Sunday, August 1, 2010

Muzak To Make You Mirthful (Mini-CD reviews) by Alison Ross

The Selmanaires - Tempo Temporal

The third offering from Atlanta's The Selmanaires, the band that eludes categorization even as it evokes all manner of comparisons, marks an intriguing departure for the quartet. On the first two efforts, Here Come the Selmanaires and The Air Salesmen, the band relied on layered, but otherwise fairly straightforward, sonic ventures. But this time around, The Selmanaires have daringly delved into experimental terrain, molding their psychedelic disco beats into altogether spacier sounds. The songs here are of a definite "temporal tempo," in the sense that they defy time and yet define it as well. The tribal sensibilities are still present, but not omnipresent, as on the last album, making way for more soothing moods. It's loungey-dancey-trancey-hypnotic stuff, replete with mesmerizing harmonies and Zenful lyrics. It's exciting to witness the evolution of one of Atlanta's most underrated bands, and newer tunes indicate that things are only going to get trippier: An Animated Shadow

Gorillaz - Demon Days

Gorillaz is the brilliant brainchild of former Blur frontman, Daniel Albarn. Gorillaz are all over the musical map and indeed vigorously revel in acrobatic genre-bending. There's punk, there's funk, there's rock, there's rap... and genres not only alternate for each song, but they often fluidly meld together during songs, giving Demon Days a flamboyant flair. And yet for all the erratic style-switching, the songs on Demon Days manage to adhere together - perhaps, paradoxically, the genre-bending is what gives the album a more seamless sense. There is a real adventurous sensuality in Demon Days, and some of songs are lyrically enticing, as well, although other lyrics are just downright obtuse. And, of course, some of the rap falls flat. Maybe, too, the album is one or two songs too long. But mostly Demon Days succeeds for its aggressively innovative artistry, and for pushing musical boundaries far beyond expectations. Their previous album and current album stalk much the same territory; I have heard the former and prefer Demon Days, but I have not yet heard the latter, Plastic Beach.

Black Angels - Directions to See a Ghost

Austin's Black Angels proffer a muddy mixture of hazy psychedelic rock and languorous blues. The group has been assailed by some critics as being too monotonously droning, but that is actually what I LIKE about their album, Directions to See a Ghost. Don't get me wrong - I am not into solipsistic soporific music. I like music to be agonizingly authentic and contain emotionally empathetic elements. And I do believe that the Black Angels evince those qualities in abundance. It's true that this album does not exactly vary much in tone or style, but for me that's not the point. The point in my view is to serve up tunes that writhe and seethe with voluptuous abandon. Sure, some of the songs may be overreaching length-wise (16 minutes for "Snake in the Grass" is a bit pretentiously epic), and certainly the insistently mercurial mood can be rather psychically draining. And, comparisons to the Doors are called up too frequently for comfort, even as the Black Angels have clearly carved a more morose path than Morrison did. But the narcotic effect of the music is what lingers here. These songs are tight and textured and transcendent. If you listen to them enough, and immerse yourself in their woozy world, you may well have spectral hallucinations, as the title suggests.

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