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Random Stabbings Part 4

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Masayo Asahara "Saint Catherine Torment" (Discus Records)
Hearing-test-as-therapy noise opus characterized by subliminal theta waves, near-rhythmic piano-bonking and dull roars from Martin Archer’s sax.  Mercifully lacking in gratuitous cacophony, the after-effects on the brain are stunning, quite frankly – being that Asahara’s goal is child-like experimentation rather than clinical calculation, the end product is a yoga workout for the ears.

A Million Billion "Today We Love You" (Filthy Schoolgirls Records)
Semi-industrial synth-noise miscellany incorporating thumb-sucking nursery school singalongs, sort of what might result if Michael Jackson were a regular Joe Nutjob with average testosterone.  “Parts” opens the proceedings with a laser-battle tee-up for “Lansing,” upon which one-man-act Ryan Smith parks vocals that are dead ringers for Skinny Puppy’s Ogre.  The Nick-Toons continue in “Sunday With Pam” and its toy piano/electronic-scratching accompaniment for Smith’s impression of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.  The Clockwork Orange found-noise segues are what you’d expect if a 5-year-old were playing with the dial of a radio from Neptune, an interesting way to move things along.

Boom Bip "Blue Eyed in the Red Room" (Lex Records)
Near-miss electro instrumentals that could have advanced past golf-cart-cruising status with a modicum of improvement on the arrangements.  “Cimple” gets things off to a chiming start, building a hypnotic alarm clock dreamscape out of finger-picked undistorted guitar, and all is well until a Fisher-Price set of synth-drums rears its head, effectively interrupting the listener’s reverie with the wafting scent of rotted Limburger. “The Move” is a deft whack at Spyro Gyra jazz, but it too suffers from bad sampling during its ramp-up – the phony bass is particularly revolting. Not that the news is all bad up to this point, but things begin looking way up once “Dos and Don’ts” kicks in with some African chant courtesy of Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys, and from there it’s fair-to-middling enough that Bip’s attempt to distance himself from his human-beatbox rap roots squeaks him out a C-minus and a stern warning to invest in brainier software – having distribution through Warp Records does come with a little responsibility, so regardless of this release’s sublime airiness, further nonsense will get him reamed a new one.

Speed of Life "Mainstay" (Activesoundz Records)
If Yes had gone with Filter’s vocal sound, this high-prog-content nu-metal might have been one very likely result. Brilliantly technical in the main and ethnically experimental at times, Speed of Life add just enough Flaming Lips vulnerability to their coliseum-oriented material, leaving you undecided as to whether your next CD-buying binge will have to include “Mozart’s Greatest Hits” or “Close to the Edge.”  The mad-scientist time signatures may scare off radio-users unaccustomed to such things however mightily the high-art vocal harmonies reel them in, but just to have somebody trying to do that junk is a breath of Kansas/Boston air. In case you’re still not convinced by the above-mentioned snob-rock devices, “Peace in the Warzone” grubs up the long-lost Rush practice of creating a mini rock-opera with a bulleted list of acts.  The record is more a case of “mission accomplished” than “shows potential,” a situation that has spelled trouble of late for emerging bands, but if anyone deserves a shot at the Bigs, it’s these guys.

Melotron "Cliche" (Metropolis Records)
Although not widely regarded as a singer’s language, German is the lyrical component within Melotron’s high-melodrama futurepop, leaving English-only listeners with the impression that the tunes are suffused with a bit more mystery than may actually exist.  This isn’t to say that within the unregulated limits of the Berlin-headquartered techno scene such a thing should remain more exception than norm (what would a Godzilla movie be without miniature Japanese billboards?) but refusing to pidginize is a bold move regardless of whether or not Schwarzenegger-accented English would have sounded equally old-country.  No problems in the melody department – images of Pet Shop Boys, Wire and mummified Cliff Richard remains are induced.  The attitude-meter doesn’t swing much darker than Thompson Twins – it’s all radio-primed 80s Bubblicious, although techno-gods VNV Nation pop up as an influence in the whip-drum “Menschenpresser.”

Foetus “Love” (Birdman Records)
Frank Zappa broke up the Mothers of Invention because he was sick of playing for “people who clapped for all the wrong reasons.” Instead of bumming everyone out, though, he could have chosen the nuclear option, as Jim Thirlwell has done with his last few releases, particularly (but certainly not limited to) this one.  Not that “Love” is all sweetness and light, but the synths and sampling focus more on Thirlwell’s philharmonic obsessions than the percussive convulsions found within things like “Thaw.” Much of the record is driven by baroque harpsichord, as in the starter track “(Not Adam),” which is a little reminiscent of “You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath” only because it isn’t reminiscent of anything else, really.  “Miracle” is the closest you’ll find to any “Throne of Agony” masochist operatica, although “How to Vibrate” hammers out some nuclear-blast-metal heaviness with an air-raid siren riff similar to Ministry’s “The Fall.”  Thirlwell’s inexplicable penchant for old French pop songs throws open its raincoat in “Mon Agonie Douce,” in which he plays the part of an evil Pepe Le Pew over circus-peanut jazz.  But it gets weirder, of course.  “Time Marches On” brainstorms the notion of Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan singing over flying saucer sympho-soundtracking that would have been at home in “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” but the most surreal, Dali-like moments of all come up during “Don’t Want Me Anymore,” wherein a woebegone tale of love lost (set to a bastardization of Pink Floyd’s “Dogs”) has the narrator bawling so hard that his tears fill up a swimming pool, creating ad hoc staging for an Esther Williams water ballet straight out of “Million Dollar Mermaid.”  All in all it’s equal parts exuberance and workaday Protestantism – not the worst, but not “Hole” either.

Indie label releases, spaghetti sauce recipes and silly questions are always welcome.  Email

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