LKN is Laura K. Newman: multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, noise composer. She performs nearly everything on In the Leap Year herself, and she sounds more like a band than most bands. It’s more or less a solo effort, but you’d never know it to listen to this collection of uncommonly full, thrillingly loud and gnarled four-track recordings compiled over the past two years, which she describes in the sleeve notes as “a random-at-best collection of some of my thousands of songs.” She’s a little bit Dinosaur Jr., a little bit PJ Harvey, a little bit Antietam, and a whole lot of twisted rock riffage/wreckage wrapped around drums that go from backbeat to math-blast on a dime. I lay five bucks that Lauren K. Newman is one out of the average three in a hundred women who actually like Shellac.
“Angular” is such an overused and haphazardly descriptive word for describing certain types of rock music, but it’s albums like this that actually give it some meaning. The recording is so warm and full, but the songs so full of jabs and gouges, it’s like trying to hug a bag of rusty steak knives. Apparently she’ll be touring with a full band this summer. Man, is that something to look forward to. (Andy Smetanka)Modernstate
Lucky Madison/Woodson Lateral Records
Modernstate, like LKN, is another solo project of sorts. Sam Schauer used to be the drummer for the Dutch Flat, a Portland band that was actually two-thirds Missoula in the persons of longtime scenesters Matt Genz and Timothy Graham. The Dutch Flat called it quits earlier this year and now the multitalented Schauer, at least in a Modernstate capacity, is going it alone.
And alone is just about right. Schauer provides “all songs & sounds” on Highwater Moonboot (except for a few drums, keys and vocals here and there), and songs like these would sound lonely in a crowd big enough to fill Yankee Stadium. “The Storyteller is the Story” (“I hate those bad B-movies where the writer is obviously the main character/I know, I’ll involve myself in a murder mystery/which just happens to include a beautiful woman and me/How contrived…”) is typically jaded. “Yr. Halo’s Bronze” is cold and distant. “Raise Yr. Hands If Yr. Happy” masquerades as a kindergarten sing-along, but the studio conviviality (one of those voices in the choir sounds suspiciously like an uncredited Graham) can’t conceal the underlying melancholy. Most of Highwater Moonboot, in fact, sounds like it could have been written during one of those sentimental hangovers when everything’s funny and sad and you cry at long-distance commercials on TV. Should be a real rousing show…(Andy Smetanka)
Modernstate joins forces with another single-person Portland band, Talkdemonic, for a show on Sunday, May 2, at Area 5.Olivia Tremor Control
Black Foliage/Animation Music
Take careful note, fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples (in Stereo), and Jeff Mangum: Black Foliage is an indispensable document in the history of the Elephant 6 collective, the mysterious musical cabbal formed in Louisiana and now scattered between Denver, Athens (Georgia) and somewhere in Kentucky. It’s a re-issue (with bonus disc) of a highly influential record, first released in 1996 and out of print since 1999. It sold about 40,000 copies the first time around, but, as with the Velvet Underground, sometimes you get the feeling that everyone who bought it started up a band in the vein of these erratic, eccentric, and eclectic musical scavengers.
Sadly, there’s never going to be another Neutral Milk Hotel CD. But, for diehard fans, Black Foliage is far more than a surrogate for Jeff Mangum’s crackpot folk vision. It’s as ambitious, as improbably cohesive, and as dreamily satisfying as In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and furthermore it’s haunted by many of the same ghosts. The eerie wail of a singing saw on track 13, “I Have Been Floated?,” that could only be—and it is—Neutral Milk Hotel’s Julian Koster. Mangum himself contributes melodica, vocals and sound effects from his extensive library of found sonics. Apples (in Stereo)’s Robert Schneider sings here and plays guitar there. Feels like old times. (Andy Smetanka)The Mars Volta
De-Loused in the Comatorium
Universal Records/Gold Standard Laboratories
Speaking of ambitious albums: I don’t know how this one got past me. Normally my ears prick up when someone on the other side of town whispers the word “prog,” and prog is definitely the buzzword on this mind-exploding outing by ex-At the Drive-In members Omar Rodriguez and Cedric Bixler.
Maybe it’s the cover art talking, but listening to De-Loused in the Comatorium is like being lowered into a sensory deprivation tank and having all those deprived sensations replaced with an extraordinary, all-embracing musical vision. You don’t so much listen to it as give in to it—surrender to a concept album loosely arranged around the heavy dreams of an El Paso homeboy of Rodriguez and Bixler’s, found dead with one arm shriveled into a twig from shooting up rat poison. Well, that much I know from reading MOJO. De-Loused would otherwise have been nearly impenetrable, especially since the liner notes are partly written in a language known only to Rodriguez and Bixler (you have to send away for translations). Prog albums are supposed to have weird stuff like that, though. De-Loused is awesome. There just aren’t enough bands around to make people ask, “Is this Rush?” when it isn’t. (Andy Smetanka)