After several releases under the name Aerial M, avant-rock guitarist David Pajo has added to the confusion by releasing a disc titled "Live From a Shark Cage" and credited to Papa M. It's not a live album, and it continues Aerial M's style: delicate, expansive guitar instrumentals decorated with the occasional sonic effect (the gossamer feedback of "Drunken Spree") or defect (the tiresome answering-machine messages of "Crowd of One").
Pajo is a product of the Louisville scene that yielded such post-punk obscurantists as Will Oldham and David Grubbs, so it's hardly surprising that "Live From a Shark Cage" has extremely limited credits. Guitarist Alan Licht, drummer Tony Bailey and an unnamed bassist accompany Pajo on his current tour, but whether any of these musicians appear on this album is a secret. Some of them might perform on "Up North Kids," which features a full band, but most of these tracks seem to be just Pajo, pursuing a style that's part Elizabethan, part outer space. "I Am Not Lonely With Cricket" echoes Steve Reich's shimmering phase patterns, but such compositions as "Roadrunner" are modern madrigals.
Singer-guitarist Christina Billotte used to front Slant 6, an all-female trio whose first album was one of Dischord's most promising '90s debuts. Her new group, Quix*o*tic, augments her old one's Wire-y style with some near-goth minor-key material, a male vocalist (bassist Brendan Majewski) and a pair of soulful songs that emphasize the harmonies of Billotte and her sister Mira, the band's drummer. The effect is schiz*o*phrenic.
The most jarring juxtaposition on the trio's "Night for Day" comes when the squalling "Witch Hazel" yields to a minimalist rendition of the Miracles' 1962 hit, "What's So Good About Goodbye."
Both tracks are engaging on their own terms, yet they suggest that a synthesis would be more interesting. If Quix*o*tic can give its brooding songs (sample titles: "We Are Alone," "Dead Trees") the snap of classic Smokey Robinson, its second album should be a lot more distinctive than this one.
Both appearing Monday at the Garage with Anonmoanon.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Papa M, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8134. For a Sound Bite from Quix*o*tic, press 8135. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)