Sigur Rós, Origami Arktica, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Exhaust, Radian, Town and Country, Mercury Program, Mice Parade, Thuja, Smith, Steven R., and Proud, Pip and Carter, Tom
Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., Nov. 15, 2002
As the northern winds blow, 'tis the season for cozy fireplace music, and just in time comes the return of Sigur Rós. ( ) is the Icelanders' nameless MCA follow-up to last year's stunning Ágætis Byrjun, and while it doesn't resonate like its predecessor, the new collection is still dominated by the reverberating scrapes, aural snowdrifts, and Jon Thor Birgisson's ethereal falsetto... Across the ice mass, Origami Arktica offers a shamanlike take on traditional Scandinavian folk on Vardøgr (Silber), minimalist twine and chants accented by artifact woodwinds run through modern processors... For a more harrowing yule log, there's the latest from Montreal's resident anarchist instrumentalists Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Yanqui U.X.O. (Constellation) is the calm before or after the storm, featuring all the orchestral foreboding we've come to expect, yet precious little of the unpredictable explosiveness that defined previous efforts. Meanwhile, drummer Aidan Girt's Exhaust project rummages Kraftwerk's Dumpster for Enregistreur (Constellation), a clattering collage of broken wires and cold urban filth... Slightly busier is Austrian trio Radian, which takes the To Rococo Rot electronic hybrid to spastic new levels on Rec.Extern (Thrill Jockey). Labelmates Town and Country remain true to the Thrill Jockey nu jazz aesthetic on C'mon, as bass, chimes, clarinet, and contrabass weave together their distinctive jazz-noir sound... As many as three vibraphones speak at once on the Mercury Program's A Data Learn the Language (Tiger Style), yet somehow they transcend all Tortugan clichés with their sparkling precision. Conversely, compadres Mice Parade pull you through the ringer on All Roads Lead to Salzburg (New, Live, BBC Sessions & Otherwise) (Bubblecore), adding Afrobeat, gamelan, and glitch to the seismic backbone of vibes player Dylan Cristy and incomparable skinsman Doug Scharin... Geophysical junk scientists Thuja return with Suns (Emperor Jones), another creaky nature romp in which earth, wind, fire, and water play as large a role as meditative plucked strings. Thuja's Steven R. Smith reins in the scrapes and plinks on his own Lineaments (Emperor Jones), a tightly controlled masterpiece of somber strings, piano, and primeval background radiation. Austin's Emperor Jones is also Proud to bring you the latest effort from recent Austin visitor Pip Proud, "the Australian Syd Barrett." His new Catch a Cherub is a collaboration with Charalambides' Tom Carter, and stands up against the best work of the Aussie's 30-year career in terms of pure, stirring sincerity among tributaries of warm, fuzzy logic.