MASTODON

Leviathan

(Relapse)

****
Generally, when a metal band announces that their new full-length will be a concept album based on the Herman Melville maritime epic Moby-Dick, you're not exactly dying to hear it. But in the case of Mastodon--the Atlanta, Georgia-based thunder-commandos already being hailed as "the next Metallica" on the basis of 2002's throttling, critically acclaimed Remission--headbangers, earthdogs, and metal merchants the world over have had their hands halfway down their pants for months just thinking about this thing. Luckily, Leviathan is worth every stroke. Snarling behemoths like "Iron Tusk" and "I Am Ahab" are dizzying exercises in thrash revisionism, while tracks like "Seabeast" and "Naked Burn" see Mastodon ditching their trademark sandpaper vocal articulations for actual singing. Elsewhere, throat-poaching from Clutch's Neil Fallon ("Blood and Thunder") and Neurosis' Scott Kelly ("Aqua Dementia") help steer Mastodon's already formidable sonic course toward its logical extreme. There's no shortage of flesh-flaying guitar acrobatics, either: Some of the leads (they're probably best described as "licks"--or better yet, "lixx") are about as metal as you can get without actually being a member of Iron Maiden. Make no mistake: Not only is Leviathan a total motherfucker of an album--you might just forget Remission ever existed. J. BENNETT

WILEY

Treddin' on Thin Ice

(XL)

***
Wiley dubs his sound Eski Beat (some call it grime), an amalgam of American rap, ragga, and UK garage. Even if you're conversant with these styles, Wiley's debut album, Treddin' on Thin Ice, is hard to grasp. Erstwhile leader of East London's Roll Deep crew and Dizzee Rascal's mentor, Wiley spits motormouth Dirty South-style verbals that outrace his rhythms, which are lumbering, stiltedly funky, and swaddled in heavy-handed strings. The keyboards sound constricted, rinky-dink. Despite these uninspiring elements, Treddin' possesses an infectious charm, and its poignant little tunes wriggle their way into your memory. Obsessed lyrically with money, self-reliance, pies, and girls, Wiley comes off as a shaggy rogue. His verses lack the emotional sizzle of his mush-mouthed mate Diz', but they are easier to understand. Wiley probably won't get much love in America, but those curious about Britain's most exciting underground music should investigate Treddin' and the scene that spawned it. DAVE SEGAL

OMAR A. RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ

A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack Volume 1

(GSL)

****
At the Drive-In were one of the better acts to rattle hearts and wallet chains in the late '90s, but since their implosion it's been easy to hear where all the X-ray-sharp vision for that band came from. While Sparta churns out one placid screamo placebo after another, ATDI frontman Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez have been busy doing some next-level shit. De Facto and the Mars Volta both offer a fantastic black-light glow on experimental art- and dub rock, and now Lopez has released a soundtrack to an upcoming indie film that's as hallucinogenic as his other myriad projects, if not slightly more so. The work on A Manual Dexterity started in 2001, when the ashes of ATDI had barely cooled (and includes help from much of the Mars Volta contingent), but the album isn't beholden to any one form, turning kaleidoscopic shades of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew one moment and Meddle-era Pink Floyd the next. In between there are flashes of Latin music, warped like a vintage vinyl collection left in the sun; dizzying loops of amplified white noise and dub beats; and enough sonic chariots to various spacelands to texturize a double album's worth of head trips. Even without the visuals to this narrative in place, A Manual Dexterity is a fantastic voyage. JENNIFER MAERZ

BOOKMOBILE

Keys

(Woodson Lateral)

***
Bookmobile is Ben Torrence and Victor Couto, refugees from the defunct Seattle trio Lamplighter. Their former band's brilliant 2003 CD A Three Point Perspective revivified the nebulous zone where eclectic IDM meets post-rock. Keys, Bookmobile's debut disc, makes Lamplighter's death easier to take. Its 10 tracks creep down many seldom-trod roads with subtle inventiveness. From the tightly compressed, sinisterly machinelike funk of "Filthy Lover" to the tender, chiming microsound meditation of "Fettle," Bookmobile intelligently spans an impressive range of modes. It's rare to find American artists evoking blissed-out post-rock avatars Bark Psychosis ("Needrum"), Matmos' disorienting 21st-century folktronica japery ("Wilcaught"), and laptop/guitar drone-meister Fennesz ("Inyrwindow") all on one disc. Bookmobile's microchips squeak in tongues as the duo revel in digital dislocation and shape-shifting microsound. Let's hope these guys last longer than Lamplighter did. DAVE SEGAL

**** Kelly O. *** Karen O. ** Jell-O * Steve-O

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