Two Kings of the Same Kingdom (SAF)
Progress is a peculiar thing to measure in an act that keeps things as willfully simplistic and low-tech as eccentric electronic act Yip-Yip does. On their third proper LP, however, the local duo of Brian Esser and Jason Temple have added some organic touches like real horns, organ, cymbals and gong to their arithmetic. But in their playful, kitschy take on modernism, the real thrust remains the analog synthesizers, which are still aimed at pumping their artificial funhouse with some of the most absurd, scurrying dance music made today.
Here, Yip-Yip continue to favor movement over melody with cheap electronic sounds arranged primarily as shifting patterns and textures. With all their whirs, grinds, bumps and thumps, the songs – all named from spam e-mails – move like an old dune buggy with stiff shocks flying across the moon’s bumpy face. From the Atari pings of “Heavies Go Odd” to the rigid, manic Nintendo scramble of “Club Mummy,” it all sounds like video game dance music and can get sonically claustrophobic after prolonged exposure. Sadly, they’ve almost entirely abandoned the occasional drops of slammin’ liquid breaks, making their music that much more robotic and stiff-spined.
The addition of saxophone to their arsenal, however, pays dividends, yielding two of the record’s highlights: the exotic, hypnotic ripples of “Humanly Wanderers” and the funky, buzzy undulations of “High Heel to Mammal IV.” Neither the ominous atmospherics of the excellent “Audacity Beach” nor the layered, foreboding drive of “Gender Changers” would be out of place on Front 242’s Geography.
Despite their music’s writhing sense of motion, however, it carries the mutually magnifying double-cross of being repetitious and electronic. Luckily, they know not to belabor the point this time and achieve a more focused impact with fewer tracks and shorter songs, most hovering at or under the two-minute mark.
But they didn’t attract national attention for just their caricatured music. Yip-Yip is a multimedia, multisensory experience, hence the inclusion of music videos, which, thanks to their visual crudeness, are humorously unwatchable. They were created by the band using “3 VCRs, 1 video mixer, 2 video-effects generators and a Atari video music system” – says so right there on the DVD. Much of the mileage comes courtesy of their concept, visual expression and live performance. The checkerboard outfits – which make them look like new wave harlequins – have placed them in history next to costume acts like the Locust.
Like a warped kids’ show, the World of Yip-Yip is a weird, whimsical niche. You can’t spend that much time there but it completes the soul to know it exists. Yip-Yip is truly one of the most original and fully conceived bands to come out of this city.
— Bao Le-Huu
The Mars Volta
The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal/Strummer)
Deranged detours and demonic Ouija boards decide your fates, oh fans of frantic prog-rock dementia! Easily the band’s most listenable, cohesive and manically psychotic release to date, The Bedlam in Goliath blasts at full throttle from the first track (“Aberinkula”) and never lets up. It’s like being jettisoned from an out-of-control space pod racing toward the end of the universe, or at least running away from anything resembling an ordinary commercial release circa 2008.
Like their previous albums, De-Loused in the Comatorium, Frances the Mute and Amputechture, a retailored Mars Volta (including new drummer Thomas Pridgen and frequent collaborator and full-time Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante) has delivered another epic of prog profundity, this time shorn of anything less than full-on speedball possession. Every song is a kick to the head, every frenetic nugget a bloody blast to the gut. Whereas previous albums featured equal parts over-the-top rhythmic fury and ethereal Jim Morrison moments (long-winded, nonsensical poetry-filled segments that recalled a ritual drowning), Goliath dispenses with anything less than pummeling grooves and musical electroshock therapy. This is the kind of revolutionary prog not heard since the days of Captain Beyond. The head-on sound collision is a cathartic ragefest, a purging of the soul, a total surrender to the demons songwriters Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala so love to engage.
Speaking of old Lucifer, visitors to Amazon.com’s music page can check out Goliath the Soothsayer, an online game based on the album. But if you really want to go where the Mars Volta go, grab a Ouija board (do they sell the devil-channeling things at Wal-Mart?) and make contact with your own personal spirit guide. Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala have always written from a place of eerie ickiness, be it the deathbed surgical confessions of De-Loused to the Satanic meeting of the minds of Amputechture. Goliath takes two steps backward to move one step ahead, this time consulting the Ouija board for sustenance.
A soundtrack to this group’s collective insanity, Goliath lacks the steaming Santana soul of earlier releases, replacing it with an all-encompassing, hair-pulling, earth-scorching attack on the senses. If you can discern the lyrics as Pridgen’s drumbeats demolish your skull, you’ll notice the pleas “Make me live again” and “Don’t you ever trust my mercy.” Get it? After listening to the leech-sucking reveries of “Tourniquet Man,” “Agadez,” “Askepios,” “Ouroboros” (gotta love those mystical Mayan allusions) and “Conjugal Burns,” your brain will be fried, your heart will be wrecked and a few unwholesome spirits may be residing in your home – but it’s only rock & roll, right?
— Ken Micallef
No Ground Under (Ninja Tune)
Matt Shadetek vs. Cauto
Dutty Remix Zero 12-inch (Dutty Artz)
Gone are the scorching, techy beatscapes that characterized Ghislain Poirier’s Breakupdown, the Canadian producer-DJ’s Chocolate Industries 2005 release. Back then, Poirier hunched over less-than-glamorous desktop applications for complicated, wordless hip-hop with prominent bass and screechy riffs. A front-runner in the current (and impressive) pack of DJs toting dubby rhythms and a jagged, club-friendly vibe, Poirier expands ceaselessly on No Ground Under the growling sonics he’s perfected since Breakupdown. Poirier’s sounds come from all over, and he leaned harder on the party-rockin’ end of his beat-making prowess for No Ground – the crowded parking lot kegger–style ideology he brought to Bounce Le Remix and everything else he’s turned out since Breakupdown surfaces in prime shape on his new one.
Advocates of Poirier’s ’07 Bounce Le Remix Vol. 2 – in which he chopped gloopy Roots Manuva backdrops for a Clipse remix and dealt other hypnotic retools – will certainly take No Ground Under for the collection of heaters that it is. The pummeling that Poirier forced beneath Juelz Santana for a “Dipset Anthem” remix reappears in all of its clapping, modestly two-note glory as “Jusqu’en haut.” Its stutter proves just as boisterous with French MCs Omnikron, even if you’re anticipating verses about a “hoe selection of a hoe collection.” Poirier’s got many guests here, but instrumentals “Hit & Red,” “One Hand Can’t Clap,” and “Diaspora” jab hard in scattershot dubstep-infected beats and piercing laser synths. Toronto-based MC Abdominal offers a numbing day-to-day street narrative on “City Walking,” and up against the shout-along choruses of “Go Ballistic,” it feels like a wasted production. That’s a one-off, though; Poirier is on fire during the whole stretch. Even when he dials back in remix mode (see his take on Ciara’s “Oh”), it’s still fierce, and somewhat sinister.
On Dutty Remix Zero, the first 12-inch release from electronic organization Dutty Artz (a new imprint from the progressive DJ Rupture and producer Matt Shadetek), Poirier swaps out the speedy grime-ragga combo backing Shadetek’s B-side “Brooklyn Anthem” for his own rubbery bass pulses. The original’s drum-clap onslaught is replaced by the looming threat of beats. The Dutty Remix Zero A-side finds Matt Shadetek in fine form; his “Mad Again” riddim is a steadily gurgling stunner. Worming around fizzy synth lines, “Mad Again” is voiced by MC 77Klash and huge Jamaican dancehall name Johnny Osbourne. Shadetek’s slick track follows a jittery, reggae-tinged dubstep tune from Barcelona’s Cauto called “Bona Vida.” Cauto’s melodies here are brightened by quick brass bursts and delayed guitar jangle, and “Bona Vida’s” sporadic jungle breaks might not have sounded out of place on DJ C’s 2007 Sonic Weapons.
— Dominic Umile[email protected]