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Monthly Spins: September 2018

KEF R Series

Hamish Kilgour: Finkelstein

File Under: barn owls, pudding and other tidbits

Of course I’m kidding about this album being all about various puddings. Remember The Clean? Hard to forget the Kiwi sound and even better to realize that this raging geezer is still up to his neck in the pie. Crows hang out on the front lawn. Always talking and chattering in conversation. Social animals, but they’re an untidy lot. There is a ground hugging fog and some lysergic temptations. Probably not profound like hashish but subtle and loving like a kiss on the forehead from someone who never does such things. First album this month that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end— the spine chiller with a full on zebra race. Expect the Weird Old New Zealand to come sneaking up behind you and catch you with your guard down. Don’t use a fork. Just stick your fingers in it then lick them clean. A lot of talented mates show up to help shape the dough and it’s damned nearly impossible to not want more. “There’s a plane in this one, Jimmy.” “Naw, leave it.”


 

Szun Waves: New Hymn to Freedom

File Under: new jazz, revelatory improvisation

There a some improvisers who project outward, gathering in the energy of the room but others, or a more rarer sort head into the interzone which is an inward looking quest for a source code to the Inner Mounting Flame. Szun Waves are a trio made up of synth player Luke Abbott, with Laurence Pike and Jack Wyllie. These were recorded live sessions without any overdubbing or edits.


 

Cedric Pin/Glen Johnson: The Burning Skull & Craquelure

File Under: ambient ghost junkies and synth stylings

At least on Bandcamp this is a double album, but only Craquelure is on Tidal at the moment. These guys have worked together under different guises and self-describe as “ghost rock,” which is as plausible a moniker as any. Murky—check. Shades of grey—check. Industrial ambience—check. While The Burning Skull offers short, sharp synth songs Craquelure delves into two 20 minute riffs that are like a journey into interstellar space with no hope of return.


 

Djurm: Portrait With Firewood

File Under: both original and far ranging electronic composition

Meticulous and overflowing with ideas and genres Felix Manuel, aka Djurm has been a key player in the UK bass and electronic music scene for a decade.Manuel cites as the main influence for this album and where he says it’s “rich and emotionally complex” character comes from is Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic’s piece Portrait with Firewood. Using film clips that show human vulnerability instead of gangster and sci-fi clichés, Djrum builds an empathetic vision


 

Conner Youngblood: Cheyenne

File Under: folkatronic neo-soul and other raptures

I thought about going on a rant about the banal state of mainstream hiphop but I’d rather just remind you that this stunning first record has a lot in common with last year’s wondrous Sampha album Process. Hard to find a handle to use as a marker. No maps have been made. Beautiful might be a word of warning for some but Youngblood goes to that blissful place that can only be called forth with simplicity, heart and soul. He’s a 28-year-old Yale Grad who already has licensing deals for adverts and an 80 city tour and this is only his first official album. Cool, laidback, relentless and majestic, Cheyenne will no doubt bring this young artist a lot of listeners and acclaim.


 

Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis: The Other Mozart

File Under: new composition, experimental, electroacoustic

This is the official soundtrack for a monodrama about Mozart’s equally talented and yet mostly forgotten sister, Maria Anna (Nanner) Mozart. So far nothing she wrote has been found so instead of speculation Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis rely on instruments that Maria Anna would have been familiar with such as clock chimes, clavichord, harpsichord, music boxes and church bells. The play itself and soundtrack have been performed hundreds of times at HERE Arts in NY and in London’s St. James Theater.
It’s quite a stunning and original sounding composition full of play and a rapturous sense of exploration.


 

Phantastic Ferniture: Phantastic Ferniture

File Under: she rocks

Sydney-based singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin made it onto my best of the year list in 2016 with her folk-inspired, alt-country: Don’t Let The Kids Win debut. In the meantime she’s decided to try straight up rock by creating the new band Phantstic Ferniture where she lets her hair down a bit “I’d gone straight into folk music, so every experience I’d had on stage was playing sad music with a guitar in my hand. I would love to know what it’s like to make people feel good and dance.” Not sure about the dancing part but this is another solid effort by a very talented Aussie songwriter.


 

Tirzah: Devotion

File Under: DIY R&B

What distinguishes this record is the collaboration between singer and songwriter Tirzah Mastin and budding master Mica Levi. The pair have been friends since aged 13 when they were both students at Purcell School for Young Musicians in Watford. In fact the song Go Now they actually wrote together after they first met. Levi is always a bit of a magician, even on something as intentionally minimal and loop-based as this record. This is actually Mastin’s third official release (all recorded with Levi) A little nod to Arthur Russell is noted, the minimalism creating a chilled out essence of soul, R&B, garage and grime.


 

The Low Anthem: The Salt Doll Went to Measure The Depth of the Sea

File Under: experimental folkatronics

Absolutely lovely and compelling with a built-in mythic, and conceptual thread of a desirous fable that co-founder and falsetto singer Knox Miller discovered in a biography of John Cage. When his band partner Jeff Prystowsky was recovering from a head injury in the hospital Miller was taken with the fable: A doll made of salt seeks to know more about itself and is told that salt comes from the sea, so it heads there to seeks knowledge. The doll sticks in a toe and the more it learns of itself the less of it remains intact, till it finds it finds self-knowledge in complete dissolution. A quiet trip over the sea then with simple additions of woodwinds, acoustic guitar, digital glitches, keyboards and trumpet make up the lo-key journey that is very compelling and totally at odds with the noise of received ideas and outrage that passes for dialogue in our world these days. I’ve come back to this many times.


 

Art Melody: Zound Zandé

File Under: blistering Burkina Faso beats

He was once a refugee, trying to flee the chaos and dysfunction and dictatorship in his homeland. After spending time in a Tunisian jail and failing to make it to Euroland he ended up back in Burkino Faso, which has since switched dictatorships, but this time he and his politically charged poetry have decided to stay and be a positive and energizing force in the voice of his people. This isn’t his most recent album but my favorite. He’s a warrior and like a samurai, keeps to the code with this raucous, and blistering provocations. “If you say nothing, you agree. If you disagree, you speak up.”


 

Notable Videos/Singles

Big Thief: “Mary”, live@pitchfork music festival

File Under: this was one of my favorite songs from last year and this live performance is near perfection.

Sons Of Kemet: “Your Queen is a Reptile”

File Under: afrofuturist signal strength

David Davis & The Warrior River Boys: “Ramblin’ Blues”

File Under: corn whiskey and freight trains

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: “Heroes”

File Under: certainly one of the bests song ever written

Gwenifer Raymond: “There Will Be Blood”

File Under: strange pets and nimble fingers


 

Notable Book

33 & 1/3 David Bowie’s Low, by Hugo Wilcken

I’m sticking with this ever-growing collection of long essays written about seminal albums even though I’m not a Bowie fan per se, I respect his work and influence. This essay is sort of an insider and geek’s guide to an album that is never lauded by the author as his “best” or most important, but there is a lucidity to the writing that brings clarity to the genius of a cocaine and black magic addicted superstar at the height of his powers and influence. One thing I didn’t realize is the masterful gathering of players and the ever-present collaboration with Brian Eno and Iggy Pop. There are stories of room-sized tape loops (imagine) and the use of rare and secret technology that the producer refused to tell anyone about. Author Hugo Wilcken knows his stuff and has done his research and amassed a lot of interviews that try and portray how Bowie’s illusions and self-invention (not to mention bat-shit crazy) histrionics have altered and embellished the myths around this artist. It’s a good read and not just for Bowie fans but for the clarity of the writing and the level of detail that Wilcken discovers about how such a document was created. Bowie was a master at gathering together the right people and he didn’t spend that much time dithering around. Many of the takes were live. He worked quickly, often completing songs even before he had any lyrics, and in the case of Low, he never found the lyrics to the entire second side so left it hanging there, foregoing the suits need for “hits” and singles that they could bank on. He simply didn’t give a shit about that side of music business and because of his status and ability to sell records never really had to worry about anyone dictating how he worked. Of course I then listened to Station To Station, (which preceded this one and an album I actually prefer) Iggy’s album The Idiot was basically created and produced by Bowie at the same time as these recordings, but it sounds like a Bowie album with Iggy Pop singing and it’s hard to swallow if you’ve even once heard Raw Power. This series of books are quite good and something you can read in a couple of nights.


 

From The Archives

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

File Under: A classic from 1982

There was a time when college radio was a creative force to be reckoned with and that was the case for much of the 80’s and early 90’s, when bands like The Dream Syndicate ruled the airways in 1982 and 83 with their first full length The Day of Wine and Roses. Nothing on this record seems at all dated to these ears. Taking cues from The Velvet Underground and three guitars forward sound, the Los Angeles band were wrongly included in LA’s Paisley Underground scene. Over the years there have been several reunions and front man Steve Wynn had continued with a solo career. You can hear their influence in the early 90’s sound with Kurt Cobain siting them and this record as a major influence. Play it loud. Not available on Tidal or BC but is found on iTunes, Amazon and other streaming services.

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