Two new releases by friends with music… On my first and only pilgrimage to the indie rock capital of the world, Olympia, WA, I saw and was blown away by IQU (then ICU) playing one of its first shows and became friends with the trio, which used my house as a crash pad on its earliest tours. From there, I became a fan of stand-up bassist Aaron's next band Old Time Relijun, which slept on my floor a couple more times. The first review is of that group's singer's solo project, in which he sings swamp rock from another dimension in Indonesian. The second review involves Thao Nguyen, who I met and interviewed for Giant Robot way back in 2006, when she was a solo artist who still used her last name. I've seen her numerous times since then and I even asked her to contribute a string of articles to the magazine, but that's already ancient history. Since then, she released a second LP with her combo, the Get Down Stay Down, collaborated with the Portland Cello Project, and has a band-new release with her pal Mirah. Whew. It's nice to be able to keep up with people through their music, and even better when I get the releases a couple of weeks before they hit the shelves. Be sure to check these out when they do.
Arrington De Dionyso's Malaikat Dan Singa, Suara Naga
Straying even further away from the sweaty, psychedelic, blues-informed direction forged by his primary band, Old Time Relijun, De Dionyso's tweaked solo project/Indonesian music experiment just keeps getting weirder and heavier, and its second installment will give nightmares to globe-trotting, camera-toting National Geographic members. Does Indonesian folk music feature blown-out bass, detuned guitar riffs, and vague references to fringy '80s music? Probably not like this. “Baru Limunan” recalls the primitive rawness of an In The Flat Field-era Bauhaus song, “Perawan Berawan” steals dark basslines from late Beat Happening, and the schizophrenic vocals of “Aku Di Penjara” can only be compared to the theatrical Euro rap of Falco. Although the bulk of the singing is in De Dionyso's abrasive-yet-theatrical throat-singing style, it turns out that all of the ethnomusicology isn't just related to the swamps of Java or Sumatra. It's challenging but not completely unaccesible to those about to rock. [K Records]
Thao & Mirah, Self-Titled
Thao and Mirah seemed to be on awesome, parallel paths–the former going from solo standout to fronting the excellent Get Down Stay Down for Kill Rock Stars and the latter recording enough noteworthy solo releases for K Records to justify a remix album with labelmates covering her songs. So when their universes collided, it was a big deal–like Superman meeting Spider Man in a treasury edition, or even Godzilla and King Kong duking it out the big screen. The music they play together is nothing like their solo stuff; instead of merely mashing up their respective styles or tip-toeing around each other's areas of expertise, they experiment, overlap, and run their respective sounds into the ground.