Marc Ribot Saints
The iconoclastic guitarist goes solo on Saints, an inventive, challenging effort that deconstructs the work of such far-ranging sources as Albert Ayler (three tunes), John Zorn, John Lurie, The Beatles ("Happiness is a Warm Gun") and Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim ("Somewhere").
On the standard "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," each note is hard-won; Ribot retains vestiges of the romantic melody but embellishes with spiky dissonance and thoughtful pauses, as if he's painstakingly peeling back different layers and possibilities within the song.
The album maintains this kind of contemplative feel, with not much in the way of rhythmic momentum (which, quite honestly, would've been an enhancement). The main exceptions are "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," which trots along antique-like, and "St. James Infirmary," wherein Ribot adds some distortion to his electric, giving the song a rugged blues feel. The guitarist employs an array of tones, including the tinny sound of an el-cheapo ax that lends certain songs a herky-jerky humor. On the Ayler selections, especially, he breaks out his quirky "expanded technique," warbles, buzzes, plucks, clunks and the like — keeping it all, in typical Ribot fashion, very musical. (Division One/Atlantic)
Dilated Peoples Expansion Team
With Expansion Team, Dilated Peoples attempt to put a contemporary spin on a rusty hip-hop ship, in which the DJ is the captain and the beats are the oceans he navigates. And while the results on Peoples' sophomore major-label release don't quite align with their ambitions, the West Coast trio does create some inventive and rugged music as they flaunt old-school influences Eric B & Rakim, Stetsasonic, Public Enemy and especially De La Soul. DJ Babu, along with battle-freestylers Evidence and Iriscience, steer through soundscapes from a variety of producers. Da Beatminerz, The Alchemist, DJ Premier, Juju, ?uestlove and Joey Chavez provide a mix of approaches that somehow cohere into a funky whole. Aiming for a positive vibe — or at least veering away from horny ho's, quick cash and self-inflating boasts — Evidence and Iriscience attack topics as heavy as war, propaganda and radio airplay. But their clever rhymes remain subservient to Babu's more creative influence, and unless the track has an obvious repeated chorus, and many do, it's easier to appreciate the twisting palette of beats, samples and loops than it is to decipher the philosophical rants. (Capitol)
Ever wonder what Incubus would sound like if they jettisoned their funk habits, electronic tinges and New Age ennui, and consciously made an album a tad more accessible to, say, Warped Tour fans? Meet Hoobastank, whose self-titled major-label debut forcibly recalls virtually everything about the aforementioned modern rock soul-surfers except that which makes them even mildly intriguing. Hoobastank, the album, is a tepid amalgam of familiar hooks, processed tones and predictable vocal angst that so neatly rides the line between FM punk and more muscular aggro-radio fare as to be rendered utterly generic. It's the perfect X-Games soundtrack, really — nondescript, slightly edgy, imminently marketable and watered-down enough so that it's not, you know, personal. The quartet covers all of the expected dynamic bases: monster jagged grooveage ("Pieces"); catchy velocity ("Remember Me"); intimate acousticity ("Running Away"); hip-hop influence ("Give It Back"); the obligatory semi-ballad ("Too Little Too Late"). Everything is in its place, and about as compelling as a loaf of Wonder bread. They obviously think they know exactly what the kids want to hear, and they'll probably be huge for a couple of minutes, on the dubious strength of an album that sounds more like a commercial for a certain type of music than music itself. (Island/Def Jam)
Zeke Death Alley
With their fourth disc, Seattle speed-freaks Zeke temper their punk-rock blitzkrieg with a healthier dose of metal influence than on previous outings. Death Alley is easily their most accessible release to date, but don't be fooled. This is a band that could lower their intensity quotient another five or six notches and still remain one of the fastest, heaviest, most pummeling rock bands this side of Motorhead. While tighter, more cohesive and generally a bit easier on the ear than Epitaph efforts Kicked In The Teeth and Dirty Sanchez, Death Alley delivers all of the velocity, rage and evil-ass lyrics fans have come to expect. Sure, "Arkansas Man," "Evil Woman" and "Road Ahead" actually drop below 120 beats per second, but not far below — Death Alley delivers 16 tracks in less than 30 minutes, all of them impacting like a pipe wrench to the back of the head. Punk-pop fans and postcore purists would do well to look elsewhere, but this stripped-and-sprinting display of aural violence will please anyone who remembers that rock 'n' roll is supposed to be bad for you. (Aces & Eights, www.aces-eights.com)
The Reindeer Section
Y'all Get Scared Now, Hear!
The reindeer conjures both mythical and primitive associations. In reality, it's a northern-climate beast of burden; to children and the happily delusional, it's a flying, fanciful holiday critter. The same qualities could be ascribed to Y'all Get Scared Now, Hear! The disc is both otherworldly and earthy in its execution, drawing on painful, personal reflections on love and love's loss. It's simple to understand how the CD achieves its breathtaking atmospheric mood, delicate melody and gentle harmonies, considering that it was recorded by a collective comprising members of Glasgow acts that master all three qualities: Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Arab Strap, Astrid, Snow Patrol, V-Twin, Mull Historical Society and Eva. It's even easier to understand the interesting bit of synchronicity that convened these musicians at the same place and time — a Lou Barlow gig. Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) is considered a progenitor of lo-fi, folky indie-rock. His influence is more than apparent here. From the breathy, minimal beauty of "Fire Bell" to the more upbeat, horn-inflected "Sting" and the trance-y, almost industrial "Tout Le Monde," Y'all Get Scared Now, Hear! is a fine addition to slo-core fans' collections. Just don't expect tasty pop hooks and stand-out songs — this is a piece that works best as a whole. (Pias, www.reindeersection.com)