Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain Load Records ~
by Alan St. Laurent
A drummer, a bass player, and the most vicious yet animated
rock racket EVER! These two guys hail from Providence, Rhode Island
and have been taking their self-made mayhem all over the globe for
quite a few years now. Those that have grabbed hold and taken the
ride know that this new album by them is MUCHLY anticipated.
Lightning Bolt's last album Wonderful Rainbow released in
2003 was the best new rock since Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising wove
aural soundscapes unheard by human ears in 1985. Both releases had
the "WHOAH" effect in the sense that there was just nothing like
them before! Now the pressure is on for Lightning Bolt to eclipse
Wonderful Rainbow and take their sound to the next level. Mission
Hypermagic Mountain is so goddamn far out I don't even
know where to begin. These guys are not just bashing it out anymore.
There's some kind of harmonic craziness going on here and you wonder
how Brian Gibson can make his bass guitar do these things! There
is no electronic manipulation going on here. It's pure bass guitar
and drums. Go figure!
Brian Chippendale seems to get more limber with each release
and LIVE gig that I've seen them perform. His drumming is so inhumanly
accurate and fast that there's no need to see it! It's all a blur.
On Hypermagic Mountain he takes the percussion up, up, up and into
hyperspace where there's no time to consider how these two invented
this craziness. The music just careens and cavorts with an intelligence
and spontaneity you will NOT believe! One idea leads to another
and another then backlashes and spins off in another direction.
It's dangerous! It's violent! It's fun! You've just never heard
anything like this.
See loadrecords.com and
Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno - IAO Chant From The
Cosmic Inferno - Ace Fu Records ~ by Alan
OH NO! Not another Acid Mothers Temple release! Well, this
one's truly worth writing about. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting
Paraiso UFO is no more in case you haven't heard. Kawabata Makoto
felt it was time to bury that incarnation of the band and move on
to a newer more hellish version of this Japanese psych outfit. They're
about to tour the U.S. for the month of October and already have
4 new albums and one more on the way. Three fifths of the band are
new under the Cosmic Inferno name but the sound isn't all that much
different from the Melting Paraiso UFO. Different enough to keep
you interested however.
IAO Chant From The Cosmic Inferno is the newest
release on Ace Fu records out of New York City. One track clocking
in at about 55 minutes and mostly a cover of Gong's "Master Builder"
at that! This one doesn't just freak out with repetitive electronic
blips and bleeps and psych guitar for an eternity that goes nowhere.
IAO Chant… starts with Gong's "Master Builder" riff and sails. Eventually
the track morphs ever so slightly into a plinking and plunking on
the guitar end rather than an all out blurred psych swirl. This
moves into a more ethereal and quiet space for a while after that.
Bass guitar moves in after a few minutes and the track starts
to lazily move into a bluesy psych swirl that's a little more free
form but not much. The loud noisy psych these guys are known for
starts to creep in just a little which then gives way to a chorus
of chanting monk-like voices and we're soon back where we started
with Gong's "Master Builder" riff.
This disc pretty much covers all the ground you can cover
where psych is concerned. Kawabata Makoto may have made the right
move with this lineup. Although they tend to extend themselves a
bit too far with the sheer number of albums they put out, this disc
isn't one of the potholes to be avoided. If you love extended psych
drones, Acid Mothers Temple is the place to be! The Melting Paraiso
UFO may be dead but the Cosmic Inferno is just beginning! Catch
them at Bar in New Haven toward the end of October. See acidmothers.com
Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine - Epic/Clean Slate ~
by Kevin O'Toole
The situation that led to Fiona Apple's third album arriving
after a six year gap looked, in some ways similar to Wilco's ledgendary
problems with getting their classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot released.
On the surface anyway…
You see, according to recent reports and interviews in Rolling
Stone and on MTV, Ms. Apple confessed that the reason her follow
up to her November 1999 release (with the 90 word title; I'll spare
you), was that she quit, basically. After working slowly on that
follow up with producer Jon Brion (who has also worked with Brad
Mehldau and Beck, and produced the excellent score to the wonderful
film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), she began to run into
funding conflicts on the project with Sony, culminating with Sony's
demand that she turn over each individual track as it was completed
for evaluation and notes. Apple balked at this and simply walked.
Ah, but in the wake of this decision, a group of rabid fans
desparate for the next CD, actually began the so-called "Free Fiona"
campaign, and even protested in front of Sony headquarters. Apple,
meanwhile, seemed happy to not do anything, until this campaign
came to her attention. She was, as she asserts, so moved by people's
devotion to fight on her behalf with Sony (though she insists they
misunderstood her disagreement with her label), she decided to return
to work and start with the same material afresh.
In another seeming similarity to Wilco's story,
Apple's album seems merely to have jumped from one corporate organ
of Sony to another (from Work label to Epic, like with Wilco's jump
from Reprise to Nonesuch.
This time, she employed Mike Elizondo as a producer, which,
it would seem, would be a distinct change up from Jon Brion's exquisite
chamber-pop styling. Elizondo, after all, is more known for work
with Dr. Dre, Xzibit and Christian Aguilera. Though Brion still
remains a major presence on the new CD, the change would surely
mean a move further toward pop and away from the soulful vocals
present on her first two albums, wouldn't it?
Apple fans need not worry. Extraordinary Machine (****1/2,
Epic/ Clean Slate) marks a further development of Apple's voice
as a songwriter and a performer. The hints of a sense of humor behind
her bad girl posing on tunes like "Criminal," have matured, musically
and lyrically, and she has lost none of her power to deliver powerful
vocal melodies and energetic, powerful piano playing. The amazing
thing before was that she was belting out all this deeply emotional
and powerful music at age 17. Given the burnout tendencies for artists
working this long in the business, it's just as amazing that she
can bring her more mature 28-year old emotional perspectives to
bear now, confirming what fans have long suspected about this notoriously
unprolific artist: she displays a depth of heart and wit rarely
seen by any artist at any age. She just has a few years on Britney
Spears and Christina Aguilera. Have they aged so well as artists,
having put out a few more albums than Apple?
That answer, by the way, is "No."
The title track opens the album. It's a tune about empowerment
(a seeming constant in Apple's work, though one might understand
why given her back story), set to a loping Jon Brion orchestral
arrangement. The "Machine" she's singing about is herself, and the
tune recalls both Annie Ross and Tom Waits.
On Get Him Back, she finds herself swearing revenge
upon previous romantic disappointments and betrayals, and then dealing
with the adjustment to a man who treats her right (she intones "I
think he let me down, when he didn't disappoint me"). The music
is a welcome uptempo gloss on such pieces as "Shadowboxer" from
her debut album Tidal. ?uestlove from The Roots offers a powerful
In Apple's world, pain and happiness travel in uncomfortable
proximity to each other. "Better Version of Me" is Apple grappling
with her self destructive nature ("I don't want a home, I'd ruin
that/ Home is where my habits have a habitat" she wryly acknowledges,
as she promises she is trying to recreate herself. That song is
followed by "Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)," where she wonders
aloud whether she's is love or mentally ill after a brief intimate
encounter. The production is layered with mellotron, chamberlain,
vibes and optigan (a sort of low-rent mellotron), and dabbles in
marxophone, a sort of hammered dulcimer variant, played (mostly)
by Zac Rae.
It's just Fiona and the piano on the next track. "Parting
Gift" is part tender ("I opened my eyes while you were kissing me,
once/ more than once") and sardonic (as she compares her lover's
look to that of a dog "when it's the food on (its') lips, with which
it's in love," and declares loudly "Oh you stupid silly pastime
of mine"). And just when you might imagine a tune like Johnny Rotten's
"No Feelings," she confesses an attatchment, with some regrets ("all
the signs/ said 'stop'- but we went on whole hearted/ it ended bad,
but I love what we started.").
Apple also seems to get into trouble when dealing with emotional
attachments and detatchments. On "Window", she tells of a painful
break-up, where the pain was warping her perspectives ("It wasn't
the outside world I could see/ just the filthy pane that I was looking
through"). She decides that even when the "window" seems "clean",
"it's so clear/ I can't tell what I'm looking through." In the chorus,
she decides to break that "window" to keep from heading down a path
of greater destruction, of herself and others close to her.
"Please Please Please" finds her struggling with the temptation
for artists to remain in a form of stasis. For as many of those
that grow itchy at Apple's (or anyone's) self-confessional, seemingly
self-absorbed storytelling style, there are as many absorbed into
it and hoping for more of the same. It's probably the latter folks
she's talking to when she sings "me and everybody's on the sad,
same team/ and you can hear our sad brains screaming: "Give us something
familiar… that will keep us steady… steady going nowhere."
"Not About Love", the album's penultimate track, again has
her struggling with the politics of love. She moans "It doesn't
seem fair/ I should fall for the kingcraft of a meritless crown/
It doesn't seem right/ to take information/ given at close range/
for the gag/ and the bind/ and the ammunition round." Then, as she
and the spare band launch into a faster and more raucous middle
section, she trills "I miss that stupid ache." Reasserting herself,
she insists "This is not about love/ because I am not in love/ In
fact I can't stop falling out."
The album ends with a breezily orchestrated "Waltz (Better
than Fine)." It also features jazz waltz brush work from old hand
Jim Keltner (who has worked with a legendary who's who of rock over
his 25 year-plus career) and Benmont Tench on organ (who has likewise
worked with greats, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Elvis Costello).
I suppose the strongest critique I can offer of her work
is the Stanley Kubrickian lengths of time it takes her to create
it. Is it worth the wait? Yes. Can we stand another six year wait
between albums? More importantly, can any music career survive such
a wait? I hope for more, and I hope for some longevity for Apple.
And what did Fiona Apple spend her time doing between recording
this album with Jon Brion and re-recording it with Mike Elizondo?
What was Fiona Apple doing when she "quit" for a time?
According to her MTV interview, she spent her time hanging
out in a bathrobe and slippers watching Columbo. So that's it. That's
her secret. Never underestimate the inspirational powers of Peter
Falk. Hey, Wim Wenders knew it…
CULTURE DOGS CORNER By Kevin O'Toole
Be sure and listen to Sam Hatch and I on CULTURE DOGS every
Sunday night, your weekly video and movie news and review program
from eight to nine on U-H Radio for the latest on how to survive
your summer on home video and out at the movies! See you on the
WWUH: November / December Program
Guide 2005 ©