Local Licks 

This week, we review Simulacra, the Associated, Mike Gibbons, and Tussle.

Simulacra, Simulacra. An all-star avant-garde lineup led by Aaron Novik made this spooky, but not too heavy metal album almost entirely on clarinet — guitar, bass, and keyboard sounds were created by playing clarinets through various amps and effects. Many of the choppy, tense instrumental passages would work perfectly as boss-level videogame soundtracks. (Evander Music)

The Associated, Be Seeing You EP. The playing could be tighter and the recording brighter, but young East Bay band the Associated has its head on straight. One thing: opening with punk, then reggae, then straight back to punk does not a Clash record make, especially when followed by a Dave Matthews cover. More performing and songwriting experience could work wonders. (self-released)

Mike Gibbons, Loose Ends. Gibbons' country-rock is as earnest and moving as it is competent and mainstream-ready. Most notable is the extent to which he blends the two genres: one moment a tale of being a regular guy with a big heart, working on cars in a warehouse and trying to make it in the music business; the next a blistering electric guitar solo. (self-released)

Tussle, Cream Cuts. Like Ratatat without the guitars, hip San Francisco group Tussle turns electronic music into a living, breathing form. The quartet's seamless blend of dub, Krautrock, minimalist techno, and more is a feat unto itself, but better yet is the contagious life and color these guys inject into what could otherwise be a soulless DJ dance party. (Smalltown Supersound)


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