WILL OLDHAM, Ode Music EP (Drag City) Well, the warbling troubadour is out to confuse us all again. Will Oldham launches another one off the

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CDs by Will Oldham, Valvola, and more.

WILL OLDHAM, Ode Music EP (Drag City) Well, the warbling troubadour is out to confuse us all again. Will Oldham launches another one off the radar and leaves the rest of us scratching our heads about whether he's a genius or just laughing at us from afar in his mountain shack. Ode Music is, for lack of a better term, ambient country (and you thought all the genre crossovers had already happened). A repeated guitar and banjo lick loops in various phrasings while basses and organs float through the soundscape. No drums, no vocals, no Kool & the Gang samples—minimal, just guitar and organ. Like Sleep's 1999 opus, Jerusalem (featuring one 60-minute song and about two riffs), Ode Music picks a lane and stays in it, finding beauty in a rut. The fact that it's a movie score—for Kelly Reichardt's River of Grass—keeps it from drowning in its own assumed importance, but dammit, I wanted to hear Will's uncertain bleat at least once, even a mumbled "that'll fuck them up" at the end of "Ode #2b." At times, Ode Music is reminiscent of super-mellow Dirty Three or, to use a less direct analogy, your Thorazined grandpa from West Virginia picking at a dusty guitar with his one good hand in a duet with an old, depressing music box. The EP contains five songs and then four variations on the first four songs. It probably won't help you chase away the demons, but it'll clear out your head. My cats have told me it has supplanted Electroshock for President as their favorite album—no small feat. Go, Will, go!--Mark Driver

SWEARING AT MOTORISTS, More Songs from the Mellow Struggle (Secretly Canadian) A lo-fi two-piece from Dayton, Ohio, Swearing at Motorists sound like they're from a much lonelier, flat-plained, wind-swept place, a town where the mill has closed down and there's nothing better left to do than point your car at the furthest horizon, pop the cap on a cold one, and stomp on the accelerator. Maybe they should have called themselves Swerving at Motorists. The most promising track is about 30 seconds long: A whining buzz phases up and out, over and over again, joining an electric guitar-plucked melody with a power chord or two thrown in for muscle. Another standout is "No More James Dean," which points out just how meaningless doing the laundry can seem now that the mightily misunderstood super-icon is not around anymore. It all adds up to great drinking and moping music. The problem here is that nearly the entire CD sounds like the same melancholy song—definitely not a microcosm of the human experience, unless you've spent your entire life trying to figure out a reason to pick up and move someplace that doesn't fill you with disillusionment. —Dan Latimer

VALVOLA, Teenagers Film Their Own Life (Third Gear) You don't need a degree from culinary school to deduce what kind of mushrooms Italian trio Valvola use to stuff their ravioli. This psychedelic disc sets out to colonize the painted desert between vintage Italian movie soundtracks and underground innovators like Suicide or the Velvet Underground, but winds up much closer to the familiar terrain of '60s-inspired UK indie outfits like Primal Scream and Spacemen 3, especially when Gianni Antonino's hazy vocals waft through the mix. A naﶥ charm permeates these 12 tracks, enhanced by the group's reliance on period analog instruments: Farfisa, Mellotron, Eko Ranger guitars. Although Valvola eschews traditional pop song forms, they compensate for their lack of structure by building and sustaining hypnotic, amorphous grooves. Tambourine flourishes dart in and around dirty bass lines on "The Guitarmakers Adventure: Era IV," while "An Audio Obstacle Course" features ancient synthesizers burbling up through swirls of feedback. The occasional interpolation of sampled movie dialogue and instructional records adds little (the hilarious ice-cream-cone-as-fellatio-practice spiel on "Flashin' Light" excepted), but otherwise Teenagers Film Their Own Life provides a dependable, stimulating trip without threatening to fry out those precious still-firing synapses. —Kurt B. Reighley

 
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