Talk about: siblings, accompaniment. A crypto-accordion (or organ?). Part elegy, part explication. It’s all beautiful: Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice and the expanding & collapsing music (breathing, pulsing). Listen.
For people who like Nick Thorburn's music (and for people who don't know it): both the new Islands records are full of great songs. Beginning to end. As catchy as the catchiest songs on Return to the Sea, Vapours, or A Sleep & A Forgetting. You will be able to listen to these albums for hours on end. As I've grown older and listened to more music, the more I'm impressed by artists who are able to write full albums that are strong all the way through. One song (terrible, good, great) can be a lot of music to make--one song can represent several months of continual labor. 12 songs, or 22 as the case is here, is a staggering amount of labor. 22 entertaining, amusing, eminently listenable songs is a freakish output--that is a goddamn monument. Islands here have produced sing-a-longs, jams, and long sweet elegies (Hawaii on Should I Remain Here At Sea? is so achingly tender).
Charm Offensive is the lead track on Taste and Back Into It the lead for Should I Remain Here At Sea? There are for sure some difference between the feel of the two albums, in instrumentation and lyrical tone, though there seems also to be a lot of personal reflection by Thorburn on both: talk of living in L.A., talk about the band, talk about music. These albums are like two lovely little novels. They're both essential, with melodies that will stay in your head for a long, long time.
Hooded Fang offer the old-fashioned pleasures of prime-time post-punk. Impressions is all elbows and sharp joints, kicking out, twisting, and lurching—it brings to mind something like a volatile waterslide ride, one that alternates between borderline free-falls and calm smooth passages. This album is itchy, nervous, and skewed; music for outsiders. Working the tradition of bands like The Sound and Josef K, Hooded Fang marry those sounds with an aggression that’s more in line with stuff like DFA 1979.
Long stretches of Al Viento sound like a virtuosic flamenco guitar player has decided to sit in and play complement to a beautiful performance of Bach’s Cello Suites. This music is knotty but light—something difficult rendered approachable by the way it’s presented. Pedro Soler and Gaspar Claus—father and son—do their work with wood and string the way other fathers and sons do their work with hammer and nail or block and beam.
Healing is a distorted shuffle. The singer is not sitting at the piano; he slumps over it, exhausted or drunk, groping the keys as he plays. This is a rough, noisy ballad. The sounds are industrial, malfunctioning, derelict, and water-logged all the way through the EP; it’s like a set of pretty melodies backed by Kevin Drumm-style outbursts of static and barely-wrangled voltage—it’s good.
Floating Points played in San Francisco this past Friday. Elaenia was one of my favorite albums of 2015, so I was expecting a good show, but this performance was ridiculous. The live band that Sam Shepherd has assembled to play the stuff from Elaenia is so energetic and intense—you can understand, after hearing them, how something like Kuiper came into being (Kuiper, if you haven’t heard it, sounds like nothing else out there; the closest fanciful comparison I can think of is an Aphex Twin-assisted jam session by Portishead, with a sort of James Bond theme song closing?). The band played tracks from Elaenia and played an even more furious version of Kuiper than the filmed one. It was the best show I’ve seen this year and the best performance I’ve seen in a long time.
There is a film that is composed only of a man walking out into the desert over and over again. Each scene lasts one minute precisely and is shot head-on. In the first iteration, the man, who sports a light beard, is shown exiting a small wooden house. He slings a backpack over his shoulder and adjusts the waist of his pants. Then he walks out of frame into the desert. In each subsequent iteration, the man changes appearance: sometimes he has no beard, or his beard is a different color, or his face is different, or he is a woman or a child or an animal (horse, dog, cat, and bear are the most frequent animal substitutes). The time of day never changes. The shadows are always the same. The desert never changes. The sun is always in the same place. The film is seven hours long.
Colin Stetson has reimagined Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 as Sorrow. Reimagined in the same way that Dirty Projectors did Black Flag with Rise Above, or Christopher Logue did Homer’s Iliad with War Music—it’s a cover, in a sense, but it’s so full of interpolation and new creation that it becomes a different, separate thing. Sorrow is a work of obsession and devotion. Stetson has remarked that the impetus for the project came from listening to Górecki’s work over and over again and wanting to understand it fully. What Stetson has made is a Symphony No. 3 that seethes and crashes, that builds and dissipates like a thunderstorm. There is Stetson’s sax and his sister Megan’s voice—those elements guide you through the lashing percussion and the squalling strings. This album is a big, staggering piece of music, full of pockets of detail that don’t become apparent or parseable until the third or fourth time through; it rewards sustained attention and repeated listens.
Dry desert highway. Sand, in dunes and not. Long lines of telephone wire strung on desiccated poles. Abandoned ranches. The weirdness of high heat. Ruckled rockwalls. The pure white slanting light of mid-morning. Everything warped. Trees shrunk low to the ground. A 10,000 year-old creosote bush. Woods’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light is a sweet and beautiful record, a desert country record, a sun-blasted road record. A long-drives-to-nowhere-and-back kind of record.
A young woman jumps on top of a car (on fire) and yells her lover’s name out over the crowd (milling/mobbing) in the street. Five people, all not the young woman’s lover, look up hopefully at the sound of their name. Not you, the young woman says, shaking her head. Someone else.