CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Walter Strauss, Royal Trux, and Joseph Summer

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Walter Strauss

Planet Solitaire


Walter Strauss is dedicated to stretching the acoustic guitar’s boundaries, most recently through explorations of African music. On half of Planet Solitaire’s tracks his six-string emulates the 21-stringed kora. “Djimbashe” is a real tour de force, with cascading showers of notes, twisted and bent strings, and accented rhythms flying out of the sound box. Africa meets Europe on “Gypsydish,” with the Spanish guitar melodies linked by fleet ngoni-like runs. Later he captures the feel of the Indian tambura on a remake of George Harrison’s “Within In You Without You.” He even serves some country blues in a jazz-laced reworking of Woody Guthrie’s “The Great Historical Bum.” Both guitar and vocals are dreamy in ways that command close listening and occasionally feel distant in their virtuosity and moodiness. But the talent speaks for itself. Strauss and Jonathan Stevens play Signature Sounds’ Parlor Room Feb. 21. —Rob Weir


Royal Trux

Accelerator (Reissue)

(Drag City)

When Nirvana opened the floodgates for major labels to start snapping up alternative bands in the early ’90s, Royal Trux was one of the groups caught up in the surge. Though the band’s corporate existence was brief, it returned to the indie world for its 1998 release Accelerator. The return was apt. Refusing a fatter recording budget or big-name producer, Royal Trux clung to its lo-fi roots, emerging with an album of unrepentant noise rock. This is a no-frills reissue—no bonus tracks or unreleased material—just the original album in its entirety. “I’m Ready” still bursts out of the speakers with crackly guitar lines and chorus shouts, and “Yellow Kid” features DIY folk with harmonica and whirring tape noise. Surprisingly, the music doesn’t sound aged. Even the closing ode to Steven Seagal remains relevant, despite the fact that its subject has long since faded from the silver screen. —Michael Cimaomo


Joseph Summer

Shakespeare’s Memory


The Shakespeare Concerts series consists of performances (the first in 2003) of music inspired by Shakespeare. The bulk of the music is written by composer Joseph Summer. This release from Navona offers a stellar lineup of vocal pieces inspired by and using the Bard’s words. The music is intriguing; it is resolutely classical in its sounds one moment, edgy and modern the next. Summer’s approach seems to be one of happily marrying tradition and progress. The singers employ operatic technique, but the piano that winds beneath their big sounds might well contrast their harmonious moments with the rarefied air of unusual intervals and jagged melody. Regardless of the Shakespearian subject matter, this is music that seems to straddle past and present to brain-tingling effect. It’s worth noting that, though Summer’s organization usually hosts events well to the east of the Valley, The Arcadia Players close out their season on March 9 at Mount Holyoke College with a wide-ranging evening of Bard-inspired sounds as part of the Shakespeare Concerts. —James Heflin




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