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click to enlarge Xiu Xiu  -  - La Fort  - 5RC San Jose's Xiu Xiu scares me a bit. Steering - slightly from their usual keyboard-addled schizophrenia, - they drive the madness inward on La Fort. Xiu - Xiu singer and captain Jamie Stewart's vocals -- often - whispered, often screamed -- are so damn intense they - seem almost obscenely confessional. "Muppet Face" is - flooded with sexual imagery, while screaming guitars - howl against a mild, summery dance beat. Stewart milks - the dissonance in songs like "Saturn" for all it's worth, - creating an album at once fragile and wrought with - tension. No, you're not going to hear it on KILO, but the - Joy Division gloom on "Pox" reminds us that, while - unnatural, La Fort's not entirely - unapproachable. -- Kara Luger
  • Xiu Xiu

    La Fort
    5RC

    San Jose's Xiu Xiu scares me a bit. Steering slightly from their usual keyboard-addled schizophrenia, they drive the madness inward on La Fort. Xiu Xiu singer and captain Jamie Stewart's vocals -- often whispered, often screamed -- are so damn intense they seem almost obscenely confessional. "Muppet Face" is flooded with sexual imagery, while screaming guitars howl against a mild, summery dance beat. Stewart milks the dissonance in songs like "Saturn" for all it's worth, creating an album at once fragile and wrought with tension. No, you're not going to hear it on KILO, but the Joy Division gloom on "Pox" reminds us that, while unnatural, La Fort's not entirely unapproachable. -- Kara Luger

click to enlarge Robert Strauss  -  - Quasars and Phasars  - Freerange Recovering rocker Robert Strauss - debuts in the electronic sphere with this surprisingly - solid, extraordinarily likeable and ambitiously diverse - album. The self-proclaimed maturing Canadian, whose - studio skills have lifted the sounds of artists like Slum - Village and Brassmunk, applies his talents on keys, - percussion and guitar toward breaks, house, disco, funk - and R&B. His guests contribute mostly strong vocals, - with the exception of Saidah Baba Talibah, whose - beautiful voice on a couple of funk-disco tracks doesn't - hit heavy enough -- especially unfortunate, since she - stars on the album's first release, "Spinning Inside Your - Love." So don't judge this album entirely on the singles - the label is releasing. You'll miss the best parts. - -- Vanessa Martinez
  • Robert Strauss

    Quasars and Phasars
    Freerange

    Recovering rocker Robert Strauss debuts in the electronic sphere with this surprisingly solid, extraordinarily likeable and ambitiously diverse album. The self-proclaimed maturing Canadian, whose studio skills have lifted the sounds of artists like Slum Village and Brassmunk, applies his talents on keys, percussion and guitar toward breaks, house, disco, funk and R&B. His guests contribute mostly strong vocals, with the exception of Saidah Baba Talibah, whose beautiful voice on a couple of funk-disco tracks doesn't hit heavy enough -- especially unfortunate, since she stars on the album's first release, "Spinning Inside Your Love." So don't judge this album entirely on the singles the label is releasing. You'll miss the best parts. -- Vanessa Martinez

click to enlarge Felix Laband  -  - Dark Days Exit  - Compost File this under "cinematic - electronica." Or "ambient lite." Or "Pavlovian" -- since, - thanks to layered organic sounds (like wind, crackly fire - and water) within the beats, Felix Laband's music makes - me feel like I have to pee. Hyped as "South African's - premier electronic musician," Laband has released an - odd debut album that mixes methodology and genres - with ease. "Whistling in Tounges" is a prime example of - how to use organics, blending samples of nature and - vocals, then veering into be-bop and tribal rhythms - before tying it all together. For a song clocking in at - nearly eight minutes, it sounds like half an album itself. - As genial as Laband's music sounds, it's a bit forgettable - -- but then, that's sort of the point of ambient music. - -- Kara Luger
  • Felix Laband

    Dark Days Exit
    Compost

    File this under "cinematic electronica." Or "ambient lite." Or "Pavlovian" -- since, thanks to layered organic sounds (like wind, crackly fire and water) within the beats, Felix Laband's music makes me feel like I have to pee. Hyped as "South African's premier electronic musician," Laband has released an odd debut album that mixes methodology and genres with ease. "Whistling in Tounges" is a prime example of how to use organics, blending samples of nature and vocals, then veering into be-bop and tribal rhythms before tying it all together. For a song clocking in at nearly eight minutes, it sounds like half an album itself. As genial as Laband's music sounds, it's a bit forgettable -- but then, that's sort of the point of ambient music. -- Kara Luger

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