Thursday, December 31, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Archy Marshall — A New Place 2 Drown

When Archy Marshall releases new music, my world stops. Things become blurry, confused. We share a love of all things jangly, boom-bap and introspective all the same. It's a rare musical stew that makes for a combo that has molded me into the person that I am today. The kinship and connection I feel through his music is inexplicable — and yet, totally genealogical, and therefore, sensible. Because we share such similar musical backgrounds, I feel he speaks volumes about my life that I've just not yet been able to convey. It's like he says it, or plays it and I say, "Yeah, that."

So, the inevitability of him not batting a thousand with me has been in the back of my mind for some time. I knew he would eventually release something that didn't immediately floor me and I was perhaps anticipating it even more than the next thing that would.

A New Place 2 Drown was announced very lowkey, rather uncharacteristically, over his rarely used Instagram profile. And, to be completely clear, it is not new music from King Krule. It is simply the soundtrack to a short film and art book, mainly produced by his older brother Jack Marshall (who has also used the name Mr. Gone). And it does sound the piece of something greater, like it's not quite all there. It's a mishmash of Archy's electronic side. Stuttering, post-dubstep rhythms and dreamy melodic synths and keyboard washes fade in and out of each other for about fourty minutes while Archy spits a few bars here and there (he is my favorite MC, after all) and overall, I'm sure most of it was lots of fun to create. And it makes for a really easy listen. It's Archy being himself, perhaps the most personal work he's yet presented — it has been released under his real name, after all. But the song craft, the heart, the soul, the guitar playing (!!!!), it's missing here.

So, here we are, left with a stopgap album that is just simply very good, instead of monumental. Still, the last third or so of this thing is absolutely ace when he declares that, 'She won't forget me ever' and then goes on to blurt out, 'Something in the water distorted her mind. . . GIRL, this place is evil!' It gives me chills how he's able to do that.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with A New Place 2 Drown, it just feels a little short on elevation. Instead of taking a grand step forward after 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, Archy has modestly let loose a snippet of brilliance. It feels more at home with the freebies he used to give away as DJ JD Sports than it does as a proper album. But still, I awaited those bits and beat tape fragments as much as anything released officially, so to have anything new in any regard is something to rejoice, I guess.

Here's to hoping I get that genre-defying masterpiece next time. But for now, A New Place 2 Drown will hit the spot.

Album's defining quote: "We just smoke and let days roll by. . ."

~Austin

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Carla Morrison — Amor Supremo


Welcome back to the world of heartbreak. . .

Few things can prepare a listener for the kind of emotional ride that Carla Morrison takes on Amor Supremo.  Upon deep listening of her latest album, I have no doubts that she has plenty of experience on both sides of the coin ————

But I should stop there and interrupt with my own dialogue.  It would be no use for me to sit here and type away at how wonderfully gutting this album is without proper context.  I cannot claim the music of Carla Morrison as something I would just know about without someone very intimate initiating it to me in the past.  Now this person has moved on, and yet I'm still here as a big fan of the music.  It moves me like few other contemporary things.  That it just so happens to be of a very confessional, intimate nature is a deeply resonating, partially uncomfortable byproduct of the passing of time and relationships.

Look, it's a tough ride.

We all go through it.

Sometimes we break hearts, sometimes we have our hearts broken.

That this album —this grand, swooping artistic restatement of purpose and overall adjustment of a voice in a more produced, somehow even more emotional context— comes at the time that it does in my life is both perfection and punishment.  This is Carla Morrison recast: not the acoustic guitar strumming, sweet voiced songbird that sang cute little ditties about the ins and outs of relationships; not hardly.

This is the new.  The deeper.  The more complex.  The prettier.  The even more heavily resonating.  The bigger heartbreak.

The commanding, layered production of Alejandro and Demian Jiménez is miles away from the mostly acoustic backdrops which dominated Carla's discography up until this point.  Lush, Disintegration-era Cure synth patches and slow, wave crashing tempos are the main touchstones here.  Where in the past, Morrison's music was direct and easily digestible, the music conjured here has a nearly bottomless, flowing feeling that's traded in the concise for the ethereal and which makes her songs ever more poignant and resonating.  Her lyrics are as direct as ever, but the presentation now makes them reverberate with much more sureness and courage.  If you've experienced love and heartbreak, this album won't simply make sense to you, it will speak to you, for you, with you.

Removing myself from the equation, this has to be viewed as a masterful artistic move and all around creative upgrade in Carla Morrison's career.  It can be a jarring listen at first.  I mean, even the songs that aren't necessarily sad are dark, minor key affairs.  The twelve string buzz of the lead off tune 'Un Beso' seems to set the bar for an evenly paced album, but things soon settle into a sauntering mood soon thereafter.  The lighter, happier tones of 'Tú Atacas' and 'Cercanía' (which begs for a house remix) will stick out immediately, but deeper listens will reveal lumbering, towering highlights like 'No Vuelvo Jamas' and the closer 'Todo Pasa' (with an especially Cure-esque guitar tone in the coda).  It isn't until the third or fourth listen that the album fully reveals itself.  To be what, exactly?  I could say something stupid like "a masterpiece", "an emotional triumph" or some other thing along those lines —which would absolutely be applicable.

But, no.  I'll just resign myself to being in a place too closely aligned with the subject matter to properly assess and assign such accolades.  I can only share my experience.  And that is one of happiness, heartbreak, isolation and pure exhilaration —whether from sadness or joy— that this music brings about.  It makes me want to experience everything —the good and the bad— all over again, without question.

Incredibly tough to get through, Amor Supremo is not only the most resonating album I've heard in years, it is ultimately simply beautiful.

Album of the year(s).

~Austin

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hiatus

I'll be away for a while...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's New?: 8.11.2015

Indies!

La Luz — It's Alive (2013) YouTube Spotify

Surf pop sounds from Seattle.  Very B-52's.  Except with more harmonies.  Pretty good stuff, actually.  It's very easy to get distracted by the twangy reverb and surf organ sounds of the band, but those sounds wouldn't get very far without great song craft to back them up.  And it's there among the fantastic drumming and precise harmonies that you will find something worth going back to every single time.  The band's shtick never runs dry, and instead, these ladies seem to find genuine and unique inspiration in a style once deemed kitschy and throwaway.  Wonderful stuff.  And the new album is even better.  Key tracks: opener 'Sure as Spring' and the otherworldly 'Call Me in the Day', which bends and melds the surf sound into something modern and altogether new

Lilys — Selected (2000) YouTube Spotify

Shoegazey sounds from Washington DC.  If I've read a thing or two about these guys it's that they've changed sounds as often as they've changed band members — which is to say, very often.  This EP collects up some recordings of "old" songs from the band's past catalogue that never found their way onto any proper album.  It's decent.  Not sure if it's that great of a first impression, but it's not awful, that's for sure.  Key tracks: the twelve string lead on the opener 'The Any Several Sundays' and the seven minute epic 'Won't Make You (Sleepy)'

Cruel Summer — self-titled (2013) Spotify BandCamp

Kind of a jangly shoegaze sound from San Francisco.  Modern dream pop done right, basically.  All of the songs kind of fire on the same cylinder, so it may come off as a bit samey at first.  But, listen deeper and there's layers to these tunes which allow for something like the emotional centerpiece 'Venetian Blinds' to come to the forefront.  Really great stuff; wish they would release something new.  Key tracks: the wonderfully affecting 'Venetian Blinds' and the noisy 'Skinwalker'

Monster Treasure — self-titled (2014) Spotify BandCamp

Wouldn't this album have kicked major ass in 1994?  It's aloof, lowly mixed in vocals, recorded live sound and one size fits all guitar distortion would have been real crowd pleasers twenty years ago.  Now, it sounds like a deeply nostalgic trip back to a time when something could simultaneously be noisy as hell and melodically accessible without there being any problems with such a thing.  The rapid fire nature of the sequencing and similar production are kind of to its detriment, but it does make the really good songs stick out with relative ease.  Of course it doesn't hurt that the album's highlight is the melancholy 'Bill Evans', which name drops one of Bill's best ever tunes.  Good one, ladies (and fella) — certainly didn't see that coming.  Key tracks: 'Bill Evans' is really the one that sticks out

Lorelle Meets the Obsolete — Chambers (2014) Spotify BandCamp

Hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, this is more on the noise rock end of the spectrum, but it's also got a definitely trippy shoegaze quality to it as well.  Songs, too!  Riffy songs for days.  It kind of has a fuzzy, 60's garage sound to it in spots that really ups the trippiness.  Vocals with lots of a echo and reverb on them and warmly distorted basslines are the order of the day here.  It is kind of one-dimensional, but that dimension is a rather intriguing place, so I can dig it.  Key tracks: the opening manifesto 'What's Holding You?' and the slow burning 'Grieving'

Ganglians — self-titled (2009) Spotify

Lo-fi pranksters from Sacramento.  Some of these guys went on to form Fine Steps, and then later Tiaras, so I thought I'd get a little history on where some of my favorite recent finds came from.  Some good songs, some free for all nonsense.  When something is this lo-fi, it becomes an issue of not actually being able to hear everything because there's so much distortion.  So, bummer.  But, the quieter moments offer some peculiar tunes.  Key tracks: 'Hair' and the most tuneful the album gets on the closer 'Stuck Under Town'

~Austin

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What's New?: 8.6.2015 Part Two

Music to accompany your beard by.

James Elkington + Nathan Salsburg — Avos (2011) Spotify

The mighty Jim Elkington finally makes a triumphant return to RC!  This thing's miles away from the Zincs, however.  An acoustic guitar duets record, it's appearance on the fancy Tompkins Square label slipped me by four years ago, but that's rectified and all is now right in the universe.  The conversations that Elkington and Salsburg have are (perhaps surprisingly) direct.  Something like 'A Free Amft' is catchy as heck, while the two part 'The Blurring Cogs' splits its duties between technicality and beauty.  'Scarborough Fore and Aft' has an elegant chord change; the type of which makes sitting through the whole record worthwhile.  Darn good stuff, but that's kind of what we expect from Tompkins Square.  Key tracks: 'A Free Amft', 'Romany Belle' and 'Scarborough Fore and Aft'

Alexander Turnquist — Flying Fantasy (2014) YouTube Spotify

Reminding me of a more ethereal Leo Kottke on twelve string, Alexander Turnquist builds huge walls of pure sound using his guitar as the foundation upon which vibes, marimba, Hammond B3, French horn, cello, violin and even chanting vocals construct stark beauty.  There is a bit of a rainy day vibe to this album, but there's always a satisfying chord change beyond the current one.  Check out the deep, meditative title track for a big moment on the record.  Gorgeous, truly.  I'm in need of the rest of his catalogue.  Key tracks: 'House of Insomniacs' and the stunning title track

Glenn Jones — Barbecue Bob in Fishtown (2009) Spotify

Been kicking around since the late 80's and a band called Cul de Sac, Glenn Jones is a direct descendant of the John Fahey/Will Ackerman school of American Primitivism.  Only difference is that Glenn plays banjo every once in a while and, just as an opinion, I would say leads with his head more than his heart a good portion of the time (at least on this album, anyway).  Which is not to say that this music is too technical for its own good —the deep chords and redemptive changes of '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D' are immediately resonating, for instance— it just gets a little cerebral every so often.  He has many albums; this is his third proper solo.  I've got my work cut out for me.  Key tracks: '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D', the title track and the banjo track 'Keep it a Hundred Years'

Glenn Jones — My Garden State (2013) Spotify

Inspired by the New Jersey house he grew up in, this is far more heartfelt than Barbecue Bob.  Maybe because the subject matter was so much more closer to his heart is why this one resonates with me a little more.  Maybe the tunes are just a smidgen better.  Couple of duets (one with Laura Baird on banjo, one with Meg Baird on guitar), couple improvised tunes, lots of odd tunings (which are detailed in the liner notes) and it's another solid effort.  Key tracks: 'Like a Sick Eagle Looking at the Sky' and very Fahey-esque 'Bergen County Farewell'

Glenn Jones — The Wanting (2011) YouTube Spotify

Probably the overall prettiest of the Glenn Jones albums I've picked up recently, it's also probably the most melancholy.  The tunes just take these swooping, emotion-filled turns at every chord change.  The kind of which sound so right, you'd swear you've heard them before, but they're in such odd tunings and partially capo'd all over the place (yes, partial capoing is a thing, apparently), it's a long shot that you have.  On all of these albums, Glenn puts his personal contact information inside (physical address, phone number and email) and, on this album, even invites you to "get in touch."  Really seems like a cool guy.  Key tracks: the peaceful 'Of its Own Kind' and the epic seventeen minute closer 'The Orca Grande Cement Factory at Victorville', which is a duet with drummer Chris Corsano

Mark Fosson — The Lost Takoma Sessions (mid-1970's)

"Best demo tape I've heard since Kottke" wrote John Fahey on Mark Fosson's demo reel.  "Sign him quick," he adds, which is underlined.  And Mark is definitely in Kottke's sphere, as far as twelve string players go.  Just check out the quick muted harmonics on the opener 'Jubilaya' for a quick litmus test.  He plays themes, mostly, and doesn't stray too far away from them.  The centerpiece 'Gorilla Mountain' is the exception to that rule, as Mark plays in an odd strumming pattern that seems to be blossoming these impressionistic chords up like new growth in the spring.  Beautiful music.  Key tracks: 'Gorilla Mountain', 'Jubilaya' and surprisingly catchy 'Sky Piece'

~Austin

What's New?: 8.6.2015

Another grab bag!

kandodo — k2o (2013) Spotify

kandodo is the one-man drone project of one Simon Price.  Though far more psychedelic and lo-fi than most drone outfits, Price's idea of drone seems a bit more theatrical than your standard fare and his subtitling of 'swim into the sun' "a film for the ear" makes total sense.  'kandy rock mountain' overcomes an unnecessary blaring intro to be the album's rightful centerpiece.  This vinyl pressing came with a limited run bonus 7" of two extra songs that only enhance the experience.  And I do mean, "experience" man.  Because, yeah, heady stuff.  Key tracks: 'kandy rock mountain' and 'grace and'

Jessamine — self-titled (1995) YouTube  Spotify

Hard to see in the above scan, but it's there.   Decidedly gnarly noise rock with softy guy/girl vocals.  It really goes for the pretty/noisy dynamic, but's way too lo-fi to be shoegazey.  You just know that the songs are going to explode into shambling distortion and feedback at some point.  Totally "90's bro" in that respect.  Also, a bit predictable (but haha at me, as the album's highlight is a nine minute near drone that eschews all that called 'One Trick Pony' — you got me, guys).  Fancy original clear vinyl pressing on the great kranky label, it unfortunately excludes some tracks that were on the CD due to length issues.  Key tracks: 'One Trick Pony' and the closer 'Lisboa' which sounds like a lo-fi Stereolab, if you can believe that.

Fontanelle — self-titled (2000) Spotify

Would you believe that some of the same noisenicks from Jessamine would go on to form the polished jazz fusion group Fontanelle?  Funky drumming and mostly keyboards riffing on themes.  All the tunes here —hell, all of Fontanelle's tunes not on Vitamin F— are basically vamps.  This one has guitars on it, too.  So, it sticks out a little because of that.  Otherwise, these early Fontanelle albums are basically interchangeable.  The liberal use of wah wah on the closer 'Counterweight' proves they were Miles disciples from the get go.  Key tracks: the funky funky 'Reflex vs. Parallax' and the floaty '29th and Going'

Fontanelle — Style Drift (2002) Spotify

Probably the band's most polished effort as the guitars are all gone and it's all keyboards and drums.  There's still a much looser feel to the band than where they would go in a decade's time.  And while the ten minute title track does it's darndest to be the album's big centerpiece, it's actually the shorter pieces like the eerie 'James Going' and 'Red Light, Green Light' that steal the show, just based on tunefulness.  Key tracks: 'Just Go Crazy', 'James Going' and 'Red Light, Green Light'

Fontanelle — F (2001)

Not to be confused with their later opus, Vitamin F (2012), this 2001 album again has no horns.  Lots of squelchy, bleepy, bloopy electronic keyboardy sounds though.  Still some guitars in the mix, as well, and getting kind mathy on 'Floor Tile.'  Opener 'Fulcrum' is a fun, multi-movement thingy, while 'Charm and Strange' ventures back into wah wah land.  Key tracks: 'Fulcrum' and the genuinely resonating 'Slow January'

Various artists — Hotflush Presents. . . Space and Time (mid-2000's) Spotify

Hotflush in the pre-Mount Kimbie days was as hot a dubstep label as they got in London.  WUBWUBWUBWUB and how do you do from Jazzsteppa, right off the bat?  Boxcutter's 'Philly' is more of a funky house take on the style and it totally owns.  I think I dig the more boundary pushing stuff like Scuba's totally 80's-sounding 'Inmost' and Boxcutter's reflective, Burial-ish 'Infraviolet' more than your average 'choon, but conventional stuff like Slaughter Mob's 'No Big Deal' still goes down just as smooth.  Love the introspective tone that about half of the tunes here take on.  Great stuff.  Key tracks: Vaccine's dreamy 'Wishful Thinking VIP', 'Inmost', 'Infraviolet' and 'Philly'

Pink Floyd — The Wall (1979) YouTube  Spotify

Blasphemer that I am, I can't give this one a fiver.  It's too up its own butt, but you knew that already.  As an autobiographic piece of work about Roger Waters' youth, it can be quite affecting.  Instead of going for sidelong epics the way they did the previous two albums, this album is a more song-oriented affair, but this becomes a problem on disc two, with too many forgettable tunes being placed behind the narrative.  It's only on familiar ground like the deep, spacey 'Comfortably Numb' that things get realigned and substance matches execution.  Is it good?  Yeah, but not without its obvious flaws.  Not sure what else to say about this that hasn't already been said.  David Gilmour's delayed out guitar is fun when he utilizes the effect, recalling John Martyn's spaced out explorations.  Key tracks: 'Another Brick in the Wall' trilogy, 'Comfortably Numb/The Show Must Go On' and 'Hey You'

Peter Gabriel — So (1986) YouTube

'Sledgehammer'!  'In Your Eyes'!  'Big Time'!   Holy hell, this album is loaded with hits.  Big hits, at that.  It's got that nostalgic (for me) production value that I remember from my childhood radio listening: big, gated drums, layers of synth and gratuitous bass sounds — totally 80's, man.  And hey, lookah there, Kate's on it!  I love the melodrama, the cheesiness.  But, is it really cheesy?  I mean, it's dated, but there is a sense of Peter delivering most of it with a sly wink, as if he knows some of it is a bit over the top.  And side two of the album dives right back into the artsiness of Peter's earlier works, so he knew exactly what he was doing.  And when 'In Your Eyes' closes out the entire thing, it feels entirely sincere.  Probably my favorite Peter Gabriel album.  Key tracks: any of the singles

~Austin

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What's New?: 8.5.2015

Grab bag!

Will Ackerman — Sound of Wind Driven Rain (1998) YouTube Spotify

Will's almost done with Windham Hill at this point.  In a few year's time, he would go on to start his Lifescapes label.  Which is not to say there's a big change in his sound.  A few guests here and there and a couple vocal tracks, but this is straight ahead later Will Ackerman: kind of cheesy, but tuneful nonetheless.  As always, I prefer the solo Will pieces, but the bigger band (six pieces, including vocals!) on the revisit of 'Hawk Circle' is pretty effective.  Certainly not his best anything, but good if you already know you like it.  Key tracks: the solo pieces!

Arthur Russell — First Thought Best Thought (mid 1970's/early 1980's) Spotify

Mostly known for his disco productions, this two disc set of early Arthur Russell recordings has an ambiguously funky, genre-less feel to them.  This is my first anything by Arthur, so imagine my shock when I was greeted with this at the beginning of disc one.  Whoo doggie!  There's so much beauty in these recordings, from soulful incidental funk, to modern composition, there's a ton of stuff just in the "Instrumentals" section of disc one that had no business existing in 1975.  Disc one closes out with the sixteen minute piece for two fender rhodes (!!) 'Reach One.'  Absolutely gorgeous stuff.  Disc two is handed over for the majority to Arthur's rare 1983 album Tower of Meaning.  It's all strings and woodwinds, with a few bits of hand percussions and it's kind of a hard nut to crack.  Finally, you get the really trippy 'Sketch for the Face of Helen' to finish things off.  What a wonderful package of completely unpredictable music.  Key tracks: the "instrumentals"

The xx — self-titled (2009) YouTube Spotify

Where was I when this first came out?  Well, we're not always there when everything first hits.  This is strikingly tight music; a sort of jangle pop with hip hop beats instead of a live drummer.  It's a combo that shouldn't work, but does — exceedingly well.  The guitar tones are pure 80's jangle pop, so that's instant love from me.  Romy's voice reminds me of Sade's at certain points, so that's no bad thing either.  But there would be nothing if the songs weren't as catchy as they are.  There's an understanding of space at play here, as well, that forces the reverb on the guitar to fill things out and that's a lovely sound.  Formulaic, maybe, but if it's not broken, y'know.  Also, dance party.  Key tracks: 'Crystallized' and the super dreamy 'Infinity'

The xx — Coexist (2012) YouTube Spotify

The group's second album doesn't stray far from the foundation established on the first, but that doesn't really hurt them because everything remains as tightly played as ever.  If there's anything all that different about this album, it's a more delayed, lush guitar tone.  Can't be mad at that.  Key tracks: the building 'Reunion', yearning opener 'Angels' and the deep house groove on 'Swept Away' which picks things up on the otherwise glum second half of the album

Date Palms — The Dusted Sessions (2013) Spotify

I guess the kids call this sort of thing "drone" music.  Not sure what separates it from straight up ambient music, but I be darned if it ain't just as wonderful.  It's definitely got structure, with long, circular melodies, so there's no room here for improvisation, as much as the instrumentation seems to propose it.  The combination of heavily delayed electric guitar, pedal steel and tanpura (don't worry, I didn't know what it was without looking it up, either) give the music a very airy feel and I have to say that the cover art fits perfectly.  This music definitely recalls hot, dusty, lonesome highways and a fuzzy brightness that simply exists, even when you close your eyes.  Headphones highly recommended.  Key tracks: the eleven minute opener 'Yuba Source Part One' is the perfect manifesto for what the group does

Paul Gonsalves — Ellingtonia Moods and Blues (1960) Spotify

Paul Gonsalves has long been one of my favorite tenor players.  This album features Paul leading a smaller group alongside fellow Ellington band mate Johnny Hodges on alto.  Nothing all that great occurs, but everybody's clearly having fun.  Key tracks: 'The Lineup' and the lone ballad 'Daydreams' which finds Paul slipping in some surprisingly dissonant lines

Juana Molina — Tres Cosas (2002) YouTube Spotify

Rescued from a library rummage sale, this well-used copy of the album cost me all of two bits.  It's mostly a calm and acoustic, strummy affair with one arguable hit in the form of the exquisite 'Sálvese Quien Pueda.'  Juana is one of the modern masters of the loop station, so she builds these layers of harmonic beauty before your very ears.  It's a trick that never gets old.  Especially when things are as pretty as they are here.  Key tracks: 'Sálvese Quien Pueda'  —for extra credit, check the Four Tet remixes ("ugly" and "pretty") and "Juana's Epic Re-version" (which is arguably better than the proper album version)— the harp feature on 'Curame' and the closing piano ballad (sung in French) 'Insensible'

~Austin

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's New?: 8.4.2015

Calming sounds.

Labradford — Fixed :: Context (2000) Spotify

Modern ambient sounds from Virginia, this is actually the group's final album (well, so far, anyway).  It's very quiet music that builds, but never really releases its tension.  Just have a listen to the eighteen minute sidelong opener to get an idea of what I'm talking about.  It's mostly guitars making the sounds, with a smattering of low key electronics and keyboards (dig that fender rhodes there, fellas).  It does feel kind of samey after a while, like maybe the songs are just one long intro.  But hey, when something's as lovely as 'Up to Pizmo' you won't find me complaining.  Kind of like a sparser Sigur Rós, without vocals.  I can dig it, especially at three AM.  Key tracks: the gorgeous 'Up to Pizmo' and the melancholy closer 'Wien'

Pan American — 360 Business / 360 Bypass (1999) YouTube Spotify

Mark Nelson's concurrently running project to Labradford can be a bit more song-oriented at times, or sometimes just as ambient.  Also, he sings.  The opener is a ten minute ambient techno workout, which melds into the dreamy sound collage turned proper song 'Code.'  Deep, ambient house grooves pop up later on and there's not much more to say other than that this is mood music.  Key tracks: 'K. Luminate' and the dubby jazz on the twelve minute closer 'Both Ends Fixed'

Pan American — Quiet City (2004) YouTube Spotify

This one starts off with unmistakably Labradford-esque guitar arpeggios on 'Before', but don't think Mark is rehashing his old band's ideas because the very next track is the ambient dub trip 'Wing.'  Song lengths are overall shorter this time out, with only two of the album's eight tracks venturing off into 8+ minute territory.  It's less beat-focused than 360 Business / 360 Bypass and Mark takes a few more vocals than before (mostly just whispering), making this is an even calmer affair.  Key tracks: the gorgeous centerpiece 'Skylight' and the redemptive closer 'Lights of Little Towns'

Pan American — Cloud Room, Glass Room (2013) YouTube Spotify

If you hadn't guessed by now, all these PanAm albums are really similar-sounding and are a definite acquired taste, but if you like that sound, you'll like 'em all if you like one.  The sound of this album is a bit more poppy, but the average song length is about six minutes, so Mark did away with any chances at accessibility.  'Relays' has a really nice little ambient house bass groove to it.  Key tracks: 'Relays' and the noisy closer 'Virginia Waveform'

Stereolab — Instant 0 in the Universe (2003) YouTube Spotify

This is basically the single for '...Sudden Stars.'  It's definitely of a piece with Margerine Eclipse, but maybe a bit more bouncy in overall mood.  Is it just me or does the clavinet on the middle portion of 'Mass Riff' sound vaguely like 'Superstition'?  Helluva tune, in any case.  Short and sweet, like all of the Groop's EPs.  Key tracks: the bookends '...Sudden Stars' and 'Mass Riff'

Steve Tibbetts — Natural Causes (2010) YouTube

This guitarist has been kicking around the ECM roster since the early 80's.  And like a lot of folks on the label, what he plays can't rightly be called jazz, nor classical, nor new age, but it has shades of all three.  Have a listen to the multi-movement 'Padre-Yaga' to get an idea of what he's up to.  Marc Anderson accompanies on hand percussions of all sorts throughout.  It kind of has that Michael Hedges quality to it where it might appear to be simple background music, but is actually quite challenging when you focus your listening.  Not quite in the Fahey-esque school of acoustic picking, either, as it's a bit too ethereal for that.  Whatever, some really gorgeous playing, melancholy as it may be.  Very soundtracky, as well.  Key tracks: the steel drum-enhanced 'Lakshmivana' and the appropriately titled closing tracks 'Lament' and 'Threnody'

Abdullah Ibrahim — Cape Town Revisited (1997) YouTube Spotify

The great pianist Abdullah Ibrahim in a live trio setting and from the opening notes, I've rarely heard him sound happier — and that's saying something for this guy.  The three part suite 'Cape Town to Congo Square' is the centerpiece here: part one (the funky as all get out 'African Street Parade'), part two and the redemptive third part.  There's a reason I buy up everything I see when it comes to this guy.  He's one of the most unique voices to ever play his instrument.  Just purely happy music, guaranteed to put you in a good mood.  Key tracks: the 'Cape Town to Congo Square' trilogy, 'Water from an Ancient Well' and a funky version of 'Soweto'

The Lilac Time — Paradise Circus (1989) Spotify

It's been too long running that the only Lilac Time album I've had was the first one.  Where that first album had a bit of a folk rocky slant to it, this second album is a much more produced jangle pop affair.  The pedal steel and pizzicato layers on 'If the Stars Shine Tonight' is a good indicator of what's going on here.  Elsewhere, lots of accordion and banjo.  The big, emotional centerpiece 'Father Mother Wife and Child' is worthy of a listen.  Overall, nothing all that amazing happens, but the tunes are all solid (maybe a tad overproduced, but it was 1989, after all).  Key tracks: 'Father Mother Wife and Child' and the opener 'American Eyes'

~Austin

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's New?: 8.3.2015

Dubstep and prog, what a glorious combo!

Various artists — Steppas' Delight (mid-2000's)

Soul Jazz doing its damnest to legitimize the UK dubstep scene with these two volumes, both two discs a piece.  The big tune here is Martyn's 'Broken' which is more two-step than dubstep proper, but you don't see me complaining.  The wide array of styles cross-sectioned here is impressive, if not a little overwhelming initially.  From more traditionally dancehall-sounding tunes like Uncle Sam's 'Round the World Girls (Tes la Rok Remix)' or (Con)Quest's 'Hard Food', through moody Burial-inspired soundscapes on TRG's 'Broken Heart' and Kode9's '9 Samurai', past more house-oriented grooves on the Silkie's 'Dam 4' and Seventeen Evergreen's 'Ensonique (Bi Polar Man Mix)' and all the way to the wubwubwub that dubstep is known for on Benga's 'Evolution' (amongst others).  I just can't see this stuff as anything but fascinating these days.  Key tracks: Martyn's 'Broken', Peverelist's 'Roll With the Punches' and TRG's 'Broken Heart.'

Various artists — Steppas' Delight 2 (mid-2000's)

More Soul Jazz goodness.  A lot of the same names pop up as from volume one, but there's still that sense of plenty of variety; even moreso here, making it the more listenable of the two volumes.  Martyn comes up a winner again here with his remix of Shed's 'Another Wedged Chicken.'  Elsewhere, Dusk's 1984-sampling 'Focus' is a nice groover, while the spaced out reggae vibe continues on Sully Shanks' 'Give Me Up (LD Remix)' and Kutz' 'Hard Body.'  You also get James Blake's stunning first single, funky house bits from Brackles and Darkstar, otherworldly greatness from Pangaea and Cluekid and a genuinely successful (and accessible) attempt at melding dubstep and r+b.  Key tracks: any of the above mentioned — I know that's a lot, but this thing is very high on quality

Genesis — The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) YouTube

Peter Gabriel's last work with the band.  And what a labyrinthine, crazy, art pop mess it is.  Most of the actual tracks are relatively short, all things considered for Genesis, but they're all hard-mixed together, making each side of the two record set seem like one long song, with various movements: typical Genesis fare.  'In the Cage' feels like one of their best tunes, in this vein.  The ballads are all winners: 'Hairless Heart', 'The Chamber of 32 Doors', 'The Lamia' and 'In the Rapids.'  Overall, it's a gargantuan 90+ minute set to tackle in one session, but the songs don't really make sense outside of their context, so you're forced to sit through it.  Some of it does become a bit samey, but it's easy to see why Peter Gabriel would leave the group after such a work.  I'm a self-proclaimed fan of "mess" albums, so maybe I just need a little more time with this one.  Key tracks: 'In the Cage', 'The Chamber of 32 Doors', closer 'It' and the multi-movement 'The Colony of Slippermen'

Genesis — A Trick of the Tail (1976) YouTube Spotify

And Phil takes the driver's seat. Some of the band's prettiest material ever is found here, and that's saying something for these guys. Just check out 'Entangled' for some twelve string loveliness.  There's also the showy time signature mazes and doodly mellotron-laced technicality.  But there's tunes here, and it only meanders just up to the point of not losing the listener's attention.  The title track is easily the poppiest thing that the band had done until that point, but a darn good tune all the same.  A right fine album and one of the best of late 70's prog.  Key tracks: the title track and the ballads, 'Entangled' and 'Ripples'

Genesis — Wind and Wuthering (1976) YouTube Spotify

Super nice 2007 vinyl reissue of this one.  Striking again quickly in the same calendar year, it's a bit more focused on keyboards overall.  The ballads are the winners again here.  Check out 'One for the Vine.'  Just lovely, really.  Besides a few noodlers, it's quite possibly the band's calmest overall record and it's definitely their last hurrah of the 70's and for prog rock in general.  Key tracks: 'One for the Vine', 'Blood on the Rooftops' and 'Afterglow'

~Austin