CD Reviews

Parastrophics, I was Born in a Place of Sunshine and the Smell of Ripe Mangos and Dance in the Sun


Mouse on Mars Parastrophics (Monkeytown)

Since they met at a health-food store in 1993, Germany’s Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner, a.k.a. Mouse on Mars, have manufactured some of the edgiest electronic music of all time. Starting with the fucked-up house of Vulvaland (1994) and extending to their last release, the aggressive, abstract and live-sounding Varcharz (2006), Mouse on Mars pushes every corner of the veritable envelope in ways that leave me awestruck—and at times also cause me to scratch my head. Still, the band’s self-reinvention remains dazzling, and Parastrophics, for which the band developed its own musical software to produce, is glitch to the nth degree. “The Beach Stop,” punctuated by a woman’s chattering voice, sounds as if it’s literally being devoured by the holiday sun, snare hits turning inside out, synth bleeps crumbling into white noise. Disco-damaged “Weinuss” pounds itself into such a chaotic froth I can’t help but think much of it’s randomly generated. That this album was made in Berlin and released by Modeselektor’s label says everything about this challenging disc. ★★★☆☆


Yva Las Vegass I was Born in a Place of Sunshine and the Smell of Ripe Mangos (Moniker)

Coming on like a Venezuelan Edith Piaf, Yva Las Vegass finally releases a proper solo album after her 1997 Mexican lounge-grunge collaboration, Sweet 75, with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Born in Puerto La Cruz before cutting her musical teeth as a Seattle street-busker, Las Vegass has endured bad luck, bad habits and bad health over the last 20 years. She re-emerges now with a startlingly original, nine-song, (mostly) Spanish-language effort. Vigorously strumming the cuatro—a four-nylon string guitar native to Venezuela—Las Vegass lays into a host of South American musical styles—joropo, pasaje, gaita—but with a punk edge that rips them out of context. The result is a heart-rending amalgam, from the fluttering plea for transformation, “Mariposas,” to the lonely self-portrait of “Pensamiento Triste.” Be careful, however; NPR couples-cooking background this ain’t: “Crack Whore” and “Pussy in Your Eye” will make you reach for something stiffer than a merlot. ★★★★☆


The Deadfields Dance in the Sun (Self-Released)

From the ashes of Atlanta pop-country outfit South 70 rises singer/guitarist Geoff Reid’s harder-edged project, The Deadfields. Despite the tough band name, dark album art and gritty titles (“Blood on My Guitar Strings,” “Liquor Ain’t So Hard”), Reid’s knack for big, fat hooks remains irrepressible. Every tune on this self-released debut is a surefire radio hit waiting to be poached by Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, et al. From the harmonica-slingin’, banjo-pickin’ blast of “Dandelions” to the pedal steel-streaked barroom blitz of “Till the Next Time,” The Deadfields plow a fertile swath of songwriting. By the last two tracks, though, Reid nearly treats his massive talent as a joke with intentionally saccharine, yet still fun, duet (with Tiffany Leigh Blalock) “We Stick Together” and rockabilly-blues burner “Gasoline.” Reid, who women tell me is a million times cuter than Ryan Adams, doesn’t need luck to sell millions of albums at a time when albums are flagrantly thieved; he just needs a major-label deal to storm the charts. Order via iTunes or ★★★★☆

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The  Shadow of a Hitman


The Shadow of a Hitman

By Akilah Jordan

People have encouraged Wendy Mazaros to tell her story for years. And for good reason. There’s something about the runaway-turned-mob wife that captures the imagination. She’s been the subject of media attention for decades—from ’70s-era newspaper articles to an upcoming spot on the Discovery Channel’s I Married a Mobster to an appearance in a video installation in the new Mob Museum. But there’s a big difference between telling your story and having it told.



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