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Reviews > CDs

Published: 2005/04/04
by Jesse Jarnow

Holding the Bag – Bee Speed, The Brakes, Full Moon Revue, Green Light, Jauquo III-X, Oshe, The Peach Truck Republic, Preserved Pickle Factory, Tar Beach, Typhoon Ferri

self-titled – Bee Speed
Though they have Charles Butler’s electric banjo at centerstage, the Bee Speed have their hook firmly in place, though they’re not quite ready to settle on one usage for it. This is fine. On the album’s straight-up jazz numbers, including Chick Corea’s "Spain" and Billy Cobham’s "Red Baron," Butler acquits himself nicely, sounding — in his phrasing — less like obvious forerunner Bela Fleck than Jazz Mandolin Project leader Jamie Masefield. Elsewhere, the band delves into vocal numbers. "Gravelyard" and "Dusk," in specific, seem like missteps — the banjo getting lost under the verses and sounding like a plain ol’ electric guitar, the band coming off as a fairly generic rock trio. When the banjo glistens, the band shines. The traditional "Darlin’ Corey" is a unique arrangement, made attractive by the between-verse banjo cascades. A bold take on the Grateful Dead’s tender "Black Muddy River" is a little too lite in the wings, but a good choice (maybe even more appropriate for an acoustic banjo, if anything). Diggable newgrass. Oblique Strategies sez: "Be extravagant." More info…
EP – Volume One – The Brakes
Recorded in a presumably marathon one day session in September 2004, the five songs of The Brakes’ EP – Volume One sound like a band trying to get a no frills document of what they sound like, live, as a band. There are no obvious special digital effects or overdubbing stunts and generally no experimentation with the studio as a medium — just a pure attempt to capture what The Brakes are: a l’il ol’ rock and roll band. There’s a strong backbeat, wah-wah pedals, vibrato heavy solos, big choruses, little twin guitar compositions, a spacey epilogue song, and alla that. It’s not bad, but not particularly ambitious either. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘How would you have done it?’ More info…
S’About Time – Full Moon Revue
The Full Moon Revue is a latter-day folk-rock three-guitar army delivering numbers vaguely derivative of The Band and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and fully steeped in some ’70s country-rock notion of Americana. The sound is full, and the recording is bright, the guitars interlocking in a modest potter’s wall of sound. J. Matthew Larson occasionally exchanges his guitar for a mandolin or a dobro, but this does little to change the intentionally meandering vibe of the whole. The band turns in covers of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" and Ian Tyson’s "Last Lonely Eagle" (also performed by the New Riders). There’s an enjoyably lazy interplay in their playing and harmonies, exemplified especially on Larson’s "Shattered Pieces," but not enough to keep the album compelling as a whole. Oblique Strategies sez: "Use fewer notes." More info…
My Experiments With Groove – Green Light
Green Light turns in a mix of prog-fuled jam slices and occasional bits of composition — but mostly the former. While — as the title suggests — the music surely relies on its rhythms, it’s not afraid to get spacey. Not coincidentally, it’s also frequently navel-gazing (it packs in at around 75 minutes). With explorations titled "Experiments in the Key of Green," "Breathe Deep With the Rising Sun" (a sustained turn in near-ambience), and "7th Avenue Strut" (a deeply subliminal funk groove with MMW-like dub weirdness melting into slow jam psychedelics). A thorough listen. Oblique Strategies sez: "Emphasize the flaws." More info…
The Low C# Theory – Jauqo III-X
Bassist Jauqo III-X is a man after Joey Arkenstat’s own heart. For starters, his fucking name is Jauqo III-X. For another, on the back cover of his album, he states (modestly) that "I simply would like to reinvent the way we feel Groove." (And, actually, he plays "Fretless Subcontra Bass (C# F# B E)." The densely packed liners are filled with capital letters: "The Main Life Line throughout this Recording was to Maintain only the Highest level of Energy (The intertwining of the Souls here to become One, but continue the expression of self as the Individual we all are)." But does it jam, brah? Happily, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Clocking in at a slim 35 minutes of pure instrumental goodness, it is clear that Jauquo III-X employed judicious editing techniques (even if the improv segments themselves are all untouched), and should be held as a model for others. The music itself — played with drummer Ernie Adams, guitarist Kudzai Kasambira, and nine-string guitarist DaLawn Simpson — is of the demented, dissonant, prog-Primus, primo-Buckethead variety. The tracks are untitled. The jams are thrilling. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Lowest common denominator.’ More info…
The Good Book – Oshe
It’s nice to know that upstate New York can still breed jambands — and Oshe seems potentially like one of the best. An instrumental quartet with chops to spare, The Good Book contains a dozen live cuts recorded in the late summer of last year, delving deep into exploratory fusion and live electronics. Equal parts Miles Davis and Radiohead, Oshe seems ready to carry the mission of improvised music into the 21st century gimmick-free. That they have no obvious hook — like, say, Particle’s amped-up, tongue-gnawing dance grooves or Umphrey’s McGee’s shred-heavy riffage — could sadly prove to be a problem in terms of attracting an audience. But, frankly, they don’t need one. The jams are enthralling, the dynamics are tasteful, and the music moves fluidly. The Good Book is almost a full 80 minutes, but barely feels it. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘(Organic) machinery.’ More info…
Barnboard Blonde – The Peach Truck Republic
The Peach Truck Republic is a smart, ambitious band that makes a very safe brand of Southern jam rock. Occupying the idyllic space between the Allman Brothers and American Beauty-era Grateful Dead, the Texas quartet (plus eight or so of their friends) turn out easygoing tunes that blend the former’s lazy Sunday transcendence (‘Higher Ground,’ ‘Hallelujah Fly Away’) with the latter’s (mythical) workingman’s philosophy (‘Come What May,’ ‘All In Good Time’). Choruses only occasionally catch (‘Sleeping Beauty’), and a slightly forced beauty only occasionally blooms (‘Lilly of the Valley’), but it’s all very listenable, even-tempered music, its arrangements sensibly rendered, and its lyrics pleasantly layered — from the innocent double meaning of the title on down. Classic rock for classic rock lovers. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Turn it upside down.’ More info…
Right From The Jar – Preserved Pickle Factory
As an up and coming act, the Preserved Pickle Factory leave a little to be desired. As bluegrass musicians, the quartet is tight enough, but their choice of material is bizarre to say the least. In some ways, the songs fill out some jamband archetypes — a silly pothead anthem ("Burning Bush Blues"), a silly cover ("Crazy In Love"), a faux-reggae number ("The Bay"), etc.. — but it’s almost universally corny. They cover "Turkey In The Straw" and ‘Dueling Banjoes.’ But there’s also a bright spot: guitarist Ned Tyners. Perhaps the Gram Parsons of the group, his two original contributions — both ballads — seem cut from another cloth entirely: one of longing and regret. Just lovely. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Not building a wall, but making a brick.’ More info…
The EP – Tar Beach
With the opening notes of "Santos" their, ahem, The EP EP, Tar Beach grab quickly for a more bluegrass-driven slice of the passive-aggressive/sensitive-angst post-Dave Matthews pie. While it’s Bryan Berry’s fiddly violin that does that instantly, the band reaches to Pearl Jam for some pure rock pyrotechnics on the squealy guitar-heavy ‘Prepare Me.’ The latter is followed by a well-executed ambient interlude, ‘A Dark Place To Hide,’ before yielding back to the dependable-as-a-tailgate hippie bop on ‘Storyteller.’ The eight-minute disc-closing ‘The Unwilling’ floats along at a proper drift before ramping to the expected finale jam, cathartic reprise, and peaceful epilogue. Tar Beach has a fine, professional handle on the formula. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘Cascades.’ More info…
Detergency – Typhoon Ferri
Typhoon Ferri seem to have a dearth of ideas, though Detergency — their first full-length — feels a bit bogged down in the studio setting. Though they draw from a broad sonic palette, including acoustic guitars (‘xx’) and several manners of digital ambience (‘B.V.I.’) and programming (‘Dark Age Disco’), the grooves don’t quite cohere. ‘Tongue Bath’ is a fun, disco-fied funk number anchored by a unison chorus hook. ‘All Kinds of Hope’ features vaguely tropical/kinda sultry acoustic guitar which resolves sluggishly into an almost slow-jam chorus. ‘Pearl’ is an acoustic ballad, with a haunting operatic backing track (by guitarist Mark McInnis’s mother, Maria DiStephano). Detergency is creative and impassioned, falling only slightly short in a number of places — slightly generic songwriting, kinda sluggish rhythms, sorta common production — that, if made more unique and/or generally weird, could turn Typhoon Ferri into a cool little band. Oblique Strategies sez: ‘What is the reality of the situation?’ More info…

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