Sunday, November 26, 2023

Clark - Sus Dog

I was a big fan of Clark's 2014 self-titled album but lost track of his very prolific releases over the years. On a whim I decided to see what he's been up to, and lo and behold discovered that he (Chris Clark) released a new album earlier this year called Sus Dog. Apparently 'executive produced' by Thom Yorke (who also sings on one track), the album is unusual in his discography in that he actually sings on it. His voice takes a bit getting used to -- it's a falsetto -- but it begins to feel familiar after a while. Clark's music in general is really hard to locate but this album is really... pretty? Lots of organic touches through the electronics that evoke a toy band working with high-level electronics. The Guardian says it answers the age-old question: "What would it sound like if the Beach Boys took MDMA and made a rave record?? The usual suspects have been very praising. But don't take their word for it. Check it out.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Julia Holter - Sun Girl

Finally! Some new music from Julia Holter. I hope this is a signal that a new album is imminent. I absolutely loved Aviary (2018) which had a huge, cavernous sound that enveloped you. As with much of her music, her vocal(s) are truly sutured into the music as an instrument, weaving in and out of the orchestral flourishes. She draws from the syllabic grandeur of Cocteau Twins in that it's not necessarily the words that matter but how she says the words. Definitely a lot of odd phrasing of text.

I had the fortune of seeing her at the Warsaw venue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on February 22, 2019 and it was mixed and presented impeccably. She played with a small ensemble of musicians who were truly zoned into the experience.

On this new track that just dropped, "Sun Girl," there's a hint of the heavy percussiveness (is that a word?) of Four Tet, but not as insistent or synthetic. As one might hope from a song called "Sun Girl," the song is unabashedly dipped in joyfulness -- no irony or cloying double message here.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily - Haseen Thi

I saw Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, and Shahzad Ismaily recently, on September 14, 2023, in New York at the Town Hall. They were surprisingly good. I liked Aftab's slightly assertive stance on stage, a glass of wine in hand, one leg slightly in front of the other, unafraid and unselfconscious. The crowd was a bit uptight and reverential--middle class NPR liberals--but the music was occasionally just enough exploratory to make you think that it was all improvised.

I actually had low expectations for their collaborative album, Love In Exile (2023), not because they're not individually good--Vijay Iyer especially has been very adventurous--but because I expected a kind of Starbucks-lite muzaky thing. But I have to admit I like the album quite a lot. It floats by, but also tugs at you, drawing you in despite yourself, making you pay attention to the tones and timbre of the music, much like Aftab's fantastic solo album from last year, Vulture Prince (2021). There's a real three-dimensionality to the music, and her voice especially is quite gorgeous. This track is one of my favorites, "Haseen Thi."

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Skinshape - I Didn't Know

Skinshape is basically one British dude named William Dorey. It's pretty organic, mellow, some-of-it-just-instrumental pop with light touches of 70s soul, a tinge of early 2000s chillwave (think Zero 7). Skinshape has many albums but they are all surprisingly good. He has a new one out that is called Craterellus Tubaeformis, bits of which you can hear here.

The first time I heard this music was in the summer of 2022 on a visit to LA at a place called The Rose Venice in Venice Beach. We were having an early dinner, I think, sitting outdoors. They were playing a song over the P.A. and it pretty much stopped me cold. Something about the guitar reverb, the strange chords, a story about someone you might never see again. It's called "I Didn't Know" and it's from the album Filoxiny (2018).