I want my ADD: Very short album reviews

One hundred words or less, but words with two or fewer letters don’t count. (A nod to 75orless.com, but we’re just not that succinct.)

The Duke Spirit

Cuts Across the Land, The Duke Spirit (Loog/Startime Records, 2005/2006)
Ted Leo struggled to win over the crowd at Chicago’s Abbey Pub last Friday, and it wasn’t because it didn’t connect with his punk socialism. No, anyone would have seemed limp after opening act The Duke Spirit. While Leo’s angular, trebly music wants your mind, The Duke Spirit wants your body. And your body will want this music: the new LP is a great sex album.

How to describe the swirling guitars and pulsating bass behind Liela Moss’s throaty vocals? An informal poll after the show:
“The Jesus and Mary Chain in bed with PJ Harvey.”
“Shirley Manson in bed with Spiritualized.”
“Kim Gordon in bed with Shirley Manson AND PJ Harvey!”

Yeah, that’s it.
Rachel Berkowitz


Mountains, Mountains (apestaartje, 2005)
Mountains is two Brooklyn-based musicians, Brendan Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, who use laptop, field recordings, and guitar to create fertile and structured sound landscapes. Harmonics grow like crystals from plucks of a guitar string over a bed of sea sounds and cicada calls. A single bowed bass note begins to dominate, sheltering perfectly smooth, high, synthesized tones. A new drone becomes a pedal-point accompaniment to slow, resonant loops that suddenly diminish and die; you become so attuned to sound frequency that you can feel the absence of each tone. And that’s just the first track.
Dave B

Long Night

Long Night, composed by Kyle Gann and performed by Sarah Cahill on three multi-tracked pianos (Cold Blue Music, 2005)
Written in 1980-81, this new recording brings together several strands of American Minimalist music: the particulate frenzy of LaMonte Young’s Well-Tempered Piano, the hypnotic phases of Steve Reich, the, um… okay, I’m not much of an authority on American Minimalism. There’s also a measure of a kind of humanistic post-jazz: passages as lush as Bill Evans but frozen in ice. Cahill plays all three piano parts with confident delicacy. The beauty is almost painful, like a lungfull of cold air.
Dave B

Alarm Will Sound

Acoustica: Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin, Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe, 2005)
No, I didn’t screw up the image — it’s supposed to look pixelated. Acoustica, get it? Orchestral group plays electronica compositions. I checked out this act on Alex Ross’s recommendation, despite my distaste for Aphex Twin. What a pleasant surprise: the drill ‘n’ bass opener “Cock/Ver 10” takes the entire string section on a unison glissando down and back before full-throttling the percussion, xylophones included. It’s a wild ride, by turns frenetic and serene, with lots from AT’s much-bemoaned 2001 clunker, Drukqs. But AWS’s arrangements, perfectly balancing IDM and ambient, make this old-school orchestra nerd want to return to the originals with better ears.
Bryan Waterman


Yhä Hämärää, Paavoharju (Fonal, 2005)
Out of print almost on its release last fall, this record is back again in specialty shops, allowing even more of you to hear the sounds of born-again Christian kids on a remote Finnish island who’ve got their hands on the Internet. Post-ironically sampling everything from Bollywood to Atari, it mashes up the global twentieth century: acoustic and electronic instruments, manipulated sine waves, a soaring soprano, reggae beats through the neighbor’s wall, all building on a psych-rock/freak-folk base. Parts stretch to older stuff still: my favorite track, “On Yhä Hämärää,” strays from a rural Sunday School choir to a post-apocalyptic white noise hiss. If CocoRosie had made an album I wanted to listen to repeatedly, it would have sounded like this.
— Bryan Waterman

4 responses to “I want my ADD: Very short album reviews”

  1. Robyn says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Acoustica album! I never get tribute albums, but this one sounds good. I lost interest in Aphex Twin after Drukqs. :\

  2. Hey Robyn. I wouldn’t call it a tribute album — more like what happens when Brad Mehldau plays Radiohead tunes: not so much a cover as a new arrangement for different instrumentation. Imagine 22-piece orchestra w/ some vocals playing music originally written as electronica.

    I got Devics and Electric President based on your write-ups and like them both — especially Devics. Thanks!

  3. […] Dave B on indoor heating Rachel Berkowitz on The Duke Spirit Lisa Parrish on Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man […]

  4. […] Bang on a Can, which was founded by a trio of maverick Yale-trained composers in the late-80s, obviously has the admirable agenda of bridging rock or pop sensibilities with the world of high contemporary composition. (Their label, Cantaloupe, for example, is responsible for Alarm Will Sound’s Aphex Twin orchestral “covers” album, which I reviewed way back when on this site.) Drawing on folks like Yo La Tengo and Thurston Moore — or, this year, Juana Molina — suggests a desire to attract some of the unwashed energy that flooded the seaport the other night and train it to recognize affinities in the kind of contemporary composition that usually doesn’t set foot outside the uptown concert halls. It’s an admirable goal, one that younger classical music critics like Alex Ross have been pushing both sides toward for years; maybe it’s time to move past old warhorses like Sonic Youth and YLT and get the 15-year-olds out with Brooklyn’s newer bands. Would Animal Collective be up to the challenge? […]