Man vs. music

Welcome to SN&R’s quarterly Local-CD Roundup. Many albums enter. One man leaves.

Want your band’s new CD to join the roundup? Send one to Local-CD Roundup, Sacramento News & Review, 1015 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

It was a dark and stormy night, although the man trembling in front of his computer wasn’t aware of it. In fact, the accumulated stacks of local CDs had become so plentiful that they had effectively blocked the windows of his office, obscuring him from the world outside. He knew he had to do something about it … but what?

The man stood up and feverishly retrieved a CD from the tower. Then, in a moment that proved to be the opening salvo of his oncoming madness, he opened the case, removed the shining plastic disc from within and—without a moment of thought about the safety of his family or co-workers—slid it into his computer and clicked the play button.

Beads of sweat formed on the man’s forehead as the plastic platter spun into life. It was Call Me Ishmael’s sophomore full-length release, Lyra & the new moon. The man recognized that the dynamic grandeur of Ishmael’s live show was present on the release, underscoring the band’s particular combination of psychedelic influences, straight-ahead rockers and Robert Smith-esque heartbreak and anguish. But was the band trying too hard to tug the heartstrings?

Enough! The CD sailed to the floor, and moments later Sasha Tkacheff’s lone violin filled the room from her new E.P., Phantom Love. There was a quiet intensity to the music that the man enjoyed, but then Tkacheff’s violin became electric and filled the room with reverberating, distorted noise. It was the closing track, “Jimi’s Song,” a paean to Hendrix. The man’s madness crept once again to the forefront.

A CD splintered on the carpeted floor. Another: this one the thumping grind of Maven’s self-titled release, a combination of straightforward pop metal with a touch of rap thrown in for good (or bad) measure. Were the vocals flat? Was the band’s music redundant? Ah, but the man’s consciousness had already slipped. Eleven tracks later, the CD was gone.

Sanity slipped further. This time it was Mystic Fog Garden’s weirdly interesting Fog on the Windshield, a Bud Light-fueled garage-rock freakout with echoey vocals like the Troggs on a half-tab of acid. But even that fell to the floor. A hand grasped for another CD.

What kind of acoustic meltdown was this? My God! It was Smoked Whitefish’s self-titled release, an acoustic album that sounded like a really, really strung-out version of the Band’s Music from Big Pink. The insanity quotient rose.

Enough! A cleaner classic-rock sound: Eric Richardson’s Sacrament. Christian-fueled, countrified rock tunes fill the air, the vocals slightly off-key and the band occasionally losing the beat. The man was confused, and the CD was jettisoned, his blind hand reaching for another.

Could it be? No! Fusion jazz! It was Objects in the Mirror’s Steely Dan-influenced new release, Drive. Even in his delirium, the man could recognize solid musicianship when he heard it. Perhaps it was not too late for him after all.

Objects in the Mirror had helped, but it was up to the next two CDs to fully restore him to sanity, and he was not disappointed. Brother Nefarious’ Exordium: A Boy Is Born—with its tight, funky rhythms—brought the man into Curtis Mayfield country, and that, he knew from experience, was the land of the sane.

One last time the platter spun. Dual saxophones and crumbling guitar chords? It was none other than Race!!!’s new improvised jazz release, Travels. It pushed the boundaries of music just enough to be interesting while maintaining a sense of musicality and, hence, sanity. The man knew it was beautiful music, even though he usually hated jazz. He settled back into his office chair and wiped the sweat from his brow. Somewhere outside the oily windows, a dark and stormy night broke into a clear, crisp morning. Birds chirped, perhaps in response to the saxophones. He would live to listen to music another day.

But what was that sound? The mailman, stuffing more CDs into his mailbox. Would he be able to sort through them before the windows were covered once again? You’ll have to wait three months to find out.