An article by Jordan Volz
Simultaneously a dream weaver and quilt maker, Katsuhiko Maeda is a true genre buster and one of the leading faces in Japan's electronica scene. His third album, Dream's End Come True, is every bit as interesting as the first two, but the high experimental curve does begin to wear thin during this album. "Singing Under the Rainbow" is one of the most 'normal' tracks of his career, with near singing and dj'ed scratches giving it a mundane, every day sound. It's no surprise that Maeda is at his best when he sticks to the surreal. The twenty-five minute behemoth known as "All Imperfect Love Song" repeatedly throws the listener a curve ball, and it's ironic that this is when we're the most comfortable listening to Maeda's work. When he sticks to the bizarre, otherworldly funk, there's few who can compete in such unconventional waters.
Key Tracks: All Imperfect Love Song.
Paik's concoction of "psychedelic shoegaze" spills onto another album with The Orson Fader. After 2001's acclaimed Corridors, The Orson Fader presents a tighter sound that approaches the delicate at various instances. The trio still rocks some of the hardest instrumental tracks around, but a softer side emerges, sounding almost like Bardo Pond had it ever been sober. Ryan Pitt brings the timpani into the percussive spotlight on this album as well, which only adds to the ominous, massive sound that this album so perfectly encapsulates. With so many bands striving to capture the quintessential post-industrial sound of late, few have ever done it better than Paik, whose prominence is rarely demonstrated as clearly as it is on The Orson Fader.
Key Tracks :Ghost Ship; Orson Fader; Killing Windmills.
Hangedup has always had a distinct sound. A duo of viola and drums, its music takes on an unusual pairing, but it's not without its benefits. Genevieve Heistek plays a fiercer string instrument than many of her post-rock neighbors would dare, and Eric Craven's innovative percussion work more than makes up for the shortage of instruments present. Hangedup radiates a passion that is nearly uncharted for duos -- one that is as intent on being loud and rowdy like a full band as it is on respecting the strong relationship existing between the two instruments. At times Kicker in Tow finds itself aimlessly wandering about, but when the duo is on point it is quite attractive and near impossible to resist. Fortunately, the sophomore effort has more of the latter than the former, and silences the most cynical of critics.
Key Tracks: Kinetic Work; Losing Your Charm; Automatic Spark Control.
After smashing skulls in Boredoms for the better part of a decade, Seiichi Yamamoto felt a longing desire to express another side of his musical ambitions. And thus Rovo was born. While the band's music might sound like that of an electrified jam band, don't confuse its work with that of the Phish-fellating hippie clones hanging around at the local hemp factory. No, Flage is a very serious album, and shows the band exploring everything from psychedelia and jazz to electronica and space-rock. It all melts into wacked out sounds that lend themselves easily to free form compositions that lumber on long past the ten-minute mark. This is a band with no limitations, standing at the edge of the current musical trends and peering far into the horizon.
Key Tracks: Spica; Mov.
Sandro Perri's debut album is actually a compilation of previously recorded tracks appearing on various 12" records, with a few ambient segues gluing them together. From the onset it's apparent that the production from this technophile is hard to match. Over the years Perri's music has changed quite frequently, but the one thing that has remained constant has been his top-of-the-line production. After stitching together the four main tracks with his aquatic theme, Perri has helped us to notice a progression in the music from the minimal, dark ambient "Oarca" to the lively and spirited "Riva." And although he mainly works within an established sound on The Science of Breath, Perri has laid rather impressive groundwork for future projects and also demonstrated that he is a more than competent producer.
Key Tracks: Acqua; Rottura; Riva.
As the last full length released by Pele, Enemies is a good overview of the Wisconsin-based band's work. The trio always defied the norm by taking a no-nonsense approach to its craft, straying from the electronics that bolstered many of its peers and forcing itself to make the guitars speak the language all the more eloquently. What we get is a mix of lo-fi indie rock and free jazz, a sound that is comfortable coming from the Midwestern U.S., but in a style that is not well represented from the area. Still, within the first two tracks it's apparent that this band can play, and few can claim to function as tightly as these three gentlemen. The chemistry in the band is one of the drawing points here, which I suspect only made the live show all the more irresistible. Enemies does the band a great service, serving as a lasting memorial to its engaging style.
Described as the "Coolest Rulers in Scandinavia" by David Fricke, senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine, Norway's The Low Frequency in Stereo has been charming listeners with its lo-fi instrumental rock for the better part of the decade. The band's self-titled debut puts the fun in funky with a traditional rock mindset that reminds us that, first and foremost, rock music should be entertaining and enjoyable. Tracks like "Die Electro Voice" and "Space Echo" shed the pretense and get straight to the point, rocking it old school style. The band's instrumental rock might sound as if it would be perfectly suited for some vocals, and years down the road the quartet would do just that. Still, this album is no less memorable without them.
Key Tracks: Die Electro Voice; Space Echo; Low Frequency.
As a man working with a guitar and computer, and focusing his attention on the digital processing of drones and textures, Christopher Willits will inevitably appeal to fans of Austrian artist Christian Fennesz. His electroacoustic approach is more distilled than that of his contemporaries, and often decays away from his glitchy electronic tendencies into fully fledged microsound experiments. However, many tracks, such as "Pentagonal," still retain a very melodic essence and thus Folding, and the Tea is accessible across despite traversing many different fields of music. This is a larger accomplishment than it might initially appear. In a style where it's difficult to maintain a balance between experimentation and enjoyment, and even more difficult to stand out, Willits succeeds in doing both and secures his spot amongst some very good company.
Key Tracks: Scrims; Pentagonal; Fold, Refold, Folding Again.
Some Things Plural is quite the twist from The Roots of Orchis, who evolved from a pretty standard guitar-based instrumental act to a free-wheeling jazz act with DJ support. The combination almost sounds too bizarre to work, but The Roots of Orchis' task is to make it all sound convincing, which is accomplished with great success. It's not everyday that someone brings a fresh idea to the table, and The Roots of Orchis is working overtime in the ideas department, at times almost sounding like the next progression in Tortoise's work. Opener "Roll the Dice Man, Baby Needs a New Ellipsis" sets the mood of the album, which subsequently proceeds to explore this newly defined hybrid of instrumentation and doesn't stop the addictive grooves until the last seconds of "City Like." Some Things Plural is an accomplished work and a rarity of style in the instrumental world.
If The Mercury Program and Japancakes ever combined to form a pedal steel loving, vibraphone worshiping supergroup, it might sound something like Hylozoists. Formed by Paul Aucoin and eventually tapping some high-profile Canadian musicians for the project, Hylozoists initially started as a much smaller project. Although the band inevitably got tagged with the 'supergroup' status, the humbler debut is no less majestic than its successor as it furnishes some of the country's freshest instrumental work in a decade. The album is on the short side, but doesn't waste any time with pleasantries, instead plunging straight into a melange of instruments and high intensity vibraphone rock. Most would probably never realize that vibraphones can make so much noise before putting on La Nouvelle Gauche, but those who do will never look at the instruments the same way again.
Key Tracks: The Hylozoists; The Crippled Giant; Le Jazz Libre.