The Lowdown

Y Is a Crooked Letter

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Complete madness. Y Is a Crooked Letter takes its source in the Scissor Girls and Half Japanese (singer Hugh Holden's voice and lyrics have a Jad Fair quality to them), then skyrockets through Deerhoof and Out Hud to land somewhere on Mars. Lo-fi to the bone, ramshackle, and gritty, the 16 tracks are split approximately two to one between avant-core songs and strange experiments. Most of the latter could be discarded, yet they give the album its odd, very odd identity -- a little bit like the early LPs by the Mothers of Invention, although most fans of the latter will find no redeeming factors in the Lowdown's music. Most tracks feature inventive drumming, skeletal keyboard playing reminiscent of the Fall and the Door & the Window, mutating noise guitar, and high-pitched vocals screaming at you in a way that makes you grateful the booklet reproduces the lyrics. Otherwise, you would miss nuggets like "An anarchist Italian born with gills/Mining for coal in the Appalachian hills" (from "Sfdario," the strongest track on the album). Under all the distortion, "Yay, Yay, Hooray" shows signs of an intention to break off into surf mode. "I'll Turn Your Blood into Ants" could be a squared-down version of the Stickmen fed to the noise blender: polluted avant disco. A pummeling hardcore song like "My Friend Sue" can suddenly break into a 7/8 romp before making place for a sax solo inspired by the extreme improvisations of Borbetomagus. These songs pack a lot of surprises into 36 minutes of music, but in order to decipher it all you must be willing to suffer through ferociously (and intentionally) bad sound.

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