Rachel's, Matmos, The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band With Choir, Do Make Say Think, Clear Horizon, Movietone, Growing, The Dead C, Neurosis & Jarboe, Lycia, and Tim Berne

Ether Ore

Phases & Stages

The disquieting chamber rock movement continues where it began in 1995 with Rachel's. The comeback, Systems/Layers (Quarterstick), retains the Louisville act's stringed elegance, but is heavily reliant on field recordings to sculpt an accomplished work of cinematic abstraction... Former Rachel's collaborators Matmos flip through the history books on the well-rounded The Civil War (Matador), follow-up to 2001's surgical-recordings-dominated buzz piece A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. Playful elements still abound, but the emphasis is on the pastoral and organic over the electro-driven... Godspeed You! Black Emperor sister group the Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band With Choir has expanded its name as well as its Godspeed-like chamber rock to include Efrim Menuck's clunky vocal experiments, which sabotage the ominous dirges of the band's third release, "This Is Our Punk Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing (Constellation)... No such problem with instrumental labelmates Do Make Say Think, whose fourth album, Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn, spouts rhythmic Can-mastery and the same out-of-context melodic capture that made band member Charles Spearin's other group, Broken Social Scene, such a 2003 sensation... Flying Saucer Attack's Dave Pearce makes his long-awaited return with Clear Horizon (Kranky), a top-shelf space-folk collaboration with ethereal songstress Jessica Bailiff, a revelation in her own right... Pearce's former FSA songbird, Rachel Brook, weighs in with the more organic Movietone, whose The Sand and the Stars (Drag City) focuses more on songcraft... Not so with Growing, the mysterious Olympia, Wash., trio whose debut, The Sky's Run Into the Sea (Kranky), integrates sedate pulses and drones with startling slo-metal riffage... Fifteen years of New Zealand sediment bubbles up with the Dead C's The Damned (Starlight Furniture Co.). Dour moods, Krautrock pep, and squealing feedback mark a bewildering vacillation between access and excess... Ex-Swans songstress Jarboe hooks up with avant-metallers Neurosis on Neurosis & Jarboe (Neurot Recordings). The pairing has its transcendent moments, but Neurosis tones down, making the album morbid rather than devastating... Lycia has fallen into shadow. The gossamer goth quartet has called it a decade, but not before leaving behind Empty Space (Silber), taking Joy Division's atmospheric gloom to its ghostly grave... Avant-jazzman Tim Berne leads his Science Friction Band through the live 2-CD The Sublime And. (Thirsty Ear). Marc Ducret's electric guitar ripples alongside Berne's elliptical alto-sax frenzy as Craig Taborn's laptop and Fender Rhodes alchemy provides a stimulating anchor.

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