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3 Leg Torso
Astor In Paris
Meester Records

There are lots of amazing things to be said about the outfit of fine musicians from Portland known as 3 Leg Torso, and their chamber music album Astor In Paris. The compositions are stunning; the variations, unpredictable; the pure enthusiasm and harmony gratifying. It’s not only the violin (with its episodes of sheer intensity), or the accordion (the way it’s played with such daring and precision as to kindle a flame of ardent blue in the mind’s eye) that renders this album close to a masterpiece. It is also the overall eagerness with which the musicians undertake their joyous journey through a kind of musical escapade few have traversed. The styles range from French café to Eastern European trance mix to South American tango—there’s a tinge of ethnic flair to every track. “Frog...Secret Agent” is easily one of the best tracks on the album, mostly because of its mysterious eloquence and humorous approach. 3 Leg Torso has been profiled on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and Astor In Paris was voted best local CD by The Oregonian in 2003. The live shows are supposed to be engaging as well. Let’s hope they can make it over to Missoula sometime soon. (Diego Bejarano)

The Coral
Magic and Medicine
Sony

I enjoy ’60s throwback music just as much as the next guy, depending of course on how well it distinguishes itself from everything that has been previously done. Magic and Medicine, the newest release from the British band The Coral, fails on that count. Listening to this album, you can’t help thinking, “Hey, I’ve heard this song before.”

Allusions to bands like The Doors are fairly obvious, especially on the first track, “In The Forest,” with its hauntingly dark organ and sonorous vocals. Beyond its offerings to the Lizard King, Magic and Medicine also kisses up to The Animals, the Grateful Dead, and even CCR.

There’s a fine line between being influenced by a certain musical sound and outright replicating said sound in a way that invites obvious comparisons while detracting from the band’s inherent musical talent. The Coral might also have a difficult time finding loyal listeners among the younger crowd, many of whom will regard this album as old-fashioned, something that belongs in their parents’ dusty musical collection.

But let’s give credit were credit is due. The Coral is a young band (its members are all in their early 20s), and for the amount of experimentation they are doing, you want to think they are on the right track. We should just hope they don’t settle in a rut too quickly. (Diego Bejarano)

Venal I.V.
Peace Through Cannibalism
Poisoned Candy Records

Peace Through Cannibalism compiles three full previous records by Venal I.V., plus five live tracks and five remixes for a total of 47 minutes and 47 seconds of blazingly fast local thrash. The CD is extremely tight musically. The live tracks showcase the talent of the members, and prove that it thrives outside the confines of a recording studio. They never break the chainsaw tempo, even when it sounds as if their instruments might spontaneously combust from prolonged friction.

If a karaoke bar in hell happened to offer any of the tracks on Peace Through Cannibalism, the bouncing ball would have an epileptic seizure across the top of the Tourette’s-ridden lyrics. Since we know for sure of no such karaoke bar, another mind-splitting option is to try and read along with the lyrics provided in the jacket. In fact, reading the lyrics may be the only way to digest the band’s multilayered, in-your-face message. Straight-edge lyrics scream social commentary and promote a D.I.Y. lifestyle. Casual sex, the need for substances, popular culture, corporate America and racism are a few of the subjects disputed by the three members—Matt Svendsen, Kate Keegan and Matt Brehe—who take turns delivering the vocals.

This alteration helps to break up the album, which comes dangerously close to blending into one huge album-long rant. But versatility isn’t necessarily a virtue in this genre, and so it goes. Get ready to blow an eardrum, pop a sweat gland and expand your mind. (Vanessa Dunham)

Burke Jam
qu iet:op en
Self-released/Basement Jam

Whoa. Powerful stuff here. This is Burke Jam’s second CD, and he packs a heaping helping of downcast, downbeat, downright mournful vibage into these 12 songs. Autumnal is the pervasive mood of qu iet: op en, sprinkled with stabbing insights, grim chuckles and more than a few patches of exquisite melancholy.

“And Then the Rain Came” is a blue funk of biblical proportions; “Depression” is just what you’d figure, a full spectrum of political, personal and spiritual unease compressed to an odd minor-key jaunt with a dire warning. Burke’s voice sounds ancient and sad, like tools rusting in a leaky outbuilding, or an old tractor collecting birds’ nests and waist-high weeds around it. Lurking in the background of several tracks are all kinds of odd ambient noises: mechanical pond-sounds, backwards-masked gibberish and what sounds like damaged tape creaking past a capstan. It’s a sizzling, hissing presence where it’s present, as comforting as optical crackle on ’30s movies.

The bright spot on the album—musically, if not lyrically—is “The Wreckage of Rome,” a hard-driving, foot-stomping, all-summer-in-a-day anthem with a riff that recalls Journey’s “Stone in Love” and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69,” and sounds as good as either of those songs blasting out of the Sparkomatic on the first Friday night of June. (Andy Smetanka)

Burke Jam has his CD release party and concert this Friday, March 12, at the Roxy Theater.

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