OOIOO, Son Volt, Big Business

OOIOO

Taiga

EYE Remix EP

(Thrill Jockey)

The West has a particular fascination with the Far East that transcends history and time. Yet no group of female Japanese musicians—not even Shonen Knife, who stormed our shores with their quirky pop-punk stylings in the early '90s—has been as curiously intriguing, virtuosic, and unclassifiable as OOIOO (pronounced "oh-oh-eye-oh-oh"), a band that founder Yoshimi P-We (Boredoms, Free Kitten) conceived during a 1996 interview before putting her ideas into action a year later. On Taiga, the band's fifth and latest domestic full-length release, the group departs from its past voyages into psychedelic realms and chaotic electronic experimentation, bringing the music closer to nature—where life can be peaceful, violent, beautiful, or haunting, sometimes all at the same time. Though the songs never adopt a particular form or shape, there's a natural progression that forges a path where melody is interspersed with pep-rally cries, and tribal polyrhythms, crunchy electronic bits, harmonic guitar parts, and dexterous, jazzy trumpet-led intervals oscillate in a totally wild and unpredictable fashion. "Ioa," the bongo-beating, hand-clapping final track on Taiga, is the closest OOIOO get to a dance-floor burner, but on the EYE Remix EP, the Boredoms' head honcho gets his early '90s rave on and sonically reassembles "Uma" and "Umo," two of Taiga's strongest tracks, with a heady, propulsive, bass-driven efficiency. Although there is only a very slight difference between the two extended mixes, they still go to show that EYE, one of today's most forward-thinking musicians, can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to, no matter how fucked-up it may seem to some. TRAVIS RITTER

OOIOO play Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000, www.chopsuey.com. $10. 9 p.m. Fri., March 23.

Son Volt

The Search

(Transmit Sound/Legacy)

Beginning with the third Son Volt record, Wide Swing Tremolo, Jay Farrar began to sound a little stiff and uninspired. The songs were all fairly good, and a few even rocked, but there was a strain present in Farrar's normally droll delivery. Continuing on through his solo albums, Sebastopol and Terroir Blues, he began to sound damn near paralyzed. Whether or not it's the result of his backing group, which features former Ryan Adams collaborator Brad Rice, I can't say, but Farrar sounds more alive now than he has since the turn of the century. His new Son Volt album, The Search, is still pure Americana, but it's driven by crunching guitars and Farrar's preoccupations with bleak Midwestern imagery and an overall sense of hope born out of despair. Featuring some great highway songs, such as "Methamphetamine" and "The Picture," The Search feels like Farrar is taking the group back to its roots: an alt-country band unbound by tradition. Horn sections flare up at various choruses, Farrar continues to employ the Mississippi Fred McDowell/Ravi Shankar raga-blues technique he conjured on Sebastopol, and his lyrics continue to be nonliteral. He sings of "gasoline junkies" and "feral diesel fiends," inviting thoughts of the Bush administration, and poses the question: "Who the hell is Dow Jones anyway?" Like all of Farrar's best work, The Search feels like 5 a.m., heading east on an empty road. It's dark and desolate, yet up ahead, a glimmer of sunshine peeks out over the horizon. BRIAN J. BARR

Son Volt play the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. $17.50 adv/$20 DOS. 8 p.m. Tues., March 27.

Big Business

Here Come the Waterworks

(Hydra Head)

It seemed that after going face-to-face with Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne on the Melvins' A Senile Animal, Jared Warren and Coady Willis injected that legendary sludge-rock band with a renewed intensity. That said, it's only natural that when Warren and Willis returned to concentrate on their own group, Big Business, they'd approach it with a whole new complexity and tightness. Much like their debut, Here Come the Waterworks hits you straight in the gut. It's as weighted as a belly full of concrete and, played alongside any other recent metal releases, is like a steamroller crushing anything in its path. Like everything they do, Waterworks is dripping with irony. But it seems a bit more subdued this time around. The biggest joke on the record is the title, since it's impossible to imagine these guys crying over anything. (Hell, they'd be the first to find humor in a funeral.) Big Business almost urge you to doubt their seriousness, which is what makes them so intriguing. This is why when Warren growls, "You could still drown in knee-deep water," on "Shields," echoing the boating accident that caused the death of his former Karp bandmate Scott Jernigan, it's all the more chilling. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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