by Joe Surdna
Quite a list for June. There is just so much amazing new music being made and recorded that
it really makes me grateful because I can concentrate on listening instead of watching the steady
drip, drip, drip of byzantine mindlessness and nincompoopery coming out of the airwaves and
the internet. Take a break from the corporate truth and fascist vaudeville and let the news fade into
the background and lose yourself in some amazing music. Enjoy and please leave comments.
June Monthly Spins
A Macaca & Gama: J’ecris (Ep)
File Under: world, fourth
I’ve been trying to find out who exactly A Macaca and Gama actually are but there just isn’t a lot of information about them except on Bc where there is talk of “meetings” in Brazil, France, Tunisia and Greece and about a poem called J’ecris. There are two long six minute tracks on this too brief Ep, but I hope they do more. A lot more.
File Under: jazz improv masters
This is Ill Considered’s first album of composition but they are so tight that you can feel and hear the moments that seem to break the script and they admit that during the recording session they decided the vibe wasn’t right and fell back into the magic of their old improvisational ways. It is the drumming by Emre Ramazanoglu that really makes this record so vital and extraordinary as well as percussionist Yahael Camara-Onono, Leon Brichard on bass, saxophonist Idris Rahman and Bassist Leon Brichard. A vital new group giving UK jazz a run for the money.
File Under: dark, ambient, dream pop, psyche
The heart and soul of Landing has always been husband and wife Aaron and Adrienne Snow. And they’ve been at this for 20 years with at least 12 albums and many Eps starting with 1999’s Centrifuge. Landing were at home with Flying Saucer Attack, Bowery Electric and Windy & Carl and I cannot think of one album that I was ever disappointed in throughout all this time. Bells in New Towns is as good as anything they’ve done and solid all the way to the glorious ending with the song Second Sight. No one does the genre as well as they have, even though hundreds of bands have tried.
File Under: Toronto, black diaspora
The Golden Octave has been in the works for years by queer, Toronto-based Ethiopian/Eritean artist Ayo Leilani who has been active as a performer and activist for many years, releasing only a handful of singles.
“I’m definitely always pigeonholed into the R&B/hip-hop zone, which is fine, because I get why people think that,” Leilani says, “It’s the easiest thing to do. It’s a black girl singing on beats. That’s why, with [The Golden Octave], I chose a bunch of beats that maybe people wouldn’t expect me to. I want to be able to change people’s mind and perception of what a black girl can sing about or be about on stage.”
File Under: exceptional, unclassifiable music
Slovokian composer Lukas Bulko spent eight years composing and refining this, his first record. It is a reflective and thoughtful sonic journey that brings the best of new classical, electro-acoustic economy and the angelic vocal interpretations from Alex Lukacova and Marian Hrdina together in a lavish and brilliant record worthy of many deep listens. He says: “ I hope that if we are able to uncover the profound beauty of things that seem to be hidden, it is possible to become more humble and appreciative of life around us.”
File Under: dark ambient hauntology
I wait for a record like this all month long between posts, hoping, expecting something will show up that feels wholly original and even startling, a record that is already timeless, even though it addresses our time head-on, with a penetrating, no blink stare. Take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected—beats break forth and shatter into pieces and static over takes a melody that you thought was taking you somewhere, but it dissolves quickly and another pulsing, deep bass comes in. This is Cologne-based ambient pioneer Sonae’s second full length and it is as innovative as it is memorable and builds on the confidence and breadth of that first effort. Should be a good work out for those of you with advanced sonic systems.
File Under: ethereal songwriter
New Zealander Alicia Merz rises above the essential lo-fi sound notable in that island’s indie music history. Perhaps more in common with Grouper than anyone else I can think of, Merz uses a lot of effects in the same way and toward the same ends in constructing ethereal worlds that feel like home. Although there is less abstraction and more attempts at keeping song structures more like This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance.
Boxwork: Heading North (Original Film Soundtrack)
File Under: cinematic, ambient, postrock
OST shown with a short film about a cyclist who tries to make it from London to Edinburgh in less that 24 hours and sponsored by the British cycling brand Abion. Composer James Wilson and fellow bandmates have created a soundtrack that mimics the relentless spinning and effort that goes into long distance cycling and this stands alone from the film, which I have not seen.
File Under: Aussie rock
It’s so rare to review an album where the guitar is the most prominent instrument but that is the way that the down under songwriter Courtney Barnett has always done things. She’s a storyteller and you have to be into a certain laid-back, jangly bit of rambling lyrical smithing, nothing too telling or revealing, but buried in that cool exterior are moments of self-reflective rage and woman-power angst that reminds me of nothing less than Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, which just had it’s 20th anniversary reissue. It took a few listens to adjust and sink in and it may not be for everybody, but it’s worth a listen.
File Under: I’m going to call it Americana
If you’ve read my column for awhile you know that I’m not a fan of modern commercial country but the thing is that there are a lot of people who exist on the margins of that sort of Nashville noise and make music that is at it’s heart Americana. They use the same instruments, the same melodic feel but there’s a simplicity and grace that is brought to the table that transports the music out of the cloying Chevy commercial and into a more liminal space. I like this record a lot and it’s really not my thing at all. Nice work Mr. Stewart for upgrading my listening ears to the beauty of the pedal steel and slide guitar, not to mention the simple clarity of good songwriting.
Gemini Sisters: Gemini Sisters
File Under: trance, post-rock, kraut
Musicians John Kolodij (High Aura’d) and Matt Christensen (Mind over Mirrors & Zelionople) came up with the name because both of their daughters were born on the same day, year and time under the sign of Gemini. Like Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas soundtrack, Gemini Sisters create a spatial, animistic world of lysergic drones and ambient electronic textures punctuated by a sense of guitar distortion and vocals that come and go, more like a series of chants, rather than specific lyrics, although they might be deeply buried in the mix. A headphone trip. A journey that you take for the duration through a vast desert full of red rocks and burnt cactus. Stars of the Lid live in this same desert.
File Under: covers of some of the most beautiful songs ever recorded
Yes, they started out as a new wave hair band and had several hits but around 1988, with a budget of a million dollars, Talk Talk spent 14 months in the studio making their masterpiece Spirit of Eden, The major force behind this innovation and brilliance was lead singer Mark Hollis who told label suits at EMI that there would be no singles released and that the compositions required up to 17 players and they therefore would not be touring to support the album. They followed in 1991 by the even more jazz-inflected post-rock album when they released Laughing Stock. This is a compilation mainly of covers from those two records by a list of artists that include Zero 7, S. Carey, Duncan Sheik, Zelienole, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Turin Brakes, Lia Ices and Nils Frahm. It’s a beauty and honestly these sorts of projects can be hit or miss but the strength of the original material and the inspiration these artists have gotten from these records is on display in this massive 2 hour and 45 minute document that is available from Tidal.
File Under: transcendent ambient drones
Celer (Will Long) and Forest Management (John Daniel), two budding masters of the ambient world have created an invented soundtrack for the film “The Mosquito Coast” which is a 1986 film, based on the novel and starring Harrison Ford and River Phoenix and directed by Peter Weir. Throughout this astonishing soundtrack there are snippets of dialogue added from the film, which only adds to the expansive sense of mystery about a dominant father who forces his family to flee civilization before it’s too late. It’s rare that I like ambient drone and I’m not sure why this composition rises above so much of the clutter and drivel that passes as music within this genre. Stars of the Lid is a good starting place in how this album carves out a continual magnificent arc of wave after wave of transcendent bliss. This is a journey where you might be wise to use headphones.
File Under: dark ambient house, experimental
Two in a row from the ever-surprising Constellation Tatsu label and the final album in a trilogy by Rose, giving us an organic-as-it-gets journey into experimental House. The first two releases Exile and Deliverance round out what it now a solid sonic and transcendent body of music.
Zohastre: Pan and the Master Pipers
File Under: European prog/space/noise/psych underground.
I’m all in for some experimental use of bagpipes and walking the misty moors with the duo of French/Italian avant-psyche masters Zohastre, who have just dropped much more than a debut LP. A trip certainly worth taking: one twirls the knobs while the other adds live percussion to the mix. These mixes come from live improvisational collaboration. There is chanting too and a droning and relentless demiurge toward the scared. Or as Bc said it “They tempt to connect with ancestral emotions, activate distant memories, techniques and sonorities to deliver an intense and atemporal experience, celebrating the Eternal Return and Cycle of Life.”
File Under: singer songwriter
Former Supergrass frontman and now a solo act, Gaz Coombes here with his second effort since the memorable Matador from 2015. More introspection this time and a wider range of song-crafting still hangs on a 70’s progressive amalgam that belies a lot of studio craft. This one doesn’t appear to be on Bc but is on Tidal.
Tiny Tim: Earth Angel (Live Ed Sullivan)
File Under: stick with it because the ending is sublime. Imagine that millions of people
tuned into this show back in the 60’s. He’s the Andy Kaufman of rock and roll.
Jon Hopkins: Emerald Rush
File Under: From the new album Singularity
Anna and Elizabeth: Little Black Train
File Under: sweet jesus, the black train a comin’
Gerhard Richter: Painting, or whatever, fuck
File Under: your monthly moment of zen
Pink Floyd: Grandchester Meadows
File Under: Ummagumma!
File Under: virtual reality primer
Two weeks after visiting author Jeremy Baileson’s Stanford VR lab and having a demonstration of the most cutting edge virtual reality there is Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus Rift’s for a cool two billion dollars. “Trippy,” he called it, which makes me wonder is Zuck experienced? This is a great primer on the history and possible future of VR, but Bailenson is not a great writer and he drinks of the Kool-aide that so many Silicon Valley futurists consume in mass quantities. Yes, sometime in the next 20 years instead of everyone staring at and interacting with their phones they’ll instead be walking around in head mounted displays in VR-Land. It’s the next huge train that’s coming down the tech tracks with billions already invested, and we all know how the internet and the world changing, wondrous world of social media turned out? VR is already being used to help veterans and others deal with their PTSD, helping to heal people needing
painful physical therapy, but, as a Kiwi friend of mine said: This will make our current problems with social media seem like child’s play.
From The Archives
File Under: sublime sonorous simplicity
Since I’ve included a Talk Talk covers album on this month’s list I realized I hadn’t listened to this record in many years. It is now astonishingly 20 years old and takes up right where Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock left off but Hollis has managed to simplify and reduce even further, stripping down to the bare bones and somehow making the sound even larger and grand. The sublime can be slippery, sticky, or merely simple. This album is right up there with one of the most spare and beautiful things ever recorded. Mark Hollis is a benchmark for many musicians, a high order realm where all are in awe. Mark Hollis created the framework for how we define post-rock. It begins with 20 seconds of silence and tape hiss and ends the same way it began, leaving the listener caught in a liminal world, spectral and transformed.