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[whitespace] Picks by Michelle Goldberg

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Songs of Sex and Death
Amber Asylum

The title of Amber Asylum's haunting new album couldn't be more apt--these ethereal dirges conjure both boudoirs and funerals. The San Francisco group is composed primarily of Jackie Gratz's cello and Kris Force's violin, guitars and delicate, lugubrious vocals, and the classical instrumentation imbues their modern gothic soundscapes with Victorian elegance. An organ on the gorgeous "Devotion" lends an extra layer of mournfulness, but nearly every song here is suffused with a melancholy so exquisite it borders on decadence.

Nothing Changes
Nothing Records

I'm not sure if some of the tracks on Nothing Records' astonishing new drum 'n' bass compilation would have been recognizable to me as music 10 years ago. Featuring tracks from some of the world's most avant-garde junglists--including the Bay Area's own Meat Beat Manifesto--Nothing Changes is filled with lunatic assaults of hyperspeed beats and twisted samples. Imagine the neurons firing and ping-ponging around a tweaker's brain after a meth binge--that's Squarepusher's tinny, high-pitched "Tequila Fish." Also included are tracks by pioneering musicians Autechre, Plaid and the Bowling Green. The album is fascinating because it sounds like the future of music, and it's scary for the same reason.

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Little Darla Has a Treat for You:
Winter 99

Darla Records

The local label Darla Records is devoted to releasing pretty, sparkling music. The Winter 99 edition of Little Darla Has a Treat for You proves that sheer loveliness can unite disparate genres. The 18 tracks range from forlorn Galaxie 500-style indie rock to shimmering electronica, all held together by a quiet and occasionally twee beauty. The brightest gems include the stunning "Commercial 3" from a DC band called Commercial--it features sublime analog melodies and cascades of tickling beats. A slinky track from Indian musician Kalanji Ananji is like a Bollywood version of a Pizzicato Five song. The whole thing is so soothing it's a veritable pop narcotic.

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From the March 1, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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