Edge

ALBUM REVIEWS:They Came From The Sky in A Diamond-Studded Chariot (or didn’t): Richard Devine, Constantines and Defari

Richard Devine
Asect: Dsect
****
Atlantan electronic music producer, Richard Devine, was flung into stardom after his remix of Aphex Twin’s soul-eater megahit “Come to Daddy” was released on a compilation of remixes released by reputable electronic + hip hop label Warp Records. His previous effort on Miami’s Schematic records was largely slept on by music aficionados, but 2000’s joint release between Schematic and Warp, the inhuman metallic jawdropper, Lipswitch, proved that one remix wasn’t just a serendipitous brush with perfection.

Started as a four song EP, Asect: Dsect evolved into 13-tracks of digital bliss. Most of the songs on the album started as tracks intended to be performed live only, but after some tweaking, live tracks are indistinguishable from those originally intended for at-home use. Don’t be misled, however. This is not music to be listened to on a boombox. This is not music to be listened to on one of those bookshelf style combo stereos. The only way to experience Richard Devine is with a component stereo system, volume twisted loud enough to envelop you in sound like a Maxell commerical. DSP trickery allows Devine to give sounds the illusion of swirling around the room, circling your head and seamlessly jetting back to the speakers.

Turn the volume up even more, eardrums willing, and the music takes a step backwards, creating a focal point four or five feet behind the speakers. Pops and snaps jet back and forth between the speakers, playing some sort of musical ping-pong across your entertainment center. Like Devine’s releases before it, this album is a strange mix of dance beats with drums bubbling up-and-out of the pot and daymare tracks of wispy synthesizers and crackles saturated under a healthy reverb.

Unlike most artists who can’t pick a style and stick with it, though, Devine moves seamlessly from the upbeat sonic barrages to the atmospheric minimalist compositions. Most of the standout tracks are those bullet-laden with beats, but the factor that really drives this album is the consistent production. Devine mastered this himself entirely on a 24-bit platform. His talents as a producer haven’t gone entirely unnoticed, either, as he was recently signed on to produce the next Nine Inch Nails album. Thinking ahead to the gadgetry available to him in Reznor’s multi-million dollar studios; Devine might just make me a fan again.

Asect: Dsect will soon be heard on UM’s WVUM 90.5. For more info visit Asphodel.com and Schematic.net.

– James Hush

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Constantines
Shine A Light
***1/4
Behind the slightly obsessive nod to D.C. punk, Toronto’s Constantines can sound like a neurotic nightmare version of Karate, both in melodic choices and in the occasional jazzy breakdown. They do pack a heavier punch than that bluesy trio, and so their second full-length release is a welcome ebb and tide of dynamic rock ‘n’ roll music.

The instrumental hook of the title track, the horns at the close of “Insectivora,” and the modest swells of “Young Lions” point to the smarts of this group in adding a real keyboardist, not just some kid with a Moog and a Farfisa. Respect is due to gruff vocalist Bryan Webb for putting some roots into the mathematical equation that is Constantines’ approach to music, hereby freeing the songs to swagger and sail loosely.

In these two avenues (keys and vocals) Constantines do succeed in their aping of D.C.’s Fugazi in the respectable kind of way; by marrying very complex and perhaps relaxed rhythms with the aggressive sound of post-punk and hardcore. They sound very little like the original punk outfits in anything but mentality perhaps, but if your group can exist on the quality radar half way between old stalwarts like Karate and the big F, you must be doing a few things right.

The last facet of this release that provides some serious appreciation is its appeal to various tastes without being catchy. A disc that can be appreciated by music lovers half-deaf at 21, it can and should be accepted with open arms by the sappier folk. Constantines are an ideal release of rock heaviness for one and all.
For more info, visit Subpop.com.

– Michael John Hancock

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Defari
Odds & Evens
**
Defari’s back from a four year hiatus, after ’99’s justifiably slept on Focused Daily, and it’s hard to imagine that there was a big push for a second release from this former high school teacher who “fell from the sun with a fire tongue” (I’m quoting here if you can believe it). Despite his scholarly background, D’s convinced that he played for the Lakers or that everyone in the world thinks he did. You know you gotta bang a playmate, rape a groupie or at least get AIDS to do that – a master’s degree from Columbia just doesn’t cut it; neither do Defari’s rhymes.

Every bar’s delivery is so uninspired and dry that cottonmouth can’t take all the blame, i.e. “The D-E-F-A-R-I” (on the wow-what-a-sweet-titled “Spell My Name”) and so forth; only Big Daddy Kane can spell out words and sound dope, and even that’s pushing it. There’s simply nothing original on this album, it’s just like Focused Daily even though none of the songs sound the same. I’m not reaching here, there are dozens of albums out with beats that aren’t that bad and lyrics that are just scraping par with a spotted handicap or some other lame metaphor, like the entire Ruff Ryder catalogue for example; X, bark at me dog!

The “Behold My Life” remix is the only track that does it for me but as soon as “Bush is back/ now we at war with Eye-rack” drops wamp wamp (those were depressing horn sound effects if you couldn’t tell), it could have been a classic; songs like this make me want to cry. Babu, get some Visine, de-Dilate your Peoples and get some better rhymes, please, the tracks are there, it’s such a shame. Chocolate Ty is up in the mix though, showing Defari how he should’ve done it on “Hooks.” Trust me, if you hear this album, go right from 5 to 15 on your CD player, it’s ridiculous; Defari, see you in class.

– Sven Barth

September 26, 2003

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