There’s a tiny hotel bar in San Francisco called the Red Room with the hip gimmick of being saturated in red paint and dim red light making it somehow warmly intimate and, at the same time, cold and alienating. Inside/Absent, the newest album by Broken Spindles, creates a similar effect.
Joel Peterson’s solo project (he also plays with The Faint) breeds minimal electronica with various percussive elements and vocals that, while not completely monotone, rarely stray from note to note. The haunting piano chords and stripped-down instrumentals succeed in evoking a certain loneliness, but the album’s lyrical sentiment is so general it nearly dissipates. When Peterson sings “I’m wasting away/I’m being erased/It’s my birthday” in “Birthday,” his expression is one of general malaise about the human condition. The feeling is echoed in songs like “Valentine” and “Anniversary,” wherein depression is attributed to the banality of annual celebrations and the passage of time.
Not that fear of death can’t be addressed—after all, it’s implicitly if not explicitly the theme of most art across the board. The problem is, the emotion of Inside/Absent is so restrained by Peterson’s need to contrive an elegant sense of alienation that it ends up inducing more estrangement than empathy. (Erika Fredrickson)
Broken Spindles play The Other Side Saturday, Oct. 15, at 10 PM. $7, or $9 for under 21.
Special Moments Music
Since the 1970s, Mardi Milligan has played bar gigs all over Alaska and Montana. You’d think a woman would become weary of the world after a few hundred smoky nights crooning to furry dudes sucking on bottles—one would think Milligan might become furry herself, suck on her own bottle and spin into a formulaic honky-tonk decline. But no—these days Milligan makes her living as a customer service trainer and facilitator, jingle-composer and motivational speaker. Oh yeah, and she’s also a singer-songwriter.
On Choices, her most recent release, you can hear Milligan the motivational speaker on the track “New Beginnings”: “Gonna say goodbye to those behind and say hello to the joy I’ve earned.” Milligan’s benign jingle-generating genius appears on “All I Do is Do”: “I wanna be a human be-ing.../But I’m a human do-ing.” And in another track she’s unable to resist the easy target of a Montana fly-fishing metaphor, titling a love song “Catch and Release.”
Milligan delivers her forthright lyrics backed up by several guest musicians who re-enact the country shtick of the ’80s. Let’s just say you’ll have to suspend your cynicism and skepticism before you press play on this one. (Caroline Keys)
Mardi Milligan plays the Crystal Theatre Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8 PM. $8 in advance from Rockin Rudy’s or $10 at the door.
Ready To Go Under
When Blake Henderson, aka TaughtMe, catches his breath on Ready to Go Under it’s less out of physical necessity and more for aesthetic texture. It’s the same as the squeak of his fingers sliding down a guitar neck and his soft but gravelly hums—all are part of the unconventional instrumental layerings from this Salt Lake City-based musician.
In “Things That Really Matter,” merry-go-round music sets the stage on which crashing guitar chords mix with heartbeat drumming, angelic harmonizing and random chirps and shuffles. It’s hard to tell what each mysterious sound is—it’s like listening to your eccentric upstairs neighbor: constantly rearranging furniture, muffled opera, the clatter of cooking experiments and a chorus of pets mewing and peeping. While this grab bag of noise could be just annoying, the album is aurally stimulating—the only aspect that’s bothersome is Henderson’s voice, which occasionally switches from beautiful lucidity to bouts of wavering timidity and an infant-like mimicking of Bjork.
Still, the melodramatic vocals only occasionally kill the crafted ambience, allowing the remaining moments of seductive sonancy to reward some patience. (Erika Fredrickson)
TaughtMe plays Crazy Daisy, 103 E Main St., Thursday, Oct. 13, at 8 PM. Purrbot and Scott Kennedy open. $4.
Rbiz and Riddle
Meep Meep Productions
Rbiz, aka Drummond native Ryan Bradshaw, and guest vocalist Riddle, aka Missoulian Sam Riddle, have a mission on their latest project, Half MT: to prove to all the haters around the state that the conservatively-bent Rbiz will excel in the rap game no matter the odds.
Rbiz makes a good point when he says, “There’s a lot more to rap than gangs and hos” on the track “My Intro,” but he never really follows through on that thought. Rather, Rbiz spends the majority of the album rapping about clichéd topics such as his own rhyming superiority and what makes women wet. In addition to those well-worn rap themes, he occasionally slips in some unconventional stances in “Never Gonna Fold” and “On My Mind” by admitting he hates being politically correct and dislikes liberals, and screaming shout-outs of support to President Bush.
Rbiz is definitely not lacking personal direction—he knows what kind of rapper he is and could care less about any outside criticism of his style or content. Whether he eventually succeeds in making a standout rap album, however, will depend on whether he can let go of some of his more generic material and embrace his original, funny, red-state roots. (Ira Sather-Olson)