FEBRUARY PLAYBOX HIGHLIGHTS

Artist: Mudboy
Album: Hungry Ghosts! These Songs Are Doors
Label: Digitalis
Providence's Raphael Lyon, the self-proclaimed "Master of Experimental Noise Organomics," returns with his first release for Digitalis, exhibiting his mystical synthesis of lysergic organ drones and moonlit jams. Originally released as a beautiful LP on Not Not Fun, this is something like his third full-length release overall amid several split 7"s, cassettes, live CD-Rs and other various means of output since the early millennium. He cultivates spooky swirls of war whoops and backwards glances, set to his impressively-designed organ combination - a fusion of a lower acoustic air organ wired to an '80s Yamaha modulation synth, all sent through a bevy of effects processing. It's a neat little creation indeed, and you can check out a detailed explanation with photos on his Web site. He casually incorporates bell tinkles and saturated voices that melt through various pitches, creaking like a wooden ship. The more straightforward organ tracks lack the intensity of his rowdy psychedelic choruses, multi-tracking a variety of sound sources and collapsing them all in a bubbling stew. Taken as a whole though, the juxtapositions of subtle drone and outright weirdness work well together, making for quite an enjoyable record. His live shows involve quadraphonic sound, incense, smoke machines and firecrackers, so if that's not enough to get you interested, then this record probably won't do it for you either, and you're past the point of help.

Artist: Kevin Shields
Album: The Death of Patience
Label: Deathbomb Arc
Don't get too excited, The Death of Patience isn't a new solo record from the My Bloody Valentine dude, but is the cleverly-picked moniker for LA-based Eva Aguila's solo recordings of harsh-as-fuck noise and rampaging walls-of-sound. This is Aguila's first full-length CD, courtesy of Brian Miller's Deathbomb Arc label, and comes after a few 3" CD-Rs and 12"s, including a new split with Thurston Moore, Men Who Can't Love, and Barrabarracuda. She cultivates piercing distortion tirades through a slew of effects and delay manipulations, moving through chopped pedal-hopping and brief moments of relief. She even incorporates a lovely-little keyboard interlude to round out the brutality of "Nothing's Never Ending." An intense ride for sure, but Aguila manages to makes this compelling throughout the lengthy tracks, building up chaos violently and taming the beast down again. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like getting sonically assaulted, then this'll do the trick just fine.

Artist: CunninLynguists
Album: Dirty Acres
Label: APOS/Bad Taste (Sweden)
This is the fourth full-length from Kentucky-based hip hop outfit CunninLynguists, originally formed as a duo in 2000 by producer Kno and emcee/prodcuer Deacon the Villain. Dirty Acres finds the group solidified as a trio, joined by newest emcee and Kentucky native Natt. Kno handles all the production on the record, keeping the beats lush, smooth and mellow - a little heavy on the acoustic guitar samples at times, but he pulls it off surprisingly well. A somber intelligence lurks through the album, not especially aggressive, but not lacking intensity either. Guest emcee spots from Devin the Dude, Witchdoctor and Little Brother's own Phonte all shine, complimenting the group's unmistakably Southern vibe. My main criticism is the lack of diversity with the beats, which sound a bit too similarly easy and breezy throughout. But they do it well, and a name like theirs is bound for glory, so kick back and enjoy.

Artist: Ahleuchatistas
Album: Even In the Midst …
Label: Cuneiform
Asheville trio Ahleuchatistas have been tightening their instrumental jazz-rock since 2003, and this is their fourth full-length release overall, second for Cuneiform records. Consisting of Shane Perlowin (guitar), Sean Dail (drums), and Derek Poteat (bass), the boys weave in and out of intense chops and cascading riffs, drifting through finger flurries and deftly snapping back into rhythm. Their tone is clean as a whistle - Poteat's bass is the only instrument that has any real effects applied to it, fuzzing out with brief touches of distortion to accent the more intense passages. It's a feature that I wish they'd explore more to give their music a little sonic variety, but I guess the unprocessed nature of their playing is what sets them apart from the post-rock legions. They’re all outstanding musicians, but they haven’t really progressed anywhere since their beginnings, and this record pretty much showcases their instrumental prowess in a similar way as their other studio outings. Doesn't mean they can't sling some expertly-timed jams though, and they're definitely no strangers to practice. But over the course of an hour, their approach wears a little thin on these ears. Awesome band to see live, though.

Artist: Times New Viking
Album: Rip It Off
Label: Matador
With two full-lengths for the recently-revived Siltbreeze label already under their belt, Columbus noise rock trio Times New Viking make their Matador debut, slinging overblown pop hooks and gritty punk charges. Don't worry, they haven't upped the recording quality for the label promotion, continuing their style of DIY-demolished indie rock, sounding like early 90s Chapel Hill hopped-up on amphetamines and played through a static-spewing transistor radio. I wanna use the word "fuzz," but the distortion isn't cuddly - its cuts like a rusty tin can with an absence of low-frequency tones, tarnishing the accessibility of their songwriting with teenage abandon. Consisting of drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott, keyboardist/vocalist Beth Murphy and guitarist Jared Phillips, the three are basically the flagship troupe for the newest crew of Ohioan lo-fi rockers like Psychedelic Horseshit and Pink Reason, and their upped exposure through this Matador release should do wonders for the scene and its sound, which I endorse wholeheartedly. At the very least, they seem sincere enough, so shout along happily with fingers in your ears.

Artist: Jjak Hogan
Album: Masters
Label: FrequeNC