Staff CD Picks: September/October

Get ready to busy your airways – Staff CD picks for September and October are here! As always there’s a complimentary Spotify playlist to accompany.

Cover imageCharacter.
Character is the third solo record from Canadian born, NY based cellist, Julia Kent, who has previously worked with Anthony & The Johnsons. It’s a pity that any record featuring a cello, an instrument renowned for its “high brow” serious and brooding sound, is automatically categorised as “modern classical” because Julia Kent (who trained classically and “fled that world and never looked back”) is one of several contemporary cellists (including Melbourne based Wellingtonian Francesca Mountford) who are expanding the sound of the cello by utilising layered loops, minimal electronics and found sound to create beautiful, contemplative tapestries of sound. She says that “for me, it feels like my voice” and, as she picks, plucks and bows her instrument, creating music sometimes cinematically dense, sometimes achingly sparse, that sublime “voice” has the capacity to transport the willing listener to surprising depths of emotion, mood and texture.” (John)

Cover imageSo tonight that I might see.
“These guys (Mazzy Star) just realised their first album in seventeen years, but it’s this 1993 album that stands as their defining moment. It’s a combination of evocative countrified rock ‘n’ roll mixed with moody 60’s psychedelia. A suitable soundtrack to any David Lynch film.” (Ash)

Cover imageSeconds late for the Brighton line / The Legendary Pink Dots.
“After 30 years of making off-the-radar music and 40+ albums to show for it, The Legendary Pink Dots are beyond any need to make it in the biz and therefore have no need at all to compromise their vision. Somehow after all these years, their creativity is unsullied and they continue to make challenging and entertaining music. What does it sound like? Psychedelic, post-rock, weird-folk, noise, synth-pop, prog’, creepy, pretty, industrial, literate, lysergic, apocalyptic, and hypnotic. They’ll never have a hit and they don’t care, and they’re all the more genius for it.” (Neil)

Cover image20 jahre Kompakt : kollektion 2.
“To celebrate their 20th year anniversary, Cologne based electronic label Kompakt is releasing a series of retrospective compilations. Vol. II, like Vol. I, is a double disc selection spanning 24 artists over two and a half hours. The tracks selected from the extensive back catalogue, while all beat driven, are diverse, illustrating the label’s broad range of artists, with sounds ranging from the introspective electronica of Closer Muzik through the hard house of Jurgen Paape to label boss Michael Mayer’s ‘Pride Is Weaker Than Love’, which features him reciting the lyrics to Sade’s ‘Love Is Stronger Than Pride’ in an emotionless German accent over a 4/4 techno beat. Vol. I presented an excellent overview of a label that has spent 20 years at the forefront of electronic music and Vol. II manages to do it all over again.” (John)

Cover imageChant / Craig Taborn Trio.
“Super versatile pianist Craig Taborn has been a most in-demand musician, and plays from traditional jazz to free jazz to ambient Electronica. He is not a musician you would imagine from ECM label, but his first effort for the label (a solo recording) was marvellous, and this second album leading his acoustic trio shows, once again, his amazing skill and cryptic approach. This trio (with the bassist Thomas Morgan and the drummer Gerald Cleaver) has been working together on and off for 8 years but this is their first recording. With ‘Chants’, Taborn provides complex compositions in which themes and improvisations are integrated, and displays an excellent command of both hands. The bassist Morgan sometimes synchronises with Taborn’s left hand and Cleaver’s attentive drumming contributes considerably to this serene yet high aspiration music. It’s abstract but rhapsodic, and uniquely geometric. Taborn has been involved in countless projects and it seems that he hasn’t shown his true colour yet. However, I have a feeling that something in this profound music presents a new perspective of jazz.” (Shinji)

Cover imageHeaven or Las Vegas.
“Cocteau Twins’ most beautiful and accessible album – ten pop songs that that don’t sound like any that came before or will come after them.” (Ash)

Cover imageOshin.
“NY label Captured Tracks are on a mission to recreate the spirit of dreamy optimism that permeated the indie C86 era and Diiv’s ‘Oshin’ is a solid delight from start to finish. Chiming harmonic guitars, motorik rhythms, lyrical bass lines and reverb laden vocals abound in a sound that is compelling, atmospheric, lush and gorgeous. Band leader Zachary Cole Smith was touring guitarist for label mates Beach Fossils who, along with Real Estate and Wild Nothing, are members of a new generation of musicians re-imagining the time tested bass, drums and guitar lineup to breathe new life into the indie/dream pop/shoegaze genres. Play on repeat.” (John)

Cover imageJungle revolution.
“As Rebel MC, North London’s Michael West had a hit with ‘Street Tuff’ back in 1989, and has since been flying the flag for jungle, merging drum and bass, Jamaican ragga and London streetwise hip hop. Subterranean basslines, revolutionary Rastafarianism, lightning fast breakbeats and an anti-racist message combine to make this an exhilarating ride.” (Neil)

Cover imageIce on the dune.
“Not far removed from their first Walking on a dream but possibly just better, surpassing it in energy and just an overwhelming sense of exuberance. I’ve never been to Ibiza but if I did I expect this would be a staple for the clubs. That’s not a bad thing, it may be pop-corn but just makes you feel alive as the third song simply states. Best played loud and in a convertible car.” (Martin)

Cover imageBriefly eternal.
“In 2002 Canadian electronic producer Marc Leclair, under his Akufen moniker, floored everyone with ‘My Way’, a record made from thousands of micro-samples. It was a new sound, cutup and as funky as hell, that made most ‘album of the year’ lists and still sounds fresh today. This new release from Leclair, his first full length in ten years, is released under his Horror Inc moniker, so called to contrast the difference from the bright upbeat sound of Akufen. This is the atmospheric and cinematic distant cousin, but no less compelling, by which Marc Leclair illustrates that he is not just a technician but an excellent composer. ‘Briefly Eternal’ is firm contender for electronic album of the year so far, which is quite an achievement for a record that features trumpet, bass guitar, rhodes piano, strings, and jazz flourishes.” (John)

Cover imageThe weighing of the heart.
“Elegant and avant-garde, medieval and postmodern. French artist Cecile Schott, aka Colleen, offers a unique musical experience, somewhere between Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Arthur Russell, in this, her fourth album. She took a long break after issuing the last album (Les Ondes Silencieuses) and moved to the Spanish countryside. For this new project, which is the first effort in 6 years, she did everything (performing, recording, mixing and producing) herself, and crafted a subtle, organic music that her stoic aesthetic sense underlies throughout. Colleen is known as an electronica artist but she seems to open a new chapter with this album. It’s a first singing album and has more rhythm but no more electronica. Blending her essential instrument viola-da-gamba (cello-like period instrument) with other acoustic instruments such as guitar and clarinet, including her voice, she weaves a delicate but rich sound texture. You may feel as if time is back to Renaissance, but interestingly, it still has a sample-and-loop manner as well. Gently open, calmly natural.” (Shinji)

Cover image‘Allelujah! Don’t bend! Ascend!
“Their (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) first album in ten years recently won the 2013 Polaris Prize – Canada’s equivalent of the UK’s Mercury Prize – proving they’re just as vital today as they were at the turn of the century. A symphony of strings, guitars, feedback like a soundtrack to the best film never made.” (Ash)

Cover imageIt’s up to Emma.
“Hands up who treasures the early PJ Harvey records. If you don’t have your hand up then you can stop reading now, if you do then you are in for a treat. Another sweet English rose has surfaced, like a creature from the swamp, playing stripped back dirty low-down grungy guitar and singing songs of love and loss as if her life depended upon it. Scout Niblett has hit a high mark with her sixth record, on which she wrote (except for a great cover of ‘No Scrubs’), produced and plays everything except drums and the beautiful string arrangements featured on three tracks. This is a post-relationship record, sparse, tempered yet fiery, with the opening track ‘Gun’ setting the tone. If more people could create art like this from their angst then the world would certainly be a different place.” (John)

Cover imageMe want me get me need me have me love.
“As one of the few Auckland bands to sign to Flying Nun in the mid-1980s, Bird Nest Roys brought a refreshing playfulness to the party. Their one album, together with a few odd singles and EPs, all fit on this one disc, and shows them to have been one of the most underrated bands of their time. From the adrenaline rush of ‘Who Is The Silliest Rossi?’ to their infectious cover of the Hollies’ ‘Bus Stop’ to the irreverent Kiwiana of ’15 Weetbix And Toast’, this collection catches the flavour of a euphoric time in New Zealand pop history.” (Neil)