By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
For those of you who think that the culture industry's commodification of packaged rebellion destroyed punk, you might find hope in this agit-prop sonic assault--but to do so, you must be willing to make the leap from old-school analog punk to what this trio calls digital hardcore. Arising against the backdrop of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the pretty politically vacant European club scene, DJ Alec Empire and cohorts Hanin Elias and Carl Crack rejuvenate tired formulas by injecting them with electronic technology, aggressive beats, discordant sounds and Public Enemy-like shouts of "Atari Teenage Riot!" intended to drown out the din that's afflicting Der Vaterland in the post-Cold War era. "Start the Riot" kicks off the disc on a confrontational note that continues ringing throughout "Fuck All," in which these audio terrorists vow to "disharmonize the entertainment industry," and "Heatwave," a cut that finds frontwoman Elias decrying police brutality ("As I left the supermarket, two policemen grabbed me and they said/'You're the cunt that we were waiting for'/They didn't need a reason--they never do"). Musically, Burn's caterwauling wake-up calls, disrupted speed-metal guitar riffs and hip-hop beats provide the perfect counterpoint for tracks such as "Deutschland (Has Gotta Die)," which effectively shatters the illusion of serenity in the allegedly unified German nation. Anyone who believes that music and politics shouldn't mix won't have their minds changed by lines like "1984 is a joke when you see where we are ten years later" (from "Delete Yourself"), but listeners with open minds will likely agree that this is one of the most incendiary discs to appear in years.
Poi Dog Pondering
Liquid White Light
For a clue about how this band has grown from its wood-guitar, Hawaiian-tinged roots, one had only to hear the music that preceded it to the stage at last year's AT&T LoDo Music Festival. Standing behind sound-booth turntables, effervescent singer-songwriter Frank Orral enthusiastically spun techno and dance discs at a thumpingly high volume, a tack that effectively prepared the audience for the sensory overload of a main set during which a gumbo of musicians and dancers were blanketed by poignant film loops. Liquid White Light, a live, double-CD package, achieves a similar effect, albeit sans the visual distractions. Segueing from early numbers such as "Pulling Touch" into more recent fare such as "Complicated" (which features the driving refrain "Gonna get it right this time"), Poi Dog exudes more than enough energy and passion to encompass the myriad genres it surveys. The in-concert version of "Living With a Dreaming Body" still includes the number's trademark tin whistle and fiddle, for example, but it takes on new life when it's juxtaposed with "Big Constellation," a more electronics-oriented piece. "The only thing that speaks the truth is the eloquence of passing time," Orral sings in a desperate whisper. Here, time orates an aural epiphany.
React: Techno Classics
Sure, there's such a thing as "classic" techno: If episodes of Seinfeld and Frasier can have the term appended to their brand-named selves, why can't an enclave of hardworking, postmodern dance-music electricians? Of course, electronica is so relentlessly recorded that we won't have an opportunity to evaluate the genre unless the millennium virus shuts down the music for a spell, but as near as I can tell, a few tracks here might make it to the future. The low-down, abrasive drive of GTO's "The Tip of the Iceberg (Jesus Jones Mix)" overshadows two drum-and-bass duds, while the mock-symbolic structures of the Age of Love's self-titled tune and S-J's finale, "Fever (Baby Doc Original Mix)," are worthy of comparison to recent efforts by the Pet Shop Boys. The other cuts here are at least moderately enjoyable, but that doesn't mean that someone should repackage them as Techno's Golden Hits.
Rev. Maceo Woods and the Christian Tabernacle
Hello Sunshine: The Volt Recordings
Today's most popular contemporary-Christian artists tend to soft-pedal their beliefs. They sing about their love for Jesus, certainly, but they do so in a manner that's intended to sneak up on listeners rather than club them over the head. On the surface, this approach seems preferable to overt proselytizing, but in actual execution, it can be tremendously dull: As most pagans, non-believers, heretics and fans of sin out there will tell you, music so calculated to effect a spiritual conversion is generally too creepy to do its job. Far preferable, from this heathen's perspective, is Hello Sunshine, a gospel compilation so overflowing with joy, passion and gusto that it makes religious conversion seem like a party that will never end. Woods, a conductor, singer and organist who continues to oversee Chicago's Gospel Supreme Foundation at age 65, enjoyed a number of modest hits during the Fifties and worked with artists such as the Original Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Staple Singers. In 1969 his soulful sensibility caught the ears of Al Bell and Jim Stewart of the Stax/Volt imprint, and thanks to their support, Woods was able to make a pair of albums (Hello Sunshine and Step to Jesus) marked by swooping solos by the likes of Lora Burton and Doris Sykes, powerful background vocals from a cast of dozens and organ work from Albert Medders and Woods himself that rumbles like the voice of a God in a really good mood. Eighteen numbers from these full-lengths are collected here, and while some of them (like "We See God With the Eyes of Our Soul") are a bit turgid, the majority swing with a vengeance: Turn an ear to "I'm Mighty Grateful" or "Think of His Goodness," and odds are good that you'll be speaking in tongues by the second chorus. Christian values never sounded so good.