Staff Pick CDs: July

Here are some Staff Picks CDs from our collection at our new Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.

Anoyo. / Hecker, Tim
If you read Carlo Rovelli’s incredible book, ‘The Order of Time’, you will learn that the force that drives the universe is not energy but entropy, and ‘Konoyo’, the ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker, is a sublimely beautiful work that could be heard as a soundtrack to that ever inexorable process of decay. Like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, this grand, complex and absorbing music is quite unlike anything else, including previous Tim Hecker records. The source material is provided by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble playing some of the most ancient instruments known, and it’s highly appropriate that this was recorded in Japan, as, if one closes one’s eyes, it is almost possible to see the cherry blossoms drifting away on the spring breeze. A few months later he released the accompanying ‘Anoyo’. Konoyo translates as ‘this world’ and anoyo as ‘the other world’ and the second release reflects that meaning, featuring six spacious and ambient pieces titled “That World”, “Is But A Simulated Blur”, “Step Away From Konoyo”, “Into the Void”, “Not Alone”, “You Never Were” if you get the drift. (John)

>>>. / Beak>
This is the third record from the krautrock project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (the first was ‘>’ and the second ‘>>’) and features music quite unlike any other. Metronomic drumming, ominous synths, glitchy electronics, deep vocals, throbbing basslines, processed strings, sci-fi keyboards and much more all feature in various combinations across ten tracks to create something otherworldly and quite engrossing. (John)

Coltrane ’58 : the Prestige recordings. / Coltrane, John
This release features all 37 tracks (across 5-discs) that saxophonist John Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for the independent Prestige Records label in the twelve months of the year 1958 – which when released would comprise 8 albums in his discography. After finally cleaning up his drug & alcohol addiction in 1957, the period that followed saw him working and recording with pianist Thelonious Monk, whose unique compositions were an influence on Coltrane. Spilling over with new musical ideas and possibilities, Coltrane choose a series of old ballads & standards to see how far his new style and improvisational techniques could push against the traditional structure of existing tunes. The Prestige years are one of the distinctive periods in his career in which he honed a beautifully full & rich style, fast and slashing, yet tender and poignant, which Jazz journalist Ira Gitler would famously dub “sheets of sound”. These tracks are all remastered from the original analog tapes and the box includes extensive liner notes by Grammy-winning American music historian Ashley Kahn. A great box containing some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums. (Mark)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bryan Ferry is a clever chap and a genuine artist and here he recreates a selection of tunes from his extensive back catalogue in the big band style of the 1920’s. What could too easily be regarded as a gimmick turns out to be anything but as these tunes take on a strange and mysterious new lustre when interpreted via Duke Ellington style trumpets, Sidney Bechet style clarinet and the Kurt Weill homage of the title track that even includes a line in German. Bryan Ferry’s voice has matured into that of a classic crooner and carries this project off perfectly. As the cover notes state: “This art recognises that the past was once our present, even our future, and this moment too shall melt away into the past”. (John)

Double negative. / Low
This really should have made it to the library ‘2018 Best of’ as it featured on pretty much every other best of list, and rightly so. After maintaining cult status for 25 years, the US indie trio appear to have now become famous on the strength of this, their 12th album. Ironically, this is the record on which they have taken things a step beyond, slowing their famous minimalist ‘slowcore’ sound down a notch even further and incorporating glitched out dissonant electronics and loops to produce the distorted, frazzled edges of things dissipating into the ether – an approach that has been recognised by both critics and audiences as highly appropriate for our current times. There are still lovely songs here to be found though within a superb, audacious, and deeply atmospheric contemporary indie record. (John)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
Bradford Cox leads his band through their eighth album with a collection of thoughtful and confident songs, building on the radio-rock direction of their previous release ‘Fading Frontier’. Co-produced by Cate Le Bon, who contributes some guest vocals and instrumentation, this album finds an excellent balance between the experimental sounds of their early releases and the slightly more user friendly approach of the later albums. The result is an excellent take on, for want of a better word, pop, but a distinctive and mature version of that genre, incorporating all of the elements one may expect from this highly creative band. (John)

Some rap songs. / Sweatshirt, Earl
Among the Tswana people of South Africa, the composition of the “praise poem” in honour of chiefs and important figures has traditionally been a part of the ritual initiation of boys. On Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt reflects on his recently deceased father, the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. In many ways, this album constitutes the 25 year old Earl’s praise poem to his father. The album is a sprawling journey through Earl’s psyche as he grapples with his recent grief and also his past experiences with anxiety and depression, seemingly finding cathartic closure. Earl’s voice is magnetic and mesmerising with its often simple cadence and bouncing syncopation. The album is built around tightly-looped soul and jazz samples by the likes of Curtis Mayfield. Far from its ironically self-effacing title, Some Rap Songs is an innovative masterwork. (Joseph)

DJ-kicks : Robert Hood.
The Detroit techno veteran, a founding member of Underground Resistance and who pretty much laid down the template for minimal techno with his 1994 release ‘Minimal Nation’, finally gets around to a DJ Kicks entry. Discretely acknowledging that interest in the minimal sub-genre is on the wane, here the sound is bigger and more banging than may be expected as he seamlessly mixes from one well curated driving floor filler to the next, including Berghain favorites such as Truncate and Marcel Fengler, in addition to U.K. techno mainstays like Slam and Mark Broom. Listeners either enjoy techno or they don’t, and for fans this is a solid, focused and satisfying mix, while for the curious this would be a good introduction. (John)

Future ruins. / Swervedriver
The UK band that sat on the rockier edge of the early ‘90’s shoegaze movement made a welcome return in 2015 after an 18 year hiatus, receiving favourable reviews for their fifth album, “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. “Future Ruins” is their sixth and the second of their ‘comeback’ albums and finds them in an assured mode, forging their warm, driving, melodic rock with great confidence. Its great hearing a band regaining their stride after such a long break and with this record they could very well find a fresh audience for their lovely harmonies, propulsive rhythms and vast guitar swathes. (John)

Echoes in blue. / City Calm Down
For some odd reason OZ bands rarely bridge the Tasman very well, which is unfortunate because, well, everyone misses out. City Calm Down are pretty big in OZ, headlining festivals and selling out tours, and this, their second album, is a great introduction. They are an obviously ‘80’s influenced band, which is not necessarily a bad thing, paying homage to Ian McCullough’s heartfelt vocals for Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order’s upper register bass lines and brooding synths. Their songs are suitably morose reflections on 21st Century life that potentially offer similar comfort that the early ‘80’s indie bands offered the first wave of indie rockers. (John)

You’re the man. / Gaye, Marvin
Marvin Gaye’s ‘lost album’ between two mega hit masterpieces ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) and ‘Let’s Get It On’ (1973) should excite a lot of music fans. Although some of the songs here have made it out in various forms before, the full album (plus some extra tracks) appears for the first time. He was at his peak after the success of ‘What’s Going On’ but very apprehensive at the same time, and a lack of the cohesion on this CD may show it. However, the quality of the songs and his distinguished vocal style are nothing short of brilliant and timeless. 47 years down the line, “You’re The Man’ can only emphasise how great Marvin Gaye is. (Shinji)

A tree with roots : Fairport Convention & friends and the songs of Bob Dylan. / Fairport Convention
An interesting compilation that gathers all of the cover versions UK folk rockers Fairport Convention performed of Bob Dylan songs. Including live recordings, John Peel Sessions and studio recordings, the songs are all from the ‘70’s and most feature Sandy Denny. The cover notes are comprehensive and clearly illustrate what a surprising influence Bob Dylan had on the UK folk revival. The performances are great and it is fascinating to hear these songs, firmly placed as they are in Americana, performed by a band that were central to the UK folk revival. This not only shows that cultural boundaries are far more fluid than often perceived but is also a keen reminder that the distant roots of Americana were actually folk songs taken to the USA by early settlers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What goes around truly does come around. Track 7, “Percy’s Song” is a great illustration of this. (John)
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