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Eye on the Scene

Newly Brutal

After (more or less) a year's wait, local noise structuralist group New Brutalism has finally unleashed its debut recording—A Diagram Without Shade or Dimension—on an unsuspecting public. True to the band's unrelenting insistence on total quality control, the album is available only in the heavy gauge vinyl format. Yes, it's a long-playing 33 1/3 LP, but don't expect any antiquated sounds on this disk.

The album's title aptly describes the sounds within. Diagram is a series of short bursts of guitar dissonance, supported by interwoven bass and drum patterns that are delivered with cold, robotic precision.

New Brutalism's music is so stark that it seems almost totally devoid of humanity. Apparently, the band is so focused on its spartan approach that standard rock 'n' roll cliches are totally discarded. Instead, the trio forms a seamless unit where no member's personality shines through. Odd as it may sound, this strict adherence to theory works incredibly well.

Produced by noise rock demigods Steve Albini and Bob Weston, the recording is loud and clean. But don't expect yet another clone math rock band. Sure, New Brutalism has taken some stylistic clues from Shellac, Slint, Wire, etc., but the band has plenty of originality and strong playing skills to shine on their own. Falling in the musical netherworld somewhere beyond in the art rock, post hardcore, and post metal continuum, Diagram has a special beauty all its own. I can't decide whether the album is best appreciated as art, or just because it rocks. Nonetheless, there is plenty to appeal to headbangers and theorists alike.

Like all other scientists, New Brutalism is quietly expanding and redefining its sonic formula without much fanfare. You'd best keep an eye out for the band's rare local shows, because these guys are sure to hit it big sooner or later. But I really doubt if the band members care that much whether or not they find any widespread acceptance. They're already achieving their goals on their own.

Calling All subbluecollar Fans

Katherine Brock has returned with a new outfit to showcase her dreamy, experimental music and musings—a band called Fabula Rasa.

Last year, Brock fronted a more straight-ahead rock band called subbluecollar, along with a moodier, edgier side project known as Blank. After getting bored with subbluecollar, she broke up the band, but didn't want to abandon her musical soulmates, guitar player Joe McLemore and drummer David Campbell. After a few months hiatus, the three have formed Fabula Rasa, adding Brian Garvey on bass.

In case you didn't know, Tabula Rasa is Latin for an erased tablet, and in English means, "the mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience, especially the unformed and featureless mind in the philosophy of Locke." Or so says Webster's dictionary. It's also apparently the name of a New Orleans jazz band. Zippy doesn't know what Fabula Rasa means—he forgot to ask her.

However, the Zippster did ask her what Fabula Rasa sounds like. "It's like Blank and subbluecollar had a baby and the baby is Fabula Rasa. It's low volume and a lot of instrumentals, and it's very subdued. But it's also got a lot of rock in it, too."

The band hopes to record something this spring after it can raise the needed dough. But you can hear their very first gig this Saturday (January 29) at the Tomato Head, with Dent opening.

Sally at the Head

While most of Knoxville was hibernating Sunday night under a few measly inches of snow, Zippy and about 20 others witnessed the best show the city's seen in the new millennium. Sally Timms of the British group the Mekons entertained a small crowd at the Tomato Head with an assortment of lush country tunes.

Timms has one of the prettiest, warmest voices around, and her rough-and-rowdy manner suggests she knows a thing or two of heartache and loneliness—as well as how to have a good time.

Her songs—written by the likes of Robbie Fulks, Johnny Cash, Jeff Tweedy and Jill Sobule, as well as Timms and fellow Mekon Jon Langford—tend toward the morose and brokenhearted.

Timms balanced all of this masterfully with witty comments in between tunes. Choice samples: "Look, I'm driving them to the bathroom," as former V-roy Mic Harrison and former Ramblin' Roy Jason Peters (who opened the show) headed into the back. "You're not going to make out back there, are you?" She also complained that guitars are "not designed for breasts."

You should have been there, Knoxville.

Out of this House

Thursday: Louise Mosrie at Java. Mosrie sings sweet, strong songs that can't help but captivate.

Friday: Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers at Laurel Theatre. Dance your way into a sweat to fight the cold, winter air, then head to McGhee's to check out the rip-roarin' rock of The Ghosts and Nug Jug.

Saturday: George Winston at Tennessee Theatre. Mellow out, clean the cupboard, and benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Sunday: Funky Little Blues Band at Sassy Ann's. Like peanuts, the Funky Little Blues Band is addictive.

Monday: Chuck Brodsky at Barley's. When Bird's Eye View closed, most of us wondered where folky acoustic acts like Brodsky would play. Now we know.

Tuesday: The Millennium Project at Clarence Brown Theatre. It will be visually stunning, if nothing else.

Wednesday: Go out and look for your shadow.

—Zippy "Cold hands. Cold heart." McDuff