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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
Future Rock

Rating: 9.5/10 ?

May 25, 2007
It's hard to say this without sounding hyperbolic or clichéd, but with Future Rock Strategy has put together an aurally sublime album that makes music in a way that no other group of musicians has ever done before.

On its surface, this is a small-time record from an underground artist on an indie label, what most would consider no big deal. In fact, we see dozens of albums from fresh, struggling artists with each successive release date; just check out a Media Alert and you'll find hordes of releases from unfamiliar artists every Tuesday, each hopeing to sell units, convert the masses, and rule the world. Paul Dickow, aka Strategy, clearly has a different game plan.

For one, Future Rock credits Dickow on all the following: computer & software, mixer, synth, spring reverb, analogue delay, tape loops, radio, electric piano/organ/guitar, vocoder, modular drum synth, vocals, drums, percussion, and field recordings. Additionally, Dickow's former Nudge bandmates are acknowledged as contributing ebow bass, vocals, guitar, tape loop treatments, drums, editing, audio error removal, and 2001 four-track tape. From the looks of it, Future Rock was widely drawn and potentially messy as hell. Fortunately, any thoughts entertaining the latter theory were most likely remedied through the proof of a lengthy, focused creative period beginning in 2003 and ending last year.

As far as the sound, musical themes and overriding style, Strategy is surprisingly collected into one concrete concept. Don't misconstrue: the album has diverse moods, tempos, and genre fittings, but on the whole it all fits together in one consistent, concerted effort. Its most appealing bits are high moments like the half-dance/half-instrumental jam, hand-clapped, vocoder-led "Can't Roll Back," or the spaced-out yet bouncy title track. Just as important to Future Rock are the natural in-song or between-track segues that lead into experimental practice session live band jam outs, or the calmer points in which the unpredictable life sounds of field recordings and tape loops are revealed. Of the album's nine compositions, only two - both interludes - stay under the three-minute mark. Progressive expansion is clearly the key here.

Just as this album is known for its broad, almost archaeological approach to songwriting, it is equally familiarized through its many unique sounds and stylistic combinations. While usage of the vocoder (i.e. the robot voice) is usually reserved for whatever Daft Punk is doing, Dickow uses it to great effectiveness in Strategy's repetitive, catchy sung phrases ("You can't roll forward, looking over your shoulder"). Also defining is the blend of live rock instrumentation (very Can-sounding) and electronic house/disco rhythms and melodies. Elements of dubby delay (in "Phantom Powered"), retro spring reverb ("Stops Spinning"), funky digi-bass, and vibrant and popping electronic drum production are what will stick in your head as distinctly Future Rock. Few albums or artists can start with such a broad palette and leave such an indelible mark.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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