Thursday, February 7, 2008

Curia - s/t

Late last year, I received a slew of releases from Fire Museum Records, a relatively young label from Philadelphia, for whom I've done a few reviews in the past. The first that I've finally gotten to is the self-titled debut from the group Curia. The album was also released overseas by the label Ruby Red. This group two guitarists an organist and a drummer, a very typical set-up that fails to reflect the sound the group produces. The album is divided into four tracks that comprise one long improvisation.

At times I am skeptical of improvised experimental projects, simply because they seem to be able to get away with calling anything they can capture on a microphone music. However, upon listening to this album, I was pleasantly surprised by how focused the group was in the execution of a unified musical vision. The improvisation relies heavily on spatial and atmospheric aspects of playing, creating a broad, sparse sound world that the musicians explore throughout the duration. This album has some unique sounds in it and is a great listen for fans of ambient and experimental improvisation. This group has found their sound and their niche, and has the ability to take their music as far as they want in the future, as long as the focus and unity stays intact.

9.0/10 more information and ordering at

Canterbury Effect - We Are All Dogs

Terre Haute based band, Canterbury Effect came out with a new album on Crossroads of America Records last September, but through various delays and forgetful encounters with Mike Adams, the label's owner, it took quite some time before I acquired it and even longer for me to get around to listening to it. Canterbury Effect has been playing for ten years now and is known throughout Indiana, and wherever else they've played over the years, for their energetic music and genuine personalities as people. Their latest album,We Are All Dogs, had been in the works for some time before it was released, and I had almost forgotten them, having not seen a show in quite awhile, almost...

Having now finally had a chance to sit down and listen to this album, I remember why I enjoyed these guys as much as I did. The songs on this album are catchy and spirited, conveying the energy of the group well throughout its entirety. The sound of the album is more layered and developed than their previous efforts and provides a refreshing step forward for a band that has been around as long as this one has. The songwriting is vaguely reminiscent of some of the work of Tim Kinsella in his various projects, but still holds its own in terms of originality and freshness.

The vocals on this album are a mix of group work, punk-esque alliteration, with some predominating vocal melodies driving a few of the songs. Their sound stays consistent throughout the thirteen tracks, but does threaten to bore toward the end, until the last track which is stands out from the rest of the songs in terms of instrumentation and sound. Overall though, this album is an enjoyable foray into the overlooked regions of music after pop-punk and is a good listen for anyone who hasn't completely given up on music that suggests solid pop sensibilities.

8.9/10 more information and ordering at

Ed Schrader - The Choir Inside

The night after I saw Teeth Mountain, during the second night of the show I was introduced to the musical anti-virtuoso that is Ed Schrader. Ed approached me and called me out for being a composer immediately. He was a gracious, collected individual that completely reversed my normal role in meeting artists, having been the approchee as opposed to the approacher. Five minutes later I saw this person set up a microphone and prepare for the one-man chaos that was to ensue. Ed's set managed to be compelling and entertaining while he played a humble drum set of a single floor-tom and snare drum and sang lyrics that forced their way into your head as he perpetrated a cacophonous display of determined fervor and raw energy.

After the set, I got to talk to Ed again and he graciously offered me a copy of his album when I mentioned this site. The CD features a whopping twenty-six songs that keep the same raw feeling of his live work, but at the same time demonstrate Ed's approach to various instruments and song forms. Most of the songs on the album are short and out of all of them, only three exceed three minutes. This one-off philosophy and playful attitude that make up this album, as well as the various strange and unique recordings that flesh out the document, come together to create a unique, chaotic brand of music that is truly one of a kind. This collection of songs provides an honest and cynical portrait of the artist and his perception of his place in existence.

The recording quality of the album varies throughout, but is primarily lo-fi to an extent that can be initially frustrating to anyone who has not been introduced through a live show, where Ed flourishes. However the recording fits the music and Ed's vocals are clear in every piece, a feat that is lost on many recordings of much higher fidelity.

8.9/10 more information and ordering at

Teeth Mountain - s/t

Teeth Mountain is a band from Baltimore that I had the opportunity to catch at a show here in Bloomington. Let it suffice to say that between three percussionists, noisy cello drones, organic synthesizer tones, and a creative musical saw player, this was a performance that blew the lid off of typical mid-west shows and ensnared the crowd in a hypnotic musical spell producing as much wonder as compelling everyone to dance like the apocalypse was imminent. The set was notably and successfully percussively driven and was laden with massive drones, and capped off with a jam on the Baltimore Beat and a fanatic chant of "Face down, ass up, that's the way we like to f**k", which was enthusiastically joined by the almost fanatic crowd. During the days preceding and following the show, I was lucky enough to meet the bold group that put on such a boisterous display and also get a copy of their self titled, limited edition debut album.

This band seems to have a multiple personality complex in terms of their recorded work as compared to their explosive live show, presenting themselves as an amorphous musical entity that defies easy descriptions. The album, which contains eight tracks of varying lengths, is a creative document of musical ideas and voices that shows a distinct musical palette through which this group of players successfully makes complex and downright catchy noise-based, percussive music. The CD is well recorded and successfully allows each song to speak in its own way, while forming a cohesive whole whose only drawback is the brief length. This band seems to be on a mission to bring as many people as possible into the world of noisy music without forcing their hand in any way. Upon seeing this band and subsequently listening to the album, it is clear that if they play their cards right we will be seeing and hopefully hearing a lot from this band in the near future.

A quick note on the packaging of the album: It is handmade and features a hand sewn plastic sleeve around a cardboard sleeve and small sheet of liner notes that feature creative collage work by one of the members of the band.

9.5/10 more information and ordering at

(It is definitely worth the effort to track down one of these discs if you can't make it to a show, and if they do come your way be sure to catch them as their shows are downright mind-blowing fun and they need your support.)

The Drift - Memory Drawings

The Drift could quite possibly open the world of jazz to a new generation of listeners and break open a can of worms in terms of the future and destiny of the music that many listeners today still associate with their parents or grandparents and stiffs in suits. Their debut 12", Streets/Nazomi, and their subsequent full-length, Nuomena, opened many sets of ears to a sound that was both laden with old-school sensibilities and the medium for a new sound that was, and still remains, completely their own. Their other, vinyl-only songs were just released in a collection entitled Ceiling Sky. This catalog, along with their release for the Travels in Constants series, which I have sadly not heard, has been enough to, in my mind at least, establish them as a unique voice in music that should be heeded.

Their latest effort, Memory Drawings, furthers their musical odyssey, helping to solidify their place in music and at the same time keep both curious first-time listeners and devoted fans guessing. With the eight songs on this album, the band's sound matures and develops into a profound aural world that pushes the boundaries of both their own sound and that of their peers in various jazz and experimental groups making waves right now. I have to say that this album is probably their best work yet, and surpasses both their initial 12" and full-length by a substantial margin. Dense, contemplative horn tones meet evocative guitar melodies that thrive in a musical world grounded by one of the most tasteful rhythm sections out now. Over all Memory Drawings expands The Drift's world to a perspective that is more focused yet beautifully ambiguous. Definitely something to check out whether a first-time listener or faithful lender-of-ear.

9.8/10 more information and ordering at

Caroline - Murmurs Mixes (itunes exclusive)

My first reaction upon receiving this particular release was that Temporary Residence had completely cut its budget for packaging. (The disc was a black image on a shiny-top cd in a plain, artless jewel case.) Thirty seconds later, as I read the press release, I was even more shocked to find out that this label that I have followed attentively for years was going digital, with an album that is only to be released on iTunes. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed out of character for a label that advised its fans to burn their copies of Explosions in the Sky's All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone when it made it to the top-seller charts. However, my initial reaction was completely turned to immediate relief as I pressed play for the first track.

Caroline has one of the most angelic voices to see the light of day that I have encountered in a long time, and her debut, Murmurs is one of the most intoxicating vocal albums of recent history, and has somehow still managed to go unnoticed by many. Luckily those "in the know" have been following and enjoying this album for awhile now and if, like me, they are eagerly awaiting a follow-up, this collection of innovative and intimate remixes will do wonderfully to tide them over while she works on more music in the future.

As usual with Temporary Residence, these remixes are not just gimmicky uses of a chorus and musical excerpt thrown over a dance beat. These are legitimate, beautiful re-workings of the songs that reflect talented, focused efforts and as much care as is possible while working to reflect an idea that is not originally that of the artists at hand. These remixes serve as beautifully composed musical cushions, on which the crystal tone of Caroline's voice rests. It really is a shame that this is a digital-only release, seeing as this would be an album that I would cherish on vinyl. Honestly though, for all the purists out there, this collection of heavenly music is worth braving iTunes, and if I was in a different position, might push me to actually download an album, which I have never considered seriously before now.

9.2/10 more information and ordering at

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Horseback - Impale Golden Horn

Horseback is the solo project of one Jenks Miller from North Carolina. This is his debut recording on Burly Time records. Miller's timing is great in terms of the shift in the acceptance of new music that seems to be taking hold of more scrutinizing listeners across the board. Impale Golden Horn is reminiscent of the work of Eluvium up to his EP "When I live by the Garden and the Sea" while maintaining a musical dialect that is completely his own. Using tranquil shimmering in the opening piece of the album as a springboard, Miller successfully demonstrates a dynamic, thorough sense of compositional patience and developmental restraint.

From Finale, the opener, to the last notes of Blood Fountain, the closing track, Miller maintains a methodical development that is both aesthetically pleasing and very well captured, as the sound of this album maintains a lightness that is easy on the ears while not preventing the dense sound sculptures to flourish. This album was very rewarding to listen to as a whole, presenting the listener with gifts of subtle change at times that are both fulfilling and surprising. Being this his first effort, I am really excited for what this artist will pursue in the future. To use a metaphor, while he is not the first to start speaking this language, he has certainly begun with a vocabulary that is diverse and certainly not typical, even for much more experienced writers. I hope that he keeps up his efforts and look forward to see what Miller will have in store for us in the years to come.

9/10 More information and ordering at and