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Sonoluminescence Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Luder's 2009 debut album, Sonoluminescence, takes you back to the oh-so-long-ago of, what, 1994 or so? Yes, it's difficult to believe that it's been that long already. But the alternative metal and shoegaze sounds emanating from Sonoluminescence's grooves evoke instant Technicolor flashbacks (well, tones of gray Technicolor, anyway) to that mid-‘90s sonic aesthetic -- as dated, yet as comfortable, as that grungy old Cardigan sweater you wore against your mother's protestations, until the very last string unraveled like some vision preordained in that damn Weezer song! But primarily, it's the confluence of Sue Slot's dreamy, haunting whispers and her bandmates' droning, angst-ridden darkness that breeds this familiarity, epitomized by tracks like "Selfish and Dumb," "The Pox," and particularly "S-Words," which sets progesterone-fueled Alice in Chains vocal harmonies against a circular riff backdrop direct from the Jane's Addiction toolkit. Evident influences aside, though, the members of Luder unfurl just enough unorthodox elements from their separate prior musical paths to give those templates some distinction, including classic, psychedelic, and stoner rock elements, metallic riff worship, and even a discreet power pop undercurrent that alleviates the exquisite torment of it all right about when you're reaching for the skip button (cue the gloriously depressing "Sewn Together"). For example, one of the more interesting songs, the amusingly named "Hot, Girl-on-Girl, Vampire Action," drones on forebodingly for much of its lysergic eight minutes, but unexpectedly breaks out into a bouncy pop-punk midsection that feels as though it were painfully grafted on. "In Love with Love" also picks up the pace when you most needed it to, and the closing enigma of "Soledad y Onaismo" (err, "Solitude and Masturbation"?) travels a daunting road from its sparse acoustic beginnings to its Tool-like post-metal apocalypse (by way of a Sabians guitar solo -- look that one up!). In sum, as exercises in nostalgia go, Luder's Sonoluminescence feels pretty darn welcome when all is said and done, and it makes for a rather unrepresentative but memorable choice to serve as the Small Stone label's celebratory 100th release (owner Scott Hamilton is also one of Luder's two guitarists), which is no mean feat in today's troubled music industry.

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