Howdy all! I just sent out News Letter #779 and here I am, putting together #780. That’s because when you read this, I’m not actually in Edmonton! Unless you are reading this on Friday, then I am actually in Edmonton. Anyway, this list is a little different, because I don’t actually know if these items showed up or not. They are supposed to, and hopefully they did. I could confirm that, but, I’m not going to. They’ll be in eventually, if they aren’t already.
…..picks of the week…..
Bing & Ruth: No Home of the Mind (4AD) LP
Continuing with the deft minimalism that has marked them out in critical circles in recent years, New York ensemble Bing & Ruth return with their third record No Home of the Mind. Established in 2006, Bing & Ruth is an ever-evolving collective steered by composer David Moore. A pianist from Kansas and graduate of New York’s school of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School, Moore’s work follows in the great tradition of fellow alumni John Cage and Steve Reich, albeit looking past the more studied repetition of the style’s forerunners toward a meditative form built on feeling. With Moore at its nucleus, Bing & Ruth’s line-up has transmuted from the 11-strong line-up that created debut album City Lake (“A stunning, humble record built on traditions we all understand, yet, somehow feels dizzyingly new.” – The Quietus) to a cast of 7 for 2014’s Tomorrow Was The Golden Age (“One of the finest leftfield releases of the year.” – Pitchfork). With No Home of the Mind, the ensemble has been streamlined to a 5-person unit, exploring the piano’s percussive qualities alongside running woodwinds, warbling tape delays and splattered upright bass lines that stare out with a wide-eyed transcendence, taking so-called “classical” music to new limits.
File Under: Ambient, Classical, Minimalism
Visible Cloaks: Reassemblage (RVNG Intl) LP
Visible Cloaks’ Reassemblage is a collection of delicately rendered passages of silence and sound that invokes – and invites – consciousness. The foundation of the duo’s second album is gently poured upon the ground their musical predecessors explored, using the materials of chance operations, MIDI “translation,” and other generative principles that favor inclusive musical environments over the narrowly constrained. In 2010, Spencer Doran, one part of Visible Cloaks alongside Ryan Carlile, prepared the first volume of Fairlights, Mallets, and Bamboo, a mixtape indicated by Doran as “an investigation into fourth-world undercurrents in Japanese ambient and pop music, years 1980 – 1986.” These mixes contextualized the outré orbit of Yellow Magic Orchestra-related solo projects and their abstract, radiant forays as forever futuristic modes of music. Reassemblage evokes similar musical futures celebrated on the Fairlights mixes, but does so observantly rather than reverently. The title Reassemblage, for example, is taken from a film essay by Trinh T. Minh-ha, which explores the impossibility of ascribing meaning to ethnographic images. The author aims to “speak nearby” rather than “speak about.” In other words, to embrace lapses of understanding, and realize that the impulse to map direct meaning across a cultural gap often results in further disconnect. In an effort to “speak nearby” rather than “speak about,” Visible Cloaks filters and forms source material to become young again. Often the duo strip tonal elements of their specificity or randomize melodies so they become stirring and lucid. Essential patterns emerge, conscious experience heightens. In these moments, the musical language of Reassemblage finds unlimited resonance and presents a path to uninhabited realities. The origin of this language could be described as translingual or polyglottal, working within the eastern / western feedback loop of influence, Fourth World ambiguity, and the universality of human emotion. Incorporating an international array of virtual instruments to advance the idea of panglobalism through digital simulation, tones and colors cohere into a living, breathing pool of sensorial experience in Visible Cloaks’ environs. Beyond embracing the fluidity of worldly musical influences, Visible Cloaks works fluently between mediums. The contribution of stalwart digital and installation artist Brenna Murphy’s dream dimensions to Reassemblage’s cover artwork and surrounding videos extends the album’s exploration of global headspace into a visual, visceral reality.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, Generative, East/West
The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini: s/t (Rough Trade) LP
Rough Trade presents the collaborative album by Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist Orchestra. This is a live album containing ten Torrini songs from her catalog along with two brand new songs. Seeing Emilíana and The Colorist Orchestra in concert is a truly special experience. They have a musical chemistry that is undeniable, and documenting the experience on an album was something that just had to be done. While Torrini needs no introduction, her musical collaborators on this self-titled release have an interesting and creative way of working that warrants further examination. The Colorist Orchestra is a Belgian ensemble founded by Aarich Jespers and Kobe Proesmans in 2013. They re-envision the repertoires of established musicians from across genres using traditional classical instruments and arrangements, along with a variety of their own musical inventions to contribute innovative, never-before-heard sounds and grooves to their compositions and re-compositions. When Jespers and Proesmans, fans of Torrini’s rich catalog, invited her to collaborate on a series of live concerts, she was intrigued, and asked them to re-compose one of her songs to see what their concept was all about. The result, a wholly novel rendition of “Animal Games” from her most recent album Tookah convinced Torrini that working with the group was a creative opportunity that she shouldn’t dare miss. Although The Colorist Orchestra had initially planned to “re-color” only seven of Torrini’s songs, she was so enthralled by what she’d heard that she convinced them to work with her on fifteen of her previously-released tracks. Jespers and Proesmans pulled together a new eight-piece ensemble to create live re-envisionings of the works. The group created a new world out of the music, and while Torrini admitted that she could barely recognize many of her own songs in the rearrangements, the collaboration came together organically and beautifully, with Torrini’s talent elevating the Colorist ensemble’s creativity, and the group helping her rediscover the joy and the power within her own songs in this new light. Two brand-new Torrini songs debut on this album: “Nightfall,” written by Kid Koala and Torrini; and “When We Dance,” written by Jespers, Proesmans, and Torrini. The latter reflects the musical chemistry the three musicians developed during the process of rehearsal and performance for the Colorist concerts.
Grails: Chalice Hymnal (Temporary Residence) LP
Rather than pick up where they left off, Grails take the sky-high riff-based heaviness of their earlier albums and distill it into a nuanced, widescreen opus. The perennial influences of mid-20th century Western film scores, obscure library music, and psychedelic krautrock are indelibly imprinted, but Chalice Hymnal exudes an eerie patience in unfurling the many layers of its subtle details. Produced by the band over the past five years, Chalice Hymnal bears some of the European psych and experimental hip-hop production techniques of founding members Alex Hall and Emil Amos’ other group, Lilacs & Champagne. Amos’ meditative metal band, Om, and longtime singer-songwriter project, Holy Sons, also naturally find their way into the Chalice cauldron. Rounding out their leaner line-up, co-founder Zak Riles (also of experimental kraut-psych trio, Watter) layers synths and programming into an electronic-prog hybrid that pushes Grails further into the deep end, displaying a profound resonance, both musically and emotionally. No one else sounds like Grails, and on Chalice Hymnal they sound more like themselves than ever before.
Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian) LP
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as “a midlife-crisis disco album; it’s an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices.” It’s a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humor is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop’s writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It’s the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalized Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships.
OST: Arrival (Deutsche Grammophon) LP
Deutsche Grammophon presents the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the 2016 Paramount Pictures film Arrival, with music composed and produced by Johann Johannsson. Arrival marks the composers third cinematic collaboration with French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, following on from last years crime thriller Sicario, which garnered Johannsson an Oscar nomination for best original score. Arrival stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, Adams playing the lead role of a linguist who attempts to communicate with the alien intelligence controlling a fleet of spacecraft that has suddenly and ominously appeared at sites all around the globe. As mankind teeters on the brink of global war, she and her team embark on a race against time to find out why these craft have come to earth. More than a conventional sci-fi thriller, this is a thoughtful, intellectual drama with a genre twist. “Arrival is a very unique science fiction film and I decided early on that the human voice would feature prominently in the score,” says Johannsson. “It seemed a natural choice, given that the story is very much about language and communication.” Johannsson worked with several singers and vocal ensembles and combined both classical and avant-garde elements in his compositions, augmenting his already unique approach of combining orchestral writing with digital sound processing. Among those appearing are the prestigious Theatre of Voices, conducted by Paul Hillier, and artists such as Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Hildur Guonadottir, known for their unique musicianship. Johannsson also integrated some found sounds from the legendary avant-garde vocalist Joan La Barbara into his score. The soundtrack was recorded in Prague, Copenhagen and his native Reykjavik.
OST: Jackie (Milan) LP
Directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim, Jackie is a one of a kind biopic. Starring Natalie Portman in the role of Jackie Kennedy, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig, Jackie follows the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and finds the First Lady fighting through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy. The score to Jackie was composed by experimental British musician Mica Levi, best known for her ethereal score to 2013’s sleeper hit Under the Skin. Mournful and eerie with a touch of the surreal, Levi has delivered an unmistakable musical tapestry every bit as iconic as Jackie O herself. The mastered-for-vinyl score comes pressed on 180g LP and is housed in a heavy stock euro sleeve featuring black-and-white artwork of Jackie. A download card containing a digital version of the soundtrack is also included. “The movie’s gut punch owes part of its exceptional force to Mica Levi’s emotionally charged score,its requiem-style strings heavy with sorrow, sometimes distorted to express a surreal state of warped reality (reminiscent of her fabulous work on Under the Skin).” – The Hollywood Reporter
Sampha: Process (Young Turks) LP
Process is the debut full length LP from 27 year old vocalist, musician, songwriter and producer, Sampha Sisay, who’s notably worked with SBTRKT, Jessie Ware and FKA Twigs, whilst also lending his talents to hiphop megastars like Kanye West and Drake. The ten track album contains production credits from Sampha himself and XL Studios’ Rodaidh Mcdonald, and features the singles “Timmy’s Prayer” and “Blood On Me.” Morden born Sampha first turned heads back in 2011 with “Valentine,” a duet co-written with singer/songwriter Jessie Ware. With his recognizable vocals and unique, electronica-laced take on modern soul he’s proven himself to be one of Young Turks’ most versatile and talented artists.
File Under: Electronic, Pop
Strand of Oaks: Hard Love (Dead Oceans) LP
Tim Showalter’s latest release as Strand of Oaks, Hard Love, emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.” Drawing from his love of Creation Records, Trojan dub compilations, and Jane’s Addiction, and informed by a particularly wild time at Australia’s Boogie Festival, he sought to create a record that would merge all of these influences while evoking something new and visceral. These influences coupled with an uninhibited and collaborative studio experience moved an initial concept for a singularly feel-good record to something more complex and real. As much as Showalter wants this record to seem like a party, it’s more than that. It feels like living. “You went away…you went searching…came back tired of looking” is how Showalter begins the title track, a sentiment that epitomizes his own mentality in beginning Hard Love. As the record progresses, so do the themes of dissatisfaction and frustration with love, family, success, and aging, both in personal experience and songwriting.
Tinariwen: Elwan (Anti) LP
For the last five years, Tinariwen have been busy crisscrossing the globe bringing their triumpant tours to all five continents and expanding their audience. During this time their beloved homeland in the Adrar des Ifoghas, a Saharan mountain range that straddles the border between north-eastern Mali and southern Algeria has, in effect, been transformed into a conflict zone, a place where nobody can venture without putting themselves in danger. These conflicts have forced the band into exile to record their eighth album, Elwan. Elwan means ‘the elephants’ – an animal metaphor to describe those ‘beasts’, whether militias or multinational consortiums, who have trampled everything in their path: in the desert, where both the human and ecological equilibriums are extremely fragile. Tinariwen chose to record this album in several locations around the world, including for 4 days at the desert hideaway of Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree, CA, the studio known as a favored refuge for many an eclectic artist from Queens of the Stone Age to Daniel Lanios to Arctic Monkeys to Iggy Pop and more. For Tinariwen, the geographical location of the studio proved to be particularly propitious in terms of creativity. And the human climate was just as favorable. A few friends dropped in during the sessions to add some magic to a few tracks including, Kurt Vile (electric guitar), Mark Lanegan ( Vocals on “Nànnuflày”), Matt Sweeney (electric guitar) and producer/guitarist, Alain Johannes (Cigarbox guitar). Sessions were also recorded in Morocco, where the band were accompanied by local musicians, in a land where they are considered musical legends. Lovers of those sensual yet abrasive riffs that are Tinariwen’s signature won’t be disappointed. But neither will those who love their funky, danceable side, which comes through loud and clear. All that potential has been wonderfully honed by the album’s mixing engineer Andrew Schepps, known well for his work with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, and Jay Z.
John Zorn: Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Music on Vinyl) LP
Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman is the 1989 album by American composer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist John Zorn, featuring the compositions of Ornette Coleman performed in the brief intense style of Zorn’s hardcore miniatures. The liner notes thank Ornette and Denardo Coleman, Mick Harris of Napalm Death, Ted Epstein of Blind Idiot God, Pil of Lip Cream (a Japanese thrash core group), The Accused, Craig Flanagan, DRI, CBGB, and “the New York-London-Tokyo Hardcore Triangle”. The outstanding cover artwork was created by indie comic’s personality Mark Beyer (of Amy and Jordan fame). The album itself approaches free jazz from the perspective of hardcore punk, particularly taking note of the contemporary innovations of thrash core and grind core. Zorn would later pursue these preoccupations in the thrash jazz group Naked City. The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
File Under: Jazz