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I.V. Catatonia 
Artist: Eric Alexandrakis 
Label: Y&T Music 
Length: 22 tracks/71:25 

I.V. Catatonia is a concept album based on Alexandrakis' painful but successful fight with cancer as a young man.  And it proves once again that suffering and struggle make for the best music.  Amazingly recorded just on a 4-track, it's a delicious find for lo-fi lovers -- a mix of '70s acoustic pop with slightly distorted higher register vocals, some raw electric guitar, and lots of trippy effects and samples.   Several cacophonic tracks are made up almost completely of harsh samples and recorded voices, meant to convey the worst moments of chemotherapy's disorientation.  These tracks probably aren't worth listening to more than once unless you enjoy the musical equivalent of radiation sickness.  

The actual songs that fill the album are really catchy and melodic, and beautiful in a scratchy, paste-together sort of way.  A couple of urgent rockers even pop up in "Dreamgirl" and "Good Riddance."  Eric is trained as a classical pianist, but piano only shows up a few times.  It's seriously amazing how much talent this one guy has to compose and play everything on the album.  Really, the only annoyance is that his superb (though often nasal) singing is masked too much by distortion or voicebox, which gets annoying and distracting by album's end and sours repeat listens for those like myself who aren't completely committed to the indie rock production ethos. 

For comparison sake, the music is perhaps somewhere in between the retro-pop of the Elephant 6 bands (Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc.) and the experimental acts on Jai Agnish's Blue Bunny Records.  I.V. Catatonia sounds like the product of some forlorn mutant morlock in a post-apocalyptic world who found some Beatles CDs and tried to imitate them with the use of a half-burnt recording studio he inhabits in a bomb-blasted building. (Thank God for cheesy 70's sci-fi flicks to provide an image that fits so perfectly.)  Fascinating, compelling stuff for this jaded rock critic. 

Josh Spencer      7/17/01        

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