Logan's Sanctuary Original Soundtrack
Emperor Norton Records

Inspired by the 70s-era post-apocalyptic sci-fi cult-thriller Logan's Run, this album of spacey synth-phonies is actually the soundtrack to an imaginary sequel. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Beck, Moog Cookbook, Jellyfish) and Brian Reitzell (Air, Redd Kross) have gone to great lengths to compose, perform, and produce these ten futuro-exotic tracks of electronic wizardry for a fictitious follow-up film.

The opener "Islands In the Sky" sets the retro-futuristic tone with vintage instruments and a Flash Gordon feel. Sputtering analog fills and metronomic rhythm are the heart of "Pleasure Dome 12" while "Ian's Orbit" relies on a bubbly electro-organic groove. Part rock, part soaring synthesized wooziness, "Endless Tunnels" becomes a wonderfully balanced and enjoyable aural composite.

"Metropia" and "Escape" blend surreal sounds and 70s-style detective music a la Shaft, and "Escape" somehow manages to wander into Pink Floyd territory as well. The mesmerizing "Lara's Rainbow" builds a dark, dreamy mood, very much in the style of Angelo Badalamenti. "Search For Tomorrow" finds the incredibly talented and highly underappreciated ex-Jellyfish member Jason Falkner lending his cool, crooning vocals and impeccable musicianship to the only track with lyrics.

With panache and inventiveness, Manning and Reitzell have come up with quite an unusual record, one of murky vibes, bizarre hybridizations, and pseudo postmodern pop filtered through 70s sci-fi images. Full of blips and beeps, the songs here are wrapped in a swirling vortex of sonic bliss and emerge a strangely exquisite and unique communion of sound and abstraction. -Chris Webb

Owned and Operated Recordings

"If the band was uglier, the music would be noisier," I told a civilian, exposing one of the unwritten laws of alternative music. The cool thing about the handsome lads of Shiner, though, is that they don't let their good looks get in the way of the rock.

The best album of 1998, Lula Devina, Shiner's previous long-player, was a thick stew of math, muscle, and melancholy. In contrast, Starless showcases a band walking a tightrope between lovely and loud, crunch and croon. With the complex rhythms of Lula superseded by more straight-ahead songwriting, and lead guitarist Allan Epley's manly, aching vocals way up in the mix, Starless is pretty damn "radio-friendly".

But the boys still believe in the glory of volume, so even 120 Minutes-bait like "Spinning" and "Glass Jaw Test" roar big and beautamous. And the power tunes whomp ya with aplomb, whether it's the mosh-worthy "Semper Fi", the sad, sluggish yet anthemic "Too Much Is Not Enough", or the album's highlight, "Giant's Chair", a tragic, epic song of love from a total asshole: "I'll drive your friends away/They all hate me, anyway/And it's always good to be king/But it's never good to be me/I'll push everything in my way/Make you love me."

Starless isn't just angst amplified, though. Shiner takes time to breathe, playing with loops, synths and backmasking, seguing out of the metallic mope of "Lazy Eye" into the hypnotic instrumental "Rearranged," sighing sweet and ghostly on "The Arrangement", gently rocking the chimes of midnight in the title track.

Given the band's luscious combo of looks and licks, it's amazing Shiner hasn't been signed by a major label. So get Starless while the gettin's good, and you'll know the pleasure of saying, "Yeah, I liked 'em back when they rocked!" -Bill Widener

White Pony
Maverick Recording Company

They're close, now. The Deftones are so close to giving hardcore a good name. The most visceral form of heavy metal had come to adopt some pretty ridiculous constraints. Singers sounded as if they suffered from chronic regurgitation, and riff monotony was treated with the cuffed honor of a tattoo acquired in prison.

The first two Deftones releases had already demonstrated the sorts of tools that could break out of the mold. Chino Moreno's voice has a uniquely full-bodied soaring capability. Unlike just about every singer who's stood in front of power chords since Robert Plant's glory days, Moreno can take the listener for a ride with the variations he spins onto long notes. Meanwhile, the other group members have a ready sense of dynamics. Song structures get respect, but the instrumentalists (including one on turntables, though hip-hop crossover is practically nonexistent here) know when and why exceptions should be made. White Pony now ups the ante with improved cohesiveness. When the thrashing comes out or Moreno goes off into vocal shards, the underlying cause is well built, and the effect is electrifying.

A lot of lyrics here place sex and violence up against each other, but none of this is flippant. Moreno just hops from one onto the other as if they were trains he was riding to effect an escape. The quiet beauty of "Teenager" serves as a necessary basis to get through the subsequent "Knife Party," the most exciting track the group has ever done. "Passenger" and "Feiticeira" are similarly sensual but blessed with so many edges that even the most jaded of metal or goth fans will want to sink their teeth into them.
-T.E. Lyons