Most of the time when I see a band handing out CDs on the sidewalk in front of a show they didn't play, I take one—mostly because I respect the hustle of musicians who are hungry enough to buttonhole a stranger to get their demos heard, and only secondarily because I'm curious if the music is actually worth hearing. But when I ran into two-thirds of Killer Moon slinging CD-Rs in front of a Shrinebuilder show last November, right off the bat I figured they had potential. First, that's an excellent choice of show for a self-promotional push, and second, the discs' cardboard slipcases were slathered in bright orange tempera and decorated with glued-on pictures—on my copy, a brilliantly colorful devotional image of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. One listen to the two tracks, "Azul" and "From the Jaws of the Vision Serpent," and my suspicions were borne out: Killer Moon's meandering, muscular psych-metal instrumentals manage to be both shit-tight and dreamily expansive, showing the influence of the hard-prog theatrics of Hawkwind and the desert-rock riffscaping of Kyuss. This stuff is just begging for an occult-obsessed hippie exploitation movie to soundtrack.
PIT ER PAT
The Flexible Entertainer
It's always been tough to pin down exactly what it is Pit Er Pat are trying to be. An avant-garde pop group? Purveyors of bizarre ersatz reggae? An art-damaged jam band? Not even "all of the above" seems like an adequate answer. Bassist Rob Doran left the band after 2008's High Time, and Fay Davis-Jeffers and Butchy Fuego, who now split their time between Chicago and LA, decided to proceed as a duo—instead of recruiting another member, they've incorporated a sampler. Their passion for their new toy shines through on The Flexible Entertainer: most of the songs ride on percussion loops that reference hip-hop and dance music, albeit crowded with polyrhythms and tweaked with odd skips and fills; and synth samples constantly flicker around their edges. Though samplers are popularly believed to produce rigidly robotic music, Pit Er Pat demonstrate that the Akai MPC can be a part of spontaneous-sounding songs. The new album, "mostly recorded live" according to Thrill Jockey, replicates the band's recent performance style, where human musicians playing keyboards, guitar, and drums come together with multiple loops (a stuttering snare, a trotting conga, a snatch of highlife guitar) to create heady grooves that can satisfy artsy kids and Phish fans alike.
Drumming for Pistols
Puerto Muerto are a small band, both in the sense that there are only two of them and in the sense that they're obscure—they don't even have an American label. But when it comes to their music they seem to think on an epic, wide-screen scale. Husband and wife Tim Kelley and Christa Meyer both sing, he in a burnished baritone and she in a brassy mezzo-soprano, and on Drumming for Pistols their singing injects plenty of drama into a set of ambitious songs held together by a streak of swoony gothic romanticism. Puerto Muerto are often assumed to be a species of postpunk country band, but despite the generous helping of twang in their music there's not a lot that actually sounds like country. "Tamar" is like "Gimme Shelter" transported to Deadwood, with Kelley's dusty growl replacing Jagger's pleading in the verses but Meyer's apocalyptic girl-soul choruses preserving all the menace of the original. "Beautiful Women With Shining Black Hair," on the other hand, sounds like a danse macabre set in an infernal beer hall, complete with oompahing horns, and "The Bell Ringer," whose lyrics were inspired by Herzog's Stroszek, makes do with little more than a dreamy mesh of fingerpicked guitar, velvety strings, and slightly dissonant bells.
Rockie's Modern Life
Halfway through his debut mix tape, local rapper Rockie Fresh takes a couple minutes to expound upon the state of rap music (it's not dead) and give shout-outs to some contemporaries (Wale, Kid Cudi, Drake, Asher Roth) he sees as having the potential to usher in a new golden age of hip-hop, something on par with the Tribe-led revolution of the early 90s. But at that point he hardly needs to drop names, since if you've been listening you will have already picked up that he's on the same shit as all those guys. (He's not on their skill level yet, though, with one exception—even the "Take U to da Movies" guy could slay Asher Roth on the mike.) Over stripped-down trunk rattlers, old-school boom-bap, Kanye-style anthems swelling with motivational strings, and chopped-up bits of hipster fare like Justice or Florence & the Machine, Rockie raps about chicks, clothes, and the grind of a new jack MC. His style balances the tricky cadences current rappers inherited from Andre 3000 against the laid-back delivery 90s backpackers learned from Q-Tip, and he has a weakness for the kind of slightly corny punch lines that both those forebears love—describing the public reaction to a lady friend, he says, "I feel like I'm a banister / The way we make 'em stare."
WE WILL EAT RATS TO SURVIVE
War & Houses & Small Children & Pineapples
If you could strip away the Arcade Fire's taste for grandeur and the awe they seem to feel toward their own music but maintain their perfectly cluttered arrangements and sense of camaraderie, you'd end up with something considerably improved—something that might sound a lot like We Will Eat Rats to Survive. A quartet of punks with feelings of emotion, they build rickety, awkwardly beautiful piles of guitar, glockenspiel, ukulele, and whatever else they can get their hands on. "Let's Take Pictures of Us Dancing on Their Graves" gets a slightly Balkan feel from accordion, cello, and crashing cymbals, but at its core it's a rock song, its brisk tempo and start-stop structure reminiscent of ramshackle DIY folk punks like This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. For most of the album's 25 minutes We Will Eat Rats to Survive indulge in the rowdy, rousing sentimentality of a bunch of old friends working a nice beer buzz, but they take a break to brood on "Blanket and Bluelight," where they get about as sweeping and majestic as they ever do. Even that still feels as humble and unpretentious as the CD's hand-sewn canvas sleeve.