Rhythm + Views


San Jacinto

THIS AIN'T YER mama's Gila Bend--or at least, not the roots-rock Gila Bend that blazed through a live-to-two-track set several years ago and issued it on a German label as Kim Chee Cowboy (one which fans still try, without much luck nowadays, to track down in the record store bins). Mainman, vocalist and guitarist Loren Dircks, bassist Jim Blackhall, drummer Tom Larkins and "hi-strung guitar" player Al Perry are joined by a host of local notables (Craig Schumacher, Stuart Kupers, Neil Harry, John Convertino and Eric Royer), and the long delay between records suggests a lot of time spent working on things like songwriting, arranging, and just saying things the way you want them said. The tone of conversation can range from the frankly bizarre ("Sentenced To Roam The Urth," which is like a '50s ballad laced with surf and metal riffs--and don't overlook the fuzzed-out, lo-fi countrydelic tune tacked on at the end of the disc as an untitled bonus track) to the revved-up and reeling (the garagey "Ballad Of The Postapocalyptic Pig Farmer," featuring Who-style power chords, a terrific banjo part, and some hilarious lyrics), to the gently sentimental (the countryesque "Never Again" has sweet pedal steel murmurs and a bass line that thumps as assuredly as a lovesick fool's heart). Back in the saddle again for Gila Bend--and you can definitely tell your mama the news.

--Fred Mills


China Records/Discovery

RECOMBINANT electronica. How else to describe the seamless amalgam of influences that comprise the protienacious profusion that is Albumen? Hip-hop, psychedelia and '70s disco/funk details merge with ambient structures reminiscent more of Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk (note the fourth track, "bend") than recent techno or acid-jazz adventures. Using a multi-genre approach akin in spirit to Beck's savvy collages, Albumen is easily as accessible and stylishly witty as Odelay. Where Beck's underpinnings are folk and, to an arguably lesser extent, hip-hop, The Egg celebrates jazz, funk and Floydian psychedelia. Jazz finds its influence expressed most noticeably in the treatment of rhythm, especially compelling in the momentum of the time signature in "sunglasses." The funk bass is the drop and Mark Revell's wa wa is not to be denied--both contribute a gritty tooth of musicality to what could otherwise be construed as a slick techno-pop surface. Engaging, danceable and undeniably British, the smooth vocals of "Get Some Money to Get Her" will have you swearing that the Pet Shop Boys stopped in to help out. Albumen is not retro in any strict sense, however. The Egg is entirely more current and exudes all the atmospheric sophistication of an electronic equivalent of ambient instrumental guitar bands like Tone and Half String. Although Albumen initially seems much more innovative than it truly is--due primarily to the fact that American audiences have for the most part been ignoring British dance music for at least the last five years (more likely 10)--the hatching of The Egg could herald the successful birthing of British electronica stateside.

--Lisa Weeks


In A Bar, Under The Sea

ECLECTICISM IS ONE of the defining characteristics of this cultural era. But while anyone can slap together a collage, few can turn disparate elements into a unified whole. About 10 minutes into their second album, In A Bar, Under the Sea, dEUS settles on a groove so graceful they make scattered sounds seem both tasteful and effortless. Combining perfect pop and a handful of rock flavors with avant-jazz and classical touches, dEUS offers a consistently excellent stream of music as listener-friendly as it is challenging. Mind you, it isn't always so cohesive. In A Bar begins with an all-out assault on the senses: a low-fi acoustic blues rant followed by a sampled sound bite advising you to "be your own dog," interrupted by a James Brown break beat, invaded by a grunge guitar crunch; then comes a funk bass and guitar groove, leading into a call-and-response rap/shout with a falsetto soul chorus, and into a middle section of synth dance-pop. Then they do it all over again. The next song, "Opening Night," overlays two different pop melodies by two very different singers, with guitar and piano lines weaving throughout. "Theme From Turnpike" uses a Mingus bass sample, Beefheartian vocals, sound effects, James Bond guitar/horn/string arrangements, Latin percussion, and free-roaming sax to create something both eerie and warm--not far from Tom Waits at his best. Keep going and you'll also hear pop-punk in "Memory of A Festival" and whispery cabaret jazz in "Nine Threads," set among more typically playful tunes. Layering more sounds than could seemingly fit into the diminutive state of Belgium, dEUS' sum total becomes a rich and dynamic chamber music for a postmodern world.

--Roni Sarig

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