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Piper at the Pearly Gates 

Wednesday, Jul 19 2006
R.I.P. Syd Barrett. The original crazy diamond is now a sparkle in the sky, having passed away last week of unnamed causes. The songwriter who helped usher into the music world genuine eccentricity was called "a kind of living dead man" in a recent Slate obit, due to literally mind-numbing drug dalliances and a general preference for reclusiveness, which kept only his coveted solo records and early Pink Floyd work in public view. But even as Barrett's life dead-ends at 60, his influence lives on in varied mutations.

The name Dolly Rocker might sound like an ode to rhinestone cowgirl Dolly Parton, but it's actually a Barrett song off his Opel album. It's also the name of a local melancholy alt-country act lead by Sara Rose Corrigan. Listening to her band's new self-released record, Funny Lullabies, your mind drifts more toward Mazzy Star, Low, and Laura Veirs than The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Yet Corrigan still finds a connection to Barrett.

"I remember a slightly harsh review of Dolly Rocker's first album, Hello, Dolly Rocker!," she says. "The writer was expecting [the] band to sound like Syd Barrett, all crazy and weird. Alas, [he] was disappointed that the music was so slow. I don't think of Syd's music as simply crazy or weird. Mostly, I sense a real wistfulness. I do one Barrett cover, 'Dark Globe,' that I think of as raw with longing."

Although the songs on Funny Lullabies allude to humorous situations, there's a somber, pining quality to Corrigan's voice, and as she drawls the lyrics her words feel weighted by forlorn daydreaming. Backed by guitars, violins, tick-tocking waltz beats, and handclaps, her voice is the overwhelming attraction, giving emotional focus to tracks that are otherwise minimalist slow-core landscapes.

Other new local releases: From the black-and-gold foil packaging to the music it encases, M. Kourie 's new disc is an elegant project — with sinister undertones. Nathan Berlinguette (Creation Is Crucifixion) debuts as a solo artist with M. Kourie's The Dreams of M. Kourie, an ambient soundscape of midnight hallucinations (and some errant nightmares) expressed as whale sounds, of sorts. Samplers and guitars birth droning moans and spacious, chilly melodies for a soundtrack that would work quite well inside a submarine. Together with Tim Green and CIC bandmate Ryan Unks, Berlinguette buries and bulldozes more than 100 black metal samples until they're calm as rippling electronic waves. It's the stuff goose bumps were made of.

Make a complete 360 for Experimental Dental School, whose name reminds me of a friend who chose a particularly cheap (read: sketchy) root-canal fix years back that left him sporting a bloated blowhole of a kisser. The Oakland trio projects a carnival-esque, nitrous oxide-friendly atmosphere in its U.S. release of the lo-fi procedure 2 1/2 Creatures. Using such instruments as a custom-made "guitar-o-bass," organ, found sound, and general freak-show sonics, the group gives sci-fi synth punk a vaudevillian sheen.

And Lookout Records co-owner Molly Neuman brings a bit of the Spanish punk scene overseas with Les Aus ' release on her new indie label, Simple Social Graces Discos. The Barcelona band's American debut, Haranna Hanne, is a European union of punk cultures. The group circles back to early Pink Floyd, as the minute-long "Gel/Mirall" interlude has vocals that sound piped in through a kazoo and they float around xylophone melodies. The rest of the record is a melting pot of Moroccan influences and sunny Beatles-isms. Definitely nothing matching Lookout's roster — the closest modern peer for Les Aus is probably Italy's great underground psych/garage rockers, Jennifer Gentle (although Mars Volta comes up as well). Damn cool stuff, as Syd Barrett's spirit gains new life once again.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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