(Sonic Boom Recordings)


We've all heard it—the album is dead. Well, apparently somebody forgot to tell Portland's Tim Perry, whose band, Pseudosix, has put together an honest-to-goodness album, not just a collection of iTunes singles. The eponymous Pseudosix is the kind of album that's best appreciated as a progression—"The flow and the songs themselves are one and the same," said Perry in a recent Stranger interview—with a pair of headphones and a darkened room on a rainy afternoon. Its shuffling guitar lines, slightly menacing rhythms, and layered, elliptical vocals form a perfect background for Perry's uneasy stories of insecurity and lost love.

The album's opener, "Some Sort of Revelation," takes a while to get going, but ends in crescendo after crescendo, bombast following introspection, a musical analog of a loner attempting to break free of his self-imposed bonds. Warm acoustic tracks like "Under the Waves" and "Apathy and Excess" lighten the mood with half-hearted jauntiness—at least until you listen to the lyrics, which never stray far from oblique depiction of desolation and destruction.

Influences abound—Gram Parsons, Bright Eyes, even a little Simon and Garfunkel—but Perry adds his own ominous overtones to even his sweetest songs. It's his consistent tone that provides the glue for the album and impresses upon the listener the stark, quotidian nature of despair. Near the end of the album, in the sly "Treacherous Ways," Perry deadpans, "I had to find something to keep me in a positive way." This posturing, however, is done with a rueful smile. Lyrically, Pseudosix is obsessed with things that are broken; musically, everything fits perfectly in place. CHRIS McCANN

Pseudosix play Wed Oct 31 at the High Dive, w/David Kilgour, Euros Childs, 9 pm, $8/$10, 21+.


Oblivion with Bells



Listening to Underworld is like getting drunk with the HAL 9000. If you read Karl Hyde's angular, processed poetry word for word, it stops just short of total gibberish—like the precision-detailed mess of the band's cover art, or the words-are-instruments vibe of Ken Nordine's 1950s Word Jazz. But if you sit back, unfocus your ears, and soak it in as a whole, it tiptoes over into brilliance. Just as good techno plays subtle head games with sound and dares you to dance smart, Hyde's lyrics twist and weave around the noise, adding just enough to make the songs mean something, but leaving it up to you to figure out what that is. This either makes people lifelong fans or it drives them batshit.

In the five years since the sadly underrated A Hundred Days Off, Underworld has been under the radar, and busy as hell. They scored Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering and Danny Boyle's Sunshine. They left the major labels behind and released the pioneering Riverrun series of multimedia downloads on their own. They kept up their touring schedule and released a live album and career-spanning anthology. All this work has nudged them away from producing dance-floor bangers—the high-energy tracks on Oblivion sound more like rock than anything else, the techno is subtle and nuanced, and the rest is all expansive piano and strings—but it has refined the sound they nailed more than a decade ago: dramatic electronic music, surrounded by cryptic, vulnerable lyrics full of fleeting thoughts, first impressions and missing pieces. If you've never liked them before, Oblivion with Bells might turn you around. And if you already do, this is their best work yet. MATT CORWINE





A DJ mix CD in which most or all of the tracks are by the same person who mixed it seems somehow like cheating—why not just make a regular album (or, in a pinch, a compilation)? But in the case of Henrik Schwarz's Live, it's obvious that the mix is where these songs belong. Only two (of 16) don't have the German techno-house producer/DJ's name on them, either as artist or remixer, but even those—Sun Ra's "Lullaby for Realville," which opens the set, and Mandrill's "Mango Meat"—bear his touch, with the DJ sending their slinky horns, bass, and high hats through filters and effortlessly marrying their squinched- up essence to his own glide- and-jitter approach.

Schwarz's 2006 installment of the DJ-Kicks series was warm, dreamlike, and amazingly cohesive, especially given its disparate sources—it takes a certain genius to make Womack & Womack, Moondog, and Drexciya not just line up, but blend unobtrusively. The coherency of Live is a little easier to figure out in advance, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. When the spoken vocals of "Where We At," by Schwarz, Âme, and Dixon, nudge their way into the mix, they draw attention to just how deeply the preceding tracks have infiltrated the room. Schwarz's remix of James Brown's "It's a Man's World" shouldn't really work—he mostly places the Godfather's vocals over a pulsating cut of his own design—but it fits perfectly into its surroundings. Few albums since Ornette Coleman coined the term have so richly deserved the phrase "dancing in your head." MICHAELANGELO MATOS

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