Aix Em Klemm

Aix Em Klemm

Kranky Records

In an Eno-lover’s quest for an expansion of the allegorical soundscape of the soul (i.e., the netherworlds of our most peaceful inner child), there comes Aix Ern Klemm. While the name might lead you to believe this band hails from the place where Kraut never went on hiatus, this two-piece actually comes from (certainly your second guess) Austin, Texas. Their name (pronounced Ex-M-Clem) is apparently a conscious decision to generate the most “How’s that pronounced?” and “What does that mean?” responses from record reviewers and audiophiles alike.

To keep this review simple, this is a Kranky release featuring members of Labradford and Stars of the Lid. This album holds true to form with all other releases on Kranky Records, the forerunner in putting out albums that will never distract you but always offer an engaging listen when ears are trained fully on [insert Kranky album in question]. If you have any Labradford or Stars of the Lid, this is a shoo-in for your record collection; Aix Em Klemm represents a logical blending of styles for both the aforementioned bands.

On first inspection, one can’t decide if this is truly sublime or simply subverted. It simplicity seems taunting. It’s music that almost anyone (and I mean anyone) could play, but most would feel naked doing so. There’s nothing that one would associate with percussion on this album save the occasional crescendo of a single synthesized note (which could be the highly manipulated pluck of some stringed instrument that has long since become completely unrecognizable). Loops that soothe your cerebrum like the peaceful image of a single cloud on an otherwise cloudless day, weave their way in and out of the six tracks presented here. The songs are long (another standard for both this label and the bands from which its members originate), but length is necessary to allow the careful unfolding of these seemingly simple compositions. And compositions they are, as none of the tracks follow any sort of recognizable pop format or any other format for that matter, save that of having no format at all. They are typically rooted in one note, using the sparsest of layered melodies to imply progression.

As for the outcome of this band, it’s hard to predict whether or not this is a fulltime thing for these boys, or a one-time project that represents the fulfillment of an idea founded over a couple of drinks after Stars of the Lid opened for Labradford. Whatever the case, I assure you that this is ambient worth having. Created by musicians established in this genre, Aix Em Klemm live up to the pretentiousness of their own name. (JR)

Wu-Tang Clan

The W

Loud Records

After a near three-year hiatus, Staten Island’s crazy denizens of hip-hop are back with an album that almost makes up for the time spent since 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever. With the Rza (see Ghost Dog soundtrack) back at the helm, the album takes the gritty simplicity of their debut album and combines it with some of the production value of Wu-Tang Forever.

While three years may sound like a long time to many people, especially fans of the group, Wu-Tang’s members have been anything but idle. Almost all of the group’s nine members have put out some sort of solo work, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard even found time to land himself in jail. Method Man’s efforts have been the most successful, doing well received collaborations with rapper Redman and winning teenie-bopper points with “N 2 Gether Now” alongside Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst.

Rza’s beats on this album are as simple as the album’s title, but they’re anything but lacking. Take the grim track “Careful (Click, Click)”—sleigh bell samples, in addition to other sound effects, perfectly accentuate the staccato cadence of the lyrics over throbbing bass. Nobody will confuse these beats with something by Dr. Dre, but that’s what Wu-Tang wants. Their approach allows the lyrics and the beats to meld into one whomping force that’s about as easy to ignore as a sand-filled sock to the head.

The only songs that stray away from this formula (barely) are “Gravel Pit” and the new-song-old-name “Protect ya Neck,” both of which are characterized by terribly infectious beats. “Protect ya Neck” is probably the best example of the lyrical prowess of the group as all get a chance to shine in this song. These two songs will definitely get you tapping your feet.

As a whole, the album doesn’t stray far from course, except for the emotional songs “One Blood Under W” with reggae dance-hall icon Jr. Reid, and “I can’t go to Sleep,” with guest Issac Hayes. Both would have benefited greatly if only one or the other had been on the album, since together they almost serve to disrupt the flow of the tracks.

Also rounding out the list of guests on The W are Redman, Nas, Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dog, who shows up in a goofy duet titled “Conditioner” with O.D.B. (who must’ve recorded it during a stint out of the joint). (ND)

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