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[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]

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 » 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
Rafter
Sex Death Cassette
Asthmatic Kitty

Rating: 8/10 ?


January 30, 2008
Before you press play you need only to know the title of Rafter Robert's latest (and best) album, Sex Death Cassette. It would be impossible to anticipate the sonic diversity contained within it, and any reference to a single genre or sound in an attempt to describe it would be empty and wrong. You will not find a more interesting and unique collection of sounds and songs anywhere else in this New Year. The album's influences range from Herb Alpert to Lightning Bolt and Fela Kuti. Nothing ever fleshes out as fully as you might want it to - each brief song offering a rising moment of poppy greatness, only to be immediately extinguished by the next song with its own glorious, soaring, pop moment, and so on. Sex Death Cassette is 35 minutes of what should be messy musical clutter that is instead some of the most compelling, if not fully-formed, music in recent memory.

The most appropriate starting point for conveying the essence of Sex Death Cassette is to state that the album was built on drums. Rafter laid down five drum instrumental tracks which served as its frame, after which he focused on one instrument, going back over each of the drum parts and adding layers of guitar and piano. After a handful of the instrumentals were fleshed out, Rafter dumped the whole cacophony into a computer and then proceeded to layer each track with overdubs - resulting in more than 120 instrumental tracks. From there the instrumentals were loaded into an MP3 player which Rafter took everywhere, writing lyrics and further polishing the tracks as he went about his day.

Lyrically, Rafter's songs - which will not be released on cassette - revolve around sex and death. Some of the songs seem to chronicle Roberts' breakup with his ex - who also happens to be the mother of his child. Lyrics like "Wake up before you die," and "His life was a waiting game/ Waiting to die/ Waiting to get to go to bed" show the extent of Rafter's remorse over the end of the relationship. Most listeners will gloss over the words, which tend to be layered under the tracks and distorted, but those with patience will find within them an interesting insight into the mind of a sensitive artist and caring father.

In looking around the www to gauge the critical response to Sex Death Cassette, I have found that most reviewers were unable to produce more than a paragraph on the album. One critic wrote a sad description of a romantic break-up instead of actually trying to quantify Rafter's musical offering. Trying to compare Sex Death Cassette to anything you've heard before would be silly - it draws as much influence from Robert Pollard's brief hooks as it does from George Clinton's quirky funk and Sebadoh's home recording. In an attempt to provide you with content, I went to the source and asked Rafter Roberts to help me find some way to discuss this album - some musical touchstones for the uninitiated.

According to Rafter:
"Sex Death Cassette was made in spurts over the course of a few years. So I went through a lot of different records during that time. There were sounds and musical touch points that I would come back to - definitely Tom Waits. The Swordfish Trombone record, the way it sounds… so cool. The Guided By Voices record Alien Lanes is something like 40 songs and they all just come and go so quickly. He would create these great hooks and then they would fall apart and be gone. I have always been so inspired and excited by the feel of that record - listening to it... it is almost like there are no pauses; it just happens. You are passed through these awesome, strange hooks and atmospheres into the next strange hook and atmosphere. I was also listening to a lot of Lightning Bolt and going to a lot of Lightning Bolt shows as often as I could. I was also listening to a lot of the Ethiopiques series and Fela Kuti. I feel like I love a lot of noisy industrial music like Skinny Puppy and noise elements - African and funk and Middle Eastern rhythms."

With all of those influences and so many more, Rafter's Sex Death Cassette is worth picking up. The chaos that should ensue from so many different layers and influences is replaced instead with a gorgeous flow from track to track - each intricately ordered and placed to find the sonic connection between Parliament and punk rock and everything in-between.

Reviewed by Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LAS’s editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other reviews by Jon Burke

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