SIGUR RÓS:Donít let the weird name, the unintelligible lyrics (some in Icelandic, some in gibberish, damned if we can tell the difference), and the cultish critical frenzy scare you from trying out Sigur Rós. The groupís buzzworthy second album, Agaetis Byrjun (now available here in the States, it translates roughly to "A New Beginning"; the bandís name means "Victory Rose"), is not experimental music, itís not ambient (well, maybe just a little), and it ainít tough to like. Itís just real good ethereal chamber pop harking back to the old 4AD sound, with a few chillier accents, like long, breathtaking intros that sound like field recordings of some windswept Arctic tundra. One of our 18-month-old critics-in-training was singing along by the end of the second song, and she likes only Elvis and Raffi. So there. Sigur Rós have just announced a US tour that will bring them to the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, on September 21. Tickets should be on sale soon and will likely go super fast, so keep checking "Hot Tix," on the Arts cover, for details.
NEW-WAVE FEMINISTS: Feminist Sweepstakes (Mr. Lady), the new album by Kathleen Hannaís postĖBikini Kill new-wave/hip-hop group Le Tigre, isnít due until October. But weíll get a preview of the disc next month when Le Tigre make a rare appearance at Spontaneous Celebrations, 45 Danforth Street in Jamaica Plain. The showís being put on by the emerging feminist arts group Anonymous Girls; the rest of the bill comprises Le Tigre labelmates Traci + the Plastics, NYCís Semiautomatic, Bostonís the Faux, feminist hip-hop MC Cathy Cathodic, and a showcase of female authors and visual artists. Itís an all-ages gig, and tickets are $10. For more info, visit www.liquid2k.com/anonymousgirls, or call (617) 734-7523.
Doug Scharinís résumé reads like a concise history of post-punk indie-rock experimentation. The Chicago-based drummer has performed with some of the most influential indie bands of the past 10 years, donating his rock-solid skills to jagged math-rockers Rodan and June of í44 as well as slowcore minimalists Codeine and Rex. And for the past five years, Scharin has been exploring post-rock landscapes of dub and electronica under the moniker Him.
"It started as a recording project," he explains over the phone from Chicago. "It was something to do in between tours with June of í44 and Rex. I was just fooling around with my minimal set-up in Brooklyn and teaching myself techniques to manipulate sounds." But the lo-fi dub of those early recordings is long gone, as Scharin has turned Him into a shapeshifting musical collective of players from the worlds of post-rock and jazz. Sworn Eyes (Perishable, 1999) was a hypnotic slice of gently drifting post-rock that featured Scharin and a handful of players from the Tortoise/Isotope 217 axis. The most recent Him release, New Features (Bubblecore), has Scharin and a new crew of Chicago musicians performing a groove-heavy take on contemporary jazz.
The imposing shadows of Fela Kuti and Miles Davis loom over the recording, but so does dub maestro King Tubby, as the lengthy Afro-jazz explorations are treated with a heavy dose of ear-twisting electronic trickery. Despite all the shapeshifting studio effects, Him sound more like an actual jazz group than a ProTools creation. Using the open harmonic template as a venue for far-reaching solos and ensemble interplay, the group are not afraid of stretching out past the 10-minute mark or veering into free-jazz splatter.
But because of Scharinís rockist past, Him are still treated as some sort of indie-rock spinoff. "The world that we tour in and the circuit that weíre on is definitely an indie-rock one, though Iíd be hard pressed to call New Features a rock record. Thereís a whole lot of other audiences out there that would like what weíre doing but not getting to hear it." For instance? "Iíd love to play to a place with a lot of hippies in it. I got no problem with that, I think that itís really cool. People who dance to Phish would probably be really into our stuff."
Scharinís right ó thereís a definite similarity between the more instrumental, jazz-oriented wing of the indie-rock scene and the groove-jazz side of the jam-band movement. They share a love for long-form song structures, trippy electronic textures, danceable rhythms, and, dare we say it, jamming.
"We played a show out in Eugene, Oregon, on our last tour, and itís got a big hippie population. About 80 percent of the crowd were, I hate to say hippies, but they were, and they loved it. It was a blast ó everybody was dancing and getting down. You go to so many of these indie-rock clubs and people are just standing there, staring at you. Come on, get with it, have a good time! I like to see people dancing and getting down." Prepare to get your swerve on.
Him play an early (6 p.m.) show at the Middle East, 472 Mass Ave in Central Square, next Thursday, August 2. Alex Blake opens. Call (617) 864-EAST.
BY MICHAEL ENDELMAN
Issue Date: July 26 - August 2, 2001