CD Review

John Ludi – "Rise Above or Fall Below"

By Marcus Pan

Rise Above or Fall BelowIt's been four years since Ludi's blend of raucous humor, interesting accompaniaments and left field visions have crossed my desk. Late 2001 was when Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Ache(1) made it to us. John Ludi's style has changed only minimally, showing a higher standard of recording and more maturity, but retains the same tongue in cheek left field advances that he was purporting back then. Much about John is artistically inclined. Even the press kit is hilariously sarcastic and brilliantly written from the opening statement: "God I hate press kits!!!" to the enclosed "Impersonal Form Letter" and the requiscent Press Release written as objectively and distantly as possible.

The opening Whore of Babylon takes a dark cliche and bubbilizes it with pleasant synthetics and key licks. "Hello? Do you remember me? I was your consciounce." is the first lyric of the Rise Above or Fall Below release and already gives you an idea of the writing skills of John. This opening track, on the whole, is slow moving and almost dragging without becoming boring, the synthesizers keeping the otherwise sloopy rhythm from getting mired in the mud and pulling it along brilliantly – a bright melody, dark content and dragging beat all fused together into a cohesive piece of music.

The happy thump of Web follows and is combatted by the light strumming strains of guitars and keys. Filling the Hole gets quicker in speed, but somehow retains a strangely effervescent quality to itself regardless of the heavier guitar melody and strong keyboard chords. After some strangeness we get smooth and leery with The Way which flutes its way into the mix. Zen like in its lyrical content, The Way is an uplifting piece amidst the previous strangeness. Still Comes the Dawn continues this style, but utilizes guitars more heavily instead of keys.

Mediocrity defies its name by being possibly the most climactic song on Rise Above or Fall Below. This gives way to the groovy bassline of Feet of Clay. Chorus parts slam into a heavy-handed and unexpected groove with the end result being Feet of Clay is a top track on the release. Home reminds me of shoegazery rock by Plastic Houses(2), Cinnamon Drafthouse(3) or JackieOnAssid(4). Another favorite, Mr. Sad, continues this trend – John tends to bundle his songs in nice patches of 2 or 3 likeminded tracks.

John Ludi has a certain laid back but honest groove about him and his work. From the etheral pieces like The Way and Still Comes the Dawn to the guitar-centered Filling the Hole and groovy Feet of Clay, he can mix and match colors and sounds like a Lite Brite on acid. Always on the fringe of the mainstream with his sarcasm and wit, John Ludi is worth checking out...he can save the day from the doldroms of radio.

Contact Information:
John Ludi
Post: PO Box 930467, Wixom, MI, 48393, USA
(1) Reviewed in Legends #114.
(2) The Best of Plastic Houses was reviewed in Legends #125.
(3) Cinnamon’s 101 was reviewed in Legends #125.
(4) JackieOnAssid was intereviewed in Legends #106 and their Zip Me Up release was reviewed there as well.

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