The Murder City Devils, Thelema (Sub Pop). "Well you fall in love / Well you speak too soon / Well now you've ruined everything / I didn't lie to you / Some day I'll walk out." So sings Murder City Devils' vocalist Spencer Moody. And I wonder if he knew just how true those words would one day ring as this six-song EP, the band's latest, also appears to be their last. Physical and emotional strains have been wearing at The Murder City Devils for some time. Organist Leslie Hardy has left the band and Seattle for the comforts of home in Detroit; and bassist Derek Fudesco will be off to concentrate full time on his other aggression release, Pretty Girls Make Graves, when the mighty Devils finish a last round of touring this fall in support of Thelema. Which leaves Moody, guitarists Dann Gallucci and Nate Manny, drummer Coady Willis, and roadie Gabe on their own deciding how best to carry on. And only one thing's for sure: it won't be under the moniker we've come to love.

Which is sad to see happen, because of the four albums they've released on Sub Pop, Thelema is truly their finest hour. There's the whiskey-warm burn of "That's What You Get" and "Bear Away"--classic MCD fury and grit. But there's also the UFO drone of keyboard set against a lone bass line that opens up "One Vision of May." And if it weren't for Moody's worn and gravelly voice on "Bride of the Elephant Man," some might wonder how the Cure's indelible sound ended up here. And is that both violin and cello sitting alongside an accordion on the lonely drunk of "364 Days"? ("364 Days" was originally released as a bonus Christmas single.)

If Thelema is the last by which we have to judge The Murder City Devils, then there should be no regrets. Because as this final release inevitably leaves us wanting more, it's only because their music gave so much from start to finish. Check 'em out on tour while you still have the chance, and word to the wise: the only difference between the Canadian import of Thelema and the American release is the hefty price tag. Buyer beware.  -Craig Young.

[ the murder city devils - thelema ]
The Murder City Devils
"That's What You Get" MP3

Aeon, Dark Order (Deathvomit Records). I do believe this is the nicest packaging I've ever seen from a satanic Black grindcore band on such an interestingly-named label. Aeon play black metal-tinged grindcore that holds promise, but is too poorly produced here on Dark Order to highlight the band's strengths. Aeon sports a speedy (and way under-mixed but strangely clear) drummer, Arttu Halkki, who sounds like he could be a winner; some particularly unusual growly vocals by Tommy Dahlstrom (who writes all the lyrics); and extremely piercing, technical, brutal black metal guitar leads from Zeb Nilsson. Zeb, Tommy, Arttu and the boys are treading in some well-worn musical territory, and to stand out from the crowd they will need every edge they can get. The poor production set back what was already a single's worth of songs. "Bloodlust" and "With Blood They Pay," as well as portions of the other songs, really stand out while the rest just fades back into an anemic, bloodless cliché. There's a big Necrophagia influence here mixed with a Impaled Nazarene style, which is a little different, but it sounds like they needed more time to flesh out the songs and to flush out a good producer. I'm waiting for the next release with baited breath. Aeon have the potential and the talent, and only fate will determine if the Dark Order will be accomplished. Deathvomit might have puked up a winner, but not 'til their next cathartic release.  -Sabrina Haines.

Ah Cama-Sotz, Mantra (Hands). After their last release on Hands, 1999's Terra Infernalis, Ah Cama-Sotz released two LPs of darker, moodier material, venturing into less beat-filled terrains with these two releases. Back on Hands for 2001, Mantra is a smooth combination between the House of the Lordh LP and U-Boot LP and the more beat-infested material that one would expect with Hands. Opening with the "La Hora del Lobo," Mantra starts with fog-enshrouded landscapes, haunted by a woman's voice. The beats break into the forefront with "Sabbath III (The Dark Path)"--a ritual soundtrack complete with dark monks droning and summoned electrical currents sparking and arcing in the background. "Hungrr-ah (Final Xcit)" spatters with more beats, lush with passing squeals of synthetic noise: this is definitely what you would expect from a Hands release. But what Ah Cama-Sotz so clearly demonstrates in this 29-minute EP is that they aren't just another rhythmic noise band bludgeoning their way into your living room. The beats on "Mantra-XX," while quite strong, are not relentless. There is pace and timbre to this work, tabla beats and drum 'n' bass rhythms freeing intermixed with the more overwhelming hammer work. The EP returns to more ambient territory with "White Witch" while still keeping with the dark and more ominous atmosphere. A great release that serves as a good starting point for listeners interested in the Hands label as well as Ah Cama-Sotz. And your head won't even rupture a blood vessel or three listening to this. Which makes repeat listenings much more enjoyable.  -Mark Teppo.

Somatic Responses, Accidental Happiness (Component Records). After two albums on Germany's Hymen label, Somatic Responses have started to share the wealth, delivering an EP to Connecticut's Component Records. Beginning with the fuzzed and beat-spattered ambience of "Accident Happiness," the Healy brothers gift us with six new tracks before turning the stage over to Codec and Dryft for some remix action. The splintered rhythms, skittering drum loops, and haunted synthetic melodies herein are what you'd expect from this genre of music and Somatic Responses certainly deliver a solid hit. And there are some standout tracks: the marching robot action of "They Have Names Like STI9900108," the bubbling snarl of "Varj" as the track careens through several strata of technical beat structures, and the scattershot pummeling of "Msbt." The Codec and Dryft remixes tackle the cinematic ambient washes of "Accidental Happiness" in an attempt to surpass the original's clinical frigidity and spatial sweep. And, as both tracks clock in at a combined shorter time than the original, they go for density (in Codec's case, as they reduce the wide washes into a chirping and rushing melody) and brevity, eschewing some of the expansive ambience which so pervades the opening track. Good bookends on a progressive technoid beat experience.  -Mark Teppo.

[ ah cama-sotz - mantra ]
Ah Cama-Sotz
"Mantra-XX" MP3

Railway Raver, You'll Never Get Anywhere by Spending All Day Playing around with That Bloody Drum Machine (Rephlex). Winner of the longest yet probably most prophetic title award, Railway Raver's EP on Rephlex begs for a review to be written that contains fewer words than the actual title of the record. But, alas, this is actually good and not so easy to brush off as a "shit sandwich" release. Gentle melodies thrum over electronic beats in atmospheres that veer towards the sunny side of the meadow. You seem to be coming in on the middle of something with the first two tracks--"The Eyes of Garfield (Part 4)" and "The Eyes of Garfield (Part 5)"-- but the mood is an easy one to fit yourself into. Tiny voices--compressed and relooped from ancient radio broadcasts--flitter about to cast aspersions in "Living the Life of a Nothing," and "Big Thorax at Dawn" certainly swaggers into your line of vision like an oversized, over-sexed Robbie the Robot on a weekend bender. The Railway Raver probably didn't set out to revolutionize the IDM movement with this record, but this kind of noodling certainly puts one in a good mood--which can be enough.  -Mark Teppo.

Heather Duby/Elemental (Sub Pop). It's been a long time since anyone has used the word "supergroup" to describe any collective coming out of Seattle, and it might be a little premature to slap that label on this group. But for anyone who has been keeping half a toe in the local scene, the lineup on this EP certainly rates that appellation. Airy chanteuse Heather Duby, who has been steadily climbing higher and higher since her fantastic debut, Post to Wire, nearly a year ago, provides vocals on three of the five tracks. "What You Thought" and "From Here to Gone" are produced by Steve Fisk (her producer on Post to Wire and certainly a name to be reckoned with in his own right) and these two tracks show a definite evolution in both her song-writing and her sonic environments. "Love You More," a melancholy lament produced and arranged by Maktub's Reggie Watts, is a perfect song for the fall weather in Seattle: it's just a little grayer, a little darker and, as time passes, the patter of rain becomes a full-on hammering downpour. Skyler Gilmore (AKA DJ Diskyze) provides the beats which continue into a relentless stomper of a tech-step track with "Terrabyte." The progression continues as the rest of the improvisational collective of Elemental joins in for "Trillium" as the transformation from air and water to fire and earth becomes complete. This EP is a well executed snapshot of the disparate musical elements which have recently captivated audiences here in Seattle. You can mix air, earth, fire, and water--it's an old alchemical secret--and what you get is always something extraordinary and new.  -Mark Teppo.

Seldom, Places I Haven't Seen (Casa Recording). Like the sparse, smooth lines of light that caress the album's cover, Seldom's music is immediate, but not demanding, soft, but not weak. Like a favorite, well-worn book that bends to knowing hands, the quiet songs here wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket. "Can't/Must" is reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie. Diffused organ and bass leave just enough room for a quiet vocal to creep in from the edges. And just as the song shows its hand, it ends; an unanticipated stop, it leaves you wanting, but not expecting--which really is the secret to good songwriting. The next three numbers, "Seldom," "Opinion," and "Thursday Birthday," are mostly acoustic affairs, the sparse picking of guitar perfectly matching the laconic, distant, but not unaffecting vocals. "Thursday is my birthday / I hope that they'll show." The EP closes with "L.A.," bass and guitar changing lines in quiet conversation while a hint of organ and a chorus of voices blends itself into the background like distant, fleeting shadows. "Surrounded by a hundred friends / But still you feel alone / I love L.A. / That's hard to say." Places I Haven't Seen captures all the slow burning embers of want and melancholy. It's the quiet album to share with a loved one in the soft glow of a fireplace. It's the quiet album to share with yourself when you're alone in the stillness of night.  -Craig Young.

[ heather duby/elemental ]
Heather Duby/Elemental
"From Here to Gone" MP3

Vromb Interlüder (Pflichtkauf). Vromb has always struck me as an organic industrial act--their sounds and rhythms infused with a living vitality that seems as if they have put insects and small animals into bell jars and discovered some method of extracting the essence of these creatures into digital signals. "Animation" begins with the sound of a thousand cicadas captured in a box--their wings beating and shivering against the walls--as burbling melodies rise up and are intercepted by the wild wail of a oscillator swinging dramatically across its band. The cicadas begin chirping, their metallic sound a high-end accompaniment to the shuddering beats which try to creep in unobserved. The hiss and sputter of "Repetition" gives way to bleeps and blasts of space noise over a bed of wandering beats. "Inversion" hitches and bubbles with processed timepieces and water drops echoing on metal pipes. "Interlude" is filled with the droning sizzle of distant locusts and the reverberating wail of metal passed along metal, and "Carnival," while beginning with a beat-heavy mix like a track from Delirium's Spheres period revamped for the dance floor, drains away with the sound of children clicking arrhythmically on distant metal posts. Throughout Interlüder the tracks grow, peak, and then dissolve again, demonstrating Vromb's masterful technique of addition and subtraction as he builds pieces up and then tears them back down.  -Mark Teppo.

The Starting Line, With Hopes of Starting Over... (We the People Records). I wanted to like it. Really. My first impression was "raised on Blink 182"--so I set it aside. Then for some reason I pulled it back out. Couldn't be all that bad now, could it? No... And it wasn't. Tight little punchy SoCal 2000 punk pop sound, the solid kick-punch guitar/drum combo that opens "Leaving" reminded me of the another great song opener: Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But it would almost earn the "file under" moniker of "your little brother's music"--except my little brother has some '80s punk tastes to rival my own. So what to do? It was in the air, an "okay" vs. "tolerable" toss-up until I heard the closing number: a cover of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Yes, you know the song. The band Starship. Need I say more? Suffice to say it did an excellent job of kicking me off the fence. File under: Your next drink--as in, another one to add to the coaster collection.  -Craig Young.

The Cutthroats 9, Anger Management (Reptilian Records). There's a dream sequence in the movie Jacob's Ladder where Tim Robbins is in the basement of a psychiatric hospital. A gurney is being pushed in circles around the room, one rusty wheel spinning erratically, and in the far corner sits a person whose head is spinning as well--spinning violently, sickeningly fast. Sometimes when I need to stoke the engines and bleed rage into harnessed adrenaline, I visit that corner of the room. After hearing Cutthroat 9's Anger Management EP, I'm pretty sure I've seen singer/guitarist Chris Spencer down there as well.

Most will recognize Spencer from his former noise rock outfit, Unsane, who emerged from New York's Lower East Side in the late '80s to spend the next decade driving their music home like a jackhammer against the head. After disbanding in 2000, Spencer formed The Cutthroats 9 with Will Carroll on drums and Mark Laramie on bass. And while fans of Unsane await a proper release from Spencer and Co. from Frank Kozik's Man's Ruin label, Reptilian Records has released this short play--six songs of violently spinning, sickeningly fast hardcore that is equal parts Jesus Lizard and Helmet. With Carroll pummeling from behind, Spencer takes Sabbath style riffs, intersperses them occasionally with apocalyptic-sounding blues slide guitar, burning both the sound with pure ethanol before cramming the resulting distortion down our throats. His voice sounds like someone who is desperately trying to claw their way up a cliff side they're doomed to fall down. After being jumped by a group of thugs while on tour with Unsane in Vienna back in '98, severely beaten and left for dead, Spencer's got a lot on his mind he's trying to work through. And from the opening guitar riffs of "Prey," to the Skeleton Key on crank sounds of "Believe," and ending with the heavy bass rumble on "Saw It," it's obvious that Spencer spends a lot of time in the basement of his mind watching the gurney hustle laps.

With two EPs behind them and a full-length in the works, The Cutthroats 9 take off where Unsane left, and leave un anxiously awaiting more. File under: Music to play immediately after running someone down in your car (whether it was done on purpose or not).  -Craig Young.

[ the cutthroats 9 - anger management ]
"The Cutthroats 9
"Vacant" MP3

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