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CDs: local bin

Loincloth, Dark Little Rooms

The effort not only brings a new level of sophistication to this most abrasive of musical genres, but does so without the assistance of a vocalist. As with most of this band's ancestors, Loincloth is all instrumental.

The band's roster reads like a who's who of Richmond avant-garde rock: Honor Role, Breadwinner, Butterglove, Kenmores, Pledge Allegiance and Confessor. Having cranked out the sounds of the mid-Atlantic underground throughout the years via such diverse groups, the band's members cover new ground while still retaining the sensibilities of their former outfits.

With the double threat of guitarists Pen Rollings (Fugazi's Ian MacKaye recently told a national guitar magazine Rollings was one of his favorite guitarists) and Tannon Penland, the Cloth merges its unorthodox musical style with a tongue-in-cheek panache best illustrated by song titles such as "Thagina" and "Church Burntings." The solid rhythm section of Steve Shelton on drums and Cary Rowells on bass helps propel the standout track "New Jersey," which chugs-along at a feverish gallop. All told, Loincloth unequivocally unites the dueling characteristics of its music, the cerebral and the primal, into a no-nonsense, hard-as-nails, "Metal rulz" package.

— Angelo DeFranzo

Dark Little Rooms "Dark Little Rooms" (self-released) ****

The Richmond band Dark Little Rooms takes its name from a line in an obscure song by the British avant-garde pop artist Scott Walker, so at least we know DLR's singer/songwriter Scott Crowder knows his obscure avant-garde pop. Thankfully, the group spares us any obscure artsy music of its own. Instead, they've given us a collection of six frank and honest pop songs brimming with ideas and inspiration.

The disc opens with "Loser's Game." Its "Hey Jude" style of innocence as sophistication and intense concentration on a simple melody, while progressing from a quiet intro to a swelling finale, makes the song a feat to be admired. From here, Crowder leads us through a few more rooms for glimpses at his vast knowledge of music. "Wanted it Simple" takes a swaggering, kitchlessly '70s, what-if-Fleetwood-Mac-had-stayed-macho tone, only to lead into the gospel-turned-on-its-head of "Colder Before it's Warmer," followed by the absolute schooling he gives post-rock bands in the drum-machine-driven "God Given." All this is accomplished without abandoning the moving and exciting underlying emotion, the root of this music.

The last two numbers ramble just a bit here and there, but that's a trivial objection for such an admirable effort. Dark Little Rooms is packed with wonderful treasures. Hopefully, we'll be invited back in soon for a full tour. — W.M.

Dark Little Rooms performs with The Broken Hips Friday night (March 14) at Alley Katz, 9 p.m.

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