Deepak Verbera, the third LP by Austin's Spencer Stephenson aka BOTANY, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer's first two records into meterless cosmic territory, juxtaposing free jazz arrhythmia with cathedral-filling harmony, ringing off the temple walls with soaring grandeur. The billowing textures that loomed behind his previous output break unabashedly into the foreground, shedding the beats that once stenciled them in. What arises in the absence of discernable rhythm is a psych-inflected scrapbook of atmospheres with tremendous sonic and emotional breadth.
In essence Deepak Verbera is a soundscape record created through methods usually found in hip-hop; vinyl samples, looped vocal phrases, pulsing bass, and warm synths all shimmer with kosmische-indebted splendor, like Popol Vuh with MPCs and a stack of secondhand records.
A Busman's Holiday performance begins with the thump of kick-pedal on suitcase and the tuning of acoustic guitar strings, two affable brothers quietly considering where to take their audience first. They may begin with an exultant and driving harmony or a ballad in a melancholy mode, but not before they have laughed and shared stories with their audience, patient and cheerful, assuring the crowd that they are in good hands. As Lewis and Addison begin to sing, their voices together evoke the Southern Indiana where their music was born. One can't help but feel the presence of the songs' characters in the room beside you, the music offering intimate details from vivid strangers.
The Rogers brothers' appeal has never been limited to a niche audience. Tested on the road for years, playing music at honky-tonks and roadhouses, moth-eaten lounges crawling with night creatures, punk palaces, last-wave folk huts, they've honed their skills and free-flowing banter to the point where they've been able to endear themselves to all corners.
Time has passed. They've read the books, they've been on the train. The new album by Busman's Holiday, Popular Cycles, is a vehicle to the lives of others. It is a continuation and elaboration of their previous albums, A Long Goodbye and Old Friends. While their earlier efforts pulled in for portraits at close range, their new collection zooms in to capture the private moments in a family's back yard, then gazes up at the macrocosm, turning to planets and tree-crushing storms. The writerly duo is detail-oriented and lyric-driven; they uncork the hidden champagne. The songs live through their details - the voice of an aging planet, a desperate gunman, the penitent, the child, TV guide wisdom, the adoring father lost in the cosmos, the dream.
Two planets turn in tandemLike brothers holding handsThey live and burn in cyclesAs the universe expands
Much like the lyrical content, the musical landscape of Popular Cycles spans grandly, from the booming of a 21-piece orchestra to the solitary sound of a singing bowl. Started in the autumn of 2014, continued in the late winter of 2015, the duo recorded the album in Bloomington, Indiana and Montreal, Quebec, respectively. Recorded at Arcade Fire's Sonovox Studio, the writing of the album concluded in a snowed-in apartment above. Arranger Matt Nowlin and producer Mark Lawson helped them capture a more adventurous sound, riding forward on pulsing acoustic rhythms. Busman's Holiday imitated sounds they'd heard in electronic music with acoustic instruments, the way a mockingbird mimics a car horn. The resulting sound is both familiar but fresh. From western soundtracks to a drone of twelve-strings, tones of forgiveness sweet enough to taste, funky drummers, the splish-splosh of fingers & palms, and melancholy chanting. From Richard Strauss to PeeWee's Playhouse, Busman's Holiday brings a refreshing sound to the stale world of pop music.
Glasgow's prodigious talent C Duncan released his critically acclaimed and Mercury Prize nominated debut album Architect earlier this year (last summer in the UK.) Now, his follow-up The Midnight Sun sees the bedroom producer return with a more expansive and experimental second offering, blending electronic elements and sweeping synth sounds with his signature layered vocals and dreamy instrumentation.
The album borrows its name from a Twilight Zone episode aired in 1961 Duncan muses, "it embodies the style of Twilight Zone perfectly, which is often claustrophobic, mysterious and unnerving. Like Architect, The Midnight Sun was recorded and produced entirely by C Duncan in his Glasgow flat, using his bedroom studio set-up and gradually adding each layer and each instrument one at a time. Though time-consuming, the process allowed him to lovingly assemble an intricate and subtle collection of songs that pick up where Duncan began with Architect and move toward a cleaner and more precise vision of the Scottish songwriter's vision. Duncan has heralded the new album as his "most coherent and concise work, sonically."
Katie Gately's introduction to music making was born out of a fascination with sounds, which led to a preoccupation with making field recordings of her surroundings and saving them. "With no plan or direction and no understanding of what I was doing, I was like, 'Well, I like doing this so I'm just going to record lots of sounds. I'm just going to put them on hard drives and save them,'" she recalls. While studying at USC and working as a sound editor for films, Gately went from engineering and editing sound for films to making her own rudimentary electronic. "I realized that I wanted to do more than just correlate sounds to pictures. I'd like to take the sounds and make them the movie stars of the soundscapes. Those experiments became my songs."
On her debut LP, Color, the LA based, singer songwriter-producer, has built seven maximalist electronic compositions based on the idea that more is more. Meticulously composed from layers of found sounds and manipulations of her own voice, Color pulses, lurches, and throbs with the excitement of a million barely-controlled ideas and the energy of a sped up cartoon. The cacophony of sounds could easily slide into chaos were it not for Gately's uncanny knack for melody. Even at their wildest, songs like "Tuck", "Sire", and "Frisk" all boast some sort of accessible emotional core - be it an earworm melody or the kind of winding, circular beat that becomes almost impossible not to hum or sing or feel.
Founded and directed by composer Minna Choi, Magik*Magik Orchestra is an orchestra from San Francisco. From 2008 - 2015, Magik*Magik focused on musical collaborations with outside artists, such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Dodos, John Vanderslice, Explosions in the Sky, The Walkmen, How to Dress Well, Son Lux, Gem Club, Christina Vantzou, and Weezer, among others. As the group's music director, Choi has composed string arrangements for over 100 bands on 600+ songs over the past 7 years.
In 2014, Death Cab For Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla encouraged her to try writing original songs. His belief in Choi was so unwavering he offered her a record deal on his label, TRANS-, with the promise to release whatever she wrote. The resulting record features drummer James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens), violinist Rob Moose (Bon Iver/YMusic), bassist Jason Muscat, & guitarist Matthew Heulitt alongside 15 of Magik*Magik Orchestra's most accomplished orchestral session musicians and is a loose homage to Choi's musical inspirations including Bjork, St. Vincent, Robyn, The National, Janelle Monae, Son Lux, and How to Dress Well, whose Tom Krell lends his voice to the duet "We Laugh A Lot."
Requiem For Hell finds MONO returning to longtime friend and collaborator, Steve Albini. After MONO and Albini's band, Shellac, toured Japan together last year, they realized how much they missed the (often wordless) creative dialogue they shared during the making of many of their most memorable albums - beginning with Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky... (2004) and culminating with Hymn To Immortal Wind (2009). The rebirth of the Albini collaboration for Requiem For Hell also coincided with the birth of a close friend's first child, whose actual in utero heartbeat serves as the foundation for the aptly named "Ely's Heartbeat." For MONO, it all felt so right, so inevitable. Requiem For Hell is undeniably heavier and scarier than most of MONO's output to this point - hear the dizzying 18-minute title track for example - but it also carries some of their most sublime moments. This dichotomy is how one band's obsession with conflict has manifested itself into one of underground music's simultaneously quietest and loudest catalogs.
A busy stage actor and singer already well known in his native Norway for three albums released on Oslo's Fysisk Format, "Echo" marks a pivotal turning point for Bech, and something of a radical sonic departure too. The keys to the seachange lie with Bech's new collaborator, the young underground DJ, producer and beat maker Drippin, known for his work with American rap artists such as LE1F and Cakes Da Killa. As a result, where his previous work was strange, ethereal and otherworldly - completely and utterly unique - "Echo" throbs with a renewed sense of vigour and urgency, without losing any of the idiosyncratic beauty which marked Bech's work out before.
The sound created here is strange and immediate. Stuttering sharp bass kicks combine with clanging 5-alarm snare drums made of glass, orchestra stabs and melancholy piano lines jump in and out of the arrangements. These new elements and ideas are married to the already singular voice of Nils Bech, with "Echo" becoming something new, exciting and 100% Norwegian - homegrown and ready for the world. Just listen to new track "Waiting" for evidence of his truly inimitable vision, as martial drums anchor Bech's floating, weightless vocals, to create something swoonsome, beguiling and defiantly its own creature.
The music comes to full fruition when performed live, as proven at two packed performances at the 2016 By Larm Festival where Nils was joined onstage by both Drippin & Oyvind Mathisen, who also produced, arranged and played on the album alongside Bech. Make sure not to miss the completely original and striking sound of Nils Bech.
Emerging from a decade-long hiatus, East Coast electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist, Sybarite, returns with Waver The Absolute. Following his lone, lush album on 4AD, Sybarite released the odd-and-ends collection, Cut Out Shape, before receding into his studio to focus on soundtrack and freelance work. In 2009 he formed the dream-pop duo, Bell Horses, with Jenny Owen Youngs, and released a leftfield cassette as Christian Hawkins in 2012. The long break from Hawkins' Sybarite project seems to have done him some good, as Waver The Absolute is unquestionably his strongest and most cohesive work to date. The marriage of the electronic and the organic has been one that Hawkins has expertly manipulated since his days in the legendary Silver Apples in the late 1990s. On Waver The Absolute, he uses his Sybarite moniker to expand and explore that union in exhilarating and rewarding new ways.
Syrinx's path veered from the dominant modes of '70s subculture, their version of chamber pop hybridized with wild, whimsical electronic experimentation charting new territory in the under and overground. Formed by composer John Mills-Cockell after the dissolution of Intersystems, Syrinx's two adventurous albums, Syrinx and Long Lost Relatives, endorsed the poetic potential of the avant-garde, subverting a turn of the '60s trend toward technological pageantry. Tumblers From The Vault presents these two albums alongside the trio's unheard music, revisiting the Syrinx story and sharing their memorable, mind-bending melodies. Triple LP version comes with printed inner sleeves, 20 page booklet with extensive liner notes, and a high-quality digital download.
Legendary Texan artist Terry Allen occupies a unique position straddling the frontiers of country music and visual art; he has worked with everyone from Guy Clark to David Byrne to Lucinda Williams, and his artwork resides in museums worldwide. Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, his deeply moving (and hilarious) satirical second album, a complex memory palace to his West Texas hometown Lubbock, is often cited as the urtext of alt-country. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, this is the definitive edition: the first to correct the tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions; the first U.S. vinyl reissue; the first CD to restore the full track listing; and the first to contextualize the record within Allen's 50-year career. Deluxe 2√—LP package includes tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. 2√—CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52pp. book.
5 stars; '50 Essential Albums of the 1970s.' Eccentric and uncompromising, savage and beautiful, literate and guttural. - Rolling Stone
Raunchy, pithy, and deeply redolent. - Pitchfork
Riveting. - NPR
Jason Sharp has been a fixture of Montr√©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 Montr√©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.