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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Nick Butcher
The Complicated Bicycle
Place Tapes

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


September 13, 2005
The nesting impulse is too strong for Nick Butcher to ignore. You see it manifested in some of the childlike artwork that graces his hand-screened book, The Complicated Bicycle, and in the warm, peaceful cocoons of electronica and tape manipulation he forms on the accompanying CD of the same name.

Inside the 24-page multi-color book are crude drawings of box houses and a collection of brown and white dabs of paint that seem pieced together by a bird into some sort of makeshift home. Deceptively simplistic and surreal, the pictures imply a longing for the comfort and solitude of a place he can call his own. Yet Butcher is somehow able to articulate feelings of distance and cold-hearted aloofness through half-formed images of airplanes flying overhead - one of which seems to float by a patchwork of fields below, the other a squadron of bombers dropping their loads over an unsuspecting populace as readers watch, disinterested and unaffected by the impending violence.

…That's because we're miles away, sheltered in the Fridge-like womb of Butcher's gentle bedroom pop experiments. Toying with cheap synthesizers and out-of-date sequencers, Butcher creates an intimate environment that's far removed from the chaos of the real world. It's as if you're in the room with him, sitting in uncomfortable silence as Butcher works on compositions that derive mood and texture from Brian Eno's earliest electronic forays. Off in a corner, he's creating hypnotic sound collages that take on a life of their own and give expression to feelings of isolation and detachment. At the same time, Butcher's compositions congeal together to form a seamless work, sort of a community of tracks that wouldn't function as perfectly if any were missing.

In the aptly named opener, "Geographical Distance," Butcher rattles soda pop bottles together for percussion Xiu Xiu-style, and cuts open the belly of the track to let fuzzed, synthetic accordion sound ooze out like blood, while loops of distorted tape, pockmarked with static, are left to run onto the floor. If you didn't know better, you'd think Butcher must have nodded off and then wakened suddenly to turn off the machine. The repetition is soothing somehow, despite the stop-and-start nature of pieces like the warped tonal blankets "Conversations with Leaves" and "Outlines."

Awash in tape hiss and trippy as all get out, The Complicated Bicycle has an inviting glow like a cozy, uninhabited cabin in the deep woods with a fire going in the fireplace. Rounded, oddly shaped tones, though foreign and strange, make you feel safe and stoned. There's a Casio wonderland of intermittent bleeps that fade in and out of earshot called "Minutes Overlap"; it makes you feel good to be alive. More wistful, "Readability" works off the Aphex Twin's Druqks' template, and employs echoing keyboards and skittering beats that conjure up memories of summer vacations.

A shift occurs with the untitled track No. 5, marked only by a simple brown line. A more sinister, cold loop is stuck on repeat as babbling water sounds are heard in the background and it disturbs the peace of The Complicated Bicycle. Then comes the noir "Xerox the Numbers in Order," with its beautiful, distorted piano configurations circling around and around to dizzying effect. An acoustic guitar makes an appearance on the stunning closer, "Limit the Use of Language." Faint helicopter beats are heard from off in the distance, but it's that lovely, simple guitar loop that plucks your heartstrings and unleashes a flood of emotions.

An intriguing co-mingling of media, The Complicated Bicycle is a world unto itself, a tiny outpost in territory unspoiled by civilization. There's a subtlety to Butcher's art that opens up everything to interpretation and the humanity you find in it makes you want to open the door of your house to someone less fortunate, to give them a roof and heat and nourishment. Simply put, The Complicated Bicycle, limited to only 500 copies, makes you feel good and in these complicated, tragic times - that quality alone is worth its weight in gold.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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