PHOTEK, Solaris (Astralwerks) Photek, the drum- and-bass alter ego of mild-mannered Rupert Parkes, has decided to zag instead of zig. Individuals attracted to the flawless

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CD Reviews

PHOTEK, Solaris (Astralwerks) Photek, the drum- and-bass alter ego of mild-mannered Rupert Parkes, has decided to zag instead of zig. Individuals attracted to the flawless stainless steel veneer of his past works will find themselves confused—if not put off—by this new showcase. "Terminus" starts the album, not hinting for one moment that its smoother, fuzzier drum-and-bass arrangements will later lie down and play second fiddle to three house tracks. House tracks? The nerve! Surely Parkes has gone crazy, putting house tracks on a drum-and-bass album! "Mine to Give" even features a guy singing in an undeniably guy-singing-on-a-house-record style. That's like Cleavon Little at a Klan rally, except it's not funny! Photek even goes so far as to include two selections from a movie score on Solaris! Their presence overshadows the characteristically banging d'n'b tracks that are there, but that's Parkes' point. He hasn't turned his back on the genre, he's turning to other places to make sure that his drum-and-bass doesn't get sucked down into a tar pit and become nothing but bones and foul-smelling methane. All jungle and no depth makes Rupert a lame boy, and once he starts making lame, repetitive albums, then he might as well be dead. A living Photek/ Rupert Parkes is far more preferable, and in that way, Solaris delivers.—Gregory Parks

SPEEDEALER, Here Comes Death (Palm) These guys are real dirtbags, and that's a compliment. Speedealer's music is epitomized by a philosophy that's ingrained in one of my favorite indie comics, Durango 55: "I'll tell you something about me and something about you: I hate you and you suck." If I'm gonna listen to songs about kicking ass and getting plastered, the guys who sing 'em had better sound like they routinely kick ass and get plastered, dammit. Speedealer does. The gee-tars are revved up, and I don't mean revved up in that cheesy, one-chord-per-minute Rob Zombie way. Pinball-quick eat-me-fests like "Cream/#1" stand up just fine against Sabbath-slow instrumentals like "CCCP" and "Sasparilla," and all would sound great blaring during a bank robbery. Fifteen of the 17 songs on Here Comes Death (this includes, inevitably enough I suppose, "Death", "Drink Me Dead," and "We Are Diseased") peak at around two minutes, just long enough to help you forget that this is really pretty much 37 minutes of the same thing. When they clock in at under a minute, watch out, bub; if you don't weigh two hunny or more, you might give yourself a broken rib sandwich. "Hate You Better" and "You Lose I Win" balance what I expect and what I want so wonderfully that I'd laugh out loud . . . if Speedealer wouldn't come to my house and dismember me.—Andrew Bonazelli

KEV HOPPER, Whispering Foils (Drag City) On Whispering Foils, Kev Hopper successfully walks some of the finest lines in music. It's an album of vigorously "experimental" music that is jarring without being brutish, smart without being overly academic, and soothing without being dull. Hopper plays a musical saw (cheaper than a theremin and can cut stuff!) on most of the tracks and enlists friends on marimba, flugelhorn, glockenspiel, accordion, and sampler to create a supremely odd array of melodies. Hopper and mates lock into a repetitive groove on every track, but it's their side excursions that beg for your attention. The formula works best on tracks like "Shaeffer's Noose," where a simple looped sample is decorated with intertwining flourishes of guitar, vibes, and tubular bells. Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas contributes to two numbers on Whispering Foils; however, Hopper includes enough surprises on these to avoid O'Hagan's band's tendency toward making everything numbingly nice. "Lamalou Les Bains" and "Mr. Chuff Chuff" sound like they might take place on a tropical island, but one where something sinister is lurking behind one of the palm trees. This quality infuses itself throughout the album: It's all instrumental, yet it's easy to conjure a web of unique settings, characters, and stories. It's perfect for a movie soundtrack, but you can't call it background music.—Paul Fontana

ROLLERBALL, Bathing Music (Road Cone) How to describe Portland's wondrously eclectic Rollerball? A ramshackle cabaret orchestra (clarinet, trumpet, bass, drums, accordion, and two sporadic singers) armed with samplers, they concoct mood music based on space rock, drum-and-bass, and dissolute percussive tattoos from 1920s underground Berlin. The combination portends a sprawling mess, but Bathing Music is a mess of the best kind, where unexpected instrumental combinations coalesce in surprising ways and give each song its own sonic stamp. "What Are You Crying About?" ambles along with a decrepit violin and a stoned shuffle, sounding worlds away from the swirling synths, rackety dub percussion, and honking, blatting trombones in "Moundbuilders." Vocals grace some of the songs, such as "As Ever Gone & Wasted," but the singers burrow into the music rather than transmit any urgent lyrics. The album's lone disappointment is "Wyoming," whose rippling piano and predictable prog-rock tempo changes recall a more lethargic Supertramp. Rollerball use the technique more effectively in the macabre "Wet Food Twice a Day"— cantillating clarinet, a few lyrics bemoaning slow traffic, drums plodding straight out of Kurt Weill, and a piano/organ coda congeal into a dirge that points the way to klezmer death rock.—Christopher DeLaurenti

Rollerball play I-Spy on Monday, October 9.

 
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