You may have noticed a lack of update last week, or maybe you didn’t…. well there wasn’t one. I was away. But I’m back and this week’s list contains everything in from last week and this week, which still isn’t THAT much, but that’s ok, cuz there’s some real gems this list…
…..picks of the week…..
Expo 70: Exquisite Lust (Sonic Meditations) 2LP
Originally released on CDr in 2006 with Kill Shaman and quickly caught the eye and ears of Aquarius Records in San Francisco. With the help of carrying the CDr release, Wright produced around 650 CDr’s to keep with the demand of Aquarius’ review from their list no. 243. “Gorgeous drifting ethereal krautrocky ambience is what Expo ’70 is all about, and eyes closed, you’d be hard pressed to not think this was some Ash Ra Tempel disc or some long lost A.R. and The Machines lp. Crafted entirely from guitars, sitar and Moog, each track here is some sort of lengthy, mesmerizingingly blissed out minimal drone jam. Guitar figures are looped into hypnotic cycles, over shimmery whirls of fuzzy sound and distant drones, the looped riffs slowly shifting and gently changing shape. It’s almost like some sort of new age space rock Steve Reich.” Aquarius couldn’t have summed up the etherial mystique around Wright’s developing project better. Newly mastered after being out of print since 2009, this classic album finally graces 2 LPs, both in limited editions on Sonic Meditations. Gatefold tip-on jackets, gold 180 gram vinyl.
File Under: Kosmiche, Psych, Ambient
Jack Rose: Dr. Ragtime & His Pals
Jack Rose: s/t
Jack Rose: I Do Play Rock and Roll
John Coltrane died at age 40, and in retrospect it seems as if the intensity of activity in his last years, the sheer torrent of notes, was an attempt at purging the music from his soul before it was too late. The guitarist Jack Rose died at 38, in 2009, and listening back to his catalog one has a similar notion. Like Coltrane, Jack Rose’s last years were marked by a shimmering intensity, an outpouring of his spirit, onto audiences and records. I believe Jack Rose felt the duty of preservation but was by no means bound by it. With his virtuoso fingerstyle technique and restless guitar explorations–modal epics, bottleneck laments, uptempo rags–it’s easy to hear a connection to tradition and at the same time a pulsing modernism: “ancient to the future” in the words of chicago’s association for the advancement of creative musicians. Ultimately, it’s no use attempting to explain the unexplainable (natural disasters, god, art, death). as the air gets heavy before a thunderstorm, Jack Rose’s vivid guitar picking awakes in us a peculiar awareness, something ancient and american. Jack Rose’s work exists along the established continuum of american vernacular music: gospel, early jazz, folk, country blues and up through the post-1960s “american primitive” family tree from John Fahey and Robbie Basho and outward to other idiosyncratic american musicians like Albert Ayler, the No-Neck Blues Band, Captain Beefheart and Cecil Taylor. His process can best be heard as an evolution; renditions of songs would transform over time, worked out live, with changes in duration, tempo or attack, in the search for a song’s essence.
Dr. Ragtime & His Pals marks Rose’s step into the world of group interplay with versions of his standard repertoire arranged for a band. in its finished form, it exists as a sort of “party record” within his discography. Highlights are raucous and many, including “Linden Avenue Stomp,” “Knoxville Blues,” the spiritual “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” and Sam McGee’s “Buckdancer’s Choice.” In assembling this album, Jack chose musicians with distinctive personalities and their own personal connections to old-time music; people he could learn from. His …pals rotated often and in this case include the banjo player Mike Gangloff (Jack’s old accomplice in Pelt as well as the Black Twig Pickers), Micah Blue Smaldone on guitar, Glenn Jones on guitar, Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers) on washboard, and philadelphia legend Harmonica Dan (“Knoxville Blues”). The result is a late night back porch jam session, fueled by whisky, friendship, and a shared love of the old weird american music found on forgotten 78s.
Rose’s self-titled album was originally released in 2006 on the arCHIVE label, and later reissued as a CD two-fer with Dr. Ragtime and His Pals. It contains a combination of studio and live recordings. Jack Rose is marked by a sense of forward momentum, the result of several years of constant playing, with fresh versions of a number of previously attempted songs. Blind Willie Johnson’s spiritual “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” is manipulated into a wailing slide-guitar lament. “Levee” pops like a warning. “St. Louis Blues” (in this and its several other incarnations across his entire catalog) is a good example of Jack’s innate sense of swing, a crucial characteristic of his playing perhaps lost on some of his fingerpicking followers. The centerpiece of the album, however, is the nearly sidelong “Spirits in the House,” which begins with tentative weeping glissandos, and slowly reveals itself as a stately fingerpicked blues meditation.
I Do Play Rock and Roll, the title a mystifying nod to Mississippi Fred McDowell’s electric period, finds Jack Rose in extended drone mode, coaxing open-tuned raga meditations from his 12-string guitar. “Calais to Dover” first appeared on Rose’s classic Kensington Blues in a somewhat truncated form. The version heard here is more expansive and open-hearted, a waxing-and-waning piece of introspection. “Cathedral et Chartres” shares the same quiet romanticism, with rotating patterns and the chime of open strings. “Sundogs,” the sidelong drone abstraction that occupies Side B, stands alone among Jack’s solo work. A long-form live rendition of a track that appeared on the genre-defining triple album compilation by the fruits you shall know the roots, it is perhaps most evocative of Pelt, Jack’s previous band, a minor-key free drone, with only miniscule dynamic shifts and the occasional recognizable string accent. It is territory Rose seldom traveled but completely and fully invigorating.
Jack Rose was a larger than life man with a hearty spirit–a no-bullshit gentleman–and his death continues to reverberate among the community of musicians and music people he called friends. This spirit, as evidenced within his recorded output, has proven to be indomitable and continually vital. –Scott McDowell, May 2016–
Three Lobed’s 2016 reissues on LP are pressed on 140 gram dutch vinyl by Record Industry. housed within old style Stoughton jackets. Released in connection with Jack Rose Estate. Accompanied by download coupons for DRM-free digital files of the downloader’s choice.
File Under: Folk, Blues, Guitar Soli
William Basinski: 92982 (Temporary Residence) LP
Recorded in 1982 and eventually released in 2009 on CD via William Basinski’s own 2062 label, 92982 has become one of his most celebrated works. Finally available on vinyl for the first time, the album has been remastered from the original master tapes, and packaged in an exquisite custom die-cut package with interchangeable heavyweight inner sleeves featuring previously unpublished artwork and photographs from 1982. “You can’t help but wonder why this music, recorded so long ago, is only just surfacing. Was the world not ready for WIlliam Basinski in 1982, or was WIlliam Basinski simply not ready to hand himself over to an audience at that point? Whatever the reasoning, we’re certainly reaping the benefits of the influential ambient composer’s stockpile, and 92982 proves to be a real highlight in his output of recent years. Despite the minimalist essence of Basinski’s oeuvre there’s a pronounced sense of variety, diversity and depth at work in these four tracks, with each taking on its own specific persona. Essential.” – Boomkat
File Under: Ambient
Bitter Fictions: Jettison (Shaking Box) LP
Calgary’s Devin Friesen is the mastermind behind local label Shaking Box Music, which shines a light on Calgary’s noisier side of sound, and puts out some ambitious avant-garde, psych and drone recordings from many acts. His newly released Jettison, under his solo moniker Bitter Fictions, is a seven-song collection of nebulous noise, self-recorded in a library basement. This solo effort shows ingenuity in practice, because it’s just one guy and his guitar. However, the ideas that emanate from the meditational ambience shine through. Friesen balances precarious notes atop indistinguishable sources of feedback and resonance. Of course we have a loop pedal, we have all the standard modulation found in this style, such as reverb and delay among others, but the shivers, quakes and pulverizing blasts of distortion are unique to say the least, especially because of the limited instrumentation. Witnessed during a performance at 2016’s Sled Island, one way Friesen alters his guitar’s sound was on display. He places a drumstick beneath his guitar strings and uses another to prod, poke, caress and bang on the former, creating dense vibrations that create a foundation for anything he wants to lay over top. And the result? Calming and introspective drone-scapes replete with sporadic layerings of melody.
File Under: Experimental, Ambient, Guitar
Blood Orange: Freetown Sound (Domino) LP
Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange is set to release Freetown Sound, his third proper full-length album, and the most expansive statement of his career. Written and produced by Hynes, Freetown Sound is a tour de force, a pastiche of Hynes’ past, present, and future that melds his influences with his own established musical voice. For well over a decade, Hynes has proven himself a virtuoso of versatility, experimenting with almost every conceivable musical genre under a variety of monikers. After moving to New York City in the mid-2000s, Hynes became Blood Orange, plumming the oeuvres of the city’s musical legends to create a singular style of urgent, delicate pop music. Freetown Sound, which follows 2011’s Coastal Grooves and 2013’s breakthrough Cupid Deluxe, builds upon everything Hynes has done as an artist, resulting in the most expansive artistic statement of his career. Drawing from a deep well of techniques and references, the album unspools like a piece of theater, evoking unexpected communions of moods, voices, and eras. Freetown Sound derives its name from the birthplace of Hynes’ father, the capital of Sierra Leone. Thematically, it is profoundly personal and unapologetically political, touching on issues of race, religion, sex, and sexism over 17 shimmering songs. Each song echoes into another, with leitmotifs carefully stitched throughout, yielding a sound palette that gently recalls elastic funk, slinky R&B, and pure pop, but resisting easy categorization. For Hynes, the process of self-discovery involved in creating Freetown Sound proved as valuable as the finished product. “This record really tries to say things that I’ve been wanting to express for many years,” he says. “It looks into my childhood and examines who I am at this point in my life. There are so many crazy layers to it that it’s actually quite hard to talk about it, but the record is very reflective of how my brain works. It’s been very interesting for me trying to understand and tie all of these things together. It’s been a way of working through it.”
File Under: Indie Funk/Soul, Electronic
Blues Pills: Lady in Gold (Nuclear Blast) LP
The young American-Swedish-French quartet Blue Pills create a very unique, intense and extraordinary rock atmosphere while at the same time having a major mainstream appeal that takes you right back to the time of the band’s ancestors like Aretha Franklin, the original Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Cream. The multi-national sensation returns in August 2016 with their eagerly awaited second album Lady In Gold. Just as it’s highly successful predecessor Lady In Gold was once again produced by Don Alsterberg (Graveyard, Division of Laura Lee, Gonzalez, Jerry Williams). Commented singer Elin Larsson on the choice of the album’s title: “Lady gold is a character who symbolizes death. We wanted a twist on the typical stereotype of death being the grim reaper. So instead we made her a lady in gold.”
File Under: Blues Rock, Stoner Rock
Brotherhood Of Lizards: Lizardland (Captured Tracks) LP
By late May of 1989, Cleaners from Venus man Martin Newell and Peter Nice aka Nelson finished their first album, Lizardland, and handed it over to upstart indie Deltic Records. Though there is a fair amount of Cleaners from Venus DNA in the mix due to the charms of the definitely lo-fi recording methods, the music of the Brotherhood of Lizards has a sharp sound all its own. And, the story doesn’t stop there. Towards the end of 1989, label head Andy McQueen, who knew Newell’s aversion to touring, asked if there was any possibility that the duo might go on a promotional tour. Newell replied, “Only by bicycle.” Soon after, whilst studying a map of England and its regional radio stations, it struck Newell that a bicycle tour might be a real possibility. Thus, amazingly, in early October, the two set off on bicycles, instruments on backs, tiny amps in front carriers, for a 600-mile busking tour of the entire southern half of England. The media became unexpectedly interested. More through sheer eccentricity than eco-activism, at the turn of a turbulent decade, the Lizards had unwittingly hitched a ride on a brand new zeitgeist. They were called “The First Eco Rock Band” and the tour became the subject of a number of news items. As 1990 rolled around, however, there was one big problem, for Newell at least: while the Lizards cycled and busked, an EMI employee saw Nelson on TV and thought he would be great replacement bass player for New Model Army. Nelson attended and passed the New Model Army audition and stayed with that band for well over two decades, although it spelled the end of the Brotherhood of Lizards. In spring of 1990, almost two years after they had begun, it was all over. They traveled over a thousand miles on bikes, busked their way around England and made all of the music contained here in this collection.
File Under: Lo-Fi, Indie Rock
Will Butler: Friday Night (Merge) LP
Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler returns with Friday Night, an album of live performances from the tour in support of his solo debut album, Policy. Recorded mostly at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on June 4, 2015, Friday Night includes five brand-new songs, five from Policy, and two songs he wrote for The Guardian newspaper last year. Capturing the energy of the dynamite Will Butler band was the major inspiration for this release. Miles Arntzen (EMEFE, Antibalas) played drums (standing up at a full kit – he didn’t use a hi-hat pedal, so he could stand on that leg while working the kick drum with the other), Julie Shore played synth bass, and Sara Dobbs played synth leads and Mellotron pads. Everybody sang backing vocals. Will wrote of the album: “Think of this as a comedy record. In some ways literally – Brooklyn comedian Jo Firestone does the introduction and the “solo” in “Friday Night” – but also, it’s an album based on working out ideas in a room full of people, playing off their energy and expectations. It’s about taking complicated emotions and wringing communal joy from them, and then translating that joy onto record. So here you go!” Featuring artwork by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, Friday Night is the perfect companion to Policy and an exciting look ahead to what we can expect from Will Butler in the future.
File Under: Indie Rock, Arcade Fire
Tom Carter: Long Time Underground (3Lobed) LP
A man in a crisis, Faulkner once wrote, always falls back upon what he knows best. Three summers ago, Brooklyn-via-Houston guitarist Tom Carter was in crisis. On tour in Europe with his pioneering psych-folk unit Charalambides, Carter was stricken with pneumonia, complications from which impelled doctors in Berlin to place him in a medically induced coma. Family members, bandmates and lovers of otherworldly music everywhere watched and waited during the six weeks Tom spent in the intensive care unit and the additional month in a rehabilitation facility. Sighs of relief were exhaled throughout the worldwide warrens of underground music when Tom finally returned to New York in August 2012, convalescent. The steady stream of outstanding recorded music Tom Carter has released over the last two years, both solo and collaborative, suggests a man more than returned to form—falling back on what he knows best, but somehow better. Tom Carter’s new solo album, Long Time Underground, is nothing short of stunning. While Carter shrugs off suggestions that long time underground represents some sort of sea change in his approach to making music, this (along with its companion post-illness release, Numinal Entry, on Halatern) comprises his first solo work this decade. Long Time Underground, moreover, is the first solo studio recording Carter has ever done. Long Time Underground is almost unsettling in its purity. A collection of fractal guitar études, the album is comprised mostly of composed material—some of which was written in the studio, some worked out in performance over the past few years. Each song was set down live without overdubs, and the result is an almost confessional intimacy. Although even long time fans may be startled by the sheer completeness of the worlds Carter manages to summon with a single guitar recorded in real time. The shock, I think, is the emotional clarity of the work. The album eschews the searching, exploratory (sometimes aimless) quality typical of latter-day psychedelia because it always seems so assured of precisely where it is headed. This may, of course, be attributable to the predominance of composed over improvised material on Long Time Underground. But it may also be the emotional groundedness of a man long detained from friends and loved ones and so possessed of immensely richer sense of home. As aesthetically and emotionally complete a musical experience as you are likely to have all year, Long Time Underground is simply the work of man, mortal but still illuminated. –Brent Sirota–
File Under: Ambient, Guitar Soli
Eric Copeland: Black Bubblegum (DFA) LP
Black Bubblegum is the newest LP from Eric Copeland, and we are not kidding when we emphasize it sounds like nothing he has done in the past. The title of the record says it all: chewy, sticky pop that doesn’t taste quite like any chewy, sticky pop you’ve had before. Recorded at Copeland’s old practice space in South Williamsburg, Black Bubblegum contains songs with more conventional sounds and songwriting than any of his previous releases. While there are similarities with Copeland’s earlier work in the drum patterns, major scales and vocals, Black Bubblegum moves away from his trademark psychedelic dub towards strange and fantastical pop; imagine Arthur Russell going into the studio with the Ramones. Wanting to take a more “hands on” approach to these recordings, Copeland exchanged sample-driven tech and hardware for keyboards, guitars and effect pedals, creating a new sound that is oddly easy to digest despite its rejection of melody in favor of discord and dissonance. For a long time, Copeland considered this collection of songs to be recordings which would never be heard. This invariably influenced certain decisions made during the creation of Black Bubblegum, blessing Copeland with the unique freedom that comes from making music never intended to be heard, let alone released. When asked about what influenced this new album and sound, Eric replied “glam holes, glitter dreams, money troubles, apocalypse paranoia, one hit wonders, manifest destiny, my family’s westward migration, body troubles (was passing kidney stones almost the entire time), LGBT disco parties, Jonathan Richman, Missing Foundation, Neil Diamond, New Orleans, poverty, getting pushed out of another Brooklyn neighbourhood…No Beach Boys, no Beatles, no Buddha…More Bad News Bears.” Copeland has been sound clashing at full volume for over twenty years, first carving out a named for himself as one third of the legendary NY-via-Providence band Black Dice. A wildly prolific solo artist, Copeland has played shit houses, party palaces and seemingly everything in between all over the world. A long time Brooklyn, resident, Eric recently relocated to where the L Train does not run – Palma de Mallorca, Spain. While maintaining a relatively humble and low key presence in a highly competitive musical world, he has releases a prolific amount of music every year through indie labels such as L.I.E.S., Escho (Iceage), PPM (No Age), Paw Tracks (Animal Collective) and DFA.
File Under: Indie Rock, Pop
The Damned: Machine Gun Etiquette (Chiswick) LP
The Damned’s classic third album Machine Gun Etiquette was issued by a different Damned to that which made 1977’s Damned Damned Damned and Music For Pleasure. They split in early 1978 and guitarist/main songwriter Brian James set off to pastures new. On reforming, bassist Captain Sensible switched to guitar, his main instrument. Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian were back too. Bassist Algy Ward was new, had recently left the Saints and was from Croydon like Captain. The new Damned swiftly picked up momentum, first as Les Punks with stop-gap bassist Lemmy, then the Doomed and finally under their old name. Chiswick Records saw what a live draw they were and picked them up, initially with a one-off deal for the “Love Song” single. It charted. The album followed. It charted too. Issued in November 1979, Machine Gun Etiquette was more than a valediction. A thrilling, wild ride, it took in hyper-speed, guitar-driven pop, psychedelic pop and surreal pop songs drawing from the girl’s comic Bunty and Vanian’s fascination with Hollywood and horror. Pop, though, was what the album was about. Tunes. Whether with the hard-edged anthem “Noise, Noise, Noise” (featuring members of the Clash on vocals; they were recording London Calling at the same studio booked by the Damned), the kinetic “Liar” or the astonishing, atmospheric “Plan 9 Channel 7,” this new Damned prioritized melody. There is no filler here: even the cover of the MC5’s “Looking At You” slotted in without breaking the flow. Machine Gun Etiquette hit shops within weeks of London Calling and Public Image Limited’s Metal Box, both benchmark albums showing how far their creators had moved beyond what had been defined as punk. The same applied to the Damned, who likewise recognized no musical barriers and did what they wanted: the true defining characteristic of punk. They didn’t care about definitions anyway. Which is why this classic, essential album sounds as fresh now as it did in 1979.
File Under: Punk, Rock
The Damned: The Black Album (Chiswick) LP
The Damned’s The Black Album was ambitious, even more so than its multi-faceted predecessor, Machine Gun Etiquette. Reviewing the new album, weekly music paper the NME pointed to a Terry Riley influence while Syd Barrett and the Beach Boys were name-checked in Sounds’ review. Thinking of the Damned as a punk rock band was no longer possible. Their fourth album – and second since reforming in 1978 after splitting earlier in the year – was issued in November 1980. It was a double. Sides One and Two featured 11 songs. Side Four included six tracks recorded live at Shepperton Studios in July 1980, one of which was a version of their 1976 debut single “New Rose,” British punk rock’s first record. Side Three was taken up by one song, the 17-minute “Curtain Call.” In four years, the Damned had gone from a short, sharp shock to the epic. While the title was a sideways Beatles’ reference, the Black and the White albums actually were counterparts as each featured songs with diverse styles. The introspective “Silly Kids Games” can be read as a look back at the band’s past. “Wait For The Blackout” had an irresistible forward momentum and an equally memorable melody. “Drinking About My Baby” was the closest to punk that it got. “Twisted Nerve” was imbued with darkness. “History Of The World Part 1” nodded to the Kinks. And then, there was the momentous portmanteau aural drama “Curtain Call,” with its lyrics of “the crack of the whip” and “the snapping sound of someone’s nerves.” The Damned felt they could do anything and The Black Album proved they could. Ambitious? Yes. But also confirmation that the Damned were at a peak which would be hard to reach again.
File Under: Punk, Rock
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit (Harvest) LP
Experimental rap-noise duo Death Grips, consisting of Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett and Zach Hill originally formed during late 2010 in Sacramento, CA. In 2014 after releasing four uncompromising full-length albums the group announced their dissolution and that their double set The Powers That B would be their fifth and final record. Now the group returns in 2016 with their surprise sixth album entitled Bottomless Pit. The 13-track, 35 minute affair includes the previously released track “Hot Head” and the recently unveiled “Eh.”
File Under: Rap, Noise
Factory Floor: 25 25 (DFA) LP
Factory Floor return in 2016 with 25 25, their second album and the follow up to their acclaimed 2013 self-titled debut. With their music stripped to a mesmerising dance of percussion, fragmented voice and melody, it captures the next vital stage in the evolution of one of the UK’s most restless and exploratory groups. The dazzlingly sharp, dubbed-out acid disco of ‘Meet Me At The End’ opens 25 25 in a surge of raw momentum. Both Factory Floor’s sparsest and most overtly club-centred track to date, it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Written and recorded by Gabriel Gurnsey and Nik Colk Void in late 2015 and early 2016, it’s the product of the last three years of intensive musical activity — non-stop live performances, artistic collaborations, writing new music and reconfiguring the limits of their sound. Inspired by playing a growing number of late night club shows, the pair’s music gradually evolved into the sound captured on their second album and in their current live incarnation: a stark, ultra-minimalist and eerily soulful dancefloor pulse, yet one that still bears Factory Floor’s unmistakable hallmarks of hypnotic repetition and jagged, punkish intensity. The close friendships and collaborations they’ve established along the way attest to those connections, among them Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle/Chris & Cosey, Perc, Optimo, New Order and Simon Fisher Turner. Mixed with razor precision by David Wrench (FKA twigs, Caribou), the results are all the more forceful for that newfound space.
File Under: Electronic, Electro
Gunn-Truscinski Duo: Sand City/Ocean Parkway (3Lobed) 2LP
The best musical partners play as if there is a direct connection between their brains. Steve Gunn (guitar) and John Truscinski (drums) possess that certain ESP / telepathy / majick – whatever *you* elect to call it. We’ve all heard folks whose operate on these otherworldly levels – Sandy Bull and Billy Higgins, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, Alan Vega and Martin Rev, John Coltrane and Rashied Ali – and know just how special it can be when folks ascend to those sorts of rarefied heights. Over the course of a few short years these men recorded two albums, Sand City (2010) and Ocean Parkway (2012), that captured their unique and private musical language. Originally released as two separate smallish and now long out of print editions, those two albums are now presented within a singular gatefold package. Whether you are a recent convert to Gunn’s lyric and expressive guitar styling or an old-timer who has never investigated this particular corner of his discography, there is a lot to be rewarded by within the confines of both Sand City and Ocean Parkway. The first of the duo’s two albums, Sand City, saw release following a late winter conversation between Gunn and Three Lobed Recordings on a bench in Tompkins Square Park. Old friends who had spent a lot of time playing together both in public (including within the later incarnations of raga dronesters GHQ) and private, Truscinski and Gunn were looking to lay down some of their well-honed compositions in a studio setting. Sand City is informally split into “electric” and “acoustic” sides, both reflecting the duo’s well fluid and expressive style. Ocean Parkway followed quickly thereafter and features a collection of electrifying material honed while the duo was on a 2011 European tour. Gunn’s playing across all of this material, while always truly exploratory and aimed for the stars, takes on the more expansive reach typically reserved for his live performances when anchored by Truscinski’s textured and expressive backbeat. These two albums, while recorded at different times, share such a familiar tone that they seem and feel as if they are two sides of the same coin. Paired together they meld into a seamless listening experience.
File Under: Guitar, Folk
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: s/t (Caldo Verde) LP
Mark Kozelek and Justin Broadrick release their debut collaboration as Jesu/Sun Kil Moon through Caldo Verde Records/Rough Trade. The passionate ten track album is 79 minutes in length and includes guest appearances by Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk of Low, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, and Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy among others. Home to the beautiful and romantic numbers “Good Morning My Love,” “A Song of Shadows” and “Exodus,” the outfit’s eponymous album will be also supported live with the addition of Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) on drums.
File Under: Indie Rock, Shoegaze
Charles Mingus: Blues & Roots (Stateside) LP
Originally released on Atlantic Records in 1960, Blues & Roots finds jazz legend Charles Mingus in full swing leading a stellar big band comprised of the likes of Horace Parlan/Mal Waldron (piano), Jackie McLean/John Handy (alto saxophone), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Knepper/Willie Dennis (trombone) and Dannie Richmond (drums). The soulful 6-track set is as accessible as anything in Mingus’ catalog and finds the maestro and company tackling the blues, gospel and old-time New Orleans jazz with aplomb. “This record is unusual, it presents only one part of my musical world, the blues. A year ago, Nesuhi Ertegün suggested that I record an entire blues album in the style of Haitian Fight Song, because some people, particularly critics, were saying I didn’t swing enough. He wanted to give them a barrage of soul music: churchy, blues, swinging, earthy. I thought it over. I was born swinging and clapped my hands in church as a little boy, but I’ve grown up and I like to do things other than just swing. But blues can do more than just swing. So I agreed.” – Charles Mingus
File Under: Jazz
Nonkeen: Oddment of the Gamble (R&S) LP
Nonkeen return to R&S Records with the swift follow up to their debut album The Gamble. Oddments of the Gamble is a continuation of the unique, analogue concoctions that formed the first album – very much like a ‘part two’ in many ways. Although it inevitably draws on a similar formula to the previous LP – pensive loops and melodies, sweeping arpeggios, post-rock jams, and rolling nu-jazz breaks – Oddments of the Gamble still stands alone as another statement from the trio despite originating from the same recording session. Fresh listeners will encounter the holistic expressiveness of a substantial and beautifully put together album; while existing fans of Nonkeen can expect another facet of the band to emerge on this record, one that is distinctively more euphoric than that of the hazier, more brooding prequel. Those in possession of their debut album, The Gamble, will require little introduction to the band’s most loyal member, chance. Choosing only their favorite tracks for the debut album The Gamble turned out to be a challenging endeavor: there were still too many for a single album. The only solution, therefore – according to the band – was to make several albums, but this didn’t make things much easier: the next question was which album to release. Refusing to let such matters get the better of them, they agreed to flip a coin: let chance decide and the band would follow, with the winning album known as The Gamble. But the warm reception that followed its release flattered Gmeiner, Frahm and Singwald, encouraging them to make available the collection that had first lost the toss: The Oddments Of The Gamble. After all, everything – just like everyone – deserves a second chance.
File Under: Electronic, Downtempo
Pelican: City of Echoes/Live in Poland (Hydrahead) LP
Pelican’s instrumental heaviness was full-formed at birth in 2001 with a monstrous debut that Hydra Head bestowed upon the world. The brutalist forms of metal were long a grounding presence in the songs of Pelican; but in the years leading up to their iconic 2007 album City Of Echoes, the band shed some but certainly not all of the metal tropes that informed their first fruits. An ebullient temperament teases through the guitar work that laces through City Of Echoes from Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Pelican’s sharp mimesis of the Takoma ellipsis and the dangling participles of math-rock complication paralleled the likes of Explosions In The Sky and Rodan with a gifted knack for lachrymose celebration. Yet time and again, Pelican’s reprises the violent crack of metal through the heavy riffage of downtuned post-hardcore chug and double-kick blastbeats, making any Pelican song an unpredictable journey. The albums opening cut “Bliss In Concrete” sets the stage with a series of interlocked riffs of crunched guitar and bass, with the stylistic transitions pronounced by the drums of complicated time signatures rapidly changing course only to double up on the snare and kick, only to glide into a pop-punk immediacy of the now. Similarly, the titular track skips to a doleful guitar jangle out of the early ’90s indie-rock playbook, then taking a very Pelican left-turn with a mighty crescendo of galloping hardcore that never seems out of place. Assymetrical by design, City Of Echoes erupts through its kinetic compositions deliberately seeking a panoply of emotional content through melody, harmony, dissonance, and noise. No words necessary for these sermons of jubilation tempered with aggression and consternation.
File Under: Post Rock, Metal
Pharaoh Overlord: #1 (Hydrahead) LP
Since the inception of the trio Pharaoh Overlord in 2001, they’ve carved up imposing, yet weirdly cozy monoliths erected in the epic desert of original rock and roll. Pharaoh Overlord’s stoner rock klang on their debut 1 is down-to-earth due to sheer weight of the riffs. The light touch and the ease with which Leppänen, Lehtisalo and Westerlund lift the weight of the riffs off the ground and propel them on abysmal orbits works like a magician’s trick, a cathartic sleight of hand. In the case of Pharaoh Overlord, the magic endures.
File Under: Space Rock, Psych
Scientists: A Place Called Bad (Numero) 4CD
With a sound that was swampy, primal and modernurban all at once—as much in the tradition of rock n’ roll and punk rock as it was a rejection of those things, the Scientists’ formula was as universal as it was specific to their own experience. The themes of getting wasted, driving around in hotted-up cars, being trapped in crap jobs, and paranoia were their subject matter. Machine throb bass and drums with jagged car-wreck guitars were their modus operandi. Fitting into no place or time they spurned all but the most rudimentary and elemental of rock structures to create a sound all their own. “The Scientists proved to me that rock ‘n’ roll could be played by gentlemen in fine silk shirts half unbuttoned and still be dirty, cool and r eal.” —Thurston Moore // “They wrote fantastic singles and looked like they just crawled out of the ooze. What mor e could you ask for?” —Warren Ellis // “The Scientists turned my head around and made a man out of me! They grew hair on my palms and made my socks stink!” —Jon Spencer
File Under: Post Punk
Sunny Day Real Estate: How it Feels to be Something On (Sub Pop) LP
Sunny Day Real Estate’s third album, How It Feels to Be Something On, is now back in print on vinyl, after more than a decade of fetching high prices on the collectors market. In 1997, Sub Pop approached Sunny Day’s members for help in compiling a rarities album. Because there were so few usable tracks, band founders Jeremy Enigk and Dan Hoerner agreed to get together and write some new material to augment the archival songs, but they wound up crafting an entire new album in a matter of days. Without Mendel, who remains with Foo Fighters to this day, Sunny Day reunited to record How It Feels to Be Something On, which Sub Pop released in September 1998. After 2000’s The Rising Tide, the band split, with Mendel continuing his work with the Foo Fighters, though Enigk, Goldsmith, and Mendel did reconvene to record an album under the name The Fire Theft in 2003. Sunny Day Real Estate reunited for a series of shows in 2010. Single-LP jacket with CD-size booklet and download coupon.
File Under: Indie Rock
Tobacco: Sweatbox Dynasty (Ghostly) LP
It’s been almost two decades since baby Tobacco first plugged in a tape deck, popped the top, and found the dark magic that’s fueled so many sonic forays into his genre less bog of beat-blasted hypnagogia and otherworldly-yet-earthen pop. The Pennsylvanian experimentalist has since helmed countless Black Moth Super Rainbow releases, remixed outsiders as offbeat as Health and unexpected as White Zombie, and produced MCs ranging from Aesop Rock to Beck. But it’s on his fourth solo album that Tobacco winds up coining an apt name for his vast empire of moldering electrofied dirt: Sweatbox Dynasty. The new LP – his second for Ghostly International – finds the rural recluse resurrecting an old approach to hack a new path through the muck. This may be his most unintentionally psychedelic and left-field creation yet, full of rhythms that start and stop like a tractor on its last piston, resonating melodies made to fuel transcendental meltdowns, and vocals that hiss, gurgle, and growl. “It’s my baby,” says Tobacco – a disturbing mental image if you overlook the beauty in his decrepit works. A song like “Human Om,” for example, swirls revving analog synths, drum machine clatter, blown-out gong hits, sitar hum, and all manner of unidentifiable noise to create an unexpected sense of calm. It’s an almost trance-inducing space where our host gets touchy-feely in his own way, voice seething, “You can be my light come up in the morning/And I can be your spiral spinnin’ down.” The cheery na-na-na’s and punchy rhythms of “Gods in Heat” similarly contrast against dirging chords and heavy distortion, while “Warlock Mary” swaths a springy funk riff in thick layers of warped tones. Interstitial pieces like “Wipeth Out” or “The Madonna” are exactly that – strange, minimal fuzz bombs that jerk and groove to alien cadences. On an album with no guests, the tape deck is Tobacco’s one true collaborator – the Second Zombie Beatle there to eff up all his prettier inclinations. Like how the sticky coast and thump of “Dimensional Hum” keeps getting derailed by what sounds like a fritzy radio dial, and the stonery dub of “Fantasy Trash Wave” bends and snaps over its slippery breakbeats. “An album of linear songs is just boring at this point,” says Tobacco, and he makes extra good on his promise to innovate ever more crudely with Sweatbox Dynasty’s closer. At over six minutes, “Let’s Get Worn Away” first plays like eleven more songs spliced together at unpredictable intervals – jock jams collide against rap bumps, synthesizer ether, and shadowy electro-pop. But on repeated listens, madness clearly becomes method, as our anti-hero lulls us into a state of intense, earned peace. This time when he stops, he’s got closure, and we’re the ones left with an undeniable urge to dig our hands back into that aural gunk once again.
File Under: Electronic
Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Dead Oceans) LP
The preceding years have been extraordinary for Ryley Walker. In March 2015, his second album, Primrose Green, emerged to critical hosannas from the likes of NPR, Village Voice, Uncut, and Mojo – in the process, earning admiration of musicians who had chalked up no shortage of turntable miles in Walker’s life. Robert Plant declared himself a fan – as did double-bass legend Danny Thompson, with whom Ryley would later embark on a British tour. A sprawling tour of the USA around Primrose Green presented a perfect chance to workshop ideas for what would eventually become his third studio album, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. On the album, “The Roundabout” represents a symbolic return to Chicago, while other songs are directly wedded to Ryley’s actual return there. Perhaps more than any other song on the record, the somnambulant sun-dappled intimacies of opening track “The Halfwit In Me” most audibly bear the imprint of Ryley’s improvisational sessions with Wilco multi-instrumentalist, Chicagoan and producer Leroy Bach, while “Funny Thing She Said” is an unflinching study of separation set to a shimmeringly supple ensemble performance. Soft, slo-mo explosions of melody intermittently burst through the distant thunder of the verses on “A Choir Apart.” Intriguing, surreal images are meted out by “I Will Ask You Twice”, like a malfunctioning slide projector; and, perhaps best of all, the stunning finale, “Age Old Tale”, which spiders out from an Alice Coltrane-inspired reverie into a sustained rapture that very few artists have managed to achieve.
File Under: Folk
Wye Oak: Tween (Merge) LP
The word “tween” implies a certain, very specific kind of awkwardness, and those implications are rarely positive. But think about it like this: Something “tween” is in the process of becoming something else, and there’s a very specific kind of beauty in that becoming. There’s something rewarding in recognizing and celebrating it – in meeting it halfway. Wye Oak’s Tween is a collection of eight songs born, raised, and almost abandoned for various reasons during the years between 2011’s breakthrough Civilian and 2014’s reinvention-of-sorts, Shriek. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack described these songs as “not emblematic of a step forward, but a step sideways in time.” In other words, they just didn’t make sense for album number five – which will happen at some point in the future. But just because they didn’t belong there doesn’t mean they don’t belong anywhere. To wedge them onto Shriek would’ve been dishonest; to orphan them would’ve been somewhere on the line between criminal and just plain silly. Now that your expectations are lowered, let’s build them back up, because Tween is full of gorgeous Wye Oak songs whose only crime was timing and context, made by two people at the height of their game. At first these songs sounded too disparate to me to be called an album, but the more Tween sank in, the more it made sense: One minute Jenn and Andy are embracing their floatiest Cocteau Twins instinct (“If You Should See”), the next they’re back in Civilian territory a bit (“No Dreaming”), and later they’re slinky and electronic and gorgeously ‘80s (“On Luxury”). The common thread: These are no castaways or cutouts. In fact, pound for pound, Tween might actually be more directly accessible than Shriek. It should join the pantheon of amazing not-albums of history whose names try to downplay how good they actually are, like R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office, The Who’s Odds and Sods, maybe even Dinosaur Jr.’s Whatever’s Cool With Me.
File Under: Indie Rock
Xiu Xiu: Plays the Music of Twin Peaks (Polyvinyl) LP
Australia’s Gallery of Modern Art commissioned Xiu Xiu to reinterpret the music from Twin Peaks for their David Lynch: Between Two Worlds exhibition. Since then, the band has performed select concerts all over the globe culminating in a proper studio album of the compositions. This is an entirely new interpretation of the music of Twin Peaks; one emphasizing its chaos, drama, fear, noise and sidelong leering glances. Like the show, their music is am alluring cross-talk of jarring signifiers – elusive flirtations with genre, dream logic, dark-lit explorations of sexual deviance – which, taken whole, form an uncomfortable sense, a penetrative, unspoken truth it seemed impossible to arrive at. “The music of Twin Peaks is everything that we aspire to as musicians and is everything that we want to listen to as music fans. It is romantic, it is terrifying, it is beautiful, it is unnervingly sexual. The idea of holding the “purity” of the 1950s up to the cold light of a violent moon and exposing the skull beneath the frozen, worried smile has been a stunning influence on us. There is no way that we can recreate Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch’s music as it was originally played. It is too perfect and we could never do its replication justice. Our attempt will be to play the parts of the songs as written, meaning, following the harmony melody but to arrange in the way that it has shaped us as players.” – Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu
File Under: Indie Rock, OST
Neil Young: Earth (Reprise) 3LP
Neil Young’s unconventional new release Earth is a 98-minute collection comprised of 13 live songs from his 2015 tour with Promise of the Real (Lukas Nelson (vocals/guitar), Corey McCormick (bass), Tato Melgar (percussion), Anthony LoGerfo (drums)) mixed with the sounds of nature. The songs span the breadth of Young’s career and all incorporate an environmental theme including “Mother Earth,” “Vampire Blues,” “Hippie Dream,” “After the Goldrush,” and “Love & Only Love,” plus four tracks from 2015’s The Monsanto Years and the new “Seed Justice” aka “I Won’t Quit.” “98 uninterrupted minutes long, Earth flows as a collection of 13 songs from throughout my life, songs I have written about living here on our planet together. Our animal kingdom is well represented in the audience as well and the animals, insects, birds and mammals actually take over the performances of the songs at times. “We made a live record and every creature on the planet seemed to show up. Suddenly all the living things of Earth were in the audience going crazy. Then they took over the stage, letting their wild sounds mingle with the Vanilla Singers perfect corporate harmony. Earth’s creatures let loose, there were Bee breakdowns, Bird breakdowns and yes, even Wall Street breakdowns, jamming with me and Promise of the Real. The show was non stop bliss for 98 minutes, no breaks. Earth does not fit on iTunes. It breaks all their rules (and couldn’t all really be heard that way anyway). No one who was there will ever forget the love, wonder and beautiful madness of Earth. I know I won’t.” – Neil Young
File Under: Rock
Various: Celestial Blues (BGP) LP
2015 was the year jazz hit the mainstream again. The catalyst for this was saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s 3CD masterpiece The Epic, influenced by the symphonic, spiritually aware jazz of the early 70s. Celestial Blues is a compilation that shines a spotlight on some of the music that may have influenced The Epic. The ten tracks range from the evidently spiritual – such as Gary Bartz’s classic “Celestial Blues” or Joe Henderson & Alice Coltrane’s astounding collaboration on “Fire,” to less obvious but just as relevant recordings by drummers Roy Brooks and Joe Chambers. Charles Earland’s contribution bears a remarkable resemblance to “Henrietta Our Hero,” a stand-out track from The Epic, whilst Carlos Garnett and Azar Lawrence’s mix of saxophone, strings and voices could be a template for Washington’s whole sound. The compilation is completed by fine examples of the era’s jazz from Hampton Hawes and Bayeté Umbra Zindiko. And Oliver Nelson’s “Aftermath” is an apt closer.
File Under: Jazz
Avalanches: Wildflower (Astralwerks) LP
Avett Brothers: True Sadness (Universal) LP
Beck: Morning Phase (Geffen) LP
Blonde Redhead: Fake Can Be Just As Good (Touch & Go) LP
Blonde Redhead: Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (Touch & Go) LP
David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia) LP
Burzum: Belus (Back in Black) LP
Burzum: Filosofem (Back in Black) LP
The Clash: Sandinista! (Epic) LP
The Clash: Give Em Enough Rop (Epic) LP
The Clash: Combat Rock (Epic) LP
Daft Punk: Discovery (EMI) LP
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Columbia) LP
Darkthrone: A Blaze in the Northern Sky (Peaceville) LP
Darkthrone: Hate Them (Peaceville) LP
Darkthrone: Panzerfaust (Peaceville) LP
Darkthrone: Sardonic Wrath (Peaceville) LP
Darkthrone: Under A Funeral Moon (Peaceville) LP
Miles Davis: Live Evil (4 Men With Beards) LP
Dead Kennedys: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (Manifesto) LP
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotten Vegetables (Manifesto) LP
El Michel’s Affair: Enter the 37th Chamber (Fat Beats) LP
Alessandro Escovedo: Gravity (New West) LP
Flipper: Generic Flipper (4 Men With Beards) LP
Jose Gonzalez: Veneer (Mute) LP
Steve Gunn: Boreum Palace (Three Lobed) LP
Lauren Hill: Miseducation of (Universal) LP
Freddie Hubbard: Blue Spirits (Blue Note) LP
Kayranada: 99.9% (XL) LP
Love: Forever Changes (Rhino) LP
M83: Junk (Mute) LP
Madlib: Shades of Blue (Blue Note) LP
Neon Indian: Vega Intl. Night School (Mom & Pop) LP
Neu!: 2 (Gronland) LP
Nirvana: Unplugged (Geffen) LP
Nirvana: Nevermind (Geffen) LP
Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay (Sundazed) LP
Otis Redding: In Person (Sundazed) LP
Otis Redding: The Soul Album (Sundazed) LP
Otis Redding: Live in Europe (Sundazed) LP
Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul (Sundazed) LP
Refused: Shape of Punk to Come (Epitaph) LP
Andy Shauf: The Party (Arts & Crafts) LP
The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow (Rhino) LP
The Smiths: Louder than Bombs (Rhino) LP
Scott Walker: Tilt (Drag City) LP
Walker Brothers: Nite Flights (Music on Vinyl) LP
White Stripes: Elephant (Third Man) LP