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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
June 2005

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

SHAPESHIFTER / Reticulum Flux (Schematic)
In March I found myself returning from a vacation in Curacao via a Miami-to-JFK flight, which happened to be jammed with crusty, hungover partymongers fresh from the adjourning Miami Winter Music Conference. The yearly event is a huge draw for everyone under the sun hoping to make it in the electronic music realm, and the plane was jammed with Fischerspooners-in-waiting, DJ Shadows-of-the-next generation, and two sassy Fannypack-like ladies even got in a punching match as the plane was rolling down the taxiway causing the pilot to yell at everyone and threaten to take the plane back to the terminal. Now, flying is stress-inducing enough, but barreling up the Eastern seaboard through turbulence with lots of rowdy peops running up and the down the aisle playing their beats for one another on laptops made me long for Airport 1975 where Helen Reddy was serenading Linda Blair on an acoustic guitar. All I can say is thankfully there were no representatives of the Schematic label on board playing their stuff out loud (most likely because they're based in Miami and were probably staying put), else I would have really needed sedation. No slight towards Schematic, on the contrary, it's probably one of the most forward thinking electronic labels going right now, but some of their more recent releases would definitely not be good for those who get claustrophobic on airplanes. From Richard Devine's ghoulish sound designs to the insane gabbercore chaos of Hearts of Darknesses, Schematic's aesthetic has reflected ideas far gloomier and apocalyptic than any Florida-based musical outfit in recent memory (excepting all that Tampa area death metal, and well, Harry Pussy). One of the most recent releases is by a fellow named Malcolm Goodman under the name Shapeshifter. Goodman was noted for wedding his soundscapes with the imagery of mastermind Joshua Davis's Once Upon a Forest monthly installments, depicting the creeping chaos of various arachnid and insect-like digital manipulations. Shapeshifter's full length release Reticulum Flux is the fruit of four years of work, a virtual nightmarish tour of jagged futuristic cloud-covered cities with hard-drive shredding sounds worthy of such song titles as "Trash Compactor" and "Cybernetic Cataclysm". Like early Autechre and labelmate Richard Devine, this stuff takes on an epic sense reclaimed from initial ideas of legendary composer Iannis Xenakis, a major under-the-radar influence for most laptoppers today whether they know it or not (and many do not). Reticulum Flux is full of some badass imagery and braintwitching actions that definitely make this one of the most menacing releases in a long time.

DAVE SOLDIER / Da Hip Hop Rascals
NYC composer, professor and musicologist Dave Soldier's been a longtime fave around these parts; from his extremely academic study of boiling down the ultimate best and worst pop song one could create based on mass population surveys, to recordings of Thai Elephants grooving on instruments, you know to expect some quality sounds. His site just put up some MP3s of his latest project, teaching six to eight year old kids at the Amber School in Harlem to compose and perform their own rap music, and they do it amazingly! From the Tuff Kidz's outsassing of Kelis, to the extremely funked up demand for chicken wings by the Boys and Girls' Club of the Night (if the kids have been making up their own monikers, they are totally killer), this stuff is done with minimal adult involvement aside from a little coaching. Hopefully a full-length is on the way, and in a just world it will knock all the grown-ups off the charts.

ELECTRELANE / Axes (Too Pure)
These ladies are Brits split between various parts of the world, which may make their collaborations all the more interesting, especially lately where all kinds of influences seem brought to the table. While often chastised for being a Stereolab knockoff due to their penchant for coasting along on a 4/4 single chord groove, I definitely hear a lot more of their now-defunct labelmates th' Faith Healers in the sense of tension and release in the power of the endless Neu chord. Also, they just never go nowhere near the bossa nova groove Stereolab relishes, and the architecture of their pop songs are completely opposite. Electrelane have a brilliant raggedness to some of the otherwise smooth edges of their sound: full, live and very electric sounding with curveballs thrown just when you think you have what they do pegged. Word has it this time around on Axes, the group holed up in Steve Albini's studio and basically played the album beginning to end. The highly evolved sense of communication between members really shows in the unity of the instrumentation and members taking cues off each other to create the rising and falling; this time recent inspirations from playing shows with Dutch juggernauts the Ex seem to have creeped in to their approach. But don't start likening them to Kleenex or the Raincoats because of that for the sake of them being an all-woman band, instead Electrelane utilizes the additional free-improv sounds to finetune the color of their own identity. The Chicago A Capella Choir (whom appeared on their last album's "The Valleys" reappear here, and there's a great cover of Leonard Cohen's "The Partisans." Hope they can continue to add new ideas and dazzle, they fill a much lacking gap in modern rock.

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