A Wrenched Virile Lore
Sub Pop

The music that Glaswegian instrumental outfit Mogwai has created over its 17-year career has often been as dense and thick as the brogue noticeably absent from its output. While there has certainly been a rockist (read: loud) element at work in even the most post-rock of its repetoire, even those cacophonic creations have always been operating as much on a cerebral level as on a visceral one. Even last year’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, with its structures bordering on pop and some actual vocals, still was festooned with wooly, tightly wound balls of obtusity.

But then that was always one of the joys of Mogwai: projecting one’s own interpretations on the evocative soundscapes. With A Wrenched Virile Lore, Mogwai hasn’t changed their approach, but rather they’ve let others change it for them. Comprised of remixes of tracks on Hardcore, the album allows ten artists to remake Mogwai however they see fit. It’s certainly not a new idea by any means, but it’s astonishing how well it actually works here. Justin K Broadrick’s reshaping of “George Square Thatcher Death Party” substitutes the song’s original drums with big bass beats, giving it a larger than life quality. Similarly, The Soft Moon dials “San Pedro” into the red, taking it further out into the sonic aether. But the most dramatic rethink is RM Hubbert’s reworking of “Mexican Grand Prix.” He’s stripped the vocals of their effects and replaced the instrumentation with acoustic guitar, essentially turning the track inside out to become a finger-picked folk number. This record may not get any closer to what lies at the heart of Mogwai’s prickly oeuvre, but with reinterpretations as exceptional as these, it’s of little consequence.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “George Square Thatcher Death Party (Justin K Broadrick Reshape)”

Memory Tapes

This is the third long-player from Dayve Hawk’s one-man symphony project, Memory Tapes. We’ve had plenty to say about Hawk and his work, so I won’t go into reiterating everything here. Memory Tapes is practiced at his solo-art, so the execution is a non-issue. This leaves it all up to the content. When I put this relatively short (six songs at about 40 minutes) album on, I put all my expectations aside. As the looped sound of distant crickets on “Neighborhood Watch” turned into a lazily strummed effected guitar and Hawk’s melodic falsetto led me through the melody, I wanted nothing more than to follow it where it went. Then the drum machine kicked in, jarring as a real drummer, and shoved me out of my chillwave (if you will). Is there a genre rule that dictates an obligation to use these drum sounds?

I tried to shake off the disappointment as “Through the Field” began promisingly with a Pet Shop Boys cum Portastatic vibe, the electronic rhythm finally resembling electronics (and rightly so). Innocuous and flat, but inoffensive for it’s relative brevity at just over five minutes, it seems like “Through the Field” would be the single. Memory Tapes seems to be pushing for yolo-pop kids on the dancefloor, but Hawk is confused as to whether he should dump all his emotions into the work. Skrillex and Passion Pit can at least push aside or ignore anything beyond the superficial, but Memory Tapes has this heartbreakingly frank underlying thread that either needs to be burned off or focused upon. “Safety,” at eight minutes, drifts between a passable disco vibe into a seriously sentimental verse-chorus-verse song about difficult love. Reznor had Flood to edit him when he got out of hand, maybe Hawk could use a hand cutting out those trance DJ techniques that would fly in a live set but might be better left off the record. There’s just so much material in each song, it could be distilled and cut into pieces for separate, and possibly better, records.
Michael P. O’Shaughnessy


Ex-Cult formed in Memphis a couple years ago as Sex Cult, but potential litigation with a techno label forced them to take on the new moniker before releasing their full-length, a self-titled platter on pre-eminent imprint Goner. And while the new name may not stick in your head the way the old one did, this album has got the kind of hooks that are hard to ignore.

Starting off with “Knives on Both Sides,” the record takes to a breakneck speed and never lets up. The record was produced by Ty Segall, and Ex-Cult has his rabid energy if not his pop instincts. Indeed, the five-piece outfit thrashes at each song with a manic intent. Singer Chris Shaw barks through each number like he was leading a hardcore outfit, while his bandmates play a dark-hued version of jacked-up Memphis rawk. The album is at its best when they vamp it up on “Day to Day” and “Post Graduate” and the group’s two blood strains clash violently. Sadly, Segall, in his producer role, hasn’t done enough as far as making the band sound dynamic, and the record’s dozen tracks suffer for the muddy production, their distinguishing characteristics lost in the mix. Ex-Cult almost overcomes such problems by sheer brashness, but in the end, it’s not enough.
Stephen Slaybaugh

Imani Coppola
The Glass Wall
Plush Moon

On the surface, the Imani Coppola story doesn’t appear to be that unusual. But when the details are laid out, it’s one of the more twisty tales in music. Despite having a hit in 1997 with “Legend of a Cowgirl,” Coppola had her follow-up record shelved by Columbia. After being dropped, she played in the band for one of Sandra Bernhardt’s off-Broadway shows, released five albums, including one on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label after joining his Peeping Tom project. She then re-emerged as a member of the unapologetically pop-leaning Little Jackie and scored a minor hit with “The World Should Revolve Around Me.” She self-released another album and an EP before finally putting out her latest album, The Glass Album.

From the start, one thing has always been abundantly clear: Coppola is not afraid to throw seemingly disparate elements together. While that type of post-modern patchwork isn’t as strong on the individual songs on The Glass Walk, the sensibility is still present. Gnarly dubstep, pop rock, electro stompers, XX-style minimalist crooning and other sounds all rub shoulders. The problem is that while most of the songs work individually, as a whole it doesn’t quite hang. It may simply be a problem of sequencing, but there are moments that seem as if iTunes is playing on random. It’s frustrating because there’s a good record in there, but it has been obscured.

However, when The Glass Wall hits its stride with “Ave Maria,” it’s unstoppable. The record is full of truly funny turns of phrases and concepts as well as some nimble songwriting, and the construction and production of the songs are rock solid. And even when Coppola does dial up the seemingly inevitable dubstep tune, it actually works as a song and not an opportunity to slap some sounds together. Here’s hoping Coppola breaks through that wall and returns to the airwaves posthaste.
Dorian S. Ham

Still and Moving Lines

With their debut, Still and Moving Lines, Winnipeg-based band Departures have captured the point at which the restlessness of youth intersects with the wherewithal to do something more artful than just make a lot noise. Which isn’t too say the record isn’t noisy; “Being There” is marked by frayed ends of guitar noise that could have just as easily emanated from J Mascis’ amp. But it is the contrast of such instances with the record’s more pensive moments that make such outbursts more poignant.

Throughout the album, the five-piece band drifts between hushed atmospherics that recall Galaxie 500 (“After Today”) and taut, wiry explorations of different modes of expression. “Pillars” is imbued with a nervous energy that works well with the indignant, gang-shouted vocals. It recalls Mission of Burma to a certain extent (which seems appropriate since Bob Weston mastered the album), but seems more of this time than anything from the past. Similarly, “Contempt” has a fuzzy guitar sound that’s been passed down for ages, but Departures employ it to create their own sidebar in the indie rock pantheon. In other words, there’s something special definitely at work here, something unique, even if it’s hard to put one’s finger on it.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “Being There”