The Nein
(Sonic Unyon)

The Nein plays Ross Grady’s radio show on WXDU 88.7 FM on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.

People always talk about The Nein in the context of Gang of Four, as some sort of funk-punk revivalists. This is misleading. Especially stacked alongside bands like Bloc Party, The Nein has little to do with Gang of Four beyond Finn Cohen’s hoarse bark. If we want a proper lineage, we should look to the cerebral angularity of Scritti Politti (or, closer to home, Polvo), Brian Eno’s deep environments and Mission of Burma’s blend of serrated post-punk and tape manipulation.

The Transitionalisms EP is aptly titled: It contains one cover, one remix, one brief instrumental, and a leftover from the Wrath of Circuits sessions. These are also the last Nein recordings featuring bassist Casey Burns.

But there’s plenty here to recommend this 16-minute odds ‘n’ ends collection as more than a phase shift. On a bed of gusty ambiance and simmering drones, their cover of The Zombies’ “Butcher’s Tale” contrasts its baggy bottom end with a crisp, fluted guitar line, creating a sense of swirling space that condenses into a white-hot chorus. On “Hospital Television,” gnarly distorted bass and starry guitars sweep across an oceanic shimmer of tweaked tape. And on his remix of “The Vibe,” Cohen’s brother Crash re-imagines the Wrath of Circuits track as an infernal machine, spewing steam and shearing gears as it decimates everything in its path. Off-kilter and bouncy but too cockeyed to be truly danceable, on Transitionalisms The Nein make dance music for your brain. Brian Howe

Janet Stolp
Slow Me Down

Janet Stolp plays Symposium Cafe in Durham on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.

Singer/songwriter Janet Stolp’s debut, Slow Me Down, is as diverse as the Southland she writes from: Rolling foothills stretching toward an Appalachian homeland, reaching up to grasp at a harvest moon or swinging low into the summer’s swampy humidity. Penned as a reaction to a mid-life crisis, the album is a study in reflections of the past. With the passion, gumption and heartfelt integrity of a leading lady in a Lee Smith novel, Stolp’s soprano is an invitation to a lyrical journey through a lifetime. Tales of young ambition, faithful romance, mother’s love, pleas for peace and prayers for safe return dot the course.

Like any good storyteller, Stolp knows the success of a narrative comes from movement and variation, an ebb and flow in rhythm and topic. Her success stems from this principle. Over 14 tracks, Stolp shifts genres and roles intermittently: She bursts onto the scene as a white-robed Southern Gospel songstress brandishing anti-war sentiment over a blaring horn arrangement and backup accompaniment for opener, “Can We Move,” but she moves to a tender Appalachian folk for “Prayer of a Soldier’s Wife.” “Slow Me Down” and “When I Fall in Love Again” make Stolp the sultry lounge-singer, crooning spine-tingling melodies over Mike Bisdee’s jazz arrangements. But don’t be surprised when Stolp comes off as Carole King or Joni Mitchell. In fact, Stolp shares many similarities with those ostensible influences. Her pristine voice captures intensity of content, and she has an overwhelming ability to infuse emotional luminosity into her lyrics.

Altogether, Slow Me Down is a smart, evocative debut, easily-accessible but intricate. Those qualities result from Stolp’s central strengthsfinely tuned songwriting and soulful stamina. Kathy Justice