ALL EARS 

The new the Sea and Cake disc, One Bedroom (Thrill Jockey), was tailor-made for my recent column on "fey supergroups": Between them, the four bandmates have been core members of such influential indie groups as Tortoise, Gastr del Sol, and the Cocktails; they have made solo records; and one of them (John McEntire) has challenged Jim O'Rourke's status as producer-of-choice to the hipper-than-thou set (Stereolab, Red Krayola, Trans Am). This outing isn't crammed with guest stars á la the Reindeer Section, but it's telling that two of the three guests here are John and Frank Navin, the brothers behind the Aluminum Group, who drop in for a just-right cover of Bowie's "Sound and Vision."

 
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Judging from the music, these guys couldn't be less concerned about showing up late to the party. They would just as soon you bring the party by their place, preferably on a sunny Sunday afternoon after all the revelers have more or less slept off their hangovers. Sam Prekop's vaguely sleepy, completely unassuming vocals drift along pleasantly, not at all worried about enunciation; you can make out plenty of the lyrics, but he breaks a line into so many free-floating phrases - on "Le Baron," for instance - that it's hard to imagine he cares if you piece them together.

Prekop might sing you to sleep if there wasn't so much activity going on behind his voice. Most of the songs are faster than they seem, humming along on an Autobahn of leftover Krautrock beats or an accelerated Casio syncopation. Three members of the quartet are credited with playing synths, but the album sounds more organic than that. In fact, the songs sound like they just grew from track to track, instead of being written - which might be a complaint if you were looking for something to hum once the record's over. Instead, it's a 40-minute ad theme for some car far cooler than the new VW Beetle.

MOOD MUSIC FOR: ANTSY AGITATORS

If One Bedroom sounds like 21st-century driving music, the new Suicide record is a soundtrack for an about-to-get-ugly WTO protest. American Supreme (Mute), the duo's first record in over a decade, is as itchy and ominous as you can get outside of a David Fincher movie, and most of its paranoia is overtly or obliquely aimed at the USA (even the artwork pairs an all-gray American flag with the Day-Glo orange of a "caution" sign).

 
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This isn't some kind of MTV-simplified "we're anti-corporation even though we're on a major label" sort of thing. Listening to vocalist Alan Vega is more like being trapped at a bus stop with a street person who may be crazy but still knows something about the sinister powers that really do lurk above him. He laces his random mutterings on "Power Au Go-Go," for instance, with "gotcha" hoots and howls - as if to prove that he's talking to you, not himself.

Vega's rants are generally accompanied by generic dance beats, many of which date back to the '80s or earlier. It's a little disturbing to see these so far removed from their context, transmuting the hedonism of a nightclub into apocalyptic millennialism. Occasionally, Martin Rev's keyboards go as haywire as Vega's vocals: The echo-drenched five-minute chaos of "Dachau, Disney, Disco" (yeah, the title says it all) is enough to make you nuts - enough to make you run for cover into the peaceful, narcoticizing embrace of the Sea and Cake. •


More by John DeFore

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