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Random Stabbings 22b

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Coldworker “Contaminated Void” (Relapse Records)
Rousing hamster-wheel metal from one of the genre’s more respected labels. Very few deviations from what Mastodon would sound like if they dropped all lit-snob pretense – okay, not in the Anthrax-ish way they did in the confines of Blood Mountain – and went straight for 4/4 glory. The carefully engineered guitars here gratefully trend away from sounding budget-studio cheap, fitting into every corner of the mix, while the vocals are interchangeable with those heard on Leviathan. The songs are sweaty and busy, lyrics absolutely unintelligible, drums set to puree. It’s a backward step, then, but with the direction the math geeks of the world were taking things it’s a breath of fresh air. Order from

Harlem Shakes “Burning Birthdays"
Between the Pretenders guitars, Hammond organ and Lexy Benaim’s vocals’ unpredictable switch-hitting, the mix gets very busy here, calling out Squeeze one minute and a high-on-life Shins the next, most of the songs ending in blurs of shoegaze. Put more parochially, it’s very New York indie of the here and now, which is only one of the things that earned these guys a tour partnership with Deerhoof beginning in February. Unlike most of their hit-and-run-and-disappear contemporaries who tend to put out records fifteen seconds after luring their first coed onto the dance floor, Harlem Shakes pulled a mini Dave Chappelle, bugging off for a couple of years to get their personal and professional act together, resulting in a great service done to the ears of the scenester swine masses whether they appreciate it or not (actually they will, in all fairness; the blogs couldn’t shut up about this band). Every melody seems to have a point, a rare enough thing nowadays, but the styles boogie all over the indie map without ever getting their legs tangled. Order from

Daníel Ágúst “Swallowed a Star" (One Little Indian US)
If this was what was seething in Ágúst’s psyche during his singing tenure with GusGus it’s a wonder how the poor thing ever tolerated making listenable music. Hearing this flow of dreary goop it’s as though the Icelandic trip-hop monolith never existed, like Massive Attack replaced by Low armed with sequencers stuck in first gear. One thing that explains all this is his recent day gig composing soundtracks for documentaries (unflinching exposé on the plight of homeless Icelandic meth addicts, anyone?) – actually, strike that; it’s the only explanation one could cull from this. It’s all draggy, mouth-breathing sad-pop, the jazz parts stolen from Spike Lee’s Katrina thing, the rest from super-bummer PBS examinations of innocent sea turtles dying from the effects of badly steered oil tankers. Whatever the point of this is (fifty quatloos says Ágúst is trying to instill within us knuckle-draggers a little, like, deep culture), the arrangements are clever enough, but Rachmaninoff won’t be clawing his way out of the grave to get some.
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Clara Hill "All I Can Provide" (Sonar Kollektiv Records)
The electro-soul underground has a near-unstoppable new player in the person of Berlin, Germany’s Clara Hill, backed up on her second album with some of the more prominent producers in the genre. Her biggest strength is an ability to find silver lining in melancholy, which ends up leaving every song on board colored in chick-flick pastels, much like Macy Gray fronting a less-glum Portishead in a final-draft demo for a soap opera scene where people engage in polite soft-focus hanky-panky after picking out engagement rings. On the whole it’s idyllic without being syrupy, never more so than when King Britt shows up with a stubbornly agreeable house polyrhythm for “Did I Do Wrong,” evoking the after-barbecue ambiance of Miguel Migs remixing someone like G-Pal. Hill’s own “Wake Up” comprises unplugged guitar and dazed, fluffy da-da-das. Her well-controlled but breathy voice may not jolt the world into instant renaissance, but with the depth of the house and chill-pop styles underneath it she’s put herself into a whole different producer-demand bracket. Order from

Markus Enochson “Night Games" (Sonar Kollektiv Records)
With his debut original effort, Swedish DJ/remixer Enochson has made off with a hybrid genre that Jamie Lidell had in the palms of his hands, namely house-washed R&B/soul. The recipe is simple, really, requiring only rudimentary house sequences and people willing to sing like James Ingram over it, such as, well, James Ingram, who guests on “Day and Night,” a ditty boasting all the technical bells and whistles of Cabaret Voltaire. Hip-hopper Masayah summons up a nice Four Tops impression over “Keep On Getting By,” Enochson’s electro-chintz aiming higher but still sounding like a loop thrown to the wind by Hall and Oates circa “Maneater,” just when it was getting safe to forget those days. Quite often the retro cheapness threatens to do this record in, despite the yeoman effort of the innumerable cameo singers, leading one to conclude that Enochson was squeamish about alienating the dance-club fabulosi who represent his bread and butter. He easily could have damned the dance-chart torpedoes and gone for the Grammy straight up, but the night’s still young. Order from

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