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Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

JUNE 1, 1998: 


Perfect Night Live In London

SWEET LOU TRIUMPHANTLY returns to the limelight with his recent PBS American Masters profile and this snap-crackling live acoustic show recorded at the Royal Festival Hall in London last summer. Perfect Night, Reed's first live endeavor since 1984's import-only Live In Italy, sparkles with several rarely heard tracks taken from such depressing and unheralded '70s albums as Berlin and Coney Island Baby. For all of Reed's decadent and self-indulgent excesses, check out the sad, haunting version of "The Kids," addressing unwed motherhood and parental neglect; and the profound "Coney Island Baby," a tale of misguided youth yearning for acceptance from anyone who'll notice. Not to disappoint those faithful fans who have stuck beside him since he led mid '60s noise-rock mongers the Velvet Underground, Reed brandishes such classic weapons as the heart-wrenching VU ballad "I'll Be Your Mirror," and a bitter, funky version of "Vicious," originally released on the David Bowie-produced Transformer (1972). After 30 years, Reed has finally begun to appreciate the unfailing adoration of his oft-neglected fans, delivering a knockout performance of career-spanning hits and rarities with self-confidence and genuine charisma. Two newly recorded tracks--the swinging raga-funk rhythm of "Into The Divine" and the self-deprecating self-examination of "Talking Book"--are taken from Time Rocker, an off-Broadway musical collaboration with artist Robert Wilson. Reed is a manifest virtuoso of many talents: an American rock and roll treasure that still packs a powerful social message.

--Ron Bally


Paris 25 (EP)
Trance Syndicate

IN THE TREND-conscious world of electronica, timing can be everything. Both this EP and the debut long-player Veiculo were initially released almost a year ago overseas. No matter. The music is bewitching, even fascinating, if not in a dance or rave sense then certainly in ambient and even psychedelic terms. As a German trio, the electro-Krautrock roots are unashamedly on display, with occasional motorik rhythmic pulses surfacing and often remaining implied underneath the surface. The icy funk contrasts deliciously with the warmer, analog-dronepop motifs that predominate. (Stereolab fans will warm to this.) Blurp, blip, blorg, bliddle--groove on, Herr Rot! The sound is still wildly experimental, however, harnessing the kind of vision Aphex Twin had early on (before he fried his brain) and fusing that vision to a rockist sensibility. The music doesn't sound dated precisely because it touches on many genres and eras, and because it has the confidence to throw everything into the blender.

--Fred Mills



CZECH VOCALIST/VIOLINIST Iva Bittova's self-titled release starts out promising enough: "Driv Nez," the opening track, sounds like an earthier Enya singing over a spare violin melody. It's quite beautiful, and then you come to a fork in the road. If you go left, you embrace the avant-garde caterwauling she drops into as if Nina Hagen had parachuted into the recording session. If you go right, the shit just gets on your nerves. I'm not proud to admit it, but I took a hard right. While there are many compelling moments throughout this album, overall it's a frustrating mix of traditional-based European melodies, indulgent noodling and vocal squawking. Bittova is clearly talented--her string playing is emotional and resonant and her voice is capable of great depth. The production is sparse (often there's nothing more than her voice backed by violin), lending a cathedral-like quality to the sound that provides some appropriately haunting moments. On cuts like "Ples Upiru" ("The Vampire's Ball") all the elements gel nicely into an effectively evocative piece. The fragile balance between Bittova's voice and instrument is genuinely beautiful. Unfortunately, much of the album's mood is spoiled by Bittova's frequent atonal vocal flights. Admittedly, avant-garde music isn't for everyone; but at its best it challenges our expectations and enlightens us to a new way of listening to music. By inserting jarring, unrelated interludes into otherwise coherent songs, Bittova may be challenging our perceptions but it's not clear what she's leading us to. Instead of catching the listener off guard, a pattern of alternating beauty and dissonance begins to emerge that plays like forced adventure. Fans of Meredith Monk and Yoko Ono may be more sympathetic and receptive to Bittova, but others will fare better elsewhere.

--Sean Murphy

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