MICE, THE For Almost Ever Scooter (Scat) cd 13.98
Cleveland may be better known in underground rock circles for bands like Rocket From The Tombs, The Electric Eels, the Mirrors, the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu, but there was a pretty serious pop scene going on in the mid-eighties, the most notable, and probably most notably unsung group being The Mice, fronted by pop tunesmith extraordinaire Bill Fox. Rescued from obscurity by the kind folks at Scat, For Almost Ever Scooter is a serious slab of short sharp power pop anthems, infused with snotty punk rock, British Invasion melodies, and tons of jangle. Not to mention kick ass drumming, some amazing riffage, Fox's snarling soaring vocals, and needless to say, HOOKS galore. If you like bands like the Flamin' Groovies, the Undertones, the Buzzcocks, the Nerves, the Diodes, well, the Mice are just as great... Scat is the home of all the best Guided By Voices records, which ALL borrow heavily from classic British influenced pop, so it makes sense that the Mice record would end up here too. In fact, one might be forgiven for thinking the Mice record was actually the work of some young kids in a modern retro pop band, channelling all of the above mentioned bands into a sound that's classic but surprisingly modern and fresh. GBV fans should definitely give this a listen. The Mice are everything we love about pop music, heavy and crunchy, soaring, distorted and dramatic, big guitars, lush harmonies, wild drumming, just listen to "Downtown", one of the greatest pop songs EVER, and you'll be hooked. And rest of the record is just as great.
"Downtown" MPEG Stream:
"Felicia" MPEG Stream:
"Rescue You Too"
MICHAEL AND THE MUMBLES s/t (De Stijl) lp 14.98
If you're like us, then you probably first came across Michael Yonkers with the reissue of his 1968 outsider garage-punk classic Microminiature Love a few years ago. That record was a wildly forward looking piece of music that worked heavy studio experimentation into Yonkers' passionate and tense songs for a result unlike anything else. But where did this guy come from? Well, Minneapolis if you want to get all geographic. But Yonkers' musical roots, like many others from his era, were initially sewn from the fertile American garage rock scene of the mid '60s. Yonkers got his start all short haired and well dressed fronting the Mumbles, a simple and straightforward R&B combo, and these recordings from 1966 present a solid group taking cues from the Nuggets style fervor that was sweeping the nation. We're not quite sure that we detected any of the "dissonant undercurrents" the De Stijl website mentioned, maybe they're there... But this is not to slight this record at all, as Michael And The Mumbles whip up a cool set of rhythmic garage rock that is pretty much impossible to dislike. Yonkers' voice here is less frantic and emotional than on his solo discs, but it is also easy to get an idea of how he developed his own idiosyncratic approach to music making by stepping off the edge of a more traditional foundation. Perhaps it would be difficult to tell where things were going if you heard this stuff first, but this record is a delightful collection of tunes that laid the groundwork for one of the craziest and punkest things to come out of the late '60s American underground. Highly recommended, and to the non-turntable having types, this lp does come with a free download card.
MICHAEL VINER'S INCREDIBLE BONGO BAND Bongo Rock (MGM/Pride) lp 12.98
Let There Be Drums! Whoo, cool to have this old fave reissued on vinyl! Especially with previous anthologies on Strut and Mr. Bongo now out of print, original lps of course also being hard to come by... What the heck was the Incredible Bongo Band, you might ask, and what was so Incredible about it? Well, just listen to the soundclips of "Apache" and "Last Bongo In Belgium", we bet you'll recognize 'em. The Incredible Bongo Band are one of those almost anonymous groups who in fact contributed quite a bit to hiphop and dance culture, with many of their breaks being sampled literally HUNDREDS of times. In fact, it can be argued that IBB cut the "original breakbeats"! Kinda funny to realize that they were in fact Hollywood-based studio session players, led by producer Michael Viner (responsible for several Sammy Davis, Jr. hits), who came together to record chase music for the Ray Milland/Rosey Grier horror flick "The Thing With Two Heads" - and ended up putting out records now revered the world over by the hiphop/DJ community. Their debut "Bongo Rock" 7" sold over two million copies in 1972; that is, apparently after they pulled the cover that showed how white they were and replaced it with a closeup of racially unidentifiable hands playing bongos. During the course of their career, supposedly such big names as John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, and Glen Campbell all dropped by to play a little. The band's main bongo player Jim Gordon (who co-wrote "Layla") later went cuckoo and killed his mom, but despite that tragic association, the IBB's music is super fun, and more than a little kitschy, good not only for DJ sampling purposes but also enjoyable groovy listening on its own. The 8 tracks on this reish of their 1973 full-length include both funky originals, and equally bongo-riffic cover versions, like the aforementioned surf classic "Apache", also Iron Butterfly's heavy psych epic "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", believe it or not (lotsa room for a bongo workout in that one). And who can forget "Duelling Bongos"?
"Apache" MPEG Stream:
"Last Bongo In Belgium" MPEG Stream:
MICHEL, NATHAN ABC DEF (Tigerbeat6) cd 13.98
Another member of the Tigerbeat6 family. Whimsical laptop glitchery making use of beeping toy sounds. Not sure what else to say. Nice, cute, catchy and fun.
MICHIHIRO, SATO On A Cold, Cold Night (PSF ) cd 22.00
Traditional Japanese Tsugaru-jamisen solo recording, released on Tokyo's neo- psychedelic/jazz/folk label PSF (home to Keiji Haino among others). We don't normally like to quote wholesale from a label's description of their own release, but we totally agree with Alan Cummings' blurb and it couldn't be bettered by us: "Michihiro Sato is a recognized master of the percussive, hugely exciting Tsugaru-jamisen style that originates in the deep north of Japan. The rough-hewn, freewheeling spirit of the Tsugaru style is perhaps comparable in iconography and individual expression to the Delta blues. Its history is full of blind shamisen-men, wandering forlornly from town to town through desolate winter snows, maybe not selling their souls to Satan but certainly playing till their fingers bleed. Either way, it's about a million and one miles away from the limp, effeminate plucking soundtrack you might be used to from nights at your local sushi emporium. In the West, Sato is best known for his collaborations with John Zorn (one of which, Ganryu Island, was recently reissued on Tzadik), and with the cream of the NY downtown scene on Rodan. In Japan, though, Sato's profile is higher as a master of the traditional repertoire of his instrument, and his improvisational experiments have a lower profile. On this totally solo disk (his previous releases have always featured accompanists). Sato manages to fuse his two obsessions: combining several pieces from the traditional canon with a lengthy improvisation. Sato coolly reigns in the pyrotechnic grandstanding that has won him a clutch of national trophies, substituting a sensitive control and sense of space. It's a breathtaking performance, fully the equal of the verve with which he revitalizes the traditional pieces. Of all the Japanese folk styles, tsugaru-jamisen is the most immediately approachable, and Sato is a contemporary master at the peak of his powers. This disk can only serve to underline his brain-melting prowess. The cover-painting by Baku Ueda is equally transporting."
MICROCOSMOS Pilgrimage (Tzadik) cd 15.98
Vocalist Tenko and turntablist Otomo Yoshihide join forces (their first time as a duo, although they've performed together in Tenko's Dragon Blue group) on this new installment in Tzadik's New Japan series.
MICROPHONES Glow Pt. 2 (K) cd 14.98
Phil Elvrum -- the ever so shy Microphones ringleader who has also appeared in Old Tyme Relijun and D+ -- will probably never be so bold as to express his songs with all of the heartwrenching, off-key scream of a great emo vocalist, although his songs ooze with the post-adolescent grand bummer that is so common in the emo. His quivering voice holds nothing more than a few muttered melodies and a handful of whispered lyrics, yet Elvrum has always delved into baroque, if lo-fi, production tricks to augment what began as the quietest of bedroom indie strumming. While he's nowhere near the songwriter as Jeff Mangum or Bill Smog, his downer indie-rock songs filled with ramshackle rock bursts, early-Stereolab Moog-o-riffic rhythms, liltingly paranoid piano lines, big-muff distortion blasts, and big band horn flourishes sure do make you feel as Neutral Milk and Smog can do. All of the Microphones albums have a great sound, there is always that little critical voice that wishes he would bring to the production table a set of really great songs. Elvrum is way too talented to waste his production and arrangement abilities on being just an indie-dork. This is a pretty good record, but if he continues to improve his songwriting ability - let this be a prophecy - Elvrum will write the next "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea."
"The Glow Pt.2" RealAudio clip:
MICROPHONES Glow Pt. 2 (K) 2lp 11.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Phil Elvrum -- the ever so shy Microphones ringleader who has also appeared in Old Tyme Relijun and D+ -- will probably never be so bold as to express his songs with all of the heartwrenching, off-key scream of a great emo vocalist, although his songs ooze with the post-adolescent grand bummer that is so common in the emo. His quivering voice holds nothing more than a few muttered melodies and a handful of whispered lyrics, yet Elvrum has always delved into baroque, if lo-fi, production tricks to augment what began as the quietest of bedroom indie strumming. While he's nowhere near the songwriter as Jeff Mangum or Bill Smog, his downer indie-rock songs filled with ramshackle rock bursts, early-Stereolab Moog-o-riffic rhythms, liltingly paranoid piano lines, big-muff distortion blasts, and big band horn flourishes sure do make you feel as Neutral Milk and Smog can do. All of the Mircrophones albums have a great sound, there is always that little critical voice that wishes he would bring to the production table a set of really great songs. Elvrum is way too talented to waste his production and arrangement abilities on being just an indie-dork. This is a pretty good record, but if he continues to improve his songwriting ability - let this be a prophecy - Elvrum will write the next "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea."
MICROPHONES It Was Hot And We Stayed In The Water (K) cd 13.98
The Microphones are a warm & fuzzy but oddly avant pop band on K. It's as if the band stays up really late at their parents' house, eating lots of sugar & drinking lots of caffeinated soda, listening to Stereolab, This Heat, and early Pavement records, and quietly try to record their own synthesis into a 4-track without waking mom & dad. Inside the tape compression universe of the 4-track, The Microphones beef up their quiet melodic strum with overloaded effects and distortion. Quirky, oogly fun.
MICROPHONES Mount Eerie (K ) cd 14.98
As self-deprecating and painfully shy as Phil Elvrum can be when performing live, his latest release as The Microphones is a monstrously hyperbolic album of artfulness that pushes K Records as close as they will ever come to The Red Krayola or Gastr Del Sol. "Mount Eerie" is an indulgent studio driven album, which may have begun as a psychedelic epic on par with Olivia Tremor Control's "Dusk At Cubist Castle," but has been shattered into a variety of half-completed song fragments which unexpectedly jump, twist, and turn in any number of directions including dense crescendos or lunch-box rock recreations of childrens songs. Elvrum is obviously a very gifted abstractionist of indie-rock strum but is often too elusive in where he wants to take these songs. Despite how vague and convoluted the narratives of "Mount Eerie" are, Elvrum succeeds in directing the album's mood with layers of monochromatic chanting, deep trombones, and huge crashing timpani that give this album a ponderous weight. Mope rock meets art rock.
MICROPHONES Song Islands (K) cd 14.98
MICROPHONES Tests (Elsinor) cd 8.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Art damaged singer/songwriter psychedelia and knob twiddling that succeeds where the Olivia Tremor Control has recently faltered. Produced by Steve Fisk at Dub Narcotic and released by the Elsinor label, home of Death Cab For Cutie.
MICROPHONES Window (Yo Yo Recordings) cd 14.98
For the third album from the Microphones, "Window" is full of reverb soaked Olympia lunchbox / art rock with a low-key naive take on the Elephant 6 sound. For fans of Beat Happening.
MICROPHONES, THE Live In Japan (K) cd 13.98
This live album starts out promising enough, presenting selected recordings from three scaled down, intimate Microphones' shows (in comparison to his last few cds which have been considerably more grand productions), but swiftly descends into awkward, near-cringe territory. Granted he's playing all new songs which often seem unfamiliar even to him, but without the trippy glorious lo-fi indie pop orchestrations of his recent recordings to compliment and contrast his frail, emotive vocals in the live setting, mainman Phil Elvrum ends up fully exposed. You might recognize the deeeeep voice that pops in to help out as that of Calvin Johnson, but that's only on a few occasions. There's that fine line where deeply heartfelt, unrestrained singing meets off-key yowling-at-the-moon warbling... and that line gets crossed a few times on Live In Japan. Also for some reason "Silent Night" and "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things" make their lyrically revised way into his live repertoire. Why?! We guess it's a case of 'you had to be there' which in this case was Kyoto, Nagoya, and Tokyo. Only for diehard Microphones fans. All others seek out The Glow Pt. 2 for a much better slice of Microphones music.
"Thanksgiving" MPEG Stream:
MICROSTORIA Init Ding (Thrill Jockey) cd 13.98
(from Forced Exposure's update): "If you've been paying attention at all you know about Oval and their masterful brand of underground electronica as issued by Mille Plateaux -- some of the most shockingly desirable music of the 90s. Microstoria is a due made up of Oval's Markus Popp and Mouse On Mars' Jan St. Werner, and the music they make is beautifully abstract electronic wave manipulation, looped and weirdly grooved for maximum pleasure zone entertainment. If you've never been able to find a handle on contemporary "ambient," here's something to try."
MICROSTORIA Invisible Architecture #3 (Audiosphere) cd 16.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Despite the title's implication, Microstoria actually presents the fourth in the "Invisible Architecture" series from Audioglobe, packaged obnoxiously in the oversized 'super jewel cases' alongside the work of Janek Schaefer, the duo of Christian Fennesz & Miko Vainio, and a turntable excursion from Jeck / Tetreault / Yoshihide. The collaboration between Jan St. Werner (Mouse On Mars) and Markus Popp (Oval), Microstoria improvises with purely electronic sound to build tone-bent half melodies and plinky-plonk abstractions. Recorded live at Kaaitheaterstudio in Brussels during the summer of 2000, "Invisible Architecture #3" does not stray far from the successes of their previous albums "SND" or "Model 3,Step 2."
"Quit Not Save"
MICROSTORIA Model 3, step 2 (Thrill Jockey) cd 14.98
Microstoria is the collaborative effort between Oval's Markus Popp and Mouse On Mars' Jan St. Werner. While the synthesis of Oval's sterile digital skips and Mouse On Mars' ecstatic techno playfulness seems hard to imagine, Microstoria has pulled it off consistently throughout each of their recordings. "Model 3, Step 2" is the third album for the duo, and highlights an important aspect of the process of musical collaboration. Microstoria, who produce sound through a series of improvisations, has been working together long enough that a signature sound has evolved, that does not simply sound like a bunch of idiots diddling with their Powerbooks! The aesthetic of Microstoria is a mischievous one that is bathed in a warm hum of computer drives and electrical fields. The squeaky details sound almost like one of them is trying to fix a leaky faucet with an old oil stained wrench.
MICROSTORIA Model 3, step 2 (Thrill Jockey) lp 10.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Microstoria is the collaborative effort between Oval's Markus Popp and Mouse On Mars' Jan St. Werner. While the synthesis of Oval's sterile digital skips and Mouse On Mars' ecstatic techno playfulness seems hard to imagine, Microstoria has pulled it off consistently throughout each of their recordings. "Model 3, Step 2" is the third album for the duo, and highlights an important aspect of the process of musical collaboration. Microstoria, who produce sound through a series of improvisations, has been working together long enough that a signature sound has evolved, that does not simply sound like a bunch of idiots diddling with their Powerbooks! The aesthetic of Microstoria is a mischievous one that is bathed in a warm hum of computer drives and electrical fields. The squeaky details sound almost like one of them is trying to fix a leaky faucet with an old oil stained wrench.
MICROSTORIA Reprovisers (Thrill Jockey) cd 13.98
Microstoria remix album, compiled from the 12" series. Remixers include Ui, Stereolab (sounding very Stereolab), Japanese noisemaker Violent Onsen Geisha, Oval, Jim O'Rourke (of course), Nicolas Collins, Mouse on Mars, and others.
MICROSTORIA Reprovisers (Thrill Jockey) 12" 7.98
German electro-minimalists get the remix treatment from Stereolab and Oval. Short 12" in a series of 3; the others will feature knob-twiddling by Ui/Mouse on Mars and Jim O'Rourke/Violent Onsen Geisha.
MICROSTORIA snd (Thrill Jockey/Mille Plateaux) cd 13.98
Second album from German duo -- Markus Popp of Oval and Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars.
MICROSTORIA snd (Thrill Jockey/Mille Plateaux) lp 9.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Second album from German duo -- Markus Popp of Oval and Jan St. Werner of Mouse on Mars.
MICROWAVES Contagion Heuristic (Crucial Blast) cd 14.98
"MK" MPEG Stream:
MICROWAVES Psionic Impedance (UGexplode) lp 14.98
For whatever reason, we've never reviewed anything by angular metallic noise rockers Microwaves, even though some aQ-ers are big fans, but we HAVE reviewed several records by Br0wn Angel, which just so happens to feature one of the members of Microwaves. And while the sounds are certainly pretty different, there's definitely a sonic link. Although probably best to consider that this 2012 release from Microwaves was released on Weasel Walter's UGexplode label, which of course means there's definitely a serious no-wave / free-noise vibe going on, which there most certainly is, but his guitar /drums / FX duo take that stuff and filter it through something much more mathy and metallic, which most definitely pushes all our buttons, the sound lurching from slithering progged out creep, to tangled, almost sci-fi sounding metal crunch, to warped new wave noise rock freakout, the guitars jagged and atonal, the drums wild and octopoidal, the vocals yelped and howled, some tracks wreathed in thick swaths of synth squelch, others a haze of psychedelic buzz, the guitars sometimes so distorted they sound like blasts of power electronics, and if you needed more of an idea of what these guys were shooting for, check out their awesome (and awesomely tweaked) cover of Devo's "Penetration (In The Centerfold)", which takes the already warped original, and manages to attain a level of cover version genius that almost rivals Pussy Galore's take on the same song. Total tripped out, psychedelic zoner-metal, noise-wave, math-rock radness that is most definitely recommended. FYI this is the vinyl version, but there's also a cd, which we'll hopefully get in to list soon too.
"Hammerspace" MPEG Stream:
"Ortolan" MPEG Stream:
"Ne Plus Ultra" MPEG Stream:
"Penetration (In The Centerfold)"
MIDDIAN Age Eternal (Metal Blade) cd 13.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. We know a lot of you, like us, are fans of the supreme sludge majesty of Eugene, Oregon's mighty Yob. Over the course of four albums, Yob reigned as one of the heaviest, spaciest doom-prog outfits ever, sounding something like a tripped-out Rush on 16rpm, mixed with the riffs of Sabbath and Sleep, all super epic, doomy and psychedelic. What's not to love? Not only that, but they always stopped in to shop at Aquarius whenever in town. So, we were certainly sad when Yob broke up, a while ago. But now, we're very glad to report that Yob mastermind Mike Scheidt has bounced back with a new band, Middian, who have just made their debut on Yob's old label Metal Blade. And Middian pretty much take up where Yob left off. It's again a trio, it's again totally doom, and Mike's trademark combination of soaring, electronically effected clean singing and growling gutturalisms is still in place. But the five new tracks that comprise Age Eternal's 57 minutes are if anything darker and denser than anything Yob had yet achieved, yet also maybe more melodic. Middian is at times faster paced (not all doom, even with songs as long as these, has to be slow all the time) than Yob ever was, but Middian's songcraft embraces a wide array of emotions and dynamics. The aggro impetus of opener "Dreamless Eye" definitely reminds us that Mike was often looking for death metal records when visiting our shop, while elsewhere on this album the listener is enveloped by blissful swirling layers of slo-mo, melodic drone. If you liked Yob, if you like Mammatus, if you like Neurosis, if you like Lesbian, this should be right up your alley. However we're not sure if Metal Blade's marketing idea (as expressed on the cover sticker-blurb) that this is for fans of The Sword, High On Fire, and the Obsessed is quite correct... while fans of those bands could and should love Middian, this is still quite a bit more sonically and structurally "extreme" than any of those. Maybe add Boris and Ufomammut to that list, at least, to come closer to Middian's mean between psychedelic stoner metal and brutal doom. PS we noticed online that Middian is playing a record release party for this album in Portland tonight, Friday April 13th, with both Asunder and Slough Feg also on the bill -- damn, wish we could be there!
"Dreamless Eye " MPEG Stream:
"The Blood Of Icons"
MIDDLETON, MALCOLM 5: 14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine (Chemikal Underground) cd 16.98
Malcolm Middleton, the multi-instrumentalist chap from those Scottish melancholics known as Arab Strap, steps up to the microphone. So as we might expect this does sound a great deal like A.S. if perhaps a bit more earthy, straight-outta-the-pub folky acoustic-y. 16 drained pints... er, I mean songs of depression, broken relationships and self deprecation. A slew of "woe is me, woe is you" lyrics ensues. Moods swing from rambunctious and rowdy to sullen and brooding. One of the totally pint-raising singalongs is "The King Of Bring": I'm only happy when I'm sad My good times are all bad The best years have all left me Alone with you. Aaaah, heavy sigh... but somehow Middleton succeeds in not making 5:14 Fluoxytine a complete despair-fest. Along with the words of utter bleakness comes achingly pretty compositions both barebones like in "Cold Winter" as well as more fleshed out with subtle details like the misty-eyed strings, hushed female backing vocals and delicate chimes of "Best In Me". So good! Cup (who has a soft spot for Scottish mope-pop) has been playing this every single day since she got the advance copy. Fans of Badly Drawn Boy might also wanna check out ol' Malcolm too. This domestic release includes four bonus songs as well as a short film by Martin Smith.
"Best In Me" MPEG Stream:
MIDDLETON, MALCOLM A Brighter Beat (Full Time Hobby) cd 15.98
Gawd, how I love the bitter, sourpuss music of Malcolm Middleton. Why is his beleaguered Scottish grumpiness so damn endearing? Well, for one thing the man's a genius at penning a pop hook even when it's laden with the weight of the whisky'd world. His ol' band Arab Strap may be no more, but fortunately he's still makin' music on his own. This is his third blearily great solo album. Sweetening the proceedings is the presence of female vocalist Jenny Reeve (also of The Reindeer Section) who pretties up Middleton's scruffy loner pad... uhh, we mean music with some creamy pastels and brighter lighting. Still nothing can outshine the overcast woolen greys of Middleton's hopelessly romantic and just plain hopeless universe. Recommended!
"Fight Like The Night" MPEG Stream:
"Death Love Depression Love Death"
MIDDLETON, MALCOLM Sleight Of Heart (Full Time Hobby) cd 10.98
A new album from our favorite (favourite!) Scottish sadsack. We lovingly compare his music to an abandoned puppy in the rain... lapping up the last drops from empty pint glasses outside the neighborhood (neighbourhood!) pub. The all-acoustic songs on Sleight Of Heart, a mix of originals and covers (including a great, unflinching slow creeping rendition of Madonna's "Stay"!), sound more off the cuff and barebones than those on his last album 2007's A Brighter Beat. His haggard voice is once again joined by the dulcet pipes of Jenny Reeve as well as Mogwai's Barry Burns on piano and The Delgados' Paul Savage on drums. Five years down the line Middleton's first solo album 5: 14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine still continues to slay Cup, but each of his subsequent full lengths have plenty of woeful weepers to delight any craving for that unmistakable Scottish melancholia. Go on, slip into this bummer goodness!
"Follow Robin Down" MPEG Stream:
MIDDLETON, MALCOLM Waxing Gibbous (Full Time Hobby) cd 14.98
As the first few songs from Malcolm Middleton's latest album burst forth, you sorta get the feeling that he's thrown off the sadsack shackles of past dour hopelessness. The feverish tempo of many of these songs suggests that he might've come to the realization that too much time has been wasted mopin' around, and he's pulled up his socks and gotten a move on. The fantastic opening tune (and clear choice for the first single off the album) "Red Travellin' Socks" had us imagining what the world would be like if the New Pornographers had blossomed out of Scotland instead of Canada. 'Tis buoyant, beautifully produced pop with soaring female backing vocals that's as infectious as can be. Sure there's still the occasional song during which Middleton's spirits droop and his shoulders slump under the weight of the woes of his heart and soul as well as that of the rest of the world. Need proof? Give "Ballad Of Fuck All" a spin! Yeah, the title sez it all. He's never been one to mince words. As well there are a few endearingly dorky moments when the parts don't quite seem to fit - such as the introduction of programmed beats and/or a bleep-bloop synth line (as on "Zero") into the predominantly folksy acoustic setting. On the other hand, the same additions to songs such as "Box And Knife" work beautifully! Day in and day out, Middleton seldom disappoints! Recommended.
"Red Travellin' Socks" MPEG Stream:
"Box And Knife"
MIDISPORT 14 Footballers In Milkchocolate (Rather Interesting) cd 16.98
GGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!! The ever charming German electronica maven Atom Heart (to some still better known as Senor Coconut, and to others, like his mom, as Uwe Schmidt -- his real name) retains his infatuation with the music of South America (where he now lives) for his latest project, this time using the moniker Midisport. Similar to his Los Samplers disc, which subjected the likes of Perez Prado and other Latin Mambo kings to his laptop tomfoolery, Midisport geographically pegs Brazil by appropriating the infectious rhythms of Samba music, the mellow jazz stylings of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and a few nods to Caetano Veloso for good measure.
"Midi A Go Go" RealAudio clip:
MIDLAKE The Courage Of Others (Bella Union) cd 13.98
MIDLAKE Trials Of Van Occupanther (Bella Union) cd 14.98
Midlake have garnered some pretty notable classic rock comparisons ranging from the Alan Parsons Project to Neil Young. Some reviewers have been quick to compare the group's opening track "Roscoe" to Fleetwood Mac. We agree that Lindsey Buckingham would approve of the delicate acoustic guitar picking (reminiscent of "Silver Springs") on "Bandits" and the crunchy guitar solo (ala "Go Your Own Way") on "Head Home," and Christine McVie wouldn't sneeze at the subtle electric piano lines that blend nicely into the rhythm section, yet contribute heavily to each song. However, we think the band's opener "Roscoe" is more comparable to Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." After about ten seconds you begin to expect the cowbell to come in. Soon enough Tim Smith begins singing in a melancholy tone comparable to early Thom Yorke or Mark Kozelek and the cowbell seems miles away as you are swept up in the beauty of The Trials of Van Occupanther.
"Roscoe" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT Complete and Total F@#cking Midnight (Outlaw) cd 10.98
"All Hail Hell" MPEG Stream:
"Hot Graves" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT CHASER Rough And Tough (Heavy Artillery) cd 14.98
Braggadocious San Francisco metallers Midnight Chaser unleash their album debut, brought to us by the same label that put out the Vektor album we highlighted last list. But while Vektor blew minds with their advanced thrash tech, Midnight Chaser are much more retro and rockin' than that. They play sleazy hard rock steeped in the sounds of the late '70s/early '80s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, a la Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg, Chateaux, and Tank. And we know they know their stuff, they covered Tank on the limited edition ep that preceded this, and are named after a song by obscure NWOBHMers White Spirit (the band that Iron Maiden third wheel Janick Gers got his start in). Combine that with their native Californian good time rock n' roll roots and you've got a party... in fact, the lead off track here, entitled "Awesome Party" (actually Midnight Chaser's original name before wiser heads prevailed) tells you pretty much all you need to know. Super catchy chugging riffiness, in support of the singer's spirited contention that he's "got nothing to lose", "really need(s) to cut loose" and is "looking for an awesome party tonight". And it would be an awesome party, if Midnight Chaser were playing... The whole rest of the record is similarly rockin' and fun, including their cover of "Dynamite" from Blackout by the Scorpions. Other things to like about 'em: the singer has short hair, wears aviator shades, and thus kinda has a Graham Bonnet thing going. The disc's cartoonish cover is pretty rad/ridiculous, depicting a sexy woman of indeterminate age (possibly the protagonist of track 5, "Cougar'd") riding a mechanical amplifier beast with electric guitars for legs, galloping across a hot pink landscape. Yeah they're not very grim and kvlt, are they? But take a break from the black metal and rock out for once! Seems we've got a little New Wave Of San Francisco Old School Awesome Partying Heavy Metal happening here, with the likes of Space Vacation, Hot Fog, and now these guys! Cool.
"Awesome Party" MPEG Stream:
"Rough And Tough" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, THE Richard, Rodney, Rastus, Raoul, Roderick, Randy, Rupert (Hyped2Death) cd 11.98
Hooky -and- haphazard, and nicely lo-fi, yes it's another batch of early '80s UK DIY goodness, rescued from oblivion by Hyped To Death's Messthetics series! Leicester's Midnight Circus, who considered The Instant Automatons (reviewed last list) their mentors in the whole DIY cassette culture art punk thing, appeared on one collectable vinyl comp (Angst In My Pants) as well as on many many self-released cassette-albums with titles like Pre-Natal Counseling, The Bland Craze, Galvanizing The Dead, and Do Modern Atoms Wear Fashionable Clothes. As per general Messthetics standards, they weren't terribly musically accomplished, but they -were- creative and fueled by much post-adolescent angst... Perhaps the Arctic Monkeys would have wound up like The Midnight Circus if they grew up 30 years earlier. Expect their Gang-Of-Four-ish guitars to be accompanied by beer can percussion (or crudely amplified metronome, or at best a cheap drum machine), that sort of thing, which of course we totally dig. This is a "best of" of sorts, compiling tracks from that comp, their cassettes, and previously unreleased recordings as well circa 1980-83 and it includes scads of liner notes and cool black-and-white graphics in the 10-page cd booklet, as you should expect from these very thorough, labor-of-love Hyped To Death productions.
"Leather & Lace" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT MOVIES Lion The Girl (New Line) cd 14.98
Midnight Movies' latest full length Lion The Girl exudes an irresistible sexy confidence. Believe you me, it is your new favorite if you happen to be a sleek late night jetsetter. This is great driving, moody pop a la Metric or Electrelane. Y'know, the kind that's deeply influenced by the shadowy side of '80s new wave, a bit of post-punk tension and maybe some Stereolab too with their penchant for propulsive krautrock-y organ lines. The robust combination of Larry Schemel's guitars, Jason Hammons' synthesizers and new drummer Sandra Vu's drums pack quite the walloping backdrop for Gena Olivier's sultry vocals. Occasionally the L.A. band take a bit of a breather from their fevered pace for a gentler '60s girl group vocal style slow number ("Ribbons") or a druggy space rocker ("Lion Song"). We like! Recommended.
"Hideaway" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT PRIEST Rainha Da Magia Negra (Stormspell) cd 11.98
Most of the metal bands we've heard who sing in Portuguese are from Brazil. This band, though, actually hails from Portugal itself, the old country as it were, and appropriately keep their metal old school as well. We can imagine 'em playing shows with their countrymen Ironsword, since they're both traditional '80s styled metallers. However, whereas Ironsword sing in English, and musically pay tribute to cult heroes Manilla Road, these guys, as we said, instead sing in their native tongue, and seem most inspired by early (Di'Anno era) Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM acts (plus pre-NWOBHMers Judas Priest no doubt). There's six triumphant tracks here on this 29-minute debut disc, nice and heavy, raw and rippin', displaying a definite knack for riffs, making good use of their twin guitar attack. The vocals are melodic but rather gruff and aggressive, coming from a fellow simply called The Priest. Everybody else in the band seems to have not only stage names but nicknames too. Like, guitarist Rod Wolf (which can't be his real name!) is also known as "The Mystical", and the allegedly named Wartank Alex also gets called "Animal", naturally enough 'cause he's the drummer. All that, plus the cartoon-like band portrait tell us these guys aren't the most serious band ever. Yet their music doesn't sound like they're fooling around, they manage to not only kick out some awesome riffage but also generate and atmosphere that can get genuinely dark and epic. There's definitely something quite likable about this band, regardless of the language barrier. Heck, the singer wears glasses (which is pretty cool we think, since a lot of us here do too). Also, and more importantly, despite our not knowing what he's singing about, he still manages to command our attention. As do the guitars, and those we do understand!
"Rainha De Magia Negra" MPEG Stream:
MIDNIGHT PRIEST s/t (Stormspell) cd 11.98
More from these Portuguese true metallers!
MIDNIGHT STAR No Parking On The Dance Floor (Solar) cd 12.98
Yes, only the best for your dance floor! Features the awesome title track from 1983 as well as Freakazoid. You need this.
MIDNITE SNAKE s/t (Birdman) cd 13.98
Raw wah-wank garage psych rawk from a new Pittsburgh PA trio whose in-the-red motorpsycho stylings would make Makoto Kawabata blush. If they were Japanese, this would get filed next to Mainliner and High Rise. All instrumental, which means they don't have to come up with any lyrics to go with such songtitles as "Machinegun Cock" and "Nitro-Turbo-Overdrive"... they just have to play it like they mean it. And they do, bombing out some drunken guitar-bass-drums as if their practice space was on fire and they're trying to put it out with their amps. Don't listen if you don't like hangovers. The aptly named track "Acid Wash" drones things out for about twelve minutes at the end of the disc, without turning down the volume.
"Ambassadors Of Throttle (In The Sky We Will Ride)" MPEG Stream:
"Snakebite At Midnite"
MIDNITE SNAKE Shaving The Angel (Birdman) cd 13.98
Good grief, this is the second album AQ's reviewed by Pittsburgh's Midnite Snake and I've only just NOW gotten the terrible pun implicit in their band name. Snake, snack, geddit? Ugh, wish I hadn't! Oh well, let's not hold that pun against 'em, 'cause this is a damn fine disc of raw, in-the-red, motorpsycho, amp-fried garagey geetar heaviness in the tradition of bands like High Rise and The Heads. The cool/curious thing about Midnight Snake is that it's obvious that they're totally IN control of the out-of-control, if your know what we mean. It's weird in a way, for something that's supposed to sound so SCUZZY they're actually not that sloppy. So, what are this fright-masked trio up to this time 'round? They kick things off by kicking out the jams on the nine-minute "Cruise Control", effects swirling and burbling, bass throbbing, fuzzzzzzzzz baking yr ears to a crisp. Track two, "Sacred Mist" is an even longer jam, moodier at the beginning before building up to the requisite freakout. And then, with track three "Bigfoot '69" they REALLY go off but check out the drumming, tight! It's got all the "get down" energy of something by the late great Lubricated Goat. They follow that up with the mellow "In The Grass", it's all quiet and pretty for over four minutes... what happened??? Smoking grass instead of popping pills we guess, but it's nice. Soon enough, with track five "Shaving The Angel" they're back to the frazzed, fuzzed, frantic sort of stomp-splatter that Midnite Snake fans want to hear from Midnite Snake. Feedback squeal squalls and all. And then, holy crap, the final track number six "Supermodified" is a doozy. Nearly 26 minutes! Mantric noisy space rock mayhem. File with yr White Hills, Residual Echoes, Comets On Fire... and Japanese stuff like Mainliner, Musica Transonic and Acid Mothers Temple (this actually even LOOKS a helluva lot like an AMT album).
"Cruise Control" MPEG Stream:
MIDORIKAWA, KEIKI Complete 'Grune Revolution' (Doubtmusic) 2cd 33.00
Attention Masayuki Takayanagi fans! Actually, attention all '70s Japanese free jazz fans!! Heck, attention everybody!!! (Well, everybody who likes crazy creative freeform improv skronkiness.) Doubtmusic brings us this compact disc reissue of a 1976 album by Japanese improvising cellist/bassist Keiki Midorikawa playing with several heavy friends, nicely packaged of course, in a miniature LP style sleeve. Actually, it's more than a reissue, as this double cd edition has been expanded twofold to include previously unissued music. The original LP documented Midorikawa's duo with legendary guitarist Takayanagi on one side, and his duo with pianist Masahiko Sato on the other side, about 20 minutes each. But at the same concert, Midorikawa had also performed a duo with percussionist Mashaiko Togashi, the 40 minute recording of which appears here for the first time, as disc one of what's now a two disc set, which is why it's now considered "Complete". Additionally, it's been remastered, and includes both the liner notes from the original vinyl release as well as new liners penned by Taku Sugimoto. Perhaps they explain why all the titles are given in what appears to be German, we don't know though, we haven't read 'em yet. Since we came to this primarily as Takayanagi fans, naturally we jumped right to disc two to hear his contribution to this set. The Midorikawa/Takayanagi duo, entitled "An die Prinzessin die aus dem Maulbeerbaum geboren wurde", is crammed with plinking and plonking, scrabble and scrape, silences and even some (vocal) screams, the busy fingers of both men rustling up some (mostly quiet) noise. It's the Derek Bailey-ish side of Takayanagi on display here. Following it on the same disc, Midorikawa's duo with Sato, "Der Todeskampf am Maderospatch" is rather more dramatic, sounding melodically lovely (jazzy) in parts, but also building to loud, rumbling crescendos. Quite satisfying for our free jazz cravings. But actually, turning to disc one, we soon discovered that Midorikawa's lengthy duo with Togashi, "Dichorragia nesimachus", is probably our favorite piece here. It's both wonderfully moody, Midorikawa caressing his strings in "classical" mode, melodically droning away amidst beautiful bells and gentle shimmer, which gives way on the percussive side of the equation to more martial drum beats, a physical pounding that then elicits a sawing, shuddering response from Midorikawa's cello, both players coming together for rapidfire percussive skitter-scatter... of course, it's a long piece, and that only describes a portion of it. Nice to have it rescued from the vault!
"Dichorragia nesimachus" MPEG Stream:
"Der Todeskampf am Maderospatch"
MIDWAY Fist Full Of Quarters (self-released) cd ep 4.98
Do you have a fist full of quarters? About five dollars worth? Do you like feisty '80s-style punk pop tunes? Well, you just might wanna head for this Midway! Their debut five song ep positively bursts with youthful vigor. As you may guess from the title, they're all about cute, no-frills fun. And we'd guess they're more into riding the rollercoasters and the bumper cars, than the Ferris wheel! Fun!
MIDWICH Procedures (Celebrate Psi Pheomenon) cd-r 13.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Another batch of super limited and beautifully packaged cd-r's from Campbell Kneale's (Birchville Cat Motel) Celebrate Psi Phenomenon label. The finest in underground free noise / drone, culled mostly from New Zealand but all around the world as well. For those of you new to the CpsiP label, imagine classic Siltbreeze (Dead C, etc.) mixed with Jewelled Antler (Thuja, Blithe Sons etc.), dark and deep listening that sometimes verges on all out noise, but more often than not remains subtle experiments in avant drone and abstract sound. And when we say limited we mean LIMITED. Thes babies come in pressings of 30-80, out of which we get a whopping 10 copies!! Midwich is the audio project of a certain Rob Hayler, who some of you might know from the very cool cd-r label Fencing Flatworm that he runs, which just happens to chronicle much of the same free noise as Celebrate Psi Phenomenon and a few other likeminded labels. Here we get a heady dollop of Hayler's effervescent, intoxicating ambience, all sweet and dreamy and not dark at all. Rich and thick and soothing. Like a smoother Sunroof! with all the rough edges polished into a gleaming shimmer. Swirling clouds of dense melody and soothing major key drone all coalesce into a sweet, summery bolt of happy drone (if there is such a thing).
"2" MPEG Stream:
MIESKUORO HUUTAJAT 10th Anniversary Concert (Bad Vugum) cd 13.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. From the liner notes: "Ten and a half years ago, a few men in Oulu (Finland) were bothered by a thought: what would it be like to assemble a maximal number of men into a regular formation and dress them in dark suits, black rubber ties (made of used inner tubes), white shirts, and make them furiously shout some patriotic texts sacred to Finns. The men didn't have any further starting point: neither musical frustrations, a political programme, an aesthetic trend, nor opinions concerning postmodenism in arctic areas. But already the first choir rehersal proved that a shouting men's choir would have expressive power in all these senses." Allow me to reiterate, 80 Finnish men in black suits and rubber ties barking rhythmic reinterpretations of patriotic Finnish songs (they also shout the 'Star Spangled Banner'!!!). One of AQ's favorite documents of the absurd.
MIESKUORO HUUTAJAT H.V.Y.A. (Bad Vugum) cd 7.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Quite simply one of the most fucked things that has passed through the doors of AQ! A choir of 40 men who do not sing, rather they shout various Finnish anthems, children's ditties, and patriotic songs. As you can accertain, these renditions are completely devoid of melody but have an outstanding sensibility when it comes to re-interpreting the rhythmic elements of the original songs. The CD features all of the tracks from their Finnish major label single of variations on the national anthems from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, U.S.A., and Germany (which is down right awesome). Gratefully both formats clock in well under 15 minutes, any more would be sadistic.
MIGHTY DIAMONDS, THE Right Time (Virgin) cd 14.98
One of the most amazing Reggae debut albums of all time. Originally released in 1976, The Mighty Diamonds hit the scene with this rich roots album which decades later still stands as one of the fullest and warmest sounding reggae albums ever captured on tape. While the bulk of their lyrical content was all about hardcore political resistance, they were able to make their message go down so smooth as their vocal harmonies are some of the sweetest since the heyday of Studio One. Slow and steady with an ease that just flows through the album and makes it one of those records we just have to blast when the sun is shining so bright. Behind the amazing vocals are some serious chops courtesy of the kick ass ensemble gathered for this album which included (of course) Sly & Robbie. You can hear how they were influenced not only by the early years of reggae but also such a strong sense of Motown melody and a doo-wop sensibility. A total classic that we're happy to finally list.
"Right Time" MPEG Stream:
"I Need A Roof"
MIGHTY FLASHLIGHT s/t (Jade Tree) cd 12.98
Mike Fellows (of the monumentally important and awesome band Rites of Spring) has had a helping hand in records by Royal Trux, the Silver Jews, Will Oldham, and even Smog. Now he's finally struck out on his own. But don't expect any ass kicking emo. This is a way more subdued and personal affair. Utilising acoustic guitar, piano, electronics, drum machine, and the ubiquitous PowerBook, Fellows has produced an intimate and completely captivating album with obtuse yet engaging lyrics and subtle but pervasive melodies. Imagine Royal-Trux-electronica or Smog-techno or Palace-Brothers-remixed or drum-machine-folk-soundscapes or something, but it's so much more than that. Dark and folky and dreamy and pretty fucking great. This record would have fit perfectly on the Drag City roster (rumor is they turned it down), instead of emo mainstay Jade Tree (but I suppose that was unavoidable what with the Rites Of Spring past). So those of you in the market for some folky twang or twangy strum who wouldn't mind mixing it up a little, should totally check this out. Look out for the Mighty Flashlight on tour soon with what the band hints may be a unlikely collection of accompanying musicians.
"Vehicular Dome" RealAudio clip:
"Go, on. Die. It's easy" RealAudio clip:
"Several Water Cannons"
MIGHTY HANNIBAL, THE Hannibalism! (Norton) cd 14.98
Collected on cd for the first time, Norton unleases 75 minutes of classic R&B/soul/funk singles sides from turban-wearing singer, including such great cuts as "Big Chief Hug-Um An' Kiss-Um", "Jerkin' The Dog", "Fishin' Pole", "The Truth Shall Make You Free" and 24 others -- spanning Hannibal's output from 1958 to 1973. The rockin' earlier tracks would be great stuff for your next toga party (!) while the more soulful mid-sixties and funkifed later material gets into heavier subject matter, dealing with drugs and ghetto life. Indeed, the *extensive* liner notes (by Hannibal himself, speaking Iceberg Slim style) delve into the harsh details of his heroin addiction and recovery, as well as providing colorful anecdotes from his career in show biz about money, women, stealing an elephant from the circus, and contemporaries like Johnny Otis, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and James Brown. One thing he doesn't discuss is what he's been up to since '73, although he does promise to get back into the studio soon, and he says "it'll be hotter than little sister's pussy with the clap. A chef knows the formula for making good food. I know the formula for making hit records. I'm giving you the Arnold Schwarzenegger here -- a total recall. That's how I am. I don't cut nobody no bullshit."
"Motha Goose Breaks Loose" RealAudio clip:
"Hymn No. 5" RealAudio clip:
"The Truth Shall Make You Free"
MIGHTY RYEDERS Help Us Spread the Message (Luv N' Haight) cd 14.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY. Reissued on cd and limited vinyl, this is classic 1978 Stevie-Wonder-style soul groove. The orignal vinyl is coveted by rare groove DJs the world over. Highly recommended.