Aural Tethers live on CFRU 93.3 fm          Well, it’s a reality. This blog has gone live to the fm airwaves. Tune Wednesday evenings from 10pm till midnight EST. Also, for those of you abroad, you can check out and listen live or in the archives. I’ll be posting it here weekly.

Thanks for all the support and love.



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July, fuck it’s hot

So after coming to the conclusion that I just don’t have enough time when I need it, I decided to go ahead and make some mixes to share instead. The intent is the same. Mixes to lead your ears astray. I’ll be doing this much more regularly than written posts. However, I will still do the occasional post, likely a feature piece on a weekly basis. This is just a simpler way for me to share new sounds with you and much more fun all around. I hope.

Below is a link to the first mix and track list

  1. Cosmic Neighbourhood – Bunk Beds – 3:13
  2. Orla Wren – Dark – 5:14
  3. Minoru Sato + Asuna – 25d29h32m – 5:38
  4. Noveller – Ends – 5:12
  5. Moon Ate The Dark – Messy Hearts – 9:11
  6. A Year In The Country – 47 Days and Fathoms Deep – 5:21
  7. Lake Mary – Winter Sun/Dark River – 9:40
  8. Volume Settings – White Oak’s Patriarchy III – 7:18
  9. Richard Ginns – Threads of Light & The Quiet Hum – 7:19
  10. Chris Dooks – Night Time Hats – 4:25


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April; You’re a wet blanket

When coming in from the cold you have instant cravings. You yearn for comfort and warmth, something familiar; something to cope with not just the physical but the emotional frost bite. It’s the time of year where the weather is unsure of what it wants to do and you’re left just hoping for double digit temps and a few glimpses of the sun.

Often enough coffee is my vice internally but I need to fill my surrounding with sounds that fill the void left by inclement weather outside. It may be something to compliment the grey wet gloom outside the window or an album to soundtrack the video unfolding out the windshield of the car, while slush disipates and low grey clouds blanket the horizon. Then there’s those choices that trickle out of the speakers that trick us into feeling spring and warmth is a blink away.

Under the current season’s umbrella, let’s listen to a few things that will replace the rain drops over head with sonic shingles. Venture into some abstract workouts in the chill damp metallic air. Maybe find ourselves scrambled with emotional temporalities in the midst of aural fisticuffs with queasy presets and complex physicality. Flip the script for beautiful simultaneity and something old timey. From behind the wheel and over top the seat warmer we’ll leave some room for drool pop confection of the confessional variety.

Italian survey front cover-low res

Italian Experimental Underground 016 SurveyUnexplained Sounds Group

Unexplained Sounds Group is run by Sonologyst to investigate the current underground experimental worldwide music scene. Not often will I drop a various artist collection here, for fear of having to pick and choose the artists I’ll write about. I’ll just say this…

For anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into leftfield sounds, look no further than the Unexplained Sounds Group. Consistently and constantly offering new collections of industrial noise ambient to free improvisation, from contemporary avant garde to new techno mutations, and always under the common denominator of unexplained sounds. Long life to experimental underground music!

dave harrington

Dave Harrington GroupBecome Alive   Other People

Known best for his work in the duo Darkside, along with Nicolas Jaar. Harrington has proven somewhat of a wizard on guitar. Sculpting an array of noises and tones through a world that exists simply at his feet. Morphing classic Bill Frisell style licks through a class act selection of effects pedals is just kind of his thing. He’s been releasing solo works over the last few years but Become Alive is the first real conceptual collection he’s offered up since the hiatus of Darkside.

The way most bands come together is an age old thing. A group a friends get together and jam. Simple as that and just as simple for Harrington. Who got together with his favourite players and closest friends to record Become Alive. Dave’s always been a self professed jazz guy and it’s apparent on the title track. His eclectic taste as an improviser paired with his love of 60’s and early 70’s jazz records comes through the mix in a heady way.


DreamboatDreamboat lp   Mie Music

The fusion of Golden Retriever’s fizzy post-Terry Riley modular/horn interplay and Ilyas Ahmed’s subtle, Neil Young inspired folk might sound initially befuddling, but within minutes of Dreamboat’s self-titled debut all becomes clear. Ahmed’s voice is washed into the mix like another plaintive layer of synth, and the dense fuzz conjures up memories of dream pop, drone and noise all at once. Gorgeous but never cloying, Dreamboat is the musical comfort blanket you’ve been waiting for. Imagine Tim Buckley sitting in on the first Cluster album, you’re almost there.

the field

The FieldThe Follower   Kompakt

Axel Willner has the power to change the way you think about music. An engineer can point out a tiny part or switch within a larger, more complicated device, revealing a more profound truth about the process as a whole. That’s what Willner does with samples, looping them and stitching them together into hypnotic, slowly mutating slabs of techno.

There’s joy in the art of repetition, in glacial change. Even when it gets slippery and formless. The Follower covers more ground than Willner’s other releases as The Field, but that’s like saying your dog walked around the block instead of sniffing around the backyard. If you’ve been watching Willner work and grow for a decade, you’re going to see this album differently than someone who stumbles onto his discography and sees block after block of lengthy, loop-based minimal techno. This might sound like fodder for Willner’s detractors (“he’s been making the same song for 10 years, dude!”) but I’d argue it’s become his greatest strength.


Hidden Hierarchies – Hidden Hierarchies


Hidden Hierarchies is multivariate multiplication not addition. More than just a duo, Ethan Moseley and Jeye Daye are a power couple. Their debut EP consists of a handful of heavy hitting glitch hop tracks, melded with industrial drone. Relying on the fine art of repetition and loop based sampling; Moseley is able to create a stark crumbling warehouse of nocturnal doom imagery. A place where Jeye can lay her lyrics of emotional temporalities to rest in beds of queasy presets and aural fisticuffs. Lingering on spoken word territory. Each sultry uttered syllable has a life span between the crushing beats, allowing the listener to tap into the vibe and feel the muse that Jeye is writing about. Relentless and punishing but ever so genuine is the overall emotive here on the duo’s debut.




Cavern of Anti-MatterVoid Beats/Invocation Trex      Duophonic

As a founder of indie outfit Stereolab, Tim Gane meshed lounge, krautrock, electronic music, and more to produce a mesmeric vision that felt like the past’s vision of the future and the future’s vision of the past. He described his Cavern of Anti-Matter methodology as “setting up tiny rhythmic cells and expanding on them in certain ways, splitting the melody and stretching out.” After moving to Berlin and bringing along Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth, the pair link up with electronics mastermind Holger Zapf. The trio get some help though from Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. Offering vocals on Liquid Gate. Also gracing the project is contributions from Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, and Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner. None the less Cavern largely stand as an instrumental trio.


Black MountainIV     Jagajaguwar

Black Mountain return with yet another album that deserves to be taken in in it’s entirety. It’s what they do best. Like zig zags, all they claim is we smoke your weed better than any other rolling paper out there. You’ll need the zig zags for this trip.

Fronted by Stephen McBean (Pink Mountaintops), he’s always maintained the concise dynamic of the ‘album’. Like much of their influence from the late 60’s and early 70’s stoner rock, those albums were meant to be devoured whole. From to back. B.M’s IV is no exception. Album opener Mothers of the Sun stretches past eight minutes, demanding you surrender to the drone; it’s Sabbathian. This new album’s opener unfurls the band’s wings again as they soar into the weird and wondrous. What follows is probably Black Mountain’s most experimental record, a record full of sparse, moody arrangements that lean heavily on the the band’s burgeoning love of synths. Bands like Black Mountain sound purposely dated­­ — they’re referencing music that is long gone from the world of popular culture and they’re doing so in a self­-aware manner.


F.S. Blumm & Nils FrahmTag Eins Tag Zwei     Sonic Pieces

Followers of the Sonic Pieces catalog will already be familiar with both F.S.Blumm and Nils Frahm, as well as their acclaimed work as a duo. But although it finds them making use of familiar instruments, their third full-length collaboration, Tag Eins Tag Zwei, manages to add a new tone to their already unique language. By trading in the post-processed sound sculptures that made up the two preceding albums for intimate pieces of improvisation, this collaboration merges into the most soothing and life-affirming recording the two have produced so far.

Guitars and toys flow next to piano and harmonium in an organic combination, shaping nine pieces that abnegate any common categorization. Incorporating classical, jazz, and folk influences, it’s the genuine use of tricks and delays that lift these improvisations above the ordinary and make them both incredibly relaxing and exciting at the same time. The result is a perfect example of how immediacy can be the most powerful approach to creating music. Based on a remarkable understanding of each other’s phrasing, the pair of sessions that form this album shows two vivid artists at the peak of their game — unconditional spontaneity.


Glenn JonesFleeting     Thrill Jockey

Jones retains his reservation at the top of the American primitive class of guitarists, blending a signature classic country, finger-picking style with modern elements; the use of dissonance and non-standard tunings evoke an eeriness which completes the quiver of human experience he covers from corner to corner in his songs, each a story. He’s a fearless experimenter. But, even with his experimenting, he doesn’t do anything that would turn off a listener who isn’t a guitar geek. His record is acoustic in the extreme. He doesn’t use any electronic gadgets to filter out the sounds of his surroundings. It’s as organic as anything you’ve ever heard in nature.

Recorded at his home on the banks of Rancocas Creek in Mount Holly, NJ, you can hear the frogs hollerin’ faintly in the background of some tracks. It ain’t easy listening music. Even though Jones says he often multi-tasks while playing, watching a movie with the sound track turned off while he picks to give his subconscious mind new ideas, you’ll want to pay attention to catch all the subtle nuances. It’ll take you away, but you need to be fully awake and aware to reap the full benefits of your trip.


Damien JuradoVisions of Us on the Land   Secretly Canadian

In recent years, the sound of Jurado’s records have undergone a dramatic transformation only mystical visions or alien abduction could properly explain. Working with producer Richard Swift, the songs remain rock solid – albeit occasionally dodging easy interpretation, in the most interesting manner imaginable – but the surroundings have become slippery, foggy and strange. Like a past filled with narcotic haziness hanging by a thread on a roach clip.

After creating a new fascinating place, Maraqopa and fleeing there as an unnamed protagonist, only to end up in a car wreck by the final track. Jurado’s character discovers a commune where people are named Silver Timothy, Silver Donna and Silver Katherine on Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Sun. Now to complete his dream state trilogy with Vision of Us on the Land, the protagonist leaves with Silver Katherine to embark upon the final chapter of this sic-fi surreal story. One where the two find themselves to be immortal and the only two people left on earth.

Traces of songs from the past two albums resurface here and there, like distant memories taking shape in the setting sun. The album closes with the bittersweet albeit exultant tune “Kola,” as Jurado sings poignantly, “I will remember you / The way you are right now.” It’s closure for his faceless hero’s journey: Jurado’s Visions of Us on the Land is a tragic, triumphant chronicle that pushes the boundaries of indie-folk music unlike any musician on the musical landscape right now.

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March 2016: Scratching at a new season

After spending the better part of the winter digging around for new sounds, the thaw beckons a revival. I’ve spent a lot of time combing through and visiting ethereal evocations, slow motion structure, weirdly elastic space echoes and purgatorial theremins. I feel there is now a worth while selection to share … at least one I’m excited to write about.

We’ll dive in to a heady slew of experimental artists but we’ll surface a handful of times. Just for good measure, we can get ourselves wrapped up in some loop based themes. The stuff that never gets to mainstream but remains just under the radar enough, that it maintains a good topical tune for venturing back outdoors this time of year and doesn’t taste like fake indian pudding.

inventing masks

Inventing Masks – self titled    Error Broadcast

There’s something precise about Guiseppe Ielasi’s music. From the electroacoustic drones to the exactness of triggered and chosen samples. It’s the sort of subtly agile, crooked business that reveals new fissures and half-cut motifs with each listen, and we’d imagine it sounds great when consumed in smudged, altered states. This album finds the mastering engineer and member of Bellows applying patented, grid-warping sensibilities to liquify your neck in six rough-edged but sweetly-minded cuts that bubble with a sort of semi-organic animation.

They variously range from scuffed, grubbing bass grooves offset with woodblock and squirming ‘tronics in 3’ 34” to the lop-sided camshaft lean and hollow knock of 4’ 32” up top, to take in music box melodies and whirring ambient ghosts redolent of a buckled SAW II in 4’ 18” or like some quasi-speed Burial with 6’ 48”. You wouldn’t be out of place to drop a vocalist on this and find it in the realm of Tricky’s Maxinquaye.

matt karmil

Matt Karmil – IDLE033  Idle Hands

Karmil’s second album marks a return to Bristol label Idle Hands. He released ‘Play It Do  It Say It’ last year on the same roster. IDLE033 is intriguing. Its sound palette is expansive, and is used to create dense textures, colourful atmospheres and emotional resonance. The 13 tracks here are surprisingly cohesive, showing off a painterly approach to manipulating samples, a dodge and burn aesthetic which crumples his source material into barely unidentifiable textures. Most tracks lope uneasily on syncopated rhythms, leaning on drunken bass or stumbling into dusty barroom pianos. A few attempt to even thud across the dance floor, like addled recollections of past epiphanies. There’s a whisper of ghostly unease that animates itself on this loose dub influence that lingers about.


Mathias DelplanqueDrachen    Ici D’ailleurs

Mathias Delplanque is in Burkina Faso-born, French multi-instrumentalist and composer from Nantes. He has close links with the ambient, electronic, electroacoustic, and concrète musical spheres as well as dub and field recordings. His approach is therefore intimately intertwined with the creation of sound. Sound in the physical sense of the term. Sound that goes through one’s body, modifying one’s perception. It explores every possibility that might push the artistic vision to its pinnacle.

This time, it is mainly stringed instruments, layered and live electronic processing. Mathias works with guitar, bass, the West African kora, melodica, synths, punctual field recordings join. Cell phone interference, which served as productive sources of error, which is not immediately broken down to the listener. Whether that runs through the album for the buzzing coolness of that crackling electrical voltage are responsible. These are all finely sculpted details with a beautiful melancholy, a certain tenderness to its sonic mass.


KedaHwal    Parantheses

KEDA is the duo of E’Joung-Ju, a Korean musician based in France, and Mathias Delplanqu. E’Joung-Ju plays a geomungo, or komungo; literally, “black zither”; a Korean traditional six-stringed wooden instrument. Delplanque plays electronics. An album comprised of live improvisations, edited extensively by Delplanque, which fuse traditional, ambient and electronic music. The duo never play for effect or get bound up in process, but keep things admirably focused. Here they work on vibe, with Delplanque’s electronics prominent, layer upon layer in expertly calibrated richness and sonic detail.

E’Joung-Ju and Mathias Delplanque have pitched their collaboration just right, the sounds of bamboo on taut silk and electronics meshing beautifully. The duos’ mutual restraint points up the richness in their intertextures, both play to their combined strength. Delplanque’s post-production is fully sensitive to the geomungo’s unique timbre and attack. If ‘Dali’ and the title track are tense and epic, other pieces relax into more cheerful mode, as E’joung-Ju drapes fragmentary melodies across Delplanque’s gentle loops. From below there’s hints of dub, over head there is swooping ornaments of zither technique, a sensuous filth resides in the middle and just off in the distance is the sound of watercolour.

CUE pekler

Andrew PeklerCue   Kranky

It should be stated that this was originally released in 2007, however it’s getting a proper vinyl release for the first time now. Admittedly this went under my radar at the time, odd due to the fact that I adore this label.

Andrew Pekler has been making music under several names for almost a decade, first gaining notice in 2000 as Sad Rockets, releasing Transition on Matador when the label experimented frequently with electronic releases. Though he’s not prolific by the standards of electronic music, Pekler’s method reminds me a bit of Atom Heart or Burnt Friedmann: each record is meant to sound different, based on a considered set of aesthetic guidelines. Knowledge of his process here is unnecessary for enjoying Cue. Pekler’s use of such sterile material certainly contributes to the record’s unusually disjointed feel, but these tracks don’t seem tied to any particular era and certainly aren’t meant for background use.

For Cue, Pekler’s M.O. was to assemble music using “library” records as inspiration. These are those weird LPs you now sometimes find in the “Misc.” section of record stores, containing music for royalty-free “needle drop” use in commercial applications. Pekler took descriptions of the intended effect for various tracks (“slow, ominous piano motif drifting into swirling atmosphere”), and built new tracks, attempting to arrive at these moods from another angle. Each of these tracks sounds build from five or six or ten samples that are cut into pieces, set in motion, and allowed to bump into each other. It’s the sort of record that gets more interesting the deeper you get inside, as its old and strangely disembodied samples assemble into something new and occasionally even fleshy.


Luca SigurtaWarm Glow    Monotype

Italian composer Luca Sigurta has been around since the 90’s. With a penchant and being known for his work with field recordings. He’s been asked repeatedly to compose the soundtracks for short films and today, the Italian is one of the most important experimental sound artists from his country.

Warm Glow includes seven compositions. The mini album starts with Dim. An 8 minute piece composed of synthetic sounds on which you can dream away. Apprently, this has been termed ‘trip-noise-hop’. Sigurta unfolds elegant layers into pieces of spacious sequence. His downtempo’d beats blend under atmospheric experimental sound art while avoiding being to flashy or academic. Luca has offered up the sound of travelling through an ever expanding sonic tunnel, where backwards warping and fractured hisses stretch into oscillating washes of drone and white noise. A sublime auditory adventure.


Good WillsmithThings Our Bodies Used To Have  Umor Rex

Hailing from Chicago, the trio Good WillSmith ( I wonder if there’s a Good Will Hunting Matt Damon Frsh Prince inside joke here) are offering up their sophmore album to last years acclaimed ‘Snake Person Generation’. Things Our Bodies Used To Have offers contingency through chaos, or so it seems. Basically one single long track spliced into seven parts for the sake of convenience, the trio gyres between longitudinal lozenges, sine sinews and galactic gates, with salubrious warmth and mephitic toxicity always close at hand.

The personnel remains the same: Doug Kaplan and Maxwell Allison, runners of their Hausu Mountain label, bring in the oscillators, guitars, synths and percussion devices while hiding the mimicry of birdcalls and twirling the tape reels for one’s psychedelic pleasure, whereas Natalie Chami aka TALsounds has all hands on deck, all feet on the guitar pedals and all vocal chords in the troposphere. The album’s appealing constituents whirring few and far between the chlorotic reverse-agism.


Duane PitreElectric Bayou   Important Records

At the base of Bayou Electric is a field recording that Pitre made in Louisiana back in August 2010. It’s unmistakably the sound of the night. The soundscape of wildlife filling the empty spaces where light and landscape used to be, with insects purring and chirping like water flow and electric fences. There’s a sense of rural, open space as the chorus fills up the sky. No doubt the view during the day extends for miles on all sides, spilling down the sides of lush hills and rising upward to touch the clouds. Instead of carving up this recording and dispersing it amongst other instrumentation, Pitre keeps it intact. The landscape exists as a whole, and the instruments sprout upon it like plant life. Violins and organs linger like late evening fog, spreading into eachother with unconscious movement, and with the same grace and ecological cohesion that his environment exists and interacts, Pitre embeds a music that swerves and sways as the wind and weather dictate.


EnCity of Brides  Students of Decay

In their five years of making music as En, Maxwell August Croy and James Devane have built a career imbuing drone music with innocence and wonder. Their latest is their most varied and compelling yet. Each song is a crystalline Russian doll, a stylistic experiment in layering sounds both comforting and caustic.

There’s a two shadow at play on City of Brides. Something almost erotic while periods of restraint take hold. Establishing a sense of momentum in drone music is always an undertaking, especially when nothing really moves. Croy and Devane produce a propulsion in juxtaposition, between organic and artificial soundscapes. The serious and the playful. Every sound is built from scratch. The duo reproduces sounds of dolphins, bats and other wildlife. While threatening them with melodramtic synth swoops. Like being smothered by a fleece blanket.


Prequel TapesInner Systems  R’COUP’D

Prequel Tapes evokes the overlooked spaces where cities merge into the countryside. And he accomplishes as much through a blend of pastoral, Boards Of Canada-style electronica and the industrial sounds closely associated with his Berlin home.

The excavation of memories, stream-of-consciousness and hauntological moments is the inspiration for Inner Systems. The album is apparently based on tapes the producer unearthed of goth bands he played in as a teenager, used as foundations for an audio bricolage constructed with old analogue gear. It can be difficult to tell where old and new sounds begin and end. Inner Systems is like an echo from a pre-Internet age, when distracting yourself from boredom meant daydreaming with a youthful optimism about where beauty grows from the cracks between things.


Chris DooksAccretion    Eilean Records

Dr Chris Dooks is a prolific multimedia artist based in both Edinburgh and Ayr in Scotland. Known equally for his lens-based work, music projects and conceptual art, he can be described as an interdisciplinary artist and post-doctoral researcher specialising in practical medical humanities work and philosophical art processes.

Accretion begins with some lovely brass, augmented by trails of chiming choral voice. “Sorry I was just carrying this”, a voice explains, pointing to the possibility of auditory hallucination between ages and genders, as if either vocabulary could be stated for either subject. It can be stated by hereon in that ‘Accretion’ turns into an expansive and peacing ambient record equal parts The Caretaker in ballroom style opera samples (the third track) and the tired yawning hums throughout. They do not dull the listener into a false sense of security; neither do they disconcert in the blight of anxiety. All in accretion is for good and bad, and there’s more good here than anything else.


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The Baker’s Dozen Year End List; Flavourites


It comes down to repeat listens for me. That paired with where I am creatively. I reach out for the stuff that challenges me as a listener, even if it simply requires the challenge of focus. There’s those albums that are meant to be headphone excursions while others just want to be played while you go about your day to day. So whether I was cleaning the homestead or napping with my one year old or in my studio restringing the lot of guitars or even just all the bloody driving I had to contend with this year. These were the albums that developed lasting realtionships with me. They’re in no particular order, except for my absolute top choice, I’l save it for the end.

It’s an excitng list for me in so many ways. Excited to be pushung myself to write about music again but even more so, I’m really stoked on the new discoveries this year. Whether they made the list or not. 2015 found me desperately moving away from a lot traditional North American music. I just felt that a lot of music had turned stale. Maybe it’s me, things just weren’t provoking me the right way or getting me stimulated any more. I found myself seeking out new labels and digging deeper into genres and sounds I had always loved but had difficulty discovering new artists with the same ease as say western material.

It’s not say that I haven’t found any new western artists to fall in love with or take up space in the record collection. Discovering a few new labels was an added bonus. While others I was loyal towards kept it that way with new releases this year. But more so a genre thing, just inquiring into the obscure more than ever. Soundscapes, rhythms, melodies and structures that made me curious again about being a listener as well as a musician. So here’s hoping something on this page finds itself winning you over and leading your ears astray.


                             AMARA TOURÉ – 1973 – 1980           Analog Africa

I always anticipate anything from Frankfurt-based label Analog Africa. They’re known for specializing in raw, funky, ropical and pyschedelic sounds from Africa and LatinAmerica from the 60’s and 70’s. They pull out all the stops for this exceptional anthology rescuing the work of Afro-Cuban pioneer Amara Touré from near extinction. Over the years Touré slotted African and Cuban sounds together like pieces of a jigsaw, bringing spirited, West African mandingue into the wide, brassy arms of Latin instrumentation. Touré has been off the grid in recent years and his music is quite literally impossible to get hold of. Presented in a ’60s style gatefold cover and featuring a multicolour silkscreen print, the packaging and detail is as magnificent as the music within.


      COLLEEN – Captain of None              Thrill Jockey

A new find for me, considering this is the sixth release from french musician Cécile Schott, aka Collen. Entirely rcorded, mixed and produced from her home in San Sebastian, Spain. Unexpected to find that she focuses her songwriting around an instrument that saw it’s heyday centuries ago. On Captain of None, Colleen takes the baroque viola da gamba and runs it through a series of delays and loopers as she plucks the instrument into a mesmerizing stream. It’s said that nothing resembles the human voice like the instrument of choice for Cécile. Rather than bowing it traditionally, Schott tunes it like a guitar and plucks it’s strings.

Instruments like hand drums and melodica add layers of shading over the dubby experimental arrangements. Most of the percussive elements are played with chop sticks and a Tibetan metal printing block. Her love for old Lee Perry cassettes lends itself to her dubby production style as well. Cécile uses english for her poeticly discriptive lyrics and their simplicity drives the album as much as the viol. From the looping effects, dub influences, baroque instrumentation and dreamy vocals it all gets glued into a digital mosiac that feels just as much organic as it does mythic and internal. Captain of None is Cécile beckoning you into her world.


 EVAN CAMINITI – Meridian       Thrill Jockey

For years, Evan Caminiti has been known for making guitar drone music as one half of Barn Owl. A personal favourite of mine. Much like his work in his duo, Caminiti’s solo outings were constructed of heavily processed and reconfigured guitars. So much so that it would be difficult to point that out, even after subsequent listens. On his fifth solo release Meridian, Caminiti composed the nine tracks on modular synths. Working in subtle beats, bass tones and field recordings. At 41 minutes, each of the nine tracks have a single word title, to evoke the overall mood, shape and texture of the song. Most of this new material came from performing live with electronics, as he does and not with a laptop. 

It’s an album begging to be played loud. So the pulses course through your body. (The title “Meridian” ostensibly references the idea of energy’s movement through the body on paths called meridians.) It does work in this regard, but you can also listen closely with headphones; this way, the compositions feel endlessly deep. Many—foggy and droning, always sparkling and elegant. The bulk of the tracks have this great ghostly -not all there- vibe. They drift and never feel hurried and at times seem as though another element should be present but in the end the soft fuzzy edges are better left untampered. As if you’re seeing them in the dark.


             GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR – Asunder, Sweet & Other Distress                              

    Constellation Records

The last time Godspeed You! Black Emperor released an album (Allelujah!Don’t Bend Ascend) it wasn’t really comprised of new material the cult act had written specifically for the release. It was material they had been playing live since the early 2000’s, their most prolific period. Capturing it on record and releasing it was more reannouncing their presence after a long hiatus.

There was something comforting about the release of Asunder…, beyond the fact that it was new GY!BE music. Perhaps it was how familiar it was to hear. Since any of the songs recorded for Asunder could have found their way on any previous Godspeed album.  It shows consistency. They’re not known for change, it’s just not their way. Often imitated but no one sounds quite like them. The shifts on this record involve pivots more than actual movement: At points, guitars are unusually prominent and the music feels a bit heavier. It’s also their shortest album. But beyond a few such tweaks, the album is Godspeed to its core, moving from thin drones to Wagnerian pomp and circumstance and back again over long, patient stretches.

Like any GY!BE album, sequencing and flow is everything. Just four tracks make up this album but it’s more like three movements. The first and third are typical fanfare. Slowly building refrains and crashing climaxes while the middle movement is consisted of the the second and third track. At 16 minutes it’s a behemoth with drones, guitar feedback and fragments of broken strings. Setting the album up this way is a smart move. It allows the entirety to breathe and suggests more variety than otherwise.

Godspeed are still a band that focus on instrumental pieces meant to move you, using only the raw power of their music. In a space where sound is the primary context it lends itself to a different type of transaction. You have to drop the guard while they transform gutteral emotion into music. They’re still on point in my opinion.


FOG LAKE – Victoria Park      Orchid Tapes

If you’re into things that sound like they belong to the soundtrack of your lucid dreams, then Aaron Poewll’s Fog Lake is something on that list. The St. John’s Newfoundland based act, is informed by both a beautiful melancholy and an ungraspable yet quenching nostalgia. There’s a misty eyed contemplative emotive dripping from the corners. Every creak of weathered porch board, each cloud of sigh slowly presents itself into the cold light of day. Don’t think of this a dour experience. Powell maintains a balance in his music, it’s just delivered with a furrowed brow with enough sight to know when to open it all up.

Victoria Park feels cloudy but colourful too. A carnival ride behind frosted glass, like trying to recall a tehnicolour dream in the forgetfulness of morning. The tracks drone on and hum, spectral voices and thrumming piano chords make a little mystery in a blurry but entrancing collage. The collection is consistently enchanting. The album’s single ‘Shanty Town’ whose drone lives like a spangle by a distant snare should be all you need to be sold. If you require more, Victoria Park’s closer ‘Dog Years’ is beyond haunting and comes with a mesmerising video.


     ESMERINE – Lost Voices       Constellation Records

Out of all of the many Godspeed You! Black Emperor splinter projects, Esmerine have  always been the most interesting to me. Their name may not be as widely known or as A Silver Mt Zion (and their multiple ensuing variations), but their musical journey since their 2003 debut release has been a consistently rewarding and occasionally surprising one. On Lost Voices they move away fom the overriding chamber ensemble sound that dominated much of their previous work, to take on some other unexplored forms. Mainly in harnessing the electric guitar.

Sure it doesn’t sound like a major altering decision but when you’re a band that avoided a traditional instrument for so long, once it rears it’s head in your music, it is a bombastic change. Take for example the independence and points of difference in Esmerine’s music, the opening track on Lost Voices is characteristaclly morose. Deserted violin sounds that lay heavy during the beginning end up giving way to explosive peaks of guitar. Sure that’s a combination that’s been done before but it isn’t any less appealing. ‘A River Runs Through This City‘ (my favourite), keeps up with a purposeful intent. Shrouded in dark allusions and shaded forms. These opening pair of tracks set the tone and also highlights another album trait, namely the balance between drawn out tension and immediacy of ideas. Anyone should be swept up in it by now.


               RICHARD GINNS – Until The Morning Comes       Eilean Records

Eilean Records and it’s roster was a new discovery for me this year and mighty pleasant one at that. They’ve released so many great albums this year. The label is run by Mathias Van Eecloo (Monolyth & Cobalt) with design by Rémi Verdier. Each release has a number that corresponds to a point on a map; a season; a color; and soil samples (seen only in photograph for now). This attention to detail, along with a unified cover aesthetic, has allowed the label to make a large impact in a short period of time. It’s no surprise two albums are making my year end list.

First we have the Manchester sound artist Richard Ginns. His newest release Until The Morning Comes is a more autumnal excursion that exudes stillness and tranquility and finds a perfect home on the brilliantly eclectic Eilean Rec. label. Ginns has made an album of true soundscapes woven together with tape loops (reel to reel tape and cassette), guitar (electric, classical & acoustic), music box, pedals, and other electronics, found-sounds and field recordings. Ginns also manages to fabricate an oneiric worldThrough the eight tracks that comprise the record, Ginns fabricates a complete oneiric world of calm empyrean tones and delicate textures as the titles eloquently imply – ‘Threads of Light and the Quiet Hum’, When Sun Rays and Frosty Mist’, ‘Blossom’, etc. Only during the closing track, ‘Cycles’, do the sounds of a man-made world begin to unobtrusively seep back into our consciousness. It is hard to overstate the sense of quietude and well-being that these carefully constructed pieces engender.

le berger           

 LE BERGER – Music for Guitar & Patience      Home Normal

Am I ever a sucker for atmosphere. I’ve burrowed myself into some really fantastic ambient and experimental sonic avenues this year, much of this list proves that. When I first heard Le Berger it was instantly known that repeat visits would occur. There’s just something about music that immediately begins to turn your surroundings into film. Random occurrences. Sunlight bursting through treetops. Accidental beauty. These things are not just confined to nature and landscape.

Le Berger is Montreal’s Samuel Landry. He sought out to make new material, using unused guitar samples from fifteen years ago became the sole source material, providing the album with a wistful, folky kind of ambience. While ambient textures provide a blissfully drowsy background, the guitar evokes and mirrors the calm feeling of leaves rustling in the breeze, or light on the ocean exploding into millions of individual flecks as the waves come in to shore. As random as they may be, it never startles the listener. It is music mirroring life. A work born from a marriage of chance, randomness and composed elements.

These are lengthy tracks, full excursions. Clocking in at 29:32, 14:21 & 17:55 they warrant at least one dedicated session with some headphones.


   ALIF – Aynama-Rtama      Nawa Recordings

Alif is the collective sound of five musicians at the forefront of independent music in the Arab world, and Nawa Recordings is a label dedicated to bringing new alternative music from the Arab world and elsewhere. Conceived in 2012 and taking its name from the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. Aynama-Rtama traces a complex labyrinth of genres, sounds and emotions, rendered as a unique postcard of the tumultuous rollercoaster-ride of its time. The band’s wide ranging influences along with their unified and intriguing energy, give birth to a soundscape that is at once familiar and unknown.

Alif succeed at presenting a musical experience that goes beyond conventional genre framing, to create an identity found in neither Arabic nor Western realms, without falling in the ubiquitous trap of literal fusion. The initial dizzying, and even melancholic, effect of Alif’s music stems from band’s attempt to alienate the mainstream. This estrangement is ushered by the instrumentation more than the melody, creating a feeling that the band’s members are dangerously adventurous on the verge of major change.

lake mary 1

                 LAKE MARY – And The Birds Sing In Chorus First          Eilean Records

The second Eilean release to win a place in my heart this year. Lake Mary’s And The Birds Sing In Chorus First. This is a completely and utterly bewitching album by musician Chaz Prymek, who played, recorded, mixed, and mastered this album of pieces for banjo and acoustic guitar on his own. The birth child of almost four years of disparate recording while travelling through western America. With the right kind of ears you can hear the seasons within each of the songs. The sound manipulation here is very subtle and spare, reaching its peak, honestly, on the shimmering overlapped textures.

This one comes highly recommended to all enthusiasts of experimental takes on the American fingerstyle-guitar tradition. Asymmetrical bliss is kind of how to sum this album up.


   XAOS – Xaos       Independent Records ltd

To be Greek means to be part of a people whose collective identity often seems to exist, for better or worse, in several historical epochs simultaneously, from the ancients to the Byzantines and onward into the present. This is an idea that recurs in the work of some of our greatest poets and authors, but it’s a rather hard idea to translate into music — but it’s what I thought of immediately upon first hearing this moody and gorgeous album.

It’s an eponymous release by the duo Xaos (pronounced “HAH-ohs,” it translates to “chaos”), a collaboration between Ahetas, an electronic music composer, keyboardist and painter andDubulah, a German-born producer and artist of Greek-English parentage who has collaborated with artists like Dub Colossus and Samuel Yirga.On each track, they carefully build layers of swirling, moody sound, referencing many points in the Greek experience with instruments like the Pontic lyraand the delicate kanonaki zither blended with modern electronics, guitars and keyboards. But you don’t have to think about such cultural specificities; just sink deep down into Xaos’ wine-dark washes of sound.


                  DANIEL MENCHE & MAMIFFER – Crater      Sige Records

There’s got to be at least one album that kind of freaks you out. The one you won’t listen to in the dark, alone. Crater was that for me this year. The album’s bookending pieces, “Calyx” and “Maar,” make for the two most conventionally musical songs on the album. Both feature Turner’s guitar and Coloccia’s piano playing complimentary melodies, as processing (by I assume the hand of Menche) pushes both into distorted, at times abrasive territory, and then back again. Even though the resulting sound is by no means traditionally beautiful, that hint of chaos is a splendid additional facet to the songs. The lengthier pieces that make up the core of the record feature significantly less in the way of traditional instrumentation.

For a record that was created by, as Menche puts it, friends just hanging out, recording and then eating pizza, Crater has a massive number of layers, both sonically and in mood as well, that belie its humble origin. Moods shift from gawking at beautiful soundscapes to disquieting, imposing monsters of heaviness lurking in the shadows. But never does Crater drag, and there is not a dull moment to be had as these three amazing artists perform together brilliantly.



     Junun             Nonesuch

This was the one for me in 2015. From the documentary to each individual track. Everything on repeat. My love of Eastern music has never been so enamoured.

There are a lot of creative forces to keep track of on Junun. Receiving top billing is the Israeli singer and composer, Shye Ben Tzur, who wrote the songs. Then there’s his backing band: the 19 performers, hailing from distinct Indian-music traditions, who form the Rajasthan Express. And you’ve also got Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood contributing rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards, and drum-programming to the arrangements. Still, aside from the album’s complex backstory and multilingual lyrics (written, variously, in Hebrew, Hindi, and Urdu), Junun is readily approachable on its own.

The result is a mix that includes folk feel and studied arrangements. Naturally, with Greenwood’s participation comes that of longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who succeeds in presenting this detailed music with precision. While Greenwood’s presence guarantees a certain level of interest, the newsiest takeaways from this album involve the skill of Ben Tzur and the musicians of the Rajasthan Express. The ensemble’s playing and the leader’s compositions make Junun an easy stretch.
In the accompanying documentary of the same name — directed by Paul Thomas Anderson — it becomes even more evident how collaborative this album is. Recorded at Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India, the musicians would all sit in a circle and perform live together (with the exception of some vocal overdubs). As the camera pans between each musician, it becomes strikingly evident how crucial each role is. Every piece of percussion carries just as much weight as the swoopy-haired guy on guitar who sells out Madison Square Garden.

Anderson’s documentary also does well to highlight the different personalities that make up the cast of collaborators, collectively known as The Rajastahn Express. They are not simply a backing band hired to play the parts, but dynamic musicians each helping steer the direction of the project. If there’s a main player to credit at all, it’d be composer Shye Ben Tzur.

Someone with an eager ear will find beauty in this blend of cultures and styles. It’s a celebration of musicians living, breathing, and learning from one another.

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~ Life Is Just A Series Of Mix Tapes ~ PART 1

Like any good mix tape, you fawn over the perfect starting point. That first track is crucial. It sets the bar and the pace for everything that is to follow. You’re almost always making that mix tape for someone else. Whether friendship, a crush, for love or just simply for the road trip. Of course the ‘mix tape’ can be metaphorical nowadays. Even with it’s resurgence in recent times.

For me, the mix tape was something I always did for someone else. Not to say I didn’t benefit from the enjoyment of it after it’s creation. It was just always something I did selflessly really. Take for example, any time my wife and I have to take a long drive out of town or a day of running countless errands. I know I need music. Bottom line. Also, knowing at some magical moment our one year old son will fall asleep so the music will be enjoyed that much more in the silence. That last part is integral. The silence. I’ll get back to that later.

I know my wife doesn’t necasarily seek out new music much on her own. She has no need to. She has me for that. So when making the playlist on the ipod for the drives, I consider all the things new and old she would enjoy. Lay them all out in an order to flow like a dj set. I’ll slip in the odd track just for me of course. Usually something left field and out of sync with the rest. That’s just my taste.

The thing is, it’s been 2 years since I wrote a damn thing for this blog. Something I did religiously before, with fervor. But in that time span I realised something. I had made myself my own mix tapes. Mostly in my head. Mainly for navigational purposes. Life happened and it happened fast. Sometimes it was just fucking cruel and others made me believe in something again.

I can look back to my last post of reviews and instantly be placed in the time again. I tried to post monthly as best as I could while working full time and playing in a band along with all the other aspects of life. But sometime after the last post I was readying my next batch of reviews to share and life happened. I don’t know how else to say it.


It was late December into early January 2014. The War On Drugs had dropped ‘Red Eyes‘. Like everyone I was hooked. Little did I know the relevance and emotional weight this whole album would have for me in the coming months. My father had been diagnosed with stage 4 asophageal cancer. The news came a wek or two after Christmas. A massive shock and traumatic blow to family. I had snagged an early leak of the album and it was a steady repeat.

Time was an absolute prick for the next 6 months. It either moved way too fast or crept along through the worst parts, as if on purpose. To just taunt you and maul your emotions like fucking dubstep does. But by March I had basically nestled myself in with one song. It would play again and again and again …                                                                   I’d be driving back from my parents house, almost nightly by March. Visiting my dad. Just to sit with him in the living room while he watch television, usually quiet as I would stab a fork over the usually flavouless food friends and family dropped off nearly on a daily basis.

There was something between my Dad and I. We weren’t close. Definitely not openly. I think we were both told by people, separately, how much we were alike. Somedays, for a only a second or two, when everything is still and I’m aware of me, as a husband, as a father, as a son and as just someone… I can almost see what that something is between me and him. And again, like before, that gut wrenching song plays in my head in reverse. It was my entire Side A for this time in my life. I actually don’t think I can tell you anything else that was being released.

By my dad’s birthday in April my wife could tell it wasn’t looking good and took to warmth in telling me to be ready and aware that ‘that’ time was coming and quick. Like a reverberating bow over distorted strings I could see what was happening. I remembered one song my Dad would play me when I was young. He would turn it up on the radio as Casey Kasem read the end of the letter someone wrote in requesting it … and he would look at me. Like I look at my son now and just think to myself “man, the cat’s in the cradle.

A month later my Dad passed. At home. With my mom, his sister, brother in law and my siblings all by his side. It was … it was surreal. He was sitting up leaning on my wife and her then pregnant belly and he was holding my hands. We locked eyes and then …

You see, I’m the first of four kids. My father fathered a son first. My wife was pregnant with our son. We only knew because we wanted my Dad to at least know what we were going to have, in case of the inevitable. So the whole thing for me was just a trip.

At his funeral we were able to do it our way. A massive room cut in half. One half for the funeral service the other half set up like a museum or gallery. An area you could walk around and check out my Dad’s favourite things. If you didn’t know him before you got there you certainly did when you left.

Three songs were played during the service that as a family we picked. One song was ‘Hell Yeah‘ by Neil Diamond. A song he told my sister a year or two before his diagnosis, he wanted it played at his funeral. I never liked Neil Diamond much but my respect has changed. Another song was by Celine Dion and Andre Bocceli. And by fuck I’ll tell you like anyone else would I could live in a world where Celine Dion doesn’t exist but she never sounded better to me than she did that day. The third song which was played second after Celine ruined me was Cat Stevens, Cats in the Cradle.

It’s absolutely bizarre sometimes how music that you despise is occasionally acceptable and even enjoyed. You sometimes need ‘that’ song to tie the mix tape together. Not for you but for your listener.


So a few months roll by. I’m catching up on music as much as I am reeling from the loss of my dad. Not so much the loss but what it’s done to my family. The whole 6 months he was ill this family was a rock. Completely indestructable. By the time time the funeral was happening the seams were unravelling already. I can’t say why or how nor will I get into it. It’s ugly and dark, basically depressing and the only soundtrack suitable for me was stuff like GY!BE.

Anyways, we’re into the B side now so things can take a turn here in almost any direction. My wife and I are soon expecting the birth of our son. A late August due date that was procrastinated into early September. I had already began compiling playlists for the labour so we (more so she) had something to focus on other than discomfort.

We had been making each other disgustingly adorable mix cd’s with hand made cover art ever since we got together. So that made up one really long play list. It was a safety move on my part. In case I was useless or I passed out or she was mad at me because “YOU DID THIS TO ME’. I figured all the fucking cute songs would just save my ass. She’d look at me between contractions and fall in love with me all over again because that Mount Eerie song or that Sufjan Stevens one she played in the car very early on in our heavier flirty days.

But there was one playlist I groomed even up to the night before. Just to get the right order. The playlist for the drive home with our son. Knowing she’d ride in the back with the baby. I needed to have a playlist that as each song followed the next it was her soundtrack while she gazed at her beautiful new son and began to imagine the future… or ask me to stop for ice cream. True story. But I needed it to be the soundtrack for my rearview mirror, as I looked at my family. My actual family. My wife. My son. Us.

It’s complex because the rearview mirrow is usually reserved for things like the break up song or the leaving it all behind stuff. But this was different. And like I said at the start. The silence. This was one of the last playlist I was ever going to hear in silence again. It had to hold up for me and for her. There was a lot of quietter stuff, acoustic type. Stand outs would have been by Bry Webb, The Walkmen and for good measure every new parent has to play Blind Melon. That was the song playing first as we pulled away from the hospital. Yes, I know. Appropriate.

So there it is. The ‘Father & Son’ mix tape in 1600 words or so. For the darker times I tend to latch onto a song or two, like a security blanket. I’ll wrap myself up in it. Maybe it’s because during those times I tend to feel so emotionally vast and lost all at once that I need that grounding and familiarity with something. the other times, like the good ones I’ll search and search for more. It only makes sense. I have an addictive nature and only want to make the good stuff last. You got to feed it with something right ? Why not more music ?


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Currently & Upcoming 2013 v4

Image                    Ty Segall – Sleeper

It’s a new experience hearing Ty Segall without all the guitar pedals and gritty fuzz. Creating the general safe assumption that we can expect two or three releases a year from the prolific garage rocker, 2013 has been more or less quiet for Segall. There’s a reason for this, with the passing of his father last December (adoptive) from a long battle with cancer, the first we here from Ty all year came this August, in the form of Sleeper. An all acoustic collection, although his remarkable knack for melody has always been apparent, it’s finally the focal point of the songs, the lyrics taking more spotlight as well.

The opening title track sets a somber tone with powerfully struck chords and a self-harmonized croon from Segall. “A dream-sweet love,” he sings, evoking Dwight Twilley on the higher notes. He puts on a variety of voices throughout the album, as when adopting a British accent on “The Keepers” and “Crazy” — two of Sleeper’s finest tracks. The former is a rambling pop blues that would make Robert Pollard proud, the latter a fingerpicked ditty with startling falsettos and melodic flourishes. He gives advice to someone he addresses as “little one”: “Give your heart a brand new start/ Because he’s still here and he’s crazy.” The characters and romantic interactions on Sleeper range from charming to hilarious, with Segall settling into a storyteller role without being too lyrically direct.

In an interview, Segall describes Sleeper as a “moment in time” album — the songs were all conceptualized under the same set of circumstances. Although atmospheric, the record’s cohesion causes it to drift by, some tracks bleeding into one another (the stretch of “The Man Man” through “Come Outside” is a blur). Depending on your behavior as a listener, this can be good or bad, as there aren’t any obvious singles here. For those who like to put something on their turntable and let it play front-to-back, to wallow in the mood of a record, Sleeper works well. It ambles along, confident in its own pace.

Image                           Fuzz – s/t

The name, the album art, it’s pretty self explanatory what you’re going to get when the needle drops on this lp. This will be the only other release this year where we’ll see Ty Segall’s name. Though, you won’t be hearing his signature garage rock guitar squeals, instead he’s found behind the kit.  With his new sludge metal band, Fuzz, Segall delivers the art of the headbang. Fuzz unsubtly celebrates the days of early metal yore, particularly in the spirit of fellow San Franciscan psychedelic freewheelers Blue Cheer and the assailing rhythms of Black Sabbath. The band’s self-titled record (released on Trouble In Mind) showcases Segall’s falsetto stylings over a stoner metal symphony, the prolific one taking on a different role, as the group’s drummer. Segall’s half-shriek swirls have become so distinctive that a label can put out a nameless 7″ and you’d immediately know it belongs to no other man.

For Fuzz, Segall is joined by two old friends and co-conspirators — Charles Moothart, who wields an electric guitar like a battle axe meant to arm rock and roll warriors, and Roland Cosio, who holds a predatory grip on bass. Segall dominates with a stance that likens him to a giant when perched behind a drum kit. Even in full command, he can’t wipe the goofy grin off his face and launches into sweaty crowds, dismantling a mosh pit into a dogpile.

Totaling just eight tracks, Fuzz is rich thematically, the record expels black magic, at once dabbling in mysticism and questions of this earth. The band knows the answer is out there, but until they find them, they’re throwing the big-picture questions out for examination in the middle of a series of demonic riffs and wails. Following their fluid debut, Fuzz can only grow further, into the doom-laced trio of early metal titans they were born to be.

Image            Dead Meadow – Warble Womb

Dead Meadow‘s sixth album Warble Womb is the first album back with their original drummer Mark Laughlin and the first record since the solo release of Jason Simon. This release offers a timely masterclass in how to keep balance between relentlessness and variation. While it’s not necessarily Dead Meadow’s masterwork, laying down over 70 minutes of sprawling psychedelic trip-outs and gentle rain-soaked acoustic mysticism. A good 15 years into their craft, Dead Meadow aren’t making the same Sabbath-worshiping riff ramblers that they were in the early 2000s, and even from the first stumbling, swampy grooves of album opener “Six to Let the Light Shine Through,” it’s clear that the band is building its psychedelia on a more patient, nuanced subtlety than the thick walls of noise of earlier days.

What’s more immediately apparent is Dead Meadow’s embrace of thoughtful acoustic guitar-based compositions, as well as an increased experimentation with dubby production. “One More Toll Taker” is an airy duet between organ and folky guitar that calls to mind a ghostly eerie sunrise ceremony-like meditations, while a few songs later, “Burn the Here and Now” shimmers with a lush, cinematic palette of desert sky guitar tones at a narcotically slow pace. “Copper Is Restless (‘Til It Turns to Gold)” rides a pseudo-reggae bassline and is the band’s closest flat-out attempt at dub amidst the incredibly varied set of songs. Epic, lengthy, and ambitious, Warble Womb is so slow-moving and resilient in its vision that it never feels too heavy-handed or like it’s really even attempting anything overt. The songs dissolve into each other even at their most desperate, with clunky experimental interludes making a lot of sense when used to separate Dylanesque classic rockers like “Yesterday’s Blowing Back” from glowing psych pop nuggets like “Mr. Chesty.” While it’s not necessarily Dead Meadow’s masterwork, it shows a band growing into its sound and mellowing nicely without sacrificing any of its radiance by exploring less extreme territories.

Image              Pelican – Forever Becoming

Throughout four albums Chicago’s Pelican have rode the border between post-rock and metal. Riding on a thick grey fog with just enough evil lurking beneath that it doesn’t resemble goblins being slaughtered by barbarians air brushed on the side of a van somewhere out of the mid eighties. It’s been a four year hiatus and the departure of a founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and with the addition of a new replacement Dallas Thomas. The rhythms on Forever Becoming certainly still groan and drone, Larry Herweg’s cymbals splashing out in overlapping waves, Bryan Herweg providing a crumbling plain of distorted bass. But after an ambient opener, the riffy “Deny the Absolute” relies on Trevor de Brauw and newcomer Dallas Thomas, their guitars glinting like unsheathed swords. Without a second thought, the full band chug out some unified lightning strikes on “The Tundra”, and ”Vestiges”.

The other end of the Pelican spectrum is represented in equal doses on Forever Becoming. “The Cliff” ends having jumped off, airy guitar gliding over the top of minimal cymbal. Ironically, a section of “Immutable Dusk” rides on shimmering guitar and rim-clicking percussion. Closer “Perpetual Dawn” spends a large part of its nine and a half minutes on empty-set guitar wavering, evoking the peace of its title. Pelican deliver an album that shows little of the rust that should come with a four-year absence and the loss of a key component of their core. If this is starting over, the putting the pieces together is a lot easier than coming up with the pieces in the first place.

Image     Lee Ranaldo & The Dust – Last Night On Earth

Not only is Lee Ranaldo one of my favourite and most influential guitar players/artists of all time but I recently had the opportunity to meet him at a show show he and The Dust played at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. So, we’re going to cover the new release, and give a little bit of a feature on someone that has left a lasting impression on me musically and artistically and continues to do so, repeatedly.

Lee Ranaldo, first and foremost, an artist, a poet, a painter, a guitar virtuoso and somewhat of a cult hero. At least to me he is. Acting as one of the founding members of Sonic Youth ( do we need to mention they are one of the most lauded and influential alt rock acts of all time ? ) you could always tell if a SY tune was penned by Ranaldo because it was always the weirder ones. The tunes with the most jarring and explosive nature about them without relying on the feedback strain that Thurston and Kim were known for. This is however the man behind SY songs like “Pipeline/Kill Time” and “Skip Tracer”.

Sonic Youth was definitely about the sum of their parts and it’s awkward at best to be discussing them in a past tense existence. The dynamic of each member was so very integral to each and every creation of their output since their inception in 1981. Through the years there has been a few cast members that have come and gone, the likes of Richard Edson, Anne DeMarinis, Bob Bert, Jim Sclavunos and Jim O’rourke. The guts of Sonic Youth have always been the rhythm section of Steve Shelley (drums), Mark Ibold (bass & guitar), Thurston Moore (guitar & vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, guitar) and of course Lee Ranaldo (guitar & vocals). Being on the forefront of the noise rock revolution and pushing the DIY underground ethic of the genre more so than a specific sound is what made them such a cult act. It was never punk, nor was it grunge, it was too out there to be rock n roll. It was just art. And it was fucking amazing, every time.

So in 2011 after an extensive tour of their final album ‘The Eternal’ Ranaldo announces the band is “ending for a while” due to the separation of a wedded Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore.

In lieu of the increasingly unlikely Sonic Youth reunion, fans of the alternative pioneers are left to pour over the solo releases from the band’s members. But with each new release the individual players appear to spiral further away from each other in sound and direction. Thurston Moore has his Chelsea Light Moving with it’s punk rock edginess which is a little closer akin to Sonic Youth territory and just a pinch more anthemic. Then there is Kim Gordon’s new project Body/Head, which definitely still maintains the odd wispy vocal and noise rock avant garde that Gordon brought to the SY fold. In the end however, both of these projects haven’t done much in the way of giving Sonic Youth fans a reason to be jaw dropped.

Now that that connection has been severed, we’re left to pick at these new shards wondering how these individual pieces could possibly connect to make a Daydream Nation or a Murray Street. With Body/Head and Chelsea Light Moving, we can see the connections. With Lee Ranaldo’s latest solo effort, it’s become apparent, he was clearly the George Harrison of Sonic Youth. (I just went there, yes)

Lee Ranaldo continues to course his own trajectory into the outer reaches with his newest record, Last Night on Earth. Written almost entirely on an acoustic guitar in his dark and powerless New York home in the days following hurricane Sandy, Last Night on Earth has since been fleshed out into an expansive and densely layered collection of unrestricted noise-rock indie jams. Ranaldo’s six string prowess sits front and centre throughout with multi-tracked solos intermittently puncturing the wall-of-sound production.

His first endeavor since last year’s Between The Times and The Tides, dealt in stories about peripheral characters and scenes from throughout his life, ones that he never had the opportunity to slow down and consider up to that point. Times and Tides was a straight account of a now 57-year-old Ranaldo’s first reactions to seeing the world through a lens he hadn’t had access to since he was 25. Whereas he directed focus towards the lyrics on that record, his primary efforts are geared towards fleshing out musical shapes that were never fits for Sonic Youth on Last Night on Earth, his tenth solo LP, and an introduction to his new backing band, The Dust. Featuring non other than Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, Tim Luntzel on bass and Alan Licht, guitarist for the NY band from the nineties, Run On.

Last Night features warm, extended guitar pop tracks (nine total, most between seven and 12 minutes in length) inspired largely by the Grateful Dead in structure, and often in tone. It’s an especially melodic effort from Ranaldo, and while his DNA still plainly bleeds through with the occasional masterful guitar freak-out, he sounds comfortable and easy as ever here.

The songs on Last Night on Earth feel like they are approaching the world heart first, a sentiment you could never express about a Sonic Youth album. It’s because this album feels free of the internal tension that Ranaldo and Thurston Moore could stir up together. It could be because he conceived of these songs initially on acoustic guitar, but credit must be shared with his co-guitarist here, Alan Licht.

A longtime friend and cohort of Ranaldo’s, Licht brings the same loose-limbed psychedelic energy that made his work with Run On so enticing. His ringing chords on “Ambulancer” keep Ranaldo’s passionate lyrics of watching a loved one pass away connected to earth, and his syrupy leads feel like the soul soaring that we associate with death. Earlier on the album, Licht finds ways to leap out of the dense wall of multi-tracked guitar lines and Steve Shelley’s busy yet sturdy drumming with some, cutting a vein of ice through the otherwise heated “The Rising Tide.”

The loose, free spirit of Last Night is to be expected considering how quickly the songs were written and recorded (his previous solo effort Between The Times and The Tides was released just last year). And for the most part, it suits Ranaldo. His lyrics are far more discursive and poetic, and grapple more strongly with existential issues. Musically, it can make for inspired moments like the wowing extended coda of “Blackt Out” or the Grateful Dead-like “Key-Hole.

“Home Chds,” for instance, slowly and delicately shifts from an acoustic slow-burner to an accelerated, wobbly fuzz solo, while the mid-section of “The Rising Tide” finds Ranaldo in much more familiar form, stretching out a guitar screech over a furious rhythm section. Key moments, “Ambulancer” and “Blackt Out” demonstrate Ranaldo’s ability to effectively marry musicianship and song writing. Here he echoes Michael Stipe’s existential themes and vocal delivery but eschews this approach for delightfully shambolic and distortion heavy solos. Energetic but unhurried, sprawling but never directionless.

obits                    The Obits – Beds & Bugs

The Obits seem to be able to consistently walk a fine line between ramshackle and sophistication. The Brooklyn four piece have woven a sound and tone akin to Televison, The Wipers and The Electric Prunes. Beds & Bugs gets a little weirder without venturing out and away from the rusted guitar noise with just enough extra fuzz. Perhaps the only element their previous effort Moody, Stranded & Poor was lacking.

“Taste the Diff” and “It’s Sick” lash out with wiry guitars and big choruses. “Spun Out” goes surfing, while “Malpractice” dips its toe in the neo-blues swamp. Instrumental “Besetchet” and the prog-y folk of “Machines” are the only calm moments on Bed & Bugs, but seem to be present for that reason alone. The guitar interplay on songs like “Operation Bikini” and closer “Double Jeopardy (For the Third Time)” is gripping in the moment. It’s not too easy to overlook the vocals of Froberg, whose nasal rasp continues to be as wonderfully unruly as the guitars.

It’s a damn fun listen and would make a good party record, fans of The Strange Boys, Thee Oh Sees and Deerhunter would all settle in nicely here. Just another great release from your friends at SubPop.

ketaines     The Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters

You Can’t Serve Two Masters, the follow up to last year’s Spaced Out is a much more focused and even more entertaining release by Paul Lawton and The Ketamines. It’s keen on progression instead of just simply stirring up trouble. It’s an album full of succinct pop influenced garage pysch rock and quickly goes for the gut.

What stands out on You Can’t Serve Two Masters, is the execution: great hooks are left alone to work their magic, most notably on the intoxicating title track and the bouncy “Lawncare”. It’s not simplistic, however: as the members of Ketamines are allowed room to find their own footing,You Can’t Serve Two Masters reveals itself in layers. “So Clean” is a perfect marriage of a scuzzy hook, while still employing sunny undertones. The spacey stomp of “Don’t Stop” is is as close to anything on Spaced Out, but even then it’s a fun enough listen that no one will get too bogged down in.

“Spaceships” even showcases a sensitive, humiliated side, something of a rarity in a genre known for cocksure callousness. But Lawton and Ketamines have always explored dichotomies, and You Can’t Serve Two Masters is no different. “Thank Me Forever” continues in exposing Lawton’s sweet side, an indication that we truly won’t know what will come next from the band.

You Can’t Serve Two Masters is one of the better psych listens of the year; its ability to surprise is so engaging that it reminds us never to judge a book by its cover.

pearl jam 2                  Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Here’s a band that over their career have done a great job weeding out the fair weathered fans. More so after the first two releases. The years and albums following seemed to always have a new course in their orbit. They have managed to wedge themselves in and create their own corner in American rock, on a world class level. Those who have always had a soft spot for Pearl Jam know that with each release they’re in for a treat.

Into their 23rd year now, what hasn’t Pearl Jam done ? A band that has been able to change from album to album yet always feel the same, in the most comforting ways. On their tenth studio release Lightning Bolt divides easily between two halves. Out of the gates we’re hit with an aggressive “Getaway” and directly into “Mind Your Manners”, the first single. Which showcases some of McCready and Gossard’s most frantically driven riffs since Vitalogy’s “Spin The Black Circle”. There’s an abundance of urgent rockers here, the title track and “My Father’s Son” as autobiographical as “Alive” was. Vedder’s hardcore Ramones worship is alive and well in the album’s opening half, that’s for sure.

Gossard’s “Let The Records Play” bounces between country twang and 70’s glam rock with the lyric about a dude who cures his pain with LP’s and a vaporizer. While Ament’s bass pulses a dreamy melancholy “Pendulum”. A tune that evokes Edgar Allen Poe and has been opening set lists on the current leg of their tour. McCready’s leads on the first of a few four ballads (and follow up single) are some of the most melodious, heartfelt and memorable moments on the album. “Sleeping By Myself” taken from the Ukulele Songs album Vedder released, gets the full band treatment. There’s a hint of Nick Drake on “Yellow Moon” and “Future Days” is a fraught but uplifting love song.

Pearl Jam have become their heroes, but, like Springsteen, clearly do not want to become fat Elvis. So on their 10th LP, they over think, over emote and overreach — fruitfully. If the party line on 2009’s Backspacer was that it was PJ having “fun,” Lightning Bolt is the sound of anger and brooding depression. In Pearl Jam terms, this is reason to be happy.

dodos                            Dodos – Carrier

There is an eerie foreshadowing provided for the fifth release by their previous albums titles, Visitor, Time To Die, No Colour. The Duo from San Francisco the Dodos fifth album titled Carrier is their most subdued and solemn album inspired by the passing of guitarist Christopher Reimer, who joined Dodos for a brief time during his departure from Woman. He past in 2012 at a tender age of just 26. Though Reimer doesn’t play on Carrier he certainly is a spiritual player for both Meric Long and Logan Kroeger. The album lingers and resonates in ways that give it a unique place in their discography, a promising path forward rather than what can initially be heard as a return to Time to Die’s soft-focus indie pop.

Of the more apparent changes here is that Long has made the transition to electric guitar almost full time. Though Dodos broke out on Visitor as an acoustic-and-drums duo and returned to that format on No Color, they’re not wedded to that setup, having incorporated electric guitars in a live setting and even a full-time vibraphonist on Time to Die. The strange thing is that they might be the first band to ever plug in for the sole purpose of rocking less. You can sense a tentativeness in the shift towards a gentler minimalism– both the first song “Transformer” and the first single “Confidense” begin as calm and quiet meditations, Long singing in a hushed, lower range over sprightly fingerpicking before giving way to the kind of percussive jams that we’ve come to expect. But those sections end up feeling mismatched and you sense that while Dodos were ready to do away with their old habits.

Long and Kroeber as instrumentalists often was the hook on past records, rather than a certain melody or lyric. As the songwriting process has been completely inverted. Whereas previous records evolved out of instrumental jams, the lyrics on Carrier came first. But much like the six-string switch-up, it has the exact opposite effect that you might expect. Long hasn’t become a wordier or more poetic lyricist, in fact, Carrier is Dodos’ most plainspoken album. There seems to be a “first thought, best thought” approach as he asks cosmic, open-ended questions that strike to the heart of the human experience or sensible, legible fragments that can fleshed out over equally inquisitive music.

valerie          Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone

Let’s get the name dropping out of the way early. Another stellar album produced by Dan Auerbach at his Nashville studio. It features a cast of Jimbo Mathus, Richard Swift, Booker T. Jones and Auerbach all backing up Valerie June‘s Pushin’ Against a Stone, her fourth album to date. The only way to describe it is ‘organic moonshine roots music’. June moves from country twang, to blues, through gospel territory and folk, she isn’t shy to show her motown soul side either. Truth be told many other records before have tried to squeeze a varied amount of traditional styles into one package, only to gave it seem cluttered and unfocused. But there’s a vision and a direction to June’s record that is rare and hard to come by.

It’s always treading dangerous ground to talk about “authenticity” when it comes to any style of music. But there’s a reason why artists from Memphis, for example, have played such a crucial role in the creation and development of so many genres. The city was the focal point of an area steeped in blues, gospel, country and soul talent, and artists who had the largest capacity to absorb those sounds invariably sounded like no one else.

It surely must have been tempting for whoever has been giving June advice, to make her stick to a single approach. However, Pushin’ Against The Stone is a rare case when a young artist’s natural instincts are spot-on. As both a singer and songwriter, June is a major talent with unlimited potential. A talent that may just make a few year end lists.

califone                         Califone – Stitches

After the breakup of his former band Red Red Meat, frontman Tim Rutili formed Califone as a solo project. Rutili’s solo effort soon became a full-fledged musical project with a regular and rotating list of contributors, including many former members of Red Red Meat and some members of other Chicago bands.  Since 1997 Rutili has been releasing his brand of Americana under the Cailfone guise. Music that has always been rooted in this tension between technology and humanity. Now at the eleventh release Stitches leans a little more heavily on the human element. It’s not strictly a singer-songwriter record, though the focus on Rutili’s vocals and the songwriting is more pronounced than usual, like on “Movie Music Kills a Kiss,” where the song is framed simply by a plaintive acoustic strum, stinging slide-guitar asides, and a trickling piano. At times, Stitches sounds more like a collection of demos for a Califone record than a Califone record, which suits the starkness of the material. After all, people don’t head to the desert unless they’re hiding from something, and the demons that Rutili describes on Stitches seem particularly druggy and apocalyptic.

The lyrics are cryptic and hallucinatory. Even when it’s not always clear what Rutili is talking about on Stitches, the music evokes an unsettling spiritual reckoning. All personal tragedy and affliction is born of the distance between the reality of what is and the imagination of what might be. Or at least it would seem that way from several listens. In total, Stitches is exactly the sort of Americana record that can act as antidote for what’s happening in the genre right now. At a time when “hey!” folk has fully infiltrated rock radio, and made questionably bearded banjo players the guitar shredders of this generation, somebody has to stand up and represent how truly weird and wondrous this music can be. Stitches isn’t a record designed to bowl anybody over. It eschews easy Mumford-like payoffs. Like desert sand, it slowly washes over until it finally crushes you.

esmerine                         Esmerine -Dalmak

It’s been ten years since their debut release, Canadian chamber pop group Esmerine are just releasing their fourth album Dalmak. the quartet, comprising co-founders Bruce Cawdron (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Beckie Foon (of Thee Silver Mountain Zion), as well as recent additions Brian Sanderson and Jamie Thompson, spin a fine web of noise. It’s fragile, tempestuous, pensive and sprawling, as they experiment with languid strains of clinical harmony, exploring avante-garde themes in neo-classical music, electronica and post-rock.

After lengthy tours of Europe brought Esmerine to Turkey – Istanbul specifically – the group were invited for a residency in the city. A significant portion of Dalmak was then recorded and written in the ancient metropolis, and the band were joined by a spray of Turkish session musicians for various tracks. The word ‘dalmak’ itself is Turkish, roughly translating to ‘to be absorbed by’ or ‘to dive in’; the LP is about the foursome submerging themselves in an utterly different culture, and also about trekking into your mind on voyages of self-discovery; there’s a meditative aspect to the album, between titans of hysteria and goliath frenzied welts.

Where a lot of the album focuses on a very particular culture and region, it’s a portion of ‘white space’ if you will, where your ears can rest. Not that it’s dull by any measure, but it requires less active listening than, say, ‘Barn Board Fire’. ‘White Pine’ is another cut that’s less about the Turkish inspirations and more a showcase of Foon’s prodigal cello talent. A pitter-patter of repeated motifs collude with strings that pirouette and sashay like ballerinas. Gradually, the cellos and violins engorge. What began life as minuscule anxious threads rapidly becomes something colossal and all-encompassing. Esmerine summon music to drown you, relying on minimalist techniques to build a claustric effect. They ultimately craft gorgeous, sparkling experimental noises that blur the line between post-rock, minimalist electronica and Turkish folk. It’s a humbling concoction that’s all too easy to get lost in.

hecker virgins                       Tim Hecker – Virgins

Tim Hecker one ups his own paradigm shifting approach to noise, ambience and the echoes in between. The seventh full-length release for the Canadian experimental electronic producer was recorded live in Montreal, Reykjavik, and Seattle. Virgins is Hecker’s most enigmatic and thought provoking material to date. His sound signature may still be instantly recognizable, but there is no denying that he has moved significantly farther down the path toward something else with this release. Each Hecker record features drastically manipulated instruments; with this one, he causes not just instruments, but otherwise static things—spaces, echoes, shadows—to exhale and speak.

The devastating “Live Room,” for instance, emulates the way thoughts surge accelerated through a paranoid mind, all arpeggio pianos, creaking doorways, and fabric tearing. An unsettling thump halts the gentle billowing keys in “Black Refraction,” like a stuck needle hitting phantom grooves at the end of a record. The record’s title tracks, “Virginal I” and “Virginal II,” swell and flatten with keys that are just out of tune, producing an effect that’s simultaneously disorienting and nostalgic, like unearthing a letter from a dead lover.

Never quite retreating from his signature techniques, with no reason to do so, Virgins finds angular ways to stun and pleasure and is unmistakably Hecker’s vision, it’s the listeners experience.

iasos 300      Numero 049 – Iasos: Celestial Soul Portrait

In 1989, a psychology professor at Plymouth State found that Iasos‘ music bore striking resemblance tot he sounds of near – death experiences. By the mid 1970’s before ambient’s ‘furniture music’ and the coming of New Age, Iasos made in-roads into both aborning genres. In dialogue with Vista, a benevolent extra-dimensional muse, Iasos conducted groundbreaking experiments with tape reversal, feedback and electronic processes, working with early commercially available synthesizers. Translating Vista’s tones for Earthling ears, Iasos midwifed new genres and transformed compositional possibilities for contemporary musicians, all while living as an eccentric on Sausalito’s only telephone equipped houseboat. Spotlighting the first decade of his output, Celestial Soul Portrait features unseen photos, never before heard tracks and insights on the life and “crystal giggling energy” of Iasos, the other Greek god of 70’s exploration into music’s electronic stargate.

Now that we have that part out of the way and you’re still probably wondering “what the fuck”? I’ll explain. The above statement was the little sticker on the top right hand corner of the record when I noticed it on the shelf at my local record shop (Vinyl Alibi). It was enough to make me purchase, with curiosity exploding inside of me, I couldn’t wait to get this home and drop the needle on it. A glass of wine in hand and eagerly awaiting the first tones as the vinyl turned on the platter … maybe it was 30 seconds in … perhaps a bit longer… I don’t recall, but I do remember feeling the smile roll across my face as the tears streamed over my cheeks. I was listening to the most beautiful album I had ever heard.

Before ambient and New Age were so named and codified, the “Paradise Music” of Iasos—represented here by 13 selections transmitted between 1975 and 1985—brought Earth-transcriptions of a vast and galactic soundhealing to a planet much in need.

You should also know, Numero is known as Numero Group. Each release being titled Numero with a numer attached to it. Beginning with 1 all the way to here at 049. A label with a wealth of delicious sounds. The first half of their output focuses strongly on soul, motown and R&B that has been lost, misplace and generally unheard. The later portion of their ever growing catalogue begins to delve into other territory. Ranging from punk explosions to grunge pre grunge, country treasures and ambient electronic regions. Below is a link to their site and just under that will be some Iasos to entice you further.

last days                         Last Days – Satellite

Satellite is the 4th album from Graham Richardson’s Last Days. Richardson who is now well known for his cinematic electro-acoustic pieces that effortlessly invoke an almost inconceivably tangible imagery has this time around turned ever inward for Satellite’s core inspiration. While Richardson credits the album with certain personal themes in tow he’s more apt to let the listener gather their own meaning of the album’s affinity of satellite and stars. The song New Transmission features vocals by Beth Arzy (Aberdeen, Trembling Blue Stars) and could very well sum up the album’s apex while delivering the most pop affected Last Days song to date.

I instantly connected with its melancholic themes, nostalgic motifs and more importantly, organic ways. Richardson’s music exists somewhere outside of genres, always exploring the very personal themes of stasis and flux, escape and acceptance. diving deeper into electro-acoustic shoegaze, lo-fi electronica, and cinematic ambiance. This is immediately a more retrospective work, with casual walks down the memory lane, flashbacks to instructional records on good manners, and innocent bed time fantasies of orbiting the Earth in our protective space suits. This childhood dream pinnacles at the eleven-minute track titled “To The Sky” (a favorite on the album), where endless ethereal pads stretch into outer space becoming one with the infinite. With these thoughts I want to run out into the yard, lie on the grass, and stare into the starry sky, looking for the fading echo of long time dying planet. Instead, of course, we’re staring into glowing screens, obsessed with daily tidbits of another person’s life, unable to unplug and really live our own. And although these are only thoughts, they are indeed brought on by music of Last Days, a message well received through simple ways of music.

ssm opiate a winged vctory                 SMM: Opiate – Various Artists

SMM: Opiate is the second release in Ghostly’s SMM series, which is an ongoing exploration of the evocative possibilities of sound, with a focus on classical minimalism, electronic and drone composition, film soundtracks, and fragile imaginary landscapes.Opiate is the follow-up to 2011’s SMM: Context, and as with that record, it’s a carefully chosen selection of music, compiled over some two years from around the world.

As a whole, the compilation seems to follow a narrative arc, descending through a series of stages into near-complete stillness, and then slowly ascending back to where it began. As a whole, the experience is certainly evocative of the opiated sensation evoked by the record’s title — but really, it’s a compilation that invites you to find your own meaning in it, or simply to appreciate the beauty of its music and escape the world for a while.


1 SIMON SCOTT – Water Shadow
3 CELER – Nothing So Mystical
4 BLACK SWAN – Passings, Heartbreak
5 JIM HAYNES – This is Radio Sweden
6 EN – White
7 PJUSK – Dorsk
8 FIELDHEAD – 37th
9 NOVELLER – Bright Clouds Bloom

4tet rounds         Four Tet – Rounds: 10th Anniversary Reissue

Kieran Hebden, Four Tet, his breakout third album Rounds gets an anniversary and a 180 gram reissue on two LP’s. Don’t ask why, seriously, you shouldn’t even be reading this if why is a question in your syrupy mind. But if you must know, Rounds is something you should own, as it may very well be Hebden’s masterpiece. The record opens with a series of quiet punchouts before the clanging of drums emerges every eight beats, leaving a trail of quiet keys in its way, finally developing that mishmash of sound into something more conventional just before the two-minute mark. “Hands” is a very good introduction to Four Tet’s world, where everything seems to be a bit chaotic and disorganized before a clear melodic pattern comes into focus as the track stretches on. He loops his own instruments excessively, but never does it feel like Hebden is running out of ideas: he fully understands the nature of a groove, how to ride it, when to deviate from it, when to simply throw surprises at you. “She Moves She” seems a bit conventional from the onset, but when you least expect it, he’ll toss in a quiet windchime breakdown, an aggressive-sounding burst of static-fuzz that you soon realize has been looped into the main melody—it’s all greatly compelling stuff.

Rounds is an end-to-end burner, as there isn’t a weak track in the bunch. The moody “And They All Looked Broken Hearted” starts out ominous, but the quiet shamisen work brought in part way through buoys the track from falling too far down in mood, while the closing “Slow Jam” offers a structure that’s more conventional in achieving emotional catharsis. The fiery “Spirit Fingers” is all uptempo build up with no climax, and “Unspoken” may very well be the closest thing the kids these days have to a trip-hop track in a post trip-hop age. It is a rewarding, rich album that holds up well after multiple listens. Perhaps what’s best about the album is that despite its release 10 years ago, it sounds just as fresh then as it does today, completely fitting in with our current musical landscape without missing a beat. Perhaps that compliment is more of a critique on the state of music today than it is on Hebden’s forward-thinking abilities, but no matter which way you slice it, Rounds is slowly building up its goodwill for “classic album” status without having to do much aside from just existing.

darkside                         Darkside – Psychic

When worlds collide, the fallout’s rarely pretty, and it’s typically true for the modern bastardisation of music genres. For every positive fusion of style, form, and function, there’s inevitably a grating opposite; a haemorrhaging car crash of noise that make heads hurt and ears bleed. But in the cultured hands of Nicolas and guitarist Dave Harrington, it’s an exploration that runs deep and pulls with the insistent power of a black hole.

All dark atmospherics and empty space, Jaar’s spectral production for collaborative project Darkside creates the void where rhythm, and seemingly time, are allowed to infinitely float on. Subterranean melodies are chopped out by clean, minimal motorik beats, and door-slamming bass and broken vocals help drop the cold, dead-eyed chills on tracks like the ‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’ and the skewed, ritualistic creep of ‘Greek Light’.

Conversely, though, ‘Psychic’ is an album underpinned by control, and a record that’s ruthlessly – often impeccably – efficient in its construct. It means the lounge bump ‘n’ grind of ‘Metatron’ sits easy with the schizophrenic static of ‘Freak, Go Home’ and the rumbling, 11-minute slow-burn of opener ‘Golden Arrow’ never really threatens to reach a bombastic climax.

mazzy-star-seasons-of-your-day-300x300       Mazzy Star – Seasons Of Your Day

After a seventeen year hiatus Hope Sandoval brings back Mazzy Star, and they haven’t lost a thing in the interim. The fourth album Seasons Of Your Day, is so faithful to the established Mazzy Star sound. It’s almost hard to believe, there is no sign of age or intrusion of an additional influence. If word emerged that this record was actually recorded in 1997, a year after the release of Among My Swan, there would be no reason to doubt it. The tone and phrasing of Sandoval’s voice are exactly where we left them. David Roback, Mazzy Star’s musical driving force hasn’t been in the public eye but he remembers how to make a record sound good and how to write simple and effective chord changes. The craftsmanship of the songs—their mix of longing, weary resignation, and dusty cracks of sunlight—remains at a high level. To hear this Mazzy Star record is to understand why the modest and enjoyable Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions never really took off. It lacked the nostalgic feeling.

The reverb forming a halo around Sandoval’s voice on “California” is warm and haunted, Roback’s guitar tone on “Common Burn” is impossibly lonesome and beautiful, and the acoustic slide imparting a blusiness on “Sparrow” and “Does Someone Have Your Baby Now” cuts through yawning canyons of silence. The record is sonically impressive in an elemental way, and the songs are memorable and distinct. There was always some remove to the project, a certain formalism. Still, to my ear, none of these qualities detract from what makes Mazzy Star so listenable and appealing. Those first three albums have always been easy to put on and enjoy, and now we have a fourth to go with them.

AroarA-album-cover-380x343 (1)                  AroarA – In The Pines

Andrew Whiteman is best known as core member of Broken Social Scene and the founding member of Apostle of Hustle, he’s always marched to syncopated beat of his own drummer. A globally minded rambler and magpie – like collector of creative sparks. He’s used his Apostle of Hustle vessel to explore and express esoteric interests in everything from Cuban music to Chilean activist and artist Victor Jara. With his latest endeavor Whiteman found inspiration in an unlikely place, The University of Pennsylvania’s online archive of spoken word recordings.

He Stumbled upon Alice Notley, a name he had heard in the past but yet unfamiliar with her work. She is a celebrated American avant-garde poet and Pulitzer finalist. While listening to her read the cadence in her voice resonated with Whiteman, as if hearing Sly Stone or Van Morrison for the first time. After seeking out her books he stumbles across ‘In The Pines’.  Which Notley writes about a women undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C and the adjoining psychological struggles, AroarA have done their own translation of Notley’s work in a mixture of music styles with adept creativity.

Whiteman along with wife Ariel Engle make up the duo that is AroarA, based out of Montreal. The duo’s first release was an ep later this summer with just five songs, titled with numbers. As the full length has nine other songs titled with different numbers, as so the two release make up a 14 song collection (titled #1 – #14 in no real numeric order). Each of the 14 songs (with Notley’s approval) is a companion to the 14 poems found in Notley’s book of the same name.

In The Pine is a hauntingly lush, weird, whispery and percussive interpretation on Notley’s hallucinatory imagery done through multi layered vocals and patchwork instrumentation. Achingly gorgeous, Engle’s rich burnished vocals sit in fragile pockets of Whiteman’s ringing guitar notes or float over earthy piano samples and homemade percussion samples. Easily one of the most accessibly avant – garde releases in some time, Whiteman and Engle take you into the pines and lead you through the shadows and back again in an almost shamanistic journey.

brendan canning               Brendan Canning – You Gots 2 Chill

The second solo release by Brendan Canning, co-founding member of Broken Social Scene is a low stakes affair. Even the winking title You Gots 2 Chill comes off like a post-it-note reminder on the fridge door, something to keep oneself grounded. Perhaps that’s just what Canning needs these days. After scoring the synthy soundtrack to The Canyons and working on a mysterious interactive multimedia endeavor involving director David Cronenberg and a biotech lab. Given the scope of these projects, it’s easy to understand why Canning’s approach to his new solo record You Gots 2 Chill was decidedly laid-back and homespun: he put together his own independent label to handle the album’s release (named for his home street, tucked into the heart of downtown Toronto), drew the cover art himself, and recorded without help from any of his Broken Social Scene associates.

Every track is built up around a spine of finger picking acoustic guitar, most would be content to exist without any vocal or embellishment. Canning  draws a rough-hewn, earthen beauty from the strings on tracks like the misty “Never Go to the Races” and the wistful “Last Song for the Summer Hideaway”. There’s a refreshing sense of humor present in the album’s song titles and sequencing: “Makes You Motor” chuckles at its unhurried mid-tempo groove, while the frisky “Plugged In” lives off the grid just like the rest of the record. The 14 songs are fleshed out without sacrificing Canning’s ear for gentle, slowly shifting melody.

By being so low-stakes the album’s collection of acoustic tunes fit just right as sweater weather approaches. They fit with comfort and intimacy, like an evening cup of tea.

feuerstack     Michael Feuerstack – tambourine Death Bed

There’s a sense of directness on Michael Feuerstack‘s latest album, Tambourine Death Bed, from the abandonment of his previous moniker (Snailhouse) to the stripped-down motif of his minimal folk sounds.Tambourine Death Bed is the handwritten, personal letters we crave in a world of digitalized, characterless e-mails. The intimacy of Feuerstack’s keen observations, whether in the flowers that grow in a city or the striking fact that “you’re too young to be so old,” hits listeners square between the eyes without any overcomplicated arrangements clouding the powerful significance of his lyrics. The record is constructed with layers of subtle detail and collaborative hands in the mix, including the Little Scream’s Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s voice wonderfully intertwining with Feuerstack’s on “Flowers in the City” and “Bones in the River.” Feuerstack might have shed his Snailhouse moniker, but his lyrics and understated songs are still blanketing us with the warmest of words and feelings.

dmst         Do Make Say Think – s/t (debut reissue)

Despite the occasional spurt of touring, it’s been years since we had a new Do Make Say Think release to spin on our turntables. While the band have yet to announce a follow-up to their 2009 set Other Truths, the long-running Toronto post-rock crew are about to give their back catalogue a boost via the first-ever vinyl pressing of their self-titled debut. The once CD-only set will be spread out over two LPs, with the four sides clocking in at around 72 minutes of music. The vinyl will be served up on 180-gram wax, and the original artwork has been adapted into a package featuring a custom window-cut jacket, two heavyweight sleeves and a 12″ x 12″ credit insert.

Constellation’s original press sheet for Do Make Say Think highlighted the band’s “spacerock-cum-swing approach to sweeping instrumentals,” further noting that the recording was spiked with “rhythm syncopation, reverb-soaked guitar, the occasional horn, and some of the finest saturated synth tones we’ve ever heard.”

I’ve always adored DMST, ever since I first them. The self titled release being the first. It’s an album that changed me in so many ways, the way I listen to music. I would not be stretching the truth to say that it was and still is one of the most influential albums in my collection. I’ve gone through a few cd copies over the years and while having the rest of their catologue on vinyl it’s a real treat to finally have this pressed on wax and in the collection.

aheym    Kronos Quartet with Bryce Dessner – Aheym

The National guitarist and Clogs member Bryce Dessner is set to release his recording as a composer. It’s a collaboration between Dessner and the avant-classical outfit Kronos Qaurtet, and it features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Being a long time fan of The National and always gushing over the work of Clogs, I’m very much looking forward to this November 5th release. Below is a quote from Bryce about the album.

“David Harrington asked me to write a piece for Kronos Quartet for a performance in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I live just two blocks from the park and spend many mornings running around it. The park for me symbolizes much of what I love about New York, especially the stunning diversity of Brooklyn with its myriad cultures and communities. My father’s family, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, also lived near the park for many years in the 1940s and ’50s before moving to Queens. In discussing the new piece, David proposed to perform the work in Brooklyn, and then to retrace the journey of my grandparents and perform it in Lodz, Poland, a city where my great-grandparents lived and through which my grandmother passed on her voyage to America.

“‘Aheym’ means ‘homeward’ in Yiddish, and this piece is written as musical evocation of the idea of flight and passage. As little boys, my brother and I used to spend hours with my grandmother, asking her about the details of how she came to America. She could only give us a smattering of details, but they all found their way into our collective imagination, eventually becoming a part of our own cultural identity and connection to the past. In her poem “Di rayze aheym,” the American-Yiddish poet Irena Klepfisz, a professor at Barnard in New York and one of the few child survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, writes: ‘Among strangers is her home. Here right here she must live. Her memories will become monuments.’

“Aheym is dedicated to my grandmother, Sarah Dessner.”

L Pierre                   L. Pierre – Surface Noise

The vinyl crackle and string samples on Surface Noise are much wider than the ground they cover. After only discovering L. Pierre on his last release ‘The Island Come True’ I’ve been trying to find the way to approach this release. The bottom line is that you’ll enjoy this. It’s hard not to. It’s a gentle, withered, and mournful self-contained suite that you’ll find lovely at points and pretty at others, and the blanker spaces aren’t around too long until the points at which it sounds nice crop up again. It’s a nice-sounding record, and it’s occasionally pretty beautiful.

In these recordings, L. Pierre pays an affectionate tribute to the wear and tear of overplayed vinyl; the hiss, scratch and pop of records long loved but worn down. It’s the sound of survival, the echoes of a life lived well; moth eaten music of sadness and resilience, of beauty and backbone. Each track is then loaded with rich, string-heavy bars of ominous or overly-syrupy romantic orchestration. The transition between tracks is much smoother than on previous efforts, and the effect is a bit like listening to a skipping Elgar compilation that has gathered a thick skin of dust.

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