• SinDependence Day Liberation
After waiting more than two years, fans of the Asheville-based raw-rock orchestra The SexPatriates finally have a date for the release of the group's first official recording: Double Live will hit local-record-store shelves early next month, following a July 4 release party at Emerald Lounge. According to front man Joey "Dirty" Martini, the album will retail for $10. For more information, e-mail to email@example.com.
• Tangled up in Doom
Speaking of long-awaited local albums, the much-delayed, self-titled debut from Doom Ribbons was finally released earlier this month. This solo project by James Owen, former Ether Bunnies and Lube Royale percussionist, has been in the works for more than a year now.
• Digital Groove
In anticipation of his forthcoming self-titled debut album, local pop sensation and self-proclaimed "Hebrew screw-up" Jascha Ephraim has launched his new Web site (www.jaschaephraim.com). As of this writing, the site is somewhat barren, but future visitors are promised music downloads and other goodies. Constructed by local Web designer/musician Chad Pry, Ephraim's spot on the Net features an '80s-computer-graphics theme and a bleeding panda for its user interface.
• 7 Inches of Hard Vinyl, Ya Dig?
According to Dig Shovel Dig's Web site (www.digshoveldig.com), the perpetually unpredictable Asheville notables will have a 7-inch out in the next few months. Though no title for the project has been announced, the group plans to release it on the Winston-Salem-based LookAlive Records.
Under the radar (demo reviews)
Live at The Grey Eagle, Stephanie's Id (Stephanie's Id, 2004)
Stephanie's Id began as vocalist Stephanie Morgan and pianist Chuck Lichtenberger; the duo's music was a sparse, jagged wonder of sounds and silences. The group has recently welcomed two new members: percussionist Matthew Richmond and drummer Vic Stafford. And a whole new style: Songs that were once elegant constructs of well-placed notes are now rich, deep machines of power, rhythm and tone.
The casual listener will likely find Stephanie's Id's current full-band, jazz-club vigor easier to take than the original duo's emotion-in-the-silent-spaces trickery. "Quiet, Jimmy," a reworked version of their own tune "The Biscuit Song," takes on a cool, '70s-French-jazz groove. And their "Dark Moon" has now been transformed into a more driving, dreamlike thing -- a cool reinterpretation that does justice to the flawless original. "Lazy Use of My Mind" has something of a pop sensibility to it, bringing to mind early Sade, while "Go" successfully walks the line between post-Genesis Peter Gabriel and '80s world beat.
This group's surprise metamorphosis, captured on this live demo, makes for a great listen. Rating: 4 out of 5.
Brief Songs for Important Occasions, Wilson the Rocker (Wilson the Rocker, 2003)
Clocking in at just under five minutes, this five-ditty recording already has something great going for it -- it's to the point. No filibustering jams, no extended guitar solos. Just songs. Short ones. Very short.
As the guitarist for exceptionally upbeat local group Congratulations!, Wilson the Rocker has certainly earned his cred. So it should come as no surprise that there was a bit more rattling around inside his head than simple ax riffs. For instance, his military-march homage to a monolithic department store, "Sears Anthem"; his synth-driven, somewhat unemotional answer to birthday songs, "Birthday (I Heard It)"; his Beck-inspired rap "30 Second Masterpiece"; the throwback novelty-jazz tune "Greeting Card."
None of these songs even comes close to cracking the 90-second mark.
The album's grand epic is the unfairly short "In the Morning," combining reluctant vocals and acoustic guitar with a hint of synthetic strings to achieve surprising emotional weight. At just over a minute-and-a-half, it's the only track that feels like a proper song. The rest of the demo is merely a tasty plate of appetizers. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.