al­bum re­views

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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


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

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