Lots of late December and January stuff and some from Feb. The reissues are especially noteworthy this month. I hope you discover something that moves you. Please leave comments if you like something.
Michael O’Shea: S/T
File Under: staggering reissue of 1982 masterwork
Not only did O’ Shea invent a new 17 stringed instrument he sometimes called “Mo Cara” or “my fried” in Gaelic, he was discovered while busking in Covent Garden, London by Wire members Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, who gave him their card and told him to stop by the studio and they would record him, which he did some two years later. The resulting recording was put out on Wire’s own experimental label Dome in 1982. By all accounts there were only 500 albums pressed so this long overdue repressing by Dublin Label All Cityls AllChival imprint is a sort of reawakening to the beauty and inventiveness of this bespoke artist. The opening cut is a 15 minute raga, before O’ Shea settles into the more confined territory of shorter songs. My favorite discovery of the month. O’ Shea had a brief chimera of recognition and then fell out of sight and eventually was struck and killed by a van on a London street. Except for a few collaborations, this record is all that is left, and it’s a beauty. Not on Bc for some reason.
Jay Glass Dubs: Epitaph
File Under: dubdubalicious, abstract sound design
Dimitri Papadatos aka Jay Glass Dubs has been experimenting in the dub-saturated world of music for some time but this one manages to be the dub without being the dub. Vaguely Sinister used to be a T-shirt I wore and one Papadatos wears as well. Ah, purists may resist these nonconforming tracks as they run relentlessly on the far side of what they think dub ought to be, which is a perpetual heart beating. The whole heartbeat.
Mira Calix: Utopia
File Under: electronic collage
Chantel Passamonte signed with Warp back in the 90’s and as been quiet for many years now, but very busy doing installations and collaborations. As an origin story she sites Adam Thirlwell’s film Utopia and has imagined this as an homage or soundtrack. She says of the work: “It was really refreshing to make this EP, to give myself a time limit, a strict set of rules, a tight sonic palette and be fully autonomous as a writer, producer and musician.”
File Under: experimental
Alexandra Drewchin’s avatar is Eartheater, and from that word alone comes connotations of sonic darkness and and an awareness of a primal expectations. She is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist based in NY. Nothing else really sounds like an Eartheater album, and here she is helped on a couple of songs by Moor Mother and Odwalla 1221. If such a thing as an avant-grade is possible in 2019 then this album could be held up as a shining example of “newness” and not newness for it’s own sake, which is always the cliche that reduces so much art made under these definitions into kitsch, but oddly illuminating. I’ve been trying to get a line on the lyrics because they are intense and part of the entire fractured narrative she relies on to push her project forward. An alternative to the lies and manipulation of reality, Eartheater attempts a stab at a sort of truth.
Left Hand Cuts Off the Right: Desired Place
File Under: minimalist, drone, psyche
In order to really get and enjoy this record I think it is necessary to listen to the whole thing once through, because it really is an entire composition whose parts interact and relate to one another. I hear echoes of Morton Feldman, but less about the math than about a pattering of rain and frogs clicking at dusk. It’s nice to hear someone stripping it down and letting a subtle thing play out over time.
Dane Rousay: Nueter
File Under: sublime percussion (single)
Rousay is a subtle and fabulous solo drummer who says that this piece is an exploration into the relationship of being gendered male and being a percussionist. At 13 minutes Nueter requires immense restraint and precision and uses the least known areas of a drum kit to create sound.
Sharon van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
File Under: It’s Sharon van Etten
Exploring new territory break Etten out of her folk, indie roots and places and new emphasis on pop structure, but also expands what we’ve come to expect from such a good songwriter, one who seems to pour her life into what she creates. She’s 37, just had a baby and is with a long term partner and this stability doesn’t distract but only deepens her artistic project. Listen to the first song and you’ll hear Etten at her most poignant, while other songs miss the mark. It’s a little uneven, but then she’s always had three or four tracks on each album that reach for something just beyond her grasp.
ASC: Astral Projection
File Under: electronic sound design
This could just as easily come out on the Stroboscopic Artefacts label and reminds me of the work of that Label’s DaDub. Not a dull moment on this entire twelve track album that journeys throughout the territory carved out on his “Imagine The Future” release. Relentless and menacing with rhythmic and syncopated riffs propelling the listener. ASC has produced a large collection of releases and it’s hard to keep up, what with limited edition live cassettes (see Bc) and a dozen or so long players. I believe that the music of our times reflects the spirit of those times, whether that means you retreat into the pseudo-disco ironic world of I-don’t-want-to-think-about-it, or take the route of ASC and the duo Italian duo Dadub and translate something raw and intangible, that reflects the fear and uncertainty of its time.
Celer: I Wish You Could
File Under: ambient drone bliss
It’s so rare when someone delves deeply into this realm and comes up with so much from so little. I still adhere to the adage that Not Boring is the highest honor you can bestow upon ambient drone and Celer have consistently held up the highest standards within this most difficult to pull off label. I Wish You Could is two 30 minute cuts. “Everywhere I Go, You’re All That I See,” is one of those sublime cuts I’ve found myself putting on repeat and just letting it play two or three times through, until I decide it’s time to emerge from this dream and reenter the world.
Keto: Blackened Pool
File Under: “millennial folk”
So says Leah Sanderson aka Keto to describe the post-folk and post-rock explorations on her lovely new album Blackened Pool, which was supposedly created and recorded in the other worldly setting of the Outer Hebrides with support from the PRS Foundation. Sanderson’s voice may follow the idea of what folk implies but this is a record that uses so much more than a guitar and a single voice. There is a detuned nylon string guitar, piano, violin, electric guitars, perhaps and oboe or it’s electronic equivalent. It’s an odd mood to place. At once poetic and visceral the results are at once as uplifting as they are ominous.
Khidja & Balabas: Khidja Si Balabas
File Under: 4 gloriously polished tracks
Combining Khidia with Blaabas brings with it a swing, a texture of rhythms and beats that let you know just how much they know about world music and music that holds weight. Supposedly these four tracks have been several years in the making, with the funk, chamber-vibe and the addition of funk and jazz-fueled jams this self-titled album is upbeat and expansive, taking in the entire world of sound potential.
Bendik Giska: Surrender
File Under: new jazz
Don’t let the opening punk track dissuade you from exploring what is an otherwise a meditative piece of circular breathing saxophone magic. There is a sense of incantation and exploration rare in jazz that is often reduced to its historical befuddlements. There is voice used as an instrument. Although an Outlier to formalist jazz Giska is unconventional at the same time he is alluring. His producer decided to put tiny, high quality microphones attached all over the sax and you can hear all sorts of microtonal things happening to an instrument normally confined.
File Under: newly pressed gem from 1983
Stano, like Eno is another self-described “non musician” who, after leaving his Dublin punk band The Threat, then went solo in 1983 with what turns out to be a work of improvisation and experiments he created with the help of many other players including a rare collaboration with Michael O’ Shew. Again, I say this needs to be listened to in its entirety to understand the broad sense of genre and fusion he was working from. Not many of these
supposed crate-digger’s rarity turns out to be an overlooked post-rock gem.
Singles/Videos of Note
New Order: Ceremony (Live 1981)
File Under: a rare find
File Under: the 2nd greatest film ever made
Lana Del Ray: Mariners Apartment Complex
File Under: she’s a weirdo and has presentation issues, but this new song really stands
Swervedriver: Mary Winter
File Under: Old School 90’s act come alive once more