by LUKE BAUMGARTEN and MICHAEL BOWEN & r & Asobi Seksu
God, this is a big album. Yuki Chikudate's voice has to have been tracked like 40-odd times, then bolstered further by copious reverb. The guitars are -- as clich & eacute;d as this little number is -- big, thick walls of sound, recalling the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream (aka The Day Shoe Gazing Went Arena Rock). The rhythm is propulsive, hopping onto that very specific, very large wagon that finds every third indie band mimicking New Order. "Goodbye" is a more or less perfect aping of the aesthetic, though most of the rest of the album strikes out in satisfyingly novel directions.
The real difference, though, is Chikudate's gorgeous, dulcet falsetto, which is frail but, when bolstered 40-odd times, attains a sturdiness that stands up to James Hanna's guitar. "Thursday" is the most singularly affecting song I've heard all year.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
Streams of Expression
Respect the tradition while enlarging it -- that's Joe Lovano's ideal. But sometimes stretching out the tradition only serves to distort it.
The most memorable work on Streams of Expression, ironically, doesn't come from the leader but from Gunther Schuller and the memory of Miles Davis. Schuller has written Gil Evans-style segues and interludes as settings for three tunes from The Birth of the Cool dates (on which Schuller himself played). For the easy swinging of "Moondance," Lovano does contribute a warm-toned solo, and the way his tenor emerges from the chorus on "Move" is haunting. Yet in his own five-part suite, Lovano tends to noodle aimlessly ("Streams"), fail to develop ideas ("Buckeyes") and surge into cacophony ("Second Nature"). At least "Cool" extends a tribute, with soloists trading fours and evoking Miles' vibe. On "Fire Prophet" and "Big Ben," however, Lovano gets all avant-garde with a double soprano sax, producing squawky, unpleasant results.
Sometimes pushing tradition and technique just results in distortions and dead ends.
-- MICHAEL BOWEN