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Published: 2004/09/30
by Jesse Jarnow

Holding the Bag: The Blue Method, Jim Branca, David Hines, Holy Moses and the High Rollers, The Mike MacAllister Group, Rick Ray Band, Joe Stignatt, Vim’s Spaceship, Virginia Coalition, Wolfe

Kill the Music, vol. 1 – The Blue Method
The Blue Method make the same kind of music the Derek Trucks Band do when the latter aren’t courting the ghosts of Sun Ra and John Coltrane — that is, tasteful, organic, and soulful rhythm and blues. Appending "vol. 1" to the title of their debut is ambitious, but the music on Kill the Music is dang unassuming. The grooves are sensuous, Brian Williams’ vocals are heartfelt, and even the lyrics seem to work nicely within the confines of the genre. Williams’ trumpet and Tom Long’s saxophones and clarinet give the band a muscular, assured sound, while Luke O’Riley and Scott Stallones’ keyboards give the band a double bed to lay their music atop. The album has depth, too, with the sweet-as-lemonade New Orleans fade-in of the swaying/swinging ‘Backporch.’ The Blue Method is funky and cool. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Repetition is a form of change.’ More info…
Live – Jim Branca
By contrast, Jim Branca is not quite as tasteful. Opening his live album with two covers (ridiculously well-known ones, at that) in the form of George Harrison’s "Here Comes the Sun" and Bob Dylan’s "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," one immediately knows that originality is not high on Branca’s list of priorities. What follows, then, are 10 (give or take) tracks of a pretty average bar band playing pretty average bar band music. The trio behind guitarist Branca is passable (as is Branca himself), but don’t provoke any of the emotions – sad, happy, or otherwise – that blues or R & B are designed to provoke. I wouldn’t be offended if Branca was playing during my dinner at Burlington’s Nectar’s (where Live was recorded), but I might hesitate before ordering more gravy fries. For true guitar heroics, check out Jim’s namesake, Glenn Branca, instead. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘The inconsistency principle.’ More info…
Vision Quest – David Hines
David Hines’ Vision Quest is one of those highly personal, completely idiosyncratic albums that get made late at night in bedrooms on personal computers. As its title implies, it’s an abstract journey through the psychedelic ether — albeit an abstract journey with an escape line in the form of some very un-abstract guitar solos. Nonetheless, the backgrounds remain swirling and whirling and bending and diving on numbers like ‘Burn One,’ whose overdubbed guitars dogfight each other over a hyper programmed beat and dense blocks of lighter-than-air synth chords. Vision Quest is a creative, complex, and original work that would seem to successfully express Hines’ flowing concept. Some of the melodies are a little too tangible to fully immerse one’s self in. As for Hines, the melodies are the self, and Hines is Vision Quest. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Do we need holes?’ No website listed.
self-titled – Holy Moses and the High Rollers
Fans of classic HeadSeed-era jambands rejoice, ‘cause Holy Moses and the High Rollers are here. It’s probably a bit of a dubious distinction, but the Rollers self-titled debut rings with the kind of internal adventure that informed early efforts by moe., Percy Hill, and the rapidly disappearing mid-period elders of jam. Beginning the album with ‘Live For Today,’ a dark electric guitar waltz which flips with a slight of hand into a Pink Floyd/Police compression-tightened reggae groove, before segueing into the ambient jam > psychedelic funk of ‘Reginald,’ the band keeps things moving. The downside is that the band doesn’t seem to share the early jambands’ fascination with playfulness, both melodic and lyrical, and the music sometimes gets a bit bogged down. But even the most heavy-handed material has musical things to recommend it. The darkly plodding reggae of ‘Strong As Nails’ is a bit dramatic, but the arrangement features some kinda cool melodic doubling of the rhythm, as well as a nifty vocal arrangement on the chorus. It’s for the best that they’re not too ridiculous, of course, but they’re gonna need some time to develop. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group.’ More info…
Urban Sprawl – The Mike MacAllister Group
Featuring cuts of mature, marimba-colored jazz, the Mike MacAllister Group’s Urban Sprawl is a swankily atmospheric disc of Modern period tones, packed-in rhythms, and breath-fragmented melodies. The quintet – guitarist MacAllister, saxophonist Gerad O’Shea, marimbist Martha Cipolla, bassist Jamie Bishop, and drummer Jordan Perlson – turn in a good natured performance that relies on pleasing consonance to carry its weight. MacAllister’s guitar is a little too effected on numbers like ‘The Protest,’ but the music soon yields to Cipolla’s warm marimba. Also, props for the kick-ass song title ‘Stevie Wonderland.’ Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Overtly resist change.’ More info…
Night of the Living Dedicated – Rick Ray Band
Y’know, in the unlikely event that Rick Ray and the nearly 30 albums he issued between 1999 and the present day are somehow re-discovered at some future date and hauled up on a pedestal as seminal works by the PitchforkMedia.coms of the world, I wanna be the dude who said on record that "y’know, in the unlikely event that Ricky Ray and the nearly 30 albums he’s issued between 1999 and the present day are somehow re-discovered at some future date and hauled up on a pedestal as seminal works by the PitchforkMedia.coms of the world, I wanna be the dude who said on record…" well, you get the drift. ‘Cause 30 albums. Whooey. Night of the Living Dedicated is more prog/metal/rock/guitartronics/whatever from Ohio’s favorite overly prolific prof/metal/rock/guitartronics/whatever-freak. Some of these will be on the box set. I’m not sure which. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list.’ More info…
Terrible Signs – Joe Stignatt
What makes Joe Stignatt’s plaintive solo acoustic debut notable isn’t his amiable evocations of Jackson Browne and Cat Stevens, nor even the occasional charming tape warble from a malfunctioning four-track. It’s the sound, clearly audible in over half of the album’s 10 tracks – including "Birdcage Rot," "Taboo Moment," and his cover of the traditional "The Coo Coo Bird" – of what appears to be a caged otter screaming. Or perhaps a very large gerbil. It punctuates the acoustic stillness with an unforced hilarity that one can easily imagine Stignatt, well, not forcing. It’s a little unsettling, in fact. Oblique Strategies sez: "Distorting time." No website listed.
Psychonaut – Vim’s Spaceship
Combined with the album title and the band name, the note on the back cover of Vim’s Spaceship’s Psychonaut pleasantly reminds me of The Onion’s sunny story about the hippies landing freakonauts on the moon circa 1969. ‘All tracks are Psycho-Acoustically enhanced to tune your brain,’ it reads. ‘Use headphones for best results. If you listen to the album in order, you will be taken from an awake state to one that promotes relaxation, meditation, deep sleep, lucid dreams, and out of body experiences.’ This Vim fella is one well after me own ears. But, even though I haven’t yet ripped tubes from the six-footer that lives in the supply closet and chilled (as requested) with Vim on my headphones, I can unfortunately say that this music probably wouldn’t bring me to lucid dreams faster than my usual choices of Bulgarian field recordings of hypnotic drone music or Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. That said, Mr. Vim does a good job arching the album in a dreamwards spiral. The production is creative, if occasionally a little bombastic. The guitars swirl a little more lovingly on home stretch numbers like ‘Expanding’ than they do earlier, but it’s still psychedelic rock to me. The elegantly titled disc-closer, ‘Snow and Love Blowing Gently Off the Roof is Emerson, Lake, and Palmer gone downtempo. Cool concept, though. I definitely enjoyed it. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘What are you really thinking about just now?’ More info…
Delaware Crossing – Wolfe
Wolfe is the kinda band that would probably kick-ass in a small, sweaty club (say, Wetlands). Part of that probably comes from the fact that John Popper contributes his distinctively hyperactive harmonica to two tracks, including the explosive opener of "Stranger Blues." Wolfe is a totally credible classic rock band with meaty hooks, ragged-but-right vocal arrangements, and a separated production that separates leads encased with crystalline distortion from a crisp rhythm section. Like Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule, Wolfe is perfectly pressed from a template chiseled by the rock elders several eons ago. But Wolfe do it far more sweetly than Haynes’ gruff metalitude, adding a gentle Beggars’ Banquet/Big Pink lilt to ‘One Lost Love.’ If yer into that kinda stuff, yer into that kinda stuff. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Change instrument roles.’ More info…

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