Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2

Some more of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

Neil J’s Picks:
Ponguru / Al Fraser, Phil Boniface.
Ponguru is a truly unique album fusing seamlessly the sonic worlds of acclaimed jazz bassist Phil Boniface and leading Nga Taonga Puoro player Al Fraser . The resulting album has many faces and facets its Jazz tinged rather than Jazz, ambient in places and like a complex sonic landscape in others, throughout all its pieces it’s always fiercely original , rewarding and hugely atmospheric. Phil’s bass work is of the highest calibre imbuing the whole piece with a core of beautiful rhythmic structure. And Al’s emotive, nuanced playing shows that he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest musicians working in NZ today.

Tranquility Base hotel + casino.
Sometimes bands find it difficult to stay fresh and new musically especially after initial massive success. This however has never been a problem for the Artic Monkeys. And Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino there sixth album is easily their densest, most experimental and carefully crafted release to date. In this work they’ve invented their own brand of psychedelia. It’s like the bands own musical reaction to 60’s and 70’s science fiction films like Silent Running or 2001 a space Odyssey in places it does sound like an Alex Turner solo album. All in all it’s a brave and interesting and in places an exhilarating new direction for a band who have never sat on their laurels and are constantly in search of somewhere else to go.

Future me hates me / The Beths.
The Beths are at the moment the hottest band in New Zealand. No less than The Rolling stone magazine listed them in their top 100 bands to watch out for and described their album The future me hates me as a “ power pop monument’ . So what’s all the fuss about? It’s true that the power pop format is a tried and tested formula that has been done many times before, but the Beths bring a joyous ear worm infectiousness and exuberance to the party making The future me hates me sound not only new and fresh but fun and bright and it’s this attitude and approach to the music that’s carrying all before them.

Singularity.
Singularity is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as: “A point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space–time when matter is infinitely dense, such as at the centre of a black hole.” Now that’s a big concept to get your head round but it does serve as a superb road into Singularity the fifth album by Jon Hopkins. Singularity the album is a vast self-visualised glacial electronic landscape or even cosmos of an album. There’s ambient elements in it, there’s acid house elements in it , there’s certainly beats in there but through it all is a singular unique vision and a real feeling that Hopkin’s is on a trace like sonic journey of discovery that reaches inwards and outwards at the same time.

I can feel you creep into my private life.
For this reviewer one of the most interesting and important releases of 2018 was I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life by tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus).The album is an extension of her previous works which at its core fuses solid rhythmic structure, influenced in places by dance music with lyrics that are simultaneously personal and global and definitely contain a radical political overtone. In many ways for this reviewer it was the album that summarised the spirit of our age its Zeitgeist.

Here if you listen / David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, Michael League.
In 1982 David Cosby had fallen far, his personal life and finances were in ruin. He was struggling with very serious drug and alcohol abuse problems and was to spent nine months of that year in a Texas prison on cocaine and heroin charges. Yet in the late 60s and early 70’s he had been one of the brightest and biggest creative forces in the hippie folk rock movement. Since then he has had a liver transplant that was paid for by Phil Collins and slowly and gradually rebuilt his life and career welding these dark moments of his life as all true artists do into his work. His 2014 solo album Croz was amongst his finest work. And just recently he released Here If You Listen. It’s a beautiful piece of work, melodic, contemplative, and melancholic at times, uplifting at times occasionally touching the darkness of his past sometimes the light it finds Crosby meditating on his own death . For me this is one of David Crosby’s essential works and ranks up there with his 1971 death of the hippy dream album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

My design, on others’ lives.
It must be one of the most difficult gigs a musician can do. Being the warm up act to a huge star who hasn’t toured for ages and has legions of passionate fans. Estere’s support slot for Grace Jones in Queenstown was a stunning success for this new artist. She handled her time with poise and aplomb gaining a fair few fans in the process. Her self-produced debut album is a lush hybrid beast, a unique combination of sonic elements from pop/jazz melodies to sensual electronica and serious rhythmic cores. She also has a beautiful soaring voice and a fine turn in lyrics, and whilst it is definitely a mainstream album it certainly has some experimental leanings too. This album marks the entrance of a vibrant new voice and sounds to this reviewer, like the kind of album a future superstar would release.

Aviary.
Julia Holter’s fifth studio Aviary is a dazzling nonlinear joyous sprawl of a work. She says she was inspired to create it from a line in a book by Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan—“I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds”. It simultaneously exudes chaos and calm, structure and randomness there is occasionally the slightest hint of the more experimental Kate Bush about it. It’s a menagerie of sonically beautiful moments swarming and swirling around in some sort of abstract obtuse sonic prayer conceived and created by the artist.

The gristle of knuckles.
Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of New Zealand’s foremost composers and performers amongst her numerous prizes and awards she won The 2018 Best Classical Artist/ Te Kaipuoro Inamata Toa at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The award was in part a recognition of her most recent work The Gristle of Knuckles .However The Gristle of Knuckles is far from a solo creative work it features a whole raft of collaborators who took Eve’s original compositions as their starting point and reimagined the pieces in their own way. There’s a real diversity to the range of pieces, yet the finished album sounds totally unified and cohesive thanks in no small part to the fabulous production work of Steve Garden. It’s a work classified as classical but in reality it defies genre categories. The pieces range sonically from powerful and muscular to intimate and vulnerable yet thought out the whole piece there’s a real air of exuberant, free spirited experimentation.

Mark’s Picks:
Record.
Tracey Thorn returns with another album of mature pop, her female worldview taking on the on-going struggle for equality (Sister), musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact of Social Media (Face). Beats merge with the sombre, and her ageless voice never loses its warmth.

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes. Motivated by the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship and several years of intense therapy, this release sees her following her own path once again.

Best local CD & Vinyl releases:
A quiet divide.
Rhian Sheehan returns with a cinematic album that melds post-rock soundscapes with lush ambient warmth, creating an emotional journey in a cascading series of beautiful and reflective moods. Lovely.

 

Mirror.
A wonderful combination of strange Jazz sounds, funky guitar, Swirling vocals, weird noises.

 

 

My design, on others’ lives.

 

 

 

Raconteur / The Frank Burkitt Band.
A musical-meld of influences from both continents – UK folk meets American bluegrass/Western Swing, with touches of his early Jazz influences. From toe tapping workouts to sincere ballads, all the seemingly disparate elements combine into a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic narratives. It all seems effortless and simple but that belies the skill of his tight backing band, the consistently high levels of song writing and the sophisticated arrangements. No surprise it picked up a Tui for Best Folk album.

Too many millionaires.
The first all-acoustic album for Darren Watson is an artistic triumph on every level. Watson has always been a champion of the underdog, whether in the context of love or social commentary, and his authentic, pointed and gritty songs traverse the songwriting spectrum from the personal to the political.

We light fire.
That’s a long time in the ever shifting music world and the catchy guitar pop of Modern Fables has shifted into a heavier synth based sound with more layers of production on the tracks. But all the flourishes don’t detract from another set of great songs and that amazingly powerful voice, with its crystal clear range. Beginning with a slow ballad ‘Clandestine’ the album builds up, as gentle guitar strings alternate with washes of synth and grungier beats. Most albums taper off but all the best tracks are stacked towards the end.

Nine centuries.
Third album from Wgtn’s top Metallers marks Bulletbelt’s final album with vocalist Jolene Tempest and guitarist Seth Jackson, who left after the album had been recorded. Guests include Midnight’s Vanik, (solo on Cloak the Night), and Massacre vocalist Kam Lee (vocals on ‘Show Me Your Throat). Lyrically the album focuses on the witch trials of the Dark Ages, the examination of such brutal & violent themes paying off with some intense and aggressive tracks. A punk energy in a Metal framework, raw and powerful.

Seeing things.
Most bands first albums are the result of many years hard work, often resulting in the pinnacle of their sound – which subsequent albums then try to recapture. It’s a rare band that grows better with each release, but Eb & Sparrow were in that category. ‘Seeing things’ shifts their sound from Country/Americana of the first few releases into a more sophisticated lush soundscape. The lap steels are replaced with a more shimmery guitar sound that evokes the languid lines of The Cowboy Junkies or Mazzy Star, all focused around Ebony Lamb’s burnished vocals. A beautiful collection of songs that finds you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the last track fades out.

The hill temple.VINYL
Awesome new album from the ‘witches’ of Hex, with new cohort Jason Erskine. Beautifully soaring harmonies, delicious melodies, crunching guitar lines. All the best elements of indie rock surrounded by a fierce female empowerment aesthetic. Bewitching.

 

Like splitting the head from the body.VINYL
The debut full length album from the fabulous Womb. Every track swirls in and out of beautiful dreamy vocals and layers of languid guitar and synth lines. Music with a sense of grandeur that uplifts the listener on swelling waves of lush sound. Completely sublime.

 

Axels’s Picks:
How to solve our human problems.
Melancholic. Intimate. Pop.

 

 

Jassbusters.
Groovy. Soulful. Eccentric.

 

 

Tell me how you really feel.
Genuine. Stoner. Raucous.

 

 

Sex & food.
Vintage. Mind-altered. Catchy.

 

 

Marble skies.
Melody. Harmony. Energy.

 

 

Nothing is still.
Emotional. Ambient. Deep.

 

 

All melody.
Experimental. Gentle. Sentimental.

 

 

Snow bound/ The Chills.
Uplifting. Bright. Easy peasy.

 

 

Isle of dogs : original soundtrack / music composed by Alexandre Desplat.
Instrumental. Rhythmic. Quirky.

 

 

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Ominous. Atmospheric. Hypnotic.

 

 

Make way for love.
Sensitive. Bittersweet. Mellow. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2”

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 1

A round-up of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

John’s Picks:
Konoyo.
The ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker is a sublimely beautiful work that sounds like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, and is quite unlike anything else, including the previous Tim Hecker records.

 

Brainfeeder X : a 36-track compilation showcasing the past, present and future of the label.
With influences ranging across jazz, hip-hop, r ’n’ b, house, and electronica, the Brainfeeder sound is genuinely ground-breaking and this tenth anniversary double disc set shows why the label has grown from a small L.A. based underdog into a global cult phenomenon.

Wide awaaaaake!
The post punk influences are still plentiful, but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance.

 

7.
Their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine.

 

Music for installations.
Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, beautiful, always different, yet always the same.

 

No sounds are out of bounds / The Orb.
The driving dub bass lines that propel each track are the only constants over a record that touches many bases, all peppered with The Orb’s distinctive humorous vocal samples, to create, arguably, the most commercially accessible and one of the best releases of their long and befuddling career.

 

Listening to pictures : pentimento volume one.
The former jazz trumpet player, who initiated the idea of the “Fourth World” alongside Brian Eno on 1980’s ‘Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, a remarkable record when most others so long into their career are merely re-treading old ground.

 

The loneliest girl.
Difficult to pin down, AK pop chanteuse Chelsea Nikkel confounds with her fourth album of thoughtfully produced bitter sweet songs within which lurks a deceptively subversive baroque take on the pop format that is entertaining from start to finish.

 

The animal spirits / James Holden & the Animal Spirits.
UK electronic producer James Holden has been pushing the boundaries of electronica for most of his career and his most recent album, recorded live in the studio, treads a path far more akin to the wild transcendence of free jazz greats such as Pharaoh Sanders than any current electronic artists.

 

Infinite moment / The Field.
Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner, aka The Field, continues his musical pilgrimage chasing endless repetitive loops to an infinite beyond, creating a masterful album by one of the most original electronic producers active today.

 

Bottle it in.
Kurt Vile’s highly characteristic slacker Americana has by now become expertly crafted and, via the unusual sense of intimacy he is able to create, he maintains interest throughout this long album, which validates his cultural niche as the new millennium’s equivalent of artists such as R.E.M and Neil Young.

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
This is definitely not sunday bar-b-que music, but the fine orchestral and choral arrangements, the creepy electronica and the gentle, sad, guitar based songs make for some great late night uneasy listening.

 

Toitū te pūoro.
Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro.

 

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
A fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments that is not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced.

Collapse.
This five track ep is the latest in a series of EPs that have followed Aphex Twin’s triumphant 2014 return with the album ‘Syro’ and is his most familiar so far, bearing all of the hallmarks of classic Aphex Twin electronica – frantic stuttered beats, rubbery bass lines, beautiful submerged melodies, evocative vocal samples and complex shifting arrangements.

Switched on volumes 1-3.
The UK post-rock pioneers, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2010, are well on the way to becoming a cult band, with a worldwide dedicated fan base who refuse to accept that they are no more and re-releases like this help keep their myth alive, collecting the band’s three ‘90’s compilations of singles and rarities in one nifty box set.

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s 2018 demise, this excellent box set compiles, over seven discs, every single – both A and B sides – from one of the greatest indie bands ever – The Fall.

 

 

 

 

Enclosures 2011-2016.
South Island electronic composer Clinton Williams, aka Omit, is considered by many to be the perfect reclusive genius and this beautifully presented five disc box set, with a written intro from Bruce Russell, contains Omit’s most recent output, previously released as limited run CDRs all hand made by the artist.

The dreaming [2018].
‘The Dreaming’ was her fourth record sitting right in the middle of her transition from ‘pop star’ to ‘serious artist’ and both audiences and critics were slightly baffled at the time (it is referred to as her ‘mad’ album); she suffered nervous exhaustion after the year it took to make, but she produced an unrecognised masterpiece.

Shinji’s Picks:
Snow bound/ The Chills.
Thankfully Martin Phillipps’s health seems better now. Only 3 years after the widely acclaimed ‘Silver Bullets’, the Chills provides another stellar album. A quirky mysteriousness is still there but Phillipps is more mature and optimistic. He keeps his pop-craftmanship in great form and offers the melancholic yet bouncy sound with glorious melodies. It’s The Chills as good as it gets. Brilliant.

Lean on me.
Hello like before : the songs of Bill Withers.
To celebrate Bill Withers’ 80th birthday, two fantastic tribute albums came out late 2018 and they both offer wonderful listens. A star artist of Blue Note Records, Jose James has been performing Withers’ songs on stage, and the album ‘Lean on Me’ features his stoic vocal with deep, slow grooves created by his band. A neo-soul singer, Anthony David, who is often compared with Withers, takes a more straight forward approach, showing full love and respect to Withers. It’s been more than 3 decades since Withers walked away from the music industry, but his honest, caring-for-others songs may be something we need in the state of the world today.

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s Waterfalls in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. This is an exceptional cover album by the extraordinary artist.

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove – and with this album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, and brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. It’s stoic yet dynamic, a marvellous risk-taking music.

Contra la indecisión / Bobo Stenson Trio.
This album was released in January 2018 but remains one of the best jazz recordings of the year. Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson is now in his 70s but his graceful lyricism shines more than ever and provides one of his finest albums. The trio shows a great cohesion and versatility and weaves beautiful stories. It’s music that grows inside of you like a good wine. Exquisite.

Mi mundo.
Cuban shining new star Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album ‘Mi Mundo’ (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions lead the charge throughout, and the Cuban all-star supporting band shows amazing skills, creating smooth yet rich, dynamic grooves. Sensational.

All melody.
Plus.
German composer/pianist Nils Frahm has been a prominent post-classical music artist, and ‘All Melody’, which started with building his new studio, shows his exceptional talent as a producer as well as a player, exquisitely assembling a great variety of musical elements. Somewhere between techno, ambient and classical, it’s a beautifully executed, kaleidoscopic music. Frahm also joined the Danish electronica trio System with graceful keyboard plays. This is a wonderful collaboration, and System masterfully blends Frahm’s organic tones with their minimal yet rich soundscape, and makes it a mesmerising, ambient album.

Johann Sebastian Bach / Vikingur Olafsson.
As if making an ultimate Bach playlist, a young Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson excellently juxtaposes Bach’s compositions, and tackles them from a variety of angles with fresh ideas. His pianism is sophisticated and refreshing, and brings out astonishingly colourful faces of Bach. This incredible Bach should reach beyond the classical music lovers like Glenn Gould did.

Staff Pick CDs for Nov/Dec: Part 2

Toitu Te Puoro album cover

The second part of the last round-up of Staff Picks for the year features an eclectic mix of recommendations from Electronica to NZ, to Box-set reissues, and Indie.

Hot burritos! : the Flying Burrito Brothers anthology, 1969-1972.
The outlandishly titled Flying Burrito Brothers are the quintessential country-rock experimenters. Led by the legendary Gram Parsons, the group created a distinctive style of “cosmic American music” that fused country music with R&B, rock, gospel and vaguely psychedelic production. The heart-wrenching pinnacle of the collection is Parson’s stunning, strained and immensely emotive performance on the track ‘Hot Burrito #1’. The Burrito’s influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Wilco and left a musical legacy well worth exploring. (Joe)

Switched on volumes 1-3.
The UK post-rock pioneers, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2010, are well on the way to becoming a cult band, with a worldwide dedicated fan base who refuse to accept that they are no more. Re-releases like this help keep their myth alive, collecting the band’s three ‘90’s compilations of singles and rarities in one nifty box set. This is a great opportunity for the curious to explore this unique band, as it runs from their very first 45 – Super Electric – through to their later more experimental phase on the third double disc compilation – Aluminium Tunes – originally released by Warp Records. The odd marriage of krautrock, exotica and electronics that created their sound has never been equaled (or even attempted for that matter) by anyone else and this collection is an excellent introduction. (John)

The animal spirits / James Holden & the Animal Spirits.
UK electronic producer James Holden has been pushing the boundaries of electronica for most of his career via his aptly named Border Community label and here, on his third record since 2006’s excellent ‘The Idiots Are Winning’, he has finally broken free of any constraints and has made a record far closer to jazz than electronica, playing his wonky synthesiser in a real live band with a drummer and free blowing saxophones and woodwind instruments. The whole thing was recorded live in the studio with no edits or overdubs (on a full moon according to the sleeve notes) and treads a path far more akin to the wild transcendence of free jazz greats such as Pharaoh Sanders than any current electronic artists. Brave and genre defying this is an exultant, joyous album and is highly recommended. (John)

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Previous album Body Talk was compiled from a number of E.Ps and was almost like a mini-best of. ‘Honey’ moves away from an electronic-pop sound towards a more languid sensual vibe, featuring collaborations with Joseph Mount of Metronomy, Klas Åhlund, & Adam Bainbridge of Kindness. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t really impress on first listen. However repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks, which function in many ways as an entire suite with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes, revealing a more vulnerable state of mind following the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship, and several years of intense therapy. Robyn has always seemed a pop star unlike any other, her music never in service to trends, producers du jour, or relentless cross marketing, and this release sees her following her own path once more. (Mark)

Greatest hits vol. 1 : deluxe edition.
The US experimental psychedelic alt-rockers, The Flaming Lips, over 20 albums and countless singles and side projects have become an institution by sheer persistence if nothing else. This three disc set, with excellent cover art, spans the 25 years of their Warners career from 1992 to 2017 with discs one and two featuring highlights chronologically and disc three assembling rare tracks and b-sides. The very fact that such an avowedly weird band can attain the festival headlining status they have enjoyed is remarkable in itself, and this collection includes all sides of their creative impulses from sweet sing along indie anthems to raucous freakouts. Taken in one sitting like this, the stylistic tangents the band have taken make more sense with it all hanging together remarkably well and this collection offers a great chance for the curious to delve into one of the most eccentric and creative acts of the past few years. (John)

Dance on the blacktop.
The shoegaze revival has been underway for long enough now for the style to become more than a nod to the past and a recognised contemporary sub-genre, and US band Nothing have the sound perfected. The production is crytalline and presents the huge guitar swathes in all their harmonic glory, with the half spoken vocals perfectly placed in the mix. This is the Philadelphia band’s third record and they have built a sizeable reputation over their short career as “the world’s unluckiest band” after a saga involving incarceration, a pharmaceutical sadist and permanent brain damage. “Dance On a Blacktop” is prison slang for fighting and here they appear use it to mean riding the chaos of existence with grace – which is a good way to describe their loud, dense and melodic take on indie rock. (John)

Treasure hiding : the Fontana years.
If there was ever a band seduced by beauty it was The Cocteau Twins. Their music is a heavenly ethereal sonic wash but the question that plagued the band pretty much from their formation is, was there more to their music than beauty alone? And perhaps is beauty enough? Well Treasure Hiding The Fontana Years goes some considerable way to answering these questions, sure their trademark ethereal sound is there but this box set contains some of their most experimental, progressive and at times personal works. It’s no secret that the band were suffering from personal difficulties and Elizabeth Fraser uses this as creative fuel bearing her heart in some of the lyrics. Other pieces are much more abstract and obtuse. The fantastic Otherness EP sees the band in an ambient, dubby impressionistic mode very different from their previous works but sumptuous none the less and with grit buried in the strange eeriness of the music. In these pieces you can clearly hear a rich new direction the band could have gone in if their internal problems hadn’t ripped them apart. (Neil J)

Infinite moment / The Field.
Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner, aka The Field, continues his musical pilgrimage chasing endless repetitive loops to an infinite beyond. His distinctive compositional style is either loved or loathed by listeners who willingly enter the hypnotic zones generated by The Field’s everlasting loops or find the very idea claustrophobic and relentlessly boring. Here, six albums in, Axel Willner shows just how finely he has mastered his craft – there are still no breaks, no drops and barely any key changes, instead, the tracks are a little longer, the 4/4 a little slower and the harmonics, melodies and variations that lurk within are a little more subtle; all in all a masterful achievement by one of the most original electronic producers active today. (John)

Bottle it in.
Kurt Vile has, over seven albums, gradually moved from the fringes of alt-rock to inhabit a central place. His latest album consolidates that position, as he applies his distinctive laconic stance to a collection of well written and produced songs, performed with the Violators as his backing band. His highly characteristic slacker Americana has by now become expertly crafted and via the unusual sense of intimacy he is able to create he maintains interest throughout this long album, taken at a very relaxed pace, and which includes several tracks over ten minutes long. Overall, this imaginative and curiously engrossing record ably validates his cultural niche as the new millennium’s equivalent of artists such as R.E.M and Neil Young. (John)

Aquemini.
Best known for their smash hits ‘Ms. Jackson’ (2000) and ‘Hey Ya!’ (2003), Outkast’s magnum opus arrived in 1998. Aquemini captures the pure alchemy of Big Boi and Andre 3000 at their finest, rapping over funky and futuristic beats. Big Boi grounds the group with his streetwise perspective and braggadocious charm while Andre 3000 reaches for the stars with his unique extra-terrestrial philosophy. Blaring horns, a pounding bassline and quirky storytelling make ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’ a highlight. Other standout tracks include the anthemic ‘Skew It on the Bar-B’, the iconoclastic ‘Return of the G’ and the catchy head-nodder ‘Rosa Parks’. (Joe)

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Thom Yorke’s soundtrack for the remake of the 1977 Italian supernatural horror film Suspiria is a surprise because, within the 25 tracks of the expected doom laden strings, suspense laden tinkly piano and creepy ambient electronics, are featured six new songs, which makes it considerably more than a mere soundtrack. In fact, if the two discs were edited down it would make a very fine Thom Yorke solo album. The context of a horror film allows Yorke to fully indulge his ever present melancholia and the results are very satisfying. This is definitely not sunday bar-b-que music, but the fine orchestral and choral arrangements, the creepy electronica and the gentle, sad, guitar based songs make for some great late night uneasy listening. (John)

Toitū te pūoro.
The perfect sound recordings made possible by modern state of the art studio technology is allowing contemporary listeners the privilege of being able to hear traditional Maori instrumentation as it has never been heard before. Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker dedicated to the preservation and ongoing enhancement of this rich musical heritage, here, on his fifth CD release, takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro. Many of the sounds here are so fine and subtle as to be almost inaudible, but that is just the point, because in stretching the hearing of the listener, they are then drawn further in to ‘Te Korekore – the realm between being and non-being’. Take some time out to listen yourself. (John)

Solo anthology : the best of Lindsey Buckingham.
The now ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham’s solo albums have always seemed to be overlooked amongst the hype and turmoil of Fleetwood Mac, many of their later albums being structured around a bulk of songs he had set aside for solo projects. This 3-disc compilation includes material from his 6 studio albums, live albums, the collaboration with Christine McVie, tracks from 80s soundtracks, and a couple of unreleased songs. A nice mix of music from the catchy pop of his debut solo album Out of the Cradle to the more acoustic and layered works of later albums. What emerges is a portrait of a great guitarist (the fantastic classical styled playing on his first album still amazes) and songwriter, in search of something deeper than the music he was making in a hugely successful commercial band. Recommended if you’re a fan. (Mark)

Lageos / Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra.
Not an easy listen, but rewarding for the curious, is the recent collaboration between Actress, the London based electronic producer, and the modern classical ensemble, The London Contemporary Orchestra. It is an, at times, wild ride, veering from abstract noise to modern classical drones and treated piano, fractured beats to gamelan style rhythms and finally settling down a little for the last four tracks which have a lovely haunting beauty. The unlikely pairing works overall, creating a work that is intriguing and unsettling in equal measure. (John)

Bunny.
Difficult to stylistically pin down, Mathew Dear has been following a singular path of hybrid electro pop since 2003 across six albums under his own name, as well as producing dance floor techno under a variety of aliases. Since his predominantly instrumental 2003 debut, Leave Luck To Heaven, his solo albums have gradually become more songs based, culminating in his latest, which is as close to pop as he has ever strayed. However, it is a version of pop quite like no other, featuring his gravelly baritone voice amidst an array of funky, wobbly and expansive beats and sounds, mainly electronic, which turn these songs into what one could imagine hearing from an FM station broadcasting, possibly, from Venus. (John)

Vanished gardens / Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams.
Some say that this collaboration pioneers a new genre of ‘Americana Jazz’ and it’s a very good description of this music. For their second album, the legendary jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd and the Marvels invite one-of-a-kind singer Lucinda Williams, and present a wonderful music, bringing together jazz, country, blues and gospel. Not only Lloyd and Williams but The Marvels is also a group of master musicians – Bill Frisell (guitar), Greg Leisz (pedal steel), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums) – and everyone here marvellously displays their unique genius; unmistakable dusty Williams’ voice, Frisell’s texturized guitar, versatile Lloyd’s rich tone etc., to make a great band sound. Most of the songs are originals by Lloyd or Williams but the album closes with two glorious covers; Thelonious Monk’s ‘Monk’s Mood’ and Jimi Hendrix’s masterpiece ‘Angel’. Sublime. (Shinji)

Staff Pick CDs for Nov/Dec: Part 1

GAS CD Cover

The first part of the latest round-up of Staff Picks features an eclectic mix of recommendations from Electronica to NZ, to Box-set reissues, and Indie. Keep an eye out for part two coming soon!

Suffuse.
Christchurch based guitarist Roy Montgomery’s first band were the Pin Group whose 7” single ‘Ambivalence’ was the very first Flying Nun release back in 1981. Almost 40 years later Roy Montgomery continues to push the edges and his latest release finds him creating six deeply layered shimmering soundscapes, each featuring a different guest female vocalist including Liz Harris, aka Grouper, and Julianna Barwick. These beautifully produced ambient experimental drones are deeply hypnotic and are given an added edge by the vocal component that humanizes the sounds without detracting from their transcendental properties. Overall a very successful project that, in a perfect world, would find cult guitar legend Roy Montgomery a wider audience. (John)

DJ-kicks : DJ Seinfeld.
It’s a sure sign that a new electronic sub-genre has been validated when a leading DJ of the style is asked to submit a mix to the long running DJ Kicks series. Number 64 in the series is from Swedish producer, Armand Jakobsson, aka, DJ Seinfeld, a leading light in the fresh Lo-Fi House sub-genre. Confusingly, Lo-Fi House appears to be an attitude rather than an actual sound – predicated on a deliberately rough around the edges production style and a can-do, outsider attitude. Here we have a cool selection of contemporary electronica, light and groovy, that moves very smoothly through deep house, breakbeats, electro, downbeat and more with, interestingly, eight of the 21 tracks coming from Melbourne producers. (John)

Loving the alien [1983-1988].
There has been a few great David Bowie releases in 2018 including Welcome to the Blackout (live London 78) and December saw the first DVD release of his seminal Glastonbury performance from 2000, often cited as the greatest Glastonbury headline performance ever. There is also the continuation of the fabulous box set releases of his back catalogue, this one entitled Loving the alien (1983-1988), an eleven disc outing that covers his most commercial period. In late 60s Kenneth Pitt, one of Bowies early managers, tried to turn David Bowie into an all-round mass market entertainer and in the 80’s under his own steam that’s exactly what he became. And I guess that’s the only way you can view these releases. They just don’t inhabit the same worlds as his 70’s output- these albums are more Chic, or Michael Jackson, than Ziggy Stardust. However if you listen to them with your 80’s disco ears on there is a lot to be enjoyed! The remastered version of Lets Dance has many pleasures. The Loving the Alien album has one or two fine tracks but the most interesting aspect of this release is the new version of Never Let Me Down. This 2018 version has been totally reworked with many of the classic 80’s elements removed and replaced with completely new elements. This new version is certainly a vast improvement on the original release and free of the 80s bombastic production; it gains a new life with songs being given the space to breathe and so becomes subtle and complex in tone. (Neil J)

All that reckoning.
It was 1986 that the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies played a key part in creating the template for alt-country with their classic Lo-Fi album The Trinity Session. Exactly 30 years on, it’s great to hear, on their first record in six years, that these musos in their 50’s are still creating their beautiful, fiery, fragile sound world. This collection of dark, existentialist songs that deal with political, social and personal situations are beautifully delivered by vocalist Margo Timmins, accompanied by her brothers on guitar and drums, with bass player, Alan Anton. The often delicate songs are frequently shot through with discordant noise and a blurry psychedelic edge, sometimes subtle, other times harsh, to create atmospheres haunting, tender and tense. (John)

Body / The Necks.
Back to the Chris Cutler (Henry Cow/Art Bears)’s ReR label, the world famous Australian cult trio, The Necks’ 20th album finds them a superb form. Once again, it’s a 60 minutes-long improvisation affair, opening and closing with the beautifully executed piano-led ambient sound. However, the chunk of middle part is a frantic electric guitar riff like a storm. This definitely comes as a shock for many but probably not so surprising, if you remember that they have been one of the most forward-thinking, push-the-boundary bands. It’s been almost three decades since they started performing together but they still have fresh ideas and keep evolving. This is one of their bests and confirms again that they are truly original. Phenomenal. (Shinji)

Loop-finding-jazz-records.
Originally released in 2001, Loop Finding Jazz Records was groundbreaking in the, then, new domain of minimal electronica, featuring subtle use of micro samples and flickering glitch generated rhythms to create music that was oddly mesmerizing. This record has become a cult favorite and has aged surprisingly well, the languorous textures and sub-sonic bass creating a timeless sound world, somewhere between ambient and sub-aquatic minimal house. Despite being created with micro-samples taken from jazz records, this album bears no resemblance to that genre, presenting more a strange and dreamlike soundtrack for an imaginary, removed and flawless post-human existence, perfect for home listening. (John)

Re:member.
Its hard to credit that Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds started out as drummer for a hardcore band, as this collection of incredibly delicate and achingly beautiful pieces for piano, cello, orchestra and electronics are about as far from hardcore drumming as can be imagined. Recognized as one of the leading figures in the modern classical genre, Arnalds here applies subtle electronic algorithms to his compositions via the use of software he developed that generates alternate notes on two other pianos from the notes he is playing. The results are gorgeous harmonics that add complexity to the deceptively simple and beautifully restrained compositions which straddle modern classical, ambient and electronica. (John)

Negro swan.
A deeply sensitive and resonant album, Blood Orange delivers beautiful production and emotive vocal performances. Pitchfork reviewer Jason King put it best when he described the album as capturing “the scattershot, jittery, anxious, blissed-out-depressive feeling of what it’s like to be a marginalized person at a toxic and retrograde moment in global culture and politics.” Recommended tracks are ‘Orlando’ and ‘Charcoal Baby’. (Joe)

Searching for the spark.
Special mention must go to the Steve Hillage Box Set – if only for its sheer magnitude – so make sure you are feeling fit if you decide to access this item, as just carrying the weighty box home presents a challenge. Contained within are 22 CDs and four books which encapsulate the UK psych-rock guitarist’s entire career. While not exactly a household name, Steve Hillage is probably most famous for his role as guitarist on Gong’s cult Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, after which he went on to a solo career – as documented in this box set. Of particular interest are the recordings of and writings about the early Canterbury scene, which he was a formative part of as guitarist for the bands Uriel and Khan. Also included is the first System 7 album, his, still current, techno based project, featuring guest artists such as Derek May, Alex Paterson and Paul Oakenfold. (John)

Rausch.
German electronic producer Wolfgang Voigt has been running his Gas project since 1996 and his music has taken a darker turn for this, his sixth release. His compositions feature processed orchestral samples densely layered, frequently over a deeply submerged 4/4 rhythm, that evoke, if anything, a warm, timeless cocoon. Here, however, the atmosphere has become foreboding with dissonance and anxiety entering into a world that once seemed welcoming. ‘Rausch’ translates as an ecstatic state or fever dream, and this music, which contains bright and beautiful moments emerging from an often imposing and dense gloom, while not for the faint-hearted, offers a rewarding deep listening experience. (John)

Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we? : 25th anniversary edition.
With Dolores O’Riordan’s distinctive voice, The Cranberries were one of those bands you either loved or hated, but there was no denying the success and pervasiveness of their first 2 albums in the early 90s. Last year the band came together to plan a 25th Anniversary Box Set release of their debut album, and following O’Riordan’s untimely death in January, the remaining band members have decided to go ahead with the 25th Anniversary Box Set as a tribute to her. As well as the original album, it includes a plethora of recordings from that era spread across 3 discs, including some rare tracks sourced from their early cassette releases as ‘The Cranberry Saw Us’. It also includes a 52-page hardback book that details the creation of the record and the history of the bands ‘rags to riches’ journey, which is itself a fascinating look back at a Music Industry that doesn’t exist anymore. A fitting tribute to one of the most iconic voices of popular music. (Mark)

The loneliest girl.
Difficult to pin down, AK pop chanteuse Chelsea Nikkel confounds with her fourth album, which extends her previous synth-pop arrangements into a wide array of new areas, with each of the 12 tracks pretty much inhabiting a different pop arena. Produced by alt-pop maestro Jonathon Bree, this is pop, but pop with a distinctly Lynchian feel, as within the sweet vocals and pink ribbons beats a dark heart delivering these thoughtfully produced bitter sweet songs. It all hangs together remarkably well, and beneath the la-la-las there lurks a deceptively subversive baroque take on the pop format that is entertaining from start to finish. (John)

Strictly rhythm : underground ’90-’97.
The latest edition in Cherry Red’s expertly curated re-issue series features a three disc collection of standout tracks from NY based Strictly Rhythm, the label that played a vital role in creating the dance genre known as House. Home to artists such as Roger Sanchez, Todd Terry, Louie Vega and Armand Van Helden, Strictly Rhythm was the leading US house music label throughout the ‘90’s. This retrospective is almost a history of NY underground house music itself, with the biggest hits deliberately overlooked in favor of club classics, hidden treasures and tracks never before released on CD. With all tracks fully restored and remastered this is a great peek into the roots of contemporary dance music. (John)

Anthem of the sun.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s second album. Their spacey, sun-tanned San Francisco rock is on form for these groovy and psychedelic tunes. The album is grounded in folk-rock and blues, but takes cues from free-jazz. Keith Richards once said of the Grateful Dead that they were “just poodling about for hours and hours. Jerry Garcia, boring s—, man. Sorry, Jerry.” But on this album, the Dead are tighter than ever. Standout songs include New Potato Caboose and That’s it for the Other One. The anniversary edition includes the 1968 version and 1971 remix of the original album and previously unreleased live recordings. (Joe)

The nature of imitation.
The new album by Oliver Johnson, AKA Dorian Concept, is on Brainfeeder, the LA experimental hip-hop label, which makes sense for a musician who played keyboards in Flying Lotus’s touring band and worked on Cosmogramma…  and the experience shows. This is music “meant to play on our short attention spans” and the live instrumentation inspired by jazz, fusion, prog and funk and subject to an intense process of digital editing, creates surprisingly listenable stuttered, chopped up shapeshifting music comparable to other Brainfeeder artists such as Flying Lotus and Thundercat with a solid nod to Squarepusher. With the fleeting appearance of soulful vocals and untreated piano to mellow things out, this is an intriguing musical ride. (John)

Collapse.
The appearance of cryptic 3D posters on the walls of the London Underground network bearing the Aphex Twin logo was a sure sign that something was brewing and when the video for a new track called Collapse was banned, as it failed the test for TV image sequences that would provoke photosensitive epilepsy, it became clear that Richard James aka Aphex Twin was in the area once again. This five track ep is the latest in a series of EPs that have followed Aphex Twin’s triumphant 2014 return with the album Syro and is his most familiar so far, bearing all of the hallmarks of classic Aphex Twin electronica – frantic stuttered beats, rubbery bass lines, beautiful submerged melodies, evocative vocal samples and complex shifting arrangements. (John)

Staff Pick CDs – Aug/Sep

Some new Staff Pick CDs, of new releases and older material. We hope you find something to enjoy!

Bon voyage.
The French alt-pop artist’s second album, coming six years after her great debut, is a challenging and rewarding listen. To imagine putting classic French pop, exotica and psych rock into a blender may give some idea of the fertile ideas behind these songs. Driven by standard drums, bass and guitars, the songs evolve and mutate minute by minute, some morphing from what could be a Francoise Hardy pop song, through classic exotica, laden with flutes and strings, to end up as an indie rock out. Somehow it all works in a beguiling and strangely immersive way and fans of imaginative psych pop should be intrigued. (John)

Alterum.
Born and raised in Scottish island North Uist, Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis has well established herself as a leading artist of its kind, and this alluring fifth album would give her international fame. The project began to explore Gaelic songs of the ‘otherworld’ or supernatural and it grew to the idea of reaching out to other world while celebrating her own culture. This album features a couple of English language songs for the first time which sit nicely among Gaelic songs, and everything – the well thought out arrangements, the excellent performance by the band, and above all, her gentle yet effective voice and modern interpretation – hit the right note. Although rooted heavily in tradition, her music has a universal charm, and this album should appeal to a wider audience. (Shinji)

No sounds are out of bounds / The Orb.
Thirty years after their debut, UK electronic chillout stalwarts The Orb, throw a real curveball by releasing an album on Cooking Vinyl featuring a host of guest artists that works so well it’s hard to believe it’s the same band that made 2016’s ambient “Chill Out World”. The driving dub bass lines that propel each track are the only constants over a record that touches so many bases, including female vocalists, dub melodica, ambient piano, house beats, mellow grooves and jazz guitar, all peppered with The Orb’s distinctive humorous vocal samples. It’s a wild ride and, against all odds, is arguably the most commercially accessible and one of the best releases of their long and befuddling career. (John)

A deeper understanding / The War on Drugs.
I absolutely love this album. I didn’t know The War on Drugs and came by them from a various best of 2017 cd. “In chains” and “Pain” are highlights but each song has its own interest. Not in any way innovative or surprising but the songs are full and lush and sometimes long, but are complete. Someone called it Dad rock, but who cares, I’m a dad and it is just lovely. (Martin)

I’m all ears.
The second album by the UK teenage duo is receiving rave reviews worldwide and rightly so. That two 19 year old girls making music for teenagers about being a teenager can have appeal across all age groups is remarkable and this is due to the standard of the song writing, the great instrumentation and the original and creative arrangements. Their vocals can take a bit of getting used to – think early Kate Bush – but, once you are tuned in, the journey through their bold and intense contemporary pop is hard to resist. (John)

We light fire.
I recently went to see Julia Dean’s album release and loved it! She was amazing! I highly recommend her album – a must listen! (Lisa)

 

 

Weather diaries.
Remarkably, almost 30 years on the early ‘90’s UK shoegaze sound appears to be in fine form and, following the excellent recent new release from Slowdive, we now have the first new Ride album in 20 years and, yes, it’s pretty good. Come back albums are challenging when you helped create an entire musical sub-genre, however, Ride fare pretty well. Their vocal harmonies haven’t changed at all, the big guitars are in full force and the song writing is up to scratch – the only nod to a new century is the inclusion of London DJ Erol Alkan on production duties who sharpens their classic jangle pop and shimmering guitars for a new era. Turn it up and party like it’s 1989! (John)

Sassafrass!
At the moment I can’t get enough of Sassafrass! by Tami Neilson. She was amazing in concert and this album rocks just as much! Perfect listening for those who love that old-time country/lounge/touch of rockabilly vibe. A great collection of touching songs about family, and brilliantly getting her own back on those who unashamedly tout judgements and double standards. Available on CD and vinyl, it’s most definitely sassy and frassy. (Belinda)

Knock knock.
The German electronic artist who started out as a DJ/remixer has grown into a respected artist and now runs his own label – Pampa Records. His new release is a good intro to the small unique sub-genre he has helped create that generally features warm bass, gently alluring beats and imaginative use of sampling and electronics underpinning a range of guest vocalists. He has a strong sense of the whimsical but manages to balance this, through this collection of lovely wonky downbeat grooves, with a genuine emotional resonance too often absent from electronic music. (John)

Soar / Catrin Finch, Seckou Keita.
Prominent Welsh classical harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora (often described as Africa harp) player Seckou Keita first collaborated together in 2013 and made an acclaimed album Clychau Dibon which won the best album of 2014 in both Froots and Songlines magazine. Four years down the line, their unique bond gets stronger and this sophomore album finds both artists in sublime form, showcasing the elegant, seamless conversations. Their dazzling virtuosities allow the two string-instruments from Africa and Europe to blend into each other and create beautifully textured, glorious soundscape. Most of the music is original but taking also from African griot’s number and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, they are searching for a new musical language by looking back at their traditions. Brilliant. (Shinji)

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
The delicacy and sublime power of Taongo Puoro (traditional Maori instrumentation) is explored beautifully on this recent release by three Wellington musicians. What is created here is a fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments. Its not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced. The whole thing is beautifully packaged in a thick cardboard case that features evocative art by Neil Johnstone. (John)
This is the voyage of a shearwater as it ventures into enigmatic scenery; familiar yet vague, both disturbing and comforting. Alistair Fraser’s deep connection with taonga pūoro sets the backdrop of this story with great sensibility, establishing the melancholic mood that Māori instruments so readily evoke. Over this panorama you’ll encounter the mysterious electronics of Neil Johnstone piercing through the organic weave, juxtaposing the nature of the ever changing reality with those aspects that belong to the future and the beyond. In the midst of this seamless movement are motifs of humanity embodied by accordions, pianos, and other familiar noises which serve as geographic beacons. At times submerged into deep water, at others flying high and fast through the forest, the shearwater glides with grace, undisturbed by the weather or the metropolitan traffic. There is a cyclical aspect to this album, easily lending itself to sound installations or an environment of discovery and inspiration. The overall tone invites you to slow down and ponder, paying attention to the nuances that crop up from all angles thanks to a high quality production. My recommendation is to let the music permeate your surroundings, allowing yourself to drift into what lies in your depths, waiting to be found. (Axel)

Listening to pictures : pentimento volume one.
The former jazz trumpet player, who initiated the idea of the “Fourth World” alongside Brian Eno on 1980’s ‘Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, an incredible record on Ndeya, a sub-label of the UK’s Warp Records. Fusing hi-tech minimalism with world rhythms he has collaged a dream world marked by a flickering, hallucinatory energy and built around stuttering beats through which dense, treated layers of trumpet, synth, piano, and violin edits cascade and undulate. Its a remarkable release from an artist so late in his career, when most others are merely re-treading old ground. This album also features a cover art sampled from Mati Klarwein, the artist responsible for the cover of Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’. (John)

The dark side of the moon [remaster].
The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the bestselling albums of all time. It was PF’s 8th album, and spent 11 consecutive years in the top 100 and 14 years lodged in the same place. It was recorded at Abby Road studios between May 1972-January 1973, and rather than separate tracks the album is one continuous piece of music. With estimated sales are over 45 million, the themes it explored include greed (Money track) conflict and time. (Max)

Recent favourites: Staff-picked CDs

Superorganism album cover

While we’re not busy with library duties, many of us here at Wellington City Libraries are avid music listeners. Here are a few recent highlights from our extensive CD collection.

Superorganism.
Wellington band The Eversons moved to London in 2015 and have grown into an eight piece collective consisting of members from Lancashire, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Aotearoa, that all now live together in a big house in London. They have created media waves with their fun, kooky and excellently produced debut album, which is loaded with crazy samples, playful beats, fat basslines, swirling synths and great guitar hooks, all underpinned by the oddly deadpan vocals of 17 year old Japanese vocalist Orono Noguchi who they auditioned on Skype. Sounding like the children of The Go Team! and MGMT, this is a technicolor rush of fun and densely layered quirky pop that sounds as though it was made by the band members emailing each other ideas from their rooms in the house – which it actually was! For an idea of where this extremely contemporary band are coming from check out the video for their hit ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous‘. (John H.)

Mi mundo.
An exciting music by a shining new star – a young Cuban singer and percussionist Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album Mi Mundo (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Opening with Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions, which lead the charge throughout the album, music here is intricate and touches a range of musical styles. However, she and her Cuban all-star band show amazing skills and masterfully treat them, often with jazz idioms, and present smooth yet rich, dynamic sound. The album lasts only 37 minutes but shows Navarrete’s enormous talent and character. Sensational. (Shinji)

Wide awaaaaake!
It’s fitting that Texan indie rockers Parquet Courts are on Rough Trade Records as that label was the prime mover of the original early 80’s UK post punk sound and Parquet Courts arguably continue that tradition better than any other current band. Their sixth album is produced by Danger Mouse, who helps shape their characteristically spiky shambolic sound into a semblance of fun, danceable grooves. The post punk influences are still plentiful but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance. With song titles such as ‘Normalisation’ and ‘Before the Water Gets Too High’ it’s reassuring to know that urgent and quizzical music such as this is being made. (John H.)

Rewa / Tania Giannouli, Rob Thorne, Steve Garden.
Rewa fuses the musical cultures of Western Greece, courtesy of Greek classically trained musician Tania Giannouli, and that of traditional Taonga Pūoro instrumentation, courtesy of Rob Thorne. The whole album was improvised over a two day recording session. The resulting album transcends musical boundaries whilst having both a classical and experimental feel. The individual pieces are often dark, brooding and intense with Steve Garden’s treatments, and delicate, thoughtful mixing making this album a rich, complex and rewarding listen. (Neil J)

Top gear.
Wellington based muso Stef Animal took time out from bass playing duties with The Golden Awesome to record this beguiling collection of 15 ‘song-in-a-day writing exercises’, each using sounds from a different piece of cheap or unfashionable musical equipment. The pieces are short – ranging from 30 seconds to 4 minutes – but are equally engaging, gradually drawing the listener deeper in to Stef Animal’s unique and intriguing sound world. The result is an unusual release that stands up as a bold and wholly successful experiment. (John H.)

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet (twin guitars, bass and drums) Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove which at times is as if 80s king Crimson is playing Steve Reich-ish minimal composition – and with this new album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, which is very welcome. Torn brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. Their chemistry is fantastic and Sonar has sharpened their trademark polyrhythmic groove, and makes the whole sound even more dynamic. This is risk-taking music and marvellously executed. (Shinji)

Englabörn & variations / Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away earlier this year at the early age of 48. His story was a very successful one, growing from the fringes of the electronic / neo-classical world with his early releases on Touch and 4AD to worldwide acclaim providing soundtracks for films such as Arrival and The Theory of Everything. His use of electronics and treated voices within ambient / chamber pieces was radical in 2002 and had become familiar by 2018, but he was a true pioneer. This remastered re-issue of his first record, 2002’s Englaborn remains impressive and features 16 relatively short works of beautiful and stately contemporary ambient music, predominantly featuring strings and delicate electronics, with an accompanying disc of remixes by a range of current ambient musicians. (John H.)

5.
The first release on Prins Thomas Musikk, the new label started by the popular Norwegian electronic producer and remixer, is his fifth album and finds him expanding his by now predictable space disco sound. Apparently inspired by Teenage Fanclub, American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and UK duo Plaid, he here presents a set of pared down, predominantly downbeat compositions featuring sweet basslines, guitars, bubbling synths and ambient flourishes to create warm and intimate grooves that lovingly reference the IDM sound of the mid ‘90’s. (John H.)

In Paris: the definitive ORTF recording.
Another classic Jazz concert receives it’s first official release, after being previously available in bootleg form. Montgomery hated to fly, so it was a rare opportunity for European audiences to see him perform in 1965 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, featuring an all-star band with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, & special guest tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Montgomery delivers a searing set of tunes with one amazing solo after another, in what is considered one of his best live performances ever, melodic, inventive and endlessly swinging. Listening to this reissue, it’s easy to see why he is still regarded as one of the most influential Jazz guitarists in history. (Mark)

July’s staff picks from our CD collection

Ventriloquism cover

Check out these music picks by some of our staff members. A wide variety of music styles are listed here and you might find something new or intriguing.

7.
Seven albums in and US dream poppers Beach House show no sign of losing their edge as they continue to explore the parameters of their distinctive sound. On their seventh album they’ve replaced their long-time producer with MGMT producer and former Spacemen 3 member Peter Kember. The result is their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date. In a recent interview vocalist Victoria Legrand said that in creating this work, the band sought to use “bigger canvases, a stronger solid line”, and the sound is perceivably darker and more dramatic, with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine. (John H.)

Singularity.
The London based electronic producer release his follow up to the very well received 2013 release Immunity. Once again the production is perfect – crystal clear tones and beautifully constructed beats throughout an album that, however, probably works best on vinyl, as there are two distinct ‘sides’. The first four tracks (side 1) offer a deeper journey into electronic rhythms with Hopkins’ ambient sensibilities and compositional flair ensuring that the crunchy grooves remain quite removed from most generic dance based electronica being produced. The next five tracks (side 2) are lovingly crafted ambient pieces featuring gentle piano and delicate synths that are about as far removed from the grooves of side 1 as possible. Overall some great sounds but maybe best appreciated in two sittings. (John H.)

My design, on others’ lives.
It must be one of the most difficult gigs a musician can do. Being the warm up act to a huge star who hasn’t toured for ages and has legions of passionate fans. Estere’s support slot for Grace Jones in Queenstown was a stunning success for this new artist. She handled her time with poise and aplomb gaining a fair few fans in the process. Her self-produced debut album is a lush hybrid beast, a unique combination of sonic elements from pop/jazz melodies to sensual electronica and serious rhythmic cores. She also has a beautiful soaring voice and a fine turn in lyrics, and whilst it is definitely a mainstream album it certainly has some experimental leanings too. This album marks the entrance of a vibrant new voice and sounds to this reviewer, like the kind of album a future superstar would release. (Neil J)

Black magic.
Yemi Alade is the African Madonna of Pop. She has a strong sexy African female voice combined with beats to make you shake it. Her song ‘Johnny’ from her debut studio album King of Queens (2014) hit the charts in Africa and in the UK. She won MTV Africa’s Best Female Artist of the Year in 2015 and 2016. The music videos, mostly directed by Clarence Peters, are a fantastic high production show of contemporary African fashion and dance combined with humorous storylines and female perspectives. The videos also show a side of Africa that doesn’t always make it onto African Pop music videos or Nollywood movies; real backgrounds of village life, the grit of the city, and the African landscape feature here. No million dollar yachts and polished marble – Africa is beautiful, real and alive. We have two of her albums in the library: Mama Africa (2016) & Black Magic (2017). (Zoe)

The final tour : the bootleg series vol. 6 / Miles Davis & John Coltrane.
This entry in the ongoing Bootleg Series features five concerts from the Miles Davis Quintet’s Spring 1960 Jazz at the Philharmonic European tour, the first legitimate release of this material with remastered sound. Coltrane was anxious to leave the group at this point, and was a very reluctant part of the Tour, which results in a dichotomy of styles that provides some fascinating listening. Coltrane plays with an aggressive style that is almost a year ahead in terms of his musical development, while Miles and the remaining members of the group: Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass) & Jimmy Cobb (drums), try to hold the centre down to a more familiar framework that European audiences & critics were comfortable with. The audience (particularly in the Paris concerts with the whistling and feet stamping – the French version of booing) were scandalized, as were local critics, and these new versions of this material prove the legendary status of these recordings was not overrated. (Mark)

A man I’d rather be (Part I).
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of folk guitarist/vocalist Bert Jansch in not only the early development of the British folk revival, but also in the ensuing development of UK rock, with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page a self-confessed fan (see if you can spot the opening bars of ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’ on Led Zeppelin 3) . Most famous for the jazz/folk band Pentangle, Bert Jansch started out as part of the UK folk scene of the early ‘60’s, which carried the genesis of the ‘60’s counter cultural movement. This box set contains his first four albums (disc 4 with John Renbourn) and is to be followed by Part 2 featuring his other four. The first two albums here were recorded when Jansch was only 21 and his distinctive finger-picking blues style, which incorporated percussive, African and Eastern-influenced tunings, was already well formed. Bert Jansch was an enormous talent who applied his guitar and banjo picking skills and distinctive vocal style to a merging of American blues with the swing of jazz within a very English esoteric folk sensibility and, hopefully, re-releases such as this will help him find a wider audience. (John H.)

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is something rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her regular band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. Ndegeocello debuted with the Grammy-nominated album Plantation Lullabies in 1993 and had a commercial success in her earlier career. The label had kept telling her to make the same sort of albums but she never did. She lost the support from the label, but this uncompromised spirit made her one of the most forward-thinking, singular artists. This is a covert album like no other and one of her best. (Shinji)

Music for installations.
With a gentle nod to the past (Eno’s ground-breaking late ‘70’s ambient releases included Music For Films and Music For Airports), Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set. The compositions cover over 30 years, from 1985 to 2017 and all feature slightly different approaches to the airy, light world of generative music, designed to create sound that permeates the environment like clouds of incense. Filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, the pieces are beautiful and always different, yet always the same, and with an accompanying booklet of extensive liner notes, this box set offers an excursion into a deep and mysterious netherworld by a key contemporary artist. (John H.)

The lookout.
The wonderful collaborations with Neko Case and KD Lang (2016’s Case/Lang/Veirs) finally gave her the kind of fame she deserved, and the Portland-based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs continues to impress both new and old fans with this new album. Her thoughtful songs; wistful lyrics and sensitive drifting melodies are as fine as ever, and her husband and the master producer, Tucker Martine, who has worked with The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and many more, gives another stellar job and envelopes them with warm arrangements. Best of all, they deftly keep everything simple and clear, and make it a neatly-crafted dreamy folk/pop album. Sufjan Stevens and Jim James make cameos. A gem. (Shinji)

Hormone lemonade.
Ex-Stereolab guitarist Tim Gane’s kraut rock inspired project release their third album and this time around their sound is aimed predominantly at the rhythmic end of things with propulsive motorik beats prevailing. Sequencers, drums and drum machines pump out the hypnotic grooves, while synths and guitar provide a measure of melodic injection over ten pieces, avant-garde yet accessible. Taking bits of inspiration from the past, with Neu! and Suicide obvious reference points, the trio build them into a highly futuristic sounding present. And, yes, for long time fans, occasional fleeting traces of Stereolab can be detected here! (John H.)

Judge a vinyl by its colour?

Since 2016, Wellington vinyl lovers have been able to borrow records from the library. However, not all of our LPs are rendered in the traditional black. One of our staff members, Joe, checks out some of the more colourful items found among the shelves.


Soft sounds from another planet.
The sublime music of Japanese Breakfast makes its home among translucent cherry grooves. Restful ambience, cathartic vocals and flawless indie rock instrumentation are the mainstays of one of 2017’s most exquisite releases.

Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.
Barnett’s studio debut delivers rollicking riffs and self-aware stream of consciousness lyricism. Barnett’s trademark delivery and lush arrangements are perfectly captured on yellow vinyl.

Bush.
After dabbling in reggae, the doggfather of hip-hop turned his attention to nostalgic, funky R&B grooves. Blue plastic transmits Snoop’s smooth autotuned vocals over slick Pharrell Williams production. Stevie Wonder even makes an appearance to deliver some iconic harmonica and vocals.

Blues and haikus / Jack Kerouac featuring Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.
Unlike the bulk of Kerouac’s fiction bibliography (which are kept safe at the fiction enquires desk), this recently re-released album can be found amongst the other items in the AV section. Kerouac waxes poetic on wax over jazz accompaniment.

Masseduction.
Futuristic pop with a digital pulse. St. Vincent delivers mysterious vocals and yet again proves her aptitude for unique melody. Opaque pink vinyl creates the perfect aesthetic for her intriguingly crafted tunes.

Lemonade.
Lemonade’s impressively constructed track list showcases Beyoncé’s virtuosic vocal talent over a tremendously wide range of musical styles. From gospel to county, from trap to reggae tinged R&B: it’s all here on lemon yellow vinyl.

Perfect body. / Mermaidens
The talented Wellington indie trio present their collection of ethereal tunes on satsuma orange vinyl. Pounding basslines, shoe-gazey riffs and passionate vocal performances populate the record.

Images courtesy of Turntable Lab, Fat Beats & Mermaidens. Used with permission.

Who’s reading what at the Fringe Festival?

Fringe Fest programmesJust in case you hadn’t spotted the bright pink posters and brochures all over the city, we feel it’s our duty to let you know the NZ Fringe Festival is taking place all over Wellington right now until March 24th. It’s an exciting time for the Wellington arts and culture scene, and features all sorts of events and performances, from theater, music and dance, to spoken word poetry, Snapchat storytelling and improv comedy. There are over 130 shows in this year’s Fringe program (whaaat! That’s so many!) and shows to suit all tastes. We thought we would speak to a handful of the talented people involved in the festival and delve into the things they’ve been reading, watching and listening to between rehearsals.

Jennifer O'SullivanJennifer O’Sullivan is an improviser and producer making things happen around the city, including the NZ Improv Festival – mark 20-27 October 2018 in your diaries now!

“I’m re-reading Terry Pratchett at the moment. I started re-reading the Tiffany Aching books, which are my favourite ones, then I thought, I’ll go read some of the other ones! So I’ve read The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, now I’m reading Mort. I’m also listening to Harry Potter on audiobook, which is really great, and I listen to a lot of podcasts as well. I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin, it’s fantastic prep for the soap opera actually, because it’s all tele-novella drama. I’ve been watching Star Trek Voyager, which is the only older Star Trek which has grabbed me immediately. It must be something to do with Captain Janeway.”

Check out Jen’s Fringe show Awkward Threesome (until 16th March), her guest spot in Ramshackle & Kitsch (Sunday 18th March), her hosting of Flustercluck (Saturday 24th), and Mirror Miramar, a 10 hour improvised soap opera set in a library, where Jen plays librarian-slash-Meals on Wheels deliverer Lillian Redwood. We can’t wait for that one!

Matt PowellMatt Powell is an improviser and software developer, “which is odd” he says. He is performing in and producing three shows for Fringe – Just Duet (which has unfortunately already finished its run), Awkward Threesome, along with Jen O’Sullivan, and the marathon improv event Mirror Miramar.

“Right now I am re-reading William Gibson‘s The Peripheral, which is a very cool novel about augmented reality and causality and time travel and crime. It’s very interesting science fiction. I have recently binge watched all of Queer Eye and seen Black Panther multiple times, both of those are very highly recommended for anyone with eyes and a nervous system. I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks while I’m writing software, I have a big playlist full of them. Podcast-wise, I’m really enjoying Punch Up the Jam where two comedians-slash-Vine stars take a well-loved piece of music, dissect it and figure out how to make it better. A good episode to start with is “Welcome To The Jungle”, the Guns N’ Roses song, or Ludacris “What’s Your Fantasy”.”

Eamonn MarraEamonn Marra is a writer, comedian and storyteller. His Fringe show is called 2,000 Feet Above Worry Level and each night he will be reading a selection of stories from his new book. Check it out at BATS until Saturday 17 March.

“I just finished Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam. I saw him in the Writers’ Festival, that was a really great session. I was about halfway through his book when I went, and finished the rest of it quite fast after that. I looked at my bookshelf the day before the Ockhams were announced and thought, I should start reading Brannavan’s book, got it off the shelf, and then the next morning and it was shortlisted for the Ockhams. I’m just about to start The New Animals by Pip Adam, which has also been shortlisted, and I read Baby when it first came out, so I’m really excited about those. I’ve been listening to a lot of Mitski, which is also the music before and after my show. When I was finishing my masters all I did was listen to Mitski’s Puberty 2 for eight hours a day, because that was the only music I could write to. I’ve been listening to that again to get back into the headspace. I watched Search Party – I haven’t seen the second season yet – and I rewatched the movie Creep the other day, which is really cool, and I saw Black Panther.”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2

From our very own Wellington bands to Kendrick Lamar and soundtracks, check out more of our best music picks of 2017!

Mark’s Picks

Patriotic grooves. [VINYL]
Awesome anarcho-punk feminist diatribe against everything from Trump to neo-liberal politics, capitalism, misogyny, patriarchal violence, oppression, misogyny, transmisogyny, sexism, and cissexism. If this sounds didactic it’s not. It’s just relevant and timely. Also has great tunes that channel all the best elements of the classic Riot grrrl aesthetic.

Miles Calder & the Rumours.
Following on from their 2013 EP ‘The Crossing Over’, which was nominated for the 2014 NZ Taite Music Prize, Miles Calder & The Rumours deliver their eponymous debut 5 years after forming as a band. The culmination of a couple of years work, the self-produced album was engineered by Lee Prebble but mixed by Grammy-award winning engineer Trina Shoemaker, and features a large array of local talent (Lisa Tomlins, Ed Zuccollo, Dayle Jellyman, Finn Johansson, Chris Winter, Matthew Benton and Lucien Johnson) who add musical shadings from piano to horns to organ on various tracks. From the first track it’s easy to see just how much the songs benefit from the richness of sound the studio environment provides, and there’s a consistent calibre of songwriting across the whole album.

Dark arts / The Nudge. [VINYL]
The 2nd album from The Nudge only has 3 tracks, one of which clocks in at 13 minutes, the other at 24. The four minute opening title track (and single) is just a hint of the genre mashing that is about happen, but provides a basic reference point for the bands diverse sound. If you’re not enamoured with anything vaguely ‘prog’ and hate tracks that are basically longer that 3 and half minutes, be prepared to have your opinion changed by this addictive record. With relatively few vocal interludes, it’s all about the structure of the sound here and they manage to weave in out of different styles and atmospheres within the same track with nothing feeling overly laboured or obvious. All the tonal shifts seem like smaller songs within the larger canvas of the track and by the end of 13 or 24 minutes they leave you wanting more not less.

The weight of melted snow.
Lovely new meditative album from French For Rabbits based around the dissolution of the romantic relationship of band members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald. Male vocals provide a counterpoint to Singer’s softly lilting voice, and the dreamy atmospheric ambient sounds that the fully fleshed out band provides. Previous albums have drawn inspiration from nature and the physical, but ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ while not short of imagery of the natural world is all about the internal, the dynamics of the heart and how to keep it beating when you lose part of it.

If you’re born on an island the ocean heals you.
With the exception of bass and drums on a few tracks and backing vocals everything is played by Lake, along with all the writing and arrangements. The synthy pop structure of a lot of the tracks enfold the layered vocals (and lovely backing voices of Seamus Maguire, Penelope Esplin, Felicity Herbertson and Nadia Reid) with a sense of warmth rather than cold beats. He uses a distinctively ‘kiwi’ voice on the brilliant ‘Good Keen Man’ that cleverly updates a series of iconic NZ images with the realities of the now. A mini-album exits within the larger work, with ‘Renters’ & ‘The Cost of Living’ addressing what he sees as the social crises’ facing people in NZ today. A love of nature, the land and the beauty that surrounds us pervades against the avarice and capitalism of modern life.

Teeth.
When you heard that Luke Buda & Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation) were teaming up with David Long (The Mutton Birds), & Anthony Donaldson (The Labcoats) you could be forgiven for thinking that the result would be more along the experimental spectrum. But Teeth turn up the indie guitar dynamics to just rock out, in a straight ahead way that differs from its members previous bands. You get the feeling that the entirety of Teeth is a great palette cleanser for everyone involved. Trippy guitars, riffy bass lines, shimmery reverby vocals, songs that bounce from the cosmic to the angsty to tongue in cheek and back. Every song is so catch & melodic it’s hard to pick highlights but ‘Glass Ceiling’ & the wry ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ are both super fun.

Harmonies.
Super funky new album from Lord Echo. A melange of analogue dance floor grooves that take in everything from ‘Rebirth of the Cool’ Acid Jazz, Caribbean disco vibe, African funk, classic American R&B and back. The ever awesome Mara TK takes vocal duties on 4 tracks, with Lisa Tomlins on 2, and Toby Laing & Echo himself on one each. Lucien Johnson’s sax & flute float around the beats with Daniel Hayes synth’s. It all somehow meshes into a groove that becomes more than the sum of its parts and the funky retro-ness always seems genuine and never a deliberate pastiche.

Unearthing.
As with listening to Into Orbit’s debut album ‘Caverns’ it still seems amazing that the group just consists of two people, guitarist Paul Stewart and drummer Ian Moir, as their immersive soundscapes sound so epic. The hybrid post-rock/metal/experimental template of the first album is expanded on. Elements shift up against each other, heavy guitar riffs meld into moments of calm and delicate playing, only to explode into crushing drums. But it’s not just a series of loud/quiet/loud moments tied together as ‘tracks’. Into Orbit never seem to be welded into a particular set definition of what each track should be in terms of sound and atmospherics, and the subtle layering of complex patterns & textures make each track a unique experience.

Morningside.
Fantastic new album from Auckland based Amelia Murray (AKA Fazerdaze). Fuzzy guitars, programmed drum patterns and the odd sinewy keyboard line make up the sonic palette of most tracks, but her sweet airy vocals soar over all of it. The shimmery reverby guitars invoke a summery sense of well being, but the ‘poppy’ musical framework hides a lyrical disillusionment and uncertainty. A pervading sense of anxiety permeates nearly every track, inhabiting every relationship and interaction, and hovering cloudlike over the future itself.

Otherness.
Fantastic next level sophomore album from Grayson Gilmour, filled with superbly textured sounds and catchy melodies. His voice is moved up in the mix so it floats upon the layers of often dichotomous sound he builds into the tracks. There is an almost academic level of focus on the soundscapes & chord structures but it is more an organic exploration rather than fussy cleverness, and moulded around the album’s overarching themes of growth and acceptance.

Ennui.
The songs on ‘Ennui’ form themselves through shifting styles, overriding an easy definition or pigeon-holing, subsuming genres, metres, keys, & vocal styles into the original narratives of each of the songs rather than being in service of them. With 3 vocalists at play and elements of everything really from post-hardcore/sludge, psych Rock, post-Rock, stoner riffs, desert rock, doom layers it’s impossible to delineate the trajectory of each track adequately, suffice to say that each is challenging and complex and overall it’s an alum that reveals its musical and emotional layers after repeated immersion.

Perfect body.
Vibrant second album from the Mermaidens trio scored a flurry of great reviews upon its release, and rightly so. The tracks wind in and out of indie rock influences (newer bands like Warpaint, and older classic exponents like Sleater Kinney), elements of shoegaze , brighter Britpop, & echoy layers of early Cure’s goth. As a whole the album sounds fantastic, the breathy vocals merging perfectly with the dense drum patterns and creeping sinuous guitar lines, creating a cavernous sound that builds and releases. The precision of the music is aligned with the murky melodicism of the vocals which shift between an intense attack and detached emotion, as they dissect the juxtaposition of animalistic physicality and the sensory experience of the natural, with the pressure of the modern digital world of social media, fractured relationships and uncertain interactions. Bold and accomplished, enigmatic and intense at the same time. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2”