Human After All
Does anyone really expect Daft Punk to save anything except the receipts for their latest equipment? The pre- emptive hand-wringing by the rabidly curious over the paucity of ideas, sonics, grooves, and feeling on the French house duo's Human After All reads like sweet vindication for folks who found the vocoders, cheese, Francophilia if not Francophonics, and extreme repetition of 1997's Homework and 2001's Discovery as deadeningly stupid as disco's detractors have always said disco was. But it's the believers I'm worried about, because I was one myself once. So let's concede that Human is a major disappointment. But heartbreaking? Mostly, it shows us what Daft Punk sounds like to people who have no use whatsoever for low-pass filters, robot divas, keytars, unchanging 4/4 all night long, or the gloss that is their greatest asset. On Discovery, every shimmering surface conjured an aural utopia that offset and deepened the duo's knowingness, demanding you be swept away if you're a fan, in on the joke if you're a skeptic, and both if you're paying any attention at all. Human is determinedly monochromatic aurally, compositionally, and moodwise. Gosh, they really are robots—the music is flat, barely inflected, sitting there like a vending machine waiting patiently for your quarters. Apart from the single "Robot Rock," which punches up Breakwater's 1980 funk obscurity "Release the Beast" with a sub–Shep Pettibone re-edit, and "Technologic," which figures Discovery's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" might sound nice in demo form and is just barely right, nothing here registers save "The Brainwasher," which appears to be a third-rate parody of circa-'92 Eurorave, only with better filters and not as much propulsion. The rest is less funny. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
I was too late to enjoy grunge in its natural environs, my time here postdating the original Sub Pop singles club by about 10 years. Luckily for fellow late bloomers, the Valley's debut doesn't simply spray Febreze on old flannel. Dan Beloit's guitar sounds skuzzy and primal, like it's been filtered through a Chevy transmission instead of an amp. The Valley is a messy affair, tuneful enough for a cathartic sing-along and raucous enough for a tornado of twisted sneakers and stringy hair. The fist-pumping shout-along "On Swallows Nest" has the mojo of Dad's car, stolen for the afternoon and cruising I-5. "Instant Winter" kick-starts like another teenage riot, Foo Fighters' "Monkey Wrench," launching into a love buzz over Beloit's heroic lead guitar like bubblegum pop stuck in pavement. Beloit's chorus, "Doesn't really ma-aaa-tter," is a fist thrower. A top-heavy boom combined with Jim Laws' upswing drum in "Emergency" kicks through familiar territory—demented Nuggets co-stars Electric Prunes and the Elastik Band—while "Kisses, Hugs and Prescription Drugs" begins taut and stretches its legs with enough feedback to send the kids for earplugs. Lastly, in a move that doesn't quite suit them, the Valley find their way into the arena by eight-minute-plus closer "New No. 2." Its Bic-waving glory smells like something else. Incense, maybe. KATE SILVER
The Valley play Crocodile Cafe with Alta May and Beautiful Mothers at 9 p.m. Thurs., May 26. $6.
Richard Riley Reinhold, who does business as Triple R, is a Cologne, Germany, techno producer, DJ, journalist, club owner, and label head, co-running the Traum and Trapez imprints. But it was via his contribution to another hometown imprint, Kompakt, that he made his deepest mark. Released in late 2002, the mix CD Friends sounds modestly gorgeous the first time through and transcendent the 50th. It's the single best gateway album I know of for anyone who wants to dip their toe into current microhouse and techno but is hesitant to go all the way, and as someone who loves the stuff, the disc remains the easiest of its kind to love. The three mixes Reinhold has issued with Trapez are iffier, usually a guarantee with single-label comps (Friends, by contrast, sourced a dozen cuts from 10 labels), and the new Selection 3 takes a while to sink in—in some ways, it's a more streamlined mix, which means it grabs your attention less with each successive cut than Friends does. But it's just as seductively moody: Marcos Cabral's remix of "Only Love," by Hansen and DJ Daniel, pairs a plangent, two-chord keyboard shimmer-riff with what appears to be hand claps treated to sound like finger snaps, occasional needling industrial whines, and an absentminded male vocal to an effect somewhere between daydreamy and mildly rapturous. That's the way all these cuts work, even on the (relatively) rough stomp of Dominik Eulberg's "3/4 Pfund Unendlichkeit," the psychedelic wobble of Und's "Coccopuffs," or the odd dominatrix nattering over Und's "Racehorse": "I'm gonna buy a racehorse, and I will train it myself. He will win a lot of money and will participate on Derby Day. The jockey wears a yellow race suit with two letters on the back: T.F." Or, you might imagine another jockey thinking to himself, how about R.R.R.? MICHAELANGELO MATOS