3 stars (out of 4)
Considering the unfettered post-modern genius of last year's "Gloss Drop" -- one of the most compelling rock albums of that year -- it seems almost perverse for Battles to follow up with a collection that willfully and gleefully distorts its predecessor.
"Dross Glop" finds 12 sonic manipulators taking a whack at remixing the original album. The effect is often stunning, and is akin to viewing "Gloss Drop" through a series of funhouse mirrors. More significantly, it manages to hold together as its own album -- even if you've never heard "Gloss Drop," "Dross Glop" is capable of hitting you hard.
It's true that the album opens with its finest tune, Brazilian producer Gui Boratto's take on "Wall Street," but things don't fall apart afterward -- rather, they drift and meander in interesting directions, occasionally to disquieting effect.
The Field's remix of "Sweetie & Shag," for example, is all unresolved tension -- a car chase through winding streets that never ends, though you spend the entirety of the song waiting for the big crash. Patrick Mahoney and Dennis McNany's "My Machines" is outer space disco, an all-white room with plastic chairs, and a manipulated, claustrophobic vocal from synth-pop/art-rock veteran Gary Numan.
The cumulative result of these remixes is the creation of a mild, bubbling-under anxiety in the listener -- there's the vague feeling of "something wicked this way comes" throughout, a hint of sinister activity just beyond the camera's eye. Which is, in its own way, a rather brilliant effect for a collection of 12 widely varied reinterpretations of music that was already dense to pull off.
A desperate, unsmiling dance party, then, but one you can't easily leave once you've entered.
-- Jeff Miers
Piano Music of Prokofiev, Liszt and Saint-Saens
Piano Music of Chopin, Liszt and Ravel
Whether or not there are more classical prodigies and fiery young classical virtuosos these days, it has certainly been made to seem that way for any number of reasons including 1) Youth is increasingly marketable while being, at the same time, less demanding; 2) sophisticated recording techniques seem to present everyone at their mind-boggling best and 3) instrumental competitions and lightning digital communication all but eliminate any possibilities of a young prodigy of whom no one has heard.
Here are two fire-breathing young European pianists of the mind-boggling sort who win competitions and all but bludgeon critics and listeners into reaching for superlatives they probably ought to avoid but can't.
The newest one is 21-year-old pianist Behzod Abduraimov from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, whose first disc for Decca glories in the sort of pyrotechnic revelry that classical piano audiences have thrilled to since the 19th century. When you hear Abduraimov's performances of Prokofiev's sixth piano sonata and "Suggestion Diabolique" with those lovable old finger-buster's Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Horowitz's version of Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre," you can't help but be carried away by the kind of wild and bursting young talent able to fit into anyone's definition of an enfant terrible. At this stage, Abduraimov is telling us he's equal to anything, from Prokofiev's futurist savageries to Liszt's "Benediction de Dieu dans le Solitude."
British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is neither as impeccable or as full of fire and brimstone on his mostly Chopin program, but when you end a disc with Ravel's "Gaspard de la Nuit" you're definitely making a statement that, as a pianist, you are not to be trifled with. A fine baby veteran pianist already (he's all of 19 and has been performing in public since he was 11). He'll more than suffice when Abduraimov and his pyrotechnics are elsewhere.
-- Jeff Simon
Way Down Low
2 1/2 stars
Texas jazz singer and, yes, "American Idol" contestant Kat Edmonson has a vocal quality you've never quite heard before. Her debut disc "Take to the Sky" was one of the delights of recent jazz. Her new one is both far more ambitious in terms of composition and far more cutesy and less accomplished in terms of result.
In a sense, that makes her a lot more interesting than most in her overpopulated jazz singers' sisterhood. Listen to her first disc and then this one only if necessary. Give her a raincheck for the next time around.
The Counting Crows successfully navigate that slippery slope some artists slide down when covering other people's music on its latest album, "Underwater Sunshine." With one of the most distinctive voices in rock music, Adam Duritz tackles each tune as if it were his own.
Fifteen cover songs ranging from the obscure to the popular comprise the album, including ones written by the likes of Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson, as well as newer material by bands like Romany Rye. Duritz caught their show last year at the SXSW Music Festival and was impressed by their "Untitled (Love Song)," so he decided to record it. Since it's a relatively unheard song, the album opens with the feel of a Crows album.
That's followed by Teenage Fan Club's "Start Again," and from there it's clear these covers -- from different eras and artistic styles -- are designed to merge nicely from one to the next.
Gram Parsons' "Return of the Grievous Angel," which comes out of its laid-back country skin for a more rootsy flavor, is a standout. Another high point, "Meet On the Ledge," has the band tackling the Fairport Convention staple. Then there's "Ooh La La," and no, it's not a cover of Goldfrapp, it's the Faces version. The band also covers the 1970s country-rock band Pure Prairie League's "Amie" pretty much the way it was originally recorded.
Overall, the album has a country flavor, perhaps due to the strumming guitar infused on many of the tracks. By record's end, it feels like a comfortable pair of jeans, and not just because you've heard some of it before.
-- John Carucci, Associated Press