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VARIOUS ARTISTS; "The Absolute Sound" (Hearts of Space). * * *

Harry Pearson calls this "space music." Stephen Hill prefers "spacemusic," one word. And while all of the tracks hint of realms beyond our gravity-rooted experience, both men seem to have more personal definitions in mind as well.Maybe we all search for words to describe the amorphous yet settling quality of instrumental music like this - synthesized and/or acoustic, airy and/or percussive. I lean toward "twilight," because I enjoy listening to it as the light of day dims and purposely seek solitude so intriguing themes and arrangements can wash over me.

Pearson edits and publishes the magazine from which this collection gets its name, The Absolute Sound, and compiled the anthology, featuring nine tracks by the experimentally inclined artists of Hearts of Space Records. Hill, of Hearts of Space, handled technical aspects like the mastering and digital assembly. In notes for the collection's booklet, Pearson amplified his definition, explaining that "with space music in its purest form we are dealing in virtual realities, sonic landscapes formed by the artist as a means of musical expression."

It all comes down to space real (where the music is performed or heard) and space imagined (where it takes us). They're intertwined.

The themes range from the silken and elegiac, as in Raphael's contemplative piano-based opener "River Seeks the Deep," Mychael Danna's graceful "Deirdre of the Sorrows" and Paul Avgerinos' cathedral-worthy "Father and Son"; to earthy melodies that seem to belie the otherworldly implications of this subgenre, like Bill Douglas' delicate "Earth Prayer," featuring synthesizer, cello and clarinet; the fascinating bells, tinkles and mild hypnotics of "Minaret/Mosaic" by Robert Rich; and the sultry, primeval "SoMA," by Rich and Steve Roach, sprinkled with eerie effects (like slowly scrapped stones) and heavy with atmosphere.

With highs and lows and phrases both delicate and booming, "The Absolute Sound" was designed as a treat for audiophiles with agile woofers and tweeters.

- Ray Boren

JESUS JONES; "Perverse" (SBK/EMI). *

After hitting the heights (at least, chartwise) with their last album, "Doubt," this U.K. five-piece has bottomed out rather quickly.

Slowing down their trademark techno-funk to concentrate on lyrical concerns, Jesus Jones seem tobe wielding blunt clubs to drive home, frankly, trite and cliched sentiments.

For example, "The Devil You Know" and "Right Decision" don't say anything that hasn't been said before (and a lot better). Both songs, like the rest on this tired third effort, plod along in a synth mush, while frontman Mike Andrews' vocals are more agonizing than agonized. What a mess!

- Jeff Vice

SUGAR; "Beaster" (Ryko). * * *

Most of us Husker Du fans who had given up former HD guitarist Bob Mould for dead may want to reconsider.

While his new trio, Sugar, felt flat on the "Copper Blue" debut (which displayed the band concentrating more on pop choruses rather than on strong arrangements), Mould seems to have rediscovered his musical roots. "Beaster" instead showcases Mould's guitar onslaught.

Consistently entertaining (though Mould does get a bit carried away with distortion and effects at times), "Beaster" features wild power-pop/punk that wouldn't have been too out of place on Husker Du's later efforts.

- Jeff Vice

WEEN; "Pure Guava" (Elektra). * * *

Whoever called this smart-alecky duo "They Might Be Giants' evil twins" didn't even come close.

Giving the perversely twisted pop of the Residents a more conventional slant (such as tightening the arrangements somewhat), Ween's third effort (their first on a major label) has them recovering from the chemically induced indulgences of 1991's "The Pod" quite nicely.

Ween's helium-inflected vocals enliven silly ditties like "Little Birdy" and "Push th' Little Daisies," while "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)" is an epic-length psychedelic parody. Insidious and refreshing.

- Jeff Vice

RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.