By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Soviet Army Chorus
Four guys huddled around a table full of gear, bobbing their heads and flashing penlights at the knobs they twiddle might not sound like an exciting Saturday night out, but Soviet Army Chorus has found a way to make it just that. Their sound is a melodic, heavy-on-the-bass brand of electronic music rooted in thick, buzzing synthesizers, under layers of a seemingly endless catalog of sounds. The constant contributions of the various members are ultimately what makes it feel like a live band -- and not like a bunch of guys with computers.
SAC echoes both the ambient, dancey electronic group Go Spread Your Wings and the room-clearing sound-abuse outfit the Sugar Beats. What evolves from those bipolar elements is something more rhythmic than the Sugar Beats, more melodic than Go Spread Your Wings, and more balanced than both.
Band member Ken Wiatrek explains the new sound by stressing that the group employs an array of diverse equipment, ranging from high-tech paraphernalia (such as KORG Electribes, Roland 307 and Mini Korg synths) on down to consumer-grade stuff and even souped-up kids' toys. "I think that the mixture of the types of gear is the most important part," he says. "It's pretty easy to make good electronic music with really great electronic gear, but it's more fun to make good songs using a combination of several types of gear in incorrect ways."
Rather than taking that unorthodox arrangement toward unscripted noise, SAC has instead crafted incredibly hooky electronic pieces that ebb and flow like good pop songs. Vocals are absent, but samples of spoken-word recordings fill some of the spaces left vacant, giving a stout, eloquent personality to each of the tracks. -- Lance Walker
Soviet Army Chorus appears at the Intoxicated Dance Party, Friday, May 21, at Helios, 411 Westheimer. The Studemont Project, Mystery Flavor, Dead Roses, DJs Witnes and Ceeplus are also on the bill. A majority of the proceeds benefit nonprofit radio in Houston. For information, call 713-526-4648.
No, Ronnie James has not found some long-lost kin and formed a new band. Instead, dios is the latest entry in "the gentle lads from the Golden State shoegazer sweepstakes." The band's hometown of Hawthorne, California, will always have its place on the musical geography tour as the spot where the Beach Boys first began to create their idyllic panorama of surf, sand, blue-eyed blonds in bikinis and little deuce coupes. But this is 2004, and the latest musical product of the city comprises five young Latinos: brothers Joel and Kevin Morales (sons of a mariachi singer), John Paul Caballero, Jimmy Cabez De Vaca and Jackie Monzon.
Their self-titled full-length debut is the fulfillment of their vision -- dreamy synth-pop, looping, repeated rhythms and lyrics, delicate harmonies and somnambulist traipsings. The mix brings to mind not only the Wilson brothers and company, but also Big Star, the psychedelic Beatles (albeit more "Free as a Bird" than "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") and -- on several tracks -- eerie Harvest-era Neil Young (there's even a cover of his "Birds" here).
Together less than two years, dios recorded and mixed the record in one of their basements. The melodies and musical meanderings drop in and out with the casualness of 'shroom-addled residents at a beach bungalow chasing some cool brews and bitchin' waves. However, that laid-back vibe also feeds into the record's great weakness: The slow pace and close uniformity of songs makes for good background music, but it proves at times to be taxing as a concentrated listen.
Rolling Stone put dios's previous Los Arboles EP on their "Hot List" along with Modest Mouse and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it's safe to say that Karen O probably won't be duetting with this band anytime soon. She might beat them up, though. -- Bob Ruggiero
With Beulah, Friday, May 21, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.Your Enemies Friends and Midtown
Hanging out with a bunch of suburban high school kids at a smoke- and alcohol-free coffeehouse to the soundtrack of another wretched pop-punk band doesn't appeal? Go ahead and gas up the car and head north to Java Jazz in Old Town Spring this Sunday, when L.A.'s Your Enemies Friends play. Mixing the sounds of the Murder City Devils, Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine, their recent full-length debut, You Are Being Videotaped, has earned the gloomy quintet loads of praise. You could be a cynic and lay the hype at the feet of YEF's early champions, the influential Internet rock and roll terrorists at Buddyhead.com, but one listen to the disc will undoubtedly restore your faith in an indie rock scene whose innovation is waning. In short, if you dig current post-punk revivalists like the Faint, you don't want to miss this band. As for the rest of the bill, make plans to chaperone your little sister and her gal pals while mall punks Midtown suck the life out the show. But before that happens, be ready to shake your ass, and don't forget to bring YEF some dill pickles. They love 'em. -- Jason Gagnon