured little soul, pure and unmediated; and uncompromising too, refusing to make concessions to the  more conventional listener’s conventional musical expectations. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy into all that.

Xiu Xiu have been called noise, except that I always feel that with a noise artist like Merzbow the idea is to effect a kind of pure self effacement, to privilege sound above everything, whereas FM, is about employing harsh, dissonant music and awkward, distressed vocals, as a means primarily of manifesting an overwhelming inner turmoil. Interestingly enough Xiu Xiu seem to be at their most effective when they write actual songs. A case in point is ‘I love the valley OH’, which is by far my highlight of the album. It’s a song which I found myself returning to over and over again, both because it has a great hook and because of its emotional resonance. In the end though the problem with FM is that unless you have one of two extreme reactions to FM — either that of rejecting it straight off the bat because it makes you feel too queasy, or that of feeling yourself completely in tune with Xiu Xiu, a kindred at the level of your twitchy jangling nerves — then it makes you feel as if you’re missing out on something. Nevertheless it’s a worthy enough attempt. (7/10)

PANIC! AT THE DISCO – Pretty. Odd. (2008)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Eric Pember

So I remember people talking about this album when it first came out, and me being the snubby anti-mainstream music listener I was back at the time, refused to give it any light of day, thinking it was going to be inferior to any 1960s music that I had been obsessively been listening to. And now, after some adjustment in attitude and occasional goading and eventual assignment from my SO, I can now say that I can definitely appreciate what Panic! at the Disco, or more precisely then-guitarist Ryan Ross, were going for. In one of the most peculiar genre shifts in recent years, Panic! at the Disco, who were one of the handful of successful emo-pop bands in the mid-2000s, made a near-180° shift to 1960s-influenced pop music, with an aspiration to make music akin to the 1967-era Beatles, complete with orchestral arrangements and psychedelic sonic effects. And I’ll have to admit, it almost works.

Almost. The main sticking point is that bandleader Brendon Urie’s vocals do not fit the music at all. The whiny punkish timbre which was retained from the band’s earlier music just sounds really out-of-place betwixt the strings and horns. Ross, who composed the majority of music, gets to sing lead in parts of “Behind the Sea”, “She Had the World”, and “Mad as Rabbits”, and his voice complements the music much better.

The second point is that the songwriting is just not quite up to par. There are some admittedly nice moments, like the retro-garagey riff on “She’s a Handsome Woman” and the pretty Mellotron-led introduction of “The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know”, but I think my problem is that the melodies are, ironically, not 1960s-esque enough. It feels that despite the baroque/vaudeville stylistics, the musical skeletons are still a little too 2000s pop-punk (although that could be just Urie’s vocals distracting me so much), so it all just kinda cancels out on each other. It’s psychedelic in form, but only partially there in spirit, definitely not on the level of Psonic Psunspot, hell, not even on the level of Congratulations.

Still, I do appreciate Pretty. Odd.’s existence overall and the band’s attempt to go against the grain of their image and try something radically different. Being the obstinate psychedelia/art rock fanatic that I am, I wouldn’t mind to see more out-of-left-field 1960s psych-loving music out there, amidst the 1980s nostalgia that’s been currently going on. Also this review’s probably the longest one I’ve written so far, so thanks for that, Eric 😛

P.S. The music video for “Nine in the Afternoon” is possibly worth seeing, if only for the over-the-top (faux-)1960s oddness of it all.

ALIEN KIDS – Alien Rap: Songs About Life on the Planet Glumph (2007)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Ed Luo

This rap album is targeted at the (small but growing) boyscout segment of the youth market for rap and dance music. This is pretty obvious when you hear the songs:

the lyrics contain all sorts of practical advice and useful information
 the voice is easy to understand, no distracting accent, no interference by sound effects, etc.
 on the whole, there are no explicit lyrics; it’s all very civilised.

The epic “Alien Schools (How Alien Kids Develop Super Brains)” has a great singalong chorus that’s bound to get those kiddies shaking their hips. The 8 and a half minutes are over before you realize it even as the tension slowly builds up to climax around the 8 minute mark. Now that is one song this middle aged man kept on ‘repeat’ for an hour! The Alien Kids sure found their niche and they may be onto something here.

But, alas, there are a few problems. First, although the cd was released in 2008, the music feels, surprisingly, a little outdated. The rhythm box is programmed somewhat simple and the melodies, although repetitive and simple as required, still seem to lack a certain spark. Second, the singer uses a technique that, notwithstanding the spectacular virtuosity and general musicality, just ever so slightly starts to grate a little after a while.

Now obviously, this is my strictly personal observation. At children’s’ parties this is bound to be very successful. Also, I have to remind you that this is party music, to be used to get people on the dancefloor, whereas I listened concentratedly to the whole cd twice in a row, only to finish with the epic “Alien Schools” on ‘repeat’ for an hour. There is a slight chance that that’s asking a little too much.

Not knowing the rest, if anything, of their work, I can only urge you to listen and find out if this particular album is something for you. I know it changed my life…

JEAN MICHEL JARRE – Équinoxe (1978)

Review by: Ed Luo
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

The second of French composer Jean Michel Jarre’s string of progressive electronic albums that gained him mainstream success in the late 1970s, after 1976’s Oxygène. I really liked Oxygène when I first listened to it a couple months back, and Équinoxe is a fine follow-up to that. The composition throughout stays at a moderately uptempo pace, with the dynamics and different themes shifting consistently so it doesn’t become too monotonous while still keeping you in a trance.

And then it ends with a bit of what sounds like street organ music, which is a hoot.

Anyways, if you’re a fan of other progressive electronic composers like Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and the like, listening to Équinoxe (and Oxygène) is well worth your time.