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Here's Bret's Ramblings for June/July

Giants in the Earth....

I finally get a chance to write about whatever I want in my column instead of just putting in more record reviews. It wasn't until recently, while watching TV that everything about my subject matter came together. Here are some of the elements: David Bowie, Xena, giants, technology, seeking truth and ancient history. And also music. David Bowie performs Little Wonder on Saturday Night Live from two years back. In his 50's, Bowie continues to stretch stylistic boundaries, staying youthful and inventive with a smile on his face. Xena walking through the bones of giants and meeting up with her old friend Goliath. During the show a Subway commercial has a man trying to get his sandwich back from a giant. The man throws a stone from a sling at the giant to get his sub back. My life at this moment, finally on any track to a better life. I'm living in an apartment with my girlfriend of many years and getting paid a little better with a promotion at work. All the while filling my head with ideas about how the world was and how mythology shaped the lives of cultures in the distant past. These books of speculative history make me wonder how the world was in the past. More than likely not at all what we consider the world to be like back then. What if myths of gods and man are actually misinterpreted tales of man combating natural phenomena like earthquakes and tidal waves or even bombardment of asteroids or the realigning of the planet's axis? Who is to tell us the truth when those who convey information are constantly deceiving themselves and others into believing the easy and palatable. Find your own truth, choose the paths in life that seem the right ones for you. I got this digital cable service from TCI Cable that offers 20 or so music stations including "Classic Rock" and "80's Hits" for the nostalgia seekers but also has "Acid Jazz" (and trip-hop) as well as my favorite station "Trends." Trends has electronic tunes mixed together all day long. One night I listened to a techno mix, another had a turntablist show and this morning I heard some dancefloor filling rave music along with some more ambient and mainstream artists like Fatboy Slim and Moby. I almost didn't want to get up and leave the room in case another cool tune came on. And what's even better about music on cable is no commercials or talking! How does all the stuff I'm rambling about connect? Everything is connected by humanity, by creation, by the minds of people having good times, inventing new and exciting forms of expression and living their dreams. I'm happy enough knowing that there are others out there who continue to not take no for an answer, not listen to those who sit on their hands and think that the best years are behind them or society is running down. I believe that by trusting in myself I can find the courage to trust others and move on in my life. I just hope you can all find the necessary strength to understand that if you don't take action first, then you have no one else to blame for not trying. Faith in yourselves, faith in others and faith in humanity can stop all of the blatant capitalism, consumerism and destruction rampant in the world today. This is our only home and if we ruin it we are to blame. We are the caretakers of this planet, we don't own it. I saw a person wearing a shirt that said something to the effect that people forget that they aren't the only animals on this planet. I could go on but I'm sure you can figure things out for yourselves. You are intelligent people, you just need to believe what is in your hearts and not what other people with their own troubles and hang-ups want you to hear. Think big but stay humble and hug someone today, even if it's yourself. Now go read some record reviews.

COME MY FANATICS.../ELECTRIC WIZARD
Electric Wizard
(The Music Cartel)
You: Sitting around bored out of your skull and broke. But all is not bad, because you're playing that Electric Wizard album that your Stoner Bud loaned you sometime ago. While rooting in your couch for change and pondering the point of your existence, Stoner Bud comes over to hang. Stoner Bud: "Dude, what's up? this sounds like that disc I gave you a while back. That Wizard group. You: "Ya, Electric Wizard. Come My Fanatics, it's called. Got any smokes?" He lights up a fat joint and after taking a long suck on it hands it to you. You inhale on it for what seems like days as doom and gloom fill the air vibrating from your speakers. As smoke wafts up to the ceiling fan, sludge-thick guitars and bass send messages to your brain that mix with the THC in your blood. Kill! Kill! Food! Food! Eventually your pacifist Id wins over in favor of thinking about eating. Just then, as paranoia sets in, you find a dollar fifty behind the last cushion and you show it to Stoner Bud who is looking scared. Stoner Bud: "Dude, look at your fish." You look at the tank as your Oscar attempts to jump out of the water and away from the room. Some of the fish are floating around on their sides, gasping for air. But the need for chow overpowers you. You leave the stereo on and as you leave your pad the smoke and sounds begin to envelop the furniture, walls and floor, desolate vocals sing and far off drums try to make their way through the guitar fuzz. You shrug and go get some cheap tacos. Later, You return with Stoner Bud to find that the apartment complex is surrounded by fire trucks and onlookers and sirens squeal into the night air. You and Stoner Bud look at each other in astonishment as a shadow of sound passes over your ears, Electric Wizard is still playing inside the inferno that was your apartment! Stoner Bud: "I guess I'm not getting my CD back." You: "Can I crash at your place for a while?"

13
Blur
Virgin Records
Instructions for listening to 13 by Blur:
1. Open CD case, place in try of player and close.
2. Press "Play."
3. Turn the volume way up.
4. a. Enjoy the southern gospel thump of Tender once or twice, then skip straight to song two forever after.
b. Try to figure out what the hell Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and the boys are trying to do.
c. Ah, this is more like it! Coffee & TV gives the ears a tickle with some cool guitars and breezy vocals.
d. Swamp Song makes you move your head around to sick vocals and even sicker guitars, as does the arch- new wave ditty B.L.U.R.E.M.I. Love those ducky lyrics and that keyboard solo!
e. Wonder once again what's up with Blur? Must've been some good drugs there. They even have this brilliant song called Battle that is half ambient electronic and half guitar anger. Albarn sings with a fey voice and there's some sleepy keyboard accompaniment. How cute!
5. This album is either fucked up or awesome! Pick one.
6. Listen to all of 13 by Blur, pick out your own favorites and disregard the rest or, if you're feeling adventurous play it from beginning to end.
7. "Oh you pretty things, don't you know you're driving your father and mother insane?"
8. Lather, rinse, repeat.

APRIL
Too much great music, no time to waste. Here's more record reviews that couldn't fit into the review page.

EXPEDITIONS
Sasha & John Digweed
Ultra Records

Sasha and Digweed are two DJs that have made their names from releasing excellent mix CDs and for their residences at numerous dance clubs including Twilo in New York City. Their sound of choice is usually deep house, progressive house, basically anything with that recognizable 4/4 house beat On Expeditions the duo chooses tracks that contain less of the long ambient breaks and builds that have typified their mixes in the past. Tarantanic by Breeder opens CD One with a cinematic ambient dub feel followed by Stage One's Space Manoevres, which has the Harthouse sound from a few years back. Expand The Room by The Light gets the party jumping with an emotional synth progression and funky bass line. Things move into darker territory with the menacing low-end keyboards of Free by Mono Culture ending CD One. Disc Two is a much lighter, more open mix that begins with the breezy Waters Of Jericho by Head Honcho but then the mix gets heavier with the deep house atmospherics of Red Devil's Gamelan. By the time Humate's Love Stimulation makes a short appearance in the mix you'll definitely be feeling good. Bringing CD Two of Expeditions to a close is The Silence by Mike Koglin. Koglin builds up his ambient synths for three minutes before he hits you with a techno reworking of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence. This homage is a fitting way to wrap up the emotion filled dance mix Expeditions by Sasha and John Digweed.

MAGICIAN AMONG THE SPIRITS
The Church
Thirsty Ear Records

Originally released in '96 Magician Among the Spirits has finally hit our shows with four additional songs. Utilizing the CD's full 80 minute capacity The Church are free to explore the wide ranges of rock music. Comedown is an acoustic-tinged, melodic rocker with strings and strong vocals by Steve Kilbey. Marty Wilson-Piper whispers the lyrics to Won't Let You Sleep as if telling us a deep, dark secret, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere. Sads teases our ears with building tempos, quiet then letting loose with screaming guitars and pounding drums, Kilbey singing "Suffer children, suffer hate." Violins and epic guitars give way to chorale vocals on Grandiose, evoking memories of Pink Floyd's Great Gig In The Sky. Why Don't You Love Me has Kilbey adding studio treatments to his voice making the vocals sound like they are from multiple personalities giving depth to the familiar break-up song. The instrumental After Image closes Magician Among The Spirits with a forlorn piano, bright acoustic guitars and a breathy female voice. The Church once again treat us to a sprawling collection of pop, rock and experimental works creating an insightful journey into the minds of an exceptional group. For that reason The Church deserve our recognition.

PEEL SESSION
Autechre
Warp/Nothing

Peel Session is 25 minutes of pure digital delight. Milk DX is clap-trap percussion, eerie keyboards and muffled voices chugging away at a heart-beat tempo, with the duo tweaking each element until you're ready to scream. Inhake 2 once again uses spooky keyboard riffing and tweaked human voices to great effect, with bassy synths and a hip-hop beat. Drone has flittering scratches, high-pitched whines and a flanged chorus of voices that builds up (in the usual Autechre fashion) to orgasmic proportions yet uses fewer elements letting the duo's treatment of the sounds to become more apparent. The vocal part soon transforms into guitar-like distorted ambience, strings appear deep in the mix, echoing the bass line. Even if Peel Session was recorded several years back and once again proves how far ahead of their time Autechre is as well as how extremely in tune they are with their machines.

THE PRODIGY PRESENTS: THE DIRTCHAMBER SESSIONS VOLUME ONE
The Prodigy
XL/Beggars Banquet

Liam Howlett
Liam Howlett, the man behind the Prodigy, gives us a 50 minute sampler of some of his favorite songs, both new and old. Included are old schoolers Ultra Magnetic MCs and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, rockers Charlatans UK and Jane's Addiction, and electro funkers Time Zone and Frankie Bones. Also included are newer artists like Chemical Brothers and Bomb The Bass. Every part of the mix flows smoothly, like a house party where everyone wants to hear something different. It works for me, since I'm someone who likes all kinds of music from The Sex Pistols to Kool Keith and most places in between. If you want to hear some of your favorite songs mixed together then try out Liam's mix CD The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One.

BUDAKHAN MINDPHONE
Squarepusher
Warp/Nothing
Tom Jenkinson returns with a mini-album, seven tracks of soulful jazz, experimental soundscape and some of the drum & bass madness we're used to from Squarepusher yet slowed down and more organic than before. All of the music on Budakhan Mindphone (as it was on Music Is Rotted One Note) is produced from live instruments without the aid of sequencers and samplers, giving the music, and us, space to breathe without losing its dark power. Squarepusher is still as out there as ever, except now he's easier to listen to.

LUXURY
Fantastic Plastic Machine
Emperor Norton Records
The man known as Fantastic Plastic Machine is back with another splendid collection of lounge-pop, this time without so much of the electronic influences as before. Luxury starts off on a high note with a rendition of Eurythmics' There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) that becomes a mirror ball disco number about half way through its eight minute length. Honolulu, Calcutta has two women whispering French and English vocals over violins, piano and a hip-hop beat. A guitar riff, funked -up drums and vocodered voices vie for your attention on You Must Learn All Night Long. With Luxury Fantastic Plastic Machine once again proves musically that everything old is new again and can also be an exciting album!

RAMBLINGS FROM THE PAST

It's time to party like there's no tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, because the end of the century is near and there is very little time to spare. While responsible people like you or me are trying to make a living or at least trying to make some money there are those who are making music like there is no tomorrow, or sometimes no yesterday either. Records, I've got records...

Keith York of Intelligent Records in Dan Diego sent me a load of vinyl, I had quite a time sifting through it all but it was all quality music. For more about Intelligent Records drop them a line at: keith@silvergirl.com. Also look for Mod Magazine in the local San Diego record shops soon where you can find more reviews of records than any other magazine in California, it's written by Keith and it's free!

*Utopian's Resonant Evil is Dark Drum & Bass yet is kept lightweight with the help of some funky bass programming and progressive drums halfway through along with some intelligent keyboard work making you want to hear this track more than once. Email kelynge@hotmail.com for more on Utopian. Blue Wave by T.H.C. offers up more D&B with a faster tempo and an ominous synth line which breaks in the middle for lush strings that fold back into the drums to conclude the track. The Wad Squad are a fun group whose sound consists of funky rhythms and rolling pianos that is a soundtrack to some softcore porn dance-party in outer space. Talk at the Wad Squad at http://home.connectnet.com/lotus for more on the funky side of electronic music. Look for Mod Magazine in the local San Diego record shops soon where you can find more reviews of records than any other magazine in California, and it's free!

Fear Of Pop with William Shatner: IN LOVE EP, on Giant Step Records Attica Blues and Thievery Corporation mix up some sublime electronic sounds nominally based on a song with William Shatner rambling over it all gets remixed/reworked and overhauled into some headnoddingly good music. Stuttering drums, almost cheesy keyboards, soft vocal "in looooves," all add up to fun in the sun soft-rocking good times and when the tracks let Shatner have his space you just have to laugh at the maudlin schmaltz of it all. Type up www.giantstp.com to find out how to get Fear Of Pop. New or recent on CD:

*Spy: Music To Mauzner By, on Lava/Atlantic Records Spy is one guy and his crazy ideas about how rock and roll can mix with hip-hop and electronic dance beats and still sound good. His vocals and lyrics are flippant and endearing, the guitars are sloppy and usually mixed up front. 31 Seconds uses the same guitar sound as Propellerheads, with a sing-along chorus, and filtered drums, Won't You Come Down has subdued vocals and a catchy chorus with a soulful bassline, Leave Me Alone rips off a familiar cello(?) riff and contains chimes, flute stabs and drum loop and is an instant pop hit, especially with those 80's keyboards. If everyone is creating music from the same pool of previously performed chords, riffs and arrangements then it's true in the case of Spy that how you put those un-original sounds together is what makes you original. I don't know what the title means but be sure to give Music To Mauzner By a listen when next at your local cool record store and give Spy a spin.

*Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited: The Fluid Soundbox on Mai Tai/Doctor Dream Records The SSSU are Ernest Maeschi and Karen Diblitz, two of Switerland's most well known movie and television composers who produce surf rock and spy soundtrack tunes with an ear to the spacey, groovy side of the rock and roll spectrum and I dig them. No vocals, plenty of organs and echoing guitars make up the group's sound and it's sure to please the lounge crowd and surfers of the world alike. Contact www.doctordream.com for more info on Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited.

*Snooze: Man In The Shadows, on The Medicine Label Snooze is a producer/composer of singular mind, everything he makes has the sound of a noir film, as if Humphrey Bogart himself were in the room when Snooze created his music, smoking a trademark cigarette and wearing a fedora and trenchcoat. Snooze usually keeps the tempo of his tunes at a pace only slightly faster than your heartbeat but adds a drum & bass beat to the US Version of Your Consciousness Goes Bip which later appears in a more down tempo Bip (Lover's Mix) which goes into your ears like butta. Tribute To Horace features Horace Andy's delectable and heartbroken vocals set to forlorn strings and distant drums, Nancy Danino appears again on Down For Mine whose liquid vocals are set against swells of strings, flute, and a beatless piano that accompanies her to the end. I could gush on about this excellent record but you'll have to hear it for yourself. Snooze's Man In The Shadows will take you on a voyage through cinematic atmospheres and is a thrilling listening experience. Look up Medicine's website at: www.crammed.be/ssr for more information on Snooze and other Crammed/SSR artists.

*Pi: Music From The Motion Picture, on Thrive/Sire Records By the time you read this magazine, the movie Pi will already be out on video. All the better for people to be able to see such a group of ideas put to celluloid. Filmed in black and white, Pi is about a man who believes that mathematics rules nature and he plans to use his intelligence to learn to control the wold around him. There's also Jewish men chasing him because of mathematical equations buried in The Kabbalah, and other less savory sorts who wish to use or kill the main character. The score by Clint Mansell is interspersed throughout, often drum & bass derived and paranoiac in nature. Orbital, Autechre, Aphex Twin and other greats of the electronic genre appear to lend their able tunes to the service of a story that rings of science fact more so than fiction. Which is fitting because the artists on this soundtrack are making the music of the future and of our inner worlds as we speak. Be sure to see Pi when it's available on video and enjoy the incredible music now.

*Jim Donovan: Indigo, on Mercury Records The drummer for Rusted Root has put together this CD as an instrument to aid you in meditation, relaxation or to have on in the background while at non-dangerous activity. The CD contains repetitive loops of a guitar line, breath sounds, drums and a voice saying OM, all of which repeats for an hour. The idea of these sounds layered over and around each other is to place your consciousness in a state of relaxation akin to the sleep state yet has enough going on to keep you awake. The OM vocalization has been proven to vibrate centers of your body called chakras that lead to centering your mind and enabling the performer to create a bio-feedback. This will let you relax your limbs, relieve stress and sharpen your mental abilities. See if the music of Indigo will help you become a better person by vocalizing OM and listening to the sounds of Jim Donovan as he leads you to a meditative state of bliss.




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