Alexander Ortega = Leonard Cohen + Nick Cave + Huun-Huur-Tu
You may have seen SLUG Magazine’s Managing Editor, Alexander Ortega, playing around town, including Friday night in-store local-band appearances at Diabolical Records and the busking area at the Craft Lake City DIY Fest. Now, his musical ability has coalesced into a three-song EP that is diverse enough to demonstrate several facets of his talent. “Broken Color System” uses some nimble finger-picking in minor tonalities as an intro to the foreboding “Year Of The Snake,” in which the vocals are sung in the overtone manner of Tuvan throat singers—with its sinister lyrics, it’s quite effective. “Inside Every Soul” tells of a meeting with Satan, and Ortega’s strumming adds urgency. His melodies and chord progressions are slightly repetitive, but one could imagine them as metal or punk rock arrangements that sound pretty cool, too. There’s a wildness that is contained within the acoustic guitar singer/songwriter format that makes it even more powerful. –Stakerized!
No Sleep = SunShade ‘n Rain + Stephen Malkmus
Happy Valley pop rock is alive and well with the Provo band No Sleep’s self-titled full-length. Guitarist Matthias Hammon’s shimmering, fingerpicked arpeggios dominate the somewhat spare production with the sweet-without-saccharine vocals of Shelby Crawley, who shares vocal duties with Hammon. It’s a happy event indeed to have this release on the local listening landscape, with the astutely written chord changes that at times veer (not too far) into jazz territory. There is a spiritual side to Hammon’s lyrics, like “People, come outside/Feel the rain from on high/Sing out loud and see/What the Lord has done for thee” from “Raincloud,” and the album’s closer, an ode to the Book of Mormon character Abinadi. But it doesn’t ever get really preachy—it’s just a really well-written and played, addictively listenable set of original ballads. –Stakerized!
When Machines Attack
Happy Jack Rock Records
Circus Devils = Peter Gabriel-era Genesis + Wire – Pink Floyd
The second of two Circus Devils, released two days before indie-rock statesman Robert Pollard’s 56th birthday, is much more jagged and jarring, but still bears the warped rewards of Pollard’s twisted stream-of-consciousness wordplay, not just in subjects like “Arrival At Low Volume Submarine.” A Scorpio, Pollard is most interesting in musical settings with drama, rather than drones. His cover art collages bristle with omen and portent. Like scenes from horror films, you never know what’s around the corner—an angel, a vampire or a ghoul. “We’re Going Inside the Head (Of A Winner)” transforms from a somniloquent recitation into an aural assault. A song like “The Lamb Gets Even (inst)” recalls early British prog rock in its sound as well as title. The genre is one of Pollard’s “Four Ps” of musical influence (the others are punk, pop and psych)—they all become convoluted in fascinating ways under the sign of Circus Devils. –Stakerized
Smarten UP! & Get to the Point
Wendy Atkinson = Jandek + Kim Deal – Geddy Lee
Female bass players aren’t uncommon, but there are few with the experimental approach of Canadian musician Wendy Atkinson. On this, her third bass album, she also makes use of ebow, toy piano, field recordings and prepared bass. Although several numbers, like “Hebron Birds,” tell spoken-word stories to instrumental backing, she is also joined by David Lester (of artsy punk pop band Mecca Normal). She also played in Vancouver with eccentric cult musician Jandek. The Last Fret is a fascinating insight into the expressive possibilities of an instrument often assumed to only serve the function of rhythmic/harmonic backing. –Stakerized!
All At Once
Stockholm Monsters = New Order + The Smiths – Morrissey
Stockholm Monsters are Manchester contemporaries of New Order, discovered by that band’s bassist, Peter Hook, in 1980—not long after, they became labelmates on Factory Records. Captured Tracks is re-releasing their entire catalogue: the full-length studio recording Alma Mater as well as several 7”s and singles into the mid-’80s, including the poke at rival label, “How Corrupt Is Rough Trade?” Produced by Hook, these songs are a bit more poppy than New Order, but had the misfortune of falling under their shadow and Ian Curtis’ death as well, but their music inspired a number of later Brit indie musicians, and still sounds vital now. –Stakerized!
Andrew Maguire’s Art Project
Artsy As Fuk
Andrew Maguire’s Art Project = Jonathan Richman + Gary Wilson – Elvis Costello
“Artsy” is in the eye or—in this case—ear of the beholder. Usually, “art” in conjunction with rock music makes one think of turgid, overblown prog rock, but Andrew Maguire’s Art Project have a punkish garage band energy that’s infectious, awkward and fun—full of “art school confidential” type self-referentiality and fake gossip. I haven’t seen them play live, but I imagine them wearing thin ties and cheesy plastic ’80s-style sunglasses. They would have been at home on the Stiff Records label. Andrew sings, “Go ahead, take a picture of me, archetype of the young and free,” and his tongue is very much in cheek. These extended rambles will make you want to make your own “art project.” –Stakerized!
Live! in Salt Lake -or- Live! in Denver (I Don’t Remember)
Vile Blue Shades = Red Bennies + The Corleones – The Wolfs
Red state, blue state, now that both the Red Bennies and Vile Blue Shades allegedly are no more, Utah is much less a punk rock state. This live release celebrates the sheer musical mess, the utter chaotic clusterfuck that was the Vile Blue Shades. It starts off with “All Our Favorite Songs Are Red Bennies Songs,” acknowledging what they, and many local punk bands from the late ’90s, owed the Bennies, including borrowing members. Both bands laid down a kind of groove to fuel their raw power. “Creature of Natural Beauty” and “Exceptional Whore” are two songs that demonstrate the dichotomy of VBS’ hypnotic attraction. One of the coolest local CD packages ever includes three different covers, including art by Sri Whipple and others. The limited edition CD release of 300 sold out, but you can get the digital version at vileblueshades666.bandcamp.com. –Stakerized!
My Mind Has Seen the White Trick
Happy Jack Rock Records
Circus Devils = Pete Townshend + Jodorowsky soundtracks + Charlie Manson’s solo album
Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard releases, oh, a half-dozen or so discs a year under various guises, including solo albums and GBV itself. Circus Devils are the experimental side project in which he conjures up visions, exorcises demons, and writes soundtracks for imaginary movies (and real ones, like indie film I Razor). The twin CD releases don’t seem to settle on a theme or style. “Bird Zone” is sleazy surrealist lounge music, and the video features Steve Five from I Razor. On “Stop Floating,” Pollard intones “Just out of reach,” and any meaning is elusive. What makes it all quintessentially Pollard is he doesn’t forget the rock: Amid all the dream sequences, there’s “Deliver Ice Cream (You Must)”—as if the ‘Emperor’ of Wallace Stevens’ poem was throttling an ice cream truck that cranked out a wicked riff. –Stakerized!