Too bad "progressive" has become a term associated with dinosaur bands. The disparate elements of today's popular music are ripe with talent to pull together the best of guitar rock, ambient electronica, and hip hop. When Dharmachine delivers this, it sure sounds like some kind of progress is being made. Like last year's EP Bang!, their new release has limited distribution (local stores, www.dharmachine.com).
The cohesion in the Louisville band's sound demonstrates that they're no longer intimidated with working songs into commercially friendly packages. The opening "Edgy" and "Circuit Rider" are thrill rides of ensemble work. Corey Siegle's drumming is so solid that he's got no problems handing the rhythm off to some electronics loops or letting Jeffrey Smith's bass pick up the song at a point that's more intuitive than regimented.
Up front, it is again a case of a super-reliable and intuitive performer. Guitarist Josh Hawkins can leap from moody snake lines to grounded power chords, but he's following - perhaps defining- the songs. Meanwhile, vocalist Joe Stucker is pretty much a tour guide to his own imagination. Stucker's tether to the instrumentalists seems designed through a very odd geometry that calls for multiple listens - which might ultimately leave some listeners dissatisfied. Whether spilled like a coffeehouse poet or given a more melodic reading, Stucker's contributions get the chance to travel furthest on whims. His ability to be compelling with an All-Star's batting average still means he doesn't get on base every time. He knows it, though, as comes through in a refreshingly vulnerable confessional rap on "Sister Rue." Stucker is the standard bearer when the foursome shows their roots as post-midnight artistic free-rangers - an update on all those old progressives - on the ironically titled closing ramble "Dinosaurs." -T.E. Lyons
Dharmachine plays at Lynagh's on August 22.
Universally regarded as one of the superheroes of American soul music, Curtis Mayfield's death last December brought forth the usual career overviews, where well-known high points from Mayfield's four-decade career were given their due.
There are numerous Civil Rights-era anthems with the Impressions ("People Get Ready," "We're A Winner"), his collaboration with Aretha Franklin (for the film Sparkle), and of course the incredibly influential soundtrack to Superfly, released in 1971.
Rhino gave the Superfly album a deluxe remastering and repackaging in late 1997, and has now finally paid attention to the most underappreciated release in Mayfield's career, one that stands alongside Superfly as his pinnacle.
Originally released in 1970 on Curtom Records - several months before Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On, both widely acknowledged as groundbreaking releases - Curtis has been hard to purchase on CD in America, only available as an import until now. Curtis, Mayfield's first solo album post-Impressions, never reached the sales figures of the next year's Superfly. Nevertheless, the seductive, socially-conscious musical and lyrical template that energized that peerless soundtrack emerges fully-developed on Curtis.
Several tracks are familiar from greatest-hits packages: the ominous, reproachful, and extremely funky opener, "(Don't Worry) If There's Hell Below We're All Gonna Go," "The Makings Of You," and "Move On Up" (the last at full length with its extended fade-out groove restored). The masterful orchestration on "The Other Side Of Town" and "We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue" helps to dramatize Mayfield's lyrical observations on the state of black America as the sixties ended. All eight songs flow together to form a truly visionary work, and overall the unjustly-overlooked Curtis is just as astounding as any of Marvin's, Sly's, and Stevie Wonder's 70s soul classics. -Patrick Reed
Did anyone you know ever smell something bad, then ask you to smell it? And you, knowing full well that the smell would be unpleasant, took a big sniff anyway? There is an inherent fascination with the perverse in humanity, and thus, with this beginning, I can whole-heartedly ask everyone to give The Great Kat a listen. While Rossini's Rape has only four tracks, and totals nearly six and a half minutes, those six minutes are quite a ride - ya see,The Great Kat has done a speed metal version of Rossini's "William Tell Overture" and Bazzini's "The Round of the Goblins." Both of which, in their entirety, The Great Kat has clocked in at under two minutes. It's The Great Kat on all lead and rhythm guitars. First and second violins too. Ms. Kat also programmed all the back-up midis in her orchestra of pain. Both tracks are crazy and good and necessary for anyone who likes metal renditions of classical music done very, very fast. The middle two tracks have a bit more of that fascinating odor; titled "Castration" and "Sodomize" respectively, Ms. Kat charms us with full-tilt screams of "Slice off his penis! Cut his disgusting testicles! Crush his balls! SMASH EM! SMASH EM!" Whilst in the background, guitar riffs fly so fast the Doppler effect comes into play. What the songs lack in vision The Great Kat makes up for in conviction. I truly believe she wanted to cut off my disgusting testicles. Coupled with the liner art of Ms. Kat with various whips, chains, a bloody dildo, and a gimp, it's a CD you'll be smelling for quite some time. -Rob Bricken