The Rubber Room
Okkervil River / Dirty On Purpose / Rauhan Orkesteri / Lauhkeat Lampaat / Sean Booth / Jesse Somfay

The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.

Okkervil River
Sleep And Wake Up Songs EP
[Jagjaguwar, 2004]

It¹s entirely possible that one of the best records of 2004 was this EP. Sleep And Wake Up Songs shows substantial improvement over Okkervil River’s Down The River Of Golden Dreams. Lead songwriter Will Robinson Sheff has honed his ballad-driven weariness to a razor sharp edge. The songs begin slowly, strummed languidly, paced like heavy boots worn by a sleepless drunk striking hardwood floors with a couch to refrigerator determination. But the songs so often build towards something larger, crescendos that are carried by everything from a trumpet to a beaten piano. Sheff’s voice seems to struggle to keep up, always at the edge of control.
[Peter Funk]

Dirty On Purpose
Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow EP
[On The Moon Music, 2004]

This is an uncommonly good for a first time self-release. Dirty On Purpose are five kids from Brooklyn who have clearly spent some time in darkened bedrooms with Jesus & Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr., and Echo & The Bunnymen. The guitars shimmer and ring, buoyed by boy/girl vocals that intertwine like grasped hands. The production is squeaky clean, there’s minimal distortion on the guitars or grime on the drums, allowing the EP's five songs to stand on their merits. This is as good a definition of indie rock as I’ve heard lately; no tricks just excellent songs. Forthcoming full-length due this spring.
[Peter Funk]

Rauhan Orkesteri
Hyppy Tunti 7”
[Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Äänet, 2004]

Rauhan Orkesteri is yet another renegade outfit from Finland. On Hyppy Tunti they sound like one cell of the Sun Ra microcosm blasting into orbit. There’s a near-feral energy to their music, but it’s far from tortured: the playing borders on the jubilant. When things do calm down a little, as in the middle of “Prinssien Pinssien Kerääjä”, their percussionist reveals octopus arms and polyglot dialect. By the end of the track, duelling saxophones have pushed the levels way into the red, blasting so loud my needle was skipping amongst the grooves. The benign fury of Rauhan Orkesteri’s music is absolutely celebratory, a repudiation of the self-satisfied back-slapping of so much free jazz.
[Jon Dale]

Lauhkeat Lampaat
Aam uu / Pieni Aurinko tanssi 7”
[Pohjoisten Kukkaisten Äänet, 2004]

The brothers A and J Tolvi, from Rauhan Orkesteri, also record together as Lauhkeat Lampaat. While Jaako stays on percussion, Antti switches over to the bass recorder. Freed of the sax’s sometimes limiting squawk, Lauhkeat Lampaat’s music has a light-headed, breathy demeanour. When Antti takes a break, Jaako makes up for this absence not through volume but, rather, through density of miniature sound events. His playing is active yet calm, and coupled with Antti’s circular recorder phrases, it lends this 7” the pleasing air of a Nonesuch Explorer recording of The Art Ensemble of Turku.
[Jon Dale]

Sean Booth
[Velocirecords, 2004]

An EP in name only, Carbon is a lengthy record that introduces this Canadian singer-songwriter to the world. Mining a Califone-esque miner-rock vibe, Booth tells tale of woe that leaves this critic desperately not wanting to use the words: “timeless,” “alt-country,” or “promising,” but there they are. While Booth isn’t annoyingly any one of those clichéd terms, he will certainly fit the bill nicely for those looking for something to fill those gaps in your music listening diet.
[Todd Burns]

Jesse Somfay
Love Affair with the Moon
[Archipel, 2004]

Somfay’s recent posting about originality on his own website’s blog is a bit of a red herring. He owes major debts to the influence of Ricardo Villalobos. In my book: not much of a problem there. On this, his second major release (first for the net-label Archipel), Somfay stretches out with three songs totaling nearly 40 minutes. While that can be wearing for some, the elastic push/pull of the watery beats and the lush, romantic drones that make up the melodies in each track are right up my alley. Those looking for the proper follow-up to the poppier moments of Alchacofa would do well to look here. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I have a new crush.
[Todd Burns]

By: Stylus Staff

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