Heavy week! So many big releases in this week, I hope your wallet has had time to recover from Record Store Day! And with that, I’ll leave you to it, I’ve got boxes piling up around here…
…..picks of the week…..
Visible Cloaks: s/t (Musique Plastique) LP
The music of Visible Cloaks — the duo of Spencer D and Ryan Carlile, previously known as just “Cloaks” — has been bubbling under the surface of the already rich situation of experimental electronic song-smiths that exists in Portland, OR., and with only a handful of limited CDRs, a few tape releases (the most recent of which came out last year on Cameron “Sun Araw” Stallones’ Sun Ark Editions) and a string of albums released exclusively in Japan, we’ve had to rely on catching them live to find out where they’d been exploring, and what new environments they’d recreate for us. Visible Cloaks “live in a weird zone where corporate Japanese ambient music meets fourth world pop abstraction” (Michael Klausman, Other Music). The collision of synthesized and acoustic sounds, and genres usually associated with either — from Eno or Steve Roach’s ambience to Javanese Gamelan —, are intertwined so effortlessly and effectively that trying to parse out distinct sources is of foolhardy focus. Just as Haruomi Hosono created the magical space between India and Japan with Cochin Moon, Visible Cloaks are building unique worlds and it’s our pleasure to be able to visit them. Their debut LP includes the studio recorded pieces from the Sun Ark tape as well as previously unreleased material.
File Under: Ambient, Electronic
Taj Mahal Travellers: Aug ’74 (Aguirre) LP
Aguirre Records present a reissue of Taj Mahal Travellers’ August 1974, originally released in 1975. A monumental work by the Japanese experimental music ensemble. In April 1972 a group of Japanese musicians set off from Rotterdam in a Volkswagen van. As they crossed Europe and then made their way through Asia they made music in a wide range of locations. They also paid close attention to the changing scene and to differing ways of life. Midway through May they reached their destination, the iconic Taj Mahal on the bank of the Yamuna river in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal Travellers had fulfilled physically the promise of the name they adopted when they formed in 1969. The double album August 1974 was their second official release. The first July 15, 1972 is a live concert recording, but on August 19th, 1974 the Taj Mahal Travellers entered the Tokyo studios of Nippon Columbia and produced what is arguably their definitive statement. The electronic dimension of their collective improvising was coordinated, as usual, by Kinji Hayashi. Guest percussionist Hirokazu Sato joined long-term group members Ryo Koike, Seiji Nagai, Yukio Tsuchiya, Michihiro Kimura, Tokio Hasegawa, and Takehisa Kosugi. The enigmatic Takehisa Kosugi, whose soaring electric violin was such a vital element in their music, had been a pioneer of free improvisation and intermedia performance art with Group Ongaku at the start of the ’60s. Later in that decade, before launching the Taj Mahal Travellers, he had become known internationally through his association with the fluxus art movement. During the mid-70s the Travellers disbanded and while his colleagues more or less stopped performing as musicians Kosugi continued to reach new audiences across the course of several decades as a composer, regular performer, and musical director for the acclaimed Merce Cunningham Dance Company. August 1974 captures vividly the characteristic sound of the Taj Mahal Travellers, haunting tones from an unusual combination of instruments, filtered through multiple layers of reverb and delay. Their music has strong stylistic affinities with the trippy ambience of cosmic and psychedelic rock, but the Taj Mahal Travellers were tuning in to other vibrations, drawing inspiration from the energies and rhythms of the world around them rather than projecting some alternative reality. Films of rolling ocean waves often provided a highly appropriate backdrop for their lengthy improvised concerts. Licensed from Columbia Japan. Remastered and lacquer cut by Rashad Becker.
File Under: Ambient, Experimental, Improv, Essential Grooves
7FO: Moment (Metron) LP
Having previously released a cassette on RVNG International, and a 7’’ single on Bokeh Versions in 2017, this is 7FO‘s debut full length vinyl release. The tracks, recorded between 2012 and 2017, have been tweaked, remastered and recorded to vinyl for the first time. The mysterious Japanese producer recorded the tracks at home, processing guitar sounds, using a sampler, synthesizer and junk equipment. Following in the footsteps of the ambient giants of his native land, 7FO’s music continues this illustrious heritage whilst offering something fresh, modern and beautifully rendered. He describes his own sound as ‘gorgeous sustained tones and dreamlike oscillations that drift through the inorganic/electronic world reverberating through our subconscious creating sonic fables in our minds’.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop) LP
Grammy and Brit nominated Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett follows up her critically acclaimed debut Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit (2015) and top 10 collaborative record, Lotta Sea Lice (2017) with Kurt Vile with her second studio effort Tell Me How You Really Feel. One of the most distinctive voices in music, Barnett is known for mixing witty observations with unflinching self-assessment. And although all of the cleaver turns of phrase and an eye for story telling are still here; this new collection ushers in a more serious and outwardly tone which captures the current social landscape while retaining moments of intimacy and warmth. The songs feel comforting and emphatic yet still simmer with a raw energy and the ability to make the listener really think. Scathing lead single “Nameless, Faceless” takes an ax to internet trolls, chauvinist pigs and even has Kim and Kelley Deal from the Breeders on vocals during the head flattening chorus.
File Under: Indie Rock
Beach House: 7 (Sub Pop) LP
Beach House released B-sides and Rarities in 2017, which served as a proverbial “cleaning out the closet” to pave way for a new creative process. Their approach in the creation of 7 was rebirth and rejuvenation. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally used to limit themselves to what they thought they could perform live, but this time that limitation was ignored. Also, instead of one long studio session, Beach House recorded when inspired batches of songs, which resulted in 5 mini-sessions over the course of 11 months. Unlike the last four albums, 7 didn’t have a producer in the traditional sense. Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (Peter Kember) became a significant force on this record by shedding conventions and helping to keep the songs alive, fresh, and protected from the destructive elements of recording studio overproduction and over-perfection. The band’s trusted live drummer from 2016 to the present, James Barone, played on the entire record, helping to keep rhythm at the center of a lot of these songs. “Looking back, there is quite a bit of chaos happening in these songs, and a pervasive dark field that we had little control over. The discussions surrounding women’s issues were a constant source of inspiration and questioning. The energy, lyrics and moods of much of this record grew from ruminations on the roles, pressures and conditions that our society places on women, past and present. The twisted double edge of glamour, with its perils and perfect moments, was an endless source (see “L’Inconnue,” “Drunk in LA,” “Woo,” “Girl Of The Year,” “Last Ride”). In a more general sense, we are interested by the human mind’s (and nature’s) tendency to create forces equal and opposite to those present. Thematically, this record often deals with the beauty that arises in dealing with darkness; the empathy and love that grows from collective trauma; the place one reaches when they accept rather than deny (see “Dark Spring,” “Pay No Mind,” “Lemon Glow,” “Dive,” “Black Car,” “Lose Your Smile”).” – Beach House
File Under: Indie Rock
The Breeders: Last Splash (4AD) LP
In October 2017, The Breeders announced their return to 4AD, along with a new album, All Nerve, released in March 2018. The label is also reissuing their previous four albums on vinyl including Pod (1990), Last Splash(1993), Title TK (2002) and Mountain Battles (2008). Following the departure of Tanya Donelly, the breakup of The Pixies, and the return of Kelley Deal to the fold, The Breeders’ hit the alternative big time with their second record Last Splash and its hit singles “Cannonball,” “Divine Hammer,” and “Saints.” The last Breeders album of the ’90s, as Kelley suffered and recovered from drug addiction and Kim found a new outlet in The Amps, Last Splash went platinum and brought Kim Deal’s massive songwriting talents out from behind the shadow of Black Francis once and for all.
File Under: Indie Rock
The Breeders: Pod (4AD) LP
In October 2017, The Breeders announced their return to 4AD, along with a new album, All Nerve, released in March 2018. The label is also reissuing their previous four albums on vinyl including Pod (1990), Last Splash (1993), Title TK (2002) and Mountain Battles (2008). Though ostensibly a side project of The Pixies’ Kim Deal and Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donelly, The Breeders’ debut, Pod, has held up as a classic of late 80s/early 90s off-kilter alternative pop, surpassing the contemporaneous work of their main bands. Though Deal would really hit the big time three years later with the Breeders’ follow-up, Last Splash, and Donelly would do the same with her next band, Belly, Pod is the band’s finest, most coherent album and perhaps the high point in both of their careers. Engineering by Steve Albini and Kurt Cobain citing it as one of his favorite records certainly doesn’t hurt matters either.
File Under: Indie Rock
The Breeders: Title TK (4AD) LP
In October 2017, The Breeders announced their return to 4AD, along with a new album, All Nerve, released in March 2018. The label is also reissuing their previous four albums on vinyl including Pod (1990), Last Splash(1993), Title TK (2002) and Mountain Battles (2008). Following the release of their definitive off-kilter alternative pop records Pod and Last Splash, Kelley Deal fell into drug addiction and Kim Deal found a new outlet in The Amps. Nine long years later The Breeders re-emerged with their third album Title TK (“title to come”) which The Guardiancalled, “a welcome return to punky pop that knows how to flex some melodic muscle.” It was produced by Steve Albini and yielded the singles “Off You”, “Huffer” and “Son of Three.”
File Under: Indie Rock
Jennifer Castle: Angels of Death (Idee Fixe) LP
A sublime meditation on mortality and memory, ghosts and grief, Angels of Death casts a series of spells against forgetting and finality, in the form of mystic-minimalist country-soul torch songs about writing, time travel, and spectral visitations. Ontario songwriter Jennifer Castle wrote and recorded this breathtaking follow-up to the acclaimed Pink City (2014) in a 19th century church near the shores of Lake Erie, where her family also lived and experienced a constellation of losses that inhabit these bruised musings. The arrangements of these remarkable recordings hang in the air like the angels they describe, hovering aloft on pedal steel, strings, and keys. Sonically, songs like “Crying Shame” and “Grim Reaper,” in their disciplined atomization of chords and carefully chosen words, are refined to the point of being barely there. Space is sculpted in silence, and the songs resemble gossamer webs, visible only at an angle, sunlight refracting through dew. Castle’s voice is an instrument of exquisite ethereality and expressive linearity, limpid and narrow and pure as a mountain brook. Angels of Death was produced by Castle and longtime collaborator Jeff McMurrich. Although augmented at subsequent Toronto sessions by other notable players such as Victoria Cheong and Isla Craig on backing vocals and Stew Crookes on pedal steel, the core band comprised Paul Mortimer on lead guitar, David Clarke on acoustic guitar, Jonathan Adjemian on organ/piano, Mike Smith on bass (he also wrote the string arrangements), Robbie Gordon on drums, and Castle on guitar and vocals. Much of it, and most of Jennifer’s vocal tracks, were recorded live in the church over one cold weekend; “the moon,” Castle reflects, “was a member of the band.”
File Under: Indie Rock
Cybe: Tropisch Verlangen (Stroom) LP
A techno-nature synthesis for an East-West confrontation/a musical travelog from a Dutch musician searching for inspiration in the East in the early ’80s. Stroom on the release: “After travelling to India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bali and Java in his younger days, Cybe released three cassette tapes. Tropisch Verlangen now compiles a series of ten wonderful handcrafted analogue electronics from those tapes, sounding like lush fields of electronic wheat swaying in voltage-controlled wind. It reads as a musical travelogue from a Dutch musician from Haarlem, who listened to way too much Gong and went searching for inspiration, sound recordings and instruments in the East in the early eighties.”
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Colin Fischer: V Le Pape (Geej) LP
V Le Pape is Colin Fisher’s debut album for Geej Recordings. Fisher, a mainstay of the Toronto experimental music scene, has spent the last fifteen years, quite blowing minds as a multi-instrumentalist, improvisational performer. Perhaps best known as one half of the esteemed duo Not the Wind, Not the Flag, he has forged a unique position somewhere between avant jazz virtuoso and a psychedelic shaman of ecstatic performance. Fisher is a constant fixture at everything in Toronto worth going to. He is also constant collaborator, attractive to popular musicians who need something more than just a great player, and he has recorded with Caribou, The Constantines, and Many Arms.. But now he is on his own, and Geej is thrilled to share his spectacular talent to the world.V Le Pape was made entirely using guitar and an array of looping and effect pedals. At first listen one might think that Fisher is part of a growing new wave of Ambient/New Age producers, but that would be to fundamentally skip over what makes Fisher so singular. The album was completely improvised and recorded live off the floor there are no overdubs, no multi tracks, no second takes., and while the music nods to some other heroes of treated guitar; David Torn, Fred Frith, Alan Holdsworth and Fennesz, Fisher is able to construct something unique. V Le Pape lives somewhere between ambient texture and freeform modal exploration. But all of it is immediate, spontaneous and free. Guitar playing as improvisational divination comes naturally to Fisher who has spent the last decade studying Tarot., which he uses as an interpretive guide. He’s used the image of The Pape (The Pope) for this record as it symbolizes what Fisher calls ‘a spiritual respiration, a sense of a living bridge” The Pape is a communicator, perhaps between himself and a new audience, perhaps between the universe and his instrument. For Fisher improvisation is composition, there is no distinction between what is written and what is performed as he says that “the framework of Improvisation is biological, if we are incongruent from our senses, we are not acting in relationship with dynamic stimulus and we are therefore detached from the world…. improvising is acting in the world”Fisher’s interest in the connection between elemental music and organic well being has led him to work with jazz legend Milford Graves. Graves, whose pioneering work on rhythm and biology, has had a deep impact on how Fisher sees symbiotic harmony between music and the organism. Fisher is also a certified teacher of Alexander Technique, a strategy popular with artists which stresses psycho-physical unity. Colin Fisher is the real deal, he lives every day, all day as a musician, tirelessly practicing and honing. It is a rare gift, but it is also a second nature, as Fisher puts it “music is an expression of your biological self”. V Le Pape is a record documenting a musician at being.
File Under: Experimental, Ambient, Improv
Joanne Forman: Vaults of the Moon (Séance Centre) LP
We humans, the nascent beings that we are, still haven’t quite figured out the full potential of music. Dancing, meditating, emoting, protesting; these are all pretty basic. But what if we communicated more complex ideas with music? What if we codified all of our activities with music? This idea came to composer Joanne Forman when she was commissioned to create the soundscape for an environmental exhibition of sculpture called Artifacts from an Alien Civilization in 1987. The sculptures, elaborate ruins that had been found on the moon, begged the question: who created them and for what purpose? Joanne Forman imagined that Earth’s moon was a vacation spot for advanced beings from another galaxy. Cave Vaults of the Moon became a collection of sonic texts describing the fun things that went on there; earth-viewing, collecting information, building and playing. In her mind the sculptures in the exhibit were the remnants of a deserted playground of moon castles. Forman’s playful score for voice, Ensoniq Mirage, Juno 106, flute, guitar and effects, wafted through the exhibit every day for a month and then lay dormant for nearly 30 years. Unearthed here, Cave Vaults of the Moon sounds prescient and timeless, as if the Wicker Man had been scored by Pep Llopis, and we now have the opportunity to reimagine the messages contained within it. Restored and remastered and cut using DMM.
File Under: Ambient, Experimental
Frog Eyes: Violet Psalms (Paper Bag) LP
In tomorrow… Seventeen years after their teetering debut, Vancouver band Frog Eyes unveil their eighth and final album Violet Psalms – a giddy lament; a gnashing jubilee; a rain-drenched allocution on hope vs. horror, paradise vs. pride, Marx and Brexit and bad acid trips. No guests, no engineers. A self-invention. Violet Psalms began with its frantic, reverb-drenched guitar, squiggling over a modulation pedal. Next Carey Mercer and Melanie Campbell concocted the drum parts – imagining them an onomatopoeia then recording them in fragments, kickdrum by kickdrum, tom by tom, with tailored effects. “The goal was to disorientate,” Mercer explains, but also to work by instinct, gut – a cut-up of music and image, songs that coil back and kiss. The band pruned as they went, adding Terri Upton’s bass parts, taking other parts away. Whereas past LPs used piano, Shyla Seller worked with shimmering synths – chords like bleeding watercolor, shadows casting on a wall.
File Under: Indie Rock
Gnod: Chapel Perilous (Rocket) LP
In more than a decade on the planet this singular Salford-birthed entity have married intrepid musical exploration with psychic fearlessness – not to mention a tendency to leave any tag or bracket one attempts to place on them utterly redundant. In a sense, the latest adventure bearing this title evolved both from the lengthy European tour that the band embarked upon in the wake of their stripped-down and paint-stripping 2017 opus Just Say No The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine. Recording in Supernova studio in Eindhoven with Bob De Wit, the band found themselves free not only to lay down two tumultuous tracks that they had been honing and hammering into shape on the road – the pulverising fifteen-minute opener ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ and the bracingly brutal ‘Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down’ – but to sculpt more abstract material, utilising dubbed-out repetition, furious riff-driven rancour, bleak soundscapes and experimentation to create an invigorating tableau of dys-topian dread and unflinching intensity. Wherever Gnod go in 2018 and beyond, expect reality to be reinvented anew, whatever the consequences.
File Under: Psych
Jonny Greenwood: Bodysong. OST (XL) LP
Bodysong. is Jonny Greenwood’s first original score for a film, and makes up the soundtrack to a BAFTA winning documentary film of the same name, directed by Simon Pummell. Originally released in 2003, the reissue has been remastered by Christian Wright. With artwork by Stanley Donwood. Available on single gatefold LP and CD. “I started using modes of limited transposition in the music for Bodysong,” Greenwood once told The Quietus. “[I did this] partly as a way to tie lots of disparate styles of music together – the jazz musicians could improvise using them, the laptop could be restricted to these notes – and so it just helped create some continuity. Always nice to have a set of limits or rules to work against too.”
File Under: OST, Radiohead
Lacy/Takahashi/Kosugi: Distant Voices (Aguirre) LP
Aguirre Records present a reissue of Distant Voices, Steve Lacy’s rare Japanese collaboration album, originally released in 1976. Renowned for remarkable solo concerts that confirmed his mastery of the soprano horn and that carried its instrumental language into previously unexplored regions, Lacy also loved to collaborate with musicians who could inspire him to stretch the boundaries of his own artistry. During the summer of 1975 Lacy toured Japan, and on June 24th he entered a Nippon Columbia studio in Tokyo with Yuji Takahashi and Takehisa Kosugi, two adventurous kindred spirits, guaranteed to fire Lacy’s creative imagination. The fascinating outcome of that dynamic session is Distant Voices, an album without parallel in Lacy’s extensive discography. Composer Iannis Xenakis was so impressed when he heard Yuji Takahashi playing piano in 1961 that he later wrote music especially for him. His repertoire extends back to Bach and Purcell yet for Takahashi, music has remained an open quest and a process of discovery. Takehisa Kosugi on the other hand has been a legendary figure in the international avant-garde since the mid-1960s when his work was endorsed by the fluxus movement. In Japan he was by then already well established as leading practitioner of experimental music and intermedia performance art. At the time Distant Voices was recorded Kosugi had also developed a following for his electric violin playing with the Taj Mahal Travellers, a group whose sound had strong stylistic affinities with psychedelic rock and space music. Subsequently other audiences worldwide came to know Kosugi through his long association as a composer, performer, and musical director with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. On 24th June 1975 Takahashi sat at a grand piano, with celeste and vibraphone alongside him and small bells attached to his hands. Kosugi was equipped with violin, flute, mouth organ, an electronic modulator, porcelain bowls and at times he used his voice. Lacy played soprano saxophone, of course. Now and then he pressed the mouth of the instrument against the skin of a kettle drum. He occasionally fiddled with a transistor radio, and also found uses for a stepladder, a toothbrush, and a spinning wheel. This was in no sense a routine musical session. Distant Voices preserves a unique occasion when three singular musicians joined together to embrace the unknown. Licensed from Columbia Japan. Remastered and lacquer cut by Rashad Becker. 180 gram vinyl.
File Under: Improv, Experimental, Jazz, Taj Mahal Travellers
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Sparkle Hard (Matador) LP
Sparkle Hard is the new album from Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. Available from Matador Records, it is their first album in over four years, following Wig Out At Jagbags. Produced by Chris Funk the album was prefaced by “Middle America,” with Malkmus’ wry wordplay and sunny wang create an ode to underdogs everywhere, with bittersweet words of encouragement for the ramshackle character on their receiving end. Only SM & the Jicks can craft this kind of rightly low-key anthem, a perfect three-minute-thirty-second country-speckled gem about life’s questions big (the inevitable passage of time; aging) and small (getting shitfaced; blushing the colour of Robitussin). The album is light ’n’ breezy, head-down heavy, audacious, melancholic and reflective, good time and bodacious, and it pulls off the smartest trick: it’s both unmistakeably The Jicks and – due to the streamlining of their trademark tics and turns, plus the introduction of some unexpected flourishes (Auto-Tune! A fiddle! Guest vocalist Kim Gordon! One seven-minute song with an acoustic folk intro!) – The Jicks refashioned. If 2014’s Wig Out At Jag Bags balanced the lengthy prog workouts of Pig Lib with Mirror Traffic’s sparky pop moments, then Sparkle Hard bears less obvious direct relation to what’s come before. It also has turbocharged energy and enthusiasm by the truckload.
File Under: Indie Rock
Massive Attack: Heligoland (Virgin) LP
Bristol based trip hop pioneers Massive Attack are a hugely influential force in British music. Formed out of the legendary Wild Bunch Soundsystem the group combined elements of hip hop, funk, dub and rock into one stunning package. Massive Attack released the three stunning ’90s albums Blue Lines (1991), Protection (1994) and Mezzanine (1998) while only producing the two albums 100th Window (2003) and Heligoland (2010) in the subsequent 15 years. Heliogoland is the elusive duo’s long awaited fifth and final studio effort to date. The release features an all-star cast of guest vocalists including Damon Albarn, Hope Sandoval, Martina Topley-Bird, Guy Garvey and Tunde Adebimpe. Long time cohort Horace Andy returns alongside founding members Robert Del Naja (3D) and Grant Marshall (Daddy G). Alborn also plays bass on “Flat Of The Blade” and keyboards on “Splitting The Atom” while Portishead’s Adrian Utley plays guitar on “Saturday Come Slow.”
File Under: Electronic, Trip Hop
Sam McClellan: Music of the Five Elements (Séance Centre) LP
Music is the healing force of the universe. It’s an ancient idea bandied about by Pythagoras and Plato. In the last century, music as medication has been explored by musicians as diverse as Albert Ayler, Spacemen 3 and Pauline Oliveros. Nowhere did this concept gain more traction than in the so-called realm of New Age Music, an entire movement of synth droners and echoey flautists recording home-baked healing mantras on 4-track. In recent years, thanks to cassette collecting devotees and open-minded music journalists, New Age has shed its flowing robes and is being mined for the truly incredible music that swells under its pastel surface. Musician/acupressurist Sam McClellan’s 1982 Music of the Five Elements is one of those revelatory discoveries, an unrivalled work of intense research and focus, simultaneously a near perfect work of art and a scientifically sound elixir for body and mind. After studying electronic composition at Hampshire College with Randall McClellan (no relation), Sam McClellan became intrigued with the possibilities of healing through music. He explored this idea by applying the ancient Chinese philosophy of medicine to the principles of musical composition. Using the pentatonic scale (the traditional scale of Chinese music), McClellan related each of the notes to one of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal Water), and created five variations for each. He experimented with tempo, beat, pitch, duration, and sound quality, studying the effect on people’s energy levels. Using the results of his tests he developed a comprehensive theory of sonic healing and spent the next year composing an album designed to help people achieve inner balance, reducing anxiety and energy depletion. Music of the Five Elements is not only the “acoustic massage” that McClellan set out to make, but is a fully realized and peerless piece of music. Taking cues from Minimalism, American Primitive guitar (Fahey & Basho) and even psychedelia, the album is a continuous sound voyage for voice, synthesizer, guitar, bowed bass, piano, effects and ciao (Chinese flute) all played by McClellan himself. Although divided into sections, the journey is best undertaken as a whole, without distraction. As McClellan himself wrote in the original liner notes: “The optimum effect of Music of the Five Elements will be achieved if each side of this recording is played through, from beginning to end without interruption. Music of the Five Elements, when used as a meditational or body work tool, rather than entertainment, will increase in effect over time. Overplaying or improper use, however, may eventually diminish its designed effect” The prescription for this album: play it loud and heal yourself. Remixed and remastered from the original reels and cut using DMM for the purest dose possible
File Under: Ambient, New Age
Pablo’s Eye: Spring Break (Stroom) LP
Pablo’s Eye is the science of studio pressure, when engineer becomes artist. Appropriating left and right as well as front and back, Pablo’s Eye uses the mixing desk to examine and exhaust the possibilities of moments. Pablo’s Eye is a record of that examination and exhaustion, but it is also a record of its own inner space. By means of depth placement, psychoacoustics and spatial fug, Pablo’s Eye is experienced in the deeper reaches of the body, bypassing the conscious part of the mind entirely. Pablo’s Eye is the turning of recorded music inside out to show its seams. It interrogates a song, stripping down the body of the song to reveal its bones. Pablo’s Eye is in the interstices of music, it plugs the gaps, fills the holes. Pablo’s Eye seeks out the concealed mechanisms, it is a song’s hidden agenda. For this compilation, it was decided to present the softer air-beatings of Pablo’s Eye. More than anything, Pablo’s Eye is a temporary atmosphere, like a taste or a dream…
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade) LP/DLX LP
Wide Awake! is New York’s Parquet Courts’ fifth record since their formation eight years ago. The album is filled with Parquet Courts’ traditional punk rock passion, dynamic rhythmic propulsion and exceptional songwriting yet explores new ground and influences from Grace Jones, Townes Van Zandt, Parliament, Augustus Pablo to 80s American punk like Big Boys, Minute Men, The Dicks and Flipper. “The ethos behind every Parquet Courts record is there needs to be change for the better, and the best way to tackle that is to step out of one’s comfort zone’’ guitarist/singer A Savage says of the unlikely pairing with producer Danger Mouse. ‘‘I personally liked the fact that I was writing a record that indebted to punk and funk, and Brian’s a pop producer who’s made some very polished records.” The songs, written by Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness, but are elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass). Ultimately then the message contained in Wide Awake! is complex. “In such a hateful era of culture, we stand in opposition to that — and to the nihilism used to cope with that — with ideas of passion and love,” Brown says. For Savage, it comes back to the deceptively complex goal of making people want to dance, powering the body for resistance through a combination of groove, joy, and indignation. “Expressing anger constructively but without trying to accommodate anyone.” Austin Savage says they played on the duality between rage and glee like Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Black Flag. “I needed an outlet for the side of me that feels emotions like joy, rage, silliness and anger,” For Austin Brown, death and love were the biggest influences. One of the most courageous songs on the new record is “Death Will Bring Change,” a moving elegy, with a chorus not unlike the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” only this time, London’s Bach Choir were 15 twelve year olds from the upper east side recorded at 9am on a Saturday. * Album opener “Total Football” is named after the eponymous theory of soccer pioneered by the Dutch that requires every player to be able to play every position on the field. It also has shout-outs to iconic individualists the painter Cy Twombly, the poet Mina and sculptor Eva Hesse. Title track “Wide Awake” brings the band’s mission into full focus. It aims to achieve the deceptively complex goal of making people want to dance, while powering the body for resistance through a combination of groove, joy, and indignation.
File Under: Indie Rock, Punk
Perth County Conspiracy: s/t (Flashback) LP
First LP reissue. 180 gram vinyl; Gatefold Sleeve; Includes 16-page booklet and insert. Flashback present a reissue of The Perth County Conspiracy’s self-titled album, originally released in 1970. Despite having completed their debut for Columbia just weeks earlier, in August 1970 Cedric Smith, Richard Keelan, Michael Butler, and other Conspirators recorded another album, exclusively for Canadian radio broadcast. For this recording they’d assembled a fine batch of new material, as well as striking arrangements of songs by Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Smokey Robinson. Warm, atmospheric, and slightly mystical, it’s a lost psychedelic folk classic.
File Under: Psych, Folk
Pink Floyd: Pulse (Pink Floyd) LP
Originally issued in 1995, Pulse was compiled by producer James Guthrie using various performances from Pink Floyd’s 1994 Division Bell tour across the U.K. and Europe. Featuring original members David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, the album reached No. 1 in both the U.S. and U.K. and includes a smattering of hits and The Dark Side of the Moon performed in full, as well as a whole side dedicated to the show’s encore. This 180g 4LP reissue was remastered from the original analog tapes by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman with the original artwork recreated by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis and Peter Curzon, who worked on the original art with the late Hipgnosis co-founder, Storm Thorgerson. The set comes complete with four unique inner sleeves and a 52-page hardback photo book, all encased in a thick card slipcase.
File Under: Rock
Pink Floyd: Relics (Pink Floyd) LP
50 years on from its original pressing, Pink Floyd reissue their 1971 compilation album Relics on heavyweight 180g vinyl, remastered from the original analog tapes in 2018 by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman. The band’s very first compilation album includes singles, B-sides and tracks from Pink Floyd’s first three albums The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets and More. Also featured is the then-previously unreleased Roger Waters song, “Biding My Time,” which was recorded in July 1969 and made its debut here. Relics was also the first album to include “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play,” which previously had only been released as singles, and the original studio recording of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” the B-side of “Point Me At The Sky” in 1968. Keeping true to the original artwork, the sleeve features the black and white drawings by Nick Mason, carrying the iconic subtitle A Bizarre Collection of Antiques & Curios. All tracks are the original stereo versions, which sit alongside the Syd Barrett-era, mono mixed singles “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play.”
File Under: Rock
Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse (Carpark) LP
“Necessary brattiness” is the motto for Speedy Ortiz’s dauntless new collection of songs, Twerp Verse. The follow-up to 2015’s Foil Deer, the band’s latest indie rock missive is prompted by a tidal wave of voices, no longer silent on the hurt they’ve endured from society’s margins. But like many of these truth-tellers, songwriter, guitarist and singer Sadie Dupuis scales the careful line between what she calls being “outrageous and practical” in order to be heard at all. “You need to employ a self-preservational sense of humor to speak truth in an increasingly baffling world,” says Dupuis. “I call it a ‘twerp verse’ when a musician guests on a track and says something totally outlandish – like a Lil Wayne verse – but it becomes the most crucial part. This record is our own twerp verse, for those instances when you desperately need to stand up and show your teeth.” Twerp Verse was tracked in Brooklyn DIY space Silent Barn, mixed by Omaha legend Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley) and mastered by Grammy-nominated engineer Emily Lazar (Sia, Haim, Beck). The record pulls from the most elastic pop moments in Squeeze’s Argybargy and the seesawing synth-rock of Deerhoof and the Rentals. With Dupuis on guitars, vocals, and synths, supporting guitarist Andy Molholt (of psych pop outfit Laser Background) now joins Speedy veterans Darl Ferm on bass and Mike Falcone on drums – and together they accelerate the band’s idiosyncrasy through the wilderness of Dupuis’ heady reflections on sex, lies and audiotape. As public pushback against the old guards reaches a fever pitch – in the White House, Hollywood and beyond – the band fires shots in disillusioned Gen Y theme “Lucky 88,” and casts a side-eye towards suitors-turned-monsters in the cold-blooded single “Villain.” Closing track “You Hate The Title” is a slinky traipse through the banality of this current moment in patriarchy – in which survivors are given the mic, but nitpicked over the timbre of their testimonies. “You hate the title, but you’re digging the song,” Dupuis sings wryly, “You like it in theory, but it’s rubbing you wrong.” Tuned smartly to the political opacity of the present, Twerp Verse rings clear as a bell.
File Under: Indie Rock
Trampled By Turtles: Life is Good on the Open Road (Banjodad) LP
After 15 years of traveling together in close quarters and commanding festival and club stages around the country, the six musicians who make up Trampled by Turtles – Dave Simonett, Tim Saxhaug, Dave Carroll, Erik Berry, Ryan Young, and Eamonn McLain – went nearly a year without all being in the same room. Simonett, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, released a critically acclaimed and highly personal album, Furnace, with his band Dead Man Winter. Other members kept busy with their own side projects in the Twin Cities and their hometown of Duluth, MN, allowing new musical ideas to grow. Tracking for their new album, Life is Good on the Open Road, was completed in just six days at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, MN and mixed the following week. The band produced the album themselves with the help of Pachyderm’s house engineer, Nick Tveitbakk, recording everything live to tape. Life is Good on the Open Road is the sound of freedom washing over the group like a sunrise, a new day rising. When discussing the album, both Simonett and Berry toyed with the phrase “return to form,” suggesting that it captures something pure and essential about the Trampled by Turtles sound. “Tim said something kind of interesting – he said, ‘This is the most Trampled by Turtles record we’ve ever made,'” says Berry. “He’s right.” The band weaves their instruments together like a seamless tapestry, laying down a bed that seems to float underneath Simonett’s expressive voice. Each song seems to tell its own story, from tales of nights gone wrong to love that’s been lost and dreams that need chasing, and the group shifts in unison from tender ballads to barn burning hair-raisers, sometimes in the same song. Simonett’s lyrics, which have grown ever sharper over the years, occasionally rise up to shoot an arrow directly through the heart. Although no songs directly address the band’s time apart, there are metaphors that speak to the experience of putting Trampled by Turtles to bed and waking it back up again.
File Under: Rock
Venetian Snares & Daniel Lanois: s/t (Timesig) LP
No collaboration is unlikely when the end goals are the same. A meeting of two artists who illustrate different corners of the musical landscape, come together to create a new statement that takes their collective strengths to higher elevations and encompasses new terrains. So it is on the first collaborative journey of Canadian musicians Venetian Snares (aka Aaron Funk) and Daniel Lanois. What started as mutual respect for one another’s work, led to several years of a creative germination resulting in an eight-track full-length exploration. The path began in 2014, after Lanois reached out to Funk as a fan of his work. The project started to take root in Summer of 2016, after Aaron hung around Toronto between shows. Taking his gear to Lanois’ studio, the two began to play for the first time together in what would prove to be a formative moment in their creative journey together. “I love making music with Dan, he has a real understanding of how to create a world and build what may exist within that world,” Funk explains. Recorded live in a former Buddhist temple-turned-studio in Toronto, Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois travels to new zones in what Lanois describes as “a body of work driven by exploration.” Like all the best collaborations, it’s brought something new out of both musicians. Equipped with their production acuity, they let their natural workflow guide them through uncharted waters. Funk laid the groundwork with drums while Lanois rode the pedal steel, weaving their sounds together in a new sonic tapestry. The two ultimately landed at their destination, their work ready to be shared with those willing to explore.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Tom Waits: The Heart of Saturday Night (Anti) LP
Expanding beyond the folk and pop stylings of his first album, Tom Waits’ masterful second studio effort, Heart of Saturday Night (1974) further established his growing reputation as a versatile and distinctly American songwriter. Its bluesy jazz arrangements featured bass, drums, saxophone and Waits on piano. The title track, a melancholy ode to Saturday night rituals, and the tenderly romantic hymn-like “San Diego Serenade” are enduring classics covered by an array of artists from Diana Krall and Nancy Griffith to folk hero Eric Anderson. The album also features “Diamonds on My Windshield,” the first of what would become a signature for Waits – the spoken word-poetry song. Waits delivers the evocative lyrics throughout as pure beat jazz in the stylings of Kerouac, Langston Hughes and Bob Kaufman.
File Under: Rock, Pop
Tom Waits: Nighthawks at the Diner (Anti) LP
After signing with Asylum Records in the early 1970s, Tom Waits recorded a series of acclaimed albums whose noir tales about the after-midnight underworld transformed the seedy into the sublime in songs laced with both dark humor and profound longing. Decades and several musical evolutions later, Waits’ Asylum years still hold a special place in the hearts of many fans. Waits’ first seven albums on Asylum have been remastered and will be re-released via Anti-Records. Produced by Bones Howe and recorded in front of a live audience at the Record Plant recording studio in Los Angeles, CA in 1975, Nighthawks at the Diner debuts some of Tom Waits’ greatest classics like “Warm Beer, Cold Women” and “Eggs and Sausage” with a crack jazz ensemble – Pete Christlieb (tenor saxophone), Bill Goodwin(drums), Jim Hughart (upright bass) and Mike Melvoin (piano, guitar) – backing him up and some of the greatest stage banter ever committed to record.
File Under: Rock, Pop
Riley Walker: Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans) LP
“I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way – it’s got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words. I’m lucky enough to have some people who are playing on it who had a big part in shaping the songs and writing with me. Cooper Crain, the guy who engineered it, and played all the synthesizers. And when the flute guy, Nate Lepine came in, that was really something that made it special. The producer was this guy LeRoy Bach. I love LeRoy, he’s a really talented guy. He did the last record too. And it’s more Chicago-y sounding. Chicago sounds like a train constantly coming towards you but never arriving. That’s the sound I hear, all the time, ringing in my ears.” – Ryley Walker
File Under: Folk
Various: Technicolor Paradise Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights (Numero) LP
It was a musical cocktail born in a marketing meeting: Two parts easy listening, one part jazz, a healthy dollop of conga drums, a sprinkling of bird calls, and a pinch of textless choir. Serve garnished with an alluring female on the album jacket for best results. Exotica! The soundtrack for a mythical air conditioned Eden, packaged for mid-century, tiki torch-wielding armchair safariers. Be it mosquito-bitten torch singers, landlocked surf quartets, fad-chasing jazz combos, mad genius band leaders, D-list actors, or a middle aged loner programming bird calls into a Hammond, Exotica was always more concerned with what geography might sound like over who was conducting. Captured across three albums (or three compact discs) are 48 (or 54) curious examples of the short-lived genre’s reach, each summoning their own sonic visions of Shangri La, bringing their versions of the Pacific, Africa, and the Orient to the hinterlands of America. Technicolor Paradise is where one makes it, after all.
File Under: Exotica
Amen Dunes: Freedom (Sacred Bones) LP
Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino (Domino) LP
Badbadnotgood: III (Arts & Crafts) LP
Childish Gambino: Camp (Glassnote) LP
Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love! (Glassnote) LP
The Clash: London Calling (Legacy) LP
Sam Cooke: Mr. Soul (Music on Vinyl) LP
Darkthrone: Circle the Wagons (Peaceville) LP
Darkthrone: Panzerfaust (Peaceville) LP
Nils Frahm: All Melody (Erased Tapes) LP
Nils Frahm: Spaces (Erased Tapes) LP
Fugazi: In on the Killtaker (Dischord)LP
Fugazi: The Argument (Dischord)LP
Godspeed You Black Emperor: F#A# (Constellation) LP
Gong: Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy (Charly) BOX
Jon Hopkins: Singularity (Domino) LP
Jesus Lizard: Liar (Touch & Go) LP
Sugai Ken: On the Quakefish (Music for Insomniacs) LP
Massive Attack: Mezzanine (Virgin)LP
Massive Attack: Blue Lines (Virgin) LP
Neu!: s/t (Gronland) LP
Neu!: 2 (Gronland) LP
Neu!: 75 (Gronland) LP
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) LP
Pink Floyd: Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd) LP
Slowdive: Souvlaki (Music on Vinyl) LP
Sunn o))): Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord) LP
Visible Cloaks: Reassemblage (RVNG Intl) LP
Visible Cloaks: Lex (RVNG Intl) LP
White Zombie: La Sexorcisto (Music on Vinyl) LP
Wolves in the Throne Room: Live at Roadburn 2008 (Roadburn) LP
Various: WTNG 89.9 Solid Bronze (Numero) LP
Various: W2NG89.9 (Numero) LP