Angels of Light - How I Loved You
Baretta - Velvet Brick
Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade - Live Frogs Set 1
Destroyer 666 - Phoenix Rising
Diesto - Outland
Emperor - Emperial Live Ceremony
Fuck on the Beach - Endless Summer
Gandalf - Rock Hell
Hog Molly - Kung Fu Cocktail Grip
H.P.P. - Hard Pounding Percussion
Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows
Mark Lanegan - Field Songs
Murder Squad - Unsane, Insane and Mentally Deranged
Nebula - Charged
ohGr - Welt
Peccatum - Strangling from Within
Pigface - The Best of Pigface
Red House Painters - Old Ramon
Seafood - Surviving the Quiet
Silo - Alloy
S.I.N.A. - Snapshot
Sister Machine Gun - 6.0

[ mark lanegan - field songs ]
Mark Lanegan
Field Songs
Sub Pop

Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan's life and music is chockful of many ghosts, but the one wedged in the opening cracks of "One Way Street" I know personally. Inside and near the bottom of the middle escalator that descends from the corner of West 181st Street and Fort Washington into the grimy depths of New York's subway system lives, or used to, a poltergeist whose dismayed screeching I thought I was the only one who heard, and whose caterwauling I thought had stolen the last remnants of my sanity. I first heard the voice one morning early last summer on my way down to catch the A train. I've had my share of pharmaceutical indulgences and I've had both auditory and visual hallucinations aplenty, but this sound, when first heard, seemed to emanate directly from the center of my skull as I slid past on the escalator. I panicked and stopped in a cold sweat, heart pounding, and looked around. Why had no one else heard that but me? This was, honestly, one of only two times in my life where I've stopped dead into my tracks, scared completely shitless, thinking, "I've really done it, I've really gone mad. Absolutely mad. This is it. Oh, fuck!"

Once the sound had fled my head and I'd located it as coming from somewhere inside the bottom portion of that middle escalator, the ghost didn't stay around very long...a few days perhaps. And so I'm not surprised then to find it almost a year later lingering like cigarette smoke in the first moments of "One Way Street," the leading song off of Lanegan's fifth solo release, Field Songs. When the sun dries up each night, Lanegan's adopted home of Los Angeles has always been a harbor for dark shadows, and Lanegan himself has always known how to take those inner turmoils and, with them, create hauntingly beautiful pieces that linger on long after the sound has passed.

Joined, as always, on guitar by his brother-in-arms Mike Johnson, with additional drum and bass duties courtesy Barrett Martin (who played with Lanegan in the Screaming Trees--R.I.P.) and Ben Shepherd, respectively, Field Songs is Lanegan's most fully realized release to date. Taking the transcendental shudder of Whiskey for the Holy Ghost with tracks like "One Way Street," the quiet serenade of Scraps at Midnight ("Pin Hill Serenade"), and the folk-tinged influences of I'll Take Care of You ("Don't Forget Me"), Field Songs creates a bittersweet elixir of naked honesty. Here we find the gentle roll of "Kimiko's Dream House," co-written by close friend Jeffrey Lee Pierce (Gun Club) who died in 1996 from persistent health problems before the two had the chance to record; the achingly sad "She Done Too Much" ("Got so sad today, she done too much / Although I had the same, she done too much / And it's a bad, bad feeling that you get when you get so alone"); and the album's closer, "Fix," a slow burning blues raga that, behind Lanegan's gruff vocals, finds the distorted howl of the same ghost that began Field Songs.

Lanegan, now looking like a fit, much younger Tom Waits, has always given us salvation through his suffering. Here at last with Field Songs, it looks as if he's mastered his own demons and found his own redemption by turning the specters of his poisons into sacred wine. "Oh, the glorious sound of the one way street / and you can't get it down without crying."

-Craig Young
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[ murder squad - unsane, insane andmentally deranged ]
Murder Squad
Unsane, Insane and Mentally Deranged
Pavement Music
Murder Squad play a rather quirky, deranged, mid-tempo death metal that is obsessed with serial killers and violence. Don't get me wrong, this is not goregrind or super brutal death metal. The lyrics and their intentions may be brutal, but their metal is mid-tempo, semi-raw death metal. Murder Squad is comprised of former members from a lot of bands--most notably Unanimated, Merciless, Regurgitate, Entombed, Loud Pipes, and Dismember. This stands to reason since it sounds an awful lot like a mix between Malevolent Creation, Entombed and Dismember. It has some vaguely melodic elements à la Left Hand Path era Entombed, but those moments are few and far between.

Unsane, Insane and Mentally Deranged won't set the world afire, but it may spontaneously combust just for the hell of it. The pounding, punishing drums of Peter Stjarnvind propel Murder Squad, but Matti Karki's twisted, gurgled vocals give it direction. Murder Squad is fairly inventive lyrically, which is odd, but you might find out that their demented tales have quite a bit of sick truth to them. Songs like "Twisted High," "The Return of the Rotten," "Spraying Lead" and "Sent Home In a Box" are juicy slabs of prime death metal. Ufo Cederlund's guitar work on "Impaled" is awesome. I must confess I didn't think I'd care much for Murder Squad, but after a few listens, I find myself quite impressed with Unsane, Insane and Mentally Deranged.

-Sabrina Haines
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[ nebula - charged ]
Sub Pop Records


Having proved themselves more than just your average stoner rock band with 1999's To the Center, Nebula return, a reputation for flailing away in the spirit of the Stooges and Mudhoney in tow, with Charged, their second full-length release on Sub Pop. It's a revamped version of the sunburst séance/garage riff locomotive vibe offered up in 1999. Charged finds the band reconnecting with the smoking essence of stripped down, do-it-yourself rock 'n roll, delivering the goods with thick, indulgent guitars, raw, tossed-off vocals, and some impressive, space-filling drumming via the mighty cymbal and snare peppering of Ruben Romano. They've taken another big step in distancing themselves from the shadow cast by former brethren Fu Manchu, cementing their own identity while perpetuating the tradition of the jamming power trio. The first cut, "Do It Now," serves as Nebula's manifesto, with a frenetic pace driven by Romano's relentless punk-flavored beat and singing guitarist Eddie Glass' hang-your-head-out-the-window-of-a-drag-racer riff. Glass succinctly paints the picture with the lines: "Electric guitars, crashing drums / When you hear it you know it's come / Train kept rolling all night long."

On To the Center, Nebula pursued a dichotomy of trance-inducing space jaunts and greasy, low-slung punk metal. Only on "So Low" were the two melded into something similar to what takes shape on Charged. The warm rolling tones of "Travelin' Man's Blues" and "This One" pervade even the harder tracks, as Glass' syrupy riffs and Romano's adventurous stick work coat any sign of the sloppy abrasiveness that invaded parts of To the Center. Glass has made huge leaps in his ability to carry out a groove. He still plays with the freewheeling abandon and blues-stung attack of Nebula's previous efforts, but on Charged he lays down a much steadier foundation of song-driving rhythms that draws more out of his slippery-fingered leads than ever before. It seems as though Glass will always be playing catch-up with his vocals while his guitar repeatedly steals the show, but there are signs of change in songs like "Beyond" and "This One," as he eases into a deeper, fuller tone, picking different spots in which to sing rather than simply following the lead guitar line with his voice. His burnt-out delivery finds a home beside the organic strumming of "Goodbye Yesterday," a song that features deft use of a repeating one note keyboard line that enunciates the electric push that emerges after the chillin'-in-the-flatbed feel of the intro. Charged is a perfect companion for when you're rollin' down the highway, the blazing summer sun drawing the wavy haze off the blacktop.

-Dan Cullity
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[ ohgr - welt ]
Spitfire Records


Like the Christ resurrected, Nivek Ogre comes walking right back as if the crucifixion of his former band Skinny Puppy was a minor scratch. We've been given very small hints as to what was coming in his work with Pigface, Ritalin (Rx), and KMFDM, but no one could have predicted this: Ogre as pop star? Held hostage for nearly five years by some American jackasses, Welt was supposed to have been released in 1995. How far this is from the original recordings we may never know. Any dissension developed since has almost certainly helped create what we now have. The beautiful synthesizer and drum machine sounds that helped mold and define the '80s synthpop/new wave culture are turning up on everything from Madonna to Daft Punk. In this particular instance it has come full circle as it swells with unprecedented fury. As a ground breaker in synthesizer-based music, Ogre is no stranger to this type of execution, and Mark Walk has nothing short of Ph.D. status with this sort of stuff. The whole album swells with bubbly pop melodies, ragged industrial textures, and just enough angst to keep it in Ogre territory. At times it seems like a nod to early synth artists like Depeche Mode or Duran Duran, and at other times a jab at the piss-poor state of contemporary electronic music. Ogre even sounds as though he's mocking the seriousness of himself and others in the song "Cracker," arguably the album's most drippy and fun song. We get to see the lighter side of a bloody legend with ohGr's Welt. Bravo.

-Jeff Ashley
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[ pigface - the best of pigface ]
The Best of Pigface


Every time I'm listening to Pigface, inevitably someone asks me who I'm listening to. When I tell them, they respond with a standard "I've heard of them but never heard them--this is awesome." Pigface is not the most approachable band name, so some people are gonna need to pull their heads out and realize that this is a collection that they should have. Originally labeled as an "industrial super group," Pigface rather comes off more as a circus of hyperactive monkeys on crack. Their live shows are as legendary as they are unpredictable. You might just end up with two hours of improvised white noise run through more distortion. With a roster of musicians that would fill this web site, the collective have never stopped short of "fucking amazing" for hours of family fun. It is safe to say that someone you like is on the album playing like you have never heard he or she play. For shits and giggles, here are a few: Martin Atkins, Dean Ween, Flea, Trent Reznor, Andrew Weiss, Meg Lee Chin, Leslie Rankine, Chris Connelly, Ogre, Steve Albini, En Esch, Frank Black, and Danny Carey. These people playing together you say? Uh huh, and cooler than you can possibly imagine. Pigeonholing this band for your benefit would be fruitless. When I queried the CDDB server for album info, the genre column read "unclassified." How perfect. Originals, remixes, and unreleased material make for the consummate set. Just go get the album and get on with it, you won't regret it.

-Jeff Ashley
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[ red house painters - old ramon ]
Red House Painters
Old Ramon
Sub Pop
Recorded between the fall of 1997 and the spring of 1998, Old Ramon is the highly anticipated sixth album in the Red House Painters' discography. Frontman Mark Kozelek has tried to fill the void with solo efforts like Rock 'n' Roll Singer (2000) and the reworked AC/DC covers on What's Next to the Moon (2001), both issued by San Francisco's indie Badman label. But, still, Kozelek's schoolboy melancholy comes across rather differently when he records sans his original bandmates.

Luckily for those of us hankering for a true Painters fix, Sub Pop pulled Old Ramon from mothballs and resurrected it without edits. The intervening three years have not affected the songs on Old Ramon. Like the rest the Painters' oeuvre, the music is timeless, but this album undoubtedly verges on a more mature style--sadly losing some of the bittersweet poetry and desperate fragility in the process.

In spite of its maturity--or perhaps as a result of it--Old Ramon is an extended confessional of sorts, falling somewhere between the nostalgia of the first self-titled album (from 1993, known as the "rollercoaster" record by its cover) and the solid, intelligent music of Ocean Beach (1995). In fact, it seems more anachronistic than its delayed arrival would indicate. Old Ramon is not the logical follow-up to 1996's Songs for a Blue Guitar, an album which suggested the band was moving into a more commercial world.

Circumstances might have a lot to do with it. The songs were written while the band was in flux. Kozelek was living in Oaxaca, Mexico, far away from his San Francisco home; Mercury, their label at the time, was fast approaching its demise. The homesickness and estrangement led to songs like "Wop-a-Din-Din," the wistful tribute to Kozelek's cat which opens the album, and the driving riffs of "Between Days." "Cruiser," a lullaby of dreamlike reminiscence, was penned on a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The Painters have kept to their traditional format: structuring their music around one acoustic guitar. But the gritty groove of "Byrd Joel" and the crackling electric guitar of the eleven-minute "River" show that the band was beginning to explore--and re-explore--different musical niches within their tranquil, reflective world. Their reunion with Billy Anderson, the engineer from their earliest albums, during the Old Ramon sessions highlights the delicate blend of roots and growth on this LP.

Some of the tracks on Old Ramon--"Kavita," "Golden," and "Michigan"--had already found their way into the Painters' setlist on their penultimate tour. (Live versions have appeared intermittently on Napster in the past year or so, but it's a relief to finally have them in their proper form.) Although it is apparent with "Golden," one could argue that remaining two were also Kozelek's quiet elegies to John Denver, whose unexpected death came just after Kozelek had produced the tribute album Take Me Home in 1997. Their simple, enveloping melodies are the best homage to a folk singer who composed so many of the same.

The press release notes that a twenty-minute version of "Michigan" "sadly...fell to the cutting room floor" during the decision-making meetings. A shame, really. But, thinking optimistically, that just leaves more material for the next Red House Painters release. Old Ramon, however, should satiate demand--for a little while at least.

-Eric J. Iannelli
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[ seafood - surviving the quiet ]
Surviving the Quiet
Big Wheel Recreation


Back in '97 the music industry was all a'buzz with British band Seafood. Their debut single, "Scorch Comfort," was all over British radio, and mags like NME and Melody Maker were in high praise of this indie-pop quartet. After a rash of singles and lots of media attention, the band finally got around to releasing their first proper longplayer, Surviving the Quiet, in early 2000 on Fierce Panda. And eventually, their infectious sound has caught on here in America and Big Wheel Recreations has recently released Surviving the Quiet on this side of the pond.

The album is indie-pop mopey bliss, for both good and bad. "Easy Path" kicks things off with up-tempo pep before giving way to the heady brashness of "Belt." "Dear Leap the Ride" has a Nick Drake country-inflected warmness to it, while "This Is Not an Exit"--a UK Top 100 charter--should do as well over here. "Led by Bison" is the shoegazer number on the album; good for grabbing your sweetie and holding her tight, or for those long drives in the rain when you've got no one but yourself. The rest of the bunch consists of guitar-driven numbers yearning for FM alterna-radio acceptance, or down-tempo affairs struggling for poignancy without becoming too self-indulgent.

Even though the hidden track at the end of the album deserves a bullet through the brain, with Surviving the Quiet Seafood have crafted an album that has the ability to do well on the radio while being able to survive the sharks of indie credibility. That's not a feat so easily accomplished. Hell, maybe they'll even tour the West Coast, because songs like "Easy Path," "Guntrip" and "Folksong Crisis" just yearn for that live punch.

-Craig Young
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[ silo - alloy ]
A labyrinth of looped guitar and electronics, Silo's new release, Alloy, ventures far into repetitive post-rock structures. As "Bulk" unfolds, it is like peeling back layer after layer from an onion. Each layer looks very much like the previous and it isn't until you get down to the center that you realize how much you have peeled away, how long your journey has been. With elements that wouldn't be out of place on a Tortoise or Godspeed You Black Emperor! record, Silo explore open terrains built from loops of partial melodies. Each phrase is almost complete before it is looped--Ourobos-style--to devour its own tail. The result is that the songs are hypnotic yet slightly unsettling because the groove is never really a groove. It generates an active trance wherein your head tries to fit into the loop, but finds it so short that your brain continues to push forward, looking beyond the flip, questing for a longer melodic phrase. It's never dull, not like the place where most trance takes you--the land of flat alpha waves--but rather oddly engaging. Maybe there are tantric secrets to uncover here, meditative states that can be unlocked by synching up your breathing to the shortened patterns. And, as the drums explode near the end of "Bulk," cymbals crashing and ringing over the looped guitar line, maybe this is where the windows of your soul open.

Maybe I'm trying too hard. Voices drift out of the ether of the eight mostly instrumental tracks and the lyrics of "K2" essentially sum up Alloy: "Drifting, breathing, slowly falling, silence, shifting, stalling..." Alloy is an album that is difficult to actively participate in, but, as background drift, it breathes of the moments between thought and activity where the motion of your lungs and heart may be activity enough.

-Mark Teppo
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[ s.i.n.a. - snapshot ]


For an instant, as a woman's angry scream tears through your speaker system during "Lapalie," you wonder just what you've unleashed. German noise 'n' bass label, Hands, known for introducing the unsuspecting world to the tumultuous torment of Winterkälte, offers up a more club-friendly sound with S.I.N.A.'s Snapshot. Not that you would know that from the first two minutes; the disc begins like someone is being fed feet-first into a meat grinder. Fortunately (a relative term), the beats and distorted vocals, which propel the second track, "Machine," are less terrifying in their sonic fury. It's an adventurous club that would spin these tracks, but these twelve tracks are well suited for the dance floor if you don't mind a static overlay to your beats and your vocals.

The first rhythmic noise act to add female vocals to the mix, S.I.N.A. certainly harkens back to the sound of a neglected industrial guitar act of the late '90s for which I have a certain soft spot: Coptic Rain. Which, I have to admit, I have a certain soft spot for. "How Long" powers along with all the characteristics that made Coptic Rain enjoyable: heavy distorted percussion, squealing lurching guitar melodies (though in S.I.N.A.'s case, the melodies are more electronic-based), and the heavily augmented voice of the singer. Sina has more than one setting on her microphone, moving from the bruised sex kitten growl of "How Long" to the static-spitting snarl of "Scream" and the bored radio announcer of "Axiom."

Rhythmic noise is a genre that has a narrow range of appeal--the artist must walk a fine line between generating just noise and actual music (another relative term). Winterkälte set the standard a while ago and Hands clearly recognizes that as a label, in order to grow, they just can't sign the twentieth million Winterkälte clone. They need diversity; they need to make the genre grow. S.I.N.A.'s Snapshot is a much more friendly approach to the rhythmic noise sound, one that will undoubtedly be pummeling you from the hidden speakers in your favorite S & M dungeon in no time.

-Mark Teppo
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[ sister machine gun - 6.0 ]
Sister Machine Gun
Positron Records

Sister Machine Gun

A squelch fractures into a crackling guitar sustain as Sister Machine Gun launches into their latest opus of heartbreak, alienation, and self-flagellation. Whirling about as if he were on an automated merry-go-round, Chris Randall seems like the two-faced deity Janus, swiftly turning between the incendiary soapbox orator of Burn and his cracked mirror-ball persona of [R]evolution. Either face is shadowed by the wriggling hooks of the guitar as if he had the spirit of Ritchie Blackmoor shoved in his back pocket. 6.0 is the diamond cut again--more material pared away, more facets revealed--as Randall strips away some of the textured elements of his previous records.

These fifteen tracks are polished stones, turned their time in the tumbler until the extraneous elements are gone and all that remains is voice, guitar, and rhythm. Has he been consciously working towards this point--this flirtation with the pop song? What else do you call songs that have such hook, such insistent ability to slide under your skin and get down into the very marrow of your bones? After the opening double-fisted fury of "Automaton" and "Loser," Randall sets the dial at "Lounge Funk" and, with the delightful addition of harmony vocals (which we've all been supplying all along anyway, right?), begins to meld the distinct poles of his dual visage into one powerful voice. There isn't an easy niche for Sister Machine Gun and, really, you have to ask yourself why bother finding one? Maybe so that I can tell you more easily how enjoyable it is to have the SMG funk spilling out of my speakers. Too caustic for candy pop, too incredibly groovy to be tossed into the electro-guitar industrial arena, too refined to be lumped in with the rest of the lo-fi independents, Chris Randall continues to cut his own path. And, we realize that two faces are but a mask and he is actually the Pied Piper. We are the rats and there is no shame in gleefully following his sound.

-Mark Teppo
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