This Week’s Best Albums: January 17, 2012

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Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Shawn Lee's Incredible Tabla Band: Tabla RockShawn Lee’s Incredible Tabla Band: Tabla Rock (Ubiquity)

Shawn Lee’s Incredible Tabla Band: “Apache”

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In 1972, Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band released Bongo Rock, a heavily percussive and funky take on hits of the day. With the beat-driven version of the famous instrumental “Apache,” the album firmly entrenched itself in the breakbeat lexicon. Now multi-instrumental and rabidly multi-genre musician Shawn Lee has produced his Indian-funk take on the classic album, covering it song by song and adding two tracks from Viner’s followup record.

Though there might be more virtuosic or “authentic” voices who could recreate Bongo Rock in Indian form, there may be no more apt musician on the planet than Lee to tackle such a project. His endlessly morphing Ping Pong Orchestra has touched countless modern and retro styles; Tabla Rock is just the latest in the tireless Lee’s repertoire.

By and large, the structure and melodies of the originals are intact, and many tracks (such as “Apache” and “Last Bongo in Belgium”) remain jazzy and funky with horn and organ accents. But with sitar drones, gurgling tabla hits, and other accoutrements, Tabla Rock is more than a mere re-introduction to the source material — although it’s excellent for that as well.

– Scott Morrow

Loincloth: Iron Balls of SteelLoincloth: Iron Balls of Steel (Southern Lord)

Loincloth: “Underwear Bomb”

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It might be silly to call a band named Loincloth stripped-down, but that’s exactly what it is. There are no vocals or indulgent riffing — just pure, soaring metal.

Iron Balls of Steel is the debut full-length from the prog-metal trio, but drummer Steve Shelton and bassist Cary Rowells are also members of on-again, off-again North Carolina-based metal band Confessor. Rounding out the three-piece is guitarist Tannon Penland. Rather than adding complexity to its music through varied instrumentation, Loincloth gets incredibly technical, experimenting with tempo to an almost unfathomable degree.

Its start-stop style doesn’t come at the expense of punishing grooves, but its unpredictable percussive tangents will challenge even the most experienced of head-bangers. If that sounds intimidating, let’s not overlook Loincloth’s sense of humor about it all — Iron Balls of Steel, anyone? — as that self-awareness is what impels the band to rise above the pomp and circumstance of modern metal.

– Kyle Gilkeson

Loma Prieta: IVLoma Prieta: IV (Deathwish Inc.)

Loma Prieta: “Trilogy 4: Momentary”

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Sharing its name with one of the Santa Cruz mountains, Bay Area hardcore quartet Loma Prieta has quietly cranked out a half-dozen records since the mid-2000s. IV, its Deathwish debut, helps to announce it to the rest of the world with the force of the 1989 earthquake that is most associated with the name.

Though previous recordings have leaned more toward “post-hardcore” with slight touches of screamo and power violence, IV goes straight for the jugular. Shades of the old influences appear in bridges and interludes, but the album is dirty, angry, and raw.

Punk beats and blast beats alike power the screams and the noisy, over-fuzzed guitars and bass into the red for much of the album. Yet there are plenty of tempo shifts and breakdowns, and though IV very predominantly is a hardcore album, it shares good company on Deathwish with its heavy dynamics.

– Scott Morrow

 

Honorable Mentions

Everything Went Black: Cycles of Light (Prosthetic / Lost Shepherd)

Herculaneum: Uchu

Howler: America Give Up (Rough Trade)

Justin Robinson & The Mary Annettes: Bones for Tinder (Spindle)

Cate Le Bon: Cyrk (The Control Group)

Matthew Dear: Headcage EP (Ghostly International)

Wiley: Evolve or be Extinct (Big Dada)