CD Clay Stones (CD 6309179),
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Clay Stones

  • 1. Foot Follows Foot
    2. Clay Stones
    3. Fight Song
    4. Lie Like the Forest
    5. Rare
    6. Not In Death
    7. Clover and Dirt
    8. Goya Monster
    9. Sweet Things Are So Hard
    10. Lord Have Ass
  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 00043984

  • Credits

    L.A. art freaks We Are the World make no bones about the fact that they are not really a band -- they prefer the term "outfit," which seems vague enough to encompass an undertaking whose modes of operation include choreography, elaborate costuming, video, and all-around immersive visual spectacle in addition to their music. In any case, it's clear that the fullest expression of the group's project is to be found in the aesthetically adventurous, quasi-political performance art of their live shows, rather than on a piece of plastic or some digital files. That makes it difficult to know how to properly assess this debut album, which by the same token is clearly meant as more than a mere soundtrack or souvenir. Taken unto itself, divorced from its visual/experiential counterpart, Clay Stones still delivers plenty of visceral intensity: it's a breathless 45 minutes of violently propulsive electronic rhythms and stark, eerie atmospherics. Engaging but hardly easy listening, it's melodically minimal (beyond the throbbing bass, blank-eyed vocals, and scattered twitchy synth lines, harmonic content is typically scant) and emotionally monochromatic (even when the kinetic energy slackens, the mood remains relentlessly dark and edgy)but far from monotonous: primary musical instigator Robbie Williamson wrests an impressive textural and polyrhythmic array from a palette of black and grey, culling his constantly shifting sounds from industrial, minimal house, electro-clash (fellow techno-visual spectacularists Fischerspooner come readily to mind), and the twisted synth pop of the Knife. One frustrating weak point: Megan Gold is not by any means a tremendous vocal presence -- she adds a nicely bluesy, sub-Polly Harvey yowl to the pummeling title track and the glam-thrash stomp of "Goya Monster," but her vapid singsonging elsewhere (and flimsy nursery-rhyme rapping on "Fight Song") tends to detract somewhat from the album's dramatic drive where a more commanding vocalist could have helped transform it into something truly remarkable. Despite a promising start (the insistent yet inscrutable rallying cries of the first few tracks) and some inspired programming throughout (check the jittery tech-funk instrumental "Sweet Things Are So Hard"), Clay Stones remains conceptually intriguing and admirably sculpted, but a bit too stony to fully embrace on its own terms -- though it's easy and enticing to imagine how this could be tremendously effective stuff in person. ~ K. Ross Hoffman

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