w/Shoplifting, Sick Bees
Mon June 13, Neumo's, 9:30 pm, $10, 21+.
Electrelane's 2001 debut disc, Rock It to the Moon, was almost entirely instrumental, a maze of atmospheric tangents and swirling guitar countermelodies. Too focused for free jazz but not groove-oriented enough for new wave, it fused wordless genres. Strikingly cinematic (they aptly titled an early single "Film Music"), the Brighton, England-based band conjured bittersweet scenes, every soft-loud-soft cycle illustrating some star-crossed romance or spectacularly dashed ambition. Last year's The Power Out attached charmingly askew vocals to actual hooks, culminating in a stunningly harmonious gospel production. There were still experimental detours and abrupt signature shifts, but the album inched toward accessibility.
Abetted by producer Steve Albini, Electrelane shoot back into the sonic stratosphere with their most recent release, Axes. The album opens with an ominous held-note buzz, as the group's guitars idle high like heavy machinery warming up for a massive task. Choppy piano plinks, strangely syncopated bass lines, and elliptical drum skitters unite ominously during intense climaxes. On "Gone Darker," an alarming train whistle alternates with a weary saxophone tone, then the track dissolves into erratic clatter, as if Electrelane's members were packing away equipment still attached to amplifiers. "Business or Otherwise" pushes that atonal experimentation even further: It's all sharp splinters, without anything resembling a linear melody. These tracks possess a certain avant-garde appeal, but they'll be iPoded out of existence in favor of the album's scattered dance-punk selections. Still, even Electrelane's catchy numbers have jagged edges: "Atom's Tomb" starts with hand claps punctuating its percussion, but it eventually substitutes the traditional sound of breaking glass. Such dramatic ornamentation communicates more about these compositions' emotional cores than lyrics ever could.