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The Aqua Velvets
Radio Waves

Surf music comes alive with this two-CD release from the San Francisco-based Aqua Velvets. Produced by surf radio icon Phil Dirt, Radio Waves is a collection of live material culled from KFJC and KPFA station recordings from 1992-98, and includes an EP of four tracks from a concert in 2001.

Anyone who has listened to the band's previous CDs, like Guitar Noir or Nomad, knows that The Aqua Velvets can hang-ten, musically speaking. But let's face it, surf guitar cover bands are a dime a dozen ever since the Pulp Fiction soundtrack came out. While The Aqua Velvets play perfectly good covers of all the surf classics ("Diamond Head", "Walk Don't Run", "Apache", and "Pipeline"), what sets them apart from the other Dick Dale and Ventures cover bands are their original songs, which are a fusion of disparate influences.

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Hear Samples of
Radio Waves

Bravado
Diamond Head
Spanish Blue
Swampabilly Hop

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Their original tracks, "Bravado", "Gringo", and "Mexican Rooftop Afternoon", emulate the moody spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. "Holly Tiki" and "Surfmania" are the most surf-friendly numbers, while "Swampabilly Hop" is pure Rockabilly. On "Martini Time" and "Green Sunshine" they just let loose and have fun, mixing up the tempos dramatically for expressive effect. Then the band drifts into loungeville with mellow tunes, like "Guitar Noir" and "Subterranea", which sound like the haunting soundtrack for a hard-boiled surf/detective movie waiting to be made.

Even with all the genre exploration, with 25 songs on two CDs, The Aqua Velvets can get a bit monotonous. However, diehard fans will be stoked to hear these live recordings, and it's a good introduction to newbie grommets. As limiting as the depth of these selections might be (due to being recorded over a soundboard), they still have enough reverb to shake a house down.

—Alden Gewirtz



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