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Spot Check



THE SLIP 9/15, THE NOTE This Boston trio mixes jazzy puttering and muted funkiness on its second album, Does (one of the first releases on Flying Frog, a new jam-band label run by Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks). Listening to this sort of sunny noodling is something like driving behind sightseers: sure, it's my problem that I'm in a hurry, but that doesn't make it any less excruciating. 16 HORSEPOWER 9/15 & 16, SCHUBAS Over the course of one EP and a couple poorly selling albums for A&M, the Denver-based quartet 16 Horsepower has refined a brooding, gothic take on Americana. The band's new LP, Secret South (Razor & Tie), is slightly less raucous but no less intense than its predecessors: piano, banjo, and fiddle poke up through the tunes like thorny weeds through sidewalk cracks while front man David Eugene Edwards wails in exaltation of desolation. My two favorite tracks are the barn-burning single "Clogger" and Edwards's version of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," where he accompanies himself on banjo through a billowing cloud of spooky reverb. Fans of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Nick Cave, pay attention. DROWSY BIRDS 9/16, 60DUM The newest stars of the local Kultbox electronica label, Drowsy Birds, are defectors from the rock scene: programmer and percussionist Nimbus was the drummer for Disarray, and DJ LeDeuce has collaborated with Bobby Conn and Rome, among others. The music they make as Drowsy Birds is pleasingly uneasy, thanks in large part to LeDeuce's "16 style" technique, which apparently means spinning records at 16 rpm. It makes for thick and rubbery rhythms that seem slower than any normal biorhythm; by the end of the CD-R the label sent, I felt like I was swimming in a Jacuzzi full of Jell-O. This is a "pre-release" party for their forthcoming Kultbox debut; also on the bill are Hyp3r/Pow3r, Slow Paw, Windbreaker, Mr. Unlucky, Subfeye Cyststem, and the Liberation Surrealist Duo. Visuals will be provided by local video artists. SHARK QUEST, ONEIDA 9/18, EMPTY BOTTLE Shark Quest's debut album, Man on Stilts (Merge), is a pretty but not particularly groundbreaking specimen from the sound-tracks-for-imaginary-films subgenre. Some of the tunes sound vaguely like Calexico, but the Chapel Hill quintet's instrumentation (which includes fiddle, cello, and mandolin) is sweeter than Calexico's, with fewer cactus spines, and they can't quite match the Tucson duo's mastery of spacing and pacing. They'll be joined for this gig by trombonist Jeb Bishop, who was a Chapel Hill indie rocker before he was a Chicago free-jazz mainstay. Also on the bill is the New York foursome Oneida, whose second full-length is coming in November. Their six-song stopgap measure, the Steel Rod EP (Jagjaguwar), is a near-perfect confluence of art-damaged guitar squall, synthesizer freakiness, and Fuzztone groan. Side note: it's amazing how, even in a setting like this, a John Fogerty song ("Sinister Purpose") retains its basic shape. HANGDOGS 9/20, SCHUBAS The Hangdogs like to play up whatever outsider status they get from being a New York City roots-rock band fronted by a transplanted midwesterner--the cover of their third album, Beware of Dog (Shanachie), shows a sad-eyed pup sticking its snout through a hole in a wall. But the real roots of their sound are just a stone's throw outside of Manhattan, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Their everyman anthems and tragic love stories are for the most part pretty ho-hum, but occasionally they step out in front of their mundane microcosm and surprise you. In "Anacostia," for instance, front man Matthew Grimm tells the tale of a violent attack on protesting World War I veterans, sounding a bit like the young Michael Stipe channeling an avenging angel. MARK SHEEHY 9/21, SCHUBAS Heartland songsmith Mark Sheehy has already won some fans in Ireland, and his first solo CD, Crooked Pictures, seems ripe for export to other places that might have fewer of his type in the local gene pool. Full of haunted houses and lonely roads evoked by fingerplucked guitar and skirling organ, it's a well-crafted, eloquent, and heartfelt contribution to the unfortunately glutted market for singer-songwriter rock in these parts.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carolyn Morris.

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