album reviews

    Beck

    “”Sea Change””

    Geffen/Interscope

    ****

    Beck’s ninth full-length album begs the question: Is rock’s truest one-man band getting soft with age? While this album does not fall off sharply from the progression of his previous albums, this album does lack the one rock track that most of his previous albums have offered.

    Bursting onto the MTV scene in 1994 with the hit single “”Loser”” from his album “”Mellow Gold,”” Beck has yet to be forgotten by an audience with an attention span shorter than most of Beck’s albums.

    While the popular media’s fascination with Beck has been maintained over the years, not much of its attention has been spent on Beck’s musical outings. With a catalog of over 500 songs, this alleged genius has maintained his place in the world of rock by maintaining the originality that his first single made so obvious.

    His new album is critically acclaimed and is already being called Grammy-worthy. The press has taken to the idea that this release, along with the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, is going to stir a new revolution of soft albums from the world of rock.

    “”Sea Change”” has melancholic tones throughout the album. As Beck mumbles over ever-changing guitar melody with light percussion and symphonic overtones, he sounds at times like the bastard child of Thom Yorke and Eddie Vedder.

    While it probably intentionally lacks a true single, the album’s gem is “”Lost Cause,”” which is the culmination of everything that Beck does well on the album.

    The soft percussion, whispering voice and guitar is overlaid with a hint of rock’s new techno edge in a song that comes off as folksy. The lyrical genius that accompanies the music is what sets Beck apart from his imitators.

    The rest of the album’s songs are slow ballads that deal with the idea of being adrift in the ocean of life. These ideas are best summed up in “”Golden Age”” — “”These days I barely get by, I don’t even try.”” A surprisingly stark album, “”Sea Change”” is at moments as brilliant as the bright pink disk that it plays on.

    — David Bynum

    String Cheese

    On the Road

    Sci Fidelity Records

    ***

    String Cheese Incident, a jam band that expertly mixes bluegrass, rock and funk with hints of calypso and latin beats, will be playing at the RIMAC Arena on Oct. 29. This industrious band, notorious for averaging over 160 shows a year, has recently distributed recordings of their shows in triple-album format through their Web site, and these polished releases are a testament to their live talent.

    While the String Cheese Incident’s studio recordings have gained them a solid fanbase throughout the country, the band’s sound comes alive on stage, where simple and upbeat songs progress into jams often lasting over 15 minutes.

    This, however, doesn’t interfere with one’s enjoyment of the songs, which never get boring thanks to layers of instruments — the quintet plays the electric mandolin, the djembe, the violin, the congas, the organ and the Rhodes accordion, all alongside the more traditional guitars, bass and drums.

    The experimental “”On the Road”” recording project, in the vein of Pearl Jam’s frenetic series of live releases, encompassed almost every String Cheese live date (better known as “”Incidents””) played in the spring and summer of 2002.

    Refusing to sign to a major label, the band has gone from playing for free ski-lift tickets in their home town of Boulder, Col. to setting up their own recording company, online ticket service and even a travel agency catering to their fans. This latest strategy can only help them gain a larger fanbase, since their live recordings are polished and hint at the band’s fabulous stage presence.

    The band’s reputation precedes them, and fans of jam bands will likely know that the String Cheese Incident is a band worth seeing live. But for those uninitiated with the style but who are fans of Dave Matthews Band, Mule, Blues Traveler, Chocolate Genius or even Bob Dylan, the Incident coming up is going be a show to see.

    — Gaille Faure

    Susana Baca

    Espirituvivo

    Luka Bop Records

    ****

    Espirituvivo is an intricately crafted lesson in language, history, and culture that is shorter than the average lecture.

    Baca, a Peruvian singer of African descent, proves that emotion can break down any language barrier. Her cool, velvety voice commands the ear to listen to her.

    The lyrics tell the stories of slavery and the life of Peruvian peasants. The vocal sound conveys the struggle and culture of the peasants. The result: you don’t have to break out your Spanish-English dictionary to realize that Baca means business when she sings. The Peruvian culture is alive in her voice.

    Baca is a native of the black coastal barrio of Chorrillos, outside Lima, Peru. She weaves her culture’s traditions, songs, dance and rhythms into sparkling songs that document Peruvian history

    Baca and her band spend a half-year on the coast outside of Lima to create the album. The six people lived in a house, joking, singing and playing music together endlessly. It’s like Real World Peru, except the group managed to accomplish something.

    The result the perfection of a studio recorded album without sterility–Baca and the band held jam sessions to ensure spontaneity of the music remained.

    There is a certain clarity and honesty to her voice, that will suck you into the disc. She is hushed one moment and rich and throaty in the next–pay attention and it feels as if you are transported to a parallel universe where you are the Peruvian peasant and Baca is signing for your culture.

    The drums are the heartbeat, the guitars the passion, and the vocals are the blood. The deep, Afro-Peruvian grooves are so alive, it seems impossible that they are trapped on a compact disc.

    But, UCSD has figured out a way to harness the energy and enjoy it live and in the moment. Baca will perform in Mandeville Auditorium On Wednesday, October 2 at 7:30 p.m. General Admission is $20, Student is $15, and Faculty /Staff and Senior Citizen Admission is $18 for one night that will really prove to be a trip through Afro-Peruvian history.

    -Jessica Kruskamp

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