Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rhino - "Dead Throne Monarch" CD

Hailing from Spain, this unique metal act's second album is an impressive one, bringing a powerful assault of downtuned, slow doom riffage, a variety of vocal styles, and songs that range from dirgey to more traditional post-Mastodon metal. Add a mix that's raw enough to sound live, and it's no wonder Rhino have gained some serious acclaim with the heavy music set. In fact, the sheer 'brutality' here reminds me somewhat of classic 90's-era Sepultura (when they were good, on the faster tracks) or maybe a little Entombed or Crowbar (the slower tunes), but really, Rhino are coming from a broader place than that, even. 'Bahamut' is a slow-burning melodic effort, but 'Pale Horses Coming' goes back to the scalding intensity. 'Funebre' is a grand ballad of sorts, and seems to encompass the entire history of metal, from stoner to classic stadium rock to grinding death metal. Wow. It's certainly dark and epic (15-minutes!), but not schmalzy in the least. And check the layered guitar churn on 'Wolf Among Black Sheep' - this is as slow and heavy as it gets, and it manages to cross more taboos with the saxophone at the end. If anything, 'Dead Throne Monarch' is a multi-dimensional album, as Rhino vary their tempos and sounds from song-to-song, and to magnificent effect. As far as I'm concerned, they are one of metal's bright new hopes. This is one hell of a heavy album, and one that will hopefully garner them some further success. (Arctic Music Group)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sex Mob Meets Medeski - "Live In Willisau" CD

Knitting Factory staples Sex Mob were nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for their trippy-wild jazz/lounge hybrid album, 'Sexotica'. Here, they are joined with old compatriot John Medeski for a (relatively) more traditionally jazz-oriented jam session. But don't expect to hear much old-school stuff here. These guys mix it up with accents of funk, rock -- even film noir soundtracks -- in their lexicon. 'Black And Tan Fantasy', for example, runs the gamut from subtle and tentative to frantic and dynamic, with Briggan Krauss' alto sax bleating and funky drumming courtesy of Kenny Wolleson taking charge. Your grandfather's jazz this isn't. 'Down On The Farm' is a hilarious, frenetic, and loping beast that shows these guys aren't above having a good time onstage. If modern out-jazz is 'in', these cats have never left. Dig. (Thirsty Ear)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lotus Plaza - "The Floodlight Collective" CD

The debut solo release from Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, is a woozy little collection of shimmery yet edgy pop sounds -- not surprising, considering the lineage. Anyhow, Pundt seems to be taking elements from both 60's sweet-pop and modern drone/shoegaze -- sounding like he's stepped out of a Creation (or Factory) record from the 80's. Make sense? It's an appealing and highly accessible set, from the relatively straight-forward 'Red Oak Way' to the gauzy blur of the splendid 'Quicksand', which bounces along like the Beach Boys on a psilocybin jaunt, with a bouncy drum rhythm and shards of gnarly noise. 'What Grows?' is a typical example of Lotus Plaza's genre-melding pop sounds -- simple melodies wrapped around textured guitars and distant, reverbed vocals. Fans of stuff like Slowdive will appreciate Pundt's ear for hazily-sweet melodies and moody aural scultptures. (Kranky)

Deerhunter/Atlas Sound/Lotus Plaza blog (with tons of freebies for download)

Kranky page (for direct ordering)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mono - "Hymn To The Immortal Wind" CD

10 years and 5 albums have now passed for Japanese quartet Mono, and in that time they have cemented themselves as one of the world's foremost purveyors of sad and melodic guitar sturm-und-drang. This group's wistful, gentle side is gorgeously emotive, full of wild-eyed wonder and quiet introspection. In songs like the opener, 'Ashes In The Snow', the peacefulness builds, then gives way to massive thunderclaps of dissonant noise and bombastic crescendos. And the presence of a full orchestra makes for an even more heightened attack -- strings, flutes, pianos, the works -- meld into Mono's traditional rock setup effortlessly. It all engages in a precise, well-mapped out series of dynamic, omnipotent, and dense instrumental passages, sometimes sad, but just as often brimming with a strong sense of hopefulness. Indeed, Mono are a force to be reckoned with. Production here is once again handled by the inimitable Steve Albini (veteran of too many indie bands to mention), who gives the group a very live, organic, and analog sound that is unaffected by studio trickery - what you hear is what you get. And what you get? Crushing, magnificent power framed by delicate passages of sustained splendor. 'Hymn To The Immortal Wind' is monolithic, triumphant and, in one word, remarkable. (Temporary Residence)

Mono website

Here's Mono's new video, directed by Dimitri Galuret, courtesy of Human Highway Records Japan:

Spring Into Beer!

Ah, though the briskness of Winter is still here, it's not long for this world...and this month's beer-a-thon is a wholly international one! That has absolutely nothing to do with Spring, but...

This month I was granted some time with some exceptional craft brews, indeed! As for the ratings, 5 is godlike, 4 is excellent, 3 is average, 2 is drinkable, 1 is swill. As ever, I urge you all to seek out independent brewers for your drinking pleasure.

LOWENBRAU - ORIGINAL (Munich, Germany) - 2.5

The legendary Lowenbrau name was tarnished a bit in the 70's as corporate American brewers changed the 'recipe' for American tastes. This, however, is the real thing. This lager pours crystal-clear and foamy, and the taste has a subtly sour finish. A typically Munich-style lager, this one's not at all bad, but nor is it outstanding. For fans of Heineken.


This one's a pale yellow in color, with fair head retention. Initial sniff reveals an almost fruity scent, and the taste is rich and full, with an almost biscuity, malty overtone. A very mild finish, though. This one's outstanding for it's class, solid and full of character.

WITTEKERKE (Belgium) - 3.5

Ah, the anticipation. This fine Belgian (hard to go wrong with Belgian beers, though) pours white and very murky/cloudy, with a thick head and sweet nose. The taste is sweet and steady, with light citrus and floral notes. Quite pleasant and very much what you'd expect from a Belgian witte (wheat) beer. And it's far better than Blue Moon.


Hmm. In contrast to the other brews surveyed this month, this one's a deep, deep black, and smells like (surprise) fine coffee. But more interesting is the back-story here. Didja know that this one's made with coffee beans? How about rare, premium coffee beans? Well, yeah, but get this...these same choice (only the best) coffee beans are consumed by weasel-like Southeast Asian civet cats (google it), who, uhh, 'process' the coffee beans, then dookie them out after being treated (partially digested). Their droppings are then collected for the expensive coffee (and, thus, this beer). Yipes! Anyhow, what's really important is the taste, right? It's strong, pungent, alcoholic (10.9%), and very coffeelike. Really tasty stuff, and perfect if you like alcohol with your coffee. Yum.