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Strange Rock Music: Escapade, Farflung, Looper, Lydia Lunch/Anubian Lights, the Residents

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ESCAPADE: Rule #3 (CD on Submergence Records)

Escapade is Paul Casanova, Rob Giffen, John Ortega, Paul Hilzinger, Russell Giffen, and Hadley Kahn.

This CD from 2002 offers 66 minutes of dazzling freeform space rock.

To say that Escapade is a "guitar" band is correct, for there are certainly a plethora of the stringed instruments being tortured and strummed to produce the band's wall of noise sound...but the other instruments contribute with equal verve and fury, generating a cohesion that often strains the ear to dissect.

Demonstrative drums resound with authoritative rhythms. Basslines rumble with geological proportions, vibrating the audience on a cellular level. Guitars wail, cascading like liquid fire spilling from a rocky precipice. Guttural guitars supply a visceral underbelly for the tuneage, growling like victorious brutes in some sonic arena. Keyboards slither through this turbulent mix, delivering a crystalline presence to the gritty darkness. Electronics and processing abound too, applying aberrant edges to the already innovative performance. Here, feedback becomes as valuable an instrument as the notes that triggered the cacophony.

The term "grind" takes on a very distinct influence in this music. Notes are sustained seemingly forever so that effects can sneakily be applied with relentless experimentation. Yet the sounds retain an intensity that induces a clenching of teeth in a pleasant manner.

The band's style of freeform improvisation creates a vibrant energy to this music. Their anti-commercial sensibilities flourish in this manner, producing tuneage that is gripping and gritty, yet slick and meticulously crafted. With most tracks enduring for longer than ten minutes, the structure is allowed to breathe and unfurl at its own pace, exploring the emotional content of each compressed chord or tormented riff.

Included is a stunning version of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" that allows Escapade to excellently display their grinding style with psychedelic familiarity.

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FARFLUNG: 9 Pin Body (CD on Brainticket Records)

Farflung are Tommy Grenas and Brandon La Belle, with Ryan Kirk, Scott Rusch, Michael Esther, Doran Shelly, Planet Kuag Meyer, and Lisa Papaneu. This 46 minute CD collects previously unreleased material recorded between 1998 and 2002.

The music is vibrantly spacey while maintaining a solid rock presence. Grinding guitars crash with glee, alternating between overtly nasty guitar assaults and delicately strummed acoustic guitar strains. Manic drums pound away with frantic determination. Thunder bass rumbles underground. Electronics squeal and groan, and sultry keyboards unfurl with hypnotic result. Harshly articulated vocals growl and croon, delivering messages of consciousness-expanding revelation. These instruments are fused with an extraterrestrial quality that bridges distant galaxies with the human soul.

While the tone fluctuates from song to song (moving between attack mode and mesmerizing daze), the music still throbs with guttural power. The tracks feature numerous trance stages that ooze with astral qualities achieved with hard rock instruments melded with cosmic electronics. Here, the guitars blaze with interstellar pyrotechnics as the synthesizers strive to violate dimensional barriers.

A density permeates this music, conjuring the aura of dark Californian clubs, then plunging the audience into realms of seething cloudbanks of unearthly composition.

Imagine Hawkwind collides with the Ramones.

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LOOPER: The Snare (CD on Mute Records)

This 40 minute CD from 2002 blends rock sensibilities with dark cafe sentiments.

Surprises abound in this music, mixing hammer dulcimer and muddy saxophone with sedate drums, thick basslines (of both the electric and upright variety), and wary vocals. The pace is generally drifting, unfolding each song without hurry, squeezing raw emotion from each sonic syllable. Vibraphone plays a vital part in the sound, attributing a pleasant lilt to the plodding desperation enunciated by the angst-ridden lyrics.

The fusion of art rock and chamber music produces a refreshing difference from other modern music. The mixture creates an ageless link between 21st Century society and the gloom of antique bygone eras. Steadfast lethargy is in constant conflict with romantic passion, muffling things with an enticingly dark edge.

These songs examine urban lifestyles with emphasis on obsessive entanglements that end badly. There are no happy endings here.

Comparisons to classic Shriekback and Angelo Badalamenti are entirely warranted, especially with the velvetly crooned vocals.

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LYDIA LUNCH WITH THE ANUBIAN LIGHTS: Champagne, Cocaine and Nicotine Stains (CD EP on Crippled Dick Hot Wax)

The mistress of fetish industrial rock collaborates with space techno wizards Tommy Grenas and Len del Rio (aka Anubian Lights) to produce 18 minutes of 21st century torch songs.

While the instrumentation stems from traditional territory (guitar, bass, drums and sneaky keyboards), the music refuses to easily fit into any classification. There's a distinct hot rock mood going on, but that is carefully tainted with the ambiance of a smoky cafe, yet simultaneously tinged with futuristic tendencies. Guitars and keyboards receive nimble-fingered manipulation, producing gripping riffs that are full of passion and lament. The drums alternate between straightforward rhythms and unexpectedly abstract structure.

The element that pulls it all together is Lunch's sultry crooning. Her voice demonstrates seductive wiles with the same breaths that rankle the subconscious with their growled invectives. Hoarse syllables flow into limpid consonants, only to conclude in strangled articulations. The lyrics explore states of emotional addiction, praising and condemning the conditions that attract people to each other.

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THE RESIDENTS: Demons Dance Alone (CD on East Side Digital)

This 59 minute CD from 2002 is definitely the poppiest release by the Residents since the early Eighties ("Duck Stab" or the "Commercial Album"). But don't expect mindless frivolity or uptempo sentiments, for the Residents peer at life from the dark side, spinning observations that nail uncertainty to the wall for all to examine.

Versatile keyboards mimic a plethora of instruments, so varied that listing them would be tedious. The seesaw nature of these riffs sway through the listener's ears, cheerfully chased by clip-clop percussives, squealing guitars, and vocals that mix sultry masculine crooning with heavenly female singing. This vocal counterpoint embodies the tuneage with a greater degree of accessibility than one has come to expect from the Residents.

The tunes are all short, frequently bridged by little, untitled instrumental pieces that generate an ambience quickly abated by the next oozing song.

As usual, the Residents litter their music with obscure references to non-existent mythology and arcane snapshots of a life less ordinary than the average citizen. Like a man whose tongue is so big that he can lick his own ears; or the misfortunes that befall a person bitten by an infected kitten; or the First Cow who created the world by licking primordial mud; or Mickey Macaroni who never eats meat.

The overall message seems to be that everyone is tormented by fate, but demons dance alone with this turmoil, while healthy minds gather together for strength in numbers. A testament to civilized cooperation over reclusive resentment.

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