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Music Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Michelle Goldberg (MG)

Amber Asylum
Songs of Sex and Death

The title of Amber Asylum's haunting new album couldn't be more apt--these ethereal dirges conjure both boudoirs and funerals. The San Francisco group is comprised primarily of Jackie Gratz's cello and Kris Forces violin, guitars and delicate, lugubrious vocals, and the classical instrumentation imbues their modern gothic soundscapes with Victorian elegance. An organ on the gorgeous "Devotion" lends an extra layer of mournfulness, but nearly every song here is suffused with a melancholy so exquisite it borders on decadence.

Nothing Changes
Nothing Records

I'm not sure if some of the tracks on Nothing records astonishing new drum n bass compilation would have been recognizable to me as music ten years ago. Featuring tracks from some of the world's most avant-garde junglists--including the Bay Area's own Meat Beat Manifesto--Nothing Changes is filled with lunatic assaults of hyperspeed beats and twisted samples. Imagine the neurons firing and ping-ponging around a tweaker's brain after a meth binge--that's what Squarepusher's tinny, high-pitched "Tequila Fish." Also included are tracks by pioneering musicians Autechre, Plaid and The Bowling Green. The album is fascinating because it sounds like the future of music, and it's scary for the same reason.

Little Darla Has a Treat for You: Winter 99
Darla Records

The local label Darla records is devoted to releasing pretty, sparkling music, their latest compilation, the Winter 99 edition of "Little Darla Has a Treat for You," proves that sheer loveliness can unite disparate genres. The eighteen tracks on the compilation range from aching, forlorn Galaxie 500 style indie rock to shimmering electronica, all of held together by a consistently quiet and occasionally twee beauty. The brightest gems on the album include the stunning "Commercial 3" from a DC band called Commercial--reminiscent of the Orb's best work, it features sublime analogue melodies, shining bells and cascades of tickling beats. A slinky track from the Indian musician Kalanji Ananji is like a Bollywood version of a Pizzicato Five song. The whole thing is a blissful sonic balm, so soothing it's a veritable pop narcotic.

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From the February 15, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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