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Big Black was started by Steve Albini in 1982 while he was attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Lungs, the first Big Black release was recorded by Steve on a borrowed 4-track. He played everything on the EP himself - except the sax bleating courtesy of pal John Bohnen and the drums courtesy of Roland. Soon after, Steve recruited Jeff Pezzati (Naked Raygun) on bass, and Santiago Durango (also Naked Raygun) joined them on guitar. In 1983, together with live drummer Pat Byrne, they recorded the Bulldozer EP. By 1984, the band had done some touring and recorded the Racer X EP and the start of the Il Duce 7". After that, Jeff returned to Naked Raygun and was replaced by Dave Riley. In 1985, Big Black recorded their first full-length, Atomizer, as well as finishing the Il Duce 7". Atomizer was released in 1986 along with the release of the Hammer Party compilation CD. In 1987, the Headache EP and Heartbeat 7" were released. That same year, the band recorded and released the 7" of The Model/He's A Whore as well as their second full-length album, Songs About Fucking. They toured extensively (for Big Black). And they broke up.
Pure-O, by Kari Jahnsen - aka Farao - is a prog-pop exposition on the curious dichotomy between beauty and destructiveness in sex and relationships. Farao creates the world of Pure-O with a neon pool of synthesizers, zither, drums, and soaring vocals, seamlessly referencing '90s R&B and the untapped goldmine of Soviet disco.
On Pure-O, we're hearing Jahnsen's early youth in Norway finding perfect equilibrium with her adulthood in Berlin. She says of the time she spent recording, "I was in the process of learning how to conduct myself while not getting sucked in to the whirlpool that is Berlin party culture," and of her childhood, "It wasn't a place I felt stimulated creatively, and felt quite lonely there growing up, which made me turn to music as a language for a set of emotions I didn't know how to release otherwise." It's precisely this relationship between quiet reflection and overstimulation that makes this album unlike anything of its genre. In an age when non-electronic pop seems like an outlier, Farao constructs a bridge of humanity from the organic to the inorganic, rounds out the hard edges and sharpens the soft ones, and altogether transplants a healthy, beating heart into modern synth-pop.
Ask Will Wiesenfeld to contrast his project Baths with the music made under his Geotic alias, and you'll get a simple response: Baths is activelistening, Geotic is passive listening. But behind this straightforward duality exists two projects that are equally poignant yet starkly distinct,reflective of the emotional complexities of its creator. Don't mistake passive listening for anything remotely resembling apathy.Over the course of nine self-released albums plus a handful of singles & EPs (all released on Bandcamp), Wiesenfeld has certainly proved thecontrary. With Abysma, his first release for Ghostly, Wiesenfeld solidified this notion as Geotic makes his label debut in tandem with the projectsfirst ever physical oering. In 2018, Wiesenfeld presents his second full-length for Ghostly: Traversa.Part of Wiesenfeld's inspiration comes from his own domestic situation. A native of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, the classically trainedmusician has settled on the Westside, inhabiting an apartment a short ride from the ocean. "It's a relaxing and slightly displaced vibe thatinforms the project. It's full of art everywhere, all my comics, an amazing media set up," Wiesenfeld says. "It's all the stuff that I've saved for andwanted to have in my life but didn't feel comfortable [setting up] until I moved in here. We nested the shit out of this place.""So much of dance music is about partying and going out and having a really hardcore social experience," Wiesenfeld says. "Dance music has never been that for me. So much of my experience listening to music is being by myself - at home or in my car. Those feelings are especially apparent on the tracks that comprise Abysma: songs that feel lived-in and comfortable - imbued with feelings that cant be faked or compartmentalized.
"I'd like to be as un-mysterious as I possibly can," Graham Van Pelt says. He's about to release Time Travel, his first record in the four years since he moved from Montreal to Toronto, and he's no longer Miracle Fortress, or Inside Touch, or any of the aliases he's used to record over the years. He's just Graham Van Pelt.
With the perspective of leaving a longtime home, of watching old friends change and familiar places become unrecognizable, came a recommitment to an emotional honesty in Van Pelt's songwriting. Time Travel's eight songs are a tangle of friendships and feelings. Moving backwards and forwards in time, they occupy a space of elegant melancholy.
Immersing himself in the work of house music legends like Larry Heard, Vincent Floyd and Maurizio and the fragile disco of Arthur Russell, along with contemporaries like Jessy Lanza and Kelly Lee Owens, Van Pelt built the album from the bottom up, rooting every track in the crude sequencer of the Roland SH-101 synth, a decades-old dance music totem. The result are melodies that are simple but affecting, anchored to deep, wandering basslines.
Time Travel is a renewal of Van Pelt's vows with dance music, and with the genre's pulse of synthesized melancholy. It's a heartrending rush, as emotionally direct as a sweaty, jaw-clenching 3am hug.
The 2018 Halloween movie has the distinction of being the first film in the series with creator John Carpenter's direct involvement since 1982's Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Carpenter serves on the new David Gordon Green-directed installment as an executive producer, a creative consultant, and, thrillingly, as a soundtrack composer, alongside his collaborators from his three recent solo albums, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies.
The new soundtrack pays homage to the classic Halloween score that Carpenter composed and recorded in 1978, when he forever changed the course of horror cinema and synthesizer music with his low-budget masterpiece. Several new versions of the iconic main theme serve as the pulse of Green's film, its familiar 5/4 refrain stabbing through the soundtrack like the Shape's knife. The rest of the soundtrack is just as enthralling, incorporating everything from atmospheric synth whooshes to eerie piano-driven pieces to skittering electronic percussion. While the new score was made with a few more resources than Carpenter's famously shoestring original, its musical spirit was preserved.
Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos' sophomore effort Rockstone is more thanjust a love letter to the roots of Jamaican music. It's an actual loveletter. Tom McDowall aka Jr. Thomas explains, "I could write a musicallove letter to all things I loved: my wife, my family, my friends, my bandmates. I could write a song to tell me to Chin Up when times gottough. I could give gratitude to the Jamaican artists that paved theway for the beautiful music we now call reggae. I could write a songabout what it's like to lose someone important to you. Or write a songto invigorate me spiritually. Music is healing and that's the besttherapy there is for me."Rockstone isn’t just another throwback record to an era gone by. It's arecord that takes risks within the genre, but more importantly it's agenuinely honest record."I called the album Rockstone because true love cannot be defeated. Itlives forever. We write tributes on our tombstones because they live onbeyond our lives as a remembrance of something special andimportant to us."
Minus the Bear is a product of the first two decades of this century. From their first show in 2001 to their impending dissolution at the end of 2018, the Seattle band thrived on the musical awakening in the era of the mp3, the internet, poptimism, and the crosspollinations generated from an expanded consciousness of new music forms. With their final EP, Fair Enough, Minus the Bear closes the book on their hybrid of art-rock, indie pop, and warehouse party appeal. The opening track "Fair Enough" went through a variety of permutations before the band found new meaning in its lyrical lament of lost passions and finding "the exact moment we turned it off". The other songs of Fair Enough are a continuation and culmination of Minus the Bear's diverse sounds. The up-tempo drumbeats, lush electronics, and nimble guitar work that initially set them apart are on full display during "Viaduct". "Dinosaur" has the groove of early hits of "Fine + 2 PTS", but crafted with the understated Steely Dan-eque delivery of their more current slow jams. The EP closes with a nod to their ongoing remix collaborations, this time with a rave-up reinvention of "Invisible" by Sombear.
Bakersfield, CA duo The Soul Chance are steeped in early reggae. Lo- fi recording techniques and sweet reggae performances are the order of the day. The A-side features a cover of the classic “Give Love A Try” by Delroy Wilson, while the B-side is a sweet soul instrumental that serves as the group’s theme.
Shida Shahabi is a Swedish-Iranian pianist / composer, currently based in Stockholm. The beautiful, intimate and homespun piano of 'Homes' marks Shida's debut release. Each of the album's eight pieces were played on her J.G. Malmsjo piano - a very heavy and good quality Swedish upright from the turn of the 1900s, that had spent the majority of its life stationed in a church in central Stockholm, and was in fantastic shape for its age. There are no whistles and bells attached here, no big name guest performers or hired studio hands. Absolutely beautifully played and composed, it is a deeply charming record that exudes a confident warmth and an emotional depth and honesty in every note. Its production eschews the prioritizing of cleanliness, with a warm, fuzzy noise floor audible from the very first track immediately immersing the listener into this sublime yet imperfect reality - as though the whole existed beneath a layer of dust. It posits comfort over obsessive cleanliness. Living comfortably with traces of wear and decay, the recording makes audible intimate acoustic details and imperfections - creaking and hissing; tiny distortions; the pressure exerted by fingers and feet against the piano's pedals and keys.
Switched-On Eugene documents the Eugene Electronic Music Collective and some of the many synthed-out figures in and around Oregon's iconic hippie stronghold during the 1980s. Whether connected by membership, geography, or the tape trading scene, the artists in and around the EEMC shared compelling visions of the future we now inhabit, vividly captured on home-recorded tapes and distributed via zines, classifieds, and local radio. Switched-On Eugene is a deep dive into a heretofore forgotten sonic microcosm unlike any other.
Fresh, sweet soul from Akron's Wesley Bright & The Honeytones. Aftergoing through some changes in both personnel and sound, Wesleyand the guys have found their groove. This tune represents a newdirection for the band, produced by Colemine Records' in-houseproducer Leroi Conroy at their Loveland, OH studio, these tunes arerough and tough, yet super sweet as well. Maybe that because leadsinger Wesley Bright is also a beekeeper. That's right. He's a sweetsoul singer that makes honey. You can't make that up.
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The new Calvin Johnson album A Wonderful Beast [KLP269] is an experiment in sound. Using the theory "Rock'n'roll Will Never Die" as a starting point, Calvin entered the Audio Eagle Studio in Nashville, TN. Working closely with Producer Patrick Carney and Chief Engineer Marc Whitmore, the team tested the resiliency of such time honored materials as the electric guitar, modular synthesizer and trap drum kit, combining them in various ratios with elements like musical chords A, C and Dm. The results are a Frankenstein's monster of an album, A Wonderful Beast. Michelle Branch, who score many hits in the early double-0 decade as a solo artist and as a member of the Wreckers and lives next door to Audio Eagle, provides back-up harmony vocals on three songs. Following in the tradition of such Brill Building songwriting teams as Leiber-Stoller, Greenwich-Barry and Goffin-King, all the songs on A Wonderful Beast are a collaboration between Calvin Johnson and Patrick Carney. Carney, best known for his work as a member of the Akron, OH powerhouse The Black Keys, established Audio Eagle to further exactly this type of rock'n'roll workshoping, allowing the music and songwriting of NOW to rocket launched into the FUTURE.
The extraordinary creative partnership of New Haven, CT duo Kath Bloom and Loren Connors, has haunted psych-folk fans ever since the early 80s.Kath taught herself guitar during shifts as a janitor at a New Haven cemetery, while Loren's free-form idiosyncratic style had been developing since the late 60s. Between 1981 and 1984, the duo recorded two live and four studio albums, mostly self-released in tiny quantities. Early on, their music mixed folk and blues traditionals with a handful of Kath's vulnerable, moving originals. By the later albums the songs were all Kath's - her fragile voice and subdued finger-picking set against Loren’s abstract but always supportive playing. Together the duo created a sound almost impossibly emotional and haunting. Restless Faithful Desperate emerged in 1984, in an edition of 200-300 copies. As her creativity accelerated, Kath's songs became looser and more intuitive, but Restless contains one of her most gorgeously realised compositions Look at Me. Loren's long-term collaborator Robert Crotty contributes extra guitar on a couple of tracks.After reissuing four of Kath & Loren's albums on CD in the late 2000s, Chapter now embarks on the first ever vinyl reissues for these remarkable records. Expect more volumes in early 2019.
Matthew Dear is a shapeshifter, oscillating seamlessly between DJ, dance-music producer, and experimental pop auteur. He is a founding artist on both Ghostly International and its dancefloor offshoot, Spectral Sound. Bunny is the name of Matthew Dear's fifth album. His first since 2012, it bounces into plain sight preceded by two slyly different singles in 2017: the moody, urgent "Modafinil Blues" and the buoyant, blithe, Tegan and Sara-featuring "Bad Ones." Bunny follows both modes, among others, parading down a rabbit hole of unhinged phrasings, dreams, and interludes. It saunters in the shadows; it stands brightly in the moonlight. Bunny is a dual vision of avant-pop; an artistic reckoning from a 21st-century polymath; persona splintered, paradox paraphrased, a riddle rendered.
"Pink Skies", the seventh album from New Haven quartet Mountain Movers, comes closest to capturing what makes The Movers such a thrilling live band, padding the instrumental passages of their primordial psychedelia with lumbering numbers like "Snow Drift" or "My Eyes Are Always Heavy", that stumble forward lead-footed, soaked in a cacophonous clamor with songwriter/guitarist Dan Greene's lyrics floating atop like couplets of magical realism. "Pink Skies" coalesces midway through with long-form jammer "The Other Side of Today", an epic near-twelve minute masterclass in modern, improvised guitar music; the rhythm section of drummer Ross Menze & bassist Rick Omonte sizzles like an acid-fried sunset, and lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene showcases what makes her one of the most enchanting guitarists in the game right now (ask a "head", they'll tell ya). A player able to vacillate between low-key solos that crackle to head-splitting, ear-piercing noise, riding that ever-so-thin line between expertly controlled feedback & chaotic discord. The album's final two tracks "This City" and "Heavenly Forest" blend so seamlessly into one another that all of "Pink Skies" second side feels like one long piece of elemental sonic alchemy.
Extremes are extreme, extremely. For Philip Corner, a lifelong commitment to extremes - extreme expression, extreme beauty, extreme noise, extreme silence - developed a mastery of expression, any one extreme may result in all of the others. In gripping new recordings by the duo of Silvia Tarozzi, violin, and Deborah Walker, cello - with assistance from Rhodri Davies, harp, and Philip Corner, piano - Corner's early ensemble works from 1958 are paired with newer, late works from 2015-2016. The works from 1958, "Two-part monologue" and "FINALE," were composed while Corner was teaching at City College and still finishing his Masters at Columbia University under Henry Cowell and Otto Luening. Extremes being extreme, they were too extreme for Columbia. Yet, Corner completed his degree and continued to stretch on, creating works somewhere between the supercomputer-refined micro-tunings of James Tenney and the ecstatic enactments of Malcolm Goldstein, his Tone Roads bandmates. Now, with the world (somewhat) caught up, we can appreciate Philip Corner's EXTREEMIZMS, early and late, together.