(Sub Pop)

***It's easy to understand why Ugly Casanova's Isaac Brock galvanized Holopaw singer John Orth as soon as Brock happened upon that band's set in a Gainesville, Florida bar. As I've stated before about Brock's subsequent collaboration with Orth on Ugly Casanova's Sharpen Your Teeth, the singer (responsible for Sharpen Your Teeth's most affecting song, "Hotcha Girls") is quietly arresting in his stage appearance, projecting a romantic aura of deep history and Southern days gone by. On his own band's self-titled release, Orth and numerous musicians play a kind of soul music that leaves a Northwest gal like me savoring the beauty of a landscape I've never seen, while keening toward a wisdom handed down in language made up of words that are simple yet packed with accessible meaning. The first line of "Short-Wave Hum (Stutter)," "Fold the KOA map until we're shoulder to shoulder," makes me wish I could feel the adventures had by my parents when they drove dusty highways before I was born; the piano-strewn "Pony Apprehension" tells of a fawn hoping for warm weather in an enduring winter ("Spring, she woke up dead with a broken back and a note that read, 'Maybe'"). Drunkenness is described as "teacup woozy" ("From the slow spin of the bar"), and images of appaloosas, palominos, and other horses stand sagely offering lazy notices. Cello, trumpet, and mandolin fill out some songs while others are left strikingly bare. Brock makes an appearance on "Igloo Glass," adding his distinctive vocals to a sweet, short chorus. KATHLEEN WILSON




*When the Roots' first CD, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released (the wonderful hiphop year of 1994), I said: "Yes, damn straight I want more?!!!??!" But having just listened to their latest and fourth full-length CD, Phrenology (from the horrible hiphop year of 2002), all I can say is this: "I definitely don't want any more. In fact, I want the Roots to just stop, disband, and leave hiphop alone, dammit!" They promote themselves as being at the frontline of hiphop creativity, the saviors and preservers of the b-boy ethic, but all they are is an image (or afterimage) of these qualities that once informed the content of their CDs. Phrenology, which has a great cover, opens brilliantly with the track "Rock You," which is followed by a short and supposedly shocking Bad Brains-like punk track, "!!!!!!!," and then melts into an initially interesting but soon vapid "Sacrifice." The rest of the CD continues to slump, track after track, into rap pop. Those who can make it to the end might find something interesting on the horizon of this wasteland, but I just couldn't get there. I had to stop on the 10th track, "Water," and listen to something else (Delarosa and Asora). By the way, whatever happened to the Mountain Brothers? They are from Illadelphia; they have live instruments, a jazzy sound, and intelligent raps. Why don't they just replace the Roots? CHARLES MUDEDE


Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP

(Latino Buggerveil Records)

**The Butthole Surfers enjoy making the stiff kids squirm--but anyone who's been paying attention to the avant freak act for the last two decades already knows as much. San Antonio's captains of shock, sludge, psychedelics, and sonic nightmares are filling in the voids for their demented/devoted with Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP, a collection of the band's first two EPs (previously only available on vinyl). They've also tacked on a few extras--two additional encore songs from the Live EP, and early/previously-unreleased versions of other songs. The result is a collection of lunatic experiments, out-there oddities, and long interludes where the band simply riffs off its own ability to make maniacal noise and sing about stupid shit. Although some of the songs hold together by the tenuous thread of a humorous lyrical tactic ("Bar-B-Q Pope," "Something," "Suicide," and "The Revenge of Anus Presley"), there are too many repeats and too few cohesive (even from the Surfers' standpoint) tracks on this 18-song disc, making this collection of rarities one for only the truly fanatical. JENNIFER MAERZ


Mount Eerie

(K Records)

****Is it possible, amongst the claustrophobic, fervently restrictive sphere that is "indie rock," to create a record good enough to alienate your entire audience? This is the question posed by Mount Eerie, Phil Elvrum's hyperintentional masterpiece as the Microphones. It's life, and it's death, and it's afterlife. It's tape hiss as instrumentation. It's gasping layers of song fragments filtered through waterfalls. And it's beautiful. Mount Eerie takes the kinds of gleefully indulgent compositions that pepper Elvrum's previous records and evolves them into a visionary novel that somehow transcends song form altogether.

Gone are the familiar mix tape moments of the Microphones catalog--Mount Eerie is steeped in the heavy molasses of its own symphonic weight (its percussion tracks and vocal arrangements have warranted their own respective accompanying releases in the K catalog--and no, I'm not joking). The record is so fully integrated it threatens to collapse under its own cohesion. And yet, somehow doesn't--standing instead as perhaps the most profound statement of sublime unity the extended K Records Mafia has yet to produce. Mount Eerie more or less defines the Oly-centric vision of divine community that entangles all of K's recent releases.

Mount Eerie is an imposing, gluttonous opus--the kind of "important" record that lines the back of your collection (file between Metal Machine Music and Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives), but is too daunting to merit casual play. Phil Elvrum bleeds himself dry on what may well be the greatest record you'll ever never listen to. ZAC PENNINGTON

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