Months of Music in Capsule Review

Over the past several months, I’ve fleshed out my music library with a bunch of new albums. Some have merely added more of the same to the randomizer, but a few have gone into heavy rotation. Here are some mini-reviews:

Hello My Name Is (2011), Angelspit. The latest in a long line of albums from the prolific Australian techno-metal band. Heavy, mechanical, energetic, relentless. Sounds a lot like most of their other releases, none of which have hooked me quite the way Krankhaus did. Okay.

Weightless (2011), Animals as Leaders. The sophomore follow-up to one of my favorite heavy progressive metal albums, Weightless is an impressive technical showcase for guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, and drummer Navene Koperweis. Lacks the first release’s magic, but if you liked the fusion of djent metal and jazz on their debut, there’s more to like here.

Portal 2: Songs to Test By, Aperture Science Psychoacoustics Laboratory (2012). If you’re looking for an instrumental soundtrack perfect for writing science fiction stories, look no further. Spectacular, dark electronica crossed with moody Angelo Badalamentian atmosphere that perfectly conjures the somewhat sinister puzzle-solving sense of wonder of the video game series. Tons of material on three albums here, with great song titles like “The Future Starts With You,” “Love as a Construct,” “You Are Not a Part of the Control Group,” and “Bombs for Throwing at You.” Fun and evocative, very highly recommended.

The Stewart Copeland Anthology (2007), Stewart Copeland. I was trying to find another Copeland release that captured the 1980s nostalgia vibe I got from The Rhythmatist. This release comes close, although it’s kind of uneven, mixing studio cuts and live performances from the various film and TV projects Copeland has worked on over the years. Starts infectiously but loses momentum as the focus shifts toward more atmospheric soundtrack-y stuff. Still, an interesting collection.

Ministry of Kultur (2011), Kultur Shock. Another enjoyably gruff and groovy release from this Seattle group, mashing up rock, punk, rockabilly, and a unique Balkan sound, its traditional rock lineup given additional texture with violins and woodwinds. If you like the video below, you’ll probably want to check out more of their stuff.

Felix Lehrmann’s Rimjob (2011), Felix Lehrmann. A jazz-rock fusion project from young German drummer Felix Lehrmann. I’m more impressed with the playing here than the composing; the pieces seem organized primarily to set up solos. That said, they’re great solos, and some of the tracks come together impressively. Not heavy rotation for me, but not bad.

Bizarre Rejection (2010), Felix Martin. Because no blog post can have enough musicians named Felix in it…Felix Martin is a pretty great guitarist, whose quirky sound mixes jazz, rock, and metal.  None of the tunes of this album nailed it for me, but it’s a welcome addition to the collection.

Oddities (2011),  Schizofrantik. Easily my favorite new find; there just can’t be enough German jazz-metal to keep me happy. Schizofrantik cites as its influences Primus, Frank Zappa, Mr. Bungle, and King Crimson, and Oddities delivers on that ambitious promise brilliantly. Schizofrantik is one of those delightfully, deliberately weird groups that makes wacky tonal and rhythmic — especially rhythmic — decisions, like doing a funk groove in 13/8. (How is it possible to be funky in thirteen? They manage it!)  Not mentioned in the influences is something of a djentish, prog-metal sound which comes out in epic tracks like “Red Dragon in a Moebius Strip” and “Nerds Don’t Smoke.” I love this album, even when it’s making perverse choices that don’t quite work for me. Couldn’t stop listening to it for nearly two months. (Did I mention Panzerballett guitarist Jan Zehrfeld sits in on this album? Bonus!)

Schizofrantik Live (2008), Schizofrantik. Hungry for more after Oddities, I grabbed the only other Schizofrantik release available here in the States. I’m usually not a huge fan of live albums; I tend to prefer the pristine, polished studio versions. But this is still worth a listen, if only for a glimpse at some earlier compositions. Sadly, based on the ambient noise, this show sounds like it was played in front of about twenty people. I guess this band is a little too weird, even for Germans. I love it, though!

Naught (2011), Stolen Babies. This band’s first album, There Be Squabbles Ahead, may be the perfect postmodern rock album for me: an inventive, theatrical descendant of Oingo Boingo’s dark blend of punk, funk, ska, and New Wave. Naught is their follow-up, and while it lacks the seamless mix of Squabbles, it’s a worthy and diverse follow-up. Very cool band more people should know about.

Oddfellows (2013), Tomahawk. Alternative rock supergroup Tomahawk — featuring former members of Faith No More, Helmet, and The Jesus Lizard — has always felt like an interesting kludge, a grungy, jangly rockabilly mix revolving around Mike Patton’s inimitable, dramatic vocals. Oddfellows brings in Patton’s long-time collaborator Trevor Dunn on bass, and the result is a more coherent album, which also feels a little less interesting. I’m still wrapping my ears around this one, but so far it’s striking me as a lesser entry. That said, I wonder if the uninitiated will prefer it to their earlier work. Some good tracks here but the jury’s still out.

X (2012), Tribal Tech. One of the things I like about this band is it reminds me of my playing days; I’d like to think that had the guys I used to jam with kept playing together, we might’ve ended up sounding a little like Tribal Tech. X is, like the band’s other albums, loosely structured jazz-funk improvisation. As such it’s a little indulgent, but the players have serious chops, and most the tracks here are both involved and infectious. Not quite as good as Rocket Science, but still excellent.

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