By Dan Barry
2:42 PM EDT, July 5, 2011
Connect Beats/Screaming Sound
El Vee's latest disc is in the mixtape format, full of scratching, samples, and interjections from guest stars. It's a punchy, high-energy disc that showcases some of the rapper's different personae. There's clear, solid spitting throughout. "Getaway" specifically mentions "the North End of the Mental" — that is, Middletown's embattled black and brown neighborhood, where arts programming and community activism are fighting against entrenched drug and crime problems. And "The System's Product" takes a fruitful risk by pitting a screaming hardcore vocalist behind El Vee on the hook. Producer Open i's beats are lean and wiry, in stark opposition to current overproduction. WMNT 5 is available as a download for $5.
Exclusion is a bit grim and gray for a February Records release — but it's good to have some rainclouds amidst the sparkles. Munro's voice is less compelling when he does a dusky sing-speak than it is when he just plain sings. He carries a melody wonderfully on "A Memory Forgotten," but he doesn't have the gravity to pull off the Tom Waits mumble. He gets props for playing all the instruments, but those drums sound damn amateurish, and — seriously — enough with the glockenspiel. That shit was played out in 2008. The real shining point here is Munro's guitar work. The understated urgency of his strumming on "Satin Waves" sounds awesome. Ditto for his raging tone on "Piers are Long and Tedious."
This electro-garage-rock duo lives in the shadow of the Kills, with their grungy guitars and tambourine. The clarity of their drum machine doesn't jibe with the wash of trashy distortion overlaid on, well, everything else. This would be way cooler with a drum track played on garbage cans and circular saw blades. Cool lyrics though ("A couple years later/I was exhumed/By a contracting company/Building underground rooms" on "Underground Housing"). At their best, the vocals have some of the uncaring cool of Sonic Youth. "Button" ends with some evocative guitar meandering; it suggests that if they stopped caring about hitting obligatory pop song marks and just let themselves come unglued, they'd be amazing drug-induced spirit guides.
1974 & The Battle For The Lazer Fortress
Oh my god Yes. Not “yes” as in affirmative — “Yes” as in the prog-rock band. I can totally envision the Lazer Fortress repelling an attack by the tank-creatures from Emerson, Lake, & Palmer's Tarkus. This sounds exactly like what you expect it to sound like: rockin', goofy, unrelenting in its nerditude. However, the guitar tones, singing style, and production are all distinctly modern. I think that's good. If they went for a retro lo-fi feel, the whole thing would reek of hipster irony; instead this is some seriously unashamed early prog worship. You can catch them live at Zen Bar in Plainville on July 14, or Toad's Place in New Haven on July 21.
Somewhere between Kaki King and the Gipsy Kings, these three play a limber-fingered world-folk fusion. No vocals — really easy on the ears. “Night Song” is total Michael Hedges worship (for the love of all that is holy, acquaint yourself with Hedges' music if you don't know of it already). Totally beautiful. Only “Captain's Coffee” feels out of place; its silliness feels forced, and the spaghetti western flourishes don't fit with the rest of the disc's more austere vibe. This is the type of stuff you want to sit in the front row of the audience and watch, because you'll see the trio do crazy-ass things to their instruments. Catch them live on July 17 as part of Hartford Children's Theatre's BBQ and Improv evening ($15), or July 29 at Hartford's Firebox restaurant.
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