Lion Devours the Sun
The new Kranky release Lion Devours the Sun presents an earthy and emotionally insistent contrast to the fine-spun ambient tapestries that usually define the label. Boduf Songs is the pseudonym of British songwriter Mathew Sweet, who recorded this foreboding collection of songs with only a four track, a handful of acoustic instruments, and a massive Eeyore complex.
Sweet proves himself skillful at coaxing potent moods from these simple tools, such as the bowed autoharps that rise up above brittle guitar frameworks like a swarm of wasps. Undeniably heartfelt, when Sweet whispers, "I built a house from my mistakes, a sort of cabin anyway," on "Two Across the Mouth" you can almost feel the weight of his personal demons being heaped onto you. At its best, the album's melancholy hue and monochromatic tonal palette create an immersive experience. At its weakest, redundant portions lose track of the urgency that anchors the music, but these moments are few and far between.
While this disc is unlikely to get you laid on a first date, it's a compelling listen as the visions of human frailty channeled here are dry like a mouthful of dust and stirring in their haunted stillness. JOSH BLANCHARD
(Chicks on Speed)
In the liner notes to Girl Monster, Alex Murray-Leslie's three-volume sprawl of "women's creative output," Pil and Galia Kollectiv writes that lady artists can be one of two creatures: the consumer-friendly "Fembot"; or the "Girl Monster," who struggles with gender and change and has actual boobs. This comp is for the latter (the monster, not her boobs) to the tune of 60 tracks, 3.5 hours, and three essays, plus collages of eyeballs and an orchestra. Clearly, Girl Monster deserves four stars simply because it exists.
Luckily, it exists solidly. Berlin's Murray-Leslie hasn't forgotten anyone, including her own band, Chicks on Speed. The selections span 1970s postpunk to 2006 electroclash, and they're unsequential, which allows you to write your own history. There are musicians from aboveground and from under it, scree-tastic explosions and drafted manifestoes, live tracks and exclusive tracks, even guys and trannies. Plus, there are solo songs from the likes of Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads) and Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle), which proves not only that music is possible after menopause, but it's entirely legitimate to make it without David Byrne standing next to you.
Monsters, we've learned, are ugly and mutated, so there's a fair amount of self-hatred here, but that says much less about Murray-Leslie than it does our culture. Most importantly, there's a hope to the documentation, and not just because you never recognized yourself in any of those piano-humping baby dolls. As the Kollectiv concludes, "If oppression is merely a means of dealing with that which escapes repression, then surely the road to dealing with the former lies in letting loose the latter." She's unleashed, and notably so. MAIREAD CASE
Of all the modern New York Noise revivalists, few are as faithful to the source material as San Francisco's Tussle. A gang of four dub-loving art punks, Tussle pick up the drum-circle dance party precisely where ESG and Liquid Liquid left off, even collaborating with the latter's Sal Principato and Dennis Young on the melodic percussion of "Pow!" from Telescope Mind.
Tussle have played several rounds of musical chairs since 2004's Kling Klang. Bassist Andy Cabic left the band to play with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver; founding drummer Alexis Georgopoulos played bass for this record, but has since been replaced by Hey Willpower's Tomo Yasuda; and Warren Huegel has joined in on drums. It's a tussle, get it?
Original drummer Jonathan Holland and effects mastermind Nathan Burazer have kept things steady, nicing up the production on Telescope Mind without polishing off the rough acoustic edges. Tussle have also retained their distinct musical formula: two drummers' organic, interlocking rhythms provide the skeletal structure for rubbery bass muscle and nervous knob twiddling. And that's it. Tussle leave all the moving parts exposed—flexing, stretching, and relaxing—simultaneously raw and elegant.
Tussle's greatest strength remains tense, propulsive jams such as "Warning" and "Second Guessing," but they also score with the expansive drum trance of "Elephants" and the slow-burning funk of "Flicker/33.3." Telescope Mind also contains several experimental interludes such as the darkly psychedelic "Lyre," the atmospheric "Cloud Melodie" and "Cloud Melodie II," and the tape-delay hysteria of "The Story of Meteorites."
Tussle make explicitly physical music, but they also aim to extend minds, opening up impossible amounts of headspace with their echoing drums and reverberating bass grooves. ERIC GRANDY
Cerrone by Bob Sinclar
The next time you're digging through the crates with your record-geek friends, try name-dropping Jean-Marc Cerrone. It'll make you look cool and knowledgeable. Like his contemporary Giorgio Moroder, Cerrone spent the late 1970s producing multiplatinum singles like "Love in C Minor" and "Supernature," genre-bending productions that transcended disco's lightweight reputation and turned the dance floor into a lab for innovation—an approach the first wave of house and techno producers would later take to heart. Your mom probably knows who Moroder is, but Cerrone isn't much revered for his influence—except among heavy record collectors, and perhaps the French.
Released in Europe four years ago and now reissued for America, Cerrone by Bob Sinclar is a love letter to the man's back catalog from Christophe le Friant, a very busy Parisian with a hand in many of France's best dance exports, from the Mighty Bop to the excellent Africanism series. Combining full-length originals, gentle reedits and some of the more blatant Cerrone-sampling house cuts, this compilation even-handedly demonstrates that most of the interesting things that dance producers are doing today were already done—and quite well—30 years ago. (Not to say that dance music is bereft of ideas—but when they steal, they steal quality.) Collectors and completists will turn to the label's raft of Cerrone reissues, which are valued as much for their music as for their wacky cover art, but this compilation could very well turn casual listeners into disco nerds in training. MATT CORWINE
TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY SKINNED ALIVE TO DEATH
Spencer Moody was the drunken sea captain aboard the SS Murder City Devils, singing boisterous chanteys, barking orders, and occasionally slipping into rummy balladry. But from the first mournful riff of Dead Rhythm (the new record by his post-MCD project Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death) it's clear that Moody has wrecked ship on an inhospitable island and that the rum has run out. As Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, Moody, along with Corey Brewer and fellow former-Devil Dann Gallucci, have nothing but time to contemplate their mistakes and misfortune, salvaging scraps of sound and sending hopeless messages in bottles out to sea.
Dead Rhythm is full of spare songs and desolate, lo-fi soundscapes. "Paris" couples lyrics full of bitter memories and unanswered love with Brewer's spare, haunting guitar work. On "Pigeon Heart," Moody laments, "I'm a bad captain I know/But the sooner we fail, boys, the sooner we can go home" over fluttering guitar and rhythmic white noise. "Bump on the Nightstand" surrounds the guitars with clipped tones and howls, leading into the off-kilter piano and gurgling, distorted synths of "Beep." "Thug Mugs Baby" gradually pushes the guitars into the red as Moody tells another sad tale of "dreams left behind in casual tones." "Pear Brandy" scornfully recalls a "little room on Belmont Avenue" over barely audible loops and notes.
Triumph of Lethargy may express the same bleak emotions on song after song, but they do so with enough sonic inventiveness to keep Moody's eloquent sad-bastard tales intriguing over the course of the whole album. ERIC GRANDY