Holy moly! Another week of stacks of stuff piled up all over. And here I thought short weeks were supposed to give a bit of a reprieve, but no. Tons of killer stuff is on it’s way for next week too. It’s as though everyone is trying to get a new record out before there is no more vinyl left to press… man, that’d suck.
…..picks of the week…..
The Stranger: Bleaklow (History Always Favors The Winner) LP
One of the most destitute and absorbing albums in Leyland Kirby’s canon is finally given a much-needed vinyl pressing, following on from its initial CD release in 2008. Bleaklow is harrowing from the start, the opening “Something to Do with Death” reverberating dread via layers of unstable, radiant drones punctuated with pained, hi-pitched howls that cut through the mix with violent intent. “Solemn Dedication” adds percussion to the mix and sits somewhere between classic John Carpenter and Nate Young, but it’s on “Indefinite Ridge” that things really take a turn towards that eerie, destabilizing sound Kirby can do so well, like a standout BoC vignette pounded by the rattle of industrial machinery malfunctioning in the background; it’s at once deeply unsettling and oddly comforting. “A Melody Drags Me Back” recalls the spirit of Kirby’s best-known productions as The Caretaker, except in place of those old 78s you get just the vaguest hint of life and color beneath the endless layers of sonic unease. The album ends with “Ominous Sunset,” an incredible 6-minute coda that’s perhaps best compared to Kirby’s Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What It Was set, sounding like Vangelis’ score for Bladerunner aged and degraded yet still somehow conveying all its retro-futuristic romance. It’s an astonishing ending to one of Kirby’s finest albums. Fully remastered and cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy.
File Under: Dark Ambient, The Caretaker
Scott Walker + Sunn o))): Soused (4AD) LP/CD
When Sunn O))) first approached Scott Walker about appearing on their 2009 album Monoliths & Dimensions, they didn’t know what it would actually lead to. Four years on, Scott returned with something even more enticing, collaborating on Soused, a body of work he was writing with them in mind. Recorded in London in early 2014 and produced by Walker and long-time ally Peter Walsh with the assistance of musical director Mark Warman, Soused is a 5-track, 50-minute record that cements the status of both acts’ wide-reaching and otherworldly renown. The vinyl edition consists of two 180g LPs, pressed on black vinyl and housed in a heavyweight tip-on sleeve. The artwork was designed by Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, featuring photography by Gast Bouschet.
File Under: Doom, Metal, Crooners, Drone
Oren Ambarchi/Jim O’Rourke/Keiji Haino: Only Wanting To Melt Beautifully… (Black Truffle) LP
“Begun as a one-off collaboration in 2009, the trio of Keiji Haino, Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi has now become a solid working group, refining its craft through a series of annual concerts at Tokyo’s legendary SuperDeluxe. Much of their recorded work has focused on their intense, ritualistic take on the rock power trio of electric guitar, bass and drums. Presenting the entire first set of the trio’s March 2013 concert at SuperDeluxe (the second set will follow on Black Truffle later this year), Only Wanting to Melt Beautifully Away Is It a Lack of Contentment That Stirs Affection for Those Things Said to Be as of Yet Unseen is their fifth release and blows the instrumental palette wide open for a single continuous piece focused on acoustic strings, synth, flute and percussion. Featuring one of Haino’s most delicate and moving recorded vocal performances, the opening section of the record takes the form of a spare duet between O’Rourke’s 12-string acoustic guitar and Haino’s kantele (a Finnish variant of the dulcimer), behind which Ambarchi provides a hovering backdrop of wine glass tones. While on previous releases the listener has often sensed that Haino was firmly in the driver’s seat, here O’Rourke takes center stage with an acoustic guitar performance that takes the lyricism of John Abercrombie or Ralph Towner and refracts it through the free improvisation tradition of his mentors Derek Bailey and Henry Kaiser. The atmosphere of meditative, abstracted song is reminiscent of some of Haino’s greatest recordings, such as the legendary Live in the First Year of the Heisei volumes recorded with Kan Mikami. After this stunningly beautiful opening sequence, the performance moves organically through a number of episodes, including a dramatic central passage in which Haino moves to synth and drum machine, crafting a current of raw electricity that unfurls slowly over the gently pulsing foundations of Ambarchi’s cymbals and builds to heights of manic intensity. When Haino later turns to wooden flute, Ambarchi answers him with nimble hand-drummed percussion in a passage that calls to mind Don Cherry’s liberated combination of free-jazz improvisation and non-Western musics. The trio’s move away from the power trio dynamic bespeaks a risk-taking and questing spirit that refuses to be satisfied with repeating past glories, and yet the organic, immersive flow of this single improvisation attests to the intuitive bond that has formed between them over the last five years. Exuding the signature mystery and emotion of Haino’s greatest works, this release is perhaps the strongest statement yet from this acclaimed trio, and holds out a tantalizing promise for everyone hooked on their continuing exploration of ‘those things said to be as of yet unseen.’ –Francis Plagne
File Under: Psych, Japanese, Improve
Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress
If You’re Feeling Sinister
Fold Your Hand Child…
All ten albums repackaged in resealable mylar bags, each with customized obi “It Could have been a brilliant career’ + all album art. Download coupons included plus brand new cover art for ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’. “Push Barman…,” “The Life Pursuit,” and “Dear Catatrophe Waitress” back in print after a long absence from the market.
File Under: Indie, Pop
Bong: Stoner Rock (Ritual) LP
Gatefold double LP version. Ultimate drone-lords Bong have summoned the tones of the elder gods with their epic new genre-defining album, Stoner Rock, their fourth full-length release on Ritual Productions. Recorded at Blank Studio, Newcastle, the album “is a tongue-in-cheek dig at our usual classification as ‘stoner rock’ and what the term has come to represent. The idea is to create our own definition of ‘stoner rock’ by creating an album so utterly stoned and repetitive to be a million miles away from the usual definition. Those who know Bong already will get both the humor and the philosophical redefinition… those who don’t know us will either get it when they listen or will never understand Bong at all.” Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, sonically speaking, Stoner Rock ventures further into the abyss, gravitating toward an endless void, and with the magnitude of their ritualistic, mesmeric drones, we have no choice but to follow. Featuring artwork by Zdzislaw Beksinski.
File Under: Drone, Metal, Doom
Buck 65: Neverstory (Warner) LP
“People of Earth! Today I bring news I’ve been waiting to share with you for a long time. I’m very happy to announce that a new album called Neverlove will finally be released on September 30th, 2014. A great deal of time and pain and joy and refinement went into the making of this one. Some of the saddest and silliest and strongest songs I’ve ever written are on this record. I’m excited and terrified for you to hear it.” – Buck 65
File Under: Hip Hop, Rap, CanCon
Elliott Brood: Work & Love (Paper Bag) LP
For their fifth album, Elliott Brood wanted to break things. 2008’s Mountain Meadows was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, and the band’s last record, Days Into Years, won a 2011 Juno award for roots album of the year. Now was the time to smash the precedents, break the mould. To withdraw to a farmhouse in Bath, Ontario, hammering out nine songs in two weeks. For the first time, Elliott Brood decided to work with an outside producer: Ian Blurton, who has helped make roaring records for the Weakerthans, Skydiggers and Cursed. And for the first time, the group’s two songwriters decided to mine the bare histories of their own lives: penning verses about the ends of relationships and the tests of adulthood, long drives, childhood retreating in a rear-view mirror. “Work and love will make a man out of you,” the Constantines sang; and so here is Elliott Brood’s Work and Love, their most personal album to date, the sound of a grown-up band searching their hearts for all they’ve lost and gained. Casey Laforet, Mark Sasso and Stephen Pitkin recorded Work and Love in the cold spring of 2014, as the ice was coming apart on Lake Ontario. They deserted their families and holed up in the Tragically Hip’s Bathhouse studio, scarcely emerging – waking and playing and playing and playing, one song a day. The magic usually happened some time after midnight, when they were “just tired enough”. Blurton would come out and lure them into a new place: a different, even truer landscape. They called him “the Wizard”. Blurton the Wizard and engineer Nyles “the Mad Scientist” Spencer, filling the corners of songs with burred effects and tape loops. Elliott Brood had “played it safe” for four records, they claim: Blurton sharpened their sound, weathered and interrogated it, forced the three musicians to confront their own habits. And it made for a full-length that gestures toward the Hip and the Cons as much as it does to Richard Buckner and Whiskeytown. Adding dimension to select tracks on the album, the band is joined by Aaron Goldtein (City and Colour, Daniel Ramano) on Pedal Steel and John Dinsmore (Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Harmer) on bass (for ÔEach OtherÕs Kids). These songs are loud and quiet but mostly loud, and always reaching toward something. First loves, lost loves, fuck- ups and young men’s just desserts. Laforet has called Work and Love a “lament for youth”, but it’s also a eulogy for the moments that came just after, on the doorstep of manhood. It’s music of remembered abandon, new burdens, and those nights, years ago, when the moonlit fields seemed to go on forever. It’s Elliott Brood at their sheerest, facing forward and backward at the same time.
File Under: Folk, Country, CanCon
Fennesz: Venice (Touch) LP
Special 10th anniversary edition & first time available on vinyl. Gatefold double LP release — 14 tracks. Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft. Featuring David Sylvian (vocals) and Burkhard Stangl (guitar). Venice, the fourth studio album by Christian Fennesz, finds electronic music at a crossroads between its early status as digital subculture, and the feeling that there has to be something more, an emotional quality that rises above noise and moves towards melody and rapture. It was voted No. 3 in The Top 50, The Wire, December 2004, was album of the week at BBCi on its release and remains Christian Fennesz’s best-selling record to date. Prefix (USA) noted: “Although Fennesz’s breakout record Endless Summer was followed by a live release and a collaboration with Jim O’Rourke and Peter Rehberg as Fenn O’Berg, Venice is the true heir to that album’s ascendant pop. Venice is not as unabashedly poppy as its predecessor (the lack of Beach Boys references can attest to that), but still mines much the same vein. It was marked by critics at the time as a move away from the relatively robotic music spawned by the IDM craze of the late nineties. Instead, its melodic, emotive tracks foresaw an electronic music that could be purely human.” Pitchfork Media (USA), in a lengthy review, also noted: “Venice’s quality extends beyond its sound. Touch proprietor Jon Wozencroft — through his breathtaking design and photography — continues to fight the good fight against records-as-pure-data by making the CD a value-added prospect.” and The Declaration Online (Web): “Two blue empty row boats left listless on rippling water. Red orange green riverbed foliage reflected in the water’s gauzy oil slick surface. An airport enveloped in dull gray stratus and snow. Upon seeing the photography and packaging accompanying Christian Fennesz’s latest recording, Venice, it is clear that the record label Touch remains intent on not simply putting out records but creating audio-visual imprints dedicated to inextricably tying sound and vision.”
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Nico Fidenco: Black Emanuelle (Dagored) LP
The legendary Nico Fidenco’s score for Black Emanuelle is by turns sultry and serious, fun and funky. The sound is sophisticated, groovy and melodically memorable; mixin’ latin rhythms—in a continuous sexual tension with the exotic images of the beautiful Laura Gemser—and electronic textures that show the influence of early techno masters such as Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk.
File Under: OST, Italian
Nico Fidenco: Black Emanuelle Orient Reportage (Dagored) LP
Nico Fidenco’s Black Emanuelle Orient Reportage aka Black Emanuelle Goes East is one of the seminal soundtracks that will set you on an Italian groove odyssey! The film is probably the most depraved of all the volumes of the Emanuelle series. Maestro Fidenco relies heavily on layered strings, horns, flutes, violins and an array of exotic instruments and aims for eclecticism in playing with versions of the main theme. No one is ever the same after…Black Emanuelle! Mastered at 45rpm.
Function/Vatican Shadow: Games Have Rules (Hospital) LP
Function and Vatican Shadow have combined forces on Games Have Rules for Hospital Productions, simultaneously stripping back each producer’s more prevalent production elements — the dancefloor-focused techno structures of Function; the experimental cassette-roots of Vatican Shadow — to create an album of dynamic electronic ambient music, equal parts rhythmic and atmospheric. As befitting what began life as an “emotional acid” album best suited for an after-hours home-listening experience, Games Have Rules was created in the early hours at New York’s Hospital Productions and Berlin’s Inanimate Objects studios, helping imbue the record with a sense of night turning into day, and the shifting contrasts of dark and light the music evokes. Although not created as the result of improvisation, the album retains an effortless, free-flowing structure, while simultaneously introducing the traditional techno drum kit over the course of the record, deconstructing the ever-changing, looming presence of New York City’s skyline. Ambient in the most traditional sense, Games Have Rules omits the top-heavy reverb saturation of so many modern releases and builds from the ground up with an arsenal of hi-fi and lo-fi production techniques/equipment with a cinematic sequence over the arc of the record. But whereas New York City has so often been depicted in film as a prison, Games Have Rules is an embracement of the city’s endless possibilities: the LP’s gatefold black and white image of The Empire State Building lit up at night from the inside; the ongoing stories of rise and decline lived out at its base.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, Techno, Industrial
Steve Gunn: Way Out Weather (Paradise of Bachelors) LP
In Donald Barthelme’s 1982 story “Lightning,” the narrator, a journalist investigating lightning strike survivors, reflects that “lightning changes things; the soul burns, having been struck by lightning.” He wonders about aesthetic (and supernatural) dimensions—is “lightning an attempt at music on the part of God?” Three decades later, as the catastrophic effects of climate change encroach upon the realms of science fiction, how might our communications and social conventions change, becoming correspondingly weirder and darker? Weather is, after all, both a formulaic conversation starter across cultures and a shared condition that connects us experientially. So what happens when “How about this weather?” becomes a less banal and much more compelling, and dangerous, question? While ecological unease worries at the edges of Steve Gunn’s bold new full-band album Way Out Weather—the breathing sea of the billowing title track, the bad wind and moon over “Wildwood,” the polluted pyramid and blue bins in “Shadow Bros,” the desert heat sickness of “Atmosphere”—the resonance of the title is primarily metaphorical and oblique. Written largely while on tour, the record is an elliptical but seductive travelogue, more engaged with navigating foreign (“way out”) emotional landscapes, and with grasping at universal threads of language and narrative, than with bemoaning rising sea levels. Despite the album-opening lyric to the contrary, “Way Out Weather” is an uncommon song in Steve Gunn’s discography. Sonically and lyrically the album demonstrates a radical evolution, lighting out for lusher, more expansive, and impressionistic territories; it’s his first major work as an artist for whom the studio provides a critical context. A more enigmatic and elevated affair than its predecessor, Way Out Weather completes Gunn’s satisfying transformation into a mature songwriter, singer, and bandleader of subtlety and authority. It ranks as most impressive and inviting record yet, an inscrutable but entirely self-assured masterpiece.
File Under: Folk Rock, Psych, Blues
Heliocentrics/ Melvin Van Peebles: Last Transmission (Now Again) LP/CD
“An interplanetary space/love odyssey featuring Melvin Van Peebles (Brer Soul, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song). Following Heliocentrics’ Out There and 13 Degrees of Reality albums. 2 CD set — Instrumentals included on bonus second disc. Van Peebles makes for the Heliocentrics’ ideal foil: he did graduate work in astronomy in Holland in the 1950s and maintains an avid interest in cosmology. The Heliocentrics, as their name conveys, draw inspiration from both the philosophic leanings of the likes of Stephen Hawking and interstellar mysteries, like those surrounding the Malian Dogon tribe’s knowledge of the Sirius B star hundreds of years before it was discovered. Their music is as indebted to Sun Ra’s interstellar jazz as it is inspired by psychedelia’s spiritual expanse. The Last Transmission, presented as a vocal album and an expanded instrumental selection on a bonus disc, can be taken as both the band’s interpretation of Van Peebles’ poem and a musical voyage inspired by Van Peebles’ vivid imagery. The band considers it their defining work, the result of more than a decade of playing and recording together. They’ve found a voice as a band, one that meshes with Van Peebles,’ as he weaves an intergalactic ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ In between producer/drummer Malcolm Catto’s thunderous syncopation and producer/bassist Jake Ferguson’s bellowing bass lines, amidst the analog electronics and atmospheric interference naturally accorded by their organic analogue process, Van Peebles’ voice floats in and out, spectral in its tone, complete in its conviction in the unfathomable sense that life’s eruption in the cosmic expanse made, and in love’s ability to transform and transcend death.”
File Under: Funk, Library
Jawbreaker: 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Blackball) LP
One of the most popular and successful underground bands of the early- / mid-’90s, California’s Jawbreaker was comprised of Blake Schwarzenbach (guitar and vocals), Chris Bauermeister (bass) and Adam Pfahler (drums). The band melded raw vocals, a driving rhythm section and grinding guitar with complex song structures and literary lyrics, forging a distinctive style that has since, along with Schwarzenbach’s subsequent band Jets to Brazil, influenced a generation of independent music. By the end of 1993, Jawbreaker was in full stride. The band had completed a full US tour in the summer, played several shows that October with Nirvana, and was attracting significant major label attention. 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, released in early 1994, was Jawbreaker’s third album. After the more “progressive” Bivouac, the trio had returned to a straightforward, poppier sound, and the resulting full-length is widely regarded as their best. The bulk of the recording was done by noted independent producer Steve Albini (though it is officially credited to Albini’s cat, Fluss). Following the mainstream success of fellow Californians Green Day and Rancid, Jawbreaker decided to sign with DGC. They released a final studio album, Dear You, before calling it quits in 1996. A feature-length documentary on the band is currently in the works.
File Under: Punk
Jayhawks: Rainy Day Music
Sound of Lies
The Jayhawks couldn’t be more excited to announce that the long-awaited reissues of Sound of Lies, Smile and Rainy Day Music are now available on American Recordings/Universal. Smile was never released on vinyl (in the US) and Sound of Lies and Rainy Day Music were only originally released on vinyl in very limited quantities. The new 2LP editions will released on 180g high quality vinyl and will contain bonus tracks. All of the original tracks were remastered in April 2014 by renown mastering engineer Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in NYC using original analog sources whenever possible, offering a fresh new look at these classic albums. The Jayhawks were definitely swimming against the tide when they emerged from a crowded Minneapolis music scene halfway through the 1980s – a memorable decade that saw the likes of the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Husker Du and Prince put Minnesota on the musical map in a big way. Forging a rootsy sound that wasn’t quite rock or country – “Hank Williams on speed” somebody once memorably called it – The Jayhawks quickly turned into one of the most important bands of the post-punk era. Over the course of two decades, several albums, countless memorable live shows and enough personal drama to fill a couple of Behind the Music episodes, this beloved band soared to heights few ever achieve while wining the hearts and minds of numerous critics, fans and peers in the process. Named after “The Hawks” – as in “Levon and the Hawks,” the name of Dylan’s backing band in the ’60s before they became known as “The Band” – The Jayhawks and their fellow travelers even helped make the world safe again for artists who weren’t afraid to fuse traditional rock, country and folk influences into something that was both timeless and modern, just like the best American bands always have.
File Under: Alt. Country, Rock
Seu Jorge & Almaz: s/t (Now Again) LP
2014 repress with download code. Originally released in 2010 “Listening to this remarkable album for the first time you’ll surely be struck first by the deep, soul-piercing voice of that great Brazilian singer, Seu Jorge. Yes: he’s a singer first and foremost. Many may know him as an actor for his screen-stealing performances in the likes of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic and Fernando Meirelles’ City Of God but Seu has known since he was a child that we was destined to sing. He’s a Brazilian singer who speaks the truth through samba, to paraphrase a well-known Seu Jorge quote. But this project is about a band: Almaz. Drummer Pupillo and guitarist Lucio Maia from the stalwart Nação Zumbi; bassist and composer Antonio Pinto from the soundstages of movies starring Seu Jorge. They came together naturally to record a song for a Walter Salles film; they enjoyed the experience so much that they recorded an entire album of music that inspired them. Songs famous within the Brazilian diaspora (Tim Maia, Jorge Ben) mesh with classic American (Roy Ayers, Michael Jackson) and European (Kraftwerk, Cane and Abel) soul songs begging for a bit of psychedelic samba. They enlisted producer and fellow Brazileiro Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson) to put the finishing touches on the project. Their album is both warm and dark; psychedelic and yet grounded, uplifting but at times somber. To listen to it is to join them in the studio, where the only bandleader is the music and the only agenda is to follow your heart.”
File Under: Brazilian, Psychedelic, Samba
The Juan Maclean: In A Dream (DFA) LP
The dance world way too often privileges the new, and not many dance artists write albums as good as In A Dream, the third full-length album by The Juan Maclean, this far into their career. The Juan Maclean have weathered electroclash, disco-punk, electro-disco, techno, house, deep house, and whatever we can call the sound of today. They never feel totally in step with the moment, but somehow always feel right and necessary. Put differently: there’s always something exciting to say about these guys. Let’s start with Nancy Whang. Nancy’s voice has always been a kind of secret weapon on The Juan Maclean records, but this album is her triumph. Just take a look above at the album art where she’s front and center This is the Nancy Show — you get all sides of Nancy on this record, a wide range of expression. These are all love songs, but emotions run wild. And you can’t pull this off without Nancy — she’s not living in these songs, she’s leading them. Like every Juan record, this one quotes freely from house and techno and disco. Dead drums and vintage synthesizers. This is a DFA record, after all. But early on in their career, The Juan Maclean stopped sounding like genres and just started sounding like The Juan Maclean. Part of that is lyrical — how the words interact with the melodies that carry them. The diction is always off in all the right ways. Another part is how much fun Juan and Nancy have with the arrangements of their songs. Different parts interact and play off one another in a way that’s remindful of the interplay on classic disco records.
File Under: Electronic, Dance, DFA
Legendary Shack Shakers: Agri.Dustrial (Stag-o-Lee) LP
Right in time for their reunion Stag-O-Lee releases Agri.Dustrial, the latest album by Legendary Shack Shakers on vinyl for the first time. The album features a new track, a new running order and a proper vinyl remastering. A roots rock juggernaut from Nashville, TN, the Legendary Shack Shakers are a hot-rodded foursome combining blues, rockabilly, country, and rock & roll into one manic assemblage boasting all the gloriously explosive instability of an M-80. Fronted by the manic JD Wilkes, who when not busy with music (he also leads the Dirt Daubers) is also known as a visual artist, publishing comic books and creating elaborate “carnival art” murals on discarded roll-up projection screens. The Legendary Shack Shakers existed from 2000 until 2010 with Agri.Dustrial from 2010 being their last release, although only on CD back then. On this record we hear new guitarist Duane Denison (Hank III, Jesus Lizard), who plays with the enthusiastic power of his predecessors, while new drummer Brett Whitacre drives his kit like it’s a semi full of dynamite rolling down a steep hill with no brakes. Singer Colonel JD Wilkes matches the mania of his bandmates, and with longtime bass man Mark Roberts in tow, they deliver a disc packed with sizzling slabs of rock mayhem. This is one sweet and evil ride. Sixteen songs in 38 minutes. Fasten seat belts. The Legendary Shack Shakers play like their lives depend on wringing the maximum force out of every note. Agri.Dustrial — already a timeless classic.
File Under: Rockabilly
Kink Gong: Gongs (Discrepant) LP
Since the end of the ’90s, Laurent Jeanneau aka Kink Gong has been recording the music of mostly endangered minorities of South East Asia. Alongside his relentless pursuit of remote exotic and unpublished musical traditions, he also creates electronic versions by combining raw recordings with natural sounds, archival material and electronically-treated sounds. For Gongs, Laurent returns to his soundscape approach not heard since the Xinjiang LP (2011) and further develops his unique re-versions around the extensive gong orchestra recordings he made on location in the remote regions of Cambodia & Laos. All tracks were recorded on location and re-arranged by Laurent Jeanneau in Dali, Paris & Berlin. Vinyl pressing of 500 copies.
File Under: Field Recordings, Asia
Mr. Twin Sister: s/t (Twin) LP
This is the second full length album by the five members of Twin Sister, now known as Mr Twin Sister. For this record, the band returned to the creative process they had employed on their first two EPs- working individually or in small, shifting groups, slowly building and rebuilding, before ultimately polishing with the full band. There was a new depth to the process this time- prior to 2010, the band had never before been in a proper studio. Now having spent time in one, they knew better how and when to use it, and were able to combine its benefits with a more methodical songwriting approach for the first time. Revolving around themes of self-identity and isolation, we are given eight songs stretching 38 minutes, something far deeper, darker, and more substantial than anything they have done before.
File Under: Indie Rock, Synth Pop
Cedric Stevens: Hanging in the Wires (Discrepant) LP
After a busy spell collaborating with the likes of Fennesz and My Cat Is An Alien, Belgium experimental stalwart Cédric Stevens still finds time to complete a meditative LP of modular electronics, electric guitar and Indian tambura. Taking his trademark modular synth textures further into the ether zone, Stevens continues his flirtations between the fragile lines of noise and celestial drones, offering again another beautiful glimpse into his ongoing studio experiments at the reclusive Hermetic garage. With a gentle A-side of modular synths, guitars, and field recordings, the B-side plunges the listener into a grandiose meditating raga piece entitled “Benares Crescent.” Based exclusively on recordings of an Indian tambura and developed by Stevens over the last 5 years, “Benares” swooshes through Indian psychedelic drones, evoking a sometimes wild others meditating, electrified Indian harmonic soundscape. The logical continuation of the Belgium “school” of exploratory electronics. Fans of Baudouin Oosterlynck, Léo Kupper, Folke Rabe or Remko Scha take note.
File Under: Drone, Raga, Electronic
Supersilent: 12 (Rune Grammofon) CD
Rune Grammofon are delighted to welcome back the mighty Supersilent with a brand-new record, their first in four years. Recorded during three different sessions back in 2011, Supersilent 12 is produced by Deathprod from hours of recordings at his own Audio Virus LAB, Athletic Sound in Halden and the Emanuel Vigeland Museum, known for its 20-second natural reverb. Since the very beginning, Supersilent have always moved forward with the greatest integrity. Supersilent music is collective work, total group improvising, and not a matter of individual grandstanding. They never rehearse as a group and don’t discuss the music with each other, meeting only to play concerts or to record. Every recording and every concert is a unique occasion, not to be repeated, and their music lives in a no-man’s-land between the genres, somewhere between avant-garde free-jazz, rock, electronica and modern composition. It can sometimes appear to be written or at least arranged, again making it clear that these musicians communicate on a high, almost telepathic level. Supersilent 12 brings further evidence to the above. Known as being heavy on electronics, this time they have moved further towards the avant-garde territory populated by Deathprod and current Arve Henriksen releases Chron and Cosmic Creation. It features some of their darkest and most eerie soundscapes, but there’s still room for Henriksen’s lyrical trumpet. Supersilent was formed in Oslo in 1997 after producer, musician and sound artist Helge Sten approached improvising trio Veslefrekk with the idea of forming a new quartet. The first time they played together, without prior rehearsals, was at Bergen Jazz Festival the same year. Their first album, the triple set 1-3 was released in late ’97, also being the first release on Rune Grammofon. Drummer Jarle Vespestad left the group in 2008 without being replaced. Ståle Storløkken is a member of Humcrush, Elephant9, BOL, Reflections In Cosmo and Terje Rypdal’s Skywards trio and a couple of other projects. Arve Henriksen has released eight solo albums, seven of them on Rune Grammofon, and he has recorded with David Sylvian, Trygve Seim, Jon Balke, Christian Wallumrød and many others. Helge Sten aka Deathprod was a former member of rock group Motorpsycho and is now a permanent member in Susanna’s trio. As Deathprod he has released three albums as well as a retrospective 4CD box set. He is a producer on the various independent scenes in Norway, with credits including Jaga Jazzist, Nils Petter Molvaer, Motorpsycho, The White Birch, Susanna, Jenny Hval, and several others. Helge Sten (audio virus, electronics); Ståle Storløkken (keyboards, electronics); Arve Henriksen (trumpet, electronics).
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, Improv, Jazz
Jone Takamaki Trio: Universal Mind (Arc Light Editions) LP
Arc Light Editions follows up two successful vinyl-only releases (Arthur Russell, Ingram Marshall) with Jone Takamäki Trio’s Universal Mind, a forgotten Finnish spiritual improv record from 1982, fully authorized by Jone himself. The tracks on Universal Mind are based on traditional Indian arrangements, with Japanese influence, leaning towards Alice Coltrane’s spirituality and pace. In addition to traditional improv instrumentation (saxophone, bass, drums), the record also includes synthesizers, gongs, finger pianos, a vibraphone and washbasins. Jone says, recalling making the record: “We played a lot together, daily, at our rehearsal space before recording. We went through the melodies and talked about how to handle them with a kind of different angle, improvised a lot with different sounds. We talked about tempos, especially we were diving deep into special moods, how each of those melodies talked to us. They are mostly old love songs from India, more folk songs than classical music.” After the recording, they left immediately on a European tour. “I told the people at the record company not to do anything to the record before we came back, but it was released while we were away. We saw the record on the windows of different record shops when we drove into town from the tour!” The record has never appeared on CD, and the 1982 vinyl release has rarely been heard outside Finland. The only place the release has re-emerged in recent memory is with the track “Bhupala I” selected on Son of Arctic Hysteria, a CD compilation of Finnish avant-garde and experimental music.
File Under: Finnish, Improv, Spiritual Jazz
Teenanger: E P L P (Telephone Explosion) LP
This eight-song offering is simultaneously their most accessible AND diverse to date. Here’s a review from Exclaim: “Teenanger have never been an easy band to peg — 2012’s Frights found the band kind of, but not quite, shrugging off their garage-y past, while 2013’s Singles Don’t $ell rode the line between direct punk poppiness and a new wave sheen. As the title suggests, E P L P is a continuation of the band’s ambivalence toward stasis or definition, sounding like a culmination of all of their previous ideas while still incorporating some new ones into their honed hooks. Most notably, Jon Schouten has opted for a sharper, crunchier guitar tone throughout the record, giving everyone else a bit more room to step up and be heard. Bassist Melissa Ball’s backup vocals play a greater role, even taking the lead on “Mild Survivor.” The changes might be slight, but like the bleating saxophone solo on “Twisted,” or the stabs of synth on “Negative Zeroes,” they’re essential to giving E P L P a sound that’s difficult to classify easily, while still making it distinct from its predecessors.”
File Under: Punk, CanCon
Tin Man: Ode (Acid Test) LP
What does a rave sound like the next day? The strobe lights in a dark warehouse, the pounding kick, the blur of ecstatic faces lead to a morning-after emptiness, all fade into memories of the friends you once had. On Ode, Tin Man (proper name Johannes Auvinen) explores this feeling, offering tracks which possess an exhausted joy, the aural equivalent of the stretch of time beginning when the last record is played and stretching on towards the doleful contemplation of last night’s unmade sheets. Appropriately, Tin Man’s melancholic dance music is more club-ready than ever. The opening tracks explore the spacious atmosphere first proposed on Neo Neo Acid and the (recently-repressed) Acid Test 01 collaboration with Donato Dozzy. Auvinen continues to coax unique, bittersweet sounds out of the 303 — his control is akin to a virtuosic Theremin-player, all dramatic lunges and dynamics. Yet on tracks like “Depleted Serotonin,” the memories of half-remembered nights surface. That track reprises the minor-key rave breakdown, ending with nearly three-minutes of knackered techno throb. Similarly, “What a Shame” sounds like a forgotten Warp classic run through Tin Man’s palette of tasteful reserve. Always conceptual, Tin Man is commenting on big-room techno music by presenting his thoughtful, hungover version of it. On “Vertigo,” he reins in the acid box acrobatics — opting instead for a rudimentary, early-Chicago style pattern, eventually following optimistic chords skyward. It’s a simulacrum of that end-of-the-night moment when the music is so charged and utopic that all fatigue is forgotten. Auvinen’s recognized talent to imbue machines with complex human emotion draws us into his world. With Tin Man’s music, there is always something left unsaid — he uses familiar elements yet his perspective remains singular and mysterious. Each dream-like track is another clue. He ends the set with the intensely dramatic “Memoraphilia” and “Ode.” The former concludes on an ominous note with strings that evoke paranoia, yet this feeling, too, will pass. The final (and title) track begins with the Deepchord-level percussive filtering that acts as the album’s textural base. Almost immediately, Tin Man introduces an octave-jumping acid refrain. The four-bar loop reaches operatic heights of yearning. “Ode”‘s rave stabs indicate this drama comes from the implacable notion of being alone in the crowd — an emptiness which can remain long after it’s disbanded. What comes when the dance is over?
File Under: Electronic, Techno
Unicorns: Who Will Cut Our Hair… (Xemu) LP
2003’s Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? is the third and final album from Montreal, Quebec band The Unicorns. The release features thirteen tracks deeply rooted in careful songwriting and lo-fi pop experimentalism. The Unicorns have a gift for blending a morbid sense of humour with irresistible pop melodies caked with beautiful vocals employing thoughtful, near-sacred lyrics. The recording opens with “I Don’t Wanna Die,” a plea to the makers of the universe to “grant me one more breath”, setting the tone for the overall theme of the album. “Tuff Ghost” takes the intensity up a notch with The Unicorns’ attempt to cash in on the disco punk sound. “Ghost Mountain” is a lyrical tale of colonialism blanketed in a taut metaphor of one journey to the top of a haunted mountain, boasting classic lines like ‘There was heat from the fire, but I still froze when I saw the ghost.’ Completing the ghost trilogy, “Sea Ghost,” a pithy pop tune in the purest form, will stick with you for days, eating at your insides and turning your skin green, not unlike a parasite attached to your leg at the bottom of the ocean. In terms of sonorous diseases, “Jellybones” is maybe the most infectious pop tune on the record, ending too soon, but sticking around so long. Analog synthesizers never sounded this good. But suddenly, the smoking urgency of “The Clap” re-awakens the unsettling undercurrent of the album, in a wiry, unforgiving 1:25. The band’s sing-along Motown-inspired “I Was Born a Unicorn” serves as the band’s confrontational anthem, flatly asking: ‘Are you a believer?’ “Tuff Luff” will make Jay-Z wet his pants when he hears it! The song’s hook comes in the form of a penny whistle, but the impact remains in the wry critical observations of U.S. foreign policy. And then, just as you’ve embraced the Unicorns as your favorite band… it’s over, sharply abrupt and sad (like slipping off a cliff to one’s demise) with “Ready to Die,” a naive dirge, relenting to the unavoidable reality of mortality.
File Under: LoFi Pop, CanCon
Univers Zero: Relaps (Sub Rosa) LP
First limited edition: solid blue, black and clear mixed vinyl. Gatefold sleeve. Founding members of the original “Rock In Opposition” (R.I.O.) movement and the inventors of “chamber rock,” mythic Belgian band Univers Zero have continued to change and grow and develop over their entire career, while still keeping an ensemble sound and spirit that is easily recognizable. These recordings were previously unavailable in an LP format. Longstanding dark-hued Belgian chamber rockers and avant-prog pioneers led by drummer/composer Daniel Denis, Univers Zero was formed in 1974 with co-composer and guitarist Roger Trigaux (who left the band in 1980). This 2LP documents the final 1980s line-ups before the band’s long sabbatical from recording and touring. Despite many line-up changes over the years, their overall sound remained fairly consistent.
File Under: Prog, Rock in Opposition
Unwound: No Energy (Numero) 3LP Box
As a robust rock underground got swallowed alive by the Major Label Industrial Complex, the very autonomous Unwound “Olympia, Washington’s Great Noise Hope” toed the troublesome line between pay check and Check Engine light. Captured in the gaps of a ruthless touring schedule, defining fourth and fifth albums The Future of What and Repetition were issued in the back-to-back springs of 1995 and ‘96. Both find the band severing their post-hardcore roots, for gripping detours into Echoplex, kraut, D&B, and Mingus, as guided by a sun-worn copy of Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life. No Energy collects both of these 1990s masterworks, beginning with Justin Trosper’s home-made haircut stabs on ‘New Energy’, continuing with Vern Rumsey’s reanimating bass on ‘Corpse Pose’, and closing in a wall of Sara Lund crash cymbals on ‘For Your Entertainment.’ This 33-song collection is buttressed by singles and period live tracks, a pile of double-exposed photographs, and a 10,000 word essay by latter-day Unwound diarist David Wilcox.
File Under: Punk
X: Aspiriations (Ugly Pop) LP
“The Sydney band’s 1979 debut is one of the all-time great Australian records, a devastatingly tough yet diverse album featuring 14 tracks of superb punk rock, equal parts wiry tension and savage release. This antipodean classic has fallen out of print again in recent years but should always be available, so Ugly Pop is pleased to announce that we’ll be reissuing it with new insert and unseen photos.”
X: Spurts (Ugly Pop) LP
“Before their legendary debut LP, X recorded a 1977 demo session that is a brilliant snapshot of the period, and a treasure for anyone with an interest in world-wide first wave punk. Ten tracks, perfect raw/full recording, seething with desperation and urgency, this is the sound of early AC/DC meets ‘Pink Flag’ with everything cranked. 37 years on, Ugly Pop presents the first ever vinyl appearance of this seminal document.”
File Under: Punk, Australian
Zeitkrazter/Keiji Haino: Live at Jahrhunderthalle Bochum (Karlrecords) LP
LP version of 2014 release Zeitkratzer + Keiji Haino. 180 gram pressing, gatefold sleeve, limited to 500, includes download code. On his second release with Zeitkratzer, Keiji Haino concentrates solely on his voice. No electronics are used except for amplification. Nevertheless, this live recording is even more radical than the first one. Radical is the concentration on the very limited but frenetic musical material, worked out in detail, which is rarely heard in the noise context — enabling Keiji Haino to sit on it, fly over, to merge or just to oppose. Zeitkratzer’s amplified instruments, played with extended techniques as developed by the group and its outstanding musicians over more than a decade and Haino’s incredible richness in voice timbres and noises complement each other perfectly. It’s one of the closest and most natural cooperations Zeitkratzer ever had. Wild and beautiful. Shouting, scratching, screaming, piping, chattering, crying, rumbling, oscillating, roaring, clashing, juttering, tinkling, singing, … and at the end, it’s hilarious, powerful music, pure noise and pure melody. As the Chicago Reader noted: “The supernova finally occurs!” and The Wire agreed: “A real highlight, with Zeitkratzer enfolding Keiji Haino in its grasp like some tentacular kraken of the deep. Haino effectively becomes another member of the group.” Rock-a-Rolla cheered: “Forceful and utterly compelling!” Nothing left to say than: listen! Zeitkratzer is directed by Reinhold Friedl: Frank Gratkowski (clarinets); Hild Sofie Tafjord (French horn); Hilary Jeffery (trombone); Reinhold Friedl (piano); Marc Weiser (acoustic noises); Maurice de Martin (percussion); Burkhard Schlothauer (violin); Anton Lukoszevieze (violoncello); + Keiji Haino (voice); Recorded live at Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, Ruhrtriennale. Recorded & mixed by Martin Wurmnest . Mastered by Rashad Becker.
File Under: Modern Classical, Experimental
Various: Burlesque Temptations:
Swing it, baby! Welcome to a fantastic three volume series dedicated to Burlesque music. Intended as an inspiration for performers who are searching for new tunes, as well as presenting a pleasant listening experience for fans of the newly re-born art of Burlesque, these volumes are the perfect soundtrack to a Burlesque club night or any retro cocktail party. Featuring the most swinging, lascivious, and provocative sounds the 20th century had to offer, the Burlesque Temptations series will please any and all fans of Sazerac and garter belts. The series has been compiled by Rome’s own legendary guru/mentor of the thriving contemporary Burlesque scene, Alessandro Casella, and featuring beautiful original artwork from one of the UK’s finest retro aficionados, Tony Diavolo. Each volume is presented on 140 gram vinyl with a free accompanying CD.
File Under: Exotica, Jazz, Swing
Various: Tav Falco’s Wild & Exotic World of Musical Obscurities (Stag’o’Lee) LP
Tav Falco, the Memphis legend (of Panther Burns fame) compiled 25 of his favorite tunes from ’50s rockabilly to tangos, waltzes & other wonderful obscurities. Songs he loves, songs he covered with Panther Burns, songs that influenced him, thus shedding much light upon the music that incessantly ignites Falco’s muse. This is a wild and wonderful ride. A Back to Mine-style compilation that will open your ears. Double vinyl housed in a gatefold sleeve with extensive liner notes by the maestro himself. Artists include: The Johnny Burnette Trio, Don Willis, Bobby Lee, Allen Page, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Jimmy Lloyd, Benny Joy, Alexander Princes, Bachicha Bianco, Anton Karas, Los Indios Tacunau, Carlos Di Sarli, Orchestra Juan D’Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Elmore James, Bobby Blue Bland, Chet Baker, Fred Buscaglione, Martin Denny, Dion & The Belmonts, Shorty Rogers, Charlie Feathers, and Alex Chilton.
File Under: Rockabilly, Exotica
13th Floor Elevators: Easter Everywhere (Snapper) 2LP
Alexisonfire: Crisis (Dine Alone) LP
Alexisonfire: Old Crows/Young Cardinals (Dine Alone) LP
Alexisonfire: Watch Out! (Dine Alone) LP
Bjork: Homogenic (One Little Indian) LP
Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch) LP
Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch) LP
Black Keys: Magic Potion (Nonesuch) LP
Black Keys: Turn Blue (Nonesuch) LP
Caribou: Swim (Merge) LP
Caribou: Andorra (Merge) LP
Chrome: Visitations (Cleopatra) LP
City & Colour: Bring Me Your Love (Dine Alone) LP
City & Colour: Hurry & the Harm (Dine Alone) LP
City & Colour: Little Hell (Dine Alone) LP
City & Colour: Sometimes (Dine Alone) LP
Clash: s/t (Epic) LP
Clash: Combat Rock (Epic) LP
Earth: Primitive & Deadly (Southern Lord) LP
Flying Lotus: You’re Dead! (Warp) 4LP Box
Genius/Gza: Liquid Swords (Get On Down) LP
Grateful Dead: Aoxomoxoa (Rhino) LP
LCD Soundsystem: s/t (DFA) LP
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver (DFA) LP
M83: Hurry Up We’re Dreaming (Mute) LP
MF Doom: Operation Doomsday (Metal Face) LP
New Order: Power, Corruption, & Lies (Rhino) LP
New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers (Last Gang) LP
Pallbearer: Sorrow & Extinction (20 Buck Spin) LP
Placebo: s/t (Music on Vinyl) LP
Queens of the Stone Age: s/t (Rekords) LP
Queens of the Stone Age: Rated R (Interscope) LP
Queens of the Stone Age: Lullabies to Paralyse (Music On Vinyl) LP
Laetitia Sadier: Something Shines (Drag City) LP
Sigur Ros: Meo Suo I Eyrum Vio Spilum.. (XL) LP
Sleaford Mods: Divide & Exit (Harbringer) LP
Sun Kil Moon: Benji (Caldo Verte) LP
Talking Heads: 77 (Rhino) LP
Talking Heads: Fear of Music (Rhino) LP
Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings… (Rhino) LP
Tweedy: Sukierae (Anti) LP+CD
Robert Wyatt: The End of an Ear (Cherry Red) LP
Ahmad Zahir: 70s Aghan Psychedelic Folk-Pop (Guerssen) LP
Various: Guardians of the Galaxy OST (Hollywood) LP
Various: Original Raw Soul 3 (Now Again) LP