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Real Estate ‘Atlas’ (Domino)
New Jersey’s beloved Real Estate returned this year with ‘Atlas’, the follow-up to their sophomore classic, ‘Days’, the album which propelled the band to worldwide recognition. Recorded with producer Tom Schick (Rufus Wainwright, Mavis Staples, Low) at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, ‘Atlas’ features core trio Martin Courtney (guitar/vocals), Matt Mondanile (guitar) and Alex Bleeker (bass/vocals) joined by new full-time members Jackson Pollis (drums) and Matt Kallman (keyboards). The ten tracks cut from ‘Atlas’ confirms Real Estate as one of the most compelling and intriguing bands making music today.

‘Atlas’ is available now on Domino.

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John Matthias ‘Geisterfahrer’ (Village Green)
The award-winning musician, singer and composer John Matthias has previously released three albums to date: ‘Smalltown, Shining’ (2001) on the Accidental label, ‘Stories from the Watercooler’ (2008) via the Ninja Tune / Counter label and ‘Cortical Songs’ with Nick Ryan (2008), a work for string orchestra and solo violin which includes remixes by Thom Yorke, Simon Tong, Jem Finer, amongst others, on the Nonclassical record label. ‘Geisterfahrer’, available on the highly impressive London-based label Village Green, finds Matthias melding folk and classical music traditions to soul-stirring effect.

‘Geisterfahrer’ is available now on Village Green.

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Dean Wareham ‘Dean Wareham’ (Sonic Cathedral)
Legendary former Galaxie 500/Luna frontman Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is a breathtaking affair — produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James — featuring such irresistible gems as the delightful ‘My Eyes Are Blue’ and the nocturnal, introspective album closer, ‘Happy & Free’, Dean Wareham channels a highly intricate and hugely affecting lyrical masterclass across an impeccably realized, timeless record. Wareham’s self-titled debut full-length is effectively Wareham’s follow-up to last year’s wonderful EP-length ‘Emancipated Hearts’, also issued by London-based independent label Sonic Cathedral.

Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is out now via Sonic Cathedral.

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Linda Perhacs ‘The Soul Of All Natural Things’ (Asthmatic Kitty)
Over four decades on since Linda Perhacs released her masterful debut — 1970’s beloved ‘Parallelograms’ — comes it’s highly sought-after follow-up, ‘The Soul Of All Natural Things’. It’s perhaps fitting Perhacs (who has worked as a dental hygienist) has found a new level of appreciation (and amassed a huge number of fans) over the intervening years, much aided by being championed by the a new generation of musicians, with the likes of Devendra Banhardt and Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden vocal admirers, while the contemporary Los Angeles music scene — including Julia Holter and Nite Jewel — have similarly ensured the music of Perhacs has not been resigned to the realms of myth. ‘The Soul Of All Natural Things’ is a celebration of life’s perseverance and the soul’s undying spirit, and showcases Perhacs’ distinctive and poetic lyricism which has only grown in beauty over the last forty years.

‘The Soul Of All Natural Things’ is available now on Asthmatic Kitty.

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Alias ‘Indiiggo EP’ (Anticon)
In celebration of his forthcoming Anticon LP, ‘Pitch Black Prism’, Brendon Whitney (AKA legendary US beatmaker Alias) releases ‘Indiiggo’, an EP of all new productions. The first taste of music since 2011’s ‘Fever Dream’ (an album inspired by Whitney becoming a father), ‘Indiiggo’ comprises densely layered electronic beats and a highly nuanced sound which makes the wait for forthcoming ‘Pitch Black Prism’ all the less painful.

‘Indiiggo EP’ is available now via Anticon and can be downloaded for free HERE.

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Vermont ‘Vermont’ (Kompakt)
Vermont comprise the duo Marcus Worgull (Innervisions) and Danilo Plessow (Motor City Drum Ensemble) who release their debut collaborative work together via the forever dependable Cologne-based electronic label Kompakt. As Kompakt’s bio reads: “With Vermont, Marcus  Worgull and Danilo Plessow submit a noticeably mature work that seems to come from a well attuned production duo, effectively concealing the fact that this is their first collaborative effort…and a decidedly informal one at that: these cuts were not conceived with specific aesthetic goals in mind, but emerged from a series of loose jam sessions disclosing the trespassing spirit of the sonic adventurer.”

‘Vermont’ is available now on Kompakt.

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The Moles ‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences’ (Fire)
One of the most amazing discoveries this year thus far has come from Australian underground legends The Moles. Led by Richard Davies, the band only released a pair of full-length albums, ‘Untune The Sky’ and ‘Instinct’, while Davies would later collaborate with Eric Matthews for Cardinal’s self-titled debut album, an orchestral pop classic from 1994. ‘Flashbacks and Dream Sequences: The Story of the Moles’ is the first comprehensive collection of The Moles’ entire recorded output and will be issued by British record label Fire Records. A special Record Store Day compilation release by Fire Records will be issued during April, featuring tracks by both Cardinal and The Moles (as well as the likes of Spacemen 3, ESG and The Lemonheads).

‘Flashbacks And Dream Sequences’ is available on 21 April via Fire Records.

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Tinariwen ‘Emmaar’ (Wedge)
‘Emmaar’ (which translates as “the heat on the breeze”) is the seventh international album by Malinese sensations Tinariwen. The album’s complexities and themes can be best expressed by the band’s website: “If Tinariwen pays homage to old times, it’s because their present is in flux. Turmoil has embroiled their region once again, as governments and powers rise and fall, almost with the regularity of the seasons. Mali, it seems, is the forgotten, or ignored, brother of the Arab Spring, but on ‘Emmaar’, Tinariwen tells about the trials of their people and tells the world of the plight of their families. Though the band’s success has brought them around the world, they rarely can go home, facing threats of incarceration and death by thugs in power. But like creatures of the desert, they adapt and carry on, after all, Tinariwen is a band born into chaos.”

‘Emmaar’ is available now on Wedge in Europe and via Anti- in USA.

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Moon Zero ‘Loss’ (Denovali)
Moon Zero is the alias for London-based composer Tim Garratt who releases his latest EP ‘Loss’, his follow-up to debut EP ‘Tombs’, this April via Berlin’s forever-inspiring label Denovali Records (Hydras Dream, Birds of Passage, Greg Haines). The inception of ‘Loss’ stems from Garratt’s time spent touring ‘Tombs’, his subsequent live shows would inform the basis for Moon Zero’s future recording. Loss was written & recorded last Autumn at St. George in The East Church in London, and features a wide range of instrumentation such ad drawbar organ, bass synth, vocals, fx processors and guitar pedals. As Garratt has stated: “I wanted to create a soundscape that had a propulsion to it, a sense of rhythm but without drums. I like sounds which are dynamic in terms of both volume and frequency range, they need to have a life to them and breathe.”

‘Loss’ is available on 25 April via Denovali Records.

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Damon Albarn ‘Everyday Robots’ (XL)
Blur frontman Damon Albarn releases his highly anticipated solo LP ‘Everyday Robots’ on 28 April. Thus far, videos for both its title-track and ‘Lonely Press Play’ have been unveiled, the latter shot by Albarn on a tablet in Tokyo, London, Dallas, Utah, Colchester, Iceland and Devon. The album is set to feature guest appearances from Brian Eno and Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. On his ‘Everyday Robots’ announcement last May, Albarn stated he would work with producer and XL Records label boss Richard Russell (who Albarn has previously collaborated with on the making of soul legend Bobby Womack’s ‘The Bravest Man in the Universe’ XL LP), when he described the collaborative process as follows: “Richard does the rhythmic side and I do everything else. It’s sort of folk soul.”

‘Everyday Robots’ will be released on April 28. Full details HERE.

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Written by admin

March 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Step Right Up: Widowspeak

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“As the crow flies, as he walks in lines
He tells the time trailing from our eyes
And if we live until we’re long in the teeth
Think of me and how I used to be”

(—‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’, taken from Widowspeak’s ‘Almanac’, 2013)

Words and Illustration: Craig Carry

widowspeak_craigcarry

Widowspeak are Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas. This year the Brooklyn based duo released their eagerly awaited second album on the ever-reliable Captured Tracks label. ‘Almanac’ was written at the beginning of 2012, twelve months on from their acclaimed self-titled debut LP (also on Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks). The duo’s seemingly effortless ability to create perfectly pitched – at times darkly textured – pop songs is once again in full evidence across ‘Almanac’s twelve tracks. The musical telepathy and unbreakable bond between the pair can easily draw parallels to Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s Baltimore duo Beach House. Molly Hamilton’s ethereal vocals showcase an impressive dynamic range, from the hushed, near dreamy ‘Locusts’ to the intimate ‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’. Throughout, the guitar arrangements by Robert Earl Thomas effortlessly combine with Hamilton’s voice – sometimes playing softly to augment a particular lyric – other times creating a densely layered guitar passage imbued with raw power and great tension. What’s most impressive, though, throughout is the beauty of the lyrics. Lyrically, the album deals a lot with a seemingly end-is-near apocalyptic vision (think Lars von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’ or Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’). Themes of fear, isolation, regret and mortality fill the album.

‘Almanac’ was recorded by Kevin McMahon (Swans, Real Estate) in a hundred year old barn in the Hudson River Valley of New York State during last summer and autumn. Thomas would co-produce the album, crafting layers of guitar, Rhodes piano, organ and harmonium. The production and arrangements throughout are a real joy to savour.

On the album sleeve the ‘Almanac’ back-story is neatly outlined:

“You hold in your hands the second album by American rock band Widowspeak, recorded in the fall of twenty-twelve on the cresting wave of apocalyptic mania. This collection of songs is titled Almanac in tribute to those annual publications which have for centuries provided people with useful predictions of weather patterns, lunar and solar movement, astronomical phenomena, and sound advice for the sowing and reaping of crops. Inspired by these tomes, by well-worn idioms, the cyclical nature of the seasons, and by the current climate of fear in the face of impending disaster, Almanac is an album for our changing times.”

Opener ‘Perennials’ (with the sound recording of a crackling fire opening proceedings) sets up the album’s themes of mortality and the temporal nature of things perfectly: “I’m afraid that nothing lasts / Nothing lasts long enough” sings Hamilton over an irresistible guitar line (akin to Real Estate or Tu Fawning) from Thomas; it’s as if he’s trying to reassure Hamilton in her time of need. The song builds gradually (guitars, harmonium, bass and keys) to its multi-layered close. The apocalypse is already in sight. Next up is the more immediate and initially stripped back ‘Dyed in the Wool’, where a classy bass line runs through the song’s sixties guitar lines (like The Byrds), while the song suddenly halts for Hamilton’s eerie words to be heard more clearly: “There wasn’t no harm in him, no harm in him”.

‘The Dark Age’ is an example of the band’s more “rock” sounding songs; the electric guitars are more prominent (as are the bass and drums) but crucially the song never escalates into an extended, pretentious guitar solo. Widowspeak are far too astute for that. Rather, the dynamic range of the arrangements are always the first consideration; at no times are Hamilton’s hushed words lost in the mix – even when a storming guitar line is on the horizon. So, we do get to hear those achingly beautiful lyrics at the songs close: “Keep me in the dark with you / The older world will fall away / But I would stay if you told me to”. The song’s storming outro is sequenced (as always) perfectly alongside the delicate follow-up ‘Thick As Thieves’ (the melody and arrangement recalls The Smiths and Johnny Marr). Hamilton’s voice melds beautifully with the guitar/harpsichord/bass arrangement. The “well-worn” idioms Widowspeak promised us are present (“thick as thieves”, “see the forest for the trees”) as Hamilton’s vocal delivery is heavenly from start to finish (the chorus echoing Glasgow’s finest Camera Obscura).

The near-ambient breezy, guitar-led interlude of ‘Almanac’ brings us to the acoustic-led ‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’ an album highlight, consisting of utterly gorgeous guitar lines and another stunning bass line (think ‘Forever Changes’ era Love, ‘You Set The Scene’, perhaps). The electric guitar sounds here more like Alex Scally (in fact the song would proudly belong on any Beach House record), the highlight of the track is when Molly Hamilton sings “It’s all slowing down” repeatedly when (eventually) the song does in fact “slow down” for the songs quietly spoken outro over a solitary acoustic guitar. Lyrically, ‘Devil Knows’ brings Ryan Adams’s debut ‘Heartbreaker’ to mind (“the devil knows / when you’re high / when you’re low”) and its sonic palette echoes Jana Hunter’s Lower Dens. ‘Sore Eyes’ is a gem reminiscent of ‘Devotion’-era Beach House while the guitar work has shades of Phil Wandscher (Whiskeytown/Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter) as Hamilton sings “The night is young / The night is done / Let me rest my sore eyes” on the song’s chorus backed by a sumptuous piece of slide guitar. Elsewhere, the stunning ‘Minnewaska’ is a fragile lullaby similar to Liz Harris’s softly strummed gems under her Grouper guise.

“We could never stay forever” sings Hamilton on ‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’; on listening to the irresistible ‘Almanac’ I can’t think of a better place to stay forevermore than in Hamilton and Thomas’s trusting company.

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‘Almanac’ by Widowspeak is out now on Captured Tracks.

http://capturedtracks.com

http://widowspeak.bandcamp.com

Written by admin

March 29, 2013 at 10:56 am