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Total Oils USA
(Split release, cassette and digital)
The recordings on both sides of this cassette from Lawrencians CS Luxem and Oils are warm as sunshine. The seven quietly beautiful songs on Luxem's side of the tape manage to pack a lot of power into simple arrangements. Opener "For Now" is a drone of instruments and voices that lead into the magical harmonies of "Goat Ghost." Several of the other songs follow this quiet-power formula, although "Born Down Bobby" and "With the Dogs" change things up a pinch — the former with a great loping bounce, the latter with Soweto rhythms and guitar.
CS Luxem's closing song, "Bank Robbing Son of a Bitch," eschews everything but unaltered vocals and guitar, and leads well into the first cut of Oils' Total Oils USA side, "The Town," which leaves in the "check, check" opening of the recording. It's as if the musicians wanted to provide as open a recording as possible. Oils' side, though, isn't nearly as interesting at first as CS Luxem's.
It's a shame, considering that the band is known live for stretching out and making the most of sonic textures, but the recordings here are pretty straightforward — until you hit the end of "Rain." It's a psychedelic fadeout that sets up the sheer wall of feedback that opens "Big Bear," which proceeds to warp your mind and fade out in another wail of fuzz.
— Nick Spacek
Be/Non has always been a musical chameleon of a project. Anytime you listen to one of its releases, you're never certain what you'll get. The first few tracks on Ran are basic indie pop, and for the first few minutes, it seems that Ran is going to be the tamest Be/Non album to date. Ever so gradually, however, the tracks evolve.
Be/Non introduces tape loops on "No Plaster," then briefly rocks a Black Sabbath breakdown on "Rainforest Sweep." Then, halfway through, you're listening to the super-Ween-y "Staring Contest With a Psychic Cow." It's a fun tune, coming after the psychedelic jam "More Than Enough." But when one considers the ominous throbbing bass of "Euro (Moi Ou Toi)" and "God, When It's Lovey Dove" that follows, "Psychic Cow" can be seen only as a harbinger of dark things to come.
Tracks for Ran were recorded between 1998 and 2006, with "More Than Enough" recorded between spring 1998 and summer 2004. That's six years for one song. It all makes sense, though, when you listen to album closer "The Moisturizing Aquifer Resurfaced," which is layer upon layer of synths, guitar, bass, and vocal effects. It helps if you consider Brodie Rush to be Kansas City's Frank Zappa — he's a man who's never content with what he has done, and what's coming next is always best. You just have to keep up. — N.S.
Up All Night
For her second album, Kirsten Paludan didn't just drop her keys in a fishbowl and hope for the best. She carefully distributed them among her trusted colleagues and former Olympic Size bandmates, who, in turn, helped her transform her rich, lush vocals and sensuous songwriting skills into beautifully crafted nuggets, ripe with heartache and contemplation.
Tempowise, Up All Night is a well-balanced effort. On the whole, though, the selections lean heavy on the feminine side. Paludan channels a mature, controlled Tori Amos on the Wurlitzer ("Siberia") and a throaty Kelley Hunt ("You're Not the One"). When I played the album for my male friends, they were all reminded of Sarah McLachlan.
What sets Paludan's work apart is the careful arrangement and attention paid to the detail in everything from the backup vocals to the pedal steel. There are surprise gems, too, like the horn parts on opening track "Born to Lose," a piece written with Paludan's frequent collaborator, Billy Smith. Overall, Up All Night is a polished effort from one of the region's most underrated songwriters.
— Berry Anderson