al­bum re­views

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SUUNS Ze­roes QC (Se­cretly Cana­dian)

Ze­roes QC opens with a fuzzy, groan­ing noise that isn’t easy to place: it sounds like a sur­geon slowly pulling on a la­tex glove or the front door of a haunted house creak­ing open. Ei­ther de­scrip­tion is apt: on its de­but al­bum, this Mon­treal band ap­plies a sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion with its use of the record­ing stu­dio to in­vite you into a dark and fas­ci­nat­ing world. Suuns’ mu­sic isn’t easy to place, ei­ther. That open­ing sound ef­fect morphs into a P-Funk-like bass line, which is ac­com­pa­nied by a funky kick drum and dis­torted snare be­fore ex­plod­ing into a thick heavy-metal dirge. And that’s just the first song. Over the rest of the al­bum, the band dab­bles in alt-rock an­thems, lengthy disco flights, metal bursts, and sneer­ing min­i­mal­ism. The high pro­duc­tion val­ues mold these dis­parate ex­cur­sions into a vaguely co­he­sive whole, thanks largely to rich bass tones, some dis­tinc­tive mi­cro­phone rig­ging, and an un­clut­tered mix. Still, the al­bum touches upon too many tones to war­rant a place in heavy ro­ta­tion in your home stereo. Ze­roes QC is as con­fi­dent and be­guil­ing a de­but as you’ll hear, but the end prod­uct is not an al­bum you’ll be trea­sur­ing well into 2011 and be­yond — rather, it’s a call­ing card that leaves you an­tic­i­pat­ing where this band is go­ing next. — Robert B. Ker

If you have a ner­vous leg,

‘Too Big to Fail’ by the

Michael Formanek Quar­tet

goes per­fectly with the twitch­ing.

THE SUZAN Golden Week for the Poco Poco Beat

(Fool’s Gold Records) Much like dearly de­parted man­ager/tastemaker Mal­colm McLaren’s ’ 80s-era Euro Wave sen­sa­tion Bow Wow Wow, the Björn Yt­tling-pro­duced (yes, from the band Peter, Bjorn, and John) The Suzan serves up synth-and Bu­rundi-beat-sea­soned pop with an un­der­cur­rent of bad-girl at­ti­tude and a se­ri­ous yen for in­ter­na­tional sounds. This all-girl Ja­panese four­some built a Mys­pace rep­u­ta­tion be­fore ap­proach­ing Yt­tling about pro­duc­tion du­ties and stirred fur­ther in­ter­est in Euro­pean and U.S. mar­kets be­fore the al­bum’s re­lease by record­ing cov­ers of tunes by Kanye West (“Para­noid”) and The Strokes (“Take It or Leave It”) and send­ing them into the dig­i­tal ether free of charge. It’s un­fair to call The Suzan straight-up Ja­panese pop. De­but al­bum Golden Week for the Poco

Poco Beat presents eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able in­flu­ences within many of its songs — fel­low fe­male Ja­panese rock­ers Sho­nen Knife and Cibo Matto, and The Go-Go’s, to name a few — but it also blazes an orig­i­nal mu­si­cal path with a su­per­tight rhythm sec­tion, jazzy vo­cal stylings, and an abil­ity to switch stylis­tic gears of­ten. Lead-off tracks “Home” and “Ha Ha Ha” are heavy on the bub­blegum, but later of­fer­ings like the Romeo Void-es­que “Rondo” and slower num­bers like the har­mony-rich “Into the Light” and the dark, at­mo­spheric al­bum closer “Ram­ble” prove that The Suzan is more than just gussied-up chick-cen­tric J-pop with a fa­mous Swedish pro­ducer/ per­former pulling its strings. (Al­though to be fair, Yt­tling did ar­range the strings played on this al­bum.)

— Rob DeWalt


New York Trop­i­cal

(Dutty Artz) “Trop­i­cal” is a word overused in elec­tronic-mu­sic cir­cles. It’s a catchall that en­com­passes ev­ery­thing from An­gola’s kuduro house mu­sic to the self-con­scious Caribbean-and Brazil­ian-sound­ing moom­bah­ton mu­sic cur­rently emerg­ing out of the de­cid­edly non­trop­i­cal Nether­lands. In any case, the surg­ing cult pop­u­lar­ity of this sound has left a whole gag­gle of DJs crate-dig­ging through ob­scure cumbia, dance­hall, and reg­gae­ton records and elec­tron­i­cally tweak­ing them with record­ing soft­ware. On this disc, sev­eral mostly Gotham DJs take their stab at the genre. Some­times the ef­fects are bliss­ful, like on “Los Poderes,” which takes Dominican singer Rita In­di­ana’s smoky voice and sets it against a wall of glitched-out, freestyle techno. In “El Bebe Am­bi­ente,” L.A.’s Nguzun­guzu does a fan­tas­tic job of show­ing the thread that con­nects all of this so-called trop­i­cal mu­sic: win­dow-rat­tling bass. To fans of un­der­ground club mu­sic, this record is a gor­geous doc­u­ment of what the scene sounds like in late 2010. To purists of Latin and African mu­si­cal gen­res how­ever, it might sound like the blown-speak­ers grand open­ing of a pre­paid-cell­phone store in Quito, Ecuador. In fact, the record la­bel has re­leased New York Trop­i­cal Tonez, an en­tire mp4 ring-tone ver­sion of this al­bum. One’s man trop­i­cal par­adise is an­other’s desert is­land, I guess.— Casey Sanchez


Change (ECM) This is the eighth al­bum by bassist Michael Formanek, a com­poser and bassist who has also per­formed and recorded with Art Pep­per, Joe Hen­der­son, Dave Dou­glas, Harold Danko, Jane Ira Bloom, and Fred Her­sch. The open­ing tune, “Twenty Three Neo,” starts off with pi­ano and bowed bass, a bit spooky and with an ex­per­i­men­tal, ten­ta­tive feel­ing. Tim Berne is ex­ploratory on alto sax, while pi­anist Craig Taborn cre­ates tin­kly, harp­like at­mos­pheres, and drum­mer Ger­ald Cleaver en­gages in em­pa­thetic polyrhythms. Taborn winds down into an ex­treme min­i­mal­ism and then sets up an en­er­getic pulse on one note, a hyp­notic monotony joined by Berne and Cleaver to the end. The pro­ceed­ings on the an­gu­lar ti­tle tune am­plify into a fas­ci­nat­ing stew of mu­si­cal flow­er­ings, grounded by Formanek’s fleet-fin­gered dou­ble-bass ab­strac­tions. “In­side the Box” has a catchy melody that opens into heady im­pro­vi­sa­tion ter­ri­tory, with par­tic­u­larly mus­cu­lar work by ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the com­poser. The ex­tended “Tonal Suite” is like to­tally avant-garde, big and brawny and strange. “Too Big to Fail” fea­tures wail­ing sax­o­phon­ings over pounding pi­ano rhythm for a minute and a half, and then peace­ful mus­ings for a bit be­fore the fran­tic stuff re­sumes. (If you have a ner­vous leg, this mu­sic goes per­fectly with the twitch­ing.) Af­ter a few ap­proaches to the purely wild and fun dur­ing the al­bum, it fi­nally hap­pens here. Wow. — Paul Wei­de­man

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