(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, February 28, 2011

February singles

February singles

Time again to hit some of the cool singles that I've come across recently. From rock to danceable pop to retro simplicity, there's something for everyone.

Electra - Radio On (from Heartbreaks For Fools)
Hard rocking Electra comes out of Tel Aviv, laying down a retro rocker drive. They've released Radio On to hype their upcoming appearance in the Anova Music Showcase at SXSW (March 16 at Easy Tiger). This fast paced tune reminds me of Radio Birdman. The song kicks off with a heavy drumbeat before the rest of the band throws in their garage rock energy. The vocals add a power pop edge. Radio On is a track off last year's album, Heartbreaks For Fools.

Download Radio On here.

The Dodos - Black Night (from No Color, releasing March 2011)
Black Night is the opening track from the Dodo's upcoming album, No Color. The song kicks off with artillery shot drum beats, which continue through the entrance of the guitars and vocals. The steady persistence of the guitar picking under the beat gives the music a speedy downhill momentum.

The lush vocal sound reaches back to the heyday of synthpop, while the music melds alternative rock with a baroque experimental feel. Black Night is more electric than the Dodos earlier releases, but it retains their idiosyncratic sound -- the mid-rangey drums laying out an interesting beat paired with a complementary guitar rhythm.

Neon Hitch - Get Over U (from upcoming album, Beg, Borrow, and Steal)
For this month's pop segment, Neon Hitch shares some electronic flavored goodness. The pure pop gem was co-written with Sia. Get Over U works the same lyrical ground of I Will Survive with a clean simplicity. The synth arpeggios and club beat work well with Neon's clear voice.

Get Over U is a first taste of Neon Hitch's upcoming album, Beg, Borrow, and Steal. She's already collaborated with a number of established pop artists (Sia, Ke$ha), so the new album may be her big break. Download Get Over U from Soundcloud.

Sonny and the Sunsets - I Wanna Do It (from Hit After Hit, releasing April 2011)
Sonny Smith's back story paints a portrait of a troubled artist finding solace in music. The impression is that between psychiatric care and the safety net of his friends/family/band, Smith strives for a kind of balance. While some of that fragility comes through in his music, I hear a lot of Jonathan Richman's childlike openness. The retro simplicity of early '60s guitar sound, shimmery organ, and uncomplicated harmonies makes for a sweet track. Smith sounds like he knows exactly what he wants.

Grab I Wanna Do It from Soundcloud.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CD review - Fujiya & Miyagi, Ventriloquizzing (2011)

Brighton's Fujiya & Miyagi have been around for quite a while, cruising beneath everyone's radar. They garnered a bit of attention recently with their music picked up for a couple of commercials, but their newest album, Ventriloquizzing, doesn't pander to any kind of populist appeal. It's moody and intriguing -- more inviting than gushing.

The album is a hearty stew of contrasting references and influences: Can, Depeche Mode, Beck, Talking Heads, and Stephen Malkmus. Krautrock, synth pop, and a kind of alternative, tightly constrained funk hardly seem like a recipe for success. But the balance between these disparate pieces creates a delicious tension and a sense of deeper meaning. The layers of kraut keyboards set a subtle psychedelic undercurrent throughout Ventriloquizzing that fits with the deadpan vocal delivery.

Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue feels like a reworked version of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. The synthpop vibe infuses the emotionless violence of the lyrics with a stormcloud threat. The brief keyboard solo highlights a sense of inevitability.

The Beck comparison is rooted in the detached singing and strangled, stylized funk of songs like and Cat Got Your Tongue, Yoyo, and Taiwanese Boots. This latter has a fair amount of Talking Heads (Crosseyed and Painless) lurking in its depths. Throughout these songs, the moody keys add a mild psychedelic aura. Then, for a change, the vocal phrasing and abstract melody of songs like Spilt Milk or Tinsel & Glitter sound like a medicated Jicks-era Stephen Malkmus.

It would be best, though, to ignore all of these comparisons because they miss the unique flavor of Fujiya & Miyagi's sound. Ventriloquizzing offers a sonic snapshot of a particular psychic mindscape. Drifting currents of subconscious ideas flow around passive aggressive islands. Tension is in the very air. And, yet, there's a degree of acceptance.

And it's got a smooth groove. A fine smoky single malt with about 7 drops of water to open the malt will pair nicely.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CD review - Radiohead, The King of Limbs (2011)

Over the years, Radiohead have positioned themselves as "artists' artists". Their studio work has become more perfectionist and their songwriting has veered into more abstract directions. Where other artists find themselves torn between repeating past successes or carefully erecting new artistic directions, Radiohead makes each new album a study of that particular moment. Each album's sound seems shaped by some hidden strange attractor. Elements of the past may appear again, even as the artistic framing shifts to something new. Meanwhile, Thom Yorke and the band play with theories of commerce while they're diffident about positioning their music.

The King of Limbs is rooted in an electronic aesthetic, with complex syncopation arising out of rhythmic loops and mechanistic drumming. There are plenty of electronic sounds and keyboards, while the guitar's contribution is more symbolic and subtle. Taken as a whole, the album is unsettled -- the contrast between the anxious rhythm loops and the more languid vocals fuels a nervous melancholy, even as the overall sound sets up a kind of trancy dreaminess.

Some of the experimental vibe of Kid A is resurrected, along with a moody Krautrock feel. The lush sounds of In Rainbows are largely missing here. Radiohead's uncompromising commitment to making an album of this moment may not sit well with newer fans (or less flexible ones), but a legion of hardcore enthusiasts are already on board.

It's no mistake that Lotus Flower is the first video for The King of Limbs. It's one of the more song-like tracks and, even with the loops and dreamy vocal processing, it references Radiohead's earlier work. By contrast, the minimalist dubstep of Feral is a harder fit. Personally, Little By Little hits the perfect balance of old and new. The rhythmic drive sets off the abstract guitar chords while the vocals still have enough energy to evoke Paranoid Android. In another standout track, the piano-based groove of Codex is a moment of respite from the rest of the albums pervasive beat work.

There's no ignoring the hype around The King of Limbs. The universal drop (a day early!!), the packaging options (the "Newspaper Album"), and the desperate attention of the blog-o-sphere all guarantee that. The frenzy has almost eclipsed the music itself. Every obsessive fan has already gotten their copy, but the rest of you might want to wait until more of the songs are easily available to preview. Bottom line is that, with the right mindset, there's plenty of detail to tease out and appreciate. Certainly, it's grown on me the more I've listened to it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CD review - Art vs Science, Magic Fountain (2011)

Art vs Science has already made a great impact on the worldwide electronic scene. Their frantic energy reminds me of The Prodigy (Firestarter), but it's a younger, more modern sound. Where most hardcore club grinds would drag out and take their time to develop, Art vs Science caters to a pop song style attention span. The develop their songs quickly: a brief intro giving way to the monster hook.

Check out the title track for the Magic Fountain EP.

First, they set up the story:
In the beginning, there was a fountain, but it wasn't just any fountain
It was a fountain of lights, it was a fountain of truth
It was a fountain of dreams, it was a fountain of youth
It was a ....(magic, magic, magic...) MAGIC FOUNTAIN
The persistent bass grinds away tirelessly, driven by a manic beat. Like the video's conceit, this is a sound that demands physical response. Despite the electronic elements, the overall feel is organic and loose.

Not every song is so hyper. Friend in the Field sets up more of a rock/post-rock vibe, reflecting a pop version of Muse's sonic space. Even with a more moderate pace, Art vs Science still bring a compelling intensity.

The Magic Fountain EP came out last August, but my pre-release version of the US release (due out next month) appears to be a different collection, featuring a more varied track list with fewer remixes. In any case, Art vs Science will have a brief US tour around SXSW to promote the EP. The band has also promised a full length album (The Experiment) to come out later this month in the band's home, Australia. Given how Art vs Science crams 20 minutes of techno dance energy into each three or four minutes, I can't wait to get a listen to the new album.

Friday, February 18, 2011

CD review - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Tao of the Dead (2011)

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead are back in fine form with Tao of the Dead. It's not as coherent a concept album as 2009's The Century of Self, but some things never change. Trail of Dead is still raising that Green Day punk energy and harnessing it to a soaring post rock musical expression. The band continues to show off their deep understanding of dynamics. There are dropouts with rhythmic openness that fall prey to chaotic builds, then coalesce into something richer. The smooth transition of songs flow effortlessly through the album. The constant whipsaw from moments of calm to cathartic release is classic Trail of Dead technique.

The album is split into two halves: the 11 tracks of the main album and the epic 16 minute sprawl subtitled Strange News From Another Planet. The first half pulls in a Dramarama style power pop on songs like Pure Radio Cosplay. The song switches between the satisfying power pop drive and a Flaming Lips kind of post rock. The tight interplay between the instruments is perfect: the busy bass line meshes with the rich drum work while the guitars play counterpoint to each other.

Summer of All Dead Souls is the first single off the album. It starts with a Who style overture reminiscent of A Quick One then dives into a manic punk energy. The raging sneer of the vocals cuts like a scalpel.

The band has talked about their recent infatuation with Krautrock and this comes through on the electronic psychedelic groove of Spiral Jetty, which also features a wicked grinding guitar flail. Later, Somewhere Over the Double Rainbow evokes NEU. It builds intensity like a whitewater rapids. Then we're over the falls into a trippy electronic space with a steady bass line. Shrouds of feedback fog cling to the edges.

The extended Strange News From Another Planet is really a smaller collection of songs that are stirred together in a medley. A collection of voiceovers provide an interlude, but the same peak to valley leaps from overture to reflection fill out the track. The lyrics here are clearer, referencing the Tao Te Ching (e.g. verse 57).

Tao of the Dead is a fine addition to the Trail of Dead catalog. Sip a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA while you listen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CD review - Arboretum,The Gathering (2011)

Baltimore's Arbouretum had slipped completely under my radar until a review copy of The Gathering (due out Feb 22, Thrill Jockey Records) found its way into my mailbox. Moments into the first track, The White Bird, I was hooked. The sound is effortlessly retro, nailing an early '70s classic rock sound so organically, you'd swear this was some unreleased gem from Bad Company's vaults. Frontman Dave Heumann even channels a Paul Rodgers sound to his vocals. Aside from Bad Company, there are bits of Warren Zevon and Richard Thompson in the mix, too.

The arrangements are centered around Heumann's simple guitar riffs and Corey Allender's thick, melodic bass lines. The drums propel the tunes forward, but rarely dominate. Additional guitar parts and keys add some ornamentation. Like that classic era, the songs are rarely overtly trippy, but there is a casual psychedelic vibe that comes from the meditative repetition of distorted guitar reverberating through the raga style changes. The album's blues riffs are completely dissociated from any kind of 12-bar structure.

The Gathering isn't just a one trick pony, though. There are great dynamics as rhythm and tempo changes keep things interesting. The songs each set a mood and tell their own stories. Their press talks about Carl Jung's The Red Book as an inspiration.

High points on the album include the opener, The White Bird, which sounds a bit like Bad Company covering Richard Thompson's For Shame of Doing Wrong. The interplay of warmly distorted guitar and rich bass builds a powerful groove. This has the satisfying feel of coming home. The beat is laid back, but persistent. Arbouretum takes their time with the jam, letting it unfold over 7+ minutes.

Their cover of Jimmy Webb's The Highwayman also stands out. They completely own this song that was a hit for the country supergroup, The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson). The Zevon style vocal evokes Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner or A Bullet For Ramona. The lyrical theme of reincarnation fits well with the rest of The Gathering.

I could go on: the slow pensive build of When Delivery Comes, the moody bombast of Destroying To Save (download from Stereogum), or the rolling guitar thunder of Song of the Nile... As much as I enjoy all this, I'm looking forward to coming back to it after another month or two, to see what else resonates.

The Gathering is Arbouretum's fourth release (note to self, track down the back catalog). What's the right period friendly drink to match? Maybe bourbon and coke?

Monday, February 14, 2011

CD review - Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2011)

Mogwai rejects the "post-rock" label, but it fits them the best because of the rich textures they use to build songs in an evolving structure. They primarily play intense instrumental music, occasionally using vocals as another shade in their sonic palette. As last year's live concert DVD, Burning (review here), demonstrated, their loyal fans savor the cathartic blast of sound the band can bring.

Heavy as their music can be, they also bring a wry Scottish humor, with evocative titles like I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead. Their new CD throws down the gauntlet with the title, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Of course, the irony is that Hardcore... is more thoughtful and restrained, especially in the first half. Those songs may offer less catharsis, but they're not lightweight by any means. The second half has enough of the classic Mogwai wall of sound to satisfy their fans, but this is the sound of a band confidently stepping off their own beaten path.

To prove this, several of the songs lay in a post punk vibe leavened with elements of electronic sounds. In particular, San Pedro is catchy as hell, sounding like instrumental Psychedelic Furs or Smithereens. In better world, this would be saturating the radio. On the more modern side, Mexican Grand Prix and George Square Thatcher Death Party evoke the Disco Biscuits, especially in their glitchy, processed vocal sounds. Mexican Grand Prix's Joy Division influence (think Transmission) throws in another dimension.

But the two best songs on the disc are Death Rays and You're Lionel Ritchie, which emphasize the contrast between Mogwai's sonic extremes. Death Rays starts with a moment of contemplation. It's a lighter sound, with a sweet combo of guitar picking and long organ chords. The mood shifts from reflective to stately procession. The only link to the title would be if the music were tied to a video showing a beautiful ballet of slow motion destruction. Then, about 2/3 in, the distorted guitar drone comes in... are these the death rays? Maybe so, but there's still a sense of calm, even as the last little bit of guitar static lingers at the end.

You're Lionel Ritchie starts with a soft, Pink Floyd trippiness, like Careful With That Axe, Eugene. The moody shift to another soft guitar arrangement section is typical of earlier Mogwai. It builds a sense of calm before a coming storm. The peaceful interlude breaks with a fuzzy build up into a grinding restatement of the original theme. The intensity ratchets into a raging, cathartic pounding. It finally subsides and lets the various parts fall away, leaving the soft echo of distorted guitar. This is classic Mogwai, suggesting God Speed You! Black Emperor.

Throughout Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai deftly create sonic spaces that are evocative and interesting. The overall sound may be less heavy, but it's no less hardcore. This is already one of my favorite albums of the year. Pour a flagon of the Beast Grand Cru from Avery while you listen (everyone should have one aging in their cellar).

Friday, February 11, 2011

CD review - BRAIDS, Native Speaker (2011)

Native Speaker is full of loopy arpeggios, echo-stretched vocals, and hazy swells of sound. Dreamy and experimental, BRAIDS' debut album mines some of the same space worked by Animal Collective or Freelance Whales. What sets them apart is the way their songs channel a sense of subconscious space. Call it id pop.

Loops and tonal washes set an ambient background, while the foreground vocals tend to avoid linear focus. Instead, the voices overlap and compete, offering different views. Some contribute only a primal sense. The title track, Native Speaker, follows this pattern. The intro is reflective with a lazy tidal feel. Under this surface, subtle sounds rise to grab your ear before sinking again. A single voice comes forward, but weaves in and out of other voices: a shimmery chorus, a childlike interjection, swirling whispers, glitchy stutters. The sonic mix reacts to each bit of lyric. While there's not quite a linear flow, there is a kind of consistency; it's a roiling subconscious melange that eventually resolves into acceptance. "It's fine."

Native Speaker has plenty of pop touches -- nice beats, Raphaelle Standell-Preston's strong vocals, shimmery synths and guitars -- but the structures are repetitive and experimental, ignoring verse-chorus structure. Between Standell-Preston's offbeat lyrical phrasing and their interesting use of backing vocals, BRAIDS focuses more strongly on vocals than any other part of their sound.

Plath Heart sets up a shimmery beat, but it's the galloping lyrics that grab:
There's no loving after all this crap that we've been through
I'm not coming back to you.
The musical fills in the background offer a counterpoint stagger rhythm to the vocals. In contrast to the ambient sound of Native Speaker, Plath Heart ticks along with a smug, poppy drive.

Native Speaker is a good first album, showing off BRAIDS' quirky sensibilities. They've already gotten a lot of alt-press, but I'm more interested in seeing which direction BRAIDS will choose to explore next. In the meantime, I'm thinking mint Juleps are in order.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CD review - Nobunny, First Blood (2010)

First Blood is Justin Champlin's second studio album under his Nobunny alter ego. The rabbit head and other zany performance stunts can sell a live show and, by all means, catch them on their current February tour. But the First Blood sells itself just fine as a back-to-basics rock and roll album. Like the Violent Femmes or the Ramones, Nobunny idolizes a simpler era of pounding guitars, tightly focused arrangements, and straight ahead vocals. The musical aesthetics are all retro, but the lyrical perspective is much more modern.

There's humor and sincerity, but absolutely no irony. From the opener, Ain't It Shame, where he offers no apology for being a self centered horn dog, to the pure love of Breathe, which channels T.Rex's Bang a Gong (Get it On), Nobunny cuts straight to the heart of each song.

My favorite track is Blow Dumb, which kicks off as a straight lift of Sister Ray:
He's in the wagon, he's smokin' Copenhagen
We listen to the latest tapes
We's in the moon, for feelin' good
We take a burger break
We blow dumb
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
We blow dumb
B-L-O-W dumb
Unlike Lou Reed searching for his mainline, Nobunny is exuberant.

First Blood is full of familiar sounding bits like this. Something about Nobunny's frank love and manic joy avoids the sense of appropriation or poser derivation. Instead, the mix of Holly, Who, Stones, Ramones, Kinks, and Rocky Erickson is exultant. Nobunny's garage rock may be less punk than the Ramones, less quirky than the Femmes, and less hazed than the Velvet Underground, but it's a purely distilled essence of rock.

Monday, February 7, 2011

CD review - The Luyas, Too Beautiful To Work (2011)

The Luyas' Too Beautiful to Work (due out Feb 22), is a study in atmospheric textures. Jessie Stein's waifish vocals permeate the album with a dreamy vagueness, fitting in well with the quavery, quirky backing music. Flanged, rotating synth sounds meld with fluid, electronic washes, and echoed orchestral horns. With help from Arcade Fire's Sarah Neufeld, Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), Colin Stetson, and others, the Luyas have created a moody exploration of experimental space.

On the upbeat, poppy side, Too Beautiful to Work, lays out an indie pop vibe, with an underlying dance aesthetic. The dreamy undercurrent is propagated by the off beat phrasing of Stein's sweet voice and the odd collection of supporting sounds. This yields to to the spacey psychedelic pop of Tiny Head. Here the sparse, echoed start works against a steady pop beat. The song fills up with busy percussion. Ultimately, it evokes a dream state where nothing quite fits together on a rational level but somehow it all makes sense at the time.

The tension of Canary, adds depth to the album. Here, the dreams shift to the uncontrolled edges of nightmare. The lyrics about sacrifice and the sonic mood are disquieting, contrasting with Stein's childlike voice to create a macabre feel. The threatening vibe is heightened by the single sustained chord in the background at the start. A bit like a missing tooth, I came back to this track again and again. The cotton swathed horns in the middle and the pulsating tones at the end further the sense of chaos for Canary. Too Beautiful to Work would have been a shallower experience without this darkness.

A smoky fire, a touch of brandy, and a room filled with candles provide the perfect listening room for the Luyas. Keep an eye out as they start their US tour in March.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Concert review - Kraddy with Archnemesis, Seth Abrums

3 February 2011 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)

It's a treat getting world grade electronic artists like Kraddy here in Ft. Collins. At first, I thought it might have been wasted on us because the crowd was sparse and some of the first people to show were more into the scene rather than knowing Kraddy. I shouldn't have worried. As the audience swelled, it was clear that the fans were out in force. It was rave night at the Aggie and all was well.

Seth Abrumz
DJ Seth Abrumz led off the show, starting to an almost empty house. Tapped into his own private zone, the lack of an audience didn't seem to phase him. In classic DJ fashion, Abrumz ran his set on the fly, maintaining an active hand in the mix.

The mix featured a dance heavy sound, with elements of techno, drum and bass, and acid house. The grinding bottom end filled out the room and set the mood, even when the crowd was still thin. Between the growing crowd, the light stick jugglers, and the powerful beats, the set developed a cool rave vibe.

Abrumz DJ skills were pretty good, slicing and mutating tracks with a casual flow. He laid out a some nice break beats, especially on I Like My Bass Phat.

All in all, it was a strong set, I just wish he'd have interacted more with the audience. In addition to last night's show, he'll be part of the Got Bass lineup at the Aggie on 5 February.

Archnemesis nailed the electronic band feel. With two DJs, they could build a heavily layered sound with more interaction between the parts. Laying out echoes thick enough to get lost in, the two (Telepath and MO Theory) guys traded off foreground and background roles. Their grooves were spectacularly heavy, but there were plenty of subtle details to fixate on beyond the bass and beat.

Archnemesis' strongest ace was how they mixed in some great retro samples -- soul, bop style jazz, and early R&B. The horn parts they stirred in were particularly spicy. This gave them a unique mix of old and modern, while they wandered through electro funk, glitchy, drum and bass, and some experimental something or other. The sound was more cerebral, adding a trippy crystalline vibe here or a heady bit of trance there.

This is where the energy really started to flow. Always in motion, Archnemesis connected with the crowd. Even though they didn't say much beyond greeting us, counting, and asking us how we were doing, their exuberance on stage was contagious.

The track Diamonds and Glass was a great example showing off their horn and soul mixing. This is the title cut off a free EP you can download here. The trance drive break in the live show bounced off some time interactive work between the two DJs.

Archnemesis brought their game, now the crowd was psyched for Kraddy.

Kraddy casually took the stage and promised us a good mix of new stuff and music off Labyrinth, his recent EP (my review here). The press release for Labyrinth suggested "Led Zeppelin 3000" as its inspiration. Kraddy's set delivered on that idea. By the end of the show, we had been rocked with bassy crunch that had throbbed through us like some kind of infrasound scanner. This physical sensation paired perfectly with Kraddy's grindy, glitchy, dub step, drum and bass sound. With the dancing and the lights, this low end groove was like a rave set inside a boom car.

Kraddy's show was more of a standard DJ style, because the tracks were basically already laid out in his studio. Kraddy played them with some minor mixing and loops, but it wasn't built as interactively as the Archnemesis set. The secret here, though, was that most of the familiar tracks sounded fresh and remixed for the show. Between the fresh take on the tunes, the occasional breaks mixed in, and Kraddy's constant motion, this created a full live band vibe.

Kraddy's giant physical presence -- whether he was goading the crowd or interpretively dancing to the track -- was key to building the party mood. While he's gesturing for the crowd to bounce or triumphantly raising his hands, all eyes are on him.

As promised he hit most of the Labyrinth tracks, with a heavy remix of Minotaur being especially good. He also laid out a new remix of one of his notable tracks Android Porn. This version was more laid back and dreamier than the original. The slower progression built up the intensity that set up a nice dub break.

Rhythmic light dances by the audience, pounding beats, sub-bass rattles, and an ecstatic DJ. Ft. Collins got its club on. And there were giant robots in my dreams...

More photos on my Flickr.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CD review - Delicate Steve, Wondervisions (2011)

Let's get a couple of things out of the way. Delicate Steve is a stupid name for a band and their press release tries way too hard for hipster quirk:
Like a hydro-electric Mothra rising from the ashes of an African village burned to the ground by post-rock minotaurs, the music of Delicate Steve will literally make you the happiest person who has never lived.
One more swing and a miss like that, and I can save myself from contributing more attention to another "ironic" band already working out their next in-joke. I'll give it the short browse listen: sampling bits of two or three random tracks. Then I can move on to something more worthwhile.

I think it was sometime in the middle of track 2 (The Ballad of Speck and Pebble) that I realized I was forgetting to skip ahead. By track 8, I was arguing with myself over whether to finish the album before I started it over again. The several electronic Source interludes looked to be a foul tip, but then Source ((BRIDGE)) redeemed the set with a cool ambient Fripp-Eno sound.

Wondervisions, just out yesterday, could be called experimental instrumental, but it's effectively genre-less. Many of the songs are layered guitar centered compositions that made me think of Eric Johnson with rougher edges. There's a primitive element to the guitar parts, emphasized by the heavy percussion. But the combination, along with bits of keyboard is intriguing. The short pieces feel like small display boxes or dioramas. Repetition and layering unfold to reveal unexpected details in each one's theme.

While there is continuity from track to track, the sounds vary all over the map. The Ballad of Speck and Pebble is a psychedelic mix of Paul Simon and the Beatles' Two Of Us. And none of either, as it bounces to a more modern indie rock sound.

Similarly, Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants) takes the descending chord line from Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed and erects a joyous affirmation that destroys any sense of direct derivation. The mood shift is particularly elegant and savory. Each time around the changes adds in a little more detail. Bits early Pink Floyd (Free Four) and George Harrison round out the arrangement.

Elsewhere on Wondervisions, there are Adrian Belew moments, Brian May style chorused guitar lines, and more surprises. More from the press release:
...Wondervisions, the indescribable 12-track instrumental debut that reconstructs influences as diverse as Yes, Vampire Weekend, The Fall, Ravi Shankur, 10 cc, The Orbital, Jann Hammer, the first half of OK Computer, the second act of The Wizard of Oz, and the final pages of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.
What Delicate Steve really has is a sense of more-ness. Like sampling the perfect mix of malt and hops, that taste left afterwards is the desire for... more. Ignore the overblown press and listen for yourself. Ultimately, the music is all that matters.