“Pluto” Lives On

January 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

Pluto [aka Lost Planet] — Shoehorse Emerging (Rastascan, 1995)

Lost Planet performs Wednesday, Feb. 2, at the Ivy Room — they’re the middle act between Pink Canoes (with Aram Shelton) and Light a Fire (with Karl Evangelista).

Mark Weinstein, a drummer with later editions of MX-80, is reconvening the band Pluto. Only they’re calling themselves Lost Planet now. (Get it?)

Near as I can tell, Pluto last recorded in 1998. The band members are all longtime friends and still get together for occasional gigs, though — here’s a notice about a 2010 appearance at 21 Grand — and they’ll be at the Ivy Room on Wednesday.

I don’t know if Lost Planet sounds exactly like Pluto did, considering they’ve had more than a decade to start trying different things. But the core shape remains: outer-rim rock improvising with a base of springy, choppy guitars and drums, and some sax thrown on top, to open some jazz options. Critics liken the band to Henry Cow, but Pluto is looser than that and more laid-back than Captain Beefheart.

I’m guessing Pluto’s music has always been all-improvised. Shoehorse Emerging certainly has that sound. They lean on particular riffs and one-chord jams long enough that it’s easy to believe everything was assembled without instructions.

I like the album. Now, for an opposing view, you can click here — you’ll find the album described as “energyless” by a disappointed MX-80 fan. True, Pluto lacks the poise-and-attack sharpness of post-punk. Maybe the reviewer just got hung up on a slower track and walked away. (The first half of “Late Night Visitor,” sixth track out of 15, doesn’t do much for me either, I have to admit.)

Or, maybe he had no affinity for jam music, which would be a requirement here. This band isn’t MX-80 and isn’t trying to be. The eight-minute “Journey of the Dunce,” one of the sunnier and longer tracks, bears some resemblance to Grateful Dead or Phish jams (but with a more coherent, less stoned feel).

Lost Planet has lost one sax (Ralph Carney) but still has another in David Slusser (although he often takes bass duties), and maybe guitarist Stephen B. Clarke will be encouraged to bring his trumpet along, too. In any event, Clarke and Len Paterson (a longtime Slusser collaborator) have enough guitar ideas to pack a show.

Here’s a sax-heavy excerpt from “Killin’ Mood.”

Entry filed under: Bay Area music, CD/music reviews, upcoming shows. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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