Eric Saeger’s Random Reviews and Artless Critiques: July 2006

Black Cobra – “Bestial” (At a Loss Records)

A two-person operation in the manner of Dresden Dolls but concentrating on the doom metal approach of St. Vitus, sometimes pegged to Boris speed, ie a homestyle type of jam usually restricted to the garages of the parents of axe-novice teenagers but which now has become accepted by undergrounders mainly because so many 4- and 5-piece acts simply cannot offer such undiluted songwriting without calling for congressional hearings. Singer/guitarist Jason Landrian’s voice evokes summa cum laude punk yelling, his guitar sludged to the breaking point as it tries to drown out drummer Rafael Martinez. Comparisons include the aforementioned indie heroes, Motorhead, Cro Mags, Big Black and so forth. Even without a bass guitar this works just fine for seekers of the infinitely raw and adamantly uncommercial. Order from

Zeraphine – “Still” (Phonyx Records)

An expensive import, but probably worth it for goth completists. Vocalist Sven is several ticks more animated than most kraut-rockers, not straining away at the chops-licking lasciviousness of Rammstein but clearly putting his back into it. Title track recalls Fields of the Nephilim’s recent doings, infusing them with Fearless Freep jangle and hand-wringing vocal lines. “Niemand Kann Es Sehen” re-creates the post-punk haunted-house vibe recently co-opted by Birthday Massacre (ditto for “Nichts Aus Liebe”), “Inside Your Arms” doles out some metallic EBM in the tradition of Megaherz (ferocious Rammstein mimickers if you’ve never heard them before, and you seriously should), “Toxic Skies” covers the obligato Sisters of Mercy ground, and “Halbes Ende” is the ghoul-rock ballad. A nice taste of Berlin for gothies trapped in the States, although it’d be nice if bands like this would stick to English if the few numbers in which it’s used got them signed in the first place. Order from

Paul Carr – “Just Noodlin’” (Jazz Karma Records)

Paul Carr’s sax is a weapon of chill destruction, not too souped-up (there’s no sign that he’s battling for shelf space with fusion proggers) and not too old school either. His new album administers straight-up commuter feel-goodness similar to Sonny Rollins or a more freestyle Ronny Laws. The set boots up with the album’s eponymous track, a snappy metered original spotlighting his breezy but intense perspective not only on the notes themselves but also on the innards of his instrument. It’s not until track #4 (Carrie Fischer’s “You’ve Changed”) that there’s a turn for the nostalgic, but thankfully the feel is far less forlorn than smilingly introspective. Passages are traded here and there with trumpet player Terrell Stanford, and these are without a doubt the highlights of the record; a 6 1/2 minute version of the Gershwins’ “But Not For Me” starts as a thoughtful gift to the foxtrotters until Carr can no longer control an urge to get medieval on the scale, pianist Bob Butta returning a volley in kind. Order from

Sahg – “Vol 1” (Candlelight Records)

Reissue of the superbly angry 1990 release. The album’s atmospheric intro alone is enough to set it apart from other Sabbath-esque product, but the music is even more of a pleasant surprise, with “Repent” utilizing the wobbly vocal effects of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” to a better end, opening a wide, deathly aural space which they fill with Trouble-like guitar passages and real, no-kiddin-around lead work. “Executioner Undead” leaves behind it a deathly impression of “Children of the Grave” augmented with a piece of mummy-metal riffage which was, one would gather, stolen in later years by none other than Nile. Bands like Sword and – dare we the sacrilege of it – St Vitus can only dream of writing tyrannosaurus-attack metal this cool. Order from

Brandie Frampton – “What U See” (D&LF Records)

Dreary soccer mom pushes her drearily cherubic daughter’s C&W bullocks in an age of nothing but null-relevance American Idolbots molded from 100% Plastigoop, world reacts with blank, uncomfortable stares. The little brat sings her hookless Trisha Yearwood wannabe-isms with all the passion of a spanked Hansen, taking great pains to avoid straining her precious honky throat save for a rote nicking of Jewel during a Nickelodeonized version of “Brown Eyes Blue.” The title track would love to be used as a female WWF-er’s theme song, and there are some mad-skillz fiddle-glissandos to prove it, but the energy poops her out before she gets the slightest toehold. Order from D&LF

Photophob – “Still Warm” (Hive Records)

Conjecturally, Photophob are nosing around the underground territory lorded over by Chachi Jones, who specializes in “circuit bending,” a headphone electro technique characterized by slow-paced symphonic dirges splattered with incorrigible, frothing beats and samples that include old Furbys or basically any consumer electronics device that makes odd noises when its components are fritzed. Though nowhere near as experimental as the typical Jones album, Still Warm has enough quirkiness to qualify for the genre, since chef/cook/bottle-washer Herwig Holzmann plays with the idea in many spots, beginning with roll-out track “All of Them,” which lures the listener in with a morose piece of funeral-home Muzak that soon finds itself surrounded by acid-washed breakbeats, as though Animal the Muppet Drummer were trying to spazz away all the attention. Holzmann plays that angle in several spots, an acquired taste that appears to get him drooling uncontrollably. Conservative EBM opiates receive a good amount of attention, but not to the point where a piece becomes danceable for any extended period. This is a limited edition of 500. Order from Hive Records

Bluebird – “Stylemasters [Soundtrack]” (Defend Films)

New soundtrack to a performance-surfing documentary shot in the late 70s. The intro offers speed-drumming fritzed through a phase-shifter, then moves on to your typical (and ironically dated, as of recently) Queens of the Stone Age fuzz with a nod in the general direction of hammock-rock things like Quagmire. “Glitter Pit” is comprised of slapped-together juice machine grind-noise over fog-swirled ringouts and no percussion, probably for the slo-mo montages; “Glass +” explores a rather pretty Oasis-like arpeggio; the heavily muted “Accidental Progress” points out that even Martians need game-show music; “Good Ride” owes its lot in life to Machine Head-era spandex metal. Freakout tunes for your e-party if nothing else, and actually much better than a lot of the retro soundtracking that’s out at present. Order from

Imperative Reaction – "Eulogy for The Sick Child" (Metropolis Records)

It’s been an odd year for Metropolis releases, with nearly all of them fitting a pattern of better music being found on their second halves. Eerily enough, this extends to their reissue catalog as well, as seen in Eulogy for The Sick Child, 1999’s EBM clinic from the former DNA. Admittedly, there’s not a lot that hardfloor and darkwave fans will dislike about the first part of the album – least of all the widely exalted S&M-stomper “Scorpio,” resplendent in an early Skinny Puppy groove that meanders with a gripping and spooky synth riff – but by quanta, from track 7 on, the proceedings are more relaxed, original and experimental, beginning with “The Settling,” a noise venture that retrofits somber Hammond whole notes with a jumbled tabla-like subroutine. David Albrecht’s voice goes black-metal snarl in the manner of Hocico to honor the hardfloor numbers but downshifts to a swirling Ratzinger-esque half-whisper for the goth-droid trances, the most subtle of which is “Overcast,” a wobbling wave-form floor-filler that tees up the booping instrumental raver “Out: Obsolete.” Order from

Lumari – “Emerge Dancing” (Retribe Records)

New Age lady bearing a concoction of world, chant and Joe Satriani that’d probably work as clear-your-head background for ashtanga class if the students were told the lyrics are in Sanskrit (they’re not). Going by Google, Lumari is the only person on earth spreading the “Alawashka” language, billing it as “the mother of all languages,” which could be true for all we know – if everyone were a kook there’d be no normal ones. The material here is meditative and relaxing although there is the matter of opening track “Shanta May” (translated as “within my dreams,” it’s claimed) which, given its wolf-woman tribal drumming and Warrant guitar solo, is a little too B-horror-movie for wide consumption. The second, acoustic-guitar-driven track will only satiate Yoko Ono fans who don’t see why “Kumbaya” has such a bad rap among normal people, but from then on the songs – sounding Japanese in some places and Middle Eastern in others – are reverent, prayerful and very easy on the timpani. Order from

Bass Tone Trap – “Trapping” (Discus Records)

A re-release from 1983, Bass Tone Trap was the launching pad for several Discus Records regulars who’ve gone on to some of – okay, the most – experimental jazz/noise dada found today. Kickoff song “Sanctified” could be thought of as Madness trying to magpie Prince while keeping in the good graces of the patrons of a smoky jazz club, but from there it’s a no-wave opus of unfollowable drums, spur-of-the-moment bursts of grand mal vitriol, and chaotic progressions of all types and combinations, much of which had to be improvised and non-verbally cued (unless these guys are ten-fingered ants from Alpha Centauri, which could very well be for all the seriousness that’s gone into their stuff for all these years). “Safe in the Inner Core” finds guitarist John Jasnoch gently tickling the strings for a few bars before drums and sax rudely interrupt with a hyperspeed gun battle; “Afraid of Paper” dabbles in megaweirdo soundtracking, with all hands contributing to an unnerving motif that moves through Asian and pure noise analyses. Order from Discus Records (England)

Outraged ranting, indie label release news and spaghetti sauce recipes are always welcome. Email [email protected]

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