NEW MUSIC FRIDAY with a plethora of artists whose music is so good...
...you will immediately want to hear more from them.
BLUE HAWAII - Under 1 House [CS](Arbutus CAN)
The Canadian duo Blue Hawaii constructs an exhilarating six-song EP that is all infectious Disco drama and unstoppable. These four-on-the-floor beasts are assembled to never let up. Raphaelle "Ra" Standell-Preston is sultry on the sax-laden "Not My Boss!" and then unafraid to wail "I'm my own damn woman!" Her partner-in-crime Alex "Agor" Cowan creates some fantastic grooves out of incessant beats and long chords of his synths. While the whole thing is both very Eighties European and Ibiza 1990-ready (the squiggles on "Let It Be Us,") Blue Hawaii place the propulsive (and tongue-in-cheek) "I Felt Love" on the pandemic solo dance party list with Roisin Murphy, Jessie Ware, and Dua Lipa.
CASPER CLAUSEN - Better Way [LP/CD](City Slang/Redeye)
Fresh from Efterklang (and the side project Lima,) singer/synthesist Clausen hatches some very interesting ideas on his debut solo album. "Better Way" largely follows the Motorik playbook of songs that are built on synth loops, drums, and harmonious but understated vocals. However, Clausen's "Better Way" turns the slower beats into straight-up grooves (complete with non-jarring stops and starts) while a true single like "Used To Think" resembles more Suicide than Kraftwerk. Synths ping along at intervals like passing cars and Clausen seems content to use the first quarter of the eight-minute song to capture the feeling of traveling as it involves both sitting still and watching a blurry world fly by. A subtle snare fill follows and we drift into the body of the song like a train going into a tunnel. Thanks to Sonic Boom's luminous production, "Used To Think" could become the ideal track for your daily commute. The more subdued beauty "Ocean Wave" draws the album to a beautiful close. "Better Way" is a multifaceted voyage that is enough of a total surprise, it will also send you looking for Clausen's other projects.
LANTERNS ON THE LAKE - The Realist EP [LP](Bella Union/PIAS)
With their Cocteau Twins-ian sheen, the quiet yet mercurial dramatic Pop is anything but somnambulant. Since 2020's "Spook The Herd" was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, we kick off 2021 with this 5-song EP of songs in the same lustrous vein. Their idea of continuing to draw you closer into listening and then unveiling the band's prowess and singer Hazel Wilde's syrupy voice works wonders on the redone "Baddies (Model City Version,") and the standout single "Romans."
MASMA DREAM WORLD - Play At Night [LP](Northern Spy/Redeye)
Like spiritual World music and Ambient Electronic music, Masma Dream World emerges from two strains that are not often combined. Devi Mambouka could seen be as a more World-ly shaman or a more relaxed Diamanda Galas from this hypnotic yet weirdly edgy album. Her consistent loops of speaker-pounding lows and swirling African drums and percussion dominate her songs. The marriage of these two fundamental sounds allows Mambouka to conjure, scream, sing, howl, yowl, and cry to the world at large. On "Knight Wolf," Mambouka's multi-tracked voice competes with other versions of her coming in tracked backward and from all angles. On "Theta," Mambouka's rhythmic incantation in some other language is mesmerizing. Elsewhere, Mambouka works in recordings and a muezzin on “The Eternal Library" and the chants on "Bear Lounge" only add to its otherworldly sensibility. It has been a while since a record this quiet could create such tension, but Mambouka makes "Play At Night" a dark (not bleak) journey that is well worth exploration.
PAISIEL - Unconscious Death Wishes [12"](Rocket Recordings UK)
The music of this Portuguese/German duo can be a bit like a puzzle. "Unconscious" reveals a conscious means of leading you to the point of knowing a change is coming - but the anticipation of not knowing exactly when makes 39:13 feel a little shorter. Ominous synths, a meditative-then-fluttering sax, and some distant polyrhythmic drums escalate for nearly 13 minutes. The sax turns more chaotic and you can literally feel the swells of energy rise up and fade down. At this length, "Unconscious" is a real stretch. However, for a slightly psychedelic slow-building exercise in controlling tension-"Wishes" is here to indulge your experimental side.
WILL JOHNSON - El Capitan [LP/CD](Keeled Scales/Secretly/AMPED)
Texas' Will Johnson has always been a respected songwriter. Unlike his time in Centro-Matic, this seventh album from Johnson embraces the feeling of being there for its creation. His warm but slightly-gruff vocals are humanized and sweetened by the small hints of vibrato. As he strums on his acoustic (you hear a lot of buzzes and string noise) on meditations like "Goodbye, Absecon" and the stunning "Dear To The Assassin," the intimacy is startling. When Johnson adds touches of other instruments like cello ("El Capitan,") or bass clarinet and vibraphone from Thor Harris, the songs grow even more haunting. "El Capitan" is so entrancing at times, you may drift enough to open your eyes and think that Johnson is in your room.
SPIRAL WAVE NOMADS - First Encounters [LP](Twin Lakes/Feeding Tube)
STEFFEN BASHO-JUNGHANS - The Dancer on The Hill [LP](Architects of Harmonic Rooms & Records)
For our wild guitar freakout conclusion, it's a pair of cutting-edge artists on the scene. The Albany, NY/New Haven,Connecticut duo Spiral Wave Nomads improvise and create layered clouds of noise, drone, and buzz. Drummer Michael Kiefer drives the tempo and pushes the altimeter higher as guitarist Eric Hardiman wields his electric guitar both like a sword slashing through the jazzy beats ("Evidence of New Gravitation") or as a divining rod whose smallest volume swells hang in the air until they perfectly dissolve into distortion. Believe it or not, "First Encounters" is a recording of the first time they ever met and played together. Four songs that will leave you breathlessly awaiting what they sound like now.
Basho-Junghans is a German acoustic performer whose many albums reflect a fascination with drone and Fahey-esque finger-picking. "The Dancer on the Hill" features Basho-Junghans on both six and twelve-string guitars creating a tangled web of harsh string pulls and subtle rhythmic picking in a variety of tunings. His playing all together is dazzling. The runs and fast picking on "Eagle Dreaming" turn it all into a blistering blur. The more melodic and slower "Clear Night" comes from the other side as his sliding, trilling, and hammering-on display his accomplished hands. Finally, the mix of percussive, string-skipping, and drone on "Dancing Mountains II" could be a sound that is all his own.
We will be return next week with even more music reviews and samples from across the vast landscapes and available spectrum.
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