Record Roundup

          If there's a flaw, it's when Cuomo fails to pull off some of his lyrical risks. The album ender, an acoustic ballad with a powerful melodic ascent that dips into an aching fall, includes the wincer "Smell you on my hands for days/ I can't wash away your scent/ If I'm a dog then you're a bitch." (Hey Rivers, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?) Luckily, Pinkerton is also rife with the group's trademark nerdy hetero anthems--like "The Good Life," which finds Cuomo cockily imploring, "I don't wanna be the low man anymore/Been a year or two since I was out on the floor/ Shakin' bootie, makin' sweet love all the night/ It's time I got back to the good life." With an album this solid, he deserves it. (Laura Sinagra)

          Weezer performs at 7 p.m. Friday at First Avenue.

various artists

Ocean of Sound

Virgin import

various artists

A Storm of Drones



          "AS THE WORLD has moved towards becoming an information ocean, so music has become immersive. Listeners float in that ocean; musicians have become virtual travelers, creators of sonic theater, transmitters of all the signals received across the aether." So writes David Toop in the prologue to his recent book Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds (Serpent's Tail Press),
a tremendously illuminating look at the way
certain music of the 20th century has shifted away from strict formalism toward more formless soundscapes--and in doing so, reflects
some of the strange, fearful beauty of the modern world.

          The double-CD Ocean of Sound set is a continuously segued mix of 100 years worth of music that inspired Toop's reveries. Claude Debussy and lounge maestro Les Baxter drift lazily into My Bloody Valentine and Brian Eno; The Beach Boys butt heads with the dubby African Head Charge; Herbie Hancock meshes with ambient techno innovator Aphex Twin; Indonesian vocalist Detty Kurnia segues up with Ornette Coleman; and the Velvet Underground ("I Heard Her Call My Name") blur into chants by bearded seals. It might sound like college radio-style self-conscious weirdness. But like any good modern DJ, Toop is making connections, tracing influences, and creating a sort of sound theater that's both entertaining and interactive--the story line you track is as much yours as the artists'.

          Along these lines, A Storm of Drones might be considered a graduate seminar to Ocean's Ambient 101. A very compact three-CD set, it is the third and largest installment in a series released by the folks that brought you the ambient beat-logic of DJ Spooky (who contributes liner notes and one cut), and it blends the work of three dozen little-known electronic artists into a fascinating three-hour journey through very abstract audioscapes. Sometimes there are familiar signposts--twittering birds, thunder, traffic noise, running water. Mostly, though, you're on your own in a queer and sometimes threatening geography. As the liner notes explain: "This is not Eno-style ambient. This is not musical soma. The latent potential of motion, the ability to establish a recombinant zone of expression--these are the values that this anthology reflects: memory set adrift on the imploded dreams of our media, the accelerated pain of a world where 'the natural' has been replaced by the synthetic pleasures we like to call 'man-made.'" Yet as alien as these synthetic pleasures may seem at first, pleasure is indeed what they are about. So come on in--the ocean is quite fine. (Will Hermes)

Guy Davis

Call Down the Thunder

Red House

          RAW COUNTRY BLUES aren't supposed to be played by guys who were born in Manhattan, grew up in the 'burbs, have famous actors for parents, and have successful alternate careers as writers and actors. But Guy Davis, son of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, defies all expectations, fingerpicking sparkling blues on his acoustic guitar, blowing a wicked blues harp and singing with a phlegmy voice that sounds like he's been sucking on whiskey, hardship, and Mississippi Delta dirt for longer than his 40-odd years. Davis is no dilettante, either: Having absorbed his grandparents' stories of the rural South, he's developed a fierce devotion to the blues as both an art form and a key to African-American tradition.

          Evidence of his mastery of country blues (see Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly) and urban blues (see Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf) is all over his latest album for St. Paul's Red House Records. There are only three covers, including Mance Lipscomb's harrowing "Run Sinner Run" and a jaunty version of Johnson's "When You Got A Good Friend." The other 10 tracks are all Davis originals, although so drenched in authentic blues experience you might think to credit the howling stomp of "I Got The Power" to Waters or Wolf, or the rollicking "Georgia Jelly Roll" to Willie McTell, or the driving "Jelly Bone Jelly," featuring Pete Seeger on banjo, to Leadbelly. The one pop concession, "The Road is Calling," is a sprawling, road-as-life metaphor that could have come from the pen of Bonnie Raitt or John Hiatt. Which raises Davis' sole, very minor weakness: He's spent so much time evoking the spirits of blues greats, he hasn't quite nailed down his own distinctive style.

          But that will come. "The best I can do is try to say the same old thing in a new way," he says in the liner notes. And for the moment, that's plenty good. (Rick Mason)

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