Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


TAUK - Homunculus

TAUK - Homunculus

TAUK

Album title: Homunculus
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2013
Label: Tauk
(1238) Page Views

TAUK is the collective name of four adventurous young musicians from New York City that like their sound to be so entirely free of conventional categorization that they feature no vocals whatsoever. To this end, when I experience a TAUK album or concert, I do not feel compelled to focus on individual songs per se. Rather, I just let the entire experience wash over me, and revel in the shiver of the aftermath.

This is the type of music that fuels one’s inspiration, and turns the faucet of the listener’s creative juices on full blast. It’s effortless to daydream while the unique, shape-shifting, rhythms of drummer Isaac Teel and bassist Charlie Dolan pave the meandering super-highway for keyboardist Alric Carter and guitar player Matt Jalbert to color the trail of journey and exploration in a way that only this quartet’s far out ambitious artistry can.

Do I think you may want to take the TAUK trip yourself? For you pilgrims who live, breathe, and think outside of the box, I would voice the affirmative! But, for you undecided voters? There are some minor comparisons I can make, just to try to throw you, my dear readers, a bone, if you will. I would recommend this release to fans of newer prog/jazz/jam groups in the vein of RAQ, Tea Leaf Green, and Particle. And for you older rockers, I believe followers of improv geniuses from the classic era - let’s say early 70s Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash, and King Crimson - will unconditionally relate to these jams as well. Just don’t think you’ll be singing along! Although, you may hum a bit. I did.

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Radiation City - Animals in the Median

Radiation City - Animals in the Median

Radiation City

Album title: Animals in the Median
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2013
Label: Tender Loving Empire
(1543) Page Views

As its title implies, “Median,” creates a cozy-yet-isolated musical sanctuary surrounded by danger; cautiously inviting and teasingly delighting, the album harnesses emotional roller-coasters hedged in safe bets and proven tunefulness. Juggling multidimensional conventions the Portland, OR quintet swings from boppy, dream-pop gloss to jazz-speckled Latin rhythms, mixing lounge-party pouty inside toothy, Afro-Cuban grooviness. Sideways glances grip suspicious romances while femme fatale noir swivels in gilded lilies and killer smiles; RC’s come-hither systems gather, carry and dabble in impressive expressions, delicious pictures and enchanted semantics as wayward behavior simmers beneath beatnik cheesecake wrapped around smart, five-part harmonies. Boldly mobile and quietly stylish, the band’s ghostly roamings negotiate deft, complex connections between rock-steady therapies and dance-friendly medleys. Catch them playing Milwaukee’s Mad Planet June 19th

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Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends

Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends

Portugal. The Man

Album title: Evil Friends
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2013
Label: Atlantic
(1223) Page Views

Always willing to go wherever their creative muse leads, P.TM’s seventh release refines the band’s endless pursuit to combine conflicting whims within opposing forces. Tight-rope walkers perched between introspective reflection and extroverted actions, their trademark psychedelic folk-rock blues gets molded with more focus under Danger Mouse’s sterling production but loses none of its enthusiastic compassion, earnest confusion or uncompromising fire. Outcasts and pariahs take center stage in the sinister symphonic sing-alongs and sizzling sympathetic monologues as, “Evil,” delivers angry hooks, wild jams and glorious choruses in what should be a mine-field of over-blown bravado and artsy anarchy but instead is a devilishly edgy treasure of finely-tuned grooves and full-throttled polish. An explosive live act, P.TM visits Milwaukee’s Pabst June 21st along with the spectacular Guards.

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Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse

Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse

Youth Lagoon

Album title: Wondrous Bughouse
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: Fat Possum
(1438) Page Views

Quantum leaps beyond his previous release’s evocative bedroom-studio starkness, “Bughouse” opens the floodgates and inhabits a pitch-controlled palace of retractable passages, ghostly alcoves and hoarders’ hallways. Distorted euphoria wrapped in muffled puzzles, Youth Lagoon’s demonic harmonics layer emotional commotion inside malleable galleries of demented gremlins as deposed gizmos overthrow careening machinery for narcoleptic epics harboring garbled marvels and cathartic sparkles. Flirting from séances to circuses; palsied waltzes, gurgling sermons and phantom anthems traipse between blazing, lazered glazes and lumbering pixie-dusted slumbering while woozy cartoon calliopes and over-stocked music boxes dodge a delectable hodgepodge of fluid confusions rippling in mind-bending splendor. Dive in head-first when YL plays Madison’s Majestic Theater May 16th. Opening for him is low-key, electro-soul dream-weaver Majical Cloudz, debuting the soothingly moody, “Impersonator.”

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Camper Van Beethoven - La Costa Perdida

Camper Van Beethoven - La Costa Perdida

Camper Van Beethoven

Album title: La Costa Perdida
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: 429 Records
(1948) Page Views

For a band who recorded a song-for-song tribute to “Tusk,” it would not be a far stretch to imagine “Perdida” as Camper Van Beethoven’s “Hotel California.” The former West Coast non-conformists wax and warble in wry, disguised ironies tackling bodega-flavored ballads, psycho-groovy blues and gypsy-whipped whimsy for premeditated mayhem held in check by winsome wisdom, tender benders and nostalgic narratives.  Hemp-stoked, hickory-smoked, and pining for a paradise lost, CVB’s space-cowboy plaintiffs, wilted trailer-park angels and disenfranchised skater-punk apostles voice a dreamy cheekiness peppered in goofy truths and jaded depravity as smarmy swamis and cantina carnies reveal innocence upended; humanity’s fringe cast out and left to fester. In a rare double-bill alongside CVB singer David Lowery’s other band, Cracker, Camper lands in Madison’s Majestic Theater May11th.

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Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell And Angels

Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell And Angels

Jimi Hendrix

Album title: People, Hell And Angels
By Sal Serio
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: Experience Hendrix / Legacy
(1218) Page Views

When an artist as innovative and revered as guitarist Jimi Hendrix passes away at a young age, the obvious question always is: “What if?”, meaning, what would the musician have done next, had he lived? The beauty of recent releases by the family owned Experience Hendrix group is that we get a glimpse into Jimi’s vision, in the form of unreleased studio recordings. Longtime Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer makes these archival gems shine as if they had just been committed to tape recently, rather than 40+ years ago.

As compared to material recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience trio, most of this new set shows Jimi getting back to his black roots, with more swing to the beat (primarily provided by late drummers Buddy Miles or Mitch Mitchell) and an overall increased sense of soul/R&B to the rhythms (ex: “Bleeding Heart” & “Izabella”). Two songs feature horns and soul singers, dramatically increasing this effect - “Let Me Move You” is a loose studio jam featuring saxophonist/vocalist Lonnie Youngblood, and “Mojo Man” was recorded at Muscle Shoals by the Ghetto Fighters, lead by singer Albert Allen. Both songs employ keyboards, another element not typically found on Hendrix records.

Other highlights include studio songs recorded by the Gypsy Sun & Rainbows band that Jimi debuted at Woodstock, literally ten days after that iconic performance. Army buddies Larry Lee on rhythm guitar and Billy Cox on bass allow Jimi a heightened comfort level and foundation over which to employ his six-string experimentation. The deluxe-edition CD also includes a 20 minute studio jam titled “Ezy Ryder/MLK Jam (Captain Coconut)” where Hendrix & Cox go off on unhinged improv anchored by Buddy Miles’ creative use of cowbell as a part of his drum kit.

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The Drain - At The Door

The Drain - At The Door

The Drain

Album title: At The Door
By Sal Serio
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: The Drain
(1404) Page Views

It’s the Summer of 1988. The Midwest is stuck in a dry, brutally hot stretch of drought and dust. I accelerate my rusted old Buick, driving as fast as I can without drawing unwanted police attention. The windows down, and the stereo blasting out a crisp, snappy beat framed by frantic buzzsaw guitars.

A gathering is in the distance. I draw near and see a makeshift stage with the MTV “120 Minutes” banner drooping from the lighting rig. There’s something oddly familiar about the goofballs onstage, and then the singer’s hair provides clarity. Robert Smith! And the band looks familiar too… the Pixies’ rhythm section… with Daniel Ash and Steve Diggle on guitars! But suddenly I feel like I’m in vortex, being whisked quickly away from this event, like whirling inside an inverted tornado.

It was just a dream. I rub the sand from my eyes and realize that I left The Drain’s CD playing on repeat, and it’s infectious spasmodic soundtrack colored my nocturnal remission. This is no retro trip, yet provides a reminder of music I sorely miss. Throw it on and I dare you to not be drawn in by Justin Polka’s perfect balance of nice/gnarly vocalizations. A crooner with bite, and a band that rocks tight.

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The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic - The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic

The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic - The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic

The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic

Album title: The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic
By Sal Serio
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: Orbit Unlimited Records
(1582) Page Views

Try the latest recipe for a truly heady elixir: equal parts Collyn McCoy (of Otep fame), Ed Mundell (Monster Magnet/The Atomic Bitchwax), and Rick Ferrante (Sasquatch). Shake, chill, swirl, tilt your head back, and pour directly into your ears. Intoxication will be immediate. This strange brew is called The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic.

Another way to describe it would encourage a run-on sentence, like: Head banging psychedelic space jam Hendrix influenced instrumental stoner rock for the lysergic technicolor future. Or, maybe movie imagery mixed with music geek babble would do the trick, so let’s say: sort of like if Hawkwind and Clutch got their DNA scrambled in The Fly’s transporter machine. Get it?

More to the point, if you like solid, hip-swaying grooves with layered guitar pyrotechnics, this is the band for you. What Mundell hinted at when he formed The Atomic Bitchwax as his solo project apart from Monster Magnet, comes more clearly into focus via The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic. Ed’s inspired use of effects and vintage gear, combined with a no-holds-barred fearless attitude toward razor-edged riffing, and his uncanny ability to coax shrieking wails, shivers, and other echoey mutations out of his guitar, puts him into an esteemed class all his own. Jimi smiles!

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Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine Fits

Album title: A Thing Called Divine Fits
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: Merge Records
(1157) Page Views

A perfect combination of breathless anxiety and bittersweet desire propels the catchy efforts of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turk’s Sam Brown; elevating hungry impatience into tasty time-bombs whose voodoo beats, New Wave bleeps and stripped-down treats bring ecstatic release to pent-up dreams. Framed in casually cagey cool, “Thing,” succeeds when it seems to try the least, an enviable chemistry of laissez-faire despair built from unobtrusive indie-rock maneuvers. A band that obviously enjoys doing what it does, Divine Fits’ resistance to industry hype makes them all that more worthy of genuine adoration, shrugging off the super-group label and getting down to the business of condensing life’s multifaceted appetites into short, sharp, hook-filled joy-rides. DF plays Madison’s Majestic Theater April 3rd.

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Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim James

Album title: Regions of Light and Sound of God
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: ATO Records
(965) Page Views

Based on a 1929 graphic novel detailing an artist’s journey from kindly desires to fame and misfortune; “Regions,” seethes in celestial messages and spiritual suggestions. Cosmic licks from gurgling synths stir modest rock-gospel auras dipped in funky Southern soul as the disc’s mellow electro-secular effects gently build, spill, and blend together in a seamless dreaminess focused on elusive pursuits in a world of yearning impermanence. Playing most of the album’s diverse instruments, James’ transcendent tenderness builds from simple wishes to luminous ruminations to conjure world-weary theater whose choral outpouring begat warms baths of burning concerns and slithery hypnotic epiphanies ringed in restless acceptance. Quietly crafting refreshing confessions dressed in radiant cadence and orchestrated conveyances, the My Morning Jacket front-man visits Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater April 19th.

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Charles Walker Band - Relentless

Charles Walker Band - Relentless

Charles Walker Band

Album title: Relentless
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label: Ehlona Records
(2332) Page Views

Evolving from its blues roots into its current brand of hair-pin, dance-pop grooves, CWB’s old-school cool unspools pimped-out bounce and pumped-up funk powered by rubber-band bass, kick-ass sax and soulful vocals,  Serving up first-class boogie tailored to get-down scoundrels, Milwaukee’s rhythmic ministers’ seventh full-length effort delivers muscle in their message for unrepentant strength to their devilish pleasures, rockin’ foot-loose moves from inner-city sinners and lo-rider vibes for simmering swingers. Hip-grinding heartache turns no-nonsense mandates into silky-smooth, party-hardy booty-shakes as, “Relentless,” placates, eradicates and demonstrates heavenly seventies amenities in form-fitting flash, flirt-worthy sass and trash-talking panache. Catch Walker and company’s steamy teasing hi-energy shows April 6th in Rochester MN and May 4th in Madison WI with stops in between in Racine, Eau Claire, Milwaukee and Chicago. 

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Mutts - Object Permanence

Mutts - Object Permanence

Mutts

Album title: Object Permanence
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2013
Label:
(3025) Page Views

An entirely unplugged affair, the Chicago trio’s third full-length flips the coin on last year’s amped-up companion, “Separation Anxiety,” stripping down to piano, upright bass and drums for a rowdy, rhythmically rich mix of skid row show-boating highlighting biting blues and hootchie-cootchie boogie. Fleshed-out by contributions from This Is Cinema, Hemmingbirds and Lying Deliah, “Permanence,” lurches from sloppy bullfrog bop to crooning juke-joint stomps, spewing nubile truths beneath ragged bar-room ballads while compiling street-wise asides inside scorching carny bargains. Toddling honky-tonk broncos riding grizzled social missiles over melodic boxer’s logic, Mutts’ gruff constructions creep, leap, and enliven, primed in ivory-tickling testifying dancing to rousing vagabond chronicles. Touring this spring throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Illinois, Mutts’ vibrant live shows are not to be missed. 

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