For many reasons, I’ve taken a break from writing about new music. That may change in the second half of 2013. In the meantime, here’s a playlist of 50 tracks lifted from 50 records that have shaped the first half of my 2013.
Bitzl R is going out to pasture. A Jerome LOL remix of a Terius Nash demo for Mariah Carey is the best way to fold.
Sing with me.
I Guess I’m Floating poised the question:
So what in THE hell is going to happen on Wondrous Bughouse when it drops? Will this be a Bon Iver type sophomore release, originating from a debut of thoughtful musings with haunting melodies and growing into a throat clearing/hear me roar artist identity?
Lead track ‘Dropla’ extended the intricate, intimate and cathartic dream rock of The Year of Hibernation from simple piano lines, Rhodes keys, and clattering percussion to a swell of orchestral Americana - exploding with rustic-toned emotion.
Where ‘Dropla’ brings to mind Deserter Songs by Mercury Rev, new song ‘Mute’ has a hit of Boces about it; synth-formed, organ-fueled psych flourishes, bolstering billowed chorus lines to a flurry of squeaky hinge detail - chaotic noise in a linear, prog arrangement.
Hats off to Trevor Powers.
Wondrous Bughouse is out March 5th via Fat Possum.
Doing a round of European capitals, Woody Allen has set his last few movies in Barcelona, London and Paris. When asked about setting a film in Dublin he gave some non-committal answer, stating that Ireland has a very unusual and beautiful light. And it does. Maybe it’s all the moisture in the air that, even on the clearest day, the light in Ireland has a misty glare. And today, though not very sunny, it is particularly pretty.
It seems Philly fella Kurt Vile is seeing things in a similar light. ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ is Pavement-toned country rock: deadbeat acoustic strums, faux-lazy guitar leads, slacker breaks and a fine textured drawl. It’s a pretty idyllic approach to life.
‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ is the sprawling opener to the up and coming double-album Wakin On A Pretty Daze - out April 9th via Matador.
By its nature, the music of Julianna Barwick is therapeutic, a soothing knit of cyclical hymnals and looped harmonies. Her songs are detailed by intriguing vocal hooks that continually resurface, each time with added weight - as if learning some life experience in a sideways musical dimension, bringing with it echos, and potential echos, of itself.
New song ‘Pacing’ is positively linear in comparison to The Magic Place; a lay of piano keys anchor the melody in an ambient space, however, Julianna’s chorals circulate to abstract rules - steadily unveiling a health-giving littany.
‘Pacing’ will be released as a 7” single on March 5th, via Suicide Squeeze, ‘Call’ is the b-side (a delicate piano piece, according to the PR.)
If you haven’t heard the OMBRE album, Julianna’s record with Helado Negro, absolutely go sort that out immediately - it’s called Believe You Me, here’s the link.
Produced by GrandMarnier and Aeroplane, French crew Yelle’s return is dark and gloopy - pitched down electro-pop, fizzing and crackling with an ominous flavour. Julie Budet’s normally ebullient vocals have a more crawly, clinical euro-accent with additional low ebb contributions from Nadia Phillips.
The track will be released in EP form with remixes by Baadman, The Phantom, Ruben Mandolini, and Sticky K - it drops February 11th via Kitsuné.
Here’s a reminder of a more fun moment.
Nathan Broaddus is re-releasing his modern classic EP North Dorm via LA labelFriends of Friends Records - his debut LP Yore will follow in April.
As Evenings, Broaddus’ compositions - constructs of familiar sound, coy vocals, saucepan percussion and reedy ambiance - air high and above most bedroom productions. His songs are evocative of landscapes and tender moments, scenes expressed through wordless poetry.
Yesterday I wrote a review of m b v - a rather personal narrative. Some love it, which is nice, some not so much. Some felt short changed for an actual review, and I understand where they are coming from. So here’s another. (Mind you, it’s not a track by track dissection with commentary on every bass line or implied literature reference - we’ll leave that to Pitchfork.)
Here’s a review I wrote for State Magazine.
For the most part of 1991, I was 15. That’s when Loveless came out and I, like many curtain-haired teen, had a copy. I thought I loved it, Melody Maker told me so, but truthfully I loved their debut album much more. I got both records at the same time – pretending I liked Shoegaze before 1991, would be like pretending I liked The Smiths when I was nine (nobody liked The Smiths when they were nine.) My Loveless was the a-side to Isn’t Anything (they shared a TDK D-C90,) but it was the b-side that had my heart – probably because the songs were more like … songs. And it growled. Grungy in appearance, I hated rock. I was too shy to be a Goth, though I loved the music. To my mind, the attention they courted was crippling. There was no such declaration with My Bloody Valentine. Unwittingly, there were my saviours. Their place was an internal one. They carved an inclusive scene, one you didn’t need tell people about, never mind boast about – the music was plenty loud.
London singer Dave Dixon joins Amber Bain as she wanders through electronic organics. ‘Twins’ is formed of amoebic beat patterns, glade-y synth keys and treated vocal harmonies - nocturnal and introspective in the shade of Burial but altogether more airy.
At 35 minutes, The Deserters is an immediate record of ambiguous beauty - vague, sharp, loose, focused, airy, sad, Gothic and Classical.
The debut album by Rachel Zeffira recalls the ’60s pop of Cat’s Eyes (her orchestral pop foray with Horrors’ man Faris Baldwin), the retro-futurism of Broadcast, her training as an opera soprano and celebrated references.
Originally recorded during the Cat’s Eyes sessions, ‘To Here Knows When’ is a delicate and halcyon cover of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless/Tremolo dirge. Here she performing the album track live at Abbey Roads Studios with a small orchestra.
The Deserters is out now via RAF Records. Rachel Zeffira plays the Unitarian Church in Dublin on April 14th - tickets here.
Nearly two years ago, Alex Zhang Hungtai released his Badlands LP - a record of dirge-y doo-wop, grimy guitar and discordant sleaze, in a collection styled noir-pop.
On a one of 7” for Vancouver label Kingfisher Bluez, ‘Elizabeth’s Theme’ signaled an indication of mellowing - an airy instrumental slow waltzing to plucked ukulele, six string strums and twinkling mellotron.
The title track to one edge of Dirty Beaches’ upcoming double album is also an instrumental, ‘Love Is The Devil’ is a mournful sweep - emotionally stirring, tight and epic.
“I’m leaking 1 track from love is the devil. I’ve never been good at business. But this is my heart & soul. I need to get this off my chest. This title track has blood & tears all over it and is the sound of my empty self. I need to share this before it becomes something else. we always hurt the ones we love the most. I’m a rotten piece of shit. blast it LOUD if your hearts broken.”
Drifters / Love Is The Devil is out in May via Zoo Music.
So Olaf and Karin Dreijer are back. Finally.
Somehow in their absence, The Knife ascended from off-kilter electronic experimentalists to a referential, classic band. Considering their productions have always been out of the box MIDI beats and familiar synth sounds, it’s the pitch they played at that set them a part from just about everyone else - arena glides, saw-wave blasts, lo-fi hi-NRG technics, and gender confused, incest insinuating vocals. Their approach to conceptual song-writing peaked with Silent Shout - a skin crawling, otherworldly plunge into darkness. And then piff. Well not quite. Olaf did Oni Ayhun. Karin did Fever Ray. They both did Tomorrow in a Year. As auspicious as they have been, the shadow of The Knife loomed.
Tune wise, their return song ‘Full of Fire’, isn’t nearly as frightening as some make out - it’s pop, albeit ten minutes long, hyper-rhythmic and crawly. The video however, sharpens the focus - directly on wrinkles, age spots, blind love, bike bondage, numb families, psycho cleaners, scared citizens, niche loitering, prostitution statements and trapped children - it’s the Knife’s Scandinavian duty to make sociopolitical statements. They don’t make art with out commentary (directed by Marit Østberg.)
‘Full of Fire’ is the lead single to Shaking the Habitual. The 13 tracks are listed below - that’s 100 minutes of music right there. Gobble, gobble.
01. A Tooth for an Eye – 6:04
02. Full of Fire – 9:17
03. A Cherry on Top – 8:43
04. Without You My Life Would Be Boring – 5:14
05. Wrap Your Arms Around Me – 4:36
06. Crake – 0:55
07. Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized – 19:22
08. Raging Lung – 9:58
09. Networking – 6:42
10. Oryx – 0:37
11. Stay Out Here – 10:42
12. Fracking Fluid Injection – 9:54
13. Ready to Lose – 4:36
A collaboration between Warren Hildebrand and Thomas Meluch, or Foxes in Fiction & Benoît Pioulard as it says on the sleeve, ’Ground glass’ is 7” single of unwinding metals, buried vocals, caustic chords and ringing guitar strings - a tune that echos the ghostly whir of shoegaze past through a gauze of pop drone.
‘Etalon’ is on the flip side of the record, out next month via Wool Recordings.
Also this week, dropped the first single from his new album Hymnal. ‘Margin’ is rhythmic folk inspired by cathedrals and his Catholic upbringing - washed out vocals, rusty strings and box beat percussion. Effective stuff.
Hymnal is out March 4th via Kranky.
REWORK_ (Philip Glass Remixed) is an interactive tour through the amazing new REWORK_ album that remixes Philip Glass’ music. The app includes eleven interactive visualizations for the remixed songs, along with an interactive “Glass Machine” that lets people create their own music inspired by Philip Glass’ early music.
Scott Snibbe, the guy that developed the Biophilia app for Björk, has developed an app for the Philip Glass remix project REWORK_ (the app is titled the same.)
Glass says, “This is a way for people who don’t have the experience of manipulating music material to see what it’s like.”
‘Music In Twelve Parts, Part 1’ is the opening track on REWORK_ (the album), it’s by My Great Ghost -electronic experimentalists featuring singer Drew Smith and producer Trevor Gureckis - Gureckis being Philip Glass’ musical assistant.
This video is My Great Ghost performing an new song using the app. In his mail, Trevor says “Granted it’s a little techy - it still has flashing lights and dancers :)” - it’s also a precisely composed, theatrical expression of dance-floor euphoria.
My Great Ghost have a self-titled, self-released EP (details on their site) - check out ‘Photograph’.