Finally, in other Wilco news...the latest release date from Wilcoword.net on the forthcoming Live in Chicago DVD is November 15. In case you haven't heard, it's a 23 song collection of live Wilco jams collected from the three nights (sheduled specifically for recording purposes) they played in May at the Vic. You can preorder your copy here.
Now Zuco 103 is back with the equally innovative release, Whaa!. This band is never boring...they can roll from a reggae-themed song to samba beats to booty-shaking electronica. What surprised me was the diversity of world fusion on this album. Tales of High Fever had a tone, but this album is energetically sporadic.
Whaa! starts with "Na Mangueira", a track with shoulder-shaking beats and an almost sarcastic delivery in the vocals. Vieira even sounds a bit nasaly on this track, but it somehow fits the overall tone of the song. The next standout cut is "Mayfly" where Lilian sings sweetly to the listener over a mildly jazzy beat. "Vivinte" is a 3 minute, 36 second seduction with some great electric guitar moments. My favorite track on the album, "Futebol", is actually sung in English. It is a well-crafted Pop song that hits you with a shimmy-inducing chorus.
All in all this is a solid album that delivered what this group had proved to me last year: world music does not have to sound traditional. It can be modern, innovative and surprising. I recommend this CD highly to anyone who enjoys a smooth voice, world fusion, and a fascinating mix of slow melodies and hot beats to keep you guessing.
While you'd never guess it from seeing them live, Dungen is essentially a one-man band project, lead by singer/multi-instrumentalist Gustav Esjes. Esjes is reported to have recorded "just about every drum beat, fiddle note, guitar lick, organ sound, bass strum & flute whisper" on their most recent album Ta Det Lugnt, their debut in the States. Sure enough for the live show, Esjes, looking like a cross between a Robert Plant, Roger Daltry and Peter Frampton, did jump around between guitar, organ, and flute while also handling lead vocals. However, percussion-wise, Esjes only handled tambourine duties and most of the guitar was handled by lead man Reine Fiske. A part of the recently assembled full-band version of Esjes' Dungen project, Fiske really stole the show with his Norse Godlike guitar chops. Not only was his playing amazing, but the sound that emanated from his Marshall stack was downright euphoric. Via a vintage Strat, he achieved this amazingly warm analog sound that had just the perfect amount of distortion and echo. The sound was so strikingly late 60's/early 70s pyschedelia that you'd swear he had bought all of his gear from a garage sale at David Gilmour's house.
Speaking of which, as much as I think Dungen is a fresh talent that borrows pieces of rock's past rather than flat out stealing from it, they do highly remind me of the post-Barrett, pre-Dark Side version of Pink Floyd...only with more rock and less prog. I noticed the similarity in guitar sound on the album right away, but seeing them jam out live took me back to some of the more rockin' moments from the Floyd's cult video classic, Live at Pompeii. (the track "Lejonet & Kulan" is very "Saucerful of Secrets," especially live)
Above all, as much as I like their latest album Ta Det Lugnt, I don't think it gives the band justice. Dungen is truly a band that you need to see live. Esjes is an amazing talent, and somehow he's assembled a full supporting cast that can not only keep up him, but actually make his psychedelic visions sound even better live. Easily one of the "tightest" bands I've seen in a long time, I'd recommend Dungen to not just retro rock fans, but to anyone who truly appreciates the work of talented musicians.
Dangerdoom - The Mask and the Mouse (Epitaph)
Yes, it's finally here...the long-awaited collaboration between MF Doom and Dangermouse is now yours for the taking. Features guest appearances by Ghostface, Cee-Lo and Talib Kweli...and, of course, plenty of hijinks from the Adult Swim cast.
Gang of Four - Return the Gift (V2)
Seems like I've been hearing about this release forever as well...essentially a "greatest hits" except that the band went back in the studio and rerecorded new versions of their classics.
Tom Verlaine - Warm & Cool (Thrill Jockey)
Re-issue of a 1992 instrumental effort from the ex-Television guitarist. Be on the lookout for another Television reunion in the near future.
Paul Weller - As Is Now (Yep Roc)
Long live the Modfather! By most accounts, this is his strongest solo outing in years.
The Clientele - Strange Geometry (Merge)
Constantines - Tournament of Hearts (Sub Pop)
Deerhoof - The Runners Four (Kill Rock Stars)
Dirty Three - Cinder (Touch & Go)
Matt Pond PA - Several Arrows Later (Altitude)
Mouse on Mars - Live04 (Sonig)
Bruce Finkleman, owner and manager of the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, has one of the smokiest music clubs in the city. Finkleman is for the ban, but he has reservations, among them where smokers would go..."If I was making the ordinance, I would propose that every place would have a smoking area," Finkleman said Tuesday. "And that area would have to be ventable that was satisfactory to both sides. It's like a weird 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' when there's 50 people smoking in front of a building and you have to walk by this cloud of smoke to get inside."
Obviously, there are some logistics to be worked out first, but if they can work things out to satisfy both patrons and club owners, a smoke-free Chicago would be heavenly. I remember the first time I went out to clubs in California and couldn't believe how much better I felt. Not only did all my clothes not smell like ass the next day, but I also had more energy to go out during the night and didn't feel nearly as shredded in the morning.
But, as you may have guessed, I'm a non-smoker and I'm a bit biased. RFC readers, what do you think??? I've heard from many fellow non-smokers who agree with the ban, but I'd love to hear some thoughts from the smokers out there as well. Will this put a damper on your late-night debauchery? Click on "comments" below and vent away...
For more information on the smoking ban, check out www.smokefreechicago.org
On Saturday night John Vanderslice stopped by Schubas in support of his fifth full length, Pixel Revolt, a delicate effort that has grown on me slow as a fungus. For the past week I‘ve been coming back to these tunes like I would an album that comforted me during desperate times some years ago. Each track flows into the next with a beautiful cohesion known by few artists nowadays. In a world of indie rock where we have on one end neurotic, Ritalin-deprived acts, and on the other those that like to pretend to be despondent and dependent upon Prozac, Vanderslice falls not in between but outside of the spectrum. Since his debut in 2000 he’s refrained from being a part of any particular scene or style, and herein lies both his downfall and his genius.
There are moments when a Vanderslice song fades into the background, lost to your stockpile of music that does nothing particularly for you either way. He can be frustratingly insipid. There are other moments when the beauty of his understated folk-pop tunes shines, drawing your attention and beckoning you back, such as on “Farewell Transmission” when the gorgeous timber of Vanderslice’s smooth voice combines with crushing lyrics. There’s also “Exodus Damage,” perhaps the most sweetly laidback song of nihilism ever written. In “Plymouth Rock” the musical complexity is so foundational you barely recognize it exits. But turn up the volume and you’ll catch the splendor of scraped acoustic strings layered over electronic loops and drifting ambiance.
So going into the show I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little concerned that that the vibe would be so calm and Vanderslice so tidy that I’d be yawning incessantly. But it didn’t take long for my worries to dissipate, and ultimately I was treated to one of the most charming performances I have ever seen.
The show began disjointedly with openers The Double. They’re native New Yorkers and it shows, as they sounded like a loud, raucous mix of Joy Division and Guided By Voices. Schubas can only handle so much synth and distortion and feedback till it all turns to muck. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy their set. It’s just not what I was expecting.
After being deafened by The Double (Come on now, who really thinks to bring ear plugs to a John Vanderslice show?) the crowd mumbled and waited for Vanderslice and his band to set up. I looked around and realized that, at 24, I may have been the youngest person in attendance. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many shorthairs at a show. I was the only person there whose hair fell in her eyes. Boy did I feel pretentious!
At 11:30 Vanderslice and company began with Pixel Revolt’s opener, “Letter to the East Coast.” The track is drum-less and Vanderslice, along with bassist David Broecker and Moog man Ian Bjornstad huddled around the front of the stage, playing modestly and setting the tone for an affable and intimate performance. On “Plymouth Rock” drummer Dave Douglas joined in, along with the clapping crowd. This song performed live highlighted that subtle complexity often overlooked in Vanderslice’s music. Whereas the recorded track holds all those light electronic goodies, the live version was much heavier on the bass and drum end. For many songs it took hearing them played live to realize how much substance there is to this music. Although the keyboard was passed from band member to band member throughout the show, they could only recreate so much electronic landscape on the stage.
But the band made up for this lack by prolonging the instrumental portions to certain songs. This worked most effectively on “Angela,” which ended with this cool little stretch of spacey Moog. Overall this song was a highlight for me, because I’ve never seen someone sing so passionately about a dead bunny. I’d seen pictures of Vanderslice before but I wasn’t expecting him to be so cute and silly. He reminded my of a younger, slightly more animated version of my high school band teacher and I just wanted to give him a big hug. I hadn’t expected him to be such a bouncy, happy little guy.
The show consisted of a fairly even mix of songs from all of Vanderslice’s releases, and also a nice combination of sounds, from the gritty bar-band lounge of “CRC7173, Affectionately,” to the floating “New Zealand Pines,” to the pop rock “Me and My 424.” Each tune was delivered tightly and enthusiastically. I didn’t yawn once. At the end of the main set we were given a special treat when Peter Hughes of the Mountain Goats was invited onstage to lead in the clapping for “Pale Horse.”
Preceding the encore Vanderslice mused about what bands were supposed to do at Schubas at such a moment, seeing as there’s no backstage to where the group can disappear. He decided that going outside was silly, and the band didn’t make any sort of pretense of exiting. “Just pretend we’re not here,” he said, at which command our already eager cheers exploded into a frenzy. But even though we were laughing, our eruption was no charade. It was an honest display of affection and appreciation for this wonderfully soft voice in modern rock.
Anyway...I was going to recommend to Nicole to check out more tracks on the Danger Doom page on MySpace, but then I noticed you can now stream the entire album for free! Check it out this weekend, I'm guessing they'll probably take it down as soon as The Mouse and The Mask officially hits stores this Tuesday (10/11).
RadioFreeChicago: Tell us more about your music...obviously the first thing that comes to mind is that it sounds like the soundtrack to a Nintendo game. How do you make your songs sound like this and what was your inspiration for doing so??
Laromlab: My music is the product of a dysfunctional childhood. Today most parents just tend to plop kids down in front of a television or a video game and they think it won't mess us up... well look at me! I started out doing electronic music in 1998 and just got bored with the tasteless Fruityloops drum beats and synths and needed something more. I first found out about Gameboy tracking (the Gameboy Camera actually has 3 16-step sequencers built into it) and moved onto a product called Little Sound DJ (which Bjork sold on her website for awhile). Then I decided I wanted a "beefier" sound out of my music so I looked around the Chiptune message boards for something that said it had a little more bass and quickly stumbled on the SID chip of the Commodore 64 and the Vic20. So I decided to stop using an actual Gameboy and start using an emulator with software and also added a Commodore 64 emulator to the mix with MusicMachine64.
My inspiration is more or less out of a love for the sounds these machines make and the machines in general. I think something like what I do just sounds better even if one is not aware of how it is produced. I have yet to this day heard some of the sounds that the SID chip produces even rivaled in any other program or on any other synth. The simple answer is: it just sounds cooler! That's why I gave it the name "Crisco Disco!"
RFC: I hear that you used to live in Chicago...why did you decide to leave? I also hear that Laromlab is backwards for "Balmoral," the street you used to live on here?
L: The real answer is not so exciting, but the long and short of it is I moved here before I got a college degree because I loved the city so much. I decided that life without a college degree was not for me so I came back to Bowling Green, Kentucky...which if you talk to anyone who has lived there, has a certain quality that sucks you back into it. It is a crappy little town, but I love that crappy little town! I definitely have plans to move back to Chicago someday...and yes I used to live on Balmoral Ave in Andersonville, right at Foster and Clark. It is by far one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. When I come back I will definitely be scoping out that area again, assuming it hasn't gotten all "yuppiefied"
RFC: What can we expect from your live show?
L: Dancing! Dancing! Dancing! The show at the Big Horse Lounge on October 8 is gonna be the only show on this tour where my very beautiful colleague Madame Pink Pearl will be accompanying me!! Without her I am nothing! My live shows are usually left up to the audience to create a ruckus outside of my wall of beats and synths but when Pink Pearl is on stage we pack a one-two punch! Pink Pearl is very skilled in interpretative dancing (but not that cheesy pretentious stuff!!) and will more than likely provide a bubble show for everyone in attendance. Also the audience is always encouraged to be a part of our festivities, I prefer a party atmosphere in the club or bars that I perform in!
RFC: What's in store in the near future for Laromlab? More tours? A new record??
L: Well, I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon. I still have yet to do a really huge tour and I would love to do that at some point. At the end of October I am heading out to the Southwest and I'm sure will be playing the likes of Memphis and Oklahoma City as well as other locales in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.
As for a record, I have a new one pretty much finished. It is a piece I have been thinking about for a while where I thought of a huge list of countries and decided to write songs in the same Crisco Disco style (but maybe with less Disco and more Crisco) that represented each country. For instance, "I Love Antarctica" has a very frigid but happy vibe to it, which is how I think of Antarctica and "I Love Iraq" has a very militaristic vibe and a very marchy sound to it!
RFC: Anything else we should know about Laromlab?
L: Just please come out and support me if you see I am playing a show in the area. It is really rough touring right now with the gas prices [so bad] and all of the support at shows helps keep me on my way to the next show! And don't forget to check out some of my music at: http://www.myspace.com/laromlab
Laromlab's Saturday show starts at 8pm with openers I Don't Mind the Air, The Oaves, Pyrite, and STAR. The Big Horse Lounge is located at 1558 N. Milwaukee. Also, Laromlab will be performing as an opening act Monday night (10/10) at Nihilist, 2255 S. Michigan Ave., Apt 4E. Festivities begin at 8pm.
More facts about Laromlab:
Favorite memory of Chicago: Costello's Deli in Logan Square (by far the best deli in all of the land)
Favorite Nintendo game: Definitely Tetris. I take on all challengers!
Currently listening to: Numbers "We're Animals", Andrew Thompson "Egad", any quintron and Miss Pussycat,any Lightning Bolt and Foxhole "We the Wintering Tree"(these are my hometown guapos)
Best thing about living in Kentucky: like I have to answer that....Bourbon!!
Pick up the latest QOTSA CD, Lullabies To Paralyze, at any Chicagoland Tower Records location, and we'll [The Onion] get you V.I.P. priority access into this awesome event. For more info, visit any Tower Records location in Chicagoland.
I left this out initially to avoid the gratuitous Tower and Onion promotion, figuring that the whole thing was open to the public and the V.I.P. pass from Tower would just be a way to bypass the lines or sit in the front row. However, Gaper's Block reports that a clerk at the store said that you must obtain a wristband from Tower in order to attend. Again, might want to verify this first before heading over there. Meanwhile, as far as I know, no purchase necessary to attend the Liar's Club 10th anniversary party with Eagles of Death Metal.
Party starts at 10pm with opener The Flashbulb...admission is FREE. Rodan is located at 1530 N. Milwaukee, right next to Reckless Records in Wicker Park.
Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (Sony)
Apparently those peaceful protests worked?? Sony finally caved and released this album, which they originally threw back at Apple's pouty face when it was completed the first time. OK, they didn't literally throw it back in her face, but this isn't exactly the feel good "Foxtrot" story of 2005 either. For some reason they decided to shelve most of the original Jon Brion production work and opted to re-record with 50 Cent's producer Mike Elizondo. OK, so now Fiona Apple is produced by Fiddy's man and Kanye is produced by Jon Brion? Is anybody else confused by all this??
Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (Sony)
I can't imagine these wee Scottish blokes ever topping the success of "Take Me Out," but they're probably good for at least a few more NME cover-worthy singles. Is the new record any good? I can't really tell, I personally was sick of these guys the first time around (when they were called The Strokes). However, The Fork gives it an 8.3, so that means everyone will now automatically like it, right?
Twista - The Day After (Atlantic)
Though recently latching on to the coattails of Kanye's superstardom, this hometown hero has been putting out albums for years. Shit, I remember him kickin' it once on an episode of In Living Colour during its heyday, when he was known as Tongue Twista (an homage to his mind-blowingly fast rhyming skills). This new record features production by Timbaland, Neptunes, Toxic, Cuzo, and David Banner as well as appearances by Pharrell Williams and Jamie Foxx.
Broken Social Scene - S/T (Arts & Crafts)
Well over a year before the Arcade Fire's astronomical rise to stardom, these guys put the Canadian indie-scene on the map in 2003 with their underground smash, You Forgot It In People. Technically their third release, I'm guessing this record still probably gave the band plenty of "sophomore slump" headaches in the studio while trying to follow-up their own success as well as that of their countrymen, The Fire.
My Morning Jacket - Z (Ato)
Oops...I guess technically these guys are on a major label. If I remember correctly, "Ato" is a subsidiary of Atlantic? Nevertheless, they still don't sound like a major label band...or really any other band for that matter. Are they rockers? folksters? A jam band that doesn't completely suck? I'm not sure what to call them, but I think that's why I like them. Anybody want to chime in on whether its worth seeing them live when they play the Vic on the 22nd??
Can't forget about these either...
Atmosphere - You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (Rhymesayers)
Dungen - Stadsvandringar [reissue] (Astralwerks)
The Fall - Fall Heads Roll (Narnack)
Friends of Dean Martinez - Lost Horizon (Aero)
Hem/Autumn Defense - Birds, Beasts, & Flowers[ep] (Arena Rock)
(Int'l)Noise Conspiracy - Armed Love (Caroline)
Lesser Birds of Paradise - String of Bees (Contraphonic)
Make Believe - Shock of Numbers (Flameshovel)
Magic Numbers - S/T (Capitol)
Screaching Weasel - Weaselmania (Fat Wreck)
Talking Heads - Brick [Box Set] (Rhino)
Yesterdays New Quintet - Sound Directions: Funky Side of Life (Stones Throw)