Shadesapart seem to be in a rut _ they put out a decent album, disappear for a few years, then resurface to put out another decent album on a different label.
Neon, the third Shadesapart release since the band's late '80s inception, is their strongest release to date, and a good rebound after 1991's good but disappointing Dude Danger.
Most of the album, like the two previous albums, is mid-tempo melodic hardcore with constant but unexciting vocals _ pleasant but innocuous. When the band does something different, though, the songs stand out.
"Calling," a poppier song than anything Shadesapart has attempted before, and slower songs like the title track and "Lullaby" alter the pace enough to keep things interesting.
The verdict? Neon isn't going to establish Shadesapart as one of the all-time greats _ but it's still pleasant enough and quite listenable. _Greg D'Avis
Enter: The Conquering Chicken
The murder of vocalist Mia Zapata last year put a tragic end to the Gits' career at a time when they seemed to be on the verge of breaking through.
At the time of Zapata's death, the band was about to complete their second album, the follow-up to 1992's Frenching the Bully. Now, almost a year later, C/Z Records has released the completed tracks from the album along with various outtakes and B-sides.
The Gits played good, punchy rock-punk, but what really set the band apart from the crop were Zapata's vocal skills. Her voice was both strong and feminine, equally suited for snotty punk songs ("Spear and Magic Helmet").
The best songs on Enter: The Conquering Chicken are the tracks that show a versatility beyond normal 1-2-3-4 punk rock.
"Social Love" is equally powerful in both acoustic and electric modes (both versions appear on the album), for instance. And the best cut on the album is unquestionably the cover of bluesman Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," which is just mindbogglingly good. Anybody who says punk bands have no talent should be forced to listen to this song _ repeatedly.
Enter: The Conquering Chicken is a tasteful tribute to Zapata, and a good epitaph for a great band. _Greg D'Avis
Ambient Dub Vol. II: Dead Slow
It seems like only yesterday that this space was devoted to praising the Almighty Bill Laswell. However, new gifts have arrived.
Hot on the heels of the new release by Laswell's jazz collective, Material, come two new releases from Laswell's newest label. Former Celluloid member Robert Soares and Laswell have created Subharmonic Records as an outlet for the creative energies of Laswell's that lean toward ambient dub and hardcore.
Praxis, based on their 1992 Axiom Records debut, wouldn't seem to fit either of these categorizations, but they appear in 1994 with a seriously revamped lineup. While original members Buckethead, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell are still here, they've been joined by Yamatsuka Eye (from Japanese noise group The Boredoms), the members of Blind Idiot God, and jazz-noise supergroup Painkiller (Laswell, John Zorn, and Mick Harris). The lineup hints at the noise level involved in Sacrifist, and Praxis delivers it.
The first track, "Stronghold," opens with a speed-metal blitz of Buckethead's gurgling guitar scales alternating with Zorn's frenetic sax, setting the tone for the next three songs. "Stronghold" abruptly ends, shifting into "Cold Rolled/Iron Dub," a funk-laden jam that shifts between the hardcore thrusts of "Stronghold" and Yamatsuka Eye's manic screaming. The hardcore noise assault continues through "Rivet," a hyper trip through a noise factory.
The first four tracks sound as though they were composed as soundtrack for "Tetsuo: The Iron Man," but before the assault becomes as tiring as a Ministry album, the album quickly changes pace, slipping into bass-thumpasaurian Bootsy Collins' mellow but slinky, nine-and-a-half-minute bass/keyboard/guitar space jam, "DeathStar." This space exploration leads to the sounds of Eye vomiting as intro to "The Hook," a classic funk jam that easily could have been left off of Transmutation, their '92 release.
Sacrifist is a furious exploration of noise, hardcore and funk, an accomplishment that only makes Subharmonic's next release seem even more unique. Divination consists of guru Laswell, dub bassist supreme Jah Wobble, ex-Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, and guitarist Jeff Bova creating dub soundscapes. The album is subtitled "Dead Slow," and the dense basslines sink into slow moving, spacey ambience. While Divination is a credible release, it isn't entirely original _ there are a lot of ambient releases out now. Still, it boggles the mind to comprehend all that the mighty Laswell is capable of. Keep an eye out for further Subharmonic genius. _Noah Lopez Read Next Article