|March 9, 1999
Kat Kinsman, Anicee Gaddis, & Concetta Kirschner
Built To Spill
"Keep It Like a Secret"
Built to Spill "the Best Band to Ever Come out of Boise" may
seem tantamount to bestowing honors for serving the best egg
cream in Fargo, but BtS founder Doug Martsch would no doubt
take great pride in this distinction. Since the 1993 release
of "Ultimate Alternative Wavers," the former Treepeople frontman
has remained steadfastly rooted in his native Idaho, crafting
some of the most uniquely structured and lyrically resonant
rock music of the decade.
Working with an oft-mutable rhythm lineup for Built to Spill's
first three albums, Martsch has managed to keep the band in
a state of graceful metamorphosis. The sprawling, overtly
virtuous and occasionally indulgent guitar wanks of "Wavers"
gave way to the bite-sized, utterly charming pop gems of 1994's
"There's Nothing Wrong with Love" and the achingly elegant
psychedelia of 1997's "Perfect from Now On," which has culminated
in BtS' newest and most cohesive album, "Keep It Like a Secret."
Playing for the first time with a fixed rosterincluding
former Spinanes drummer Scott Plouf and previous BtS collaborator,
bassist Brett NelsonMartsch has culled elements from
all phases of this progression. The nasal vocals swirl in
the band's trademark time signature shifts, on top of a dense
foundation of guitar-churned fuzz, gently reverent lyrical
references to several decades worth of AOR staple gods, frequent
high-minded eschewing of traditional pop song structures,
and an introspective yet optimistic take on everyday desire.
It is in this meld of dissonant grace, humanity, and technical
brilliance that the joy of "Keep It Like a Secret" is found.
While ultimately eminently accessible, Martsch never goes
for the obvious solution. The bouncing and intermittently
staccato "Center of the Universe" leads into the sublimely
looping "Carry the Zero," itself threatening momentarily to
dissolve into a velvet crash of guitars, but then sturdily
borne up in the driving resolve of "Sidewalk"which abruptly
wilts into silence during the closing seconds of the song.
Built to Spill seems to have by this point mastered the musical
non-sequitur, constructing both songs and albums which are
structurally diverse and challenging, but in the end deeply
cohesive. Perhaps in counterpoint to the sophisticated randomness
of the music, Built to Spill's lyrics tend to be grounded
solidly in the quotidian. Snippets of conversation, subjective
and often poignant chronicles of simple events, and repetitions
of words and phrases create another point of access into the
music, lending an untold amount of humanity to music which
might otherwise seem a bit daunting at first.
Built to Spill has crafted a gorgeous, endearing iconoclast of an album. Now all that remains is the question: If you record an album in the middle of Idaho, will there be anyone around to hear it?Kat Kinsman
"Let Us Replay"
Multimedia British svengalis Jonathan More and Matt Black (a.k.a. Coldcut) continue to push the outside of the envelope in all things beat-oriented. The DJ duo is back with round two of their 1997 album, "Let Us Play"aptly titled "Let Us Replay." This time around the double-pack CD features a VJAMM disc, which is basically a PC video playback program that lets you play audiovisual clips as if they were audio samples (i.e., you get to scratch, loop, reverse, or alter the speed and/or pitch of visuals). It's sort of like playing images on a turntablevideo breakbeats, if you can imagine that. This whole wacky souped-up brainchild was developed in conjunction with Coldcut's live performance software during their "Let Us Play" tour, where semi-stunned audiences watched alternating clips of Clinton news footage and kung fu movies keep the beat to wickedly avant-hip turntablism. "Don't hate the media, become the media," or so the mantra goes.
Coldcut's sound is as high-tech as their conceptual philosophy.
Futuristic, multifarious, rhythm-mindedyou get the picture.
The audio CD features live versions of songs from the original
"Let Us Play," as well as remixes by legendary Detroit beat-miner
Carl Craig, Japanese pop mogul and Matador mascot Cornelius,
Coldcut labelmate Irresistible Force, hip-hop guru Grandmaster
Flash, funk drummer Bernard Purdie, and a few more friends
and headz, including the Silent Poets, J. Swinscoe, and Salena
Saliva. Standout mixes include DJ Lord Fader's rethinking
of "More Beats & Pieces"a Coldcut signature tune. He
reanimates the amalgamation of bits of female operatics over
squeaking vinyl, Middle Eastern sitar strumming, '50s talk-show
garble, and pure unfiltered circa-James Brown funk. Not surprisingly,
this multi-layered tune holds together wonderfully under the
Coldcut blueprint. Cornelius' remix of "Atomic Moog 2000"
is reminiscent of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Welcome to
the Pleasuredome," complete with lots of '70s Moog riffs,
hyper-drive drum 'n' bass, all-or-nothing spaced-out stretches,
bleeps, glitches, and melancholy guitars to ground it. Prime
cuts from the Grandmastergo Flash!run rampant
on "Last Night a Cliche Saved My Life." Whicky-whicky-wack
fingerwork over 2/4 cow bells, more filtered scratching, Boogie-down-Bronx
voice-overs, rubbery bass, and an overall old-school feel,
makes this one a new wave classic. Irresistible Force's "Panopticon"
mix features tingly keys, elegiac strings, and foreboding
police brutality scenarios. There's definitely a covert mood
in play here, hinting at the UK-Irish strife of recent past
(and present). Carl Craig throws down ethereal, down-tempo,
synth-built Detroit house on his take of "Rubiyat," with a
jazzy, neo-classical edge. He seems to have developed a skill
for imitating real instruments with drum machines and mixing
boards. Overall, each song is its own little masterpiece.
the Coldcut duo has been around since forever (they did a
remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" back in the '80swhich
they jokingly subtitled "Not Paid Enough"), they're still
blazing the trail. Despite keeping up with their own experimental
breakbeat lab, they founded Ninja Tune in the mid '90s, a
DJ-dominated, solely European record label. Although it seems
as if Coldcut has always been more comfortable wearing the
producer's slippers, the '97 release of "Let Us Play," followed
up by this recent peregrination, shows off a strong bent for
making their own beats and pieces.Anicee Gaddis
The first time I put on the new Foxy was Sunday, cleaning day.
The true test of all music is cleaning day: When you're on your
hands and knees fishing out what might as well be hardened black
shit from under your refrigerator, you need that ass to be pumpin'
up in the air. Well, after a few tracks I had to pump that ass
right over to the CD player to take that crap off. Foxy: Qué
pasó mamí? You got mad skills but what's with
the tracks behind you? Did you spend lots of time listening
to CD-101.9 cheesejazz and say to yourself, "I am gonna save
a lot of money on samples and use really boring generic synth
sounds just like this!" Basically, the shit is, like, sooooo
'92, except I wouldn't have even listened to it then. Plain
and simple: The beats are wack! Nothing, absolutely nothing
new going on here. And where is your sense of humor, ill na
na? Not to compareoh hell, I willbut your old friend
Lil' Kim would kick out shit like, "If you're immature then
I'm out the door/I'm on fire gettin' head by the Harlem Boys
Choir," all with a slammin' track behind it. Then, even when
Foxy gets a kick-ass sample behind her (one most rappers would
absolutely die to be able to afford to use themselves), Otis
and Carla's "Tramp," she butchers it trying to do an old-school
type jam that insults both the genre and the original song.
She even gets mad guest stars like Jay-Z and DMX, who I am currently
feeling, but the songs are so bad even they can't shine.
nothing is more boring than working the sex angle without
making it a little bit funnynot ha-ha funny, just clever
and witty. Otherwise it's just cliche after cliche. On this
record, it's representative in the music as well as the artwork.
Take those airbrushed generic (there's that word again) bikini-wearin'
photos on the CD cover. Nothing going on there. White background,
few different poses. Oh, here's something newshe's
on a car!! Yawn. You wanna work the Chyna Doll thingbe
a little naked doll in a collection of kid's toys on the cover
or something. You wanna be the Queen Bitch, pose with 10 gorgeous,
scantily clad men feeding you grapes. Just do something, please!!
How many times do we have to see a scantily clad chick on
a car or against a white background? Actually how many more
times do we have to see any rapper on a car? This shit is
getting tired.Concetta Kirschner
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