Headphone music at its best. Missoula quintet This is a Process of a Still Life traveled to Haywire Studio in Portland to record this debut, which was later mixed by Chad Clark, best known for his work with Fugazi. And a sweet mix it is—tremolo intact, the seven tracks here lull you into a childlike daze yet still retain some snap, crackle and pop where appropriate. The consistency of this kind of ambient sound will trigger many writers to use the term “soundscape,” which doesn’t really say a whole lot.
But basically, this is one of those albums where you’ll never learn the names of the individual song titles—it all just blends together in one beautiful rolling wave. Guitarists Ben Rouner and Scott Kennedy work in tandem but give each other ample space, like a couple playing footsies without actually touching toes. This would be the perfect soundtrack to a slice-of-life film where the protagonist winds up exactly where he or she started, or perhaps to watching water drops fall from an icicle. Not boring, but meditative. In other words, fans of Mogwai and Tortoise will rabidly devour this disc and return hungry for seconds. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)
This is a Process of a Still Life will hold a CD release party with Oddability at the Roxy Theater on Saturday, April 10, at 9 PM. $5.Einstürzende Neubauten
Vocalist/guitarist Blixa Bargeld must’ve had a light flicker on in his head once he quit Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds after 17 years, re-realizing that his first project, Einstürzende Neubauten (“collapsing new buildings”) happened to be incredibly influential and there was no reason to let that dog die a natural death.
For the past 23 years, this German industrial band has remained in a league of its own. Devoid of computer programs and canned drum beats, these guys scoured junkyards for abandoned metal parts for percussion to deliver some of the most brutal and sadistic sounds ever to clog or unclog an ear—pure anarchic beauty without rival.
As times changed for EN, the band suffered in increments by making its music more accessible. Latest release Perpetuum Mobile marries EN’s dirty past with an elder statesmen approach to the craft. It has a creepy mellow vibe, with Bargeld and company doing what they do best and making a less dense than usual but still compelling version of musique concrète. The rhythmic aspects are sometimes rather predictable and a bit less interesting than in the past, but when EN hook (and it’s a rusty hook) their inhuman manipulated ambience to the Teutonic mutterings of Bargeld, the images encoded in sound are pretty astonishing. (Bryan Ramirez)Mary and Mars
Mary and Mars
Not being much of a bluegrass fan, I’ve always wondered how many (and which) albums it would take to make up a fairly comprehensive collection of contemporary stuff. Or if there would even be any point to amassing such a collection. For all I know, all these Blank Creeks and Blank Mountain Blank Blanks are just woeful epigones of Bill Monroe.
I also wonder what the secret is to competently reviewing records that are supposed to somehow sound fresh and innovative while not straying too awful muzzleloader-pointingly far from the ruts of tradition. I’ve noticed that bluegrass reviews often consist of little more than song lists with a few fungible adjectives here and there, padded out with generous descriptions of the musicians’ skills that don’t do much to explain what they’re doing better or worse than the next bunch of reedy-voiced wannabe hillbillies.
So take this for what it’s worth, coming from a guy who plumb don’t know no better: I’ve got this Mary and Mars record now, and it’s beautiful and I especially love the originals penned by Santa Fe trio members Sharon Gilchrist and Josh Martin. It’s also about enough contemporary bluegrass for me, thanks, and if I want to hear something that sounds exactly like it, I’ll listen to it again. Which I was going to do a bunch of times anyway. (Andy Smetanka)Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Don’t Look For A Heartache
Listening to Jimmie Dale Gilmore is more than a little like sandwiching your head between two speakers equipped with nothing but tweeters. That adenoidal treble shimmers almost to the point of madness. Different people have different tolerances for Gilmore’s wobbling warble, but it is incontrovertibly a thing of wonder.
And this early stuff is some of the sweetest the longhaired Texan freak has so far recorded.
Don’t Look For A Heartache is also not unlike Gilmore’s varied career (solo and as a member of the resurgent Flatlanders) in the sense that come final cut, a handful of songs will do you. Gilmore’s own “Dallas” (Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye) is one; Butch Hancock’s “Just a Wave, Not the Water” (I would have killed myself/but it made no sense/committing suicide/in self defense) is another.
Gilmore’s an only occasionally arresting songwriter on his own; he needs a steady feed of magically realistic lyrics to follow that voice out to the edge of the void. Thus the thoroughly hot-licked Townes Van Zandt loaner “White Freight Liner Blues,” alongside a host of contributions by regular pals like Joe Ely and David Halley. If you could have only one Jimmie Dale Gilmore album—and you really ought to have at least one—you could do a lot worse. (Brad Tyer)