Sound Bites BEDHEAD ROUSES: Just prior to the New Year, we printed the customary series of Top 10 lists featuring some of our contributing music writers' choices for best of 1997. While they faithfully presented their tried and true picks, I have to admit that I cheated just a little. Among my highlights for last year I included an album that was copyrighted in '97 but unavailable for public consumption until well into 1998: Bedhead's Transaction de Novo. I snuck it in as one to watch, and as luck would have it we now have the opportunity to do just that. Bedhead is  headed this way.

Since the beginning of March, the band has been touring to support the February release of Transaction, and they arrive in Tucson via the Northwest for a rare appearance on Sunday, March 22, shortly following a double-header at Spaceland in West Hollywood.

Transaction de Novo is Bedhead's third full-length release for Trance Syndicate Records, a label founded by Butthole Surfer drummer King Coffrey. Coffrey formed Trance Syndicate in 1990 to give a leg-up to lesser-known talent in the Austin area. Bedhead's isn't exactly a Cinderella story, but one that's potentially inspiring for bands hoping for a lucky break: The heightened buzz around their native Dallas led an initially skeptical Coffrey to purchase Bedhead's 7-inch single "Bedside Table." Coffrey was so amazed that Trance Syndicate snapped them up and recorded several EPs, as well as three CDs (WhatFunLifeWas, Bedheaded, and Transaction de Novo).

Transaction was recorded with Steve Albini in his celebrated new Chicago-based studios, a fact that should neither draw nor dismay the potential listener. Albini's influence has produced a Bedhead record of trademark subtlety, both beautifully articulated and stylistically mature, if a little louder and more assiduously pop-oriented than fans of their previous work may anticipate.

Throughout the album, each of the nine songs revisits musical themes, creating a repetition that reinforces the cohesiveness of the record. Unlike the majority of current releases, Transaction is among the few exceptions where the series of songs function as interrelated aspects of a larger musical story rather than a collection of aural anecdotes. It's truly an album, as opposed to loads of simple-minded filler peppered with earmarked singles.

Vocals, characteristically treated as an afterthought on Bedhead's previous releases, have acquired a higher priority on Transaction. The new, louder Bedhead awakens fully in "Extra Mundane" and "Psychosomatica," two songs that translate Bedhead's idiomatic musical phrasing and method of intertwining series of simple melodies into chunkier studies for powerful rhythmic guitar riffs. The effect is an evenly textured wall of noise. My one complaint is that the album is only a nine-track transaction. (It's so good it feels too short, clocking in at just over 37 minutes.)

The Dallas quintet (Matt Kadane, Bubba Kadane, Tench Cox, Kris Wheat, and Trini Martinez) has been refining its minimalist approach for the past five years. Theirs is a sound not easily qualified, but for the sake of description, here goes: They share a rooted pop sensibility with Yo La Tengo in that band's quieter moments, and are akin to the Radar Bro.'s in almost any moment. Bedhead rests easily within the lo-fi camp occupied by Palace, Tortoise and Tucson's own Calexico, sharing with all of the above an elegant use of quiet space--a tremendous tonal sensitivity and orchestrated attention to ambiance.

Although a guitar band at heart, Bedhead's three Telecasters typically intertwine in little more than simple, plaintive melodies over elemental drum and bass. Bedhead is a study in restraint--rarely do they break into electric mayhem. Even in their most intense moments, they have more in common with the studied density of sound created by Scenic or Tone than with Ira Kaplan's feedback frenzy; and like the aforementioned bands, Bedhead is renowned in critical circles for their intimate, hypnotic performances.

Even if you've never heard of Bedhead, I encourage you to find your way out to this show. Bedhead is appearing courtesy of Umlaut productions with locals The Cassadines and Wise Folk Malcontent at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. Show is 21-and-over, and tickets are $5 at the door. Call 670-9332 for information.

SANGUINE SWINE: The Lowest of the Low Tour swings as low as Boston's in Tempe on Saturday, March 21, touting an eclectic evening of ambient, techno, drum and bass and experimental industrial music. The tour is a traveling showcase of Invisible Records artists: Pigface, Scorn, FM Einheit (of Einstürzende Neubauten), Bagman (Lee Fraser of Sheep on Drugs), and Not Breathing. The Chicago label is celebrating 10 years of commitment to the industrial avant garde, and bands with a creative approach to music and theatrical performance. For Lowest of the Low, Pigface will be comprised of eight members, including Meg Lee Chin (Crunch), Bob Dog (Pseudo Budda, Evil Mothers), Gus Ferguson (Dead Can Dance, Test Dept.), Jared (Chemlab), Levi Levi (Thrill Kill Kult), Curse Mackey (Evil Mothers), Vas Kallas (Hanzel and Gretyl) and, of course, Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke, Ministry, NIN, Murder, Inc.)

Various guests are also expected join in the floating Pigface roster at various points in the tour--surprises are granted at a Pigface show. If industrial ambient is your thing, or you're a new fan of bands like Crash Worship, you won't want to miss this show. Call Boston's at (520) 921-7343 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Two shows scheduled this week at the Rialto Theater, 318 E. Congress St., are a late add to the local roster: Save Ferris, Hagfish and Homegrown appear Wednesday, March 25;  Insane Clown Posse, Twystid and Myzery follow on Thursday, March 26. Doors for both shows open at 7:30 p.m., both are all-ages, bar with ID. Tickets are available in advance at Strictly CDs, CD Depot, and the new, downtown location of Sound Addict, 113 E. Congress St. Call 293-7703 for ticketing information.

Ska's resurgence in popularity has set the tour bus wheels in motion for many of the old form's second-wavers, the progenitors of the current skankin' craze. The original two-tone mod squad, The Specials, with openers Soul Cracker and the Weird Lovemakers, are the featured performers at the spring Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

The outdoor all-ages concert is planned for sometime after sunset on Saturday, March 21, on a big stage erected for the occasion at Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street. Tickets are $10 in advance, available at CD Depot, the Sound Addict and Big Brother Tattoo. Call 624-5004 for information.

For avid fans of local country music this isn't news, but for anyone else who has driven past the big red building that looks like an Aberdeen Barn on 22nd Street, wondering at all the trucks in the parking lot, The Maverick, King of Clubs has a kick-ass house band Tuesday through Saturday nights that will spin the spurs right off your boots: Troy Olsen and Overdrive. A solid bet for a great time, almost every night of the week. Call the Maverick at 748-0456, or just stop in at 4702 E. 22nd St. They'll be sure to make you feel welcome. TW

--Lisa Weeks

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