Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Beard Files Vol 2

Some more stuff we couldn't fit in the current issue...

Elizabeth Anka Vajagic
Nostalgia / Pain EP

Something of a stunning if bleak chanteuse, our Liz: the hair-raising Croatian’s long, dark lamentations are expressed in a haunting, unsettling divergence of deep, yawning resonance and blistering shrieks.

Vajagic’s intoxicating sonic contortions are entwined by members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Silver Mt Zion and Shalabi Effect: Michel Langevin’s percussion impels and propels Vajagic’s orgasmic death-throes; Fluffy Erskine’s whistling, ephemeral, bowed miscellany incites an evanescent dread; while Sam Shalabi’s benevolent guitars deliver exquisite shimmers of hope. Vajagic’s primal, rasping emissions circumscribe the thrilling ebb and climactic resolutions of long-form mourning and instrumental overtures.

The Nostalgia / Pain EP – excellent if harrowing value at over 30 minutes, and swaddled in utterly beautifully packaging – is the follow-up to Vajagic’s 2004 debut album. It resumes her unswerving, mesmeric passage through spacious noise and onerous improv: her custom-shattering, bleeding art is leaden as terror and bright as a pin.
Nicola Meighan

The Rogers Sisters
“Three Fingers”
(Too Pure)

In the midst of the great NYC indie-rock deluge of 2002/03, real-life sisters Jennifer and Laura Rogers, plus bass-slinging non-female, unrelated honorary “sister” Miyuki Furtado, were one of the few groups who managed to keep their collective head (and shoulders) above the ever-rising waterline. This was due largely to “Purely Evil”, a debut album which not only managed to ride the angular crest of the new New Wave of New Wave wave, but also, by virtue of it’s infectious unpretentiousness and righteous disregard for the vagaries of fashion, succeeded in showing up many of their competitors and contemporaries for the clueless, cripplingly hip style-mag photo-shoot extras that many of them undoubtedly were. Here was a group intent on bringing as much B-52’s as Gang of Four to the party, and managing to pull it off while sounding like they weren’t even trying. This stop-gap follow-up (it was originally released in the States as a 7-track EP, but has been expanded to 11 songs for the UK) sees the trio eschewing the ramshackle, lo-fi aesthetic of their first full-length for slicker production values courtesy of knob-twiddler Tim Barnes, but surprisingly the new sound dulls none of their spikiness, and indeed rather becomes the more confident and mature song-writing on display throughout. “The Secrets of Civilisation” finds room for a muted string arrangement, while “5 Months” sees them flirting with low-level electronica, and “Fantasies are Nice”, a blistering attack on the walking coma of aspirational avarice that constitutes much of modern life, boasts an ace blast of sax skronk. Why their label thought this excellent little record needed expansion remains something of a mystery; the French and Japanese-language versions “Fantasies…” and “45 Prayers” respectively positively reek of filler, though only a fool wouldn’t delight in the inclusion of their wonderful take on Capt. Beefheart’s “Zig-Zag Wanderer”. If, on their second album proper, the Sisters can reconcile the growing confidence and maturity of these songs to the sense of rambunctious playfulness that characterised their debut (and which, alas, is somewhat missing from this otherwise excellent set) then they really will become a major force to be reckoned with.
Ian MacBeth

Dead Fly Buchowski
Land Of The Rough
(Beggars Banquet)

Psychedelic blues-punk? Sounds promising. But sadly, Dead Fly Buchowski are about as psychedelic as a cup of Typhoo and as punk as Michael Howard. Land Of The Rough sits somewhere between the stadium grunge of Pearl Jam’s Vs and The Doors at their most flatulent. Roddy Campbell’s puffed chest growlin’ and wailin’ (one part Robert Plant to two parts Eddie Vedder) is amusing at first, but his continual roars of “whoa yeahhharrgh” soon sap the will to live. Straight ahead rockers like ‘Russian Doll’ and ‘Blackout’ are solid, but nowhere as heavy or sludgy as they need to be. When they attempt to do swirling and epic it all gets a bit Spinal Tap. There’s a song here called ‘Ground Nero’, about the sacking of Delphi. Need I say more?
Stewart Smith

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