Rosso: Italian Baroque Arias (Deutsche Grammophon)
When the French soprano Patricia Petibon sings, it’s not business as usual. Although her central focus is Baroque music, and she has clearly informed herself about historical performance traditions, she subsumes that knowledge to interpretations that are flamboyantly liberated and utterly idiosyncratic. In that sense, she’s the vocal equivalent of the conductor Andrea Marcon’s Venice Baroque Orchestra, which appeared in Santa Fe last October. Like her, the ensemble’s musicians learn the rules so they can break them, and they assist her enthusiastically on Rosso (“Red”), her collection of Baroque arias by Vivaldi (her fellow redhead), Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Sartorio, Nicola Porpora, and Benedetto Marcello. Her program and interpretations are crafted to provide constant contrast; if you don’t like one track, you might like the next. Although she sometimes weaves a spell through vocal means that are essentially “singerly” (as in Handel’s famous “ Lascio ch’io pianga”), she’s not averse to breaking into Sprechstimme or even shouting (as in Scarlatti’s “ Se il mio dolor t’offende”) to heighten the dramatic effect. The only performer I can think of who successfully essayed this approach to Baroque music was Cathy Berberian, the singer/performance artist of the 1960s and ’ 70s. Petibon’s voice is not extraordinary in and of itself, but it’s good enough to support her purpose; and how she uses it really is exceptional. — James M. Keller
You could call ‘Little Joy’ disco, but it’s the group’s disco, and that involves a lot of heavy-metal touches: grinding guitars, rumbling bass, and gloom-and-doom vocals.
SHROUD EATER ThunderNoise (self-released) So, doom-prog-and stoner-metal hipster dudes, you think you’ve heard it all? Knew them before they were famous, did ya? Well, add this one to your catalog in a hurry, then. That is, as long as you’re not afraid of girl cooties. Miami trio Shroud Eater’s ThunderNoise — a full-length follow-up to the band’s debut recording, a November 2009 EP — brings the low-fi metal strong. It’s the perfect storm of Jean Saiz’s chugging, fuzzed-out guitars; Janette Valentine’s loping, slap-and-whallop low-end bass; and Felipe Torres’ drum skills, which elevate this album out of the arena of proggy basement-rock experiment and into the “metal band to watch” category. Sure, the recording quality here is a bit of a throwback to Metallica’s ’ 82 garage demo with original bassist Ron McGovney, but what’s wrong with having a little nostalgia burrito with your soul-grinding sludge-rock margarita? This kind of metal is thought of as a boys’ club, but here, it’s Saiz who belts out the vocals thick and gritty, early-Suicidal-Tendencies-style. The album kicks off with “High John the Conqueror,” an up-tempo ditty (for sludge, anyway) with a guitar riff right out of a 1990 Helmet song. And is that a bass line from Dead Kennedys’ “California Über Alles” in the same track? The only weak link in this 11-song chain of brutal ear candy is “Hands That Prey,” which sounds like someone tuning a toy electric guitar. Thank goodness it only last for 60 seconds. With ThunderNoise, a metal storms a-comin’. Just you watch.
— Rob DeWalt
MY DI S CO
Little Joy ( Temporary
Residence Ltd.) My Disco is the rare band name that seems like a description of the musicians’ product. The Australian trio puts its drums at the top of the mix, leaving no doubt as to what the lead instrument is. At the same time, there aren’t any complex time signatures or extensive, indulgent solos. The beat remains firmly in simple dance rhythms — even on the slower numbers — and the arrangements allow for a variety of percussive flourishes along the way. So you could call it disco, but it’s the group’s disco, and that involves a lot of heavy-metal touches: grinding guitars, rumbling bass, and gloom-anddoom vocals. These touches, as overseen here by super-producer Steve Albini (most famous for Nirvana’s Nevermind) are generally minimalist, effectively borrowing from Krautrock and techno traditions as much as metal. Four songs on Little Joy soar past the six-minute mark, and while only the drone-rock of “Young” feels truly worthy of that length, the goofy “Sunbear” is the sole longer track that wears out its welcome. Then again, perhaps you won’t notice the individual tracks at all. From the repetitive power-drill chord that kicks off the album opener, “Closer” (I’m assuming that title is some kind of joke), the album maintains one long, booming groove throughout. — Robert B. Ker M. I. A. Vicki Leekx ( N. E. E. T. Recordings) Last year was a rough one for M.I.A. A vicious New York Times
Magazine feature derided her as an ersatz agitprop indie Madonna who feasted on truffle-oil fries while her typographic challenge of a new album, /\/\ /\ Y /\ , bombed among fans and critics. Even one of the album’s producers Tweeted that the album was “a turd.” In an attempt to get back on her feet, M.I.A. released this freely downloadable mix (a sort of femme fatale play on words with WikiLeaks) that returns Maya Arulpragasam to the sonic playing field she built her reputation on — left-field early ’90s rave, bouncing Baltimore club, and heavy samples of South Asian bhangra that hint at her Sri Lankan roots. Here, she has thankfully shed the internet-paranoia persona of her last album (seriously, even if the government did control Facebook, it’s a really bad concept for an album) for the activist club kid, passionately and playfully engaged with pop culture and Third World politics. Rhyming Billy Jean with mujahideen, she leapfrogs suggestive bumper-sticker taunts like “your shoes could feed a village; you should think about that” over a layered texture of Roland sound sequencers. “Bad Girls,” the heavily linked single off this mix, is built around delicate samples of Indian tabla drumming. This is a welcome reminder of M.I.A.’s renegade spirit, of the woman who launched a deeply improbable hip-hop career in the 2000s as an art student in London, rapping about global poverty and prepaid cellphone plans. There’s a reason her globe-spanning hit “ Paper Planes” was as big in Los Angeles as it was Kingston and Mumbai. — Casey Sanchez