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  October 10, 2013  
If you're heading to Times Square this Saturday for the CBGB Festival, make sure to come by the Other Music table and say hi. We'll be there from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. along with the main attractions: live performances from the likes of Divine Fits, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, a DJ set from LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, and more. It's a free event and you can get more information here.
Matana Roberts
Lee Ranaldo and the Dust
Longing for the Past (Various)
London Grammar
Pusha T
Sleigh Bells
Mammane Sani et Son Orgue
Anna Calvi
FKA Twigs

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Just In!)
Daniel Bachman
Beat Happening
Amen Dunes
Minus the Bear

Molly Drake
The 39 Clocks

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Bowery Presents are offering our Update readers a chance to win a pair of tickets to these great upcoming shows at Webster Hall. First up, avant-pop sisters CocoRosie will be performing this Saturday night, in support of their recently released Tales of a GrassWidow. To enter for this one, email giveaway@othermusic.com. Then on Wednesday, October 16, Portland experimental indie rock combo Menomena will be hitting the Webster Hall stage, along with the Helio Sequence who'll be opening the show. Email enter@othermusic.com for your chance to win a pair of tickets to this night.

WEBSTER HALL: 125 E. 11th St. Manhattan

OCT Sun 13 Mon 14 Tues 15 Wed 16 Thurs 17 Fri 18 Sat 19

Olof Arnalds is a true, great original and this Sunday the classically trained Icelandic singer and multi-instrumentalist will be delivering a set of her enchanting music at Le Poisson Rouge and Other Music is giving away a pair of tickets! To enter for a chance to win, email giveaway@othermusic.com.

LE POISSON ROUGE: 158 Bleecker St. Manhattan

OCT Sun 20 Mon 21 Tues 22 Wed 23 Thurs 24 Fri 25 Sat 26

With their fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, released earlier this year, Scotland's Frightened Rabbit return to New York City, performing their soaring music on the Webster Hall stage for two nights. The Friday, October 25th show is already sold out and tickets for the night before are going fast as well. In fact, Other Music has a pair up for grabs for the Thursday, October 24th performance, and you can enter for a chance to win by emailing contest@othermusic.com.

WEBSTER HALL: 125 E. 11th St. Manhattan

OCT Sun 27 Mon 28 Tues 29 Wed 30 Thurs 31 Fri 01 Sat 02

Save the date! Sonic Youth's iconic axeman Lee Ranaldo stops by Other Music on Monday evening, October 28, for a discussion and demonstration of the guitar. Stay tuned for more information and scroll down to read a review of Lee Ranaldo & the Dust's great new album, Last Night on Earth, which was just released on Matador and is featured in this week's Update.

OTHER MUSIC: 15 E. 4th St. Manhattan, NYC





$19.99 LP


Coin Coin Chapter Two: Missisippi Moonchile

"River Ruby Dues"
"The Labor of Their Lips"

No one today makes music like the alto saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts. Her records are not only rich and immensely enjoyable, they are powerful reminders that there are still musicians with uncompromising vision and ambition. The New York-based Chicago native released a few jazz albums with her trio Sticks and Stones for Thrill Jockey in the '00s before moving to Constellation Records -- the label best known for Godspeed You! Black Emperor -- and embarking on Coin Coin, a planned 12-album project weaving her personal ancestry with broader themes of African-American history, culture and identity. The first installment, 2011's terrific Gens de Couleur Libre, had a big, brash sound; Mississippi Moonchile strips things down with a smaller ensemble and often goes in an experimental, free-jazz direction, but there's still loads of gospel, blues and folk. The album features 18 songs that clock in at just under 50 minutes with no interruptions, like a bit of musical theater. Roberts' lyrical and gentle saxophone is exquisite, perfectly complemented by Jason Palmer's trumpet, which recalls Freddie Hubbard and Don Cherry. Jeremiah Abiah's operatic tenor provides a stark counterpoint and will certainly challenge a few listeners, but this is an album meant to challenge us. Despite the occasional bursts of frenzied noise, most of Mississippi Moonchile is warm and lovely, particularly "River Ruby Dies" (recommended for Doug Carn fans), the powerful "Amma Jerusalem School" (featuring Roberts' spoken-word narration from her grandmother's letters), and the Coltrane-like spirituality of "Was a Sacred Day." Mississippi Moonchile combines the sweep and grandeur of Mingus with the adventure of Chicago's AACM scene and the genre-bending Black Jazz label. This is jazz on an epic scale, something the music world sorely needs now. I can't wait for the third chapter. [JBr]





$13.99 CD
$19.99 LP+MP3



"Golden Arrow"

Psychic, the debut album by Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington's Darkside project, is an odd bird, and I'll be honest: it REALLY rubbed me the wrong way at first, though I'm beginning to really enjoy and appreciate it upon an intense period of deep listening. The duo blends slowly pumping, head-nodding Balearic dance rhythms and foreboding ambient textures (fantastic!) with some screwed-up, anemic electric guitar lines and equally messed-up, strangulated and syrup-gurgling vocals (umm...). Psychic opens with an eleven-minute track that's nothing but a series of drones and Tesla coil sparks of static and feedback for close to five minutes before the rhythm drops, but when the beat finally DOES drop, it's quite excellent. I'm not going to lie; this record is really going to piss some of you off, possibly even if you've been a fan of Jaar's in the past. Give it a bit of time, though, and its offbeat charms shine through.

The duo caught a bit of hefty attention earlier in the year after rush-releasing an odd, winking reinterpretation/deconstruction of Daft Punk's entire Random Access Memories album, and that actually served as a bit of a foreshadowing for what Psychic delivers. The grooves on this record are seriously diseased and mutated in a way that David Lynch would appreciate; things sound thin and jagged on the surface, but are anchored by thick, billowing cushions of texture and synthesized fog. The guitars twang, pluck and chop with funk and blues licks, though any true funk or soul is completely removed from their bodies as though drained by vampires -- this is precisely the sort of thing that they did with the Daft Punk album rework, and it's hard not to think that the duo are trying to make some kind of pointed commentary on cultural re-appropriation when the guitars come in. And then there are the vocals, which are delivered in either a strangulated falsetto that falls somewhere between a sharp up-yours to the styles of both Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Sting(!), or the marble-mouthed screwed-down baritone Jaar so frequently used on his solo debut.

The atmospheres here sound like an imaginary Daniele Baldelli residency in Eraserhead's industrial wasteland rather than the lush tropical paradise, and while to many ears, that's probably the least appealing thing to come out of your stereo, I'll admit, I'm digging it. I'm still unsure as to whether or not the duo are taking the piss and are just messing around, as everything here has a looseness that's enveloped by a rather fussy production; it's that continuous dichotomy that makes the record work so well, and if you're a fan of more screwed-up interpretations pop and grooves, you can get with this. Then again, perhaps I'M the screwed-up one, and this record is perfectly normal to many of you. In any event, it's a great left turn that holds true to certain aspects of Jaar's discography thus far, while adding ingredients that push both creator and listener into new vistas with which they may not be entirely comfortable. Don't let my words scare you away... there's enough of that on the record already. Whether you're up for the fright is your choice. It is the season, after all. [IQ]  





$19.99 LP+MP3


Last Night on Earth

"Lecce, Leaving"lasser
"Home Chos"

As a fan, it can be as difficult to comprehend the inner workings of a band behind the closed door of their practice space as it is to understand the dynamic of a marriage behind closed bedroom doors (and with Sonic Youth, clearly both issues apply). Sonic Youth were indisputably one of the most iconic and influential groups of American indie music, but just what -- or who -- made them so important is a question that can't easily be answered, and listening to the members' interesting and varied solo output of the last year makes clear that, despite the undeniable star power of the Kim'n'Thurston figurehead, it's certain that SY were a true band, greater than the sum of its parts (and that's no slight on anyone's solo LP). Lee Ranaldo was always the dark horse, singing only occasionally and seeming to retract from the spotlight that his band's power couple so naturally attracted and relished, but the weight of his thrilling guitar and thoughtful presence cannot be overstated in the dynamic of that group.

Ranaldo's solo output over the years has been prolific and diverse, including all sides of the SY equation, from blistering noise to quiet pop, but his second record with the Dust, his whip-smart band featuring SY's Steve Shelley on drums, Alan Licht on guitar, and Tim Luntzel on bass, is an outlet for his rock songs. There is an undeniable 1970s folky vibe to Ranaldo's songwriting, a strong Neil Young influence, with sweet, sad and sometimes hopeful vocal melodies surrounded by swirling guitar leads and physically embracing jams. Several of the tracks on Last Night on Earth could have ended up as Ranaldo's vocal turn on a Sonic Youth album, but in this different context, and with Licht and Luntszell adding the texture, and Ranaldo setting the tone, the songs are a bit more gentle, the edges less rough and the mood more mellow and "mature," even when the distortion is turned up loud, and Ranaldo and Licht's guitars careen off each other with abandon. Any fan of Ranaldo's indelible guitar playing will find a lot to enjoy here, on what is probably his best-realized solo pop statement, and great tracks like the dark, swirling epic "The Rising Tide" or the sweet jangle of "Lecce, Leaving" prove that while neither Lee Ranaldo and the Dust, Moore's Chelsea Light Moving nor Gordon's Body/Head can, or really even try to, fill the void that Sonic Youth left in our musical landscape, sometimes change is a good thing. [JM]





$64.99 CDx4+BK

Longing for the Past: The 78 RPM Era in Southeast Asia

Longing for the Past, a translation of the Vietnamese phrase "vong ca," is also the title for the first comprehensive examination of 78 r.p.m.-era music from Southeast Asia. This bountiful compendium of four CDs holding 90 tracks is bottomless in its capacity to engage. Assembling a meticulous and gorgeous 272-page book replete with photographs, ephemera, dutifully researched essays and annotations by leading ethnomusicologists, the tireless David Murray of the Haji Maji blog has spared no expense with this absolute gift of an artifact. The music contained is from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and like that from previous Dust-to-Digital releases Opika Pende and Goodbye, Babylon, profoundly transports the listener to unimaginable, decidedly non-Western worlds. Never intending to be an exhaustive survey of all musical styles from the region, LFTP nevertheless covers tons of ground, even for the somewhat initiated. There are familiar instruments such as the violin and piano on the love song "Gambos Sri Mahkota Kelantan" by Malaysian singer Obid and the Special Singapore Orchestra. There are even familiar song forms/vestiges of colonization heard on Thai singer Phloen Phromdaen's electric organ-driven ramwong hit "Lam Khaen," with its almost groovy Martin Denny vibe. However, the music contained in this collection is largely something that could only have originated in the East.

"Pleng Khrawp Chakara Wan Thao Tawn Abu Hassan Taeng Ngan" by Nai Po & Thai Royal Page Military Brass Band is a section of a classical Thai stage work penned by King Rama VI and performed by an augmented brass band, and is every bit as bizarre and satisfying as it sounds. Burmese vocalist Ma Thin is accompanied by a well-weathered piano on the ghostly "Hpon Taw Bwe," creating oddly intoned, bell-like sonorities not unlike the mystery instrument of choice of smooth-singing evangelist Washington Phillips. The spellbinding magnificence of Indonesian gamelan is in full effect on Gender Wajang, Koeta's "Angkat-Angatan," which is a perfect example of spirited music to accompany the action in a Balinese puppet show, and it showcases the grandeur that inspired so many iconic western composers from Debussy to Partch. An Arabic scale pervades the somber "Aer Mata Djato Berlinang" by Indonesian gambus ensemble OrkestSetia Pamoedah, led by singer Moh Aminor Aidjawi, who laments a departed loved one. Fortunately for listeners in the 21st century, Dust-to-Digital and all who worked so diligently on this release have resurrected this brilliant music and spared us the pain of more loss. Salut to you all! [KC]







If You Wait
(Metal & Dust)


Young British upstarts London Grammar first broke into wider consciousness via their appearance on Disclosure's album-closing cut, "Help Me Lose My Mind;" that track, one of the record's more subtle highlights, was an ample showcase for LG front woman Hannah Reid's husky, passionate vocals, but the group's powerful debut album, If You Wait, is a more quiet and somber creature than Disclosure's uplifting dance flavors. These eleven songs have more in common with a band like the xx, utilizing a sonic core of muted, minimal guitar lines and skeletal rhythms; the other key ingredient in their sound, though, is plaintive acoustic piano which, when combined with Reid's weathered restraint, recalls Stevie Nicks much in the way xx frontwoman Romy Madley-Croft channels the fragile but wise resolve of Tracey Thorn. Reid has a powerful instrument at her disposal, but thankfully knows when to really let it loose; rather than caterwauling through these sparse but sensual soundscapes, she bobs, weaves, and aches until catharsis is necessary, though even then it's used sparingly. One of the finest examples of this is on the trio's surprisingly powerful cover of Kavinsky's "Nightcall," a song made popular from its use in the film Drive. They turn a song, which could easily have been made a winking novelty, into a sinister, unsettling lament that lets the skeletal tension of the piano and strings build until its absolute breaking point, where Reid cuts loose over a skittering breakbeat.

The album's gorgeous ambiance and delicate emotional pull are captivating, but at times the pace could use a bit of a boost; If You Wait's second half is punctuated by a series of more rhythmic songs that emphasize their strengths and shake things up just a touch, but I'm left wanting a few more of those peppered throughout. Regardless, over the passing weeks this has become one of my favorite new records, and the band have cemented themselves as one of my new favorites as well. This is a captivating album that I love for the same reasons that I hold groups like Talk Talk, the xx, and Everything but the Girl in such high esteem; their able balance of brutal emotion, quietly unsettling tension, and lush, textural lamentation makes this one of the best records to get you through the coming seasons. I give this one my absolute highest recommendation, even at the somewhat steep import-only price. With no domestic release currently in sight, it's worth every cent. [IQ]





$13.99 CD
$17.99 LP+MP3

(True Panther)


"Keam Theme"

Camero Mesirow returns with a follow-up to Rings, her much-loved 2010 debut full-length as Glasser. While the Bjork comparisons of that record will inevitably still linger, Mesirnow is clearly operating on her own terms, sidestepping the dark, gothic imagery of contemporary songstresses like Zola Jesus or Cheslea Wolfe, and instead offering something that's warmly ethereal and enchanting. Working once again with producer Van Rivers (whose past credits include Fever Ray), Interiors is a noticeable leap in sound and scope, especially when compared to the GarageBand beats of her earliest recordings and even her proper debut LP, with a cleaner, richer production and a wider range of dynamics. Beginning with the serene yet tumbling opener, "Shape," Mesirow gently pulls the listener into her dreamy, beguiling world, with crisp, rolling rhythms, multi-hued synths and exotic electronics bubbling beneath her breathy, expressive melodies.

Throughout, the concept behind the album's name, Interiors, reveals itself; with song titles like the aforementioned "Shape," "Design," "Landscape," and the three-part "Windows," Mesirow often utilizes architectural symbols to represent the human condition, frequently singing from the perspective of being on the inside looking outward. "Shackled to a window/oh will it open/I'm giving myself to/double vision," she opines during "Dissect," amidst pillowy synth pads and ear-candy accents of rippling percussion and string samples, before the lush electronic balladry effortlessly morphs into a soft pulsing rhythm. With "Keam Theme," Mesirow delivers her most direct dancefloor outing yet while still retaining a bit of her experimental side, by way of a beatless refrain that appears during the middle of the track, with off-kilter samples and layers of her voice declaring, "I won't leave you tonight." While much of the submerged qualities and tribal rhythms of Ring have been absorbed into something brighter and streamlined, Glasser's music remains as mysterious as ever. But it's also never been this inviting. During "Shape" she sings, "There's an ocean making life/beyond my reach/and the vastness is too much for me to stand"; it's something we've all felt, and Mesirow's outsider pop has turned very human. [GH]

Glasser is performing in Brooklyn at the Music Hall of Williamsburg this Tuesday, October 15, and Other Music is giving away a pair of tickets! Email enter@othermusic.com for your chance to win.


$14.99 CD


My Name Is My Name
(GOOD/Def Jam)

"Sweet Serenade"

2013 has seen a lot of big releases in hip-hop, with some hits and a growing list of misses, yet my money has always been on Pusha T, and after several delays over the last year, the excellent My Name Is My Name arrives. For more than a decade, Terrence "Pusha T" Thornton has been one of my favorite rappers; with his brother Malice (along with the Neptunes producing), Pusha T formed Clipse in the early 2000s, earning industry award nominations right out of the gate and holding up as one of the best of the era. The group fell prey to typical industry bullshit, and Malice eventually set out on a more spiritual path, leaving Pusha T to work the mix-tape circuit and self-release some solid material before landing a solo deal on Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music. After lots of support work with Kanye, and a comp of some previously digital-only tracks with a few new songs, this is the proper label debut, Pusha T's first full-length of new material in too long, and it has been worth the wait.

From the beginning, Pusha T's number one go-to theme has always been cocaine dealing, and while that hasn't changed, the way he tells his stories has become more universal as well as more complex and thoughtful (his number two theme is boasting about how good he is). The album title's proclamation, My Name Is My Name, is a reference to Marlo Stanfield, the cunning drug dealer in the HBO series The Wire and listening to Pusha is very much like watching an episode of the smart and vivid show, as seen through Stanfield's eyes. With a great vocabulary and easy use of pop culture and slang, Pusha translates the very urban, human stories of the dark-hued drug life of Virginia Beach, yet as his worldview has widened, he seems to be having a lot of fun, while taking no prisoners. Very much aware of his talent and his deserved place within hip-hop's top tier, his writing feels inspired, passionate and real. His lyrics creatively and sharply articulate the vulnerability, hunger, bitterness, and self-resilience of dealers, killers, and rappers alike. This record remembers when albums played like complete thoughts, felt unified and authentic, and were filled with great tracks that weren't purely designed for radio consumption -- think The Message by Grand Master Flash crossed with Hard to Earn by Gang Starr and Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z.

Vocal guest spots come from a fairly solid crew of supporters including Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Future, Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown, 2 Chainz, label mate Big Sean, Re-Up Gang member Ab-Liva, Pharrell, and Kanye, yet Pusha is definitely the center of attention. This is a well-executed extension of the work Pusha and West have been building together, at times touching on the energy they created on "Runaway," "Mercy," or "So Appalled." Executive produced by Pusha and West, MNIMN is smartly crafted, a perfectly realized journey in street rap for the current 'dumb it down' era of hip-hop. Having access to West's production house allowed Pusha the opportunity to pick and choose from the best, having individual songs produced by The-Dream, Hudson Mohawke, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, Nottz, No ID, Twilite Tone, Steven Victor, along with West and a few others, including the son of Metallica drummer Lars Ulirch(?!). Behind the boards, the feel is soulful, thick, vibrant, haunting, and arty with icy electronics, some trap-informed beats, lots of odd percussion and interesting samples (ESG, BDP, Marcos Valle, Luke Vibert, Bobby Bland, Malcolm McClaren, Kwes). MNIMN is filled with haunting synths, rattling snares, cavernous bass bombs, and chopped & screwed voices. Like the street version of Yeezus, Pusha's record is even more grounded, yet feels just as otherworldly and futuristic, and is overall more accessible. It seems like the two have worked hard to offer an album that showcases Pusha at his best and gives his fans exactly what they've come to expect: great quotable lyrics, intricate wordplay, an excellent flow, amazing production, forward-thinking rhythms, and street-level guidance. They've been on a roll collectively and now Pusha T finally gets his own time to reap the benefits of keeping creative company and sticking close to his guns. Though he never really left, it's good to have him officially back in the game. I don't have many hip-hop albums in mind for my year-end list, but I have no doubt Pusha T will be among them. [DG]





$13.99 CD
$24.99 LP


Bitter Rivals
(Mom + Pop)

"Young Legends"

Sweet-voiced Alexis Krauss and guitar-shredder/songwriter/producer Derek E. Miller are a match made in heaven, and have released three LPs in just over three years, each louder than the last. Back in 2010, Treats came out of nowhere and struck the Brooklyn indie scene with a blasting fusion of machinegun beats, distorted loudspeakers, and sassy bubblegum pop. Reign of Terror, from 2012, incorporated the same badass attitude but with a strange twinge of sadness and more refined songwriting, adding melody to the mayhem. The evolution between the two albums was admirable, but for me there was something lost in the flood of emotions that began to pervade the duo's hardcore tracks. Sleigh Bells' new release, Bitter Rivals, takes the group back a step, to the age of their glorious, face-melting first single "Crown on the Ground," while at the same time broadening their formula to include more diverse sounds, and democratizing the songwriting process, with Krauss penning her own melodies. This decision to cut nearly all emotion from their head-bangers was absolutely wise, and the ten diatribes on the new album are each living proof of it.

The record opens with an aggressive "Hi!" and the sound of a sword pulled out of its sheath, snapping fingers, dogs barking, and finally Krauss' riot-starting scream upends any ounce of tranquility that the first thirty seconds gave us. "Sugarcane" keeps the ball rolling with a severity and motivation that could lead any boxer to the final knockout. "Minnie" follows, an equally aggressive cut whose tempo-altered chorus exudes a crowd-roaring anthem ("God save you! I'm a demon! Heartbreaker! Not a loser!"). Whenever Krauss and Miller aren't fighting a cage match on this album, they are beating the bullies up behind the school. "You Don't Get Me Twice" is a highlight in which Krauss' rude, but melodic vocals are used to their best potential as the music alternates between a pounding hip-hop beat and soft guitar plucking. Bitter Rivals is louder, more fun, and the truest Sleigh Bells have ever been to themselves; it's not high art and it may rely on a few tried-and-true gimmicks, but this record will soundtrack some insanely fun parties and a roaring tour, no doubt. [MM]





$26.99 LP+MP3


Music for Smalls Lighthouse
(Clay Pipe Music)

"51 43.23N 05 40'.10W"

Clay Pipe Music has quickly become one of my favorite record labels of recent vintage. They specialize in exquisite, handcrafted mini-editions of CDs and vinyl that shine greater light on the concept of an album as a proper work of art; each release is clothed in highly detailed packaging that brings equal emphasis to the concepts behind each release as well as the gorgeous music contained therein. While originally specializing in CD editions of only a few hundred copies at most, they've recently expanded to vinyl pressings as well; their reissue of Jon Brooks's stunning Shapwick album has already been highly lauded by yours truly in Updates past, but I'm positively blown away by their newest release.

Music for Smalls Lighthouse is an album of delicate, soothing ambient music recorded in 2010 by Plinth, the alias of one Michael Tanner. Meticulously constructed by Tanner from his own performances on piano, dulcimer, cello, cymbala, glockenspiel, and bowed strings, he augments and blankets the delicate tunefulness of his chamber pieces with field recordings of rainfall, ocean waves, and assorted Foley effects. Together, they tell the story of two lighthouse keepers in a port outside of Wales; one of them dies during a fierce storm, and the other slowly goes mad as he is left in the lighthouse alone, haunted by his colleague's death and the surrounding aftermath he endured. Throughout the album, Tanner creates eerily haunting and breathtaking environments that weave drones, gentle etudes, and unsettling effects like creaking boards and the faint cries of seagulls to fully illustrate the quiet descent from peaceful solitude into madness. Everything is crafted with a light, delicate touch; nothing is overstated yet it remains captivating and memorable. Special mention needs to be made of the album's packaging, as well; the LP is housed in a lovely sleeve with artwork by Clay Pipe founder Frances Castle, and included in its sleeve are both a card to download the album in high-quality MP3 with multiple bonus tracks that feature brief acoustic etudes for piano and strings, and a beautiful, fully illustrated chapbook which tells the record's story in detail. It's a stunning artifact that blends English folk traditions with soft classical melodies, and ably fuses that with sound design and field-recorded textures that nod to more avant-garde techniques. It's easily one of the year's most outstanding archival reissues of 2013, released in a hand-numbered pressing of only 500 copies. As one of the most beautiful releases I've seen both visually AND sonically in ages, I absolutely cannot recommend this more highly. [IQ]





$13.99 CD
$14.99 LP

Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5, & 6
(Temporary Residence)

"Invitation to Ruin"
"A Mansion Has Many Rooms"

Portland, OR's Grails have used the Black Tar Prophecies title numerous times in the past, attaching it to a series of EPs they've issued in between full-length albums. Sometimes rough and ragged, and more wildly experimental at others, these releases have shown the band alternating between flexing their hefty psychedelic clout and exploring new textures and sounds as they grow and expand. Temporary Residence's Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6 collects the two most recent installments (one being a split with Finnish monsters Pharaoh Overlord), and appends three bonus tracks as the sixth installment in this impressive series. Though they've been dogged by the post-rock tag, this release highlights Grails' chameleon-like ability to blend their sound into a number of different styles. There even seems to be a bit of a bleed from Emil Amos and Alex Hall's sample-heavy side project Lilacs & Champagne, as bizarre samples and synthetic beats work their way into the mix.

Though the twelve tracks here don't always sound cohesive, Grails' incorporation of numerous textures and moods within the realm of psychedelic rock is something to behold. "Self-Hypnosis" trades in dusty, intertwined guitars that stretch and chime, balancing against ominous, droning synths in the background. "Wake Up Drill II" continues a thread first started on the second volume of the series, with booming, echoing drums urging searing leads off into the horizon. Other tracks, like the piano-driven "Up All Night," ditch the guitar pyrotechnics in favor of a ballad that wouldn't sound out of place on the score of some long-forgotten Czech new wave film. Similarly, "Chariots" takes its cues from the sounds of spaghetti westerns, while moving those cues into much darker territory. All in all, Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6 marks another fine outing, with enough new directions here that will keep fans guessing as to what could come next. [MC]


$17.99 LP


La Musique Electronique du Niger
(Sahel Sounds)

"Kobon Lerai"

This is a special one. Mammane Sani was a well-known and respected keyboardist from Niger who worked primarily as a composer for TV and radio, and who recorded his only album in 1978 shortly after acquiring an Italian Orla organ, arguably the first of its kind in the nation, during a UNESCO meeting for which he was a functionary. The six tracks documented here were originally released in miniscule quantities on cassette, and promptly vanished thereafter; give thanks to the Sahel Sounds label, then, for issuing the album in its first proper vinyl pressing. La Musique Electronique Du Niger is an odd, eerily hypnotic record of cyclical minimalism performed by Sani on his electronic organ, accompanied by a softly percolating rhythm box and nothing else. He creates a landscape that contextually nods toward the melodies of Nigerien folklore, but filtered through an offbeat experimentalism that shows a similar mindset to Afro-futurists like Sun Ra, the kitchen-sink science symphonies of Raymond Scott's Manhattan Research labs, and the simple yet unrelenting 8-bit earworms of Japanese composer Koji Kondo, best known for scoring classic videogame titles like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. Its pixelated melodicism is anchored by some stoned, hypnotic, micro beats, giving the whole thing a flavor that appeals to everyone from early electronic fans to exotica nerds, to offbeat cratediggers to early minimalism heads. It's certainly one of the most oddly intriguing albums we've seen come through here in recent memory, and manages to stand out even amongst the glut of recent African vinyl reissues. These are limited, so if this sounds like your cup of tea (and trust me, it really should be!), grip it post-haste. [IQ]







(Couple Skate)

New on Couple Skate, this great debut LP from Pacific NW slacker punx Weed! Sugary, overblown, ecstatic, riff-heavy pop-gaze that totally sounds like Medicine or In the Presence of Nothing-era Lilys colliding into swirly bliss with Dino Jr. or the Huskers. Deserve really seals the deal with a raging 2 a.m. upper/downer party vibe that's totally not contrived and feels fun! This album -- as well as all things on this label -- stands apart from the modern nostalgia retread and throwaway ironic attitude of today's younger bands. In fact, Deserve stands its ground pretty hard. core. and plays well alongside others doing the same kinda noisy rawk thing -- Naomi Punk, Vacation, Destruction Unit, et al. A seriously nice listen that had heads turning at OM this week. [RN]







One Breath


Anna Calvi reviews frequently reference PJ Harvey, and while that comparison is apt, you could as easily name drop Maria Callas. Calvi has a stunning voice, a simmering intensity, untold depth, and darkly alluring sensuality that both makes it easy to slot her into a long line of strong and original chanteuses, and also begs the question of why we must always slot our artists, even one this distinctive, into such categories. Calvi's 2011 debut was truly a stunner, but One Breath is where she really comes into her own; it's a varied album, from cathartic guitar rock to bass-heavy avant-electronica to lush orchestral passages and spaghetti western. But the consistency is also the undeniable draw: Calvi's deeply expressive voice, and a powerful, sometimes arresting sense of drama and dynamic. This music thrives on raw emotion, occasionally cloaked in pristine musical refinement, sometimes laid bare, and the effect can be as emotionally draining as it is powerful. It's a beautiful record from a true artist who seems to be in touch with both her most primal and most evolved impulses, musically and beyond. [JM]





$11.99 LP


(Young Turks)

"Papi Pacify"
"Water Me"

There's been a heavy swarm of attention being thrown in the direction of British newcomer FKA Twigs as of recent, and with good reason; following a stunning, mysterious, self-released white-label 12" EP last year, the London-based vocalist has signed with Young Turks for the release of an even stronger follow-up. EP2 continues the sensual, shadowed intensity of the debut, with her honeyed dulcet tones cooing and sighing over some stellar production by Arca, perhaps best known for his work on Kanye West's Yeezus album. This is an entirely different beast, though; its slow, deep rhythms tick-tocking underneath a hypnotic, psychedelic darkness that slithers through the same late-night wastelands as Burial, Massive Attack, and early Tricky. Much has been said, in fact, of Twigs's similarities to former Tricky vocalist Martina Topley-Bird, but that's honestly selling her talents short; she also possesses the same gentle strength and confidence that made Aaliyah such a captivating performer, and Twigs manages to make these four songs both highly sensual and deeply menacing. While there have been a number of performers and producers attempting this sound and vibe as of recent, EP2 easily ranks as one of the best of its kind, and is the first readily available document of one of the more promising newcomers to hit the scene. If you dig anything from the aforementioned artists, the Tri Angle Records stable, or just want some grit and barbed wire in your smooth soul, grab this without hesitation... It's a killer. [IQ]





$19.99 LP
$9.99 CASS


Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Just in! Seemingly out of nowhere the Bonnie 'Prince' drops a new, self-released LP with just the lone Will Oldham here accompanying himself on guitar -- his first full album to do so since '94's Days in the Wake. This one kind of flew under everyone's radar but it's a good one, featuring 10 bare-boned folk songs, intimately recorded -- listen close and you might hear his foot tapping or even some birds chirping in the background. The vinyl is already out of print and we're not sure if it's coming back, so don't sleep on this one.





$16.99 LP


Jesus I'm a Sinner
(Tompkins Square)

"Jesus I'm a Sinner"

Young, Virginia-based guitarist Daniel Bachman's new album, Jesus I'm a Sinner, offers nine pieces of raw, acoustic American Primitive guitar exploration, drawing upon folk, blues, and country traditions. Largely unaccompanied, save for the occasional fiddle, banjo, or atmospheric drone, Bachman's playing is passionate and technically adept, yet filled with unfiltered intensity. Fans of the likes of John Fahey, Jack Rose, and Robbie Basho should cast their ears toward this release; it signals a talent who has only increased with each successive album.








Polvo return with their follow-up to 2009's In Prism, that record being the Chapel Hill group's first album in over a decade. Like its predecessor, Siberia doesn't reveal any drastic changes in these math-rock purveyors' playbook, packing all the spindly and crunchy guitars and byzantine twists and turns as classics like Today's Active Lifestyles and Exploded Drawing -- and that's a good thing. If anything the group sound tighter than when they began playing again five years ago, and heavier too, while inviting a little more melody into the mix. Polvo may not be one of the most hailed returns from the recent deluge of '90s reunions, but they're one of the best.





$17.99 LP

(K Records)

Beat Happening's 1988 sophomore album, Jamboree, sees a new vinyl reissue on K Records. It's one of indie pop's quintessential documents, an album that beefed up the band's minimally stripped-down, jangling pop with a clearer production sound but with more jagged distortion to balance the group's sweet (if charmingly off-key) vocal melodies. The record's perhaps truly infamous for including Beat Happening's most well-known song, "Indian Summer," covered by many an indie band over the years, among them Luna and Ben Gibbard, yet there's much more to chew on during the LP's all-too-brief runtime. While not quite the flawless classic of its follow-up, 1989's Black Candy, it comes pretty darn close, and it's wonderful to see it back in the racks where it belongs.







(Perfect Lives)

Amen Dunes return with this limited edition vinyl-only album of assorted pieces recorded between 2009 and 2011, set to hold fans over until the proper follow-up to Through Donkey Jaw drops next year. The nine tracks on Spoiler show the band in their most experimental form; described by Dunes leader Damon McMahon as "non-music songs, instrumentals, winter afternoon TV hymns, homemade industrial recordings, ballads, man music, involuntary speech, late summer slugs," you know you're getting a slice of this group at their wildest and freakiest. Self-released by the band and limited to only 300 copies for the world, these aren't likely to last long.







Acoustics II
(Suicide Squeeze)

Seattle indie-electro poppers Minus the Bear reimagine eight songs from their back catalogue in a more modest, unplugged style on their new Acoustics 2, alongside two brand new tunes also recorded in a similar fashion. They take this context to completely rearrange the older songs, presenting them in a style that ups the intimacy and quietude, stripping things down to bare essentials; longtime fans will be delighted to hear these songs in such a personal manner.







Molly Drake
(Squirrel Thing)

"Never Pine for the Old Love"
"Little Weaver Bird"

NYC's own Squirrel Thing label does the world a solid via their stunning collection of music from Molly Drake -- yes, the mother of English folk musician Nick Drake. It was not widely known that Molly had been a poet and songwriter herself until the release of Family Tree in 2007, a compilation of recordings by Nick dating from before his debut album, but which also featured Molly performing two of her own songs. This eponymous collection at hand offers 19 more examples, and their intimacy is devastating and wholly engrossing. Molly sings and accompanies herself on piano throughout, and in her chordal phrasings and gentle delivery, one can hear the roots of Nick's own songwriting skill. Molly's music often reminds me of an alternate universe in which Emily Dickinson harbors Busby Berkeley dreams; her lyrics display an equally tempered tenderness and intelligence whose sweetness is anchored by a melancholy that obviously transferred into Nick's work, which he would then go on to further refine and intensify. One is also oft reminded of the gorgeous recordings of Connie Converse, another mysterious songstress whose music was brought new life in recent years and who shared the same gentle intimacy. This is a breathtaking archival release of great importance, and whose packaging is of equal beauty and care. One does not even need to be a fan of Nick's music in order to enjoy this; rather, the collection focuses solely on Molly's own artistic merit, the value of which cannot be overstated. Sure to be one of 2013's most important and treasured archival releases, it comes most highly recommended to those looking for something truly special and without comparative equal. [IQ]






Pain It Dark
(Luxury Products)

"Shake the Hippie"
"Out of Sight"

Seattle's Luxury Products imprint officially launches with this LP reissue of the 39 Clocks' 1981 debut album, Pain It Dark. The Clocks were a couple of dudes from Hanover who were obsessed with British and American bands from the '60s and made music that had far more in common with primitive, Velvets-influenced post-punk groups like Swell Maps and Young Marble Giants than with any of their Neue Deutsche Welle contemporaries. Many of us here were first tipped off to the group via De Stijl's great Zoned compilation of the band a few years back, and as we said in our review of that collection, they were definitely traversing a similar path to the one Spacemen 3 would go down just a few years later. Four of the best songs from Zoned were taken from Pain It Dark, including "Shake the Hippie," "DNS" and the fantastic "78 Solider Dead," which sounds something like Suicide covering "Sweet Jane." The rest of the album is in keeping with those tracks; it's full of droning two- or three-chord rock and roll jams with great organ and drum machine accompaniment, sung in practically indecipherable English, and with a couple of sax solos that call to mind the Stooges' "Fun House." Needless to say, the 39 Clocks are an amazing revelation and this album is an indisputable masterpiece of German underground music. [RH]
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