reviews august 2001

Various, Ladyfest 2001 (Youth Club Tape Club) 7"

If you're reading this before August 23rd you'll be in time to experience the Ladyfest tour in the flesh - so to speak. If not, this Kill Rock Stars showcase will only be available to you on 7" vinyl. Sarah Dougher's Must Believe is Michelle Stipe fronting REM as a frolicking indie-surf band. The Gossip dig into swampland for a dirty riff and slime their way through Sweet Baby and Bangs' Trainwreck is garage trash and lovely melody. Did somebody say Girl Power Pop? Tour dates and more from Get the single from PO Box 311, Oxford, OX1 4HP

Moon, Demo (not finished) / Moon Rae, Flightcase for the Jagmaster both CDR

A right pair of lunatics these. Why would anyone think the world needs another space-experimental band? Why would anyone think the world needs another 20 tracks of bedroom-fi shambling, even if the songs are credited to a B. Wilson?

Who knows? Let's be honest, nobody needs this music. But who needs any music? (We'll excuse Bjork this question as she's clearly further gone than either of these two bands will ever be, recently suggesting that music was as crucial to existence as sleep..) Moon's cosmic waves are a mixture of organic and artificial. On the encouraging opener, a sampled disco funk loop butts up to a blast of soundtrack and the noise a Moog makes as it slowly dies during an electric storm. After this the band flap around aimlessly in the musical mire until stumbling across an outcrop of firm ground where they plant down a distorted relative of My Bloody Valentine's fuzz bulked up with power-lifting chemicals and a slice of deconstructed acid techno action that slowly coalesces but never quite makes the finished article. They are not as mad as they might appear. Neither is B. Wilson (Brendan? Bill? Bruce? Barry?), but 20 tracks from his scraggly indie selection box are too much in one go. It's occasionally brilliant and sometimes touching, but is essentially a song sketchbook rather than an old master.

Time Magnified, Man Troi Sound Department (Post Office) CD

If Rolf Harris' didgeridoo ever got some time off from endless recitations of Tie Me Kangeroo Down, Sport, Waltzing Matilda and half-arsed, but strangely popular, pop-techno records inspired by weathermen it would probably - in an entirely understandable attempt to establish artistic credibility - disappear up its own blow hole and make a concept album. If it chose to be pretentious around the theme of a dreamtime flight across the outback accompanied by a ghostly aboriginal guide the record would consist of unfeasibly long drones and passages of echo chamber-amplified night time silence interrupted by the horrible klaxon howls of an unsatisfied society crammed into a too-small city and constantly deafened by the machinistic rattles of industry running at full speed to make loads of crap nobody really wants or needs. If the didgeridoo sent a demo of its work to Post Office records in Wales it would be sent straight back with a stiffly-worded letter from the label's lawyer on the subject of plagiarism and a copy of Time Magnified's CD.

Bablicon, The Cat That Was A Dog, A Flat Inside A Fog (Pickled Egg) CD

Is it my imagination or is Bablicon's approach on this new record a lot more considered? Where previously it seemed like they couldn't stuff enough manic freneticy into a tune, here they've leaned right back for a different perspective on the jazz improvisation theme. On In A Different City, the debut album, they played like men trying to force a livid racoon into a smelly sack but now the animal is a compliant sloth and the sack a deluxe and fragrant sleeping bag. Less the vibe of spontaneous composition this time around and instead the buzz that comes from the refinement of ideas created by a group mind. Still jazz, still far-out and still intoxicating but very much a record for horizontal rather than vertical appreciation.

Monsoon Bassoon/ Defeat The Young/ The Naysayer, Summer 2001 (day Release) CD

The latest instalment of day Release's splendidly inclusive singles club. A disc each from the three bands, bundled up in a bespoke box that almost certainly matches the previous set. (I would confirm this but stick anything on the deck round here and it disappears. But to business..) Monsoon Bassoon offer up a blast of their patented blueprint of acid-powered sax abuse and corrugated rock. It's Morphine trying some rather less stuporific narcotics. On God Bless The Monsoon Bassoon they reprise the Cardiacs-folk of Sidi Bou Said who I hear have recently reformed - good news on both counts. Defeat The Young, worryingly, start off sounding like a slightly crapper version of Mark Hibbett, himself a Billy Bragg for the East Midlands with poor puns. Fortunately, things improve to the point where Syd Barrett is obviously an inspiration and Devo and Sparks add a dash of quirk along the way. For The Naysayer, see that geeky K Records collegiate half-jangle that only Americans can really pull off. Lo-fi and lady-fronted, it's never as shambolic, or appealing, as, say, By Coastal Café - but it easily could be

Frz/ Blue Baboon/ Etereo Expandeum Club, Machine That Also Let You Draw (Vacuum) CD

Across half-a-dozen tracks, these French computer scientists hunch their shoulders over complicated-looking equipment and tease out bitstream burbles to augment the quiet gloom that would otherwise surround them. On Slalome they weave somnambulist paths around a breakbeat and the rhythm gives a cohesion that's absent on the other more abstract experiments. Cheetah Chrome (a tribute to the one-time Dead Boy?) is the midpoint on the scale. It has a beat - a double pulse that stops and starts, fades in and disappears - while factory automata go about their robotic business and Kraftwerk ringtones are constantly triggered on the shop steward's mobile phone.

Various, Smoke: New Sounds From Scotland (Press Hat & Cigar) CD

Half of this is various strains of yer common-or-garden indie/rock. And thus not new. At all. But from Scotland. One assumes.

The title does better by the other half, with the likes of Pulsar dreaming of Suicide but ending up with Fozzy Bear and layered casios; Ives pushing the atmospheric techno buttons and sounding like a small pianist in the hold of a large cargo vessel accompanied by distant welders and the ever-reliable My Legendary Girlfriend whose Eugene's New Gene is something Hefner forgot to record. The Squander Pilots tread a fine line between trip hop and coffee shop and Lapsus Linguae prove that there is life in the old dog yet, squeezing the balls of guitar pop until it sounds like the Cardiacs.

Stars On The Water, Receiving Wisdom is No Wisdom At All CDR

If I was to say that they'd matured a bit, you wouldn't think I meant Stars On The Water had turned into Stars On The Ocean Colour Scene would you? Since the (relatively) excitable and noisy days of Lazer Guided, these folks have lifted their gaze from the floor and discovered that a world exists beyond their fringes. A world where quieter is allowed and where roominess, gentility and guitars without distortion are considered acceptable. And with this revelation came self-awareness and better songs, and depth and a new sound, the sound of complex and clean post-rock, hints of Syd Barrett and odd 60's harmony. Stars On The Water are older and wiser and wisdom, from whatever source, is still wisdom.

Ronsons, Mercury EP (Interference) CDS

Head straight for Everlast, a funk flick prowler with heavy-breathing commentary. The Family of God, if they lived in Leicester. PO Box 6328, London N2 0UN

Various, Jonson Family Records (Jonson Family) CDR

Mostly sold-out now, the label's single output so far is collected here as a promo appetiser for the forthcoming 12-band gatefold double 7".Stanton's opener rids Nirvana of Kurt's neuroses but none of the edge; Stef Giaccone moves Lambchop to the heart of Europe and Lapsus Linguae give Tom Waits some Lockets, a spring clean and extra Brechtian pomp on the one hand and stick the Cardiacs boot in on the other. Maquiladora provide an alloy of ticking beatbox and Spaceman spaciness while the debut release - again from Stanton - is a blast of US College quirk and Cable bendiness (think Devo with more guitars)on the subject of smart dress. Ma Jonson must have catholic tastes.

Buckfunk 3000, Jump (Fuel) 12"

Shape-shifting bass larded by Buckfunk like boiled onions onto a fairground hot dog. Twisted vocoderised vox and a tasty break at speed make this one of those records that makes you think you can look as smooth as LL Cool J used to just by straightening your fingers and waving your arms about awkwardly.

Freestylers, Get Down Massive (Freskanova) 12"

A double-edged sword, the remix. Yeah, sure, it shows your eminent good taste and the depth and exclusivity of your social circle - or the depth of your record company's pockets - but it can also show up your original track for the lazy, stunted cack-handed piece of formulaic crapola that it really is. Now, while the Freestylers haven't quite hit that low here, their decent cut is wildly outshone by Trick Or Treat's two-step reworking that is somehow both ruffer and more soulful without wasting a syllable of Navigator's gruff chat.

Marshall Star, Any Second Now (Fluffy) CDS

Three great new tracks from Marshall Star and a couple of old ones remixed. Once again you get the impression that the band started off with a shiny dance/pop song and somehow contrived to fuck it up with huge bass lunges and raw-assed beats. Imagine Gwen Guthrie's Ain't Nothing Goin' On But The Rent run over by an 18-wheeler and you're about there. In another life one half of the Star was in John Moore's Expressway. It's hard to claim there's always been a dance element to the music with that kind of background, but it might explain the dysfunctionality.

Ciccone, Forget Your False Mess'iahs/ Pushaun, Va Va Voom (Bluefire) both CDS

Leggit, It's the Rozzers! Surely a phrase that hasn't been uttered in anger since The Children's Film Foundation stopped making godawful summer holiday television fodder in the 1970s. It features heavily in the lead track from Ciccone's debut but Leggit, It's Bis Again! would be closer to the mark, if a touch unfair. If you like your shouty cartoon beatbox punkas ragged around the edges then it'll do nicely.

Pushaun's Va Va Voom is chiefly notable for the tremendous Elastica-ted intro, all disinterested drawl and trash riffage. It is less notable for the interminable length and sub-Numan chorus but returns to notability by ripping off all that is good about the excellent Johnny Domino on a track called Cow.

Dummycrusher, Not Noise = Not Music CDR

A lesson in logic for Dummycrusher: not A = not B does not imply A = B. That is, even if anything that isn't noise also isn't music, it does not follow that just because something is noise that it is also music. Unaware of this, you imagine, Dummycrusher proceed to squeeze hip hop and drum'n'bass through a rusty mincer, tossing in a few amphetamines, a few recognisable samples and some kid 606-baiting. Nothing wildly new but certainly worth a lot more than a passing look if you're this way inclined.

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