JAMES FIGURINE
Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake
(Plug Research)

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Jimmy Tamborello is best known for being that guy from the Postal Service, slightly less so for his other band, Figurine, and the experimental Dntel project on Plug Research. He recently toured Europe with a driver who had only "three or four tapes to listen to, mostly techno," and after soaking up the sounds of Kompakt and its contemporaries (on tape?), he was inspired to make a dance-floor techno album of his own.

Echoing his ride across Germany, Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake is a little road trip through modern techno. The car's kind of crowded. Tamborello's lyrically and sonically deadpan vocals sit up front but low in the mix. Experienced producer John Tejada rides shotgun, checking the gauges and maintaining speed. In the backseat we have Erlend Øye from Kings of Convenience, occasional Postal Service vocalist Jenny Lewis, and a few other hitchhikers.

Admirers of Tamborello's other work will find the scenery familiar: Rigid drums and tight sequencing bounce around inside, while delicate melodies and strings whiz by out the window. Mistake is a bit claustrophobic and tense for about half the ride, and the record's at its best when it hits the open road, letting the melodies stretch out and breathe for tracks like "Apologies" and "Stop." But like a good drive through city and country, both halves are satisfying in their own way. MATT CORWINE

RUSH
Replay x3
(Universal Chronicles)

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Rush fans are zealots. They love to know what instruments the band use, right down to Neil Peart's Tama 22-inch gong bass drum. Thankfully for them, Rush list all their gear in the trio of booklets that accompany the three-DVD collection Replay x3, which compiles the VHS releases Exit... Stage Left, Grace Under Pressure, and A Show of Hands. (A soundtrack CD, minus one track, of Grace Under Pressure, is also included.)

But unfussy Rush fans could give an Ayn Rand about what kinds of guitars Alex Lifeson is playing, or whether "YYZ" was shortened in the medley of "YYZ/The Temples of Syrinx/Tom Sawyer" on Grace Under Pressure. ("Yes, damn it, it was shortened!" scream the devotees.) Though I will admit to admiring the rad double-neck Rickenbacker bass Geddy Lee plays on Exit... Stage Left, casual fans mostly don't care about seeing the band or watching the musicians solo. We just want to hear Rush's hits—brilliant pop gems like "Fly by Night" and "Limelight"—over and over, not see the group work through ponderous prog-rock numbers.

Rush are better heard than seen—not that Peart's gargantuan drum kit and Lee's woodchuck-tail mullet aren't impressive visuals. But only fanboys will get a repeated kick out of seeing Lee and Lifeson do that arena-rock move of simultaneously bobbing their side-by-side bodies in time with the music. Everyone else will want to just close their eyes, slap on headphones, and listen to the greatness of "The Spirit of Radio."

Hardcore Rush-ians likely had Replay x3 on preorder. For the rest of us, there's the two-CD Chronicles collection: all the awesome hits, none of the synchronized stage dips. CHRISTOPHER PORTER

TUXEDOMOON
Bardo Hotel Soundtrack
(Crammed)

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Tuxedomoon formed in the late '70s as a kind of art-punk cabaret, a collective of musicians and artists dedicated to pushing the boundaries of a then-nascent punk scene. Their live shows were spectacles of music, film, dancing, and performance art, and their recorded music ranged from the gothic synth punk of "No Tears" to Brian Eno–inspired ambient tape loops.

Bardo Hotel Soundtrack, their follow-up to 2004's reunion, Cabin in the Sky, is the score for a film Tuxedomoon are currently shooting with Greek visual artist George Kakanakis. The project draws inspiration from Brion Gysin's novel The Bardo Hotel and from the "cut-up/fold-in" writing technique he created there with William Burroughs. The album explores themes of transience and stability (Tuxedomoon describe the film as a "road movie of the mind"), focusing on their old home, San Francisco, where they returned to record this album, and upon the globe-spanning travels of their individual members. Found sound, snippets of conversation, and recorded airplane and BART announcements are cut and pasted throughout the soundtrack, hinting at some abstract narrative.

For all the group's cerebral intentions, the compositions come off as fairly tame, if lovely, background music. The songs are largely instrumental and atmospheric, mixing such disparate elements as improvisational jazz, opera, New Orleans brass, and Tuxedomoon's own peculiar brand of post-punk noir. As a film score, Bardo Hotel is satisfying, even without the visual element, but as a Tuxedomoon record, it's a bit of a disappointment. ERIC GRANDY

SEÑOR COCONUT
Yellow Fever! (Fievre Amarilla)
(Essay Recordings)

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The idea of Señor Coconut is charming: German musician disenchanted with European dance music moves to Chile, becomes enamored of Latin rhythms, produces salsa and merengue interpretations of pop favorites with a throwback pseudonym and sound. His covers of Kraftwerk are fairly well known and even enjoyable in ragtop-down weather. On Yellow Fever! Uwe Schmidt (here as Atom as Señor Coconut, gah) takes a playful paso at Japanese synth-pop pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra, covering a handful of their hits and rarities alike. Exciting, right? Yes, if you like a martini tossed in your face repeatedly for 50 minutes.

Señor's coconut has cracked, and, alas, from it no sweet milk flows. Despite contributions from YMO's original three members, a shining constellation of electronica stars (Towa Tei, Akufen, Mouse on Mars, among others), vocalist Argenis Brito, and a full Latin big band, Yellow Fever! fails to capture the gravity and opacity that made YMO's work so unmanageably fresh. Gone, too, are the rubato, subtlety, and erotic spirit of the Latin music in which the tunes are costumed. The album burns to be an intersection of Buena Vista Social Club and Deee-lite, but Schmidt's direction lacks the restraint of the former and the arc of invention of the latter. The tempos and the overplaying of vibes and marimba make many of the tracks nervous, rather than intense, causing Yellow Fever! to come off as a spoof of, rather than a genuine homage to, Yellow Magic Orchestra. NICHOLAS SCHOLL

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