Belgium's Ear Stimulants

EUS In a Bar, Under the Sea (Island)


Less than two years after their international debut, the Belgian musicians' pool, releasing records under different names -- dEUS, Moondog JR, Kiss My Jazz -- have established themselves as the leading force in today's alternative rock. Combining numerous influences, from traditional jazz to art-rock, they create some pretty innovative stuff that's impossible to categorize but is very stimulating to listen to. The group is joined on this most recent album by Eric Drew Feldman, a keyboard player and veteran avant-rocker who contributed to the legendary Captain Beefheart.





Throwing Muses Limbo (4 AD)


The latest album from Kirsten Hirsh's trio breaks no new ground. Instead, it brings the Muses back to the simplicity of their college-rock days. Basic and unambitious, Limbo does contain several very impressive songs ("Buzz" and "The Field"). The overall impression is of a group in limbo -- somewhere between the big league and the minor league, between pop and indie music, between staying together or splitting up. Hopefully they'll eventually find their own way -- whatever that way will be.





Les Claypool & the Holy Mackerel Highball with the Devil (Interscope)


With the late Frank Zappa watching from above (or below), it's good to see that humor still has a place in American rock music, be it the punk jokes of NOFX, the tongue-in-cheek Southern revivalism of Squirrel Nut Zippers or the Cocktail Lounge parody of Combustible Edison. Les Claypool is another interesting eccentric, rooted in the blues and rockabilly tradition on one side, and hippie-like psychedelic weirdness on the other. What can you say about a man with song titles like "Granny's Little Yard Gnome"? Add some good guitar work and amusing vocals and you get a very satisfying piece of musical art.





Current 93 All the Pretty Little Horses (Durtro)


Current 93, led by David Tibet, have been around since the late 1970s, exploring an array of radical musical styles. After years of experimenting with the weirdest and the noisiest approaches, they've suddenly taken up the quietest and the most traditional type of music -- English folk music. But they add a certain twist to their acoustic sounds that make the whole thing feel rather spooky and mesmerizing instead of idealized. This latest album could thus be described as "lullabies from Hell." My warning: Keep this one away from the children.





Many of the reviewed records may be heard on AK Troitsky's weekly radio show "FM Dostoyevsky" on Europa Plus at midnight Sundays.