Holiday Guide 2008: Seasonal sounds - Page 2

Sifting through the year's albums and shows for melodic gifting
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When the swells crest, as on "First Communion" and "House Jam," electronic gurgles and processed sounds that might otherwise sound like trying too hard are transformed into pure pith: they're as inviting and faceted as a just-split pomegranate.

Also: Paavoharju's Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal), since these Finnish folksters cover the dance floor with silt on "Kevätrumpu," bust some desperate torch techno on "Uskallan," and spend a number of other tracks sounding stuck between pagan classical radio and deteriorating field recordings; Rings is a trio of new primitives formerly known as First Nation — on Black Habit (Paw Tracks), the outfit sounds like it's gotten into the Slits' basements and started making music dictated from beyond.

POST-HIP-HOP BASS SEMANTICS

A DJ mix that stands alone as an album is a rare thing, but leave it to Jace Clayton, a.k.a. DJ/rupture, to make one, as he has with Uproot (Agriculture). Deeply, er, rooted in the bass plate tectonics of dubstep and cut with the finest in eclectic samples, ranging from experimentalist Ekkehard Ehlers to lazer bass don Ghislain Poirier, Uproot rolls deep with dubbed-out ambience, but DJ/rupture is just as happy to turn things upside down, as when he plunks down Ehlers' gorgeous string loop, "Plays John Cassavetes, Pt. 2," around the mix's halfway point. And if bangers of the future don't sound like "Gave You All My Love (Matt Shadetek's I Gave You All My Dub Remix)," which subs out dub's organic space for Fisher-Price primary-color contrasts that split the brain evenly in two, I'm not sure it's a future worth living in.

Also: for the more historically minded, Ragga Twins have released Step Out! (Soul Jazz), a retrospective that collects the work of a duo widely considered to be the inventors of that dubstep ancestor, jungle; Tank Thong Mixtape (Weaponshouse) by Megasoid happens to be free, so spend some money on a nice CD-R, decorate it with glitter, and watch exasperation turn to glee when your loved one blows out his or her speakers with this beast.

HEAVY STUFF

One of the year's most life-affirming releases comes from a band called Fucked Up; its Chemistry of Common Life (Matador) is grounded in hardcore, and has hardness to spare, but makes its biggest impact when it lets a flute solo emerge from the tempest. With his basso profundo growl, singer Pink Eyes can sound like he's gargling hot dogs, and harnessed to a song like "Black Albino Bones," with its cooing melody — the closest thing to pop the seven-year-old band has attempted — it makes for an unexpectedly moving juxtaposition. But the group's real skill comes from mining the void left after the tribal affiliations of high school fall away; "Twice Born"<0x2009>'s refrain, "Hands up if you think you're the only one," could be the year's Miranda July–esque rallying cry.

Also: if you're wondering what Mick Barr's been up to post-Ocrilim, the short answer, witnessed on Krallice's Krallice (Profound Lore) is black metal; Peasant (Level Plane), an all-encompassing slab of darkness by Baton Rouge–based Thou, is closer to trad sludge than to the transcendent drone of Sunn 0))), but no less impressively bleak.

SHOWS

The holiday season is not always a great time for shows (other than several Nutcracker incarnations), but for folks who want to gift live music this year there are plenty of sonic distractions. On the heels of Everybody (Thrill Jockey), its latest bout of sophisticated jazz rock, the eternally springlike Sea and Cake will make an appearance at Great American Music Hall just in time to counteract your seasonal affective disorder (Dec. 2, 8 p.m., $20).

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