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CHINESE STARS 3/19, FIRESIDE BOWL This Rhode Island supergroup teams veterans of Arab on Radar with Richard Ivan Pelletier of Six Finger Satellite. They're working on a full-length due out in July, but for now there's Turbo Mattress (Skin Graft), five cuts of buzzing, scything limber postpunk, wired but alert and surprisingly accessible. The hint of rockabilly in Paul Viera's scratchy guitar playing turns out to be just what's needed to hold the spiky songs together. JOHNNY DOWD 3/19, SUBTERRANEAN Much praised by the relative few who've discovered him, songwriter and guitarist Johnny Dowd has just released his sixth album, Cemetery Shoes. He dourly dismisses holidays, hope, and love with the weary voice of someone long angry at desire itself for all the pain it's caused him, yet the liberation from desire he achieves in "Dear John Letter" doesn't seem to help much. The basic arrangements give the lie to the notion that everything that can be done with the guitar already has been: part Ron Asheton, part pre-insipidity Eric Clapton, and part Zoot Horn Rollo, Dowd mangles the country blues with an unerring instinct for the unsettling. DEL REY 3/20, EMPTY BOTTLE This local quartet likes its space rock with lots of space and heavy on the rock. Each of the seven long instrumental tracks on its second album, Darkness & Distance (My Pal God), sounds like a sci-fi epic in miniature. The clattering and clanging guitars and drums have an ambitious architectural quality that's almost Ayn Randian in a good way--something I wouldn't have thought possible. JAPANESE GIRLS SAMURAI U.S. TOUR 3/21, BOTTOM LOUNGE In a way it's a pity these four bands are stuck on a novelty package tour, sorted for nationality and gender, but their marginalization is our gain. Petty Booka are a ukulele duo whose utterly distinctive take on exotica is immaculate and literally plucky. The graceful, dreamy-sounding alt-pop band Noodles have clearly studied their Breeders records. On their self-titled Cherry Red debut, Okinawa's Bleach display a bit of the Nirvana flavor their name suggests, but they're faster and more fevered, with delicious, shimmering guitar leads snaking through the overall din; they sing in Japanese, but their roar is a universal language. And rounding out the bill are Kokeshi Doll, a heavy, noisy trio whose second album, Pirukorui (Chameleon), is packed with switchblade riffs and howling menace. BRANT BJORK & THE BROS 3/22, DOUBLE DOOR Coming from someone best known as the drummer for Kyuss and Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork's solo albums have taken a lot of people by surprise. Completely uninhibited in his dorkiest white-boy-soul leanings, Bjork rocks, but in a sweet, goofy, stoner-next-door sort of way--the Ramones might have sounded like this if the surf were better at Rockaway Beach. He's got a new record due this summer. His longtime crony Nick Olivieri (Kyuss, Queens, the Dwarves, Mondo Generator) plays solo acoustic to open. KHANATE 3/24, EMPTY BOTTLE In doom metal, raising the bar means going as low as you can, and on their two albums for Southern Lord (the latest is last fall's Things Viral), this quartet has tunneled down to a stratum of its own. Led by Stephen O'Malley, whose past work in Thorr's Hammer, Burning Witch, and sunn0))) might offer a clue about what's coming, Khanate takes the arrhythmia-inducing, woofer-blowing power of the slow deep grind to new seismic levels. In the midst of this, vocalist Alan Dubin (of OLD, as is bassist James Plotkin) flails and cries out, trying to articulate his dreams but weighted down by sleep paralysis. DYING FETUS, KATAKLYSM, ENFORSAKEN 3/25, BOTTOM LOUNGE Stop at Nothing (Relapse), the first album in three years from death-metal giants Dying Fetus, isn't a progression from 2000's Destroy the Opposition so much as a refinement of it. The riffing and drumming are so fast and dense that at times it all seems to blur into a pulsing drone, though if you take the time to read the lyrics, you'll find a literate and detailed examination of a violent society. Their frequent tourmates, Canada's Kataklysm, are supporting a brand-new seventh album, Serenity in Fire, which blends a classic-metal sense of pacing and tension with sheer elegant brutality. Locals Enforsaken, a younger and more melodic band, open the bill; they've just released their first full-length, The Forever Endeavor (Olympic/Century Media). WHITE MAGIC 3/25, EMPTY BOTTLE The Aquacade I spoken-word program (see the Meter) also provides a sneak preview of White Magic, who'll release an EP, Through the Sun Door, on Drag City in May. The trio's mesmerizing, ghostly pop is built around recurring lines played on piano and bare-naked guitar and the simple, effective incantations of Quix*o*tic's Mira Billotte. After a version of "Plain Gold Ring" that outbleaks Nick Cave's, Billotte and band pull out a little early-Patti Smith Group swagger for "Apocalypse."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.

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