Emperor X Central Hug/Friend Army/Fractal Dunes (And the Dreams that Resulted)

Yelling out "go" over and over, as the first track on Chad Matheny's second coming as Emperor X does, is one of those things you can't really argue with. It's just a good idea to pump things up right from the start, and that directive command certainly does it. There's a lot of energy on this second-go-at-it disc and it's channelled well, though Matheny's voice seems to have grown a tad too Bright Eyes-y, and is slightly irritating as such. He's pleased by the lo-fi electro equipment, since it's probably more apt for experimenting and fun, but Matheny is still best when he just strums a good old guitar. The indie-folk of "The Citizens of Wichita" finds the Emperor armed with guitar and some jingly noises that seem to force him to tone it down a little, and the hush suits him. The combo of acoustic guitar and the blips and bleeps in "Raytrancer" is perhaps a good compromise, and the freaky lyrical content ups it a notch too. "Rinseley" is the beautiful wilted kind of ballad where Emperor X's slightly grating voice melts into a charming kind of tuneless croon that positions him amicably beside other off-key warblers like Bobby Burg and Tim Kinsella. Matheny is hooked on the electro and though the achy lilt works best for him, he just isn't interested in being tied down. Fingers are crossed for a change of heart, but what the heck — at least he's doing what he loves. (Discos Mariscos)