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July 18, 2006

Perfect alignment: The October has things all lined out

Nothing compares to the feeling of a great idea finally gelling. It’s a mixture of smug I-told-you-so satisfaction and confidence-boosting accomplishment. Dustin Burnett, guitarist and vocalist for the October (of Illinois), surely knows the feeling. When he started developing ideas and songs for a new band, he didn’t have any members, so he recorded most every instrument to be heard on 2004’s Push Me Off the Side of the Earth himself. The record worked as a recruiter, and before long the October had moved beyond concept status to being an actual band.Since then, they’ve gone through a few line-up changes before finding the right combination. During the transition, Burnett was happy to see drummer Aaron Spraggs stepping up to help in the songwriting process. Soon after, they recruited guitarist Ryan Cain.“My original idea and concept for the October is for it to be what it is right now. ... Now that everything’s lined up in the right way, it’s just like all four pieces of the band have all aligned perfectly,” Burnett said.This connection makes the October’s new record, Bye Bye Beautiful, its strongest to date. The multiple songwriters give the album a more diverse quality, but at the same time the band maintains its spacey indie-meets-’80s style.“This album is really a true identity of who the October is as a band,” Burnett said.It shows. The October throws a release party for the new record at Headliners tomorrow. Do drop in. The first thing you notice about Passover, the debut full-length from the Austin-based band the Black Angels, isBlack Angels that, due to its simple yet powerful black-and-white graphic design, the CD sleeve appears to shimmer and vibrate of its own accord.The second thing you notice is that you can feel that wavy design because the sleeve is embossed, a classy move that’s not employed much any more.The third thing you notice — if you’re prone to pondering such points — is that the name of the disc seems innocuous enough. Passover is just a Jewish holiday, right? But think about it: That’s the one that marks the slaughter of all firstborn males unlucky enough to reside in a home that didn’t have lamb’s blood smeared on its doorposts. That’s like a death metal holiday or something.The most important thing you’ll notice, however, is that these Angels are a righteous band with amazing tunes and a dense, powerful sound. They get your attention, in other words, and that’s what counts. The band has a heavy ’60s vibe, and while spiritually they may share the peace, love and harmony ethos that came to define that era, the Black Angels aren’t a bunch of hippy dippy flower child throwbacks — they’re intimately familiar with the darker grandeur of forefathers like the Doors and the Velvet Underground, as evidenced by tunes like “Better Off Alone” (the love song) or “The First Vietnam War,” not to mention slightly more recent-vintage acts like Joy Division (on “Manipulation”) and Spaceman 3 (on “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”).“We draw from tons of influences,” says singer Alex Maas. “We’re all music lovers, obviously. We like tons of music and we’re constantly looking for new music, too. When people compare us to certain bands, it’s always flattering. I’m embarrassed when they say we remind them of, like, the Velvet Underground. ... We all come from musical backgrounds with tons of different influences, but it all comes together, we have a common ground in what kind of music this band produces, you know.”The Black Angels feature Maas, guitarists Nate Ryan and Christian Bland, drummer Stephanie Bailey and “drone machine player” Jennifer Raines (all the male band members play bass). Kyle Hunt engineered Passover and liked it so much that he joined the band (“He adds another layer,” says Maas). And the Black Angels are certainly at one with the Drone — but what the hell is a drone machine, exactly?“It’s kind of like a mix between a Fender Rhodes and a harmonium and an organ, a Vox Continental,” Maas says. “It’s just scrapped together.” —Jay Ditzer’Tis the season, ladies and gents: Lebowski Fest tickets go on sale this Saturday, July 22, at 11 a.m. Find them in cyberspace at www.lebowskifest.com, or in real space at ear X-tacy or WHY Louisville. The boys have oodles of cool stuff planned this year, including a screening of “Raising Arizona” and the guest of honor, “The Big Lebowski,” at Waterfront Park, as well as more than a handful of good bands and a guest appearance by Jim Hoosier, bowling partner of the Jesus. —StaffLast but not least, let’s talk bluegrass. As in, free bluegrass, this Saturday in Corydon, where Shawn Camp headlines with support from the Stringdusters. Camp’s a singer-songwriter-flatpicker who’s worked with the Osborne Brothers, Jerry Reed, Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood, to name a few. (More at www.shawncamp.com.) The Stringdusters are young bucks in the vein of Yonder Mountain String Band; their major label debut comes out this month on Sugar Hill Records. (More at www.thestringdusters.com,) Show starts at 4 p.m. More info at 1-888-738-2137 or www.thisisIndiana.org. —Cary StemleContact the writers at leobeat@leoweekly.com