A lot of rock this month, in various forms. I have to admit that finding new music each month has been something of a relief, given the relentless onslaught of obfuscation and horror in the news, but the search has given me the calm to face those things I can change and endure those that I cannot. My hope is that you’ll find some things to renew yourself on this month’s list, like the wonderfully upbeat and unique rock sounds of Flasher’s Constant Image. One note of regret is that I decided not to review the first new album in nine years by sensei Jon Hassell, but if you are a fan of his and have as much respect for him as I do you should check it out for yourself. I remain on the fence about it even though this has caused some consternation amongst certain friends who’ve said: “There is no fence.”
File Under: Indie rock
How refreshing this record is with its winsome, gleeful inventiveness and homage to everything from the Shins to Buzzcocks, Flasher have managed to survive the signing to a label and retain their original vibe. What sticks is the craftsmanship and the fact that this D.C.trio seem to be having so much fun and proving the critics wrong when they say this genre is all but dead. These songs will stick in your head and you’ll want to look up the lyrics “Touch the physical/ clutch the typical crush/ fuck the visible livable touching everyone.” Maybe it’s a balm to the general horror and gloom but I’ve played this many times this month and it’s by far my favorite record.
File Under: desert blues, rai, gnaws, beats
Solyann Ben Youssef has put together a stunning amalgam of North African music fused with dance culture and does so in a way that is radical and relentless. The Tunisian DJ pairs up with various players, mostly other Africans, such as singer Mehdi Nassouli (Morocco), Sofiane Said (Algeria) and Chab Hassen Tej (Tunisia). Youssef understands the various strains of music and fuses rai, gnaws, desert blues with a sense of what electronics can bring to these vital and important musical cultures. He’s pulling off combinations to create a complex sonic world I’ve never heard before.
File: Hawaiian hardcore
I love it when the ladies go hardcore, although in this case there is one guy in the band. This might very well set a record for the shortest punk album ever released coming in at a blistering 6:30 for 6 songs, one of which is a mere 08 seconds. It’s raw, angry and fun stuff and it will only take 6:30 seconds out of your life. Live it up!
File Under: electronic bedroom pop
This is a few years old but it somehow slipped through the cracks back in 2009. Here multi-instrumentalist and London-based Oliver Cherer veers away from the instrumental to make a classic foray into electronica-drenched songwriting. A liminal display of music of the isles, Beard of Bees flirts with the same sort of territory as Smog.
File Under: ambient, jazz, new composition
And this coming from a well-known metal-head and contributor to at least three hardcore, doom and metal bands. Abdul-Rauf decides to take us on a majestic 38 minute trip as a response to what she perceives as a dying creative class. I do hear the early Labradford references with it’s stripped down vocals, piano, and trumpet as well as some unidentifiable acoustic-electronics. There’s also a nod to the early, gothic days of This Mortal Coil.
File Under: NZ rock without guitars
Being from New Zealand is unique enough in my book to warrant a look, see, listen, but to self-proclaim yourself as “a guitar-less guitar band” is more than enough incentive to give this relentless and propulsively captivating debut from Wax Chattels a listen. What happens when you reduce a rock band to bass, two-piece drum kit? A lot actually, and this is not only their first effort as a band but the entire thing was recorded in two days. To hell with Stinkfork for only giving this a 6.7. I’ll give it a solid 8.3 on the old Stinkhole scale any day.
File Under: advanced IDM, digital, analog breakbeats
German producer Brian Muller has been making music and recording since he was 17 and Compro, although indebted to a 90’s break beat vibe, skims into ambient, IDM and jungle with a sustained sense of the organic ala Apex Twin.
File Under: analog architecture
Two years in the making by Chicago-based synthesist Brett Naucke, The Mansion works on the level of lucid dreaming, something Naucke has a knack for doing. Based upon the sensory memories of his hundred-year-old home The Mansion mainly employs synths with acoustic instruments such as the piano, the vocals of Natalie Chami (TALsounds) and the viola of Whitney Johnson, field recordings, and digital effects for an overall bountiful sonic journey.
Against all reason and sans mullet I put Power Trip’s blistering 2017 release Nightmare Logic on my best albums of the year list and here we have a collection of B-sides, compilation only releases as well as songs collected from an early Ep. You don’t have to be a metal-head (I’m not) to enjoy the pure power cord riffing and energy of this Texas-based bunch of magicians keeping the thrash-core sound alive. Remember when Reagan was president? All seems so quaint and harmless in retrospect, except for all those missiles pointed our direction. Just let it wash over you and let go your bias and inhibition. These guys can rock and I thank them for keeping this little corner of genre alive and well.
Ben Vince: Assimulation
Jazz soloist Ben Vince has finally decided to bring other players into the mix and the result is a richly complex and wholly organic departure from the sparseness of his solo explorations. There are collaborations with Micachu (Mica Levi) and Peter O’ Grady, AKA Joy Orbison a host of other players bringing in vocals, percussion along with the usual tonal sax lines Vince throws down throughout in an improvisational skronk that augments and never overshadows the other players. This is a fourth world experiment well worthy of a listen or a download.
Deep, dense, probably rollable and smokable for all it’s worth. Remember Muslum Gauze? Well Canada and Iranian-raised (now Brooklyn residing) brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh are the real thing and follow through with field recordings, voice snippets, the sound of weaponized dub in the same way that Italian duo Dadub express their dread and angst about the current state of the world, especially when it concerns muslims, wherever they may live.”It was about an articulation of a perspective, emotion, and dialogue using sound as its foundation, they explain. “Feelings that we might otherwise have been too scared to share were fused into sounds that we simply enjoyed creating. Sound just felt natural as a starting point.”
File Under: deep modular synth techno
Anthony Childs has been at this for 20 years but decided the digital world was limiting his sound and decided to use only modular sythns in his first record to feature his own face on the cover. Techno is not one of the genres I am usually attracted to but the intensity, darkness and overall
rhythmic complexity of this album made me want to hear the whole thing, and then again. Sure it would be astounding to dance to but it’s just as illuminating to strap on the old headphones and sit in a chair and be carried away by the fresh ideas and craft. The album, as well as the song titles allude to the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Child’s increasing focus on consciousness enhancing sound.
A truly lovely and inspired bit of electronica from a South American nomad called Luis Maurette with his first release as Uji. This is the sound of someone really paying attention to how the afro-indigenous rhythms and sense of place reflect in the music of specific regions of the earth. Maurette told Bc: “I had this question: is it possible to make electronic music but more from the earth? I think that’s what I was missing when I was making electronic music. It was just too abstract, and there’s something about place that is really powerful. Now when I travel, I pay attention to how climate changes the music. Why is it that high. cold mountain music in Bolivia, for example, is similar to what you would hear in the high mountains of Tibet?”
File Under: simplicity and power
Toronto hardcore. Maybe once a year I hear something from this genre that just decimates everything else around it, with a buzzsaw guitars at work and everything in place to just annihilate and lay waste to the world. It’s hardly ever done well or rarely comes off sounding
essential but S.H.I.T. is that shit. It works its magic with the longest cut coming in at a whopping 2:30 and the shortest at a blistering 0.46. Yes, you need this and it’s only 16 minutes of pure, relentless hardcore.
File Under: a post-rock, psyche-type-situation
This one I kept coming back to three or four times before it really sunk in how unique and memorable it really is. I don’t know much about Andrew Siegel, who is credited with the entirety of this EP. Sometimes I hear David Sylvian and even Tones On Tail, such are the aural glimpses into a murky world composed of Apple loops, EDM, UK dubstep and a lot of other references. A strong debut.
Botswana Music Guitar -Ronnie- Happy New Year
File Under: sit-in under the shade tree
Under World & Iggy Pop: Bells and Circles
File Under: If I had wings I’d smoke on the airplane
Dizzee Rascal: Sirens
File Under: 11 years later and it is still dope
Benin City: Final Form
File Under: London beat masters from their new album, Last Night
File Under: slowburn
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Some genius is lofty and understood by few but there’s another kind of genius whose real accomplishment is knowing how to translate an immense amount of knowledge and history into easy to understand language. With Sapiens, Harari has given us a book that traces human life on earth from it’s very beginning until now with all the major milestones and evolutions along the way. He’s a good writer, lucid and clarifying and absent any academic and post-modern tropes. Did you realize that Liberal Humanism, Communism and Capitalism fit the classic definition of religion? That Naziism was also a short lived Modernist creation as a classic religious cult defined here as Evolutionary Liberalism? There are a million books out there that delve into each of the many historical evolutionary leaps we have made as a species but few have put them together as succinctly. We start with tiny bands of foraging hunter gatherers, which evolve to agrarian-based life and larger communities, then make the leap into the Scientific and the subsequent Industrial Revolution, and into the Athropocene Era where we have evolved to the point where it is highly probable that we will one day be able recreate ourselves using science and thereby breaking with the paradigm of natural evolution, not to mention we now possess the power to utterly annihilate ourselves.
From The Archives
File Under: reissued classic
Here’s a real delight with a 22 year old reissue of Jeremy Enigk’s solo album Return of the Frog Queen with it’s Robyn Hitchcockian flourishes and a real different sound from the other band he was in called Sunny Day Real Estate. With this effort Enigk dials back the emo power and instead often takes only a guitar in hand to flesh out these gems. I liked a few of SDRE songs but prefer the sort of restraint found here with flutes, violins, cello and simple percussion and a pastoral air. Just good songwriting and and an old-fashioned sense of craft.