Laddio Bolocko

The Life & Times of Laddio Bolocko

A friend once related a story about the time he saw Laddio Bolocko -- the now-defunct avant-rock quartet whose entire output has been reissued as The Life & Times of Laddio Bolocko -- play live. "They all piled out of their van, which smelled like the graveyard of a million used socks, in a total daze," he said. "And then they got up onstage and destroyed us all."

You may not be able to smell these New York musicians in person anymore, but as this double-CD set shows, their music continues to live and sweat. Spanning two full-length releases (1997's Strange Warmings ofand 1998's In Real Time) and an EP (As If By Remote, also released in 1998), the collection reveals a group whose sprawling instrumental barrage could expand minds as well as blow them.

On Strange Warmings, the Lads took the aggressively cerebral rock moves hinted at by bands like This Heat and Faust and knocked them into the punk stratosphere. The first track, "Goat Lips," is a perfect example, starting off with a simple, repeating guitar/drum figure, moving into almost-funky territory, and then shifting into a hypnotic pummeling. This is the sound of what post-rock should've become.

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In Real Time and As If By Remotetogether represented a huge stylistic leap for the band. For the most part, Laddio Bolocko jettisoned the instrumental violence of its previous effort in favor of a gentler, more overtly psychedelic pulsing. Utilizing analog synth, tenor sax, glistening guitar tones, and mesmerizing percussion, the foursome created lush, moody soundscapes. This is what post-rock actually became -- but even then the Lads sounded a whole lot better than, say, Chicago icons Tortoise.

In the small scheme of things, Laddio Bolocko was an important band. Before its ideas became genre clichés, the group carved out a musical territory where punk, jazz, and psychedelia met, with a fury that few of its peers -- or followers -- could match.

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