Chris Reimer – Hello People

Chris Reimer played guitar in Women, one of the best bands of the last fifteen years, and was a touring guitarist for the Dodos. His guitar playing in Women was remarkable and he helped make that band's sound what it was: sharp, imperious, and weird. Reimer passed away in his sleep in February 2012.

Besides his work in Women and the Dodos, Reimer had also worked on his own compositions, instrumental jams, drone pieces, and soft, hazy loops. "Hello People" is a collection of his solo work and it's a wonderful listen. You can hear the creativity and imagination he brought to Women in these songs, and his customarily expressive playing. "Waving Goodbye From a Tree" is a fantastic example--it starts with a blizzard of notes on the guitar (very much in the tone of what he used to play in Women) that dissolves into calmer acoustic plucking and the kind of prickly strumming that you hear on early Microphones songs. Drums enter. It all builds to a culmination about two minutes in, a plaintive and searching song. The album has a handful of songs, like "Waving Goodbye.." and "About," "Hongdi" and "Mustard Gas" that have more traditional song structures (even some gentle singing on "About"), and others that are more free-form or experimental, like "Malchhovish" or "Arpeg" (which sounds like a kind of pastoral Aphex Twin), along with some intensely pretty drones (like "Beneluxx"). It's clear from the album that Reimer was an endlessly curious artist and he had the talent to pursue all of these different modes. "Hello People" is a beautiful collection of his work. You can find out more about Reimer and his work at the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund.

[Pre-order Hello People]

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Malena Zavala – Aliso

Anderson Island beach

Like a short, perfect novella, "Aliso" is like a little world with a defined vibe, one that Malena Zavala creates and explicates over the course of 10 songs. When I wrote about "Should I Try" before, I mentioned that there's something old-fashioned about Zavala's songwriting, not so much that the songs sound old or passé, but more in the way they're constructed. It seems to me like the songs have a quality of classic craft--even though I can't quite pinpoint what that is technically--they're sturdy and reliably beautiful and hummable; they unfold in a way that highlights her fantastic voice and her melodies. "A Vision That's Changed," like "Should I Try," starts quiet and small, unsteady, and expands and brightens in the last third; almost all the songs on this album move, change, evolve. It's a great listen.

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Preoccupations – New Material

Mount Hood from Mount Tabor

Preoccupations' new album, "New Material," operates at a high level, just like all their music. This album is more approachable, to some degree, than previous albums, but all the songs still have that sharp edge that the band has carried with them since their formation. "New Material" is not as dark as the self-titled album, which felt like it had a flat and dim tone (not a bad thing; I love that album). Songs like "Disarray" and "Solace" feel poppier than anything on the other albums, there's a weird kind of flashiness to the guitars in those songs that puts some of the other music into sharper relief. It's exciting to hear them play around with their sound and experiment a little bit with the shape of their albums--"New Material" ends with an instrumental track, "Compliance," which to me seems like it should be playing over the end credits of an elliptical and terrifying sci-fi movie, and the album lacks a mega-song statement like "Memory" or "Death" (the closest is probably "Antidote"), and it feels like a quicker and easier listen because of those changes.

[BUY New Material]

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The forever helen

If you ever dug Unclassics or the Italo DeRuggiero mixes, you will love the sound of this fantastic track by Peggy Gou. The synths have that same tone, and I don't know what it is about that sound, what quality it possesses, that seems at once deeply uncool and supremely enjoyable. Gou raps in a matter-of-fact, casual way, as if she's explaining stuff that should be totally obvious, and in the chorus, she gets right to the point: "You gotta do it right/enjoy your night/you gotta do it right." Fun song on a great EP.

[BUY Once]

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Huwelijk 2

Anderson Island beach

Oneida are always alluring; they go where they want to go. “Romance,” their new album, continues in a vibe that’s similar in some ways to the sound of the latter two albums of the “Thank Your Parents” trilogy (“The Story of O” and “Absolute II”), but with a slightly higher proportion of all-out jams. “Romance” comes close, in an Oneidan way, to being an actual rock album—some of the tracks, like “All in Due Time,” “Lay of the Land,” and “Reputation” revolve around tight grooves and rival songs like “Up with People” or “Story of O” for dynamism. And there’s “Cockfight,” towards the end of the album, a wild (tongue-in-cheek?), let-loose, super-entertaining, riff-heavy tune (that also ends with a beautiful, fluctuating coda). The other songs on the album are Oneida explorations, where they’re burrowing down in a certain trajectory, into sometimes gnarly territory (“Shepherd’s Axe,” the final track, is one of those--18 minutes of investigation, with maybe seven or eight distinct parts).

“Good Lie,” which comes in the middle of the album, is another sort of exploration, although this one feels more delicate than the others. It starts with a simple arrangement of elements, a pulse, some piano, some background synth and vocals, and then band lets it evolve over the course of seven minutes: the song picks up small variations and minor faults along the way, and those spread and become magnified until, by the last minute, it’s become something else entirely.

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Physical personhood

It is staggering, watching the time-lapse evolution of the planet. First: accretion. Then it was a ball of hot iron and nickel. Volcanism reigned. Lava was everywhere, moving, spurting, flying all over and inside. Meteors hit, brought water (maybe?), and the moon was ejected, too weird and wicked to be a part of the planet. Atmosphere began to pile up, slow and steady, from the volcanic exhalations. Oceans pooled. Then everything was on fire again for a while. Then the planet cooled again and everything started to get its act together. It was a great time. Some chemicals and proteins and acids mixed together and flowed towards and away other chemicals. Then everything was on fire again.

"Unfolding" is the first single from Rival Consoles's forthcoming new album, "Persona." The song builds and annihilates itself. It collapses and rises up again. Subduction, erosion, eruption. It is beautiful and massive, pulsing, vivid, wild.

[Pre-order Persona]

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The beginning of the song is bleak, rough, austere: cascading drums, bass. “Sending current down the barbed wire/burning currency in bonfires....” and “Whether we ask for it or not/deliver us to suffer again and again.” Matt Flegel’s lyrics read like a manifesto and he declaims them like a manifesto. There aren’t many people who sing with the same stentorian ferociousness as Flegel; every time he sings “Whether we ask for it or not…” it sounds like he’s rallying people on a battlefield.

Antidote takes on a different shape midway through. The drums trip over themselves, the pattern shifts. Flegel sings (utters) with flat, dead resignation: “Information overdose/looking for antidotes/uneven ratios/under a microscope.” (and variations of that). You get fed up with what’s happening all around, the sickness of it, but then it overwhelms you, there’s nothing to be done, you’re left searching—in a futile and perfunctory way—for answers that don’t exist.

[Pre-order New Material]

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In the refectory

MONKS boozing in the cellar

Long ago, monasteries were places of: work, prayer, meditation, bread-baking and eating, wine-and-beer making, lectio divina (a form of extreme reading, self-interviewing, and internal monologuing), endless grave-digging, and practical jokes. Novitiates were, of course, figures of fun for the more established brothers, often made to wash all the monks’ dirty robes by hand, handcraft the entire abbey’s supply of sauerkraut for the winter, or, on feast days, prepare the banquets for the rest of the abbey while being permitted to consume only a lightly warmed stew of water and old potato peels for themselves.

Kunzite’s “Monks” is creaky, lurching, segmented fun. A utilitarian jam. Mike Stroud, of Ratatat, is half of Kunzite, and you can hear that Ratatat sound—those guitars (which seem to shift between phases of being tightly wound, or whiny, or growling, or glowing, it’s an unmistakable sound regardless).

[BUY Birds Don't Fly]

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Car University

There’s probably not many more frustrating things about human experience than miscommunicating with the person you love. Saying too much, not saying enough, saying things at the wrong time, saying insanely stupid shit, etc.; there are manifold ways to fuck up. Would it be more or less enjoyable if we communicated our internal states directly via a different medium, like our skin? If we could change colors like a cuttlefish when we were alarmed, or lustful, or defensive, or content?

Anna Burch sings about this topic—miscommunication, not cuttlefish—on “Tea-Soaked Letter.” Love, missed connection, frustration. She has a bright and seamless voice, it’s so present, so ‘there’ on every track. She has an intimate presence across the whole album, like she’s sitting in a chair a few feet away while she plays these songs. Every song on this album is catchy, Burch is a melodically inventive songwriter and it’s all supremely enjoyable. It’s that intimacy and catchiness that reminds me of bands like the Aislers Set and the Softies. “Quit the Curse” is straight-up great.

[BUY Quit the Curse]

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Jay Som released two great albums in two years, and now there’s a 7” of outtakes from the sessions that resulted in the absolutely unbeatable “Everybody Works.” Both “Pirouette” and “Meet Me Underwater” fit, in terms of quality, with the other songs on that album and have the same kind of energy. “I pray for answers/beneath the moon” Melina Duterte sings, seeking clarity, and then, halfway through, the song leaves the earth and lifts off into space. Incredible.

[BUY Pirouette]

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