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 V.17 No.31 | July 31 - August 6, 2008 

Sonic Reducer

Ellis Marsalis Quartet An Open Letter to Thelonious (ELM Records)

Monk fans might not jump with joy to hear that the Ellis Marsalis Quartet (Derek Douget, saxes; Jason Stewart, bass; Jason Marsalis, drums) has released a collection of Monk tunes. After all, how far can the pianist’s elegant swing take the angular material? The high points in this uneven effort make it worthwhile, though, particularly the softened “Monk’s Mood,” the lively fun of “Rhythm-a-ning” and the harmonically rich and sensitive rendering of “’Round Midnight.” Kudos to J. Marsalis for understanding that Monk was just plain funky, and to E. Marsalis for playing Monk’s tunes, not bronzing them. (MM)

Oxford Collapse Bits (Sub Pop)

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Oxford Collapse’s fourth album is about as agonizing as it gets. It’d be one thing if all the straight-up college rock was aimless, boring and tedious. Then it could be tuned out and dismissed. Instead, just as a true focus is in sight and an honest groove begins to surface, it’s quickly swallowed by a sea of paltry guitar chords and whining, tuneless vocals. Not stripped down enough to have a bare-bones charm and hardly imaginative enough to get away with the drifting, tangential song structures, Bits simply falls flat. (SM)

Son Ambulance Someone Else's DÈj Vu (Saddle Creek)

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Here's an album that wears many hats. There's the Pink Floydian hat; the post-punk hat slightly resembling The Church; the '90s twee-pop hat; the influenced-by-the-good-time-oldies-station hat. Then there's that weird bossa nova cap. Uniting the varying headwear is a mellow, reverberating quality that feels like picking flowers in Jack Horkheimer's graphic interpretation of space. That paired with uniform production throughout the album, and what you have is ... a really far-out hat. (JCC)

(SM) Simon McCormack, (MM) Mel Minter, (JCC) Jessica Cassyle Carr


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