Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - Page 16 News List

CD reviews

LET’S GO EAT THE FACTORY, by Guided by Voices; TRANSPARENCIES, by Kevin Hufnagel; THE MONK PROJECT, by Jimmy Owens


LET’S GO EAT THE FACTORY, by Guided by Voices.


When Robert Pollard dissolved Guided by Voices in 2004, the farewell was largely a name change. He had been virtually the band’s only songwriter since 1997, working with various lineups. Perhaps that was the way to keep up with his output, which is well beyond prolific into songorrheic. Retiring the Guided by Voices rubric didn’t prevent Pollard from putting out multiple albums yearly — solo and with assorted bands — for the rest of the 2000s.

But in 2010 he restarted Guided by Voices with members from its mid-1990s peak, when it made low-fi, sneakily catchy albums like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Back then Guided by Voices was more a collective than Pollard’s backup band, with Tobin Sprout also writing and singing some of the songs. The reunion led to Let’s Go Eat the Factory, a new batch of songs and fragments: 21 tracks in just under 42 minutes.

Let’s Go Eat the Factory returns to Guided by Voices’ origins in raw home recording. The album sounds equally proud of its melodies — steeped in the Beatles and the Byrds — and of the aural detritus it puts in their way.

It’s a noisy miscellany: folk-rock (Doughnut for a Snowman), near-punk (God Loves Us), chamber-pop (Hang Mr Kite), glam (How I Met My Mother), psychedelic-drone (Wave), power-pop (The Unsinkable Fats Domino), even a found-text recitation over echoey keyboards (The Things That Never Need).

The band members — Pollard, Sprout, Greg Demos, Kevin Fennell and Mitch Mitchell — all swap around instruments, playing them with varying expertise but boundless enthusiasm. The productions switch between sparse and deliberately cluttered, sometimes both at once as guitar distortion or echo effects garble the vocals. Which is often just as well; the splintered lyrics leave listeners to guess what’s a melodic placeholder, what’s heartfelt and what’s a whimsical impulse. (Could Either Nelson really refer to Nelson, the 1990s rock band?) Sprout’s Old Bones, a sparse hymn to lifelong love, is the exception.

Rare is the song that lingers over an idea; the point is to sketch and move on. Anything more polished or leisurely would be coddling the listener. Guided by Voices is betting that some scrap of sound or melody — the buzzing guitar line of Sprout’s Spiderfighter, the rise-and-fall tune of Pollard’s Chocolate Boy — will register as a pop pleasure. As usual with Pollard’s projects, that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. But on Let’s Go Eat the Factory, Sprout’s songwriting helps raise the average. Guided by Voices has a reputation to uphold, and much of the time, it does.

— JON PARELES, NY Times News Service

Kevin Hufnagel, TRANSPARENCIES, Nightfloat Recordings

Kevin Hufnagel, the guitarist in the New York instrumental-metal band Dysrhythmia, makes solo guitar albums on the side that come from a completely different musical grid. His first, Songs for the Disappeared, from 2009, sounded like a resume for a serious nonclassical guitarist: prepared nylon-string guitars played in uneven rhythm cycles, in speedy, cycling arpeggios running through strange and intuitive harmonic motion, in uneven meter or in rhythmic waves.

That record was impressive, but it was all brain. Transparencies, his new one, is a different story. (Hufnagel released it online, through his own label, last month; you can stream the music, or purchase a CD or digital download at kevinhufnagel.bandcamp.com.) This is a body album: loud and lovely, luxurious and shivering, a massed consonance, the blobby sound of joy from some sort of magic sound generator. The chords are simpler, the repetitions more frequent. It’s a spacey record, closer in spirit to the work he makes in Byla, a duo with the bassist Colin Marston. It ought not to be reduced too much though. There’s a loosely interrelated, narcotized sonic continuum just outside of pop that stretches across half a century or more: drone, ambient, industrial, shoegaze. At various points this record swims through all that.

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