Monthly Spins: November 2017

What an extraordinary month October has been for the release and discovery of great new music. I had to make a new section entitled Honorable Mentions in order to include all the music that deserved to be reviewed. Not that any records on the 2nd tier list are of any less quality than those given longer reviews. Rather than review an artist (see St. Vincent) that every single other site has posted about I prefer to highlight less well known but quite worthy artists that may get short shift when the heavyweights are getting all the ink.

And although I very much like the Circuit des Yeux, St. Vincent, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Four Tet I did not love love them, but you might very well feel differently. Anyhow, there's a ton of great music to discover on this list. Enjoy!

King Krule: The Ooz
File Under: king of the krule
His real name is Archy Marshall and he's only 23 but this record is so accomplished and sprawlingly regal that it seems it could only come from someone twice his age. Not since Elvis Costello appeared seemingly fully formed has any Brit produced a record with this much depth and originality. Krule was only 17 when his 6 Feet Beneath the Moon came out, which was followed by 2015's A New Place 2 Drown. It might be the cockney-like South London accent and the sometimes garbled lyrics, but I hear The Clash and Specials and Fun Boy Three as well as (gulp) Burial. Like a demented lounge singer Krule flirts with dystopian themes, jazz-inflected riffs, meandering soundscapes that flicker in and out of focus. There are beautiful laments, cacophonous, nearly incoherent places where his voice reaches it's limits and breaks into static. This is a record to be studied and listened to carefully, what with its mind-boggling density of lyrics and musical forms and styles that it's hard to fathom in one or three listens, especially given it's near 60 minute length.

Available from Tidal




Vincent Vocoder Voice: I, Too, Was Wrought With Love
File Under: avant-experimental, post-rock, wave
Brighton, UK-based is about the only information I've been able to glean about VVV. There's an equally memorable first, self-titled LP that's worth checking out and since this is all new to me I've been listening to them both together. Constant surprises and an enigmatic, genre-defying approach. There are echoes to be sure: some Tones On Tail, Gang of Four and according to Bob some serious Scraping Foetus vibes happening. But on I, Too, VVV sometimes get down right pensive and emotional with nice touches of acoustic guitar. Whoever VVV are I thank them for the great music.

Available from Bandcamp




Waxahatchee: Out In The Storm
File Under: singer songwriter
Katie Crutchfield's fourth album finds her elevating her game considerably from previous efforts. There is an overall maturity to her sound, even though she still retains the twang of her Alabama roots, these songs present a universal sense of love and loss, the pain of breakup and the vagaries of love.

Available from Bandcamp




C-Shultz: FRÜHE JAHRE
File Under: Cologne experimental reissue
What a rare and sprawling opus we have here with the reissue of great Cologne experimentalist C-Shultz's late 80's and early 90's and originally released in 91 on the Entenpfuhl label. There's an odd German pop sensibility at work combined with nods to Industrial, Dada, Musique Concrete and early techno. A truly innovative and delightful record that was way ahead of its time because it exists outside of time. See also, 1992's stunning magnum opus Film Ton, which is an album found on Tidal.

Available from Bandcamp




L'Rain: S/T
File Under: experimental R&B
Brooklyn born Taja Cheek goes by the stage name of L'Rain and her experimental first, self-titled record takes broad swipes at creating a definitive soundscape. I include this on this month's list simply because of how much potential greatness there seems to be in her willingness to take chances. She has a beautiful voice, and perhaps to try and counter-balance that device she tends to modulate, dismember, loop, and bury it beneath a wall of accumulated noise. Having a "beautiful voice" is like having the ability to draw and render 3-D space in perspective. It can be limiting and too much technique can overwhelm an artist's ability to transcend those parameters, but in her case I wish she would trust more in the beauty of that voice and let it shine a bit more in a follow-up. A promising first effort.

Available from Bandcamp




Ninos Du Brasil: Vida Eterna
File Under: complex, invigorating, live drumming, techno
Again with the Italians, reinventing techno with a mixture of live drumming and programming, the duo of Nico Vascellari and Nicolo Fortuni have brought their art-performance sound up a few notches on this their third full length with a bit of Brazilian carnivalesque, punk, techno and batacuda. With their art degree backgrounds and with roots in punk and hardcore bands they bring a fresh and invigorating and complex rhythmic intensity.

Available from Tidal




Franco Battiato: Sulle Corde di Aries (1973)
File Under: early, innovative prog
A recent discovery is this gem from 1973 by maestro Franco Battiato, the 2nd in a series of three "prog trilogy" records he put out in the early 70's and to these 21st century ears remains fresh and relevant where so much Italian prog from the era seems dated in comparison. Sequenze E Frequenze is the opening 16 minute track that takes up side one and weaves and bobs it's way through choral dirges and tonal sketches using classical 20th century motifs that draw the listener into a sacred realm. In 2010 the album was reissued in a 180 gram vinyl by Sony Music and can be found on Discogs as well as a digital download from Qobuz.

Available from Qobuz




Gunther's Grass: Bastille Day & Other Lullabies
File Under: ancient instruments, avant-garde, improvisation, drones
This is only the second album for collaborative Gunther's Grass which is the trio of Marcelo Radulovich on hurdy-gurdy and rub-a-metron, Chrisopher Adler on the khaen (Lao/Northeast Thai mouth organ, pii jum), Scott Walton on upright bass, with other players on trombone, cello and vibraphone. At the vanguard of the Bay Area experimental scene Bastille Day & Other Lullabies finds the group deep into the territory of improvisational drones that cover a world-wide consortium of soundscapes.

Available from Tidal




Aquarelle: Leave Corners
File Under: experimental, ambient, post-classical, composition
The first release in four years by Aquarelle (not to be confused with the 70's fusion band), which is the project of Ryan Potts and here we have a more majestic slice of ambient color field, especially with the addition of Brandon Wiarda's cello set high in the mix. Aquarelle is a technique in watercolor painting of applying layer after layer of color and Potts does something similar with his layering of guitar noise, piano, vibraphone, and organ.

Available from Bandcamp




Spellling: Pantheon of Me
File Under: experimental soul, ambient, dark wave, electronica
Tia Cabral is a Berkeley, California-based artist and musician who has recently come on the scene and just released her first full length entitled Pantheon of Me.

Available from Bandcamp




Nick Photinos: Petits Artéfacts
File Under: new music composition
Nick Photinos is a founding member and cellist and co-Artistic Director of Eighth Blackbird and this is his crowdfunded, first solo effort that features the compositions of a who's-who of names in new music such as older maestros like David T. Little, Bryce Dessner, David Lang and Andrew Norman, but also includes works from a much younger and newer generation of innovative composers like Florent Ghys, Molly Joyce, Agelica Negron, and Pascal Le Boeuf. Artéfacts has solo entries, chamber works and electro-acoustic works as well as an involuntary collaboration with an Iranian weather woman. It is clear that Photinos is a virtuoso on the cello, yet his playing on this record never veers into the merely performative or show-offness that one might expect.

Available from Bandcamp




Hey Colossus: Guillotine
File Under: heavy rock, psych, doom
UK sextet Hey Colossus keep reinventing themselves as in 2015 when they released two of the best albums of the year with Black and Gold and Radio Static High. On Guillotine they dial up the rage and ease back a bit on the feedback, giving frontman Paul Sykes lyrics a front and center place in the mix. Well known in the UK Hey Colossus haven't really made much of a dent in the US, although this record (and Trump's ascendency) might just be the point where they start to connect given the rising sense of outrage we too are experiencing.

Available from Bandcamp




Richard Horowitz: Eros in Arabia (1981)
File Under: fourth world, early Hassell collaborator
A recent reissue of this essential and long out of print 1981 fourth world gem by Jon Hassell early collaborator, percussionist and composer Richard Horowitz, who has worked with Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacey and considered writer and composer Paul Bowles a mentor and friend. Starting in 1968 through 1979 Horowitz lived both in Paris and Morocco where he intensely studied the regions North African musical traditions as well as immersing himself in the sounds of Indonesia. Besides a variety of percussion and wind instruments he also plays keyboards (see 23/8 For Conlon Nancarrow) and the ney, a reed flute. Horowitz has continued to play and record but is now known for his film scores and received both a Los Angeles Film Critics award and a Golden Globe for his score for the film version of Paul Bowles novel The Sheltering Sky which was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Available from Bandcamp




Maggie Payn: Ahh-Ahh – Music For Ed Tannenbaum's Technological Feets 84'-87'
File Under: early electronic, experimental, ambient
You may not of heard of electronic pioneer Maggie Payne but this is a good place to begin what with label Root Strata putting together several compositions Payne created for performance group Technological Feets, helmed by video maestro Ed Tannenbaum back in the relatively primitive days of the early 80's when she used an Apple II computer and DX7 sequencers. Eliane Radigue, Pauline Oliveros get the 70's cred and today's innovators Laurel Halo and Maria Minerva bring us the newest sounds, but Payne's work on these dance/video performances need to be taken within that history.

Available from Boomkat




UUUU: S/T
File Under: geezers reinvent rock again
Don't let the supergroup moniker stop you because what we have here is Edvard Graham Lewis founder and bassist of Wire fame, former Coil and Spiritualized avant-musician Thighpaulsandra, with Italian drummer Valentina Magaletti (Vanishing Twin) and guitarist Matt Simms. This ferocious conglomeration of rock made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I first played it. It's like a smorgasbord of space rock, drone, electro, prog, industrial, noise—and you can clearly hear the Coil/Wire antecedents, but it's the drumming by Magaletti which is astounding and keeps the whole thing from going off the rails. Multiple spins on this gem.

Available from Bandcamp




D4RKSID3 : The Dark Tape
File Under: hip hop
Queens rapper D4RKSID3's first release and otherwise little bio information on this artist. An old school vibe and seriously East Coast in tone and delivery.

Available from Bandcamp




Gel Set: Body Copy
File Under: psychedelic electro, minimal synth
Multimedia artist Laura Callier graduated with an MFA from The Art Institute of Chicago's Department of sound and recently moved to LA and continues her experiments with minimal synth-pop. See also her worthy first album Human Salad.

Available from Bandcamp




Angel Olsen: Phases
File Under: A teaser from the much anticipated new record out November 10th.




Honorable Mentions

There was such an avalanche of worthy releases this month that I couldn't list them all so here is an abbreviated list of additional LPs I think are very good and you might want to check them out.

Circuit des Yeux: Reaching For Indigo (Haley Fohr does it again)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: The Kid (Buchla 100 modular synth)
Chelsea Wolf: Hiss Spun (gothic rocket)
Ibeyi: Ash (R&B, soul, electronic)
Various Artists: Miracle Steps: Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017 (Hassell tribute)
Four Tet: New Energy (electronic sensei)
Pardoner: Uncontrollable Salvation (fuzz-rock)
Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (punk rock)
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice (guitar-god friends)
St Vincent: Masseduction (Asked whether she is now St. Vincent or Annie Clark she responded "You'll have to ask her.")
Vanishing Twin: Dream By Numbers (avant-psych)
Ho99o9: United States of Horror (hip-hop/hardcore)
NHK yx Koyxen: Exit Entrance (experimental electronic)



From The Archives

Jon Hassell: Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two (1981)
File Under: remastered fourth world masterwork
Just released in a 180 vinyl and other formats, this remastered album contains a bonus track and new liner notes from the now 80 year old sensei himself. I'd like to say that Hassell single-handedly created a new genre of music now called simply Fourth World, but there's a guy named Brian Eno, who also takes credit. They worked together on the first of this series Fourth World Vol 1. Possible Musics. This credited collaboration still rubs Hassell the wrong way and he directs some of this ire at Eno in the new liner notes writing that Eno was "probably under-credited on this record—maybe a reactionary move on my part to reaffirm an independent identity after the experience of finding Possible Musics (my music) in the "Eno" bin in record stores." Eno followed his collaboration with Hassell by doing the same with David Byrne and creating another classic in My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

In a 1935 anthropologist Kilton Stewart visited colonial Malaya and specifically the Senoi, whom he believed to have psychic powers, but what was more amazing to him was their daily morning ritual of family dream-telling, stories which were also passed on to neighboring tribes and Stewart believed that this resulted in there having no known forms of mental illness or war-like or aggressive tendencies. Hassell was fascinated by Stewart's writing and traveled to the area taking a lot of field recordings of birds, insects and found recordings of children using water splash rhythms, weaving in his highly altered trumpet and creating a very influential and startlingly original genre of music. I thank my friend Dean for putting this man on my radar back in 84' and back then this was that sort of record—passed from musician to musician and studied carefully. I remember the first time I turned a very good trumpeter on to this record and he got this huge grin on his face and kept saying, "I can't believe that's a trumpet. That's just out of this world!" I stayed with Dean one summer for a few weeks when we were painting a house together and we had this morning ritual of making coffee and then putting on this album and listening silently while we sipped our coffee and slowly came out of our own dream states. It was very much like a ritual of meditation that set the right tone and stayed with us throughout the rest of the day. Also check out this compilation album available on Tidal entitled Miracle Steps (Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017.

Available from Boomkat


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
Campo007's picture

The 3 prog Roberto Battiato records have just been reissued in the US by Superior Viaduct.

torturegarden's picture

You are pure evil Joe. Between this column and Michael's Download of the Week it appears I just need to sign my paychecks over to Bandcamp. That's not necessarily a bad thing as one can never have too much good music.

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