Jason Loewenstein has been a major force behind lo-fi pioneers Sebadoh ever since their pivotal 1991 record, "III". Along with fellow partner in crime Lou Barlow, Loewenstein has co-created some of the most influential releases in indie-rock, including the pivotal 90's albums "Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock", "Bubble & Scrape", and "Bakesale".
Way back in 2002 Jason Loewenstein released his first solo album "At Sixes And Sevens" via Sub Pop. Now 15 years later, the follow-up has finally arrived. "Spooky Action" contains 13 new songs of unwavering rock. The self-recorded, self-produced album is as solidly engaging as anything in Loewenstein's formative lineage.
Do With Me What U Will is the second album by Melbourne noir pop artist Jessica Says.Jessica's debut album We Need To Talk was released in 2009, but the following year Jessica fractured her spine and pelvis falling from a first-floor hotel window. Do With Me What U Will is Jessica's first new album after her long recovery. Inspired by her treatment in hospital, Jessica also spent the last years studying to become a nurse, and now works in a Melbourne hospital.The album was recorded with longtime collaborator Geoffrey O'Connor (Crayon Fields Summer Flake, Sarah Mary Chadwick) and features production on key tracks from Travis Cook of Collar-bones and Melbourne electronic auteur Darcy Baylis. A classically trained cellist, Jessica moves seamlessly between hi-sheen pop and dark, string-driven confessionals."The songs are about girlhood, mental illness and desire, mostly at the same time," Jessica says.Do With Me What U Will is a vivid account of the progression from fiery pubescent longing, through adolescent anxiety/self loathing and emotional numbness, before discovering the possibility of a sexuality driven by desire rather than low self opinion."The music is inspired by the women who guided me through the strange passage of adolescence," says Jessica. "The sublime candy pop of Britney Spears and the emotional intensity of Dory Previn."Languorous first single Fairest Of Them All, produced by Baylis, was released in late 2016 and premiered on I-D. The video, channeling Picnic At Hanging Rock and Lolita, was premiered by US site CLRVYNT.
What does a daydream sound like? Is it an audible confidence boost, a concentrated dose of caffeine shot straight into the bloodstream of dancing feet, a blue so overwhelmingly electric its field stretches as far as the eye can see? On Amadeus, the newest Ghostly effort from New York's Lord RAJA, the shapeshifting producer answers his own question with a cunning, childlike purity not felt since he started tinkering with Fruity Loops aged six. Though his means of music-making have matured since then—on Amadeus he utilizes an arsenal of drum machines along with synthesizers and an Allen & Heath analog mixer slammed through for extra crunch—RAJA describes a deliberate return to youthful experimentation and immediacy, clearing the way for a "vista to his childhood."Having produced 2015's PARA full-length in the confines of his parents' home in upstate New York, he moved to Brooklyn after its release and found himself in a basement studio, isolated from the influence of knowingness, wide-eyed once more. Soon after, he joined Ghostly labelmates Shigeto and Heathered Pearls for an extensive European tour, finding inspiration in the continent's techno culture—albeit in an unexpected way. "When I would go out, I would see techno DJs, but it didn’t really speak to me," he says. "It was unnecessarily pristine. So I wanted to make the shit I would want to hear."Returning to the basement armed with this self-challenge and an intentional naÃ®vÃ©tÃ©, RAJA composed a flurry of one-take productions, often making tracks over the course of an evening and road testing them with walks to the waterfront when the rest of Brooklyn had gone to sleep. Imbued in them all is what he describes as "micro-choices" —the practice of very simple effects and subtle sonic decisions—in a nod to longtime influence from the nuance and subconscious innovation of Stanley Kubrick's filmmaking.Longtime fans of the producer may be accustomed to productions more directly aligned with hip-hop and leftfield beats, but his swagger hasn't gone anywhere despite the decidedly dancier change of form. The release is bookended by an exuberant and naturally collaborative piece with Acemo—a fellow New Yorker whom RAJA describes as his favorite producer—and bonus track "Fox Den," an eight-minute cosmic meander released as part of the Adult Swim singles series last year. On standout "O.K" his customary percussive potpourri mingles with vocal chops and an electro bounce even the most humorless club patron couldn’t resist. "Black Coffee," another highlight, features synth lines so darkly acidic they should come with toxic warnings. RAJA describes the track title as a literal take - a soundtrack to jolt first date jitters, a call to cool courage.Amadeus, meanwhile, he suggests is a cheeky nod to the complex richness of his musical heritage. He says, "I think it’s kinda funny to flip an idea of western imperialism and how it proliferated. It’s playful as an Indian man to call yourself Amadeus, knowing how much composers borrowed from eastern classical influences."
A monumental career in pop music isn't easy when the system is built against you. But South African songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist "Om" Alec Khaoli managed to do just that with his band Umoja. As apartheid reached its violent peak, Khaoli pursued an escapist form of dance music that resonated across his complicated country, influencing countless legends and releasing recordings across the world.
Umoja, which means oneness or unity in Swahili, was clear in its message to the public. "Oriented towards society, advocating uniting of people. Race was the big thing," Khaoli says. "We wanted people to come together and unite and just form a oneness." Indeed the band's fanbase was mixed among black, colored and white fans. However, their lyrics were not overtly political. "If you wrote songs about apartheid, we would disguise them. If we used language as it was, we would get arrested."
The band helped refine a commercially powerful emergent style, bubblegum, with the album 707 in 1988. "Bubblegum music was about escape," according to Khaoli. "If you had grown up in South Africa at the time, there was nothing more in your life than oppression. It was even in your dreams. Anything that was a way out was welcome... When this music was playing everyone just wanted to dance, just have a good time."
Jessica Moss is known best as the violinist, co-composer, and backing vocalist with the acclaimed chamber-punk band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (SMZ) and the avant-klezmer group Black Ox Orkestar. As fans of these projects will know, Moss has developed a distinctive and impressive approach to violin that combines a natural technical fluidity, a recombinant command of folk, classical and modern idioms, and an adventurous exploration of signal-bending and analog effects that uniquely expand the spectrum of the violin as sound source. Her solo work is deeply rooted in live performance, where she builds up and breaks down stunning longform compositions in real time with an array of pedals - including octave/harmonizers and samplers/loopers. To hear all of this rallied on her debut full-length solo release is intensely rewarding: comprised of two side-length multi-movement compositions, Pools Of Light unfolds at a stately, inexorable pace, combining sound-art and signal-processed timbres, extended melodic and contrapuntal lines, and the periodic deployment of stark, minimalist vocals. Pools Of Light is elegiac durational music at the intersection of neo-classicism, soundtrack, electronic, art-punk and avant-folk - a decidedly organic, non-academic, profoundly searching and emotive work, guided by Moss’s liner note mantra: "FEELING LOVE IN A MELTING WORLD".
In December 2016, after more than a year of touring the world behind her 2015 LP Over and Even, Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg headed a few hours north to Chicago, where they joined Jeff Tweedy in Wilco's Loft studio for five days. Spencer Tweedy, home from college, joined on drums, while James Elkington (a collaborator to both Tweedy and Salsburg) shifted between piano and resonator guitar. Jeff added electric accents and some bass, but mostly, he helped the band stay out of its own way. "He was protecting the songs. He was stopping us before we went too far." Shelley says.
The Loft proved essential for that approach, as it was wired to capture every musical moment, so no take was lost. If, for instance, some magic happened while Spencer added drums to a tune he’d never heard, or while Elkington tinkered behind a piano, the tape was rolling. Indeed, half of these songs are first takes.
"The first time is always the best. That’s when everyone’s on the edge of their seats, listening to not mess it up,” Shelley says. “They’re depending on each other to get through it."
It's fitting that the resulting set is self-titled. These are, after all, Shelley's most assured and complete thoughts to date, with lyrics as subtle and sensitive as her peerless voice and a band that offers support through restraint and nuance. In eleven songs, this is the sound of Joan Shelley emerging as one of music's most expressive emotional syndicates.
Joni Void is the newly minted pseudonym of producer Jean Cousin - known until now in online music communities as the prolific Johnny Ripper. Moving to MontrÃ©al in 2012 from his native France, Cousin plunged into the city's fertile DIY/loft scene and rapidly evolved from cloistered bedroom/virtual persona to highly engaged organizer and multi-media live performer. An increasing obsession with micro-sampling, aleatory composition and history of cinema - alongside an increasingly active practice of remixing and beat-making - has seen Cousin's music flourish in fascinating ways. His personal hero Delia Derbyshire (BBC Radiophonic Workshop) has cemented his commitment to making musique concrÃ¨te avant-pop soundscaping. On Selfless, Joni Void constructs tracks entirely from found sources and aims not to ‘play’ anything at all - while celebrating intimate community and inter-subjectivity through solicitation of private voice recordings from various musician and spoken word friends. The album is an exploration of catharsis and the escape from entrapments of subjectivity and solipsism, chock full of stand-out tracks that work in on their own but also make for a wonderfully complex, coherent and compelling album of structured sampledelica, balancing a freeform spirit with the conceptual, emotive and stylistic specificity of individual songcraft, to glorious effect.
The Juan Maclean return to DFA with a stand-alone single, bursting with deep house elastic bounce and electronic pop flourishes, married to the deadpan earnestness of Nancy Whang's vocal delivery."Can You Ever Really Know Somebody" is the kind of slinky song that is easily absorbed and difficult to forget. It is a taste of things to come, as The Juan Maclean prepares a brand new LP for DFA due out in Fall 2017.The remix is courtesy of LA-4A, aka Ambivalent and legally known as American born producer Kevin McHugh. Stripping out the house music and replacing it with a grinding electro-acid template, LA-4A creates a lovely buzzing new bed of music for Nancy Whang's vocals to rest on top of it. This is a remix with wildly successful results and a perfect companion to the original.
Entrancing guitarist and singer Jake Xerxes Fussell follows his celebrated self-titled debut (produced by William Tyler) with a moving new album of Natural Questions in the form of transmogrified folk/blues koans. This time these radiant ancient tunes tone several shades darker while amplifying their absurdist humor, illuminating our national, and psychic, predicaments. Featuring art by iconic painter Roger Brown and contributions from three notable Nathans - Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn), Nathan Salsburg (Alan Lomax Archive), and Nathan Golub (Mountain Goats) - as well as Joan Shelley and Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah).
RIYL: Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Dave Van Ronk, Jim Dickinson, Raccoon Records, Joan Shelley, Nathan Bowles, Nathan Salsburg, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman, Wilco.
"The professor you always wished you had, the human jukebox, the guitar player and singer who makes any band that he's in better. He's a southern scholar and gentleman in the tradition of Jim Dickinson, George Mitchell, & Les Blank. He's a Dave Van Ronk for SEC country." - William Tyler
"A singular combination of pedigree, experience, education, and talent." - The Oxford American
"Beautifully loose arrangements of playful, resilient songs." - Uncut
"Music that takes us to a deep place in the American spirit." - Art Rosenbaum
MichaÅ‚ Jacaszek is an absolute master of melancholy: the Polish composer who's spun dramatic shades of darkness and light into gold for more than a decade now, from the trickle-down electronics of Treny and artful gloom of Glimmer to the vapor-trailed verses of their looming spiritual cousin KWIATY.
KWIATY - which was inspired by An English anthology of metaphysical poetry from the 17th century - is the most vocal-driven material Jacaszek's ever written, melding his stormy melodies with a breakout performance by Hania Malarowska (of the Warsaw-based rock band Hanimal) and the robust supporting roles of Joasia Sobowiec-JamioÅ‚ and Natalia GrzebaÅ‚a, with lyrics adapted from poems from Virgil and Robert Herrick.
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as "a midlife-crisis disco album; it's an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices". It's a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humour is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop's writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It's the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalised Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships.
Fresh off his tours supporting Mogwai and S U R V I V E, Majeure returns with a blistering EP of seemingly limitless synth textures and seemingly endless drum fills. Majeure - the solo moniker of Zombi and Contact cofounder, A.E. Paterra - has built a reputation as one of North America's most interesting purveyors of synth-based rock music. Often overlooked is the fact that Paterra is also one of the world's premiere prog-rock drummers, a fact that is emphatically obvious on Apex. Over the course of three songs stretching nearly a half hour in length, Apex is an audacious, exhilarating exercise in maximum minimalism - a disorienting journey between dystopian reality and vintage video game illusion. The LP format is limited to 1,000 copies, pressed onto audiophile-quality 100% virgin vinyl, and includes a high-quality MP3 download coupon.
Nobody - and I do mean nobody - has a funkier band than Syl Johnson! His famous Chicago outfit cooks up such powerful rhythms that there isn't an R&B band in all the land that can come close to touching them. When Syl's out front in the spotlight, delivering his dynamic vocals while his funky, funky band lets loose with their unstoppable rhythms, I defy anybody with two working ears not to head straight to the dancefloor.
Will Syl Johnson ever run out of soul? No way, baby. He's got a bottomless supply! Syl's inspiring voice and his mighty band, the Pieces of Peace, are a match made in soul heaven. Hit songs "One Way Ticket To Nowhere" and "Get Ready" are just two of the highlights from this LP, adding to his sky high stash of smashes. They're joined by a super-funky "Annie Got Hot Pants Power," the uplifting "We Do It Together," and "Thank You Baby," and revivals of Jackie Wilson's "That's Why," and the Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do," transformed so completely that you'd swear they were written specifically for Syl.
Twenty years now there's been this thing, our band, Joan of Arc. Sometimes we forget about it and let it fizzle out for a year while we tend to our lives. Sometimes we cling to it for a year and wake up surprised and exhausted every day for months on end, given walking tours of old Italian towns, browsing dreary British pedestrian malls or barefooted organic grocers on the Pacific coast. We know how lucky we are.
The less we feel like a band - the more we can continue to be a band, but escape that feeling of doing all those shitty, corny things expected of bands - the truer to ourselves we feel. And you all know it, everyone knows it even if everyone has to bury it to get on with their day-to-day: the truer to ourselves we feel, the better everything gets.
We have shifted shapes and modified our approaches quite a number of times in the course of twenty years. And we've done so always aiming to stay true to ourselves at that moment, by instinct and with conscious intent. This time, it took us a long time to figure out how to start back up. We threw away a lot of songs and started over, over and over.
But here's the thing: We are getting better at being ourselves. So many of the postures of youth just fall away with time. Most bands break up by that point, or become caricatures of their younger selves. Because money is tricky, or I should say, it comes to be that energy is tricky to muster after all of it goes into the basics of sustaining yourself.
Every day, at some point, it occurs to me that Richard Brautigan killed himself at the age that I am now. But I've got this community of weirdo collaborators to lean on that he never had.
We've never had an audience that gets any validation of its coolness through liking us. We've mangled, juxtaposed, and collaged too many elements for that social contract. But we trust each other.
This time, finally, we trusted each other enough to throw all the songs away, to even throw away every preconceived idea about which one of us should take position at which instrument. We hit Record and played, and our collective tastes emerged. And they, our tastes in the moment, were the only standards in all the expanse of the stupefying and beautiful unknown universe, that we regarded as relevant in the least.
Over the weekend of August 21-22, 2010, not long after Damien Jurado and Richard Swift first collaborated to produce Damien's 2010 record, Saint Bartlett, the pair hunkered down with a 4-track recorder and one Coles 4038 ribbon microphone to record a collection of cover songs that run the gamut from John Denver to Chubby Checker to Kraftwerk.
The timing was perfect. On Other People's Songs Vol 1, we can see the scaffolding of what would become a creative turning point for the pair - later seen with the release of Damien Jurado's Maraqopa, the first record in his Maraqopa trilogy - less than 2 years later. The opening drum hits of "Be Not So Fearful", the falsetto vocals of "Sweetness", and the Spaghetti-Western swing of "Radioactivity" are, by now, hallmarks of the Jurado/Swift sound, but Other People's Songs Vol 1 is a transitional fossil, a marking of the pair's collaborative evolution.
Joseph Washington Jr.'s 1983 holiday LP puts a soulful, funky, suave ribbon on nine frosty Christmas cuts. In that season of music's traditional descent into threadbare schmaltz, Merry Christmas to You restores joy and wonder to a blizzard of bland. Under this tree, find undiscovered classics for our cynical age: the buoyant "Jesus’ Birthday," the hot and bothered soul of "Merry Christmas," the ridiculously catchy wallet-opener "Shopping." The world of records produces just a precious few yuletide keepers: Spector's A Christmas Gift for You; Fahey's The New Possibility; Guaraldi's indelible Charlie Brown Christmas. Down another nog and file Joseph Washington Jr. comfortably next to those.
The self-proclaimed "most sampled artist ever," Syl finally gets his due on this 4CD box covering his most productive period, 1959 through 1972. Collected for the first time are all of Syl's Federal, Twinight, Zachron, Special Agent, Cha Cha, and TMP-Ting 45s, plus period cuts from his Japan-only LP Goodie Goodie Good Times, and a murderer's grip of previously unreleased and little-heard out-takes. Lovingly remastered from the original source tapes, these 81 songs never sounded sharper, clearer, or funkier. And historian Bill Dahl's comprehensive track-by-track annotations bring deep-research backstory to every one. Our handsomely detailed and artfully crafted 40 page, 12" x 12" booklet also features a 13,000-word biography, scores of unpublished photos, a must-read index covering the history of every Syl-sampling artist (paid-up or otherwise), and the most complete and accurate discography you're likely to find in this universe.
Turns out the very sound of falling in love is just as abstract, subjective and loopy as the concept itself. Yoko Ono and John Lennon are two of history's greatest lovers, and Two Virgins is the document of the pair falling in love in real time. The album is a curious and amazing suite recorded over one weekend in Spring 1968 at Lennon's Kenwood home: Distant conversations; comedic role playing and footsteps; laughter, birdcalls and plunking piano lines; silly songs and space; tape delay stretching shrieks, bass rumbles and moans to the moon and back again.
The now-iconic cover (featuring Ono and Lennon standing nude together) notwithstanding, nothing about Two Virgins is safe. It would be a risky move today for artists in the larger, pop-culture conversation just as it was a risky move in 1969. But this is an uncomfortably private, two-person dialogue about - and celebration of - experimentation, inspiration and play. And these two souls bravely let us look through the keyhole.
Life with the Lions is the sound of Ono and Lennon validating their love as something impenetrable and timeless. It's when we, the listener, begin to fully understand that the scope of their recording efforts was much more than a recording collaboration, and something closer to a performative documentary, a declaration of "Our life and our love is our art - every nitty, gritty part of it."
Both Will Escape is the debut full-length between electric guitarist Tashi Dorji and percussionist Tyler Damon. In the long tradition of string/drum duets -- from Bailey & Bennink to Haino & Yoshida -- these two cleave out their own unmapped continent of sound. Across four pieces they connect lashes of ecstatic intensity and outer reaches of texture and timbre. At times Dorji's brutal electric torrents meld into Damon's metal and tonal abstractions.
These two developed in parallel for years before forging an ongoing duo in 2015. Dorji has released a string of startling acoustic albums that've rescrambled six-string notions of jazz/improv/Flamenco. Damon's rethink of overtone and rhythm is enraptured as it's stupefying in solo exhibitions or with Mars Williams, Darin Gray and Thee Open Sex. Edition of 500 LPs with download coupon.
Jason Sharp has been a fixture of MontrÃ©al's experimental/improv scene for many years, chiefly as a saxophonist exploring drone and durational music, while also collaborating in a wide variety of jazz, avant and contemporary music ensembles. His work as a composer, conductor and band leader in his own right is now featured on A Boat Upon Its Blood, the first album-length recording to be released under his own name: a bracingly meditative multi-movement instrumental work that charts a highly compelling arc of shifting energies and intensities.
Using custom-built equipment to translate breath and heart rate into variegated sonic triggers, along with other modes of signal processing and in tandem with traditional instrumentation, the album features Sharp's own reed playing with contributions from a few guest musicians on pedal steel guitar, violin and various percussion.
Recorded by Thierry Amar (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Vic Chesnutt) at the Hotel2Tango in MontrÃ©al and mixed and mastered by Jesse Zubot (Tanya Tagaq, Drip Audio Records), A Boat Upon Its Blood is a genre-defying album with a highly immersive and satisfying sound palette that impels deep listening and demands to be taken in as a whole. Constellation is thrilled to present Jason Sharp as a unique and invigorating new voice in modern-contemporary music.
Norwegian artist and writer Jenny Hval has developed her distinct take on intimate sound since the release of her debut album in 2006. For her last two solo albums, 2013's Innocence Is Kinky and 2015'sâ€¯Apocalypse, girl, Hval'sâ€¯debut for Sacred Bones, she has received thoughtful and widespread international acclaim for her fascinating voice, singular delivery and markedly non-traditional arrangements which incorporate elements of poetry, prose writing, performance art, and film. Hval has eloquently brought to light issues of both male and female gaze, which for years had been swept under the rug and/or denied all together.
"This is my most fictional and most personal album. It's also the first album where I've started reconnecting with the goth and metal scene I started out playing in many years ago, by remembering the drony qualities of Norwegian Black Metal. It's an album of vampires, lunar cycles, sticky choruses, and the smell of warm leaves and winter." â€“ Jenny Hval