**** The Bubonic Chronic
*** Dank Nugs
**
Wacky Tobaccy
* KGB (KillerGreenBuds)


MIRAH

Cold Cold Water CDEP
(K Records)
****

The title track, "Cold Cold Water," is not a song; it's an epic spaghetti Western. Mirah is the star, singing as a lonely, breathless cowgirl who gave it all up for a love that turned sour for want and wandering eye. Cinematography crew includes the Intima's Nora Danielson and Microphones' Phil Elvrum, with their thunderstruck violins, watery harmonies, and every instrument that can interpret the sound of horse hooves clapping, i.e. castanets, hands, drums. The lyrics, so full of heart and wit, should be reprinted in their entirety--not excerpted, because missing parts don't translate to this kind of epic. The song is reprised on track four in its acoustic version (traditional Mirah-style), and tracks five through 12 are special audio outtakes of "Cold Cold Water"--the isolated string section, harmonies, pump organ, Mirah singing a cappella. All the while, her voice is soft as orchids. If you weren't in love with Mirah before, ready yourself for fainting. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

STUART DEMPSTER
On the Boards
(Anomalous Records)
***

Mysteriously, despite a crucial presence at the Big Bang of Minimalism (Terry Riley's In C) and the cult status of his seminal ambient LP In the Great Abbey of Clement VI, Stuart Dempster remains under-represented on CD. On the Boards captures Dempster live and in sumptuous form, from jackal-throated, whirling didjeridoo tones to the vaporous chanting and calming rumble of a brass didjeridoo in "JDBBBDJ." Dempster also has a knack for finding humor in the sacred; his panoramically placed trombone blats in "Don't Worry, It Will Come" make for some mirthful (albeit faux) musique concrète. Inhabiting the alluring twilight between the aggressive avant musician and tranquility-seeking New Ager, the gently exploratory On the Boards is mellow in the best sense of the word. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

STEPHIN MERRITT
Eban & Charley Original Soundtrack
(Merge Records)
**

Written and directed by James Bolton, Eban & Charley is a homosexual, digital-video twist on intergenerational romance. Here's hoping Merritt's ragtag collection of piano tinkles, sound-effect loops, and slight pop songs accomplish more on film than they do on disc. Fortunately, floating among the unremarkable ambience are songs to temporarily appease those waiting for Merritt's next full-blown release. Both "Maria Maria Maria" and "This Little Ukulele" win points with Merritt's world-renowned knack for classically catchy melodies and incisive, idiosyncratic lyrics, while "Water Torture" is a dark-blooded tongue twister that could only have come from the author of Hyacinths & Thistles. Still, these are songs Merritt could've written in his sleep, and Eban & Charley is a record perhaps best listened to in yours. DAVID SCHMADER