We are in the thick of the summer lull… yet shockingly, there’s some sweet new wax this week! The killer debut by local drone/psych outfit Holy Drone Travellers, new Metz, Drab Majesty, Purple Mountains. Loads to stick in yer ears… and don’t forget about all them used gems we’ve been putting out! Come dig.
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…..pick of the week…..
Holy Drone Travellers: जन्म/BIRTH (Saw-whet) LP
In Spring of 2018, cosmic forces lead to the meeting of three musical souls who eventually began performing together under the name of Holy Drone Travellers. They started by piecing together their musical idiosyncrasies of free-jazz, psych, and Hindustani classical music. After several performances and augmenting the group into a quartet, the Travellers grew louder, heavier, and even more abrasive. Such sounds can be heard on a limited demo tape quietly put out by the band earlier this year. जन्म/BIRTH is a testament of Holy Drone Travellers’ first refined jams before this aforementioned change in sound. These recordings portray the original trio in a meditative state with driving tabla percussion on top of layers of droning instrumentation and free-improvisation. It’s a sound that will make fans of La Monte Young, Pharoah Sanders, and Zakir Hussain feel right at home. Aside from being the debut proper release from Holy Drone Travellers, जन्म/BIRTH is also the first release on Edmonton-based experimental label Saw-whet Records.
File Under: Experimental, Psychedelic, Drone
Dorothy Ashby & Frank Wess: In a Minor Groove (Real Gone) LP
“Dorothy Ashby was probably the greatest — and certainly the most swinging — jazz harpist of all time, re-purposing an instrument best known for ethereal glissandos into a fully versatile voice in combo settings, capable of providing both instrumental embroidery and rhythmic drive. But she was always fighting an uphill battle in terms of garnering critical and commercial success; both her gender and the exoticism of her instrument often prevented her from being taken seriously among the hidebound environs of late ’50s and ’60s jazz. But it is that very uniqueness of her sound and station in the jazz world that has made her one of the most collectible musicians of her era, as her music has been sampled and celebrated by modern-day hip hop and world music artists (e.g. Jurassic Five, Bonobo) alike. In A Minor Groove is one of two albums she made in 1958 with flautist/saxophonist Frank Wess, and it is a marvel; backed by fellow Detroit native Herman Wright on bass and the great Roy Haynes on drums, she and Wess weave mesmerizing melodic threads through standards like ‘Alone Together’ and ‘Yesterdays’. But perhaps the most amazing track is ‘Bohemia After Dark’, which displays Ashby’s uncanny ability to turn her harp into a rhythm guitar! For this first ever domestic vinyl reissue of In A Minor Groove, we are using the original mono sources — not the rechanneled stereo and jumbled track listing that showed up on Prestige’s later repackaging called Dorothy Ashby Plays for Beautiful People — and pressing up a limited edition of 1000 in neon green vinyl! Original album art with Ira Gitler’s sleeve notes, too.”
File Under: Jazz
Black Keys: Let’s Rock (Nonesuch) LP
Indie exclusive version is finally in! The Black Keys’ long-awaited album ninth album Let’s Rock, the band’s first in five years, is a return to the straightforward rock of singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s early days. Auerbach says, “When we’re together we are The Black Keys, that’s where that real magic is, and always has been since we were sixteen.” The 12-track collection was written, tracked live, and produced by Auerbach and Carney at Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville and features backing vocals from Leisa Hans and Ashley Wilcoxson. “The record is like an homage to electric guitar,” adds Carney. “We took a simple approach and trimmed all the fat like we used to.” Rolling Stone said that with lead single “Lo/Hi,” “the Keys have officially returned, louder than ever” while the New York Times hailed it as “the kind of garage-boogie stomp that the band never left behind.” Equally as infectious follow-up single “Eagle Birds,” is anchored by some stellar blues guitar work from Auerbach.
File Under: Rock
James Blake: Assume Form (Universal) LP
In the eight years that separate his self-titled debut album from Assume Form, James Blake has quietly shifted the needle of popular music, creating spacious and thoughtful electronic pop while still leaving breadcrumbs for others to follow. Since his emergence, the landscape Blake once laid claim to is now populated by talented interlopers who pair evocative vocals with layers of loops and synths, some of whom appear on this very album. On the long-awaited Assume Form, released after a three-year gap, the English singer-songwriter and prolific producer not only reasserts his creative dominance but surpasses his biggest rival: himself. Emerging from the English dubstep scene in 2009, Blake took elements of electronica, ambient and soul, and chopped them up to create stirring ballads that sounded like no other. Never confined by such a pedestrian idea as “genre,” there are two guiding elements that kept Blake from being overshadowed by his own compositions: his inherent vulnerability and his radiant voice. While much of his previous work, including 2016’s The Colour In Anything and 2013’s Overgrown, is characterized by his signature falsetto, on Assume Form he uses his full range. The vulnerability is still there, but the sentiments, as well as the delivery, are more candid. Assume Form also continues his tradition of collaboration, drawing on the talents of rap giant Travis Scott, André 3000 of Outkast, fellow singer Moses Sumney and Latin newcomer Rosalía. Blake enlisted rap producer and hitmaker Metro Boomin to create the trap rhythms he further manipulates on the tracks “Mile High,” featuring Scott, and “Tell Them,” featuring Sumney. But in true Blake fashion, there are always a few surprises up his sleeve as well, such as incorporating elements of flamenco into “Tell Them” and adding strains of ’70s soul to “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow,” produced by the experimental composer Oneohtrix Point Never.
File Under: Electronic, RnB, Soul
Sanford Clark: They Call Me Country (Numero) LP
Propelled by his 1956 Lee Hazlewood-produced hit “The Fool,” Sanford Clark was already a rockabilly legend in his own right by the time he swapped his hair gel and switchblade for a pair of cowboy boots on They Call Me Country. Recorded between 1965-67 and originally released as a series of singles for Phoenix’s Ramco label, the 12 tracks on this LP borrow Bakersfield’s outlaw sound and ignore Nashville’s countrypolitan flair, standing as a true lost masterpiece of country music’s third generation. Clark’s booming baritone tells tales of bar fights, heartaches, and drinking til you can’t stand, while Waylon Jennings provides a backdrop of fuzzed out guitar twang. Mastered from the original session tapes and back on vinyl for the first time since the Nixon administration.
File Under: Country
Drab Majesty: Modern Mirror (Dais) LP
Since the 2015 release of Drab Majesty’s debut Careless, and the release of the acclaimed sophomore album The Demonstration the following year, artist Deb Demure and collaborator Mona D. have firmly established themselves amongst the pantheon of dark synth-pop greats, establishing a devoted fan base worldwide with their singular hypnotic sound and mysterious, constantly-evolving presence. Following intense and extensive touring in support of the first two albums, Drab Majesty escaped to the inspirational landscapes of Athens, Greece to channel the songs for their most ambitious album creation yet: Modern Mirror. Blowing the dust off the antiquarian myth of Ovid’s “Narcissus”, Drab Majesty uses its premise as groundwork for a modern reinterpretation. Each song tells a piece of the story, in which the listener’s own self-identity has become warped and dissociated through rapidly expanding technology, losing touch with the origins of their own personalities. Setting the stage as a romantic saga of antiquity, “A Dialogue” asks the listener if they are truly in love amid a building wash of guitars and reverb. Elements of classic tragedy weigh heavily in the reflection of Modern Mirror in songs like “The Other Side,” possessing a fundamental sound that is energetic, luminous and hopeful. Fusing the sonic aesthetics of predecessors like New Order and The Cure within the cautious instruction of Greek mythology and modern science fiction, Drab Majesty has birthed a hybrid of dreamy malaise, captured for a future moment. First single, “Ellipsis,” romantically plays up the distorted concept of courting through modern technology in a world that has yet to adapt, while on “Long Division,” Deb’s resounding guitar cascades around the chorus shared with No Joy frontwoman Jasamine White-Gluz, wistfully warning us against our vanity and self-obsession. Even when hope for everlasting love peeks through in “Oxytocin,” a sparkling and stoic track sung by Mona D., we are firmly reminded our fleeting existence. Modern Mirror is a journey of self-reflection, nostalgia, love, beauty, and heartbreak told across eight addictive and emotional synth pop anthems – a seemingly classic tale delivered unblinkingly through the frame of the modern world. Produced by Josh Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) and mastered by Dave Cooley, with appearances by Jasamine White-Gluz (No Joy) and Justin Meldal-Johnson (NIN, Beck, M83, Air). Packaging and design by Juan Mendez of Jealous God/Silent Servant. Photography by Nedda Afsari (Muted Fawn).
File Under: Electronic, Darkwave
Dexter Gordon: Clubhouse: Tone Poets Series (Blue Note) LP
One of the enduring mysteries of Blue Note history is that superb sessions such as Dexter Gordon’s Clubhouse (recorded in 1965) remained unreleased in the vault until the late 1970s. Recorded during the middle of Gordon’s “golden period” career renaissance after he signed with Blue Note in 1961, the tenor saxophone legend is joined by Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and the remarkable rhythm section of Barry Harris on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and the great Billy Higgins on drums. Long Tall Dexter’s rendition of the Sinatra evergreen “I’m a Fool To Want You” stands as one of his all-time greatest ballad performances. The Blue Note Tone Poet Series was born out of Blue Note President Don Was’ admiration for the exceptional audiophile Blue Note LP reissues presented by Music Matters. The label brought Joe Harley (from Music Matters), aka the “Tone Poet,” on board to curate and supervise a series of reissues from the Blue Note family of labels. Extreme attention to detail has been paid to getting these right in every conceivable way, from the deluxe gatefold jacket graphics and printing quality to superior mastering (all analog direct from the master tapes) by Kevin Gray to superb 180-gram audiophile LP pressings by Record Technology Inc. Every aspect of these Blue Note/Tone Poet releases is done to the highest-possible standard. It means that you will never find a superior version.
File Under: Jazz
Khruangbin: Hasta El Cielo (Dead Oceans) LP
Globetrotting Texan trio Khruangbin release Hasta El Cielo, the band’s glorious dub version of their second album Con Todo El Mundo. The full album has been processed anew along with two bonus dubs by renowned Jamaican producer Scientist. The band’s exotic, spacious, psychedelic funk aligns with the dub treatment particularly well. Formed of Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald “DJ” Johnson on drums; Khruangbin’s sounds are rooted in the deepest waters of music from around the world, infused with classic soul, dub and psychedelia. Con Todo El Mundo, the band’s sophomore LP, took inspiration not just from South East Asia but similarly underdiscovered funk and soul of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly Iran.
File Under: Funk, Reggae
Metz: Automat (Sub Pop) LP
Metz, the widely-adored and delightfully noisy three-piece punk band from Toronto have been laying waste to stages around the globe for over 10 years. During that tumultuous chunk of time Metz, comprised of Alex Edkins, Hayden Menzies, and Chris Slorach, have cemented their reputation as one of the planet’s most exhilarating live acts and trusted providers of bombastic outsider rock. Their love of the road and passion to create uncompromising and challenging music remains unwavering and has only grown over time. Their recorded output to date, a cornucopia of pop-inflected noise punk and damaged fuzz anthems, includes three critically-acclaimed LPs with Sub Pop, as well as a plethora of limited-edition releases, collaborations, covers, and rarities. Which brings us to Automat, a collection of non-album singles, B-sides, and rarities dating back to 2009, available on LP for the first time, and including the band’s long out-of-print early (pre-Sub Pop) recordings. Featured here are the band’s first three 7″ singles, recorded 2009-2010 and originally released by We Are Busy Bodies Records; a demo version of “Wet Blanket,” the explosive single from 2012’s Metz; two tracks from the limited-edition bonus single that accompanied preorders of Metz; “Can’t Understand,” originally released in 2013 by [adult swim]; and both tracks from the band’s 2015 single on Three One G. The vinyl format of Automat comes with a bonus single that includes three additional tracks: a cover of Sparklehorse’s “Pig,” from a very limited 2012 Record Store Day split single originally released by Toronto’s Sonic Boom record shop; “I’m a Bug,” a cover of The Urinals’ art-punk classic, originally released on YouTube (not an actual record label) in 2014; and Metz’s previously unreleased rendition of Gary Numan’s “M.E.” All tracks on Automat have been lovingly remastered for maximum fidelity by Matthew Barnhart at Chicago Mastering Service.
File Under: Punk
Purple Mountains: s/t (Drag City) LP
Purple Mountains is the new nom-de-rock of David Berman (Silver Jews) and also the name of what will be known as one of his greatest albums – full of double-jointed wit and wisdom, up to the neck in his special recipe of handcrafted country-rock joys and sorrows that sing legendary in cracked and broken hearts. The songs are produced impeccably by Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere and Jeremy Earl, buffed up like a hardwood floor ready to be well-trod upon for an evening of romance and dance. The songs of Purple Mountains are a potent brew, stitched together from lifetimes, knitting the drift of the years with the tightest lyric construction Berman’s ever attempted. Honesty is archly in the air, but lines of incredible bleakness somehow give way to playful distraction and the hiding of surprises for close listeners.
File Under: Indie Rock, Silver Jews
Rhye: Spirit (Last Gang) LP
“The sound of Spirit was born out of falling in love with playing the piano again. About a year and a half ago, my girlfriend surprised me with a borrowed piano. It wasn’t in the best shape, but it made itself at home in my apartment and I started playing it every morning…just messing around at first, but it slowly became a morning ritual I couldn’t shake. “As our Secular Sabbath events developed and moved around the world, we were fortunate to be able to meet and experiment with some inspiring musicians. Out of these experiments, new ideas were born and turned into songs with artists like Thomas Bartlett and Ólafur Arnalds, whose musical genius now grace this record. When I worked with each of them, both happened to play 80’s era Yamaha pianos. At a certain point, I knew I needed to get one for myself: the tone was speaking to me, through me. The first piano shop I wandered into in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and the first piano I see is an ’84 Yamaha U3 (a special edition hybrid!) It was the very piano I was looking for. It was fate. “My morning piano ritual met my new piano in my favourite studio. I made a rule for myself that I would start something brand new every day, work on that for two hours without judgement and just see what I came up with. Out of the many sketches, Spirit started to take shape: a collection of songs that I did alone in the studio with just a piano, intertwined with collaborations with some of my favourite piano-based musicians. These are songs about love in my life, but also about the love for piano brought back into my life.” – Mike Milosh
File Under: Electronic, Chillwave
Sebadoh: Act Surprised (Fire) LP
Indie-rock pioneers Sebadoh return with their first new studio album in more than six years! Act Surprised continues the soulful collaboration that’s defined the band since 1991’s Sebadoh III and 1994’s Bakesale. The new batch of songs reaffirms how vital the creative partnership is between members Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D’Amico. When Barlow recently moved back to his home state of Massachusetts following a series of personal changes, he pressed the restart button and, in time, felt the incentive to reach out to Jason and Bob again to reunite and start work on a new album. The trio convened and began recording in their original stomping grounds in Northampton, MA where they first formed back in 1988. Along with producer/sound engineer Justin Pizzoferatto, Sebadoh have delivered one of the best records of their career. Act Surprised is a 15-song collection that’s as dynamic and visceral as anything the band has ever committed to tape.
File Under: Indie Rock
Six Organs of Admittance: For Octavio Paz (Hermit Hut) LP
Hermit Hut is pleased to announce their first Six Organs Of Admittance release with a remastered For Octavio Paz, on vinyl for the first time since it’s original pressing of 500 on Time-Lag records in 2003 (which sold out in 24 hours). This new edition has been re-mixed and remastered from the original four-track cassettes to bring out the resonant tones of the acoustic guitars that were lost in the original transfer (2019 analog-to-digital technology has come a long way since early 2000 16-bit DAT machines). For Octavio Paz is considered by many to be a high point in the early Six Organs of Admittance catalog. Almost wholly instrumental, it is the only Six Organs record that sounds fully dedicated to touching the edges of an acoustic finger-style world that was still quite underground back in the first few years of the new century. The songs here utilize a variety of approaches to the acoustic guitar, both steel string and nylon, solo and overdubbed, but always in the service of atmosphere. The record ends with a side long solo steel string piece that sounds equally at home next to modern guitar players like Tashi Dorji as classic American Primitive players such as Robbie Basho. When released on CD in 2004, For Octavio Paz earned an 8.0 from Pitchfork who said, “Though they vary from melancholy to warm memory in between notes, the emotions that Chasny creates on For Octavio Paz are always stark and imagistic.”
File Under: Folk,Guitar Soli
Brent Snyder: Cumulus (Morning Trip) LP
“Recorded in a Toronto apartment in 1985, Cumulus is an ultra-rare private-press ambient cassette release which was circulated amongst a small group of friends within the avant-garde theatre scene at the time. Brent Snyder’s interest and discovery of Frippertropics and Brian Eno inspired him to set up a 4 track tape recorder in the corner of his dining room to create the two slowevolving guitar loop-based pieces that make up Cumulus. The A side, ‘Excursion’, drifts between subtle dusty peaks and valleys in an almost Basinski-esque way, while the subtle hums and textures of ‘Cumulus’ gently levitates above the earth and settle into sublime tones similar to Steve Roach Structures From Silence and Brian Eno Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Credited as Music For Relaxation, Cumulus is the perfect music to encourage subconscious change, decrease blood pressure or pet the cat on the couch to. Recommended if you like: William Basinski, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp & Steve Roach.”
File Under: Electronic, Ambient
Tallest Man on Earth: I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream (Rivers/Birds) LP
I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. is the first album since 2015’s Dark Bird Is Home from The Tallest Man on Earth – written, produced and engineered by Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson and recorded almost entirely in his apartment in Brooklyn, NY. Matsson says “Of course there are some love songs and then there are some other songs. Making the album I was thinking a lot about the lenses we view our lives through and that, for some reason, our worst tendencies seem to be carried out so loudly, while our best can go unnoticed. I’ve come to realize that some of the most powerful, most inspiring moments in my life have been the most subtle and that so often the thing that deserves my attention, is trying the least to get it.” In recent years Matsson has undertaken single oriented projects that incorporate writing, producing and self releasing songs and videos in regular intervals, often with purposefully intense deadlines. He’s described finding inspiration in the entire process, and in particular in the satisfaction of making something and having it out quickly. For listeners and viewers the fascination has been in watching an artist work through his life, in problems and celebrations large and small, putting his thoughts out into the world while he’s still processing them himself and watching them evolve over time.
File Under: Indie Rock
Uzeda: Quocumque Jeceris Stabit (Temporary Residence) LP
Uzeda – a national treasure of Italy’s underground rock scene, and one of the longest-running punk bands on the planet – returns with their first new album in 13 years. The album’s title, Quocumque jeceris stabit comes from the famous inspiration phrase that loosely translates in English to “Wherever you throw it, it will stand” – a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Uzeda. Like a buoy in turbulent waters, virtually everything around the band and its members has changed significantly since their last album, Stella, was released in 2006 on their previous longtime label, Touch and Go Records. Recorded, as always, by longtime friend and collaborator, Steve Albini, Quocumque jeceris stabit sees Uzeda picking up where they left off, albeit with the sands and scars of time cutting new creative paths within the reputable map through which the band has traveled for the past four decades. Vocalist Giovanna Cacciola’s fragile, dynamic rasp still cuts through the jagged guitar of husband and fellow Bellini member, Agostino Tilotta, while the rhythm section of bassist Raffaele Gulisano and drummer Davide Oliveri provide the sturdy foundation on which all Uzeda songs are built. But there’s something noticeably different now, a kind of melodic tension that was always hinted at but perhaps never fully displayed until now. It is a sound and a feel that Uzeda was made for, and one that unquestionably defines them.
File Under: Electronic, Pop
Childish Gambino: Awaken My Love (Glassnote) LP
Comet is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce (Impulse) LP
D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah (Universal) LP
Mac Demarco: This Old Dog (Royal Mountain) LP
Kenny Dorham: Afro-Cuban (Blue Note) LP
Ryo Fukio: Scenery (We Release Jazz) LP
Hot Snakes: Automatic Midnight (Sub Pop) LP
Dan Mangan: Club Meds (Arts & Crafts) LP
Pavement: Brighten the Corners (Matador) LP
Mark Pritchard: The Four Worlds (Warp) LP
Robyn: Body Talk (Universal) LP
Nina Simone: Pastel Blues (Universal) LP
Sunn o))): Life Metal (Southern Lord) LP
Tragically Hip: Road Apples (Universal) LP
Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (Columbia) LP
Various: Soul Stabs Volume 1 (Colemine) LP