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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
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+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
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+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
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"Health & Efficiency" single

When David Gedge put the Wedding Present on hiatus in 1998 to concentrate on a new project, Cinerama, his longtime fans were left scratching their heads. After all, the Weddoes had cycled through nearly a dozen members since debuting in the mid-'80s, and Gedge was very much the auteur behind their every song, his distinctive voice and guitar omnipresent. So why the need for the new brand name?

Two albums, two compilations, and many singles into his new career, the answer is becoming clearer. Cinerama's work tends to be both poppier and more experimental than most of the Wedding Present's (notable exception: 1994's Watusi). Strings, horns and keyboards — to which Gedge refers collectively as "orchestrations" — are prominent, along with occasional snippets of "found" dialogue reminiscent of film soundtracks, and female vocals from Gedge's longtime partner Sally Murrell.

In terms of subject matter, too, things have changed. Where three out of every four Weddoes songs were about being dumped by a girl, that percentage has dropped significantly; Gedge even approaches Serge Gainsbourg territory with his erotically charged lyrics. (One of the new B-sides, "Swim," even finds the narrator making a cuckold of another man!)

"Health & Efficiency," member of a dying breed of standalone (non-album) singles, exemplifies the distinctions between Gedge's former and current bands. A slow, delicately picked and strummed guitar introduction plays for more than a minute over scarcely decipherable dialogue before the orchestrations kick in. "And we ate peaches in this very place/ The juice was running down your face" goes the opening couplet, softly sung and followed shortly by "We tried to make love by this lake/ I remember you began to shake/ And I was far too scared to ask if you were coming." A few more lyrical lines, then a thundering distorted guitar joins in, battling with and drowning out the oddly complementary string sounds. With that, the song locks into its slow groove, with alternating quiet and loud passages and delicate percussion — the kind of dynamics one expects of a Steve Albini release, though Gedge later adds the orchestrations back home in England with the assistance of Dare Mason.

There's almost something perverse about releasing such a pretty but noncommercial song as a single, especially when the CD includes a radio edit version that doesn't seem destined to receive much airplay. More likely to get some on-air spins (at least on college and independent stations) are the B-sides. "Swim" is a fairly straightforward rock tune with rubbery bass, surf-style lead guitar, and a bit of organ on the chorus. "Diamonds Are Forever" offers novelty value as another interesting cover Gedge has taken on — not as neat as the Weddoes covers of "The Theme From Shaft" or Julee Cruise's "Falling" (you know, that "Twin Peaks" song), but certainly a unique take on a James Bond theme. The single also includes an acoustic, French-sung version.

The three songs on the "Health & Efficiency" single offer a concise introduction to the 21st-century work of David Gedge and Cinerama. Wedding Present fans who found Cinerama's debut too polished will appreciate the grit of this release; those who have kept the faith with Cinerama will hail this little stunner, which ended up placing third overall in British DJ John Peel's listener-voted Festive Fifty songs of 2001. To say that the wonders found on this release portend even greater things for Cinerama's third album, due later this year, would be wild speculation, but for an artist with nearly 20 years' service time, continuing to explore and develop so much makes Gedge a rare artist.

by Steve Gozdecki

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