Music » Critics' Picks

Julia Sets

Wednesday, January 7, 14, 21 and 28; Frederick's Music Lounge


Your soul is dirty; a viscous layer of digital scum clings to it like nasty petroleum-jelly fudge. You feel it accreting every time you watch MTV or pirate songs with your state-of-the-art computer. This caulk of slick materialism insulates you from the real world, the world of handmade objects and human music. Pixels never bleed because they can't be scratched or even touched. And you're in danger of becoming a pixel of who you used to be.

But there is a remedy: Julia Sets. Take their album An Alternative to Extinction, or better yet, in your last act of digital slavery, download their unreleased album Steel Rails Under Thundering Skies from their Web site ( Transfer those digital recordings to analog tape, a.k.a. "the cassette." Take that cassette and stick it in your Krayco cassette-to-8-track converter, and then jam the whole shebang into the cruddiest 8-track player you can find (try the Salvation Army). The sound that comes out of that ancient beast will be the grittiest, most cleansing music you've heard in a year, and it won't be because of fancy-shmancy production tricks or anything resembling high fidelity. "Andromeda '77," the lead track from Steel Rails, with its "Cortez the Killer"-inspired riff and bristling, static-tinged power, will strip that deadening scrim of slime right off you. And then you'll feel the beauty of Julia Sets: Underneath that searing, fuzz-scorched run toward a sea that is forever receding in the face of their wild advance is a gentle majesty. Little squalls of space-rock noise and indie-rock stabs at irony are but props for a meandering, dreamy trip through a dewy landscape of beat poetry and classic pop lyricism. Theirs is music that proves once again the value of beauty over precision.

Or you can skip the middleman and just go to Frederick's Music Lounge for Julia Sets' "Midwest American Idle" residency. They're playing sans cover the next four Wednesdays, and in the cozy confines of Fred's, all the many sterling qualities Julia Sets possess will be on full display. Make as many return trips as you like, because you can never be too clean.

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