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Before New Age hit terra firms at the dawn of the 1980s, the classically-trained Bay Area composer Jordan De La Sierra's consciousness soared with cosmic concepts. With cues and lessons from the great minimalists La Monte Young,Terry Riley, Pandit Pran Nath, and help from the venerable public radio program Hearts of Space, De La Sierra embarked on a journey in alternate tunings and resounding reverberations, transporting entranced listeners from the Golden Gates to the intergalactic. Take an interstellar ride on the sensory engulfing space piano with this lovingly recreated double LP set, complete with De La Sierra's India-inspired visual artwork and musings on the tableau of space.
Welcome to the world of Lord RAJA, a strange, sometimes perilous alternate dimension with beauty and decay in equal measure. It's a world built on the beat-centric music which flows through New York native Chester Raj Anand's stream of consciousness; here, half remembered hip-hop classics are spliced into '90s IDM, ambient, footwork, and experimental sound design. Our latest dispatch from Lord RAJA's uncanny realm is the impulsive and unpredictable A Constant Moth LP, 12 hyper-detailed scenes ripped from the surreal mayhem at play in the mind of this talented young producer.
TURNING - A concert film documentary captured during the critically acclaimed tour of Europe by Antony and the Johnsons and Charles Atlas during the fall of 2006, it explores the heart and experience of that series of performances. Through its synthesis of Antony's songs and unfurling video portraiture of the 13 beauties who performed on stage, TURNING creates an intimate and cinematic experience exploring themes of identity, transcendence and the revelation of essence.
Also included in the deluxe package is the full TURNING concert recorded live at The Barbican, London, Nov. 2006 and contains songs across the first three Antony and the Johnsons' full length albums along with bonus tracks never before released songs - "Whose are These" and "Tears Tears Tears". The classic lineup of Antony, Maxim Moston, Rob Moose, Julia Kent, Parker Kindred, Jeff Langston, and Thomas Bartlett can be heard on these recordings as Charles Atlas's projected portraits of the girls light up the stage from behind the band for the duration of the concert.
The third part of Jad Fair's "Artist In Residency" Box Set is a playfully abrasive collaboration with lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore. "The Great American Songbook - Vol. 1" contains 19 haphazardly-joyous experimentations, most of which clock in under the 2 minute mark. Alternating between heady-bedroom-jazz and electro-noise-collages, half of the tracks sound like they could have been recorded by innocent kindergarteners, and the other half sound like they were recorded by demented madmen.
Enlisting the help of John Dieterich (Deerhoof) and Conrad Choucroun (NRBQ), Jad Fair & R. Stevie Moore seem endlessly willing to try new ideas, and avoid pigeonholing at every turn. And out of the myriad of ideas they throw at the wall, those that stick are superbly interesting. And a little creepy.
While not a household name outside of Norway, Jorn Aleskjaer has been writing and performing music for nearly 20 years. He's released four studio albums with the indie pop band The Loch Ness Mouse with two of those albums being nominated for "Pop Album of the Year" in Norway. Now, Jorn Aleskjaer finally debuts as a solo artist.
This record sounds like a long lost classic, the sort of record you might wish you could come across crate digging in a second hand record store in a remote town in the Norwegian countryside. The production perfectly channels that '70s AM radio pop hit sound and just flavors the melodies to the point that the songs sound so familiar, like they really are already hits in your memory. The musical scope stretches from Todd Rundgren-like pop-soul to Beach Boys harmony escapades, but at the center of the album are Jorn's raw and emotional, often Dennis Wilson-esque songs and performance, and the intention has been to capture this natural flow and rawness also in the studio.
Give the album a few plays and the melodies will be stuck in your head. Truly modern retro hits offered for new listeners to discover.
Her voice was all Saturday night, delivered on a Sunday morning. Patsy on Jesus. Elvis without the pelvis. Fern Jones' only album, released by Dot Records in 1959, captured 36-year-old Sister Fern as she anointed church music with the same untamed energy that younger white Southerners were bringing to their rock 'n' roll. Produced by Mac Wiseman and showcasing crack Nashville session players Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, Floyd Cramer, Joe Zinkan, and Buddy Harman fresh off their June 1958 session with The Pelvis, Singing A Happy Song should've taken Jones from dusty canvas big tops to the Opry's storied stage. But with no 45 to flog, Jones instead sold nary a record and never did hear herself on the radio. Her fiery rockabilly gospel was a few shades too radical for the conservative, traditional, near puritanical public she played to anyway. Fern Jones: The Glory Road collects her Singing A Happy Song LP and cuts including "Didn't It Rain," from her The Joneses Sing album, into one rousing package, rich with the details and imagery of a brief career spent tethered to the hard ground and gazing skyward. The Glory Road's sound gnaws at the bit and stands in reverence, a runaway rockabilly tent show without a single drop of rain on the horizon.
Bassist, composer, and vagabond, CJ Boyd uses low-end loops and voices in order to stop time. On perpetual tour since March 2008, movement and stasis are both at the center of his music. Utilizing only upright bass, bass guitar and voice, CJ creates a distinctive meditative atmosphere. Songs slowly build from singular, meditative bass lines into explosive, layered, and hugely complex walls of sound. The upcoming album is his first since 2012, and his finest work to date.
We Were Promised Jetpacks release their highly anticipated third album Unravelling, recorded in Glasgow at the infamous Chem19 Studios with Paul Savage (The Twilight Sad, Franz Ferdinand and Mogwai). The impending album release also sees the addition of a new member to the band in the form of multi-instrumentalist Stuart McGachan. The results of the sessions with Savage have made for the band's most accomplished and powerful album yet, taking their already legendary prowess with dynamic rock and injecting a bit of pop sheen to the mix. Songs like the yearning "Safety in Numbers," and the dark, growling "I Keep It Composed" will no doubt appeal to their ravenous fanbase while opening arms to those who take their guitar rock with a healthy dose of moody melodicism. Live favorites from the past tour and SXSW, "Peace Sign" and "Night Terrors" also surface here in refined studio form, but with no less heart-racing, voice shredding power than their stage counterparts.
Electric Ursa is the second solo album by Joan Shelley. Recorded in her hometown of Lousiville, KY with producer Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Houndmouth), it's comprised of eight songs, startling in their quietness and closeness. The Chicago Reader wrote that "she sings with striking intimacy, as though addressing someone sitting just a few feet away". Shelley has toured the US and Europe both solo and with her band (The June Brides). Her latest release Farthest Field (2012) was a duo album with Daniel Martin Moore, of which Jim James said was "destined to become a classic. It already is for those who know."
The dance world way too often privileges the new, and not many dance artists write albums as good as In A Dream, the third full-length album by The Juan MacLean, this far into their career. The Juan MacLean have weathered electroclash, disco-punk, electro-disco, techno, house, deep house, and whatever we can call the sound of today. They never feel totally in step with the moment, but somehow always feel right and necessary. Put differently: there's always something exciting to say about these guys.
Let's start with Nancy Whang. Nancy's voice has always been a kind of secret weapon on The Juan Maclean records, but this album is her triumph. Just take a look above at the album art where she's front and center This is the Nancy Show - you get all sides of Nancy on this record, a wide range of expression. These are all love songs, but emotions run wild. And you can't pull this off without Nancy - she's not living in these songs, she's leading them.
The first full-length by The Juan Maclean since 2009, comprised of entirely new material.
Announcing "Overjoyed", the first album in 13 years from legendary punk band Half Japanese. One of the most influential bands of all time, Jad Fair and Half Japanese spearheaded the DIY and Lo-Fi movements, influencing countless bands such as Sonic Youth, Neutral Milk Hotel, Daniel Johnston, and perhaps most notably, Kurt Cobain (who ranked Half Japanese amongst his top 50 favorites, had them open the "In Utero" tour, and was wearing their t-shirt when he died). Without exaggeration, Half Japanese is one of the most important bands in the history of music. "Overjoyed" was recorded and produced by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, and ranks amongst the best albums of the band's catalog.
From Toronto, Jennifer Castle writes folk songs about friendship, love and heartbreak. Pink City is a stirringly beautiful album every bit a step forward from 2011's Castlemusic. It's barer arrangements - often just piano, guitar and voice with string arrangements from Owen Pallet - highlight just how good of a songwriter Castle is. Her singing has an intuitive style, not always following the expected melody, but soaring along on it's own current. Greil Marcus wrote in The Believer that Castle "reaches a pitch of mystical transport so gorgeously ethereal she seems to drift off into lands that don't appear on any map."
The emergence of Swedish duo JJ in March 2009 was both meaningful and mysterious. A debut single, jj no.1, enchanted the music press, simultaneously existing across indie-pop and hip-hop spectrums, excitingly new and yet frustratingly vague in its presentation. This was a taste, a scent, something intangible, an impression made without force. The music was here, but little else - its makers remained anonymous. Pitchfork's Best New Music review for the band's debut album, summer 2009's jj no.2, spoke first of their enigmatic qualities, rather than precisely what this music was: another sumptuous menagerie of styles, blended by an expert hand, intoxicating and otherworldly. Both Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon appeared in the Marcus Söderlund-directed video to "Let Go". Cover, broken.
"We didn't mean to be anonymous, to begin with," says Kastlander. "We just knew we needed to put our music out."
"I'd say we've been working on this album our whole lives," says Benon of V, the band's third long-player. "It's the thing I've always wanted to do. I feel that we've been working on this album ever since we began to record music. We have never really had any other plan than to make this V shit happen and at the same time we never knew what it was - the story presented itself to us - and it's a story that's always been clear. It's only grown in its own way. And now we're finished, we look at it and back at it, and can begin to realize what it really is, what we have done, because it's something you don't necessarily decide for yourself, even though you've made it. And the songs... we don't write them, we just do our best to catch them forever, for real." JJ have, with new album V, realised the definitive expression of their experiences to date, and are finally comfortable with being a press-welcoming, tour-ready outfit.
As Benon explains, everything the pair has produced in the past has been part of this journey, to a zenith that they always sought to reach. But just as "My Boyz" exists exclusively in and of itself, so too does the new album's material, always envisioned as a whole, separate from other projects despite carrying over select DNA from its pop progenitors.
Tracks like the gorgeously understated "Be Here Now" and subtle strings of "When I Need You" float into clarity, coming together from vaporous beginnings. The latter number is one of several on V that showcase how Kastlander has grown as a vocalist. Hers is no indiscernible mumble, no vulnerable presence set to music that fizzes like a beachside cocktail on "Fågelsången" and soars on digital wings on "All White Everything"; rather, it's a mix-spearing confirmation that, whatever the bruised heart or open sexuality behind the lyrics, she's intent on connecting without compromise. Words are crisp, intonation perfect. There's still a hard thud on occasion, too: "Hold Me" opens with lean-flavoured raps, before twisting into a stained-glass confessional of absolute gravity, and "All Ways, Always" packs substantial swagger beside its rock riffs.
"We do it now," sings Kastlander on "I". And now really is the time for JJ, as acknowledged by Benon. "At last I have music that I really want to listen to, that I want to hear from a stage. In a way, we've made this music quite selfishly, to appeal primarily to ourselves and I really haven't felt this way about our material before. This is the moment. It's for real now."
And why do anything to restrict the sharing of that joy? Evidently at the top of their game in 2014, JJ are ready to, in Benon's words, "communicate with the world", quite unlike they've ever done so before. They're embracing, not retreating. Besides, mysteries are more frustrating than fascinating without resolution.
Dead Men Tell No Tales takes a stripped-down turn with plaintive lyrical confessions as pretty as they are prescient, summoning Syd Barrett's wild spirit through a séance of simple reverb burbles and acoustic incantations. Front-and-center vocals recounting love, loss and death's lurking presence are presented against airy guitar shimmer in a demented yin and yang seemingly forecasting the scarf-swathed, underground dandy man's abrupt fall nearly 20 years later. In the midst of such weighty tomes are less downtrodden peeks into the studio, where Sudden and his Jacobites are caught on tape in a few joyful fits and starts, adding another complex layer to this celebrated post-punk.
In founding Swell Maps, the post-punk prefacing Birmingham art-snots, Nikki Sudden and his drumming brother Epic Soundtracks charted new territory for racket and corrosive guitar. But after folding Swell Maps at the dawn of the '80s, Nikki Sudden plowed through another decade's worth of terrifically fertile ground. Drawing on his devotion to the Rolling Stones and T. Rex - alongside guitarist Dave Kusworth as Jacobites, plus a cheekily named cohort of British sidemen - Nikki Sudden cut a string of raw, inspired rock 'n' roll records, etched with double-edged travel melancholia and hard-bitten punk dejection.
In a year when overproduced rock-fluff flooded radio waves, Texas - Sudden's 1986 solo debut for Creation - blasted through the saccharin for a damaged and masterful invocation at the imperfect alters of Chilton and Bolan, sonic influences the Brit bore proudly on his velvet sleeve throughout the course of his polarizing prolificacy. As the increasingly splintered Rolling Stones cultivated "Harlem Shuffle" cover cheese, the former Jacobite leader looked to the ragged Exile On Main St. and Sticky Fingers roots of his icons for a raw, 12-song predication melding tender jangle and staggering swagger. Widely considered Sudden's solo magnum opus, Texas is an exquisite mélange of the off-kilter sub-terrestrial songwriter. In founding Swell Maps, the post-punk prefacing Birmingham art-snots, Nikki Sudden and his drumming brother Epic Soundtracks charted new territory for racket and corrosive guitar. But after folding Swell Maps at the dawn of the '80s, Nikki Sudden plowed through another decade's worth of terrifically fertile ground. Drawing on his devotion to the Rolling Stones and T. Rex--alongside guitarist Dave Kusworth as Jacobites, plus a cheekily named cohort of British sidemen - Nikki Sudden cut a string of raw, inspired rock 'n' roll records, etched with double-edged travel melancholia and hard-bitten punk dejection.
Anyone who ever had a Solid Gold Heart -- wouldn't they want to turn around and share it? Of course they would. Jad Fair and Danielson do. And their 11 tracks of sweet collaboration, collected under said title, sound like what you might expect: gleaming tunes of sincere sing-speak, resplendent with sparkling back-up vocals and warmly melodic, inventive instrumentation; a sunshine-bright outlook of positive encouragement to keep "rockin' on the side of goooood" -- because, after all, "We deserve chocolate cake/ We deserve apple pie/ Enjoy your life ..."