CD reviews

This week:   • Apoptygma Berzerk   • Joshua Gabriel   • The Good Life   • Hefner   • Park Avenue Music   • Various Artists Apoptygma Berzerk Harmonizer (Metropolis) Stephan Groth, founder and sole member of Apoptygma Berzerk, has

This week:
  • Apoptygma Berzerk
  • Joshua Gabriel
  • The Good Life
  • Hefner
  • Park Avenue Music
  • Various Artists

Apoptygma Berzerk

Stephan Groth, founder and sole member of Apoptygma Berzerk, has led electronic body music down a whole new path with Harmonizer, his latest release. With trance inducing beats and irresistible dance rhythms, one can’t help but be awestruck at his newest creation.

Filled with soft vocals and transient harmonies woven between amazing beats, Groth has managed to find the perfect combination between fast paced and sharp techno to complement the soulful and dream-like lyrics, creating the ultimate European Trans music.

Since its creation in 1989 Apoptygma has hit clubs with wave after wave of unrivaled proportions. Constantly sought after in Europe, Apoptygma finally made its big leap to America on New Year’s Day 1998 and hasn’t stopped since. Although the release date of Harmonizer has been pushed back to Feb. 28, it is well worth the wait. It is sure to be an amazing musical feast enjoyed by anyone and everyone no matter what their taste in music.
—Moira Cochran

Joshua Gabriel
Movement No. II: R For The NM
(372 Music)

Joshua Gabriel needed a bigger playground. So the Philadelphia native packed up his turntables and drums, his pad and his pens and his poems, and headed for New York.

You see, Gabriel is a renaissance man of sorts, with his two major interests being music and art. In fact, Movement’s album cover is full of his maze-like drawings and popular culture dissenting prose.

His music is equally rebellious, combining experimental noise with his DJ skills to make a wonderfully unique record. One common trap of DJs that Gabriel wisely avoids is the use of samples. In fact, the only samples he uses are of his own live drumming.

“Allakaheez” is an amazing arrangement that combines a mysterious voice intro with drums, bass, and a hint of horns reminiscent of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. And “Rebel For The New Millenium” is a complex progression of beats that is worthy of the reprise at the end of the record.

While Movement was independently released in select northeast markets, Gabriel has already made a splash across the country with it. He was runner-up in the nationwide “Unleash the Beats” DJ competition.

Building on this success, Movement No. II: R The NM, is expected to be released nationally in the next few months.
—Jesse Chadderdon

The Good Life
Black Out
(Saddle Creek)

Man, forget about Bright Eyes. This is the REAL shit!

What began as a solo project by ex-Cursive frontman Tim Kasher, The Good Life has developed into both a full band and a near-perfect combination of heartfelt singing, gritty guitars and ’80s-influenced experimentalism. “O’Rourke’s, 1:20 a.m.” is the finest Radiohead-via-Depeche Mode jam out there. “The Beaten Path” is a younger, shaven Wilco, while “Early Out the Gate” is a younger, skinny Billy Joel.

Halfway through this album you’ll be thinking, how can a band from Omaha be this cosmopolitan?! The reason Black Out works so well is because Kasher and co. (additional musicians add cello, oboe, accordion, etc.) threw all “emo” pretensions out the window and simply made a damn good record.

Thank your lucky stars for The Good Life.
—Neal Ramirez

The Good Life performs at the First Unitarian Church on Feb. 15.

Dead Media
(Beggars Banquet/Too Pure)

Who would have guessed when Hefner released their so-so debut Breaking God’s Heart in 1998, they would put out a CD every year thereafter, and a few people would actually listen! This is mostly due to the follow-up, The Fidelity Wars, which was as lovely a pop album as anyone released in ’99.

This year’s model is Dead Media, an album that takes the synth flourishes of 2001’s We Love the City to the next level.

The sound of vintage Korgs envelops these heartfelt pub songs for a lo-fi sound that is truly “space age.” “Trouble Kid” does new wave better than Elastica or Beck ever could, while “Half a Life” is as good as anything Randy Newman ever did.

Labeled everything from “urban folk” to “folk glam,” this mysteriously prolific quartet is probably doomed to linger in the record collections of silly hipsters and eccentric art students. It’s a shame; Hefner deserves so much more.
—Neal Ramirez

Park Avenue Music
To Take With You
(Drive in the Woods/
Sugar Free)

Made up of classically trained pianist Wes Steed on keyboards and Jeannette Faith on keyboards as well as vocals, Park Avenue Music got their start as Steed’s garage band. But don’t be fooled; they’re a trip-hop act with ever-so-subtle pop elements.

At first spin, Take may come across as a labored listening experience, but the melodies and Faith’s vocal stylings eventually grow on you.

The highlights of the album are the songs that show off her lower register, specifically the harmony laden “Yoko’s Lament” and “Crash.” The only problem, however, is one with most trip-hop albums: the lazy, hazy, slow tempos and angelic singing —while pretty and ethereal — can be sleep inducing if not in the correct mind-set. This is even more the case with the album’s two instrumental tracks.

Make no mistake, To Take With You is a good album; you just might want to reserve listening for late at night or when you need to relax.
—Maureen Walsh

Various Artists
If I Was Prince
(Rex Records)

Tribute albums are always a bit tricky. There are the artists who do exact interpretations of the original, and there are those who commit themselves to doing something so different that the life is sucked out of the song.

Much of the latter is what happens on If I Was Prince, a collection of somewhat obscure artists tackling the Purple One’s songs.

It starts off well enough with Peaches doing “Sexy Dancer,” sounding like lost members of Vanity 6.

But from there, unenlightened renditions of Prince songs most people probably don’t care about anyway (“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is hardly worth covering) run rampant. You’d think these people would try tackling the hits, at least for sales purposes, but not many classics are here.

The only exception is a twee-esque version of “The Beautiful Ones” by Misty Dixon, which is performed close to the original along with interesting and innovative elements.

Nevertheless, for a person who is admired for his pop sensibilities as well as his inventiveness, this tribute isn’t much of a tribute at all.
—Maureen Walsh

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