January Local CD Reviews

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Street: 12.01
A.VanVranken = The Field + Four Tet + early Autechre
This 4-song EP from local electronic musician A.VanVranken tries to find a common ground between synth-happy minimal ambient house of the Kompakt Records roster, the more plaintive, organic grooves of Four Tet, and early-90s Warp Records. To that end he has done a good, though not quite exemplary job. He's at his best when exploring more pure techno moods, such as the title track which features ethereal vocals, woozy synth drones and what sounds like the processed sound of an airplane anchored by a persistent house pulse. The intricacies and attention to detail here is impressive, but VanVranken has yet to truly find his niche. –Jona Gerlach

Bad Apples
Far From the Tree
Penalty Box Recordings
Street: 2007
Bad Apples = Wu Tang Clan + 'Weird Al' Yankovic
Bad Apples have it all: Ford-tough battle raps ("Tie Yo Shuz"), political pandering ("King of The Dicks"), chicken-hawking aggrandizement ("Menudo") and hip-hop history lessons ("Lunchbaughx"). They even achieve clown-rap piquancy with a mash-up of 50 Cent's "Many Men." Bad Apple's version of Curtis Jackson's street narrative is the incredibly creative "Minimen"–a song who's midget parody concept is more likely to be laughed at than with. Bravo gentlemen, bravo. –Makena Walsh

Chanticleer The Clever Cowboy
Mammuthus Primigenius
Street: 12.07
Chanticleer The Clever Cowboy = Ben Gibbard + Bright
Mammuthus Primigenius, the work of Chanticleer The Clever Cowboy a.k.a. Andrew Shaw, is quite remarkable. The mellow vibe of the five tracks on this winter EP are enough to lull the mind into a different world or at least Omaha, Shaw's home state. Shaw's vocals are easy on the ears and though the overall style of this record echoes such greats as Ben Gibbard, Bright Eyes and the like, it doesn't seem unoriginal in the least. The rendition of "O Holy Night" is great and the post-Christmas ballad, "Christmas Is Over," pulls at the heartstrings. Hopefully we see a lot more of this clever cowboy in the future. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Seizure Songs
Raincloud Records
Street: 01.11
Deadbeats = Necro + Saturday Morning Soundtrack
A funny story about this album: as a friend and I sat in his hot-tub to listen to the record, its last track turned into what my friend recognized as a twenty minute long Korean drum solo. We later realized that it didn't belong to the Deadbeats but was a Tonka drumming disc recently acquired by my confused acquaintance. The anecdote serves to illustrate one of the Deadbeat's biggest pitfalls – cryptic and over-complicated song concepts combined with stylistically homogenous beats that too often produce in the listener the same effect as the alienating Korean drums. Despite this fault, the group is still the best hip-hop group in Utah, and Seizure Songs is undoubtedly the best addition to its ever-improving catalogue. (Kilby Court: 01.11) –Makena Walsh

The Future Of The Ghost
Freak Out!!
Street: 10.06
FOTG = Ferocious Eagle + Moros Eros + indie, indie, indie + rock
For his age (23), Will Sartain has musically accomplished more than most local musicians do by the time they consider themselves middle-aged. Two of his past bands Redd Tape and Tremula both received a lot of attention. So where do you go from there? Sartain's answer is The Future Of The Ghost, an indie/rock/experimental outfit that has no lack of personality and has more of an honest feel than most acts of this genre. The music is easily likeable, but not cliché and burns itself into your brain without much effort. I don't know that they're breaking new ground with anything on this record, but the combination they have works just right. Go out and support this new project before they hit the road in the spring. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Lord Mandrake
Lord Mandrake
Street: 12.11
Lord Mandrake = Radiohead + Peter, Bjorn and John
Picture it: you and your less-than-radical friend go into a coffeeshop; he orders a hot chocolate. You roll your eyes and smugly chuckle under your breath. In an attempt to embarrass them for their weak tastes, you place your order of a vente, iced, soy latte, half ice, an extra shot, and three ounces of hazelnut syrup, hold the whip, please. But before you can condescend, the next guy in line orders five shots of espresso. Those five shots are Lord Mandrake: pure, straight indie music right into your bloodstream. There are no frills, just raw, dark loveliness. It's ideal for an independent dark comedy soundtrack—emotional and intense, yet whimsical and absurd. So, for those who have a selective musical taste for saltless indie, try a little Dreamer with dinner. (Kilby Court: 01.24). –Jessie Price

Operation Wrong
Population Explosion
Street: 2007
Operation Wrong = No Use For A Name + NOFX + Strung Out + Lagwagon + Good Riddance
Operation Wrong is releasing their album Population Explosion at the wrong time, about 10-15 years too late. It's not that the four songs on this release are horrible; it's more that they're wearing their influences so heavily on their shoulders that their sleeve is about to tear off and this becomes the largest hindrance to the record. The overall sound is so thick with other 1990s Fat Wreck Chords/Epitaph-brand punk that there isn't any originality to be heard. Too bad Doc Brown is just a fictional character, because if Operation Wrong could use that awesome time machine of his and get this record to the right people in the 90s, it would have benefited them. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Schwa Grotto
Children of Kolob
Street: 01.09
Schwa Grotto = Limp Bizkit + 311 + Zebrahead + Disturbed + Taproot
Schwa Grotto's style is all over the place. I was kind of confused at first but after listening through the cd a couple of times I realized how bad ass these guys are! They break it out in all kinds of ways. Their bass player Andy Warwood is a crazy maniac! He plays funktatsctic hard rocking bass lines all over the place, John Norwood Fisher from Fishbone would be proud. The other three band members all hold their own as well. They mix up their style to the point where it's impossible to get bored with their music. Schwa Grotto is like moody funky psychedelic rocked out fruit salad or like a bag of Skittles they got all the flavors and colors of the rainbow! If haven't heard these guys do yourself a favor, improve your life and check Schwa Grotto out. –Jon Robertson

Shades of Grey
Come to the Window
Street: 01.09
Shades of Grey = Van Morrison and all kinds of organ action
It's time to blues it up with Shades of Grey. When I was listening to this cd I totally wanted to be getting all wasted and bugging out with a bunch of old smoking pimps! I have a feeling that each member of the band secretly has a Stevie Ray Vaughn shrine at their house that kiss and pray to every night before they go to bed. It's boozing music for sure. There's nothing wrong with blues-jammed organ solos either. Especially to set it live or sit with your friends tell them all the troubles of life. Just picture the bar scene in Weird Science when an intoxicated Gary played by Anthony Michael Hall tells Fats his lady troubles. "Broke my heart in two!" "Broke more than ya heart!" –Jon Robertson

CX Rex
Street: 11.02
SubRosa = Swans + Jarboe + Kyuss
Playing Strega is like succumbing immediately to the effects of acid. Not that I've experienced acid, but I'm guessing it causes the same quickening of blood and pulsing in your ears. Or maybe that's Viagra? Which gives the same effect as seductive females. Guitarist Rebecca Vernon, and violinist Sarah Pendelton hypnotize you with their chants of old world myths, magic and demons. I'm stirred by the equally snuffed tone of vocals to instruments. Recorded low-fi, this effect keeps Strega dabbling in metal without pretensions of Gothics, not a subdued record. Songs are intricate and drummer Bonie Shupe hits the cymbals too often for snoozing. Like the more feral string band Rasputina, SubRosa's violinist designed the tarnished clip artwork of her band's album. A group effort, bass player Erik LeCroix, also produced this remarkable local cd. Final song, "Cradles" is instrumental and fucking amazing! Available at independent music shops. -Jennifer Nielsen

The Tenants of Balthazar's Castle
Nephelocentric Moods
American West Freedom Society Press
Street: 10.20
Tenants = COIL + Earwigs + Klaus Schulze
I have been a big fan of Tenants aka Michael Biggs ever since Art Glassett turned me on to his work back in 2006. Biggs' sound has shifted since 2006's Terror in Twelve Parts in which the noises made were more aggressive, brutal and intense. On this release, Biggs has scaled down the assault and has made a more controlled, metered and psychotic state ala "the Shining." One track and almost 35 minutes, this album is one sustained frequency layered on another and builds from there; the space for waiting that Biggs creates is tense. If you like Coil's Time Machine-era stuff and are a huge fan of the their Music to Play in the Dark series, Biggs has hit the nail on the head big time with this release. Every Tenants release I have heard thus far is not only absolutely fresh and engaging but ups the ante for noise music in this town. Another ear-blowing piece by Biggs. -Erik Lopez

Various Artists
X96 Live & Local Vol. 4
Street: 11.21
Local compilation = emo + mom's basement x emo – independent thought
If your sole source of "alternative" music is X96, you and your 13-year-old sister will enjoy this compilation of 20 local bands doing slavish impersonations of the dozen major label bands the station already plays to death. If, however, you have an ounce of taste and no patience for off-key Hot Topic twinks who spend more time on their hair than their songs, Live & Emo isn't worth the price (which is free). That sing-songy chorus thing with the screaming douchebag in the background? It was only mildly entertaining in 2002, and it's doubtful any of these bands would be caught dead wearing five-year-old fashions. True, there's an audience for shit like Victim Effect (a passable My Chemical Romance tribute band) and Amber Alert (a passable Victim Effect tribute band), and at least they have somewhere to turn when Hannah Montana tickets are sold out. –Patricia Bateman