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Published: 2003/04/26
by Jesse Jarnow

Holding The Bag – Cosmic Dust Devils, Earthbound, Free Peoples, Garfunkle, Muruga Global Village Ceremonial Band, The Niche, Revision, See Peoples, Waht Just Happened

self-titled – Cosmic Dust Devils
There’s not too much cosmic about the Cosmic Dust Devils. In fact, it’s
mostly straightforward Texan country-rock, fairly decent for the genre, but
not too inventive beyond that. The songs, written by guitarist/vocalist
Kevin Higgins, are delivered by a handful of vocalists. The songs play with
the usual symbols – rivers, highways, trains, and the like – but don’t
really add anything to the mythos. Nor do they retell it in a particularly
interesting way. So it goes. It would be nice to hear the band apply this
imagery to something more personal and unique. Oblique Strategies says:
"Humanize something free of error." More info…
Somewhere in Between – Earthbound
With five credited songwriters, it’s amazing that Earthbound’s Somewhere
In Between holds together as well as it does. The band comes clearly cut
from the Southern jamband tradition, though mix the elements nimbly — from
the acoustic leanings of "Stony Ridge Road" to the distantly reggae tinges
of "The Great Unknown." The music itself isn’t remarkably original (listen
to the positively Garcia-esque solo on the latter tune), but the musicians
fit together well. During the numerous solos, each of the five musicians is
constantly contributing something interesting to the mix. Instead of playing
mere support roles, they add almost microscopically to the total picture.
And, hey, they’ve got heart. Oblique Strategies says: "What would your
closest friend do?" More
self-titled – Free Peoples
Like the Wayfaring Strangers, Free Peoples present a sort of chamber version
of the newgrass thing, holding a little tighter to their bluegrass roots
than their jazz ones, but the music still plunks along with more melancholy
moans than mountain calls. The trio’s arrangements are deft and complex,
with nary a wasted voice. Guest appearances from notables like banjoist Tony
Trischka and dobroist David Phillips are atmospheric and well placed. The
disc’s mixing is warm and rich. If the high stepping fast picking of Bill
Monroe-born bluegrass sounds like spring blooming into summer, then Free
Peoples (and the Wayfaring Strangers and the Deadly Nightshade Family
Singers) sounds like summer slowly and lovingly fading to autumn.
Recommended. Oblique Strategies says: "Twist the spine." More info…
Three, Billion, and Twenty-Two – Garfunkle
Word up to the joys of a home computer. I’m not sure if this was recorded in
FreeLoops, ProTools, or any other of the myriad beat makin’ programs
available for pirated download these days, but it’s surely a product of one
of ‘em. Garfunkle’s music is just slightly too bright to be downtempo or
ambient, but flows with the subtle quirkiness that could only come from a
kid alone in his dorm room — things like the up front drum beat on "Butter
Sauce" with the organ patch in the background (as opposed to the other way
‘round.) After a while, one begins to long for some non-synthetic tones, or
maybe some distorted beats. The real piano (or is it "real"?) on "De Loop
De" is kinda nice. Curious stuff. Oblique Strategies says: "Turn it upside
down." More info…
One Global Village – Muruga Global Village Ceremonial Band
I once wandered into a bar in Alphabet City where people were playing weird
horn synthesizers that looked like they were modeled on the instruments
played in the Cantina scene in the first Star Wars movie. The music
they made was futuristic in a real New Agey sorta way, and not at all
dissimilar to the music of the Muruga Global Village Ceremonial Band —
electronic beats, swirling synthesized sitars (and maybe some real ones,
too), Middle Eastern melodies, and a generally tribal vibe. One Global
Village is an extremely original project, the apparent result of a
democratic collaboration between dozens of people. And the sincerity behind
the project is fully overwhelming. It’s just that, well, I’m not sure if I
need to hear moaning didgeridoos combined with quasi-religious texts,
y’know? Oblique Strategies says: "Don’t stress on thing more than another
[sic]." More info…
Building Up – The Niche
The Niche are a full-on post-Phish jamband, filtering country, funk, blues,
rock, and jazz not through their original sources, but through their
influence on Phish. This leads to a particular reading of these genres,
calling on certain elements of them, though not others. "Shelley," for
example, takes a brightly hopping country/bluegrass beat – the main element
lifted from the genre in the post-"Poor Heart" world – and adds a twistedly
dark guitar solo and brief composed section before returning to the verse.
With this handicap in place, the band does a pretty good job making things
lively, though still seem to be seeking their original voice within that. To
risk belaboring stuff about Phish: that band created their music out of a
void, because there was little music in the early 1980s that was creative in
that particular war. Bands like The Niche seem to draw not from a void, but
from an already existing model. It is also a valid way of making music,
through requires an elaborate somethingorother to justify it. Consider The
Niche still searching for the elaborate somethingorother. Oblique Strategies
says: "Only one element of each kind." More info…
Broken Art – Revision
In them olden days before the advent of the cyberweb, independent bands
often branded their albums with addresses and phone numbers — important
ways of keeping in touch, not to mention a proud slice of regionalism. Much
of Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life details the
relentless networking on the part of regional bands, scene-building, and the
diffident autonomy of one city from another. More recently, those markers
have been replaced by URLs and email addresses, and it’s nigh well
impossible to tell where bands are from. Revision, according to their
website, are from Ithaca, New York — but it’s nigh well impossible to tell
where they’re from musically. It’s white-boy funk, to be sure, filtered and
blurred into the stomp-box college-rock neon barlight prism and shot back
out. The guitar effects and keyboard tones are very precisely of this era,
compressed in a kinda grating way. The grooves and the little synchronized
sections sound tried and tired. They need something to shake ‘em up —
weirder rhythms, a different lyrical perspective, less emphasis on groove,
something to twist the music into something new. Oblique Strategies says:
"Abandon normal instruments." More
For The Good of the Nation – See Peoples
With For The Good of the Nation, See Peoples issue as fine a debut as
any. The music is a rich tapestry of sound — warm keyboards, echoing
rhythms, acoustic guitars, mysterious synthesizers, and other sonic goodies.
The long "Here We Go" builds from a dubby spaciness up into a wonderfully
chaotic blurp-shooting frenzy that sounds like the equal product of a live
band and a buncha guys playing around in a studio. The title track begins
ambiently and gathers adventurous organ-driven speed – sounding a bit like
Spiritualized, oddly enough – without losing an iota of its beauty before
releasing into further abstraction. The whole thing is adroitly professional
and admirable. As suggested by the title, the lyrics are politicized, though
not (for the most part) overly polemic. Former Morphine saxophonist Dana
Colley makes guest appearances on two cuts. Big ups to See Peoples. Oblique
Strategies says: "Take away the elements in order of apparent
non-importance." More info…
Isadore – What Just Happened
I can’t imagine what kind of scene there must be in Montana, if there is one
at all, but that seems to be where What Just Happened is from — if their
post office box in Whitefish, MT is any indication. At any rate, there’s not
much regionality in their sound. Not having heard many bands from Montana, I
say that in ignorance, though they don’t sound much different from many
other bands around the country: alternately fusiony, rock-like, vaguely
funky, etc.. In other words, they’re a good, all-American jamband. Their
lyrics, for what it’s worth, are more notable than most. "This girl is
nothin’ but a phone bill, baby," keyboardist Don Rifkin writes on "Phone
Bill," a dejected wannabe put-down song. Guitarist Jay DiPaola’s songs run
in a stream-of-consciousness narrative, pulling surreal strands out of
history and relationships and goofy stonerdom. Nicely impressive for a
buncha dental floss tycoons. Oblique Strategies says: "Infinitesimal
gradations." More info…

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