Mar 6 - 12, 2014 

Sonic Reducer

Ava Luna Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl)

Six members comprise New York band Ava Luna; they’re a sextet. The complex musicality of that word, “sextet” (say it out loud), encapsulates Ava Luna’s lusty, angular No Wave/punk/funk cocktail. Their latest album, Electric Balloon, surges and floats through genres with a precocious grace. These 11 songs present a convergence of all the best, heretofore not-completely-exploited elements of groups like the Tom Tom Club, with added dashes of Delta 5, James Chance and the Contortions, and The Dirty Projectors. The seductive drum lines and smooth tinkling keyboards of “Crown,” when combined with Carlos Hernandez' falsetto, sound like an implausibly perfect hybrid of Prince, Bootsy Collins and Jeff Buckley, while Felicia Douglass’ lead vocals on “PRPL” would appeal to fans of Janelle Monáe. A must-hear this year. (M. Brianna Stallings)

South Central hip-hop hippie Quincy Matthew Hanley aka ScHoolboy Q signed with Interscope last year, and his major label debut is Oxymoron. This title alludes to Hanley’s past as a narcotics dealer; the resulting recording is thick and thunderous, relying on a heavy rhythm section, layered production and intense narratives to guide the listener through Q’s world, past and present. There was a helluva lot of buzz surrounding this record and Jay-Z influence aside, there is little in the way of disappointment. The sound here is not openly celebratory in the tradition of much West Coast gangsta rap. Rather these are ruminationsat once enlightening and frightening. You can get lost in this world, but as the rapper reminds us on title track “Prescription/Oxymoron,” desperation might be around the next bend. (August March)

Slough Feg Digital Resistance (Metal Blade Records)

“Slough” rhymes with “cow.” Slough Feg is a metal band with heavy, old-school prog overtones that has churned out tight and twisty riffage since the 1990s. Spawned of the darkness that is central Pennsylvania, the band has since relocated to the city by the bay, which might have something to do with the lyricism and melodic references on new album Digital Resistance. Though guitarist and singer Mike Scalzi is fond of noting the ensemble’s relationship to bands like folk-metal purveyor Skyclad, Slough Feg’s product is original and authentically weird, combining the previous descriptions with mathy precision and actual singing, something nearly unheard of in today’s metallic rock landscape. Despite all that esoteric stuff, Scalzi makes sure it’s still all about lead guitar, and tunes like “Laser Enforcer” practically scream that conceit. (August March)

 
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