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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez
A Manual Dexterity: Soundtrack, Vol. 1
Gold Standard Laboratories

Rating: 4/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez hails from Austin, Texas and the ranks of the dearly-departed At the Drive-In. He's more recently known for one of the two splinter groups to jet out of Drive-In's ashes: the Mars Volta, whose De-Loused in the Comatorium left a smoking atomic-rock crater in 2003.

He has now embarked on a mysterious side project that includes the release of A Manual Dexterity. These are the recordings of a proto-Volta group, and if Mars Volta's album sounded overlong, overblown and overly ambitious to many listeners, they will find this worse by several degrees. De-Loused in the Comatorium, an extended hallucinatory story about a friend's death, certainly injected a good deal of prog into its heavy post-punk roar, but it's nothing like Dexterity, a unabashed return to the sort of post-psychedelic odysseys that poured out of recording studios in the mid-70s.

The title of the album and the concept - the first half of a soundtrack for an as-yet unreleased film (!!) are prog; the typewriter and dial tone noises are prog; the album art is… well… just weird looking, but you can lump that in with prog too.

This is explicitly prog, ripped from the carefully notated pages of Can and the Soft Machine. It is most reminiscent of French proggies Heldon - Fripp-derived guitar freak outs over pulsing, broken drums; it strongly recalls Heldon's landmark Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale.

But, like a lot of prog, and particularly the less stellar material, this frequently sounds pointless, indecisive and wasteful. A good third of the album memorably pulls free from ordinariness, particularly the Latin overtones of "Deus Ex Machina" and the stomping, elephantine horn trills in "Of Blood Blue Blisters." But the other two-thirds of this almost vocal-free album is filled to the brim with murky electronic noise and damp guitar noodling.

De-Loused in the Comatorium showcased a band stumbling over its own ambition and talent, and, remarkably, gaining fans in the process. A Manual Dexterity presents an artist who has only stumbled, but fallen deep into his own creative well, with only a dim view of the outside world. A true critique of any soundtrack should accompany the film itself, but the early release of Dexterity precludes that. Until then, it is a work strictly for completists.

Reviewed by Erick Bieritz
Erick Bieritz lives in Chicago, where is usually either very hot or very cold. He was the brainchild behind EPMD, where he wrote about EPs and singles for LAS, looking for overlooked or underappreciated non-album releases.

See other reviews by Erick Bieritz



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