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Recent album review #1
Slint - Tweez (1989)

A quartet from Louisville, Kentucky, Slint emerged from the remains of another Louisville band, Squirrel Bait.

As little as I know about American geography, Kentucky seems an unlikely location for an influential and almost unquestionably hip band, but Slint's two albums - along with Talk Talk's contemporaneous Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock - defined the rules for the emerging genre of post-rock at the turn of the 1990's.

Slint are a long way removed from Talk Talk's jazzy and intricately-recorded albums, but the deconstruction that Slint apply to hardcore is similar in approach at least, to the transformation that Talk Talk made from pop to their own eccentric vision, which is why the two bands are often cited together.

The first of two albums from Slint, Tweez was recorded back in 1987, but not released until 1989. The influence of producer Steve Albini is obvious throughout the record, yet Tweez is dark and fractured in a way that a lot of other Albini projects aren't, and the band's twisted sense of musicality reaches far beyond Albini's trademark 'sand-blasting' style.

Tweez isn't particularly song-based, and the lack of linear song structures moves the focus onto the shifting textures and dynamics, which is where the post-rock tag originated. It's a captivating listen just in terms of sound - the way the band ignore rock conventions to pursue a more intellectualized, progressive, even mathematical approach to music-making was largely unprecedented, and proved wide-reaching.

Rockers like "Charlotte" don't sound too far removed from what At The Drive In were doing 15 years later, but most of the time vocals are forgone in favour of spoken anecdotes or sound effects. So although Tweez is certainly an interesting listen, it's not necessarily a substantial one, lacking individually memorable songs, so it's hard to talk about it much.

Of the nine tracks, the first eight are named after the parents of the four members, and the last is named after drummer Britt Walford's dog. At less than 30 minutes, along with that lack of memorable material, I'd be cautious about paying too much for Tweez, but nonetheless it feels largely unprecedented and therefore an interesting keystone in the history of rock's deconstruction.

So I'd recommend starting with Spiderland, then visit Tweez to chart the group's journey to that point afterwards. For the group certainly managed to corral their unique sound into more interesting songs on their sophomore effort.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia

Posted: Tuesday 28th Apr 2015 3:26 PM

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Recent album review #2
Various Artists - South Pacific (1958)

Having listening to quite a few Classical orchestral works lately, I find I'm much preferring the more spacious arrangements and abundant melody that Rodgers and Hammerstein provide in their compositions for orchestra.

In comparison, most Classical works come across as stuffy, tedious, and more bombastic than melodic, probably because they were mostly commissioned by kings and archbishops to serve functions of state and church, whereas Rodgers and Hammerstein were writing primarily to entertain.

So whilst I'm not really a fan of stage musicals, or the movies they inspire, I find some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's productions enjoyable. Of their works, Oklahoma! (staged in 1943) was the first to make it to the big screen, in 1955. Then Carousel (1945) followed in 1956. And the follow-up to that was South Pacific (1949), in 1958.

The music here is nearer in feel though to The Sound of Music than it is to Oklahoma! ... that may be because the stage version of The Sound of Music commenced its run on Broadway the year after South Pacific was released to movie theatres, and so may've employed many of the same musicians.

Unlike the overtures of Classical works I've heard to date, the opening "South Pacific Overture" isn't ponderous, nor longwinded, or devoid of melody. In fact, it's the first overture I've come across that I actually enjoy listening to - it opens with a brief businesslike fanfare, then promptly launches into the main theme, which is subsequently reprised from time-to-time throughout the album. The main point in its favour though is that it does its job in a mere three minutes, then duly steps aside, which to my mind is exactly what an overture should do, unlike Classical overtures, that seem to drag their feet and overstay their welcome, without even any real semblance of melody to compensate.

Apart from the piano and New Orleans Jazz of "Honey Bun" - a pastiche of 1920's 'flapper' music (like the similarly-titled "Honey Pie" by Paul McCartney) - the music here is delivered by the two leads and/or chorus line, with lush but breezy orchestral backing. The male lead though was not sung by the actor in the movie, but by an operatic performer named Giorgio Tozzi, which is why I'm not entirely enamoured of the male vocals ... still, they're OK, and not that frequent anyway.

The well-known songs are "Some Enchanted Evening", "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair", and the chorus-line's rendition of "There is Nothin' Like a Dame". But the standout number for me is Mitzi Gaynor singing "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy", mainly on account of the way the violins barge in unannounced just after the start of the song! But Gaynor delivers a great performance too (YouTube link below), and - I forget which song - the chorus is somewhat reminiscent of a Julie Andrews number in The Sound of Music.

Link to YouTube

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by Reviewer:
bluemoon

Posted: Wednesday 29th Apr 2015 1:43 AM

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