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18-21 October 2001


Ether Drag can be one person or four or six. They sometimes tie knots on vintage pedals and other times freeze achingly beautiful with live cello, violin, and drums. Iıve heard them sound like Coilıs ³How to Destroy Angels² and then when I blink they become Morton Feldmanıs longest and most spare composition. But this isnıt a boring academic avant-garde: they can be tender, like the sappiest Dirty Three and/or the ecstatic howl of some loosely tight jazz, maybe Monk. ³Ether Drag² is ultimately a term for a constant collaboration ­ the sounds shift and mutate, always flowing into something else. Like the opulent minimalists they are, thereıs never a resolution or the false drama of loud soft loud soft used to a fault by many contemporary post-rock favorites. The bandıs mainstay, Ben Freeman, connects with sounds in an uncanny way, reworking emotion through the simplest movements without leaning on stock phrases: the knob on a Raga drum machine moves to the left 1/4 of an inch and you want to start shouting joyously. So whatever Ether Drag is or becomes before or within Buffalo, folks are sure to stare slack-jawed or with eyes closed, wanting to float away on the sheets of sound working throughout the room, maybe in their heads creating a new time and space calendar, or diagramming the flight of a sigh. You can download the entire Sick Passenger EP at <http://www.etherdrag.com/>.

Krakatoa is a Brooklyn based band which migrated north from Philadelphia in January 2000. To get an idea of what they sound like, imagine if Daniel Johnston had studied under Bartok, or if Itzhak Perlman hit the road with the Magnetic Fields. This is the musical world of trouble known as Krakatoa. Spawned from the demise of The Lost Art of Puppet Orchestra, the band has performed everywhere from The Knitting Factory in New York City to the Alternativa Festival in Prague. The core group consists of Val Opielski on piano, Glendon Jones on violin, Ely Levin on drums, and Ted Casterline on bass. Lately they've been joined by the Neu String Ensemble: Ben Freeman on cello and Dave Brown on violin. These punk virtuosi are one of the most overlooked and smart avant-garage rock bands playing today. (--Tom Devaney 5.25.01) Further information is available at <http://www.etherdrag.com/krakatoa>.

The National make music thatıs a lot like getting up just before 6am on some dewy side street in Western Montana: ³Rivers can be broken,² you say under your breath and to the landscape resting beside and beneath you. The bandıs self-titled full length is a chapbook of souls, or better yet, a discarded Farmerıs Almanac blooming with revelatory pencil sketches. Like d.a. levyıs incantatory poems about rust and rivers, these are songs channeled through Midwestern ice, teeth, divining rods, shape-shifting emptiness, ghosts, and silence. Vocalist Matt Berninger is a young Johnny Cash raised on college radio. The New York Times' Jon Pareles writes "In the National's songs, on the rainy border of folk-rock and mope-rock, fading love lingers just enough to keep the singer tortured by all the things he could have done." Washington City Paper says "The band's debut is exquisitely wrought..." Philadelphia City Paper calls singer Matt Berninger "a brilliant lyricist and chronicler of emotional minutia." These things are true. The rest of the band is two pairs of brothers: Scott (guitar/backing vocals) and Bryan Devendorf (drum/backing vocals/spokesmodel); Aaron (bass/backing vocals) and Bryce Dessner (guitar/backing vocals). Further information and MP3s are available from the band's web site <http://www.americanmary.com/> and Brassland, the band's record label.

From New York City, WCC are the fabled soul punk combo fronted by Soft Skull shaman Sander Hicks. They use drums, keyboards, and bass with no guitar. The new album, distributed by Soft Skull, is ³Their Laws are Dimwit Greed.² In a recent performance at Desmondıs Tavern, Hicks jumped across tables and lassoed chairs with a microphone cord and sipped other peopleıs beer while starring down nonbelievers. When he called for revolution ­ at the time he was spinning from a ceiling fan - the band clicked immediately into tight punk cabaret and a friend turned to me and said, ³this is the best band ever.² I believed him: my neck was shivering and I was ready to storm the White House. WCC are the real thing: Crass and DK, a band for cocktail hour, The Sound of Music, the best live band of 2001. "Frontman Sander Hicks spews sarcasm and wit like Jello Biafra on a caffeine buzz.² -Flagpole, Athens, GA. "Revolutionary anti-corporate anthems with new wave keyboards and NO GUITARS! Now that's Punk Rock." -Brecht Forum. Information about the band can be found at
Soft Skull Press, which is currently distributing WCC's CD "Their Laws are Dimwit Greed." Further information and .mp3 files are available at <http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/148/whitee_collar_crime.html>.


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