Scene Not Heard

Computer wizards leave their bedrooms, rappers reach the stage, and the Mason Jennings Band creates the bar buzz of the decade. In the ninth annual City Pages New Music Poll, 60 local music fans pick the bands that made the biggest noise.

 

Simon Peter Groebner, City Pages contributor

1. The Mason Jennings Band

2. Mark Mallman and the Heat

3. Lunar 9

4. Landing Gear

5. DJ Ts

Last year I facetiously (though correctly) predicted the breakup of Picked to Click poll-toppers the Odd, only to pay the karmic price by seeing the demise of my personal pick for number one, the Minx. (The Odd later regrouped with new members, while the Minx soldier on without Jessika Minx, under the name Ronin.) Anyway, I'll hold off on predictions about the Mason Jennings Band, whose four-month stand at the 400 Bar pretty much made this winter worth it. The singer has garnered the only genuine local bar buzz of the late '90s, and I like the way his personal self-awareness exists alongside an utter lack of artistic arrogance. Lunar 9 and Landing Gear are recycled pop bands featuring familiar faces from Shatterproof, and both offer an improvement on their previous incarnation. For new faces, I enjoyed DJ Ts and his hyperfragmented cut-up sessions just as much as I did brilliant computer composers Jake Mandell and Escape Mechanism. Ts provided an instantly engaging deviation from DJ music's fairly predictable expressionism. Oh, and my demos of the year: Rebuttal, a two-guy Minneapolis-Seattle collaboration with shimmering acoustic guitars; and Blank, who plays rhythmically potent, fin de siècle power pop.

 

Slug, Atmosphere

1. Sixth Sense

2. Moveable Feast

3. The Plastic Constellations

4. Prosthetica

5. Fresh Squeez (Bonus Juice)

DJ Abilities of Sixth Sense is one of the best turntablists in the Midwest. I've watched him amaze people all over the nation. His MC partner Eyedea, the 17-year-old grammar magician, is easily the most profound rapper St. Paul has ever produced, with a soul-searching, cynical, minimalist emo-rap. Anything Truth Maze touches turns into soul, and Moveable Feast is no exception. We played a show with the Plastic Constellations once at Hopkins High, and by the time they stopped working the crowd, I was scared to play. This city is not big enough to hold their energy. Someone sign them while they're still innocent enough to exploit. Prosthetica's stoned, sonic tongue-bath makes me wanna give my girlfriend a back rub. It isn't cheating to pick the all-star pickup band, Fresh Squeez, even though every time they play they're a new band.

 

Jon Dolan, City Pages

1. Jake Mandell

2. Ninian Hawick

3. Abstract Pack

4. Radar Threat

5. Empire

In the middle of what seemed like Sahara conditions, the Minneapolis music scene produced its best crop of young talent in years. Not with itty-bitty pretty petty pep-pop or achy-breaky alt country. No, 1998 finally saw the fringes mount an attack upon a stultifying, self-satisfied local rock scene. A new school--the progeny of Rod Smith and Woody McBride, the new masters of home electronics, the Mac daddies, and the champions of that exotic African-American form of expression, hip hop--created a number of vibrant subcultures. I could list DJs alone--I-XL, Abilities, Ts, Omni, Tyrone--and have the makings of an excellent top five right there. But that would be to deny the joys of Empire's fresh-faced R&B, Radar Threat's dystopian drones, and Abstract Pack's nationally acknowledged arty-party jams, not to mention the ingenious home-studio experiments of one John Crozier, sound-sculpting under the name Ninian Hawick. It would also leave out Jake Mandell, the best mind for music to emerge from these parts in a long time. The arrogantly intelligent, gorgeously baroque, post-techno jigsaw puzzles on Mandell's Parallel Processes have the grace of classic-pop lyricism, the narrative integrity of fine songwriting, and the undeniable drive of great rock 'n' roll.

 

Earl Root, Root of All Evil Records

1. Lorde of All Desires

2. Opaque

3. Ripsnorter

4. 21st Century Sin

5. Pentagoria

There's a lot of metal underground hardcore bands that are failing for lack of support from the scene, despite some great all-ages metal shows at the Turf Club and the Armory. Lorde of All Desires is a combination of progressive and black metal. Opaque plays very heavy, crunchy stuff, and they're good for being as young as they are. Ripsnorter is a Misfits worship band, nice guys who are really into it for the sheer sake of the music. With 21st Century Sin, the music is progressive, interesting metal--catchy but not predictable. Pentagoria play a great combination of death, speed, black, and thrash--everything that's happening in the metal scene combined into one aggressive and impressive band of very young musicians. Definitely a band to watch. Honorable mention to Impaler, with their new lineup.

 

Rachel J. Joyce, Walker Art Center

1. Arkology

2. The Short Fuses

3. All the Pretty Horses

4. Bobby Llama

5. Annie Enneking

My list this year is somewhere between "Ladies First" and Lilith Fair--a result of my efforts to wrest myself from my consuming passion for all things global and funkified. In developing an appreciation for what the Twin Cities have to offer beyond the ever-shriveling world-beat scene, I have been very impressed by the gals this year. Arkology, a jazz/soul/spoken-word collective, has really come into its own over the last year. Although the group's Nikki Giovanni-meets-Brand New Heavies vibe has attracted more people each time I see them, they are holding back (either by choice or oversight) on the one thing guaranteed to make them scene darlings: singer/poet/diva Mankwe. This woman could wail the wrap off Ms. Badu's head. I've heard her read a chicken curry recipe that made me tremble; pass her the mic, please. The Short Fuses are a sure sign that bad-ass mama Ms. Georgia Peach is on her way up; she does not return my calls anymore. All the Pretty Horses--glam rock served raw in the half shell--slips down the throat like butter. A lesson to be learned by some local rock boys: If women ever had a fantasy involving dirty-haired, flannel-wearin' boys with marginal hygiene, it passed when Cobain did. The cool kids are showering this year. The really cool ones are slipping into fishnets and spiked heels. Deal with it. Bobby Llama plays catchy global pop, and that frontgal Ellis is feisty. Finally, ordinarily I would rather watch a Tae-Bo infomercial marathon than listen to acoustic music for the coffeehouse set, so I'm hardly an expert. Ms. Annie's lyrics, however, have the same macabre twist on the human condition that makes me swoon for Morrissey and Tricky. But just like a spoonful of sugar, her off-handed phrasing makes the medicine go down.

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