ANTIBALAS

Security

(Anti-)

recommendedrecommendedrecommended1/2

With their fourth LP, Antibalas continue to explore every nook and cranny of Afrobeat's vast storehouse of rhythms. The New York City collective spent a month in the studio with post-rock production mastermind John McEntire, filing down layers of instruments—guitar, bass, organ, percussion, group vocals, and a five-piece horn section—to reveal the sharp, steely vitals beneath.

Security is sleek and wiry where past releases were gritty and ponderous; it's the distilled essence of their sound, still full but also fully clear.

Since Antibalas's debut in 2002, Afrobeat has experienced a welcome resurgence, hooking anyone with an ear for interplay and an ass for shaking. Acolyte bands have sprung up from Chicago to San Francisco, paying homage to the originator, Fela Kuti, while adding their own distinctions (like Femme Nameless, the all-female Afrobeat crew). Even as numbers and variety increase, Antibalas has stood above them all—the first, the smartest, the hardest. Security keeps them on top of the pile.

There's something menacing and thrilling at work in "Beaten Metal," the album's opener and most titanic track. Its horn part brings to mind the authority and intimidation of "The Imperial March" from Star Wars before giving way to the mechanical percussion the title suggests. It's halfway through the 12-minute "Filibuster X" before the album's first vocals burst through the mix, Duke Amayo's sly Nigerian rap asking "What does GOP stand for? How 'bout 'Gas, oil, and plutonium'?" as the full band chants in chorus behind him.

From there, the pace slows considerably, turning from frantic and feverish to slinky and sensual, flaunting a relaxed, playful side of Antibalas previously unseen. "Hilo" is slow, dubby, echo-heavy keys-n-brass; "War Hero (Guajira)" goes call-and-response over a boogaloo break. Both songs have a '70s West Coast big-band jazz vibe. The final two tracks, "I.C.E." and "Age" feature prominent, mournful horns—the latter especially gentle and pacifying as subtle electronic flourishes swell underneath. For the first time, Afrobeat becomes a lullaby, a funky twist only Antibalas could deliver. JONATHAN ZWICKEL

31KNOTS

The Days and Nights ofEverything Anywhere

(Polyvinyl)

recommendedrecommended1/2

Sprawling and at times uneven, Portland prog-prodigies 31Knots' latest album lacks the verve of past releases. 31Knots' last full-length, 2005's

Talk Like Blood, was my favorite record of that year—heady musicianship, rich samples, and Joe Haege's bitterly literate lyrics embodied our state of war pointedly without descending into clichés and slogans. Where that album was driven by smoldering dissatisfaction punctuated by cascading guitar lines, The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere is a record of uneasy hope and weary self-awareness built around layers of piano and keyboards and increasingly divergent samples.

Not to say that the album is bad—its musicianship is virtuoso and its arrangements artful—but as a whole, Days and Nights lacks the cohesion granted by the emotional intensity of their last album. Guest musician Toussaint Perrault of Ape Shape adds a Balkan flair with rat-a-tat horns to the "Savage Boutique," a skewering of bourgeois existential panic featuring the album's best lyric: "A savage in surrender with a vicious intent/Sipping on coffee with the worry of rent/but now I walk and talk the panic just like a bitch/creeping me with frequency: deceit, deceit, decide."

But in much the same way that our present state of war is protracted by political indecision and debate, Days and Nights is lost within its own sense of dramatic opposites. Complex parts and ideas are stacked against each other unnaturally, deflating any tension or meaningful dichotomies. After two years of war, the distilled invectives of Talk Like Blood lit up my weary sense of disgust while offering much in the way of catharsis. Now, four years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Days and Nights only renews a neurotic sense of disconnect with a conflict that is tragically absent from everyday concerns. CHRISTOPHER HONG

TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY SKINNED ALIVE TO DEATH

Drunk on the Blood of theSaints and Martyrs

(Backporch Revolution)

recommendedrecommended1/2

On first listen,

Drunk on the Blood of the Saints and Martyrs is nothing more than a scattered collection of recorded ideas. But upon exploration, the recordings (the only accurate term to describe these demo-style musings) coagulate into a recognizable environment—as if once assembled, they were taped again onto an ancient eight-track and buried under an inch of overdriven sludge.

"Art School Girls I" opens the album with a repeated series of guitar clangs, but lost somewhere deep under the fog is a drum loop and some twee, jangly guitar chords that might have been part of a pop song in some other world. The record then is on its meandering course, with bed-of-cloud chords plodding behind a twanging melody on "Style Wars I" and "Style Wars II." Songs never quite materialize, and as quickly as ideas are presented they're discarded, as the record continues in its lo-fi, fuzzed-out tunnel vision. The recordings rival Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti in sheer deconstruction of production ideals, trading the crisp, clear blast of modern technology for their own distinct, muddy texture. But where Ariel Pink exists within the ethos of lost Top 40 hits of yesteryear, Drunk forsakes traditional concepts of song structure and operates instead in texture and noise.

Songs go untitled. Melodies lurk deep in the mix at the noise floor without ever rising up into focus, seemingly left and forgotten. "Art School Girls II" starts with a messy experiment of melody and static before descending into the very recording that is the "Art School Girls I" at the start of the album. But before treading covered material, it's interrupted by "We Live on the Inside pt. 2"—which is, bemusingly, the first half of the next track, "We Live on the Inside pt. 1." Amid such self-referential signals and tangents, TOLSATD reshape not only what it means to write music outside of traditional song structures, but also traditional approaches to being a band and recording music in general. SAM EWALD

Download Drunk on the Blood of the Saints and Martyrs for free at www.backporchrevolution.com.

LCD Soundsystem

Sound of Silver

(DFA)

recommendedrecommendedrecommendedrecommended

On the title track of LCD Soundsystem's sophomore album, James Murphy sings, "Sound of silver talk to me/makes me wanna feel/like a teenager/until you remember the feelings of/a real-life emotional teenager/then you think again." It's a typically self-aware statement from Murphy, and a fitting thesis for an album frequently concerned with the mercurial nature of music, youth, and nostalgia.

Sound of Silver opens with a beat lifted from LCD Soundsystem's first single, "Losing My Edge"—a gesture that welcomes fans while acknowledging the weight of expectation. The winking update, "Get Innocuous," adds percolating bass and live drums to the former's busted Casio beat while Murphy sings spaced-out surrenders to disillusionment ("Where once you had believed it/now you see it sucking you in"). "Time to Get Away" obliquely jabs at industry bullshit over taut funk, like a cousin (or rebuttal) to former protégés the Rapture's "The Sound." "North American Scum" finds Murphy spewing snotty self-deprecation over a muted track that erupts into gleaming T-Rex/Bowie choruses. The twinkling sing-along "Someone Great" (previewed on Murphy's commissioned workout mix for Nike, 45:33) is a surprisingly genuine and emotional mourning of personal loss. "All My Friends" recovers from that bummer with relentlessly pounding piano and its toast to good company and good nights.

LCD Soundsystem has always strived to marry the disposable fun of the pop/dance record with the enduring timelessness of the rock classic. On their first full-length, that meant great dance singles sandwiched between lesser "serious" material, but on Silver Murphy manages to more smoothly combine his rockist and popist tendencies within individual songs. "Watch the Tapes" and "New York I Love You" are the album's least integrated tracks—the former is a rapid rave-up in the style of "Movement," the latter a sarcastic ballad for Murphy's adopted home—and even they feel more at home here than did the diversions on his last record. But Sound of Silver finally satisfies on the promise of early singles "Losing My Edge" and "Yeah." It's a brilliantly reflexive record. It's a perfect hybrid of dance and rock. It's the first truly classic album from LCD Soundsystem. ERIC GRANDY