The artists featured this week have had a bizarrely coincidental career trajectory. Both Philosophy Major (Denis DesHarnais) and Prince Charming (Josh Darlington) grew up in the Detroit area in the '70s. Both eventually moved to Seattle after much traveling over several continents. Both are avid readers of mystical, occult texts. After Philosophy Major helped out Prince Charming on a couple of the latter's albums, both worked together in a band inspired by a revered horror-fiction author (they prefer to keep this information suppressed), and then had a falling out. Both have moved out of Seattle in recent years: Prince Charming to Los Angeles, Philosophy Major to North Carolina. And both have new releases on the well-respected dub-hop label WordSound (resurrected in mostly digital form after a couple-year hiatus). I realize Prince and Philo aren't going to be too happy about being linked again in this edition of Data Breaker, but, hey, it's my column and I'm under intense deadline pressure.
Let's examine the Prince Charming disc first. The Anatomy of Prince Charming (available through digital download via www.wordsound.com) obliquely refers to John Lyly's The Anatomy of Wit and Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy. But you don't need to know that to enjoy the kaleidoscopic whirlwind of hard-to-pigeonhole music skittering by your struggling synapses. The disc appears to be a variation on the theme of soundtracks for imaginary films (Charming works at Paramount/DreamWorks and studies screenwriting at UCLA's Professional Program). Rhythmically advanced, melodically sophisticated, and texturally exotic, the 49 tracks here (clocking in at a mere 63 minutes) flit by like phantasmagorical snippets of ceremonial music from unexplored planets. One can imagine renowned world-music label Sublime Frequencies rejecting The Anatomy of Prince Charming for being too outlandish. Titles like "Female Rowing Team Eating Erotic Pastries" and "Sipping Secret Symphonies of Ultra Low Frequency Poetry" hint at his absurd sensibility. For those who dug Prince Charming's excellent Psychotropical Heatwave (1996) and Fantastic Voyage (1998), Anatomy reminds us of the man's weirdly libidinous and distinctively otherworldly take on electronic music. As George Harrison sang almost 40 years ago, it's all too much—and that's wonderful.
Philosophy Major's Divination Systems is a phenomenal follow-up to his outstanding 2003 WordSound debut, Hypnerotomachia. From the start of opener "Gods of Light and Anger," PM plunges you into a teeming netherworld of five-dimensional sound. It foreshadows the fertile fusions of psychedelic rock and postmodern dub that saturate Divination Systems like ganja smoke in Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark studios. Morbid verbals from former Seattle MCs Confuz and 9th Circle of Hell mesh well with the seductively sinister vibe throughout Divination Systems. Despite being recorded on a shoestring budget, this disc sounds immensely spacious and richly detailed. Supernatural, even.
By Dave Segal
SATURDAY JUNE 3
Eluvium (Seattle's Matthew Cooper) has been accruing sparkling reviews worldwide with his emotionally resonant guitar-generated drones and Debussy-esque piano études for the Temporary Residence label (speaking of transient dwelling, Cooper's moving to Portland this summer). On albums like Lambent Material and Talk Amongst the Trees, Eluvium forges elegiac melodies that evoke the remorseless, pastoral grandeur of Brian Eno and Fennesz's best work. This is ambience that eschews obvious options and instead registers the profound poignancy often heard in ECM's neoclassical releases. Lately, Eluvium's been expressing his rarefied vision via myriad keyboards, which he'll be playing tonight. The heartfelt melodic splendor remains, but it's translated into a new textural language—sometimes verging on the liturgical—that purrs just as sweetly in your ears. With Pelican, Mono. Neumo's, 925 E Pike St, 709-9442, 8 pm–2 am, $12 adv/$14 DOS, all ages.
Fela Kuti's music is a mighty river with many tributaries, from which countless musicians still draw nourishment. Though the legendary Nigerian bandleader passed away in 1997, he's inspired many players to carry his Afrobeat legacy onward. You probably know about Fela's drummer Tony Allen and New Yorkers Antibalas; they admirably keep the pioneer's mantric-groove flame burning. Now they're joined by NOMO, a Michigan ensemble with a scorching new disc on Ubiquity titled New Tones. NOMO bring a 21st-century twist to Fela's spirited, humid, and serpentine rhythm orgies. They also throw in more jazz-inflected horn charts and favor more frequent structural change-ups than Fela's big band ever did. Led by Elliot Bergman, NOMO's immense lineup includes electric mbira, bass, guitar, Rhodes keyboards, drums, congas, bass clarinet, and, most importantly, cowbell. All of this and a Joanna Newsom cover. With His Name Is Alive, Josh Ottum & the Seasons of Life. Tractor, 5213 Ballard Ave, 789-3599, 9 pm–2 am, $10, 21+.
SUNDAY JUNE 4
FOSCIL, SPECS ONE
Seattle underground-rap legend Specs One has found ideal collaborators in local downtempo-funk crew Foscil. His thoughtful, laid-back flow oozes honey-like over Foscil's vividly haunting bluntscapes. With Fourthcity DJs. Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 8 pm–2 am, $6, all ages.