The Weekly Jive

Posted November 25, 2008 in Music

Ala Muerte—Santa Elena (Public Guilt Records)

A haunting excursion into one artist’s dark vision and ultimate redemption, Santa Elena is entirely the work of Queens native Bianca Bibiloni. Her DIY laptop project blends ethereal and often post-apocalyptic synth-scapes with everything from guitar and double-bass to recorders, viola and 10-string cuatro, a traditional Puerto Rican instrument. But the stars of this 10-song journey are the multi-tracked contrapuntal harmonies of Bibiloni’s vaguely PJ Harvey-like voice, and the laptop atmospherics—field recording loops, glitches and desolate sonic storms. Initially the mood is so foreboding—witness the Mogwai-synth-jet-noise-meets-eerie-Swans-folk of opener “All Is Gone”—that keeping it at arm’s length seems like a psychological imperative. But the textures instantly seduce and the narratives soon shift from darkness to, well, semi-light; a synth-storm may blanket the odd arpeggios of “Selene,” but Bibiloni takes a determined stand, singing “I’ll sail through the dark searching endlessly/I won’t give up without a fight.” By the time we reach the drum-kit explosion of final track “Fireweed” (the first percussion on the record) things are looking up, to the degree that Bibiloni’s contention—“all it really takes is one spark/to start punching holes in the dark”—offers absolution on this harrowing but beautiful voyage. (John Schacht)


Human Therapy—It’s So You (Hot Tramp Records)

“I don’t want to be a punk!” growls Mick Rhodes of Human Therapy in “(It’ll Always Be) Friday Night,” one of eight lightning quick songs from the compact tour-de-force, It’s So You. Nice sentiment, but it’s a bald-faced lie. For the punk generation that came of age in the ’80s and ’90s slamming to—and opening shows for—the likes of Fear and Hüsker Dü, drunken slacking segued to parental responsibility in the blink of a power chord. The problem is, no one told these punks they were supposed to quit. Now Human Therapy are part of a wave of resurrected IE circuit bands that rock harder than their children can ever hope to, even as their progeny plug into amps themselves or (“d’oh!”) idolize Hannah Montana. It’s So You crackles with crisp, clean hooks, and youthful angst percolates knowingly through a filter of tattooed maturity. “Keep It Simple” works as both doo-wop reminisce and as counsel to Warped Tour T-shirt rock aspirants. The only hint of remorse comes during “What’s Left” as Rhodes laments “we were arrogant and rushed.” That may be, but Human Therapy at least learned how to play and, thankfully, never felt inclined to pawn their axes. (Kevin Ausmus)


Andy Yorke—Simple (Chocolate Lab Records)

Let’s dispense with the obvious: Andy Yorke is not his older brother Thom. That’s not just a genetic and existential fact, but a songwriting reality as well. Where Thom is unwilling to color within songwriting’s traditional lines, Andy is at right at home in the structured confines of pop song craft. But this solo debut from the former frontman for UK rockers Universal Truth could use some of his brother’s less traditional instincts. Simple’s songs tend to play out in such stock fashion and with lyrics so obvious that the record too often lies there like a passion-less lover unwilling to risk enough to make a quality interactive experience. The textures are nice enough, especially on the title-track opener where cello buffets the acoustic guitar and Yorke sounds like “Losing My Religion”-era Michael Stipe. Ditto “Rise and Fall,” where the band generates enough crescendo heat to overcome trite failed-relationship lyrics like “you’ve finally moved on.” But too often the sentiments match the generic brushed-drums-and-piano/organ-and-strummed-acoustic arrangements, and a song like “Twist of the Knife” lacks any of the mandatory fire that the song title implies. Simple is an easy listen, but there’s plenty of pleasant aural wallpaper covering our listening world already. (John Schacht)




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