A bit of light week here, but if that damned Hot Snakes vinyl wasn’t late that would be all we’d be talking about anyway… Hopefully its here next week! In the meantime check out the killer Avulsions from Saskatoon or get depressed with the new Mount Eerie Then cheer yourself up and party down with Thundercat.
…..pick of the week…..
Ken Sugai: UkabazUmorezU (RVNG Intl) LP
With a melodic cluster dripping into a pool of dark water, UkabazUmorezU’s arrival ripples as an apex in Sugai Ken’s continued construction of a deeply resonant, enveloping sound world. Upon contact, UkabazUmorezU gently and generously unfurls across aural alleys and streets mundanely but mystically detailed with recontextualized Japanese rituals and tradition. Sugai’s compositional language took its most cohesive form in the producer’s almost decade long career with the 2016 album On The Quakefish. Evolving the sound design intuited on 2010’s ToKiShiNe and 2014’s Tada, Quakefish utilized an all-seeing, all-knowing edit for wider screens and wilder properties. The sable stage set for UkabazUmorezU is both bottomless and forgiving, a rich soil for new experiments to grow in Ken’s self-described “style that conjures [the] subtle and profound ambience of night in Japan.” A lived experience of traditional Japanese music’s conversation with environment, and vice versa, forms the melodic make-up and metaphysical philosophy conditioning UkabazUmorezU. Upon imagining a landscape, Sugai decomposes the image (and the images within the image) and replaces it with a sound representation – an artifactual terrain, tethered to but abstracted from the natural world. The 11 pieces which form UkabazUmorezUdovetail meaningfully with the invented album title, roughly translating to “slow and steady wins the race.” Made up of recordings sourced and appropriated from the local performing arts of Kanagawa, Japan (where Sugai lives), his daily surroundings, and Sugai’s tool kit of electronic synthesis, UkabazUmorezU evokes tranquil patience while never settling into a single style or still of sound for too long. Sugai Ken’s upbringing among a generation of Japanese artists exposed to Western culture becomes the basis for another part of UkabazUmorezU’s ritualistic experimentation. On “Sawariyanagi,” for example, an atmosphere inspired by the yokai monster Yanagi Onna finds itself speaking through a Western electroacoustic motif. Elsewhere on “Ganoubyoshi” a processed “hoarsely voice of the elderly” is treated with a reverence reserved for the realm of symphonic music – the micro and the macro receive equal amounts of mindful care in the cerebral ceremony of Sugai Ken. The profundity of UkabazUmorezU’s nighttime arrives, in part, upon the idea that what remains hidden is limitless. While one might be horrified by the concept of negative space, Sugai views this obscured horizon as an invitation for a tempered type of spontaneity. A heartfelt connection to his personal trajectory and the folk history of his country allows UkabazUmorezU to calmly throw itself headlong into a jumbled sound experience sometimes beyond our conscious comprehension.
File Under: Ambient, Electronic, Experimental
The Avulsions: Expanding Program (Flemish Eye) LP
In tomorrow… The Avulsions’ highly anticipated debut album Expanding Program launches the Saskatoon group’s gothic post-punk into a sci-fi dystopian future that may not be far off. Songs uncoil slowly while patiently working through hypnotic passages. Shards of spindly guitar and synth work alternate between chilly, dread-inducing backdrops and regal orchestral-style arrangements, all pinned down by distinctive percussion that rarely relies on a familiar beat. On these slow-burning mini-epics, spectral ambience inspired by The Cure is fused with the chiming dissonance of early Sonic Youth, the deadpan drama of Nico’s The Marble Index, or the nuclear war paranoia of This Heat. The album’s morbid lyrics conjure a society of “Mars” under military control, lingering evil in the Twin Peaks referencing “BOB”, and the scorched earth of “The End” eliminating all suffering forever, before the explosive release of 12-minute closer “Clone” serves up a closing moment of uncertain calm.
File Under: Goth, Post-Punk
David Byrne: American Utopia (Nonesuch) LP
American Utopia fits hand-in-hand with David Byrne’s vision for his series “Reasons To Be Cheerful,” named for the song by the late Ian Dury. Over the last year, Byrne has been collecting stories, news, ideas, and other items that all either embody or identify examples of things that inspire optimism, such as a tech breakthrough, a musical act, a new idea in urban planning or transportation – something seen, heard, or tasted. Just as the album questions the current state of society while offering solace through song, the content of the series recognizes the darkness and complexity of today while showcasing alternatives to the despair that threatens us. While Byrne has collaborated on joint releases with Brian Eno, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), and most recently St. Vincent over the past decade, American Utopia is Byrne’s first solo album since, 2004’s Grown Backwards. American Utopia morphed during the writing and recording process, beginning with longtime collaborator Brian Eno, and eventually growing to include collaborations with producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, King Krule, Sampha, Savages) alongside a diverse cast of creative contributors including Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Jam City, Thomas Bartlett (St. Vincent producer, aka Doveman), Jack Peñate, and others. The album was recorded in New York City at DB Spare Bedroom, Reservoir Studios, Oscilloscope, XL Studios, and Crowdspacer Studio and in London at Livingston Studio. The packaging features the work of “outsider artist” Purvis Young, whose work was often a blend of painting/drawing and collaged elements comprised of everyday found objects. A painting depicting a head with a face of indeterminate race or possibly gender – dreaming, meditating, contemplating – is on the album’s cover. American Utopia will be accompanied by a world tour and choreographed concert that Byrne has called “the most ambitious show I’ve done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense.”
File Under: Pop
Django Django: Marble Skies (Ribbon) LP
Django Django – David Maclean (producer/drummer), Vincent Neff (vocalist/guitarist), Jimmy Dixon (bass) and Tommy Grace (synths) – return, exploring new sounds with their third full-length album, Marble Skies. It’s a concise and focused album that recalls their dynamic, genre-blurring debut and its handmade, cut-and-paste approach. Following the release of their 2012 Mercury Prize-nominated debut and 2015’s Born Under Saturn, the process for Marble Skies began with a back-to-basics approach in line with the DIY ethos of the band’s early days. In late 2016, Django Django (minus Maclean) assembled at Urchin Studios in Tottenham, London with Metronomy drummer Anna Prior to experiment with new material. After ten days of recording, there was plenty of raw demos to send to Maclean for him to edit, refine and evolve before the band rejoined for recording proper. Marble Skies was completed in mid-2017 in their small, equipment-crammed studio in north London – a similar environment to the first record, which was recorded in Maclean’s bedroom.
File Under: Electronic
Dwarves: Free Cocaine (Burger) LP
The Dwarves’ killer 39-track, 2LP compilation Free Cocaine: 1986-88 collects material from the band’s Fuck-You-Up-And-Get-High Years. The pus-charged and violently dripping assemblage of scum from punk rock’s reigning over-the-hill bad boys includes compilation cuts, the Toolin’ For A Warm Teabag 12-inch, the Lucifer’s Crank 7″, the That’s Rock’n’Roll 7″, the I Wanna Kill Your Boyfriend 7″, the She’s Dead 7″ and the Sex & Violence 7″ plus 15 unreleased tracks.
File Under: Punk
Earthless: Black Heaven (Nuclear Blast) LP
Earthless has a surprise for you. Whereas the band’s three previous albums featured anywhere from two to four completely instrumental space rock jams, the California trio’s fourth and latest, Black Heaven, is nothing like that. “It’s quite different,” drummer Mario Rubalcaba explains. “It has six songs, and most importantly it has vocals on about 70 percent of the record. There goes being pigeonholed as an instrumental band, I guess…” Of Black Heaven’s six tracks, only two are instrumental. And one of those instrumentals is less than two minutes long. “It wasn’t a premeditated thing to do a record with vocals,” Rubalcaba notes. “On the older records, Mike was responsible for a lot of the riffs that would start these jams, but on this one Isaiah really brought his own pizazz and flavor to it. I’d say that’s one of the major differences on this album: It has more of Isaiah’s input. He took a risk bringing these ideas to us, not knowing if we’d like them. But as with everything we’ve done in the past, it felt very organic and natural.” Black Heaven is a game changer for Earthless. “I’m sure there will be some people who have come to expect the big gargantuan space rock jams, and I don’t know if they’ll be into this or not,” Rubalcaba admits. “But I’m ready to deal with a little bit of disappointment from people who just want the freakout stuff. At the same time, I think people are gonna enjoy hearing a different side of us. If people really listen to what we’re doing, it’s gonna sound like us. Sometimes it just takes a few listens. And that’s the kind of stuff that pays off more in the end.”
File Under: Metal
Diamanda Galas: At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem (Intravenal) LP
Diamanda Galás is a Greek-American avant-garde composer and performer, whose work confronts the subjects of violence and despair with political conviction and austerity. Galás rose to prominence in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the recorded trilogy, Masque of the Red Death, and the performance work Plague Mass, which addressed the AIDS crisis in a time of deafening political silence and inaction. At St. Thomas the Apostle Harlem documents Galás’ volcanic May 2016 performance at St. Thomas the Apostle church in Harlem, NY, described by the New York Times as “guttural and operatic, baleful and inconsolable, spiritual and earthy, polyglot and wordless, nuanced and unhinged.” The concert, produced by Intravenal Sound Operations and Red Bull Music Academy, was composed exclusively of what Galás calls “death songs.”
File Under: Jazz, Experimental
Hayden: Moving Careful (Hardwood) LP
Following an anniversary edition of Everything I Long For, Canadian songwriting hero Hayden is giving his Moving Careful release the same treatment. Hayden releases the 1996 EP as an expanded 20th anniversary edition, both on vinyl and digitally. It will mark the first vinyl pressing of the release since it initially arrived as a 10-inch. Moving Careful was originally recorded in the mid-’90s and released via Hardwood/Sonic Unyon in late 1996. For the expanded reissue, Side 2 of the release will include a series of rare recording captured between ’94 and ’96. In a statement, Hayden had this to say about the release: After touring my debut, Everything I Long For, across Canada for the better part of two years from 1994-96, I celebrated its imminent International release by developing a strong dislike for the sound of my music. A major sticking point in my negotiations with Outpost Recordings (my US label at the time) was to have the ability to release singles and EPs on my own or through smaller labels. They agreed, and Moving Careful was born from late night obsessions on the third floor of a rented Victorian house in Toronto. Although much of my debut was recorded on a 4-track cassette, I was eager to get back to my Yamaha MT100 II, and very inspired by what Eric’s Trip and Lou Barlow were doing at the time.
File Under: Indie Rock, Folk
Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop) CS
Where oh where is the vinyl at!!!! After a 14-year hiatus from the studio, Hot Snakes kick down the door with their new album, Jericho Sirens. The record blasts out of the speakers with the furious “I Need a Doctor,” inspired by Rick Froberg’s experience needing a doctor’s note in order to miss an important work function. Throughout Jericho Sirens, Froberg commiserates with the frustration and torrential apathy that seems to be a fixture in our daily lives, while also reminding us that we have no fucking clue. “Songs like ‘Death Camp Fantasy’ and ‘Jericho Sirens’ are about that,” he says. “No matter where you look, there’re always people saying the world’s about to end. Every movie is a disaster movie. I’m super fascinated by it. It is hysterical, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It snowballs, like feedback, or my balls on the windshield.” Musically, the album incorporates the most extreme fringes of the Hot Snakes sound (the vein-bulging, 78-second “Why Don’t It Sink In?” the manic, Asian Blues on speed of “Having Another?”), while staying true to longstanding influences such as the Wipers, Dead Moon, Michael Jackson, and Suicide on propulsive tracks such as “Six Wave Hold-Down.” Other moments like the choruses of “Jericho Sirens” and “Psychoactive” nod to Status Quo and AC/DC.
File Under: Punk
Imarhan: Temet (City Slang) LP
When Imarhan released their self-titled debut album in 2016, they stepped into a genre already flooded with talent and exposure, but still managed to rise to the top and be heralded as the “new wave Of Tuareg music” by Fact Magazine and The Guardian. Temet is a huge leap forward in production, as well as creatively for Imarhan. Whereas their debut was anchored in the meditative Desert Blues tradition, Temet eclipses such notions, finding bounce and drive by stirring their sound with funk, fuzz, disco and rock. This is not a novel concept to the band, as anyone who has seen them play will attest. There is a disparity between their emotional and thoughtful first album and the raucous, ecstatic live show. And while Temet is decisively more eclectic, the aesthetic wisdom and singular vision of their debut remains on full display.
File Under: African, Tuareg, Desert Blues
Mount Eerie: Now Only (PW Elverum) LP
Now Only, written shortly following the release of A Crow Looked At Me and the first live performances of those songs, is a deeper exploration of that style of candid, undisguised lyrical writing. It portrays Elverum’s continuing immersion in the strange reality of Geneviève’s death, chronicling the evolution of his relationship to her and her memory, and of the effect the artistic exploration of his grief has had on his own life. The scope of Now Only encompasses not only hospitals and deathbeds, but also a music festival, childhood memories of conversations with Elverum’s mother, profound paintings and affecting artworks he encounters, a documentary about Jack Kerouac, and most significantly, memories of his life with Geneviève. These moments and thoughts resonate with each other, creating a more complex and nuanced picture of mourning and healing. The power of these songs comes not from the small, sharp moments of cutting phrases or shocks, but the echoes that weave the songs together, the way a life is woven. The music, fully realized by Elverum alone at home, is fleshed out texturally and seems to react to the words in real time. In a moment of confusion, dissonance abruptly makes itself known; in a moment of clarity, gentle piano arises. On the title track, the blunt declaration of “people get cancer and die” is subverted by a melody that can only be described as pop. As Elverum reinvents his lyrical process, he is also refining his musical vocabulary. Elverum’s life during the period he wrote Now Only was defined by the duality of existing with the praise and attention garnered by A Crow Looked At Me and the difficult reality of maintaining a house with a small child by himself, as well as working to preserve Geneviève’s artistic legacy. Consumed with the day to day of raising his daughter, Elverum felt his musical self was so distant that it seemed fictional. Stepping into the role of Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie held the promise of positive empathy and praise, but also the difficulty of inhabiting the intense grief that produced the music. These moments, both public and domestic, are chronicled in these songs. They are songs of remembrance, and songs about the idea of remembrance, about living on the cusp of the past and present and reluctantly witnessing a beloved person’s history take shape. Time continues.
File Under: Indie Rock
Myrrors: Burning Circles in the Sky (Fuzz Club) LP
The band’s debut album, recorded sometime in 2007/2008 prior to the band’s extended hiatus and originally released in a limited run of fifty handmade, screen-printed copies. Features the original Myrrors lineup of Nik Rayne, Grant Beyschau, and bassist Claira Safi, who also designed the now somewhat iconic sleeve. These are quite literally the first recordings made by the band, cut at Nik’s house, quick and loose and on the fly. That original self-released edition sold out long ago, but the album has since been reissued internationally multiple times on CD, cassette, and LP by labels like Fuzz Club Records, Cardinal Fuzz, and Rewolfed Gloom.
File Under: Psych
Starchild & The New Romantic: Language (Ghostly) LP
“Black boys have a whole world of complexity that society makes us stomp out of ourselves.” Language, Bryndon Cook’s full-length debut as Starchild & The New Romantic, communicates his refusal to do so. Describing himself early-on as a “young romantic boy from Maryland,” Cook has long been a dreamer, a student of black music’s rich lineage and its intersection with pop. He’s drawn to landmark moments where artists have found truth in darkness; the diverse language of music living in their core. This record is his; lifting off from the monochrome world of Crucial, his 2016 EP, up towards a dazzling crimson blood-rush of sky-high defiance and autonomy. On Language, Cook refines his phonics for funk, electro, and R&B, and arrives at a revelation, best summarized by a single motto: “my sensitivity is my strength.” Sonically and spiritually, Cook finds guidance in grand standards: looking up to producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, studying their contributions to the New Jack Swing era and pop music at large. Touchstone statements like Janet Jackson’s Control, Michael Jackson’s Bad, and Prince’s 1999; singular breakout LPs from Terence Trent D’Arby and Bobby Brown; the honesty of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and Carole King’s Tapestry; the ingenuity of Laurie Anderson. Cook also reflects on recent years with Solange, as part of her touring band, and collaborations with Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, as reminders of artistic individuality. Hit most earnest, warm-hearted material to date, Language is the sound of Bryndon Cook eloquently occupying his space without apology, envisioning a world where the crimson qualities of sensitivity and softness aren’t shamed, they are celebrated as magic.
File Under: R&B, Soul
Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (Strut) LP
Strut and Art Yard present another exclusive from the vast catalogue of cosmic jazz pioneer Sun Ra: a previously unreleased radio session most likely recorded at the WXPN FM radio studios in Philadelphia, 1974-5. This newly discovered session features a new version of Ra’s earlier ‘Island In The Sun’, a romping, raucous rendition of ‘Unmask The Batman’ and the first studio recording of ‘I’ll Wait For You’ There is no bass player on the sessions and Ra’s left hand beats out a rhythmic bass pattern on the piano. All tracks are remastered directly from the original tapes. The album package features a newly commissioned painting by legendary Bristol urban artist Guy Denning and new sleeve notes by Paul Griffiths. Recently discovered in the Sun Ra archive, the recording forms part of a series of sessions that Ra and the Arkestra recorded for WXPN-FM between 1974 and 1980. The ‘Antique Blacks’ album was recorded there in ’74. Based on the campus of The University of Pennsylvania, WXPN’s station manager Jules Epstein and music director Russ Woessner were instrumental in the exposure and recording of The Arkestra in their broadcast production studios. Geno Barnhart, founder of The Empty Foxhole concert collective, Jules and Russ broadcast an on-going series of jazz concerts covering a wide spectrum. The Arkestra performed at The Foxhole in Philly many times from 1974.
File Under: Jazz
Thundercat & OG RonC & The Chopstars: Drank (Brainfeeder) LP
Brainfeeder presents a special chopped not slopped mix of Thundercat’s incredible 2017 album Drunk by DJ Candlestick and OG Ron C of legendary Houston DJ collective The Chopstars. Slowed down and chopped up, the mix has been appropriately re-titled Drank. It appeared online in 2017 as an unofficial homage to the virtuoso bassist, songwriter and producer’s third and universally acclaimed album and received hearty approval from Thundercat who proclaimed “If you got Drunk it’s only right that you get Drank. I feel like they go together,” inciting Brainfeeder to offer up this colored vinyl pressing. “I’ve always been a fan of chopping up creative music,” explains DJ Candlestick. “A lot of people don’t know we chop up rock and alternative music. We believe in chopping up everything just like DJ Screw’s dream – ‘chopping up the world.’ We are fans of this type of music and especially Thundercat and Flying Lotus. With these type of projects, OG Ron C and myself usually vibe out and do what we do best. ‘Drank’ gives you a perfect musical high. It’s also a project that all types of people can vibe to – smooth, chill and entertaining.”
File Under: Hip Hop, Funk, Jazz
Dean Ween Group: Rock 2 (Schnitzel) LP
Dean Ween – aka The Deaner – recorded the rock2 album at his dedicated studio facility in Lambertville, NJ, across the river from his native New Hope, PA. Ween says: “A lot has changed since I released my first ‘solo album’ a couple of years ago…This album is a snapshot of the fall of 2016 – there have been a lot of tunes recorded before then and even more since then, but this is my second official solo album. These were written for this sole purpose and recorded with the entire lineup: the best band in the world, Ween – Claude Coleman Jr., Dave Dreiwitz and Glenn McClelland, also the other best band in the world, the lineup of the DWG – Mike Dillon, Bill Fowler, Ray Kubian, Scott Rednor, and the other 50 members and usual suspects…I’m pretty proud of this one – it represents the first time that I was able to take what we do onstage and put it on a record…Every little thing I’ve ever learned is somewhere on here, somewhere.” Gatefold colored 180 gram LP.
File Under: Rock
Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Going On (Matador) LP
There’s A Riot Going On. You don’t need Yo La Tengo or anyone else for that matter to tell you that. These are dark times, in our heads as much as in the streets. It’s easy to lose contact with the ground. Confusion and anxiety intrude into daily life and cause you to lose your compass. There are times that call for anthems, something to lift you out of your slump and put fire in your feet. And sometimes what is needed is a balm, a sound that will wrap around you and work out the knots in your neck. For Yo La Tengo, this is a slow-motion action painting. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew did it all themselves, in their rehearsal studio, with no engineer and no complicated equipment (John McEntire later assisted in mixing). They did not rehearse together beforehand; they turned on the recorder and let things coalesce. Songs came together over long stretches, sometimes as much as a year going by between parts. You’d never guess this, since the layers are joined with such a liquid brush. You’d imagine most of the songs had sprung forth whole, since they will enter your head that way. You will be powerless to resist the magnetic draw of “Shades of Blue,” will involuntarily hear “She May, She Might” on your internal jukebox first thing in the morning and “Let’s Do It Wrong” late at night. While There’s A Riot Going On, Yo La Tengo reminds you what it’s like to dream. The sound burbles and washes and flows and billows. If records were dedicated to the cardinal elements, this one would be water. There are shimmery hazes, spectral rumbles, a flash of backward masking. You are there. And even if your mind is not unclouded – shaken, misdirected, out of words and out of time – you can still float, ride the waves of an ocean deeper than your worries, above the fray.
File Under: Indie Rock
Alvvays: s/t (Royal Mountain) LP
Robbie Basho: Art of the Acoustic Guitar (Gnomesong) LP
Robbie Basho: Visions of the Country (Gnomesong) LP
Caravan: If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You (4 Men With Beards) LP
Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda (Impulse) LP
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest (Because) LP
Johan Johannsson: Arrival OST (Deutsche Grammophon) LP
Love: Forever Changes (Rhino) LP
Kikagaku Moyo: s/t (Guruguru Brain) LP
Kikagaku Moyo: House in the Tall Grass (Guruguru Brain) LP
Mariah: Utakata No Hibi (Palto Flats) LP
John Mayall & The Blues Breakers: s/t (Sundazed) LP
Microphones: The Glow Pt. 2 (PW Elverum) LP
Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (PW Elverum) LP
Pink Floyd: The Wall (Pink Floyd) LP
Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Kscope) LP
Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Kscope) LP
Andy Schauf: The Party (Arts & Crafts) LP
Sleep: Holy Mountain (Earache) LP
Swans: Glowing Man (Young God) LP
Ebo Taylor: s/t (Mr. Bongo) LP
War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding (Warner) LP
Weezer: s/t (Blue) (Universal) LP
Yo La Tengo: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (Matador) LP