Monthly Spins: February 2017

What’s happening in February? What’s going down? Many who are involved with thinking all seem to be searching for a word, a signifier, some definition for the moment we now find ourselves inhabiting. Forget the words and definitions for now. Ambiguity is funny in the way that we so often define it as a corrosive irritant, a constant grinding away of our sense of certainty and contentment. Someone sits down with a guitar or synthesizer and tries consciously or otherwise to translate these feelings into music. So much power is found in ambiguity. There is nothing better for creativity. Great things are happening in bedrooms and studios and basements. Just keep searching for that sound and I promise you’ll hear it coming from a passing car, bleeding through a girl’s set of cans on the subway, or as background static embedded in a novel disguised as a TV show. Just listen...

Jay Som: Turn Into
Indie post rock with shades of Elliot Smith and Mitski. Material she recorded when she was in her late teens and released on Bandcamp, then remastered and now released on Polyvinyl as Turn Into. There’s also a little Liz Phair assertiveness amidst the haze. I’ve gone back to this many times. Stellar songwriting.

Available from Bandcamp




Mothers: When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Mothers began as the Athens, GA. solo project of the very talented Kristine Leschper and has evolved into a tight four piece (see the live Audiotree session video below). Her high holler warbling voice covers the spectrum from roiled angst to pointed rebuke but through it all shines a sweetness of spirit. Can’t wait to hear the sophomore follow up.

Available from Bandcamp




Melanie De Blasio: Blackened Cities
Don’t call it jazz or rock, but then again what are those lush arrangements that Mark Hollis has created but unique soundscapes that are simply what they are—lush metalands of sounds. De Blasio takes us through Blackened Cities on a walk in a drizzle into a place we’re certain is haunted. A mere 24 minutes long, it leaves us wanting much, much more. The record was recorded live with little post-production.

Available from Bandcamp




Mind Over Mirrors: The Voice Calling
Using the Indian pedal harmonium, solitary Chicago-based electronics wizard Jaime Fennelly’s Mind Over Matters has now teamed up with the formidable Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux) to create the best release yet in this cycle (a new one is slated for release later this month). There are echos of the heavenly improvisational harmonium drone work of the one and only G.I. Gurdjjief as well as an obvious nod to the work of Tarkovsky composer Edward Artmiev. With the addition of tape delays and Fohr, MOM have crossed a threshold of no return. More on the new release next month.

Available from Bandcamp




Lucy: Self Mythology
Lucy is helmed by the Stroboscopic Artefacts label maestro Luca Mortellaro and it is a departure from earlier work in that it inhabits a much more detailed and rich palette of colors and rhythms, taking cues from the Hassellesque tribal underworld with the listener going deep into a journey of unexplored regions of lysergic rapture.

Available from Tidal




Vessels: Dilate
From Leeds and supposedly made up of an actual band, not a single wizard at the helm, although frankly it’s hard to tell with this one. Up and down tempo electronics, cascading waves of layered, syncopated beats with little repetition. It's a wide screen journey rather than a predetermined destination. Bright and crisp breaks make this a must listen.

Available from Bandcamp




Jam Money: The Gathering Kind
Very reminiscent of Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s eponymous 1981 release. Acoustic instruments. I'm guessing the name is dry ironic humor given that this group sounds nothing like the Vegas disco cover band that the name implies. In fact quite the opposite is to be heard on The Gathering Kind. The four piece use broken guitars, junk shop discovered keyboards, bespoke percussion, activated cassette tapes. Ingenious and delightful.

Available from Bandcamp




Aktuala: La Terra
Not a reissue or repressing, just some smokin’ psychedelia recorded in 1974 by Italian world music pioneers Aktuala. Using vocals, keyboards, electronics, tablas, flute, dulcimer, guitar, tambula, saxophone--you name the Mediterranean and African instruments and they’re probably being used on this record. Four extended instrumental explorations that bring to mind the later work of bands like Oregon and Shakti.

Available from Tidal




Fargo Season 2 (FX)
Speaking of novels disguised as TV shows, by far the longest and best Coen Brothers film ever made is the stunning season 2 of the FX series Fargo. At ten hours Fargo Season 2 has a relentlessly brilliant and funny script and stellar acting by a large mix of talented actors. The Coen’s executive produced and are rumored to have had script approval, and it shows. And you don’t have to have watched the first season to understand what’s going on because Season 2 is an entirely different cast of characters and it takes place in 1979-80 during the presidential race between Carter and Reagan. There are nods to the Native American diaspora, alien visitations (including one by a campaigning Reagan), familial gangster intrigue and some of the tastiest Coen-style dialogue. Only the flat, desolate location is the same and is based upon "true events" that actually took place with an outlaw family called the Gephardts. The acting, the script, the direction and the insane risk taking make this the best thing that appeared on television in 2016. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, Bokeem Woodbine, Jean Smart, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson and Jeffery Donovan.

High Maintenance (HBO)
Ben Sinclair and his wife...Katja Blichfeld have expanded upon their web series shorts (now only found on HBO) and created a peripatetic series of short (30 min), interconnected short stories that all revolve around "The Guy" (Sinclair) who runs a solo pot delivery service in NYC. Yes, people are getting high but this is not stoner comedy. The pair maneuver deftly within the pretentions of NYC's hipster and artistic, Trustifarian communities drawing out humor as well as pathos, not to mention a sense of how interwoven we are with each other even as we remain strangers.

The Knick (Cinemax) 3 seasons
'House' circa 1900 Manhattan with a brilliant and driven surgeon as mad scientist (Clive Owen) who invents radical new procedures during cocaine binges, some wildly effective and others not so successful. Tammany Hall politics, cadaver dealing horse drawn ambulance hacks, rogue nuns providing birth control and abortions to the tenement poor. An innovative black doctor is hired who faces overt racism. It’s a rare portrait of NYC at the turn of the 20th century. The attention to detail is evident given the obviously large budget this show must have.


Joe Surdna is a practicing artist and writer who has published in Playboy, GQ, Zoetrope and has worked on several alt-weeklies as an entertainment reporter focusing on art, new music, and film reviews.

COMMENTS
Alex Halberstadt's picture

Wow, I'm loving the crap out of this column. Please keep the awesome music coming. It's so good!

Alex

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