VERMILION

Flattening Mountains and Creating Empires

(Redwood Records)

****Wait, no... it can't be... can it? The Roger Dean working on the new Vermilion record? The longtime visual guiding light for such nimble-fingered acts as Yes and Asia, whose landscapes and logos have for decades graced (in feeble imitation) countless three-ring binders and notebooks across the globe? But lo and behold, just across from the "recorded by Steve Albini" gatefold is the simple "Cover paintings and logos... © Roger Dean 2002"--the universal testament to quality. Before the disc lifts from the circular teeth of its tray, it is alarmingly clear that these local boys aren't fucking around.

With four tracks clocking in at just over 40 minutes, Vermilion's full-length debut (following last year's Bo Jackson seven-inch on Redwood) charts an impossibly eclectic course--hiccup-paced time changes, exacting riffage, and pensive meanderings ceding at once into confident assault. The album's opener, "Frequent Universal Creations Keep Sound Eternally and Thoroughly Tasting Like Energy" (clever acronym, guys), sets trajectory with an almost Dirty Three-by-way-of-Chicago ambiance, which quickly evolves (or devolves, depending on your interpretation) into all-out prog-nouveau. It's certainly not for everyone, but if your record collection still houses those worn copies of Fragile and Brain Salad Surgery somewhere near the back of the crate, Vermilion will go straight to the heart of the sunrise. And they've got the record cover to prove it. ZAC PENNINGTON

DUB SYNDICATE

Murder Tone

(On-U Sound)

****There are classic dub LPs, like Jah Shaka Meets Mad Professor at Ariwa Sounds, King Tubby's Dangerous Dub, and Scientist Encounters Pac-Man at Channel One, and then there are classic dub compilations, like The Very Best of Augustus Pablo. Murder Tone, which is a compilation of Dub Syndicate's early- to mid-'90s releases, and is in the order of classic dub compilations. The band's primary members are Adrian Sherwood, who, next to Mad Professor, is Britain's most well-known dub producer (Sherwood also produced London Underground and New Age Steppers), and Style Scott, who is a producer and the drummer. Though all of the tracks on Murder Tone are exquisite, one stands out against the general glitter, "African Landing," which opens the compilation and is the most dense and thunderous of the dubs. After the storm of its echoes and reverberations, things cool down and calmly drift to the 17th track, "Without Reservation." If you never owned or heard anything by Dub Syndicate, or Sherwood for that matter, this is an excellent place to start. CHARLES MUDEDE

STEVE VON TILL

If I Should Fall to the Field

(Neurot Recordings)

****One of the reasons I love Mark Lanegan's solo stuff so much is the bleak, wintry longing lurking in his songs. Between his deep, whiskeyed old-man voice and the apologetic fuck-up lyrics, listening to Lanegan is like having an icy wind chill your cold, wet skin--or finding out about a death on the eve of a breakup. I think it's my appreciation for Lanegan's doleful work that makes me love the latest Steve Von Till record, If I Should Fall to the Field, so much. The frontman for noise-rock/metal outfit Neurosis strips the effects clean, working with simple arrangements of acoustic and electric guitars, strings, and light percussion that, like Lanegan's work, leave his heavy, raspy voice as the most prominent instrument. His grave songs use images of barren fields, blood-red moons, hallowed ground, and withered vines to project a resigned sadness that Von Till lords over with such skill that his songs sound mournful without wallowing in the miserable. JENNIFER MAERZ

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

You Can Play These Songs with Chords

(Barsuk)

***Until Barsuk issued it in CD form, Death Cab for Cutie's cassette-only release You Can Play These Songs with Chords was a hotly scavenged commodity since going out of print last year. It was my first introduction to the band in 1997, and though it was definitely proof that Death Cab had plenty of potential, if I hadn't known what I was listening to, I'd have sworn it was unmastered Built to Spill. The cassette was the result of Chris Walla's new eight-track recorder and Ben Gibbard's new songs. Gibbard played all the instruments and sang, and Walla, it could be said, began his career as one of Seattle's more popular producers. As a history lesson, You Can Play These Songs with Chords is a must for fans, but those who came late to Death Cab may not be able to reconcile what the duo sounded like then and what the full band sounds like now. KATHLEEN WILSON

**** porterhouse *** rib eye ** flank * Tofurkey

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