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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005 12:47 pm

Weirdly endearing torture music

Gittin' strange with Skeletons and Girl-Faced Boys

Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys Git (Ghostly/Shinkoyo)

Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys

Stravinsky once opined that Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge” is an “absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever,” but the problem with such predictions is that time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future. As soon as we invent a term to distinguish the art of today and tomorrow from yesterday’s, some attention-starved clown comes along with a new twist on the formula and obliges us to pile on the “posts.” It’s never been more difficult to épater le bourgeois, but those crazy kids won’t stop trying. The deformed but lovable brainchild of Matt Mehlan, Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys is a more expansive, improv-based version of Mehlan’s one-man band Skeletons. If Git is any indication, the new ensemble is as bourgeois-averse as ever, even though it’s evolved from one dude and his computer to a real band, complete with punk-rock drummers and classically trained trombonists. Often the quintet seems willfully obnoxious, unleashing a punishing scrum of squall and clatter guaranteed to alienate all those bourgie losers who still demand consonance and coherence from their aural entertainment. If you ever need to clear a room or torture an enemy combatant, put on “There’s a Fly in Your Soup and I Put It There,” a grating chorale of manipulated voices, molested violins, and digital screeches that resembles the amplified death throes of small drowning insects. On the other hand, Git is not all discord all the time. Worm-eaten pop tropes bob up like driftwood in the maelstrom; harmonies lurk like freshwater pearls. Like most art in our post-postmodern culture, Git is a pastiche of existing forms. Sometimes it sounds like a psychotic collage of Steely Dan, bionic cicadas, and a drum circle trapped in a video arcade; sometimes it sounds like an inoffensive jam-band jumble of world beat, no-wave funk, and prog-rock. Though Mehlan’s lyrics reek of cannabis and condescension (when they don’t sound as if he made them up on the spot), his offhand falsetto is weirdly endearing, his melodies improbably hummable. Call it “avant-pop” or “experimental dance” or “post-post-rock” — call it what you want, as long as you realize that the people of 2184 are no more likely to hear a track from Git in their space-age transport pods than we are to hear “Grosse Fuge” in our elevators today. We might not know what the future will sound like, but people are fairly predictable.

We Are Wyoming
(Red Buttons)

Petracovich’s second album, We Are Wyoming, is a beguiling blend of classic pop, indie rock, and trip-hop, replete with lilting melodies, layered laptops, and plump piano hooks. If it shares the same fate as its predecessor, the equally lovely Blue Cotton Skin, Wyoming won’t get anywhere near the ink that it deserves. It’s too bad because, between the bloody quagmire of Iraq and the toxic wasteland of New Orleans, things are looking pretty ugly right now, and Petracovich’s music is an excellent way to drown out the din of lying politicians and blame-shifting pundits. Fronted by Jessica Peters, who writes, sings, programs, and plays keyboards on all the songs, Petracovich is named for Peters’ great-grandfather but might as well be Russian slang for “pretty.” Relentlessly, remorselessly pretty, the album intersperses fragments of Chopin and Debussy with Peters’ luminous idylls, balancing silky synths and ringing guitars with snippets of birdsong, rain, and the occasional train whistle. From the hallucinatory hiss and tinkle of “Pecadillos” to the perky neovaudeville of “What If I Came to Get You” and the melancholy piano intimations of “Paper Cup,” Wyoming is sheer pop perfection, sweet consolation in a noisome world.  
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