CD Reviews for 12-19-07

Melodies For Uncertain Robots

An extraterrestrial theme is laid as Paradigm opens their debut collection with sounds reminiscent of the ancient dial-up modem over a soft piano riff on the short “Scanning.” Myron Koch brings things back down to earth as his saxophone rendition on the proceeding “Firefly” instructs the listener to breathe easy on any unparticular Saturday night on the town. Though “Orbit” may be a little too lively for an exquisite dining experience, it still manages to capture some commercial feasibility thanks to Koch’s spacey yet down home sax essence. “Laurette” almost instantly puts the listener in the mode to study Business Ethics over a venti-sized cup of Golden Coast coffee from Starbucks thanks to its between overactive and underactive sound plot.
    Perhaps the album’s highlight occurs when guitarist Jonathan Epley arranges a unique meshing of R&B, alternative and hip-hop genres on “Melancholy Collide.” By molding unique sounds that translate into colorful visions for its listeners, Paradigm will continue to grow past just a “Keep Louisville Weird” poster-child and maybe into an international audio commodity for some. —Maurice Williams

Rondo Sterling

Robert Cambron and Adam Huffer — the duo that makes up Rondo Sterling — is all over the map on this one.
Elements of jazz, ’50s and ’60s soul, standard pop and hip hop leave their tracks on Sprezzatura, a term dating back to the Italian renaissance that, loosely translated, means “making the difficult look easy.”
Cambron is a crooner who has no shortage of personality but doesn’t take himself too seriously. For proof, see “Skulletor,” an Outkast-inspired homage with shout-outs to Col. Sanders and mullets.
Partner in crime/producer Adam Huffer ropes in a boatload of guest musicians to contribute to this 10-song bonanza. By the end of it, you’ll arrive at two conclusions: They’re creative or they’re demented. You’ll have to decide for yourself. —Mat Herron

Pink Moon
33 1/3 book by Amanda Petrusich

The latest entry in the always-intriguing 33 1/3 series purports to cover Nick Drake’s folk masterpiece Pink Moon, and while it does cover its ostensible subject matter, it falls short of the mark in one crucial aspect: It’s not really about the album — an undeniable classic made all the more poignant by its creator’s probable suicide — it’s about a fucking TV commercial that used Pink Moon’s title cut as its soundtrack.
Fully half of this slender volume’s page count is given over to interviews with the people who directed the ad and a copywriter who was on the creative team that decided to use “Pink Moon.” This is a shame, because when author Amanda Petrusich is writing about Pink Moon the album, the book is interesting, but when she’s writing about a bunch of ad agency douchebags? Not so much. When you read a great piece of music writing, you want to listen to that music; Petrusich’s “Pink Moon” makes you want to test-drive a Volkswagen. —Jay Ditzer

Walking Free
Jon Ashley & the Little Triggers

Jon Ashley is no stranger to the Louisville music scene. A longtime man-about-bars-and-clubs-and-the-like, he’s got a pretty good handle on what appeals to the local audience. We’re at the brink of North and South here, so naturally, elements of both appeal to us (note that at McDonald’s, there are jugs of “sweet” and “unsweet” tea). It follows, then, that people around here will undoubtedly like country-tinged rock. Country is southern. Rock is northern. Perfect.
    Walking Free is the sort of record that straddles that boundary. It’s a very Louisville sort of thing, but I fear it will not translate well to a broader audience. A lot of the tracks sound very much like the others, almost to an indistinguishable degree. Furthermore, there are a lot of local references that may not make sense outside the context of Louisville. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the album, I can’t conceive of listening to it more than once.  —Kirsten Schofield

The Bluegrass Sessions
Merle Haggard

Plenty today pay lip service to Johnny & Hank and ask, “Why can’t nobody do it like they used to?” Yet the same people can’t be bothered to keep up with the likes of Merle Haggard, unless he’s being promoted by a punk rock label.
Perhaps Hag himself is partly to blame: He releases a new one annually, like Neil Young or Woody Allen, though he’s more consistent. He might not reach as high, but you can be sure that he’ll never collaborate with Madonna or go crazy with robots.
Here, he revisits old songs, sings some new ones, and finds himself unable to stay within the strict parameters of bluegrass regulations, in the best way.
Willie Nelson might have proven to be more versatile (ever hear his reggae disc?), but Haggard keeps returning as the most emotionally and instinctually awake songwriter left amongst what used to be called country music. —Peter Berkowitz

Fire Escape
Sunburned Hand of the Man

On their most recent release, Sunburned Hand of the Man continue to make music that can be loosely and poorly categorized as experimental-psychedelic-free-form-noise-folk. That is to say, this album blends various and sundry influences (Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd, acid jazz, Caribbean-style steel drums and rhythms, Deerhoof, et al) into something that vaguely resembles all of these things, and none of them.
Consequently, Fire Escape lacks any type of sound or focus that makes it distinctive. The album lumbers until the title track, which also serves as the album’s high point, until it degenerates in the bloated, 15:30 “The Wind Has Ears.” There are two more tracks after that, but for all intents and purposes, the album is finished around the 28-minute mark. —Justin Keenan