Étant Donnés: La Vue (Bain Total, 1981/reissued by Klanggalerie, 2018)

April 14, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Étant Donnés: La Vue

Extremely sickly tape manipulations recorded back in 1979. I’m not sure how many people heard this tape but I feel like a lot of the more absurdist noise and industrial artists would’ve taken a lot of cues from this. Very heavy rhythmic loops with some occasional nonsensical gibberish chatter voices, and most notably, some very thick, intrusive stop-start rewinding and fast forwarding similar to what the Boredoms would do on Super Ae in the late ’90s. The slower bits have a sort of proto-vaporwave quality to them, but they don’t last long — nothing here does. It’s basically a sort of punk version of musique concrete, made by people who delight in hearing funny voices and hard, slamming sounds. And again, this was recorded before the advent of turntablist culture — you can imagne this duo doing horrific things with vinyl, although it might have been crazy in a different way. Unless they actually are using turntables on this? It sounds like tape loops but who can tell. Anyway, this is way, way ahead of its time and the entire time I’m listening I can’t believe what I’m hearing. How on earth was this made 40 years ago!?!?!

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Asnakech Worku: Asnakech (1975/reissued by Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2018)

April 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Asnakech Worku: Asnakech

The first time I started listening to this, I immediately had to lay down and focus all of my attention on it. I didn’t want anything else to distract me. This just completely took me into another world and I wanted to inhabit it for as long as possible. Afterwards, I finally read the liner notes and found out that Asnakech was a cultural icon in Ethiopia, beloved as an actress, musician and dancer. She played an ancient harp known as a krar, and on this album she’s joined by Hailu Mergia, who is still alive and producing brilliant music today. Everything about this recording sounds strange and magical. The organ whines away in the background and gives it a bizarre horror movie atmosphere, barely audible drums drift away in the background, and the echo makes Asnakech’s krar playing seem detached and ghostly. And of course her vocals are just unbelievable, incredibly haunting. Just listen, I don’t have any further words for this.

Dina Maccabee: The Sharpening Machine (Geomancy, 2019)

April 13, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dina Maccabee: The Sharpening Machine

Dina Maccabee attended the University of Michigan a long time ago, and since then she’s collaborated with Feist, Tune-Yards, Vienna Teng, and many others. She currently records and tours with Julia Holter, and she wrote the score for a musical which will be premiering in St. Paul, Minnesota at the end of this month. This is forward-thinking experimental pop combining primitive drum machines, electro-acoustic fragments, and an intricate web of acoustic instrumentation, along with Dina’s multi-tracked slightly reverby vocals. It seems a little hazy but at the same time it’s very focused and deliberate. It gets rootsy (“Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad Song” has banjos and a fiddle solo, “Little Bite” is a toe-tapping country-ish tune that happens to have trombones) but at the same time it’s also a bit psychedelic. Songs like “Tall Trees” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be OK” are really relaxing but also slyly catchy. It might be worth mentioning that Holter appears on two songs, but the album has its own strange and wonderful vibe.

Tatira: Ghosts of Fall River (Inam Records, 2019)

April 13, 2019 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tatira: Ghosts of Fall River

Tatira’s newest album goes beyond the new wave-inspired melodies of last year’s Blood Return, reaching a new level of accessibility for the artist. Improbably, this basically sounds like his version of an EDM album. “Ghosts of Fall River” is a pretty standard chugger, but then “Birdsong” is an atmospheric trap banger. “Clearest Night” is a pretty standard, loopy tech-house track, while “Candle and Stone” is a haunted downtempo cave journey. Then “Hell in a Cell” is a surprise peak-time festival bomb which could pass for a Deadmau5 track (except this is way better). “Witch Hunt” continues in a similar mode, while “Spectre” is a lengthy, minimal midtempo trek. Appearances at next year’s WMC and Tomorrowland are unconfirmed as of yet.

Jonathan Richman: SA (Blue Arrow Records, 2018)

April 8, 2019 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jonathan Richman: SA

One of the patron saints of college radio returns with another set of poetry, folk rock, and wide eyed optimism. The nearly 68-year-old troubadour is joined here by former Modern Lover and Talking Head Jerry Harrison, and Jonathan’s wife Nicole Mantalbano plays tambura on most songs, giving it a droning, Eastern feel, but otherwise it’s the type of sound you’d expect from old Jojo. “My Love She Is From Somewhere Else” is pretty fun and offbeat, and my favorite song here. “The Fading Of An Old World” is basically a riff on the Modern Lovers’ “Old World”, except instead of saying he still loves the old world, he’s saying he doesn’t want to go back. Here he’s talking about not wanting to go back to the days of corsets, but you know he’s alluding to not wanting to play his old material. “O Mind! Let Us Go Home” has a hypnotic sort of Krautrock vibe, like an unplugged Can, but with Jonathan singing. Really, a lot of this album has a sort of improvised jammy feel unlike usual Richman albums. If you’ve ever wanted to hear an 8-minute Jojo zone-out, check out “O Mind! Just Dance!” “This Lovers’ Lane Is Very Narrow”, however, is a sort of weird existential ego trip mantra. “Alegre Soy!” is the perhaps-obligatory Spanish tune, and it’s quite charming, really. A bit more cloying is “Yes, Take Me Home”, which is sung from the point of view of a dog in a kennel wanting badly to be adopted. Like a lot of Richman’s solo albums, this one’s no masterpiece, but it’ll do if you’re already a fan and you need a quick pick-me-up.

Teeth of the Sea: Wraith (Rocket Recordings, 2019)

March 31, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Teeth of the Sea: Wraith

From their last album, I had the idea that Teeth of the Sea were some sort of warped, futuristic psych-rock band, even if they didn’t really sound like what you might normally associate with the genre. This album is further from any sort of arbitrary labeling; it’s just bold, expressive music from a highly creative entity. The first track is called “I’d Rather, Jack” and it’s a storming electro number with blazing guitars, twilit trumpet, and Moroder-ish soundtrack synths. It’s dark, furious, and surges with a messy, fervid intensity. “Hiraeth” is slower and more spaced-out, maybe approximating some sort of future Spaghetti western score. “Fortean Steed” is the only song with upfront vocals here, and it’s a haunted piece of Projekt-style ethereal folk, filled with strange forest-like noises. Absolutely lovely. Then “Visitor” is another extended sequencer jazz wig-out. The other big stand-out is “Gladiators Ready”, which turns eerie sci-fi synth melodies into the sort of squelchy electronica that was seemingly in vogue during the late ’90s.

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Toward the Horizon (Spotted Peccary, 2019)

March 30, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen: Toward the Horizon

Gotta be honest, when I first saw this I had the artist confused with José Padilla and I was expecting Ibiza chill-out type music. This is just as far from being aggressive, but it’s an entirely different mind state. Bringing to mind System 7 and Brain Machine, it’s cosmic ambient space-rock with expansive synths and farthest-nebula guitars, and occasionally it works up into dance beats. Almost all of the tracks are over 10 minutes, so it’s perfect for extended zone-outs. “Tidal Disruption” is the biggest track here, starting off with robot-wars drifting before gaining overdriven guitars and automotive beats. After that, it gets darker and deeper, and a lot more minimal. Really soothing and sometimes brain-stimulating.

William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (FPE, 2019)

March 24, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration

Recorded last year at Trinosophes in Detroit, legendary drummer William Hooker was joined by U of M professor Mark Kirschenmann and bassist Joel Peterson on this hour-long improvisation. The CD is divided into 8 tracks, but this is really one continuous, immersive experience. For much of the piece, the drums don’t seem to be the focal point; the cymbals shimmer and the bass drum is kicked at sporadic moments, but the warped, mutated sounds of Kirschenmann’s trumpet are what seem to take center stage in the beginning. It’s only around the middle of the fourth track (“Magnets”) that a storm begins to brew up. By the first parts of “Panchromatics”, a sweeping rhythm has taken control and Hooker is audibly heart shouting and gasping. Kirschenmann’s horn seems to drift between metallic guitar-like riffs, rough textural drones, and full-throttle blazing. By its conclusion, the album is chaotic, righteous, transcendent.

Thomas Xu: Different Wisdoms 12″ EP (Steady Flight Circle, 2019)

March 22, 2019 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Thomas Xu: Different Wisdoms 12″ EP

Previously appearing on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature label, both as a producer and a visual artist, Michigan’s Thomas Xu launches his own Steady Flight Circle with this EP. These 3 tracks are related to house but far more delicate, with very carefully chosen patterns of drums, keys, and plucked strings. He goes for intimacy and personal expression rather than obvious club heat, and the result is a remarkably accomplished, original, and heartfelt EP. The B-side (“Create Hope”) is perhaps the most mixable track here, but even it sounds far more fragile and homemade than you typically expect of house music. Outstanding.

Eleven Eleven: s/t tape (FPE, 2019)

March 20, 2019 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Eleven Eleven: s/t tape

This tape of four long improvisations matches its artwork, depicting a starry desert sky. The lineup on the first side plays guitar, cello, drums, trombone, and electronics. It often sounds warped and heat-baked, but there’s moments where it flares up or starts to flop along wildly. The addition of brief, jarring tape effects does the most messing with your head, although the cello is pretty brain-bending as well. On the second side, “Angh Oya Tung” is an entirely different mindset. Ascending, floating synth and chanted vocals are joined by gorgeous bassoon and much more rhythmic drums, and it’s divine and uplifting. “Prayer for an Infinite Skein” has another lineup change, and this piece focuses on grinding distortion and rhapsodic cello. Far more tense than the previous pieces on the album, it’s absolutely monstrous for the first ten minutes, before ending in a long, slow decay. While the first side of the tape seems meandering and formless, but still driven by a creative force, the second is far more inspired and enlightening.

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