Five Spot: Five Album Reviews

Once in a while, I’ll be writing short reviews of things on my hard drive that are probably already old but I haven’t gotten around to. They’ll be very informal and less analytical. The music will be chosen at random, too, so complete disorganization is assured.

ArchiveControlling Crowds – This is the first release I’ve heard from this enduring British act, and it’s an intriguing one that makes me want to go back and hear their recorded history. Controlling Crowds is an all-inclusive album that shows a wide array of influences. Trip-hop clashes with arena rock, dancehall meets ambiance, and prog melds with psychedelia to create a beat-heavy, atmospheric experience that owes as much to “shoegaze” guitar rock as it does to the electronic aspirations of Massive Attack. At once carefully symphonic and jarringly experimental, this album falls neatly into no pigeonhole. 7.7 out of 10.

Animal HospitalMemory – Taking a look at Animal Hospital’s website and hearing this album crystallizes a certain kind of image. Is the website bare-bones because there’s no time or money for flashiness, or it is just staunchly understated in that lovable half-caring indie kind of way? The man behind the moniker, Kevin Micka, travels overseas frequently, takes artsy photos, and participates in far-flung artistic concepts like performances that feature 200 guitars. He’s performed with and produced a slew of bands you’ve never heard of. This mysterious information perfectly fits his droning, pastoral music, which utilizes an endless variety of sounds and embraces the subtleties of each. This is indescribable house-cleaning music for disenchanted robots, who can identify with the endless array of parts and pieces that comprise it. 7.1 out of 10

Junior BoysBegone Dull Care – This sensuous, beat-worshiping album offers a dark electro-pop experience for those who grant it passage. Heavy on thumping beats and pinging, zinging synths, Begone Dull Care is a cathartic, sexy listen that hammers away at the listener’s central cortex. Once Junior Boys have made their way into your brain, they won’t soon leave, and their classic techno sound serves as a perfect canvas for their seductive, evocative lyrics and vocals. These guys have a memorable way with music that makes them stand out in the crowded dance-pop genre, and they’re capable of many variations, from percolating synth-pop (“Hazel”) and woozy sit-down trance (“What It’s For”) to lusty dance music that’s quite dark around the edges (“Work”). “Practice is over,” indeed. 8.1 out of 10

Bill LaswellInvisible Design II – People often discuss types of music that they find unbearable. Usually, it’s some sort of pop band or country music that grates on their nerves. While I’m guilty of hating many kinds of music, I have always proven an adventurous sort. I doubt most people who despise Dave Matthews Band, Kenny Chesney, Lil Wayne, or other patriarchs of pop music have ever had the frame of reference that an album like Invisible Design II can provide. If the American masses think they want to change the station during 3 minute pop songs, I’d love to see them try this meandering improvisational beast on for size. Laswell, an undisputed master of the bass guitar, spelunks by himself in effects-strewn caverns of low-end, finding an exponentially bizarre range of sounds, tones, and textures along the way. The kind of ambient, experimental soundscapes that he offers aren’t that far removed from the dub and psychedelic work he’s known for. As solo bass albums go, this one is unlike any other, but it takes a wide-open musical mind and plenty of tolerance to make it through the whole thing. 7.4 out of 10

Black DiceRepo – Brooklyn’s Black Dice almost seem to be making fun of music itself with this album, a dizzying collection of half-baked intentions and over-the-top noise-mongering. The album’s few vocals are mostly shouted nonsense, electronically manipulated syllables, or primal gibberish that make a mockery of premeditated songwriting and lyrics. A battlefield full of sounds skirmish for control of this album, but none gain the upper hand, and the listener is therefore constantly assaulted by music that’s almost maddeningly directionless. Repo wants to be a robustly experimental record, then it wants to be a psychedelic record, then a record of fractured instrumental apocalypse, then one of vaguely melodic avant-garde trance, and even one of demented futuristic jazz. If you can stomach the meandering structure, you might just find sublime pleasure in this hour-long deconstruction of expectation. 7.5 out of 10

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