Sonic Reducer: Micro Reviews Of Motivational Jumpsuit, Cycles Of Existential Rhyme And The Unsemble

August March
3 min read
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Two thousand years from now, scientists will discover a hidden cache of music from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They’ll spend some time decoding it and then mistakenly attribute a bulk of it to The Who. Researchers will craft all sorts of cray hypotheses as to how and why that previously unheard of revitalization occurred. Another 500 years later, a minor cleric of the sacred order of rocanrol will stumble upon their research, and folks will finally figure out they’ve been listening to Guided by Voices all along. Cryptically raw yet compellingly melodic, Robert Pollard and his associates continue to knock shit out of the park with random abandon on latest effort Motivational Jumpsuit. Here is a record overfilled with chunky authority and a casual brevity that shows their mastery of the medium. Plus, it beats the hell out of anything Pete Townshend ever did … well everything except Quadrophenia.

Chicano Batman Cycles of Existential Rhyme (El Relleno Records)

I came home from a long day of making doughnuts, and Chicano Batman was playing through my wife’s computer. Their very cool sound washed over me. A funky tropical-jazz vibe mixed with a fusion/post-art rock sensibility poured out the speakers. Chicano Batman hails from Los Angeles and features the musical vision of bassist and singer Eduardo Arenas, multi-instrumentalist Bardo Martinez, guitarrista Carlos Arévalo and drummer Gabriel Villa. While their product proudly demonstrates musical connections to their traditional community, their work is all postmodern, sabes? With surprising turns of phrase and instrumentation (including some very interesting organ accompaniment), intricate tempo changes, rock-solid chops and drifty bilingual vocals, el grupo’s latest release, Cycles of Existential Rhyme, is an inventive and engaging recording that lends itself to continuous listening and transitions from Cumbia to psychedelia to pure pop faster than you can say “Godley & Creme” or “Frank Zappa.”

The Unsemble The Unsemble (Ipecac Recordings)

Supergroups are a tradition in rock music, but they can also be problematic. Either they work and yield exciting new tuneage (see Atoms for Peace) or they sound like the rusty fragments of a heavy metal nightmare (see The Winery Dogs). A forthcoming collection of recordings by The Unsemble falls much further than midway to excellent on that scale, though some listeners may not be excited by the precise rhythmic settings on offer here. The Unsemble, a trio, is comprised of Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubaten, Crime and the City Solution), Brian Kotzur (Silver Jews, Harmony Korine) and Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard, Tomahawk). Their eponymous debut recording is a combination of composed and improvised pieces that are notable for their aforementioned precision, attention to musical detail, dynamism and overall math-rock credibility. Though in some instances spare and clinical, The Unsemble comes off as a formidable musical force that bears repeating. Listen and decide for yourself beginning March 4.

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