reviews january 2001

Marianne Nowottny, Jesus-in-a-Jiffy (Abaton Book Company) 7"

On the one hand, the Nativity set to inappropriate music in a speedy four minutes. On the other, Tom Waits with Patti Smith's voice as a 16-year-old girl with a piano and plenty to say. Easily the record of the year so far.

[This review originally appeared in Sleazenation]

Ohm, Ohm (Molar) 10"

Psychiatrists use the repetition and gentle metronomic beat of what might loosely be termed techno to wean people off all sorts of irrationalities by first relaxing them and then slipping a trojan horse into their subconscious. Ohm are clearly on the same wavelength as the medicos and their insistent and relentless slow techno, powered by a bass line last heard under a zimmer frame chase scene, quickly knocks the edge off your awareness. But having got inside your head the Austrian duo seem to lack a message and decide to spread confusion instead by ending with the words "the operator just can't understand your helium voice."

Barbed, Pocket Reminders (Elevator Bath) 7"

Helicopter blades at high revs obscured by the dying breaths of a Moog being trampled by an elephant and the strains of a once-fresh Kraftwerk melody. These are a few of my favourite things. Or else they're the hooks in the debut 7-inch for Barbed, a slice of vinyl that would be described by the art fraternity as audio collage (probably in italics) but by the rest of us as budget gabba.

[This review originally appeared in Sleazenation]

Various, Brutal Police Menace (Broklyn Beats) CD

Exhibit A, the title, suggested this was never going to be Sting's new album. It isn't. It's a big fuck off to the NYPD. Garth Vader abuses the Force with his Pig Pop, a slab of skunk strength jungle dub featuring Ice T exhorting an officer to fellate the organ he uses to penetrate his mom. Mike Ladd, aka The Infesticons, lays into the doughnut munching fat boys with a granite-hard hip hop tirade of distortion and disorientation with Star Trek on the telly in the background and Jack Clang delivers a minimal treatise on the nature of plastic bullets while a madman lamps seven shades out of a rusty pipe and his two-fingered mate plays the keyboards. Very quickly. Best, though, is Welmo Romero and Splice's savage Si A Plomo Vives where latin and hip hop ram raid drum'n'bass and roar off with tyres squealing.

Centro-Matic, All The Falsest Hearts Can Try (Munich) CD

"Captivate the audience just one, show 'em how it's done" drawls Will Johnson a la Neil Young. His petulant band disobey and lazily repeat the pulling of slow-motion fuzz guitar stunts a la Guided by Voices until their spring winds completely down. Re-charged, they follow up with the is-it-or-isn't-it (about his cock) Magic Cyclops gunning for Husker Du's land speed record. Elsewhere Johnson squeezes stones until blood pours out and spins in lazy circles whilst casually belittling the careers of Big Star and Pavement simultaneously. All the falsest hearts can try, but only the true ones succeed.

[This review originally appeared in Sleazenation]

Alphastone, Life's a Motorway (Enraptured) CD

It's a tenuous analogy to pursue past the daily grind vs supposedly rapid automobile transport but you won't be thinking about it much when the soundtrack encases your head in concrete. Alphastone sound like Spaceman 3 after a good thrashing from Percy Thrower's shears. No surprise; the backbone of the band is Pete Bassman (ex of the 3) and its his patrolling bass lines that power the Alphastone vehicle. Where siblings Spiritualised have graduated to corporate jets as their sound complicates, Alphastone constantly strip back to the core. Think jacknife, daydream, tunnel vision, repressed anger, repetition and the constant hum of rubber on asphalt. Maybe their life is like a motorway.

[This review originally appeared at]

DJ Food, Quadraplex (Ninja Tune) 12"

When a previously trustworthy band like DJ Food start on about 'concepts,' 'pieces' and 'movements' or describe their new record as a "suite [..] made from the sounds of glass being blown, tapped and rubbed" you fear an imminent head-up-own-arse warning siren and a frenzied sprint to the nearest anti-pretention shelter. Fortunately for us, crunching beats and electronic cut-ups appear to qualify (probably something to do with the high silicon content of the machinery) and so disaster is averted and DJ Food have another smash. (Boom Boom)

[This review originally appeared at]

Joel RL Phelps & The Downer Trio, Inland Empires (12XU) CD

Joel Phelps carries a bin bag around with him at all times. He's not a nutter, it's for the soaking handkerchiefs. Six cover songs and one original on this mini album are delivered resolutely soft and low from a dark and lonely place. Country music cult Townes van Zandt's Our Mother the Mountain sees Phelps eulogising woman over a country-folk melody while the Go-Between's Apology Accepted is just controlled distress. Phelps needs to know whether he's going to get a second chance, his voice fracturing so that it's J Mascis fronting his poppiest band to date, and sounding good.

Montana Pete, Cosworth (Alpha Relish) 7"

With just 3 singles to their name in 7 years, Montana Pete are not exactly prolific. But with this degree of rationing they make every inch of vinyl count, pushing the intensity meter into the red and honing all tracks to the bare minimum necessary to get the message across. On Cosworth, the message is that a pound-shop Fugazi (next to the Spanish shampoo that looks like Head & Shoulders) wrestling athletic snakes in a muddy labyrinth, with all the tinny feints, bursts of noise butted by feedback squeal and right angle turns that entails, can sound pretty good. PO Box 24356, London, SW17 9FE

[This review originally appeared at]

Skitz, Domestic Science (Ronin) 12"

Salt'n'Pepa were once, before they dived headlong into the mainstream, considerably better than their pop legacy suggests. They were NEVER, however, a patch on this single cut (although My Mic Sounds Nice is still class) produced by Skitz to showcase the waspish lyrical talents of Wildflower, Estelle and Tempa, three lady MCs with no points to prove but plenty to make. The beats are rock hard with a juddering bass foundation and all cutting correct and if that's not enough, the b-side pits Phi Life Cypher against a reggae beatdown.

[This review originally appeared at]

Outkast, B.O.B (LaFace) CDS

Who Let The Dogs Out is an over-egged pudding of a single. B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad) operates in the same (methylated) spirit but throws in a few decapitated chickens, beefier beats, a pig of a rhythm and the clarity of an undredged duck pond. A bit of a hip hop barnyard, but strangely raw with it.

Pilote, 3 to the Floor (Certificate 18) CD

Two wrongs don't make a right but straightness can be the result of multiple layers of irony. Pilote is known for his fractious cut-ups and streams of gangly electronics not particularly danceable in any usual sense of the word. Hence the title, 3 to the Floor, and its implication that only Jake the Peg could really groove to this (although you have to wonder about that, given Rolf's recent techno turn) with any degree of success. Punning on the cliched 4's: irony level one achieved, Captain. Level two is hot on its heels, too, as we find that while not exactly pumping handbag choons, the 6 tracks herein are undoubtedly worth making like Bill and Ben for. Getting Down even seems to anticipate this eventuality, making it more likely to happen by pulling a simple break and slow melody trick to perfection. Simple repeats the sleight of hand with piano and a heart-rate monitor bleep. Sirconical and Bonobo round things off with slightly bendier remixes but this is all about the (lethargic, admittedly) dancefloor.

[This review originally appeared at]

The Avalanches, A Different Feeling (Rex) 2x10"

Did Disco ever die? Not down-under, if the Avalanches are anything to go by. This double pack, 4 track treat showcases the Antipodean six-piece's love of the off-kilter filter and even more, the swinging, 4-to-the-floor beat that somehow absorbs the grab-bag of samples they see fit to stuff into its gaps. Daft punk if they really were daft. Or punks.

Donna Dee, Lurvin U (Clockwork) 12"

It's hard to dispute the name when the Genius Crew turn in as sensational a remix as they do here. Mind you, EZ Rollers stick the boot in too with a hyperkinetic shuffle and claw-hand double bass. The original is not present but its garage-plus-guitars is probably closer to the Genius Crew's subtle twists on an already tired blueprint than the slamming EZ mix.

Icebreaker International, Port of Yokohama (It) CDS

Apparently recorded while on a Chay Blyth pilgrimmage, schlepping around the world in a boat. And you can see how this might've been recorded in a dark room with only a small porthole onto the endless, placid Pacific for relief. Lying just offshore of Kraftwerk's regular undulation lullabies and somewhat further south of ATB's pop house it's at an odd location, but also oddly relaxing.

Rae & Christian with Bobby Womack, Get A Life (!K7) 12"

The man has a gravel voice and honey delivery and the boys have the beats at their fingertips. Together, especially when the hip hop ante is upped on b-side Wake Up Everybody, it’s a recipe for modern soul music that craps all over the diluted, identikit soulless music currently masquerading as the real deal. It's the difference between chocolate flavour and chocolate flavoured.

Fish From Tahiti, Sing Earhats (Sorted) 7"

They don't just sing earhats, these fishermen, they wear them. At least, my copy of the record has a couple of lughole-sized origami hats dropped into the sleeve. I tried them on but all the people I passed in Tescos laughed at me. If the band are wearing theirs, they're not just fish from Tahiti, they're fish out of water..

Yes, the undersea world Fish From Tahiti would like to inhabit would be one in which there was widespread appreciation for bands who snatch a couple of loops (one jazz riff, one garble) and run them together with the occasional raygun break, for two minutes. Think of the late, lamented John Sims or follow-up Discordia with little time. It's probably harder to sound this simple than I think it is. Probably. The b-side, Zazou is in the Garden, betrays more evidence of hard work. A simple breakbeat and accordian drones bulk out the English half of a crackly Linguaphone record, edited for killer effect on the closing couplet which proves that the old 'uns are the best: "Can you give me something for diarrhoea? I'd like a laxative, and some cotton wool." That should do it. PO Box 5922, Leicester, LE1 6XU

San Lorenzo, Sports Biscuits (Bearos) 7"

I'm not saying that things are getting predictable but.. if the railways ran to the kind of schedule that post-rock records adhere so rigidly to, there'd be fewer unhappy commuters, and probably more happy adolescents to boot. San Lorenzo have always reluctant to jump aboard the Mogwai Express to Crescendoville, and for this we applaud them. Sports Biscuits resolutely refuses to burst into anything other than a rash of extended tension broken only by the truly unexpected vocal break. To push the train metaphor, it's just the ticket.

Warser Gate/Electroscope, split (Octane Grammophon) 7"

I've lost touch with Warser Gate just recently. Musically this doesn't much matter (although personally, I wish I had more time for letter-writing, sorry Kevin) because the action is pretty much where it always was: troglodyte grindings of an awkward but strangely compelling variety. Serrated jags of icy guitar and its echoes shroud distant drums obviously played with great force and a man beats his chest. Intense. The Electroscope side I found rather unmemorable, which is disappointing.

Ellis Island Sound, #7 Goes East (Static Caravan) 7"

Beguiling wisps of snake charming flute and repetitious electro rattles interact for hypnotic emphasis. It could be Muslimgauze gone pop. Or possibly POP! Possibly a drunken Fridge having a knees-up with a set of bagpipes, a complicated effects pedal and a borrowed, and rather battered, sequencer. 29 Poplar Road, Dorridge, West Midlands, B93 8DD

: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact