New Music From Lifesavas, Explosions in the Sky, and Neil Young

Lifesavas

Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack

(Quannum Projects)

Expectations for Portland's Lifesavas ran high from the start. MCs Vursatyl and Jumbo the Garbageman and DJ Shines comprised the first act to ink with Quannum Projects outside the local label's original Solesides crew (DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, et al.). With plenty of golden-age grooves, indefatigable positivity, and alphabet aerobics, Lifesavas' 2003 debut, Spirit in Stone, mostly lived up to the hype. But it wasn't until the recent release of Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack that the group exceeded hopes. At its core, the new disc is essentially the mythical score for an early '70s, Shaft-style flick. Thus, you get a concept disc heavy on ultra-amplified funk and soul. Gutterfly is littered with flute loops, street-gritty strings and horns, a little wacka-wacka guitar, brassy-throated backing divas, black-power speech samples, and a guest turn from George Clinton on "Night Out" (Dead Prez, Fishbone, and Smif 'N' Wessun also drop in on a couple of tracks.) In character as "Sleepy Floyd," "Bumpy Johnson," and "Jimmy Slimwater," Lifesavas' members strut gruffly through songs about love, disenfranchisement, and hood-life struggle, aiming to whoop ass and uplift the masses like blaxploitation heroes for a new generation. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

Lifesavas play Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8000, www.chopsuey.com. $10. 8 p.m. Wed., May 9.

Explosions in the Sky

All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

(Temporary Residence)

"It's Natural to Be Afraid." Powerful Austin quartet Explosions in the Sky have never used words (except in song titles) to convey their message, which has always seemed to be that this moment is the most epic of your life. Every two years, they throw their tortured/ecstatic audience a heavy, gritty bone to chew on, and if any progression has been made, it's that their fourth album spares the buildup. In "The Birth and Death of the Day," guitarists Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani immediately go airborne with a pealing intro, which settles into a you-know-it's-coming plateau of vibrating chords, then explodes among waves of Chris Hrasky's metallic pounding. Prevalent pianos and electronic effects lend to bombastic remixes from Four Tet, Eluvium, and Jesu on a 70-minute bonus disc. With this on your headphones, EITS make going to the corner store for milk feel like successfully crossing the river Styx; paying your credit-card bill like leveling the great Minotaur. The sound is tremendous and overbearing, but also a fine instigator of courage. While it's not necessarily an appropriate soundtrack for 21st-century life, that it would be isn't an altogether unwelcome thought. RACHEL SHIMP

Explosions in the Sky play Neumo's, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467, www.neumos.com. $10 adv./$12 DOS. All ages. 8 p.m. Sun., May 6–Mon., May 7.

Neil Young

Live at Massey Hall 1971

(Reprise)

This Toronto performance has been widely bootlegged over the years, but the official release is still essential because the sound is just impeccable, lending a cavernous depth to Young's singing and playing. Every brush of his thumb and strike of the pick against the strings of his full-bodied Martin can be heard. This can be attributed to the late David Briggs, Young's longtime producer, who also did the sound for the show. Briggs tried to convince Young to release this set as the follow-up to 1970's After the Gold Rush. Although he failed, it's easy to understand Briggs' angle; these are dark, chilling numbers. Young's voice hits dramatic highs on "Tell Me Why" and "Cowgirl in the Sand," while "A Man Needs a Maid"—amplified by an interlude of "Heart of Gold," where he sounds adrift on a pitch-black sea—is Young at his most misanthropic. Hearing the Canadian crowd erupt into proud applause as he name-drops his native country in "Journey Through the Past" and "Helpless" are brief reminders of what an important document this is. Thanks to the bonus DVD, we can witness the mood Young set for the shows. Lit only by a single spotlight and surrounded by his army of acoustics, he looks as if he's performing in the middle of his own abyss. It's exactly the kind of mood Briggs always tried to drag out of him in the studio. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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