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This Week's Free Song Download
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Free song download of "Master Moon," taken from On Fillmore's new full-length, Extended Vacation, out now on Dead Oceans. Featuring Darin Gray (who's collaborated with the likes of Gastr Del Sol, Loren Mazzacane Connors and Kevin Drumm) and Wilco's Glenn Kotche, the album plays like the score to an imaginary David Lynch film set in the tropics, with eerie field recordings and bird calls hovering over the walking bass lines, vibraphones and hand percussion. The full-length is reviewed below.
This Week's Featured Downloads
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It has always intrigued me how open audiences are to avant-garde music when it is presented with a visual aid. Be it a Philip Glass movie score, a Robert Ashley opera, or Alva Noto's mixed media performances, people are always more willing to subject their ears to uncertainty when they can see something that coincides with disconcerting sounds. No doubt that it's for this reason that horror movies have always relied heavily on experimental music to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. On Fillmore's Darin Gray (a well-regarded upright bassist whose collaborated with a long list of artists including Brise-Glace, Gastr Del Sol, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Chris Corsano and Kevin Drumm) and composer/Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche are no such strangers to such wistful noir. This off-again, on-again side project was born in 2000, following the duo's stint as Jim O'Rourke's rhythm section, and began releasing records during breaks from Gray and Kotche's respective busy schedules. Three years in the making, their fourth album (and first for Dead Oceans), plays like an imaginary score to a horror movie set somewhere in the tropics. Amidst walking bass lines, vibraphone, hand percussion, and field recordings (not to mention very realistic bird sounds coming from the mouth of band friend Dede Sampaio), the record mines similar fields as the Ghost Box crew, with classic cult thriller allusions embedded in a jazzy, post-rock context. Definitely a great headphone listen, Extended Vacation is all at once eerie and strangely tuneful. And no need for the aforementioned visual aids, just close your eyes and you'll be imagining Twin Peaks as filmed in a rainforest.
Extended Vacation is also available in CD and LP formats.
Black to Comm
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As Black to Comm, Dekorder label head Marc Richter has released a string of great records, pulling long strands of oft-dark, gauzy tones from a variety of acoustic instruments and random electronics. Given the relatively crowded drone/psych sea in which his material often floats, it's all the more impressive that his voice emerges as the singularly beautiful entity it is, with his pieces balancing meticulous composition techniques against an innate ability to summon and sustain a series of evocative moods. Ever a busy man, Alphabet 1968, the latest Black to Comm release and first for the Type label, caps off a twelve-month span that's already seen two other great full-length recordings. Richter has had Alphabet 1968 in the works for some time now, and while it obviously continues with a lot of the methods and ideas he's explored recently, there's a certain restraint and clarity of purpose here that makes these ten tracks easily the best work of his career.
Setting out to deviate from his long form pieces in the pursuit of more focused "songs," each of these tracks achieves its own distinct identity that still manages to fit as part of the larger work. Pieces like "Forst" (which happens to be the album's longest track, although it never once feels as such), maps layered, static-soaked tones to a distant, pulsing beat, making for an almost crystalline version of GAS' dubby ambience. Taking a different approach altogether, "Rauschen" instead focuses on drunken string plucks that create a beautiful, haunting melody in an all-too brief two-minute span. Best of all, though, is the closing "Hotel Freund." Opening ominously, the track quickly shifts gears into an elegiac (and yet still, somewhat paradoxically, hopeful) waltz through a string sample that carries through to the close. More than just a highlight of Richter's own impressive discography, Black to Comm's Alphabet 1968 is an easy high-water mark for all drone-based albums this year.
Alphabet 1968 is also available in CD format.
Fall Be Kind
Domino Recording Co
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With each new release, Animal Collective manage to build on their sound, treading new sonic ground in unexpected ways while still staying true to their exuberant aesthetic. Their latest EP, Fall Be Kind, is testament to that progression; the group, while retaining their great sense of melody, has matured, and the deeply nuanced drones herein prove it. Never before have these guys sounded so big. Features the live favorites "Graze" and "Bleed." (Will be released in CD and 12" formats on December 15.)
Led Er Est
Dust on Common
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Wierd Records brings us Dust on Common, the first full-length from Led Er Est. Formed in 2007, the New York trio possesses a dark, cavernous yet tuneful synthwave quality, even resembling Trisomie 21 on tracks like "Port Isabel." At the same time, however, there are also equal elements of post-punk and a bit of raw pop reminiscent of groups as dissimilar as early Simple Minds (when Led Er Est adopts a more driving sound) and early Human League. As you'd expect from the Wierd Records camp, the band doesn't take these reference points or their influences lightly. Dust on Common varies from propulsive, intense synthwave (e.g. "Unkept Area," "Scissors" and "Laredo" -- the latter complete with an angular post-punk guitar lead) to prance-y slow synthpop ("Destination Sanity"), to slow industrial soundtrack music ("Something for the Children"). There's even the Argento/Claudio Simonetti-esque ''CC'' that serves as the outro track for the album. Strictly serious stuff for the heads who can tell the difference between those who are down with this sound and those who are simply "trying it on" for cool points. Recommended!
Dust on Common is also available in LP format.
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A few years back, Evidence released a two-CD set of Singles by Sun Ra and crew, which was an amazing collection of some of Ra's earliest, most thrilling (and unexpected) tracks, featuring doo-wop singers, male crooners, and wailing, high-spirited R&B vocalists. Now, some ten-plus years later, Norton Records goes even deeper, reissuing three separate discs that focus on Ra's late-'50s musings for small vocal groups and various singers. Each of these volumes not only features the actual single version from the Saturn Records catalogue, but also includes previously un-issued home, studio and rehearsal recordings.
Interplantary Melodies and The Second Stop Is Jupiter
contain some of my favorite tracks from Ra's extensive output, highlighting his vocal work with the Cosmic Rays, Nu Sounds, Qualities and Juanita Rogers. Tracks like the Cosmic Rays' "Dreaming," "Somebody's in Love," and "Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie" (which Jamie Lidell covered for his Muddlin Gear album) are all great examples of the vision and beauty of Ra's productions, as well as his ear for a silky smooth, yet quite otherworldly male vocal. That said, Rocket Ship Rock is where things get all funky and freaky. Here, the spotlight is turned on the soloists that Ra took under his wing, and his choices are so on point it's scary. Singers like Little Mack, Lacy Gibson, Ebah, Don (Dino) Dean and Yochanan (whose fevered renditions of "I Am Gonna Unmask the Batman" and "Hot Skillet Mama" are almost too good to believe) bring to mind a mix of Nat King Cole, Little Richard, Li'l Wayne (yeah, that's right) and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Although these three discs pre-date Sun Ra's intergalactic journey into a future of his own design, they are often stunning examples of his great vocals, spacey melodies and leftfield approach, and they show the groundbreaking artist's roots to great effect, and are an excellent starting point for understanding his music. If, on the other hand, you are well into Ra's lengthy discography, these will probably be the missing links of your collection, and are necessary. Collectively, these three volumes get my vote for reissue of the year. Great stuff not to be slept on!
All three of these Sun Ra albums are currently available in CD and LP formats, and can be purchased off the November 18, 2009 edition of the Other Music Update.
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Daptone Records offer up this killer compilation featuring 23 tracks of rarities and classics from their great roster. Highlights include never before released tracks from Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, along with deep cuts from the Budos Band, Antibalas, Lee Fields and more. You don't need a time machine to take you back to 1960s Motor City; soul and funk are both alive and well in 2009, much of it being made in right here in Brooklyn.
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Featuring ex-Plate Tectonics Mika Yoneta and Devin Flynn, and Soft Circle's Hisham Bharoocha (ex-Black Dice), Pixetlan are back with their first release in five years. The trio are one of the DFA's most adventurous signings, and here we get four new songs, with Yoneta singing in both English and Japanese over a percussive, hypnotic bass and drum groove during the title track, and then veering into their singular, pulsating take on disco-not-disco.
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Extended version Terry Callier's latest album, which finds the legendary soul singer collaborating with Massive Attack on three tracks, whose Robert Del Naja cowrote "Wings" and "John Lee Hooker," and all of "Live With Me." This is still Callier's ship, however, the singer offering a diverse range of songs, from the blissed-out spiritual soul of "Once I Dreamed of Heaven" to the Last Poets-styled spoken word of "Wings." Features 10 bonus tracks.