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Various: Twin Peaks (OST) / Twin Peaks (Music from the Series)

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ Sep 29th 2017

Have you heard about Twin Peaks? Well the internet has and it’s gone ahead and explained it far more lucidly than David Lynch’s shrugs ever could. It’s back, anyway, peak Peaks hype. Well, been and gone, actually, and left the soundtrack behind, a twin disc release that’s part nostalgia bomb, part zeitgeist heist, part curatorial curio. It’s an official score and a diegetic OST that hangs its entire value on the chasing and cataloguing of ungraspable Tulpa.

So, if you aren’t part of the cult then why the hell would you want to drink the Kool-Aid? Oh, maybe it’s because Angelo Badalamenti has been an instrumental composer for some of screen’s finest achievements: National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationHoly Smoke!The Wicker Man, not to mention Law & Order, the film that birthed 70 years of procedural pleasure and a sting that just won’t quit. On top of that noise, David Lynch is actually a badass curator and odd little experimental artist in his own right; the kind of presence that people flock around to applaud while asking their neighbour, “What the heck did that mean?”

Well, the meaning has to be about the value in each track right? Sure. Anything that can smash around between Blunted BeatzEddie VederZZ Top, and Otis Redding is worth at least a little look right? Yes, of course, but then maybe you get a little more curious, you’re saying, what the heck do these songs have to do with a show that everybody claims to understand but everyone including the creator is dubiously vague about even at their most verbose, then the next thing you know you’re twenty-five years deep in an unresolvable circular goddamn art piece screaming helloooooooooo at the world with a big damn smirk feeling smug that you’re in on a joke nobody gets but claims the journey of not getting it is actually the joke. So um, RIP Bowie, RIP Log Lady, RIP pop culture man, because here we are, neck deep in the event horizon with no idea what year this is and a glowing ball of light ready to burst out of our collective faces.

Bonus points for keeping your copy wrapped in plastic.

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Ibeyi: Ash

Article Originally appeared on The Music Sep 25th 2017

Singing in mixed English, French and Yoruba, Ibeyi have a unique voice, but their position as a potential voice for an ostensibly outsider perspective and the dignified potency they wield it with makes them distinct. Ash is both persecuted and powerful in equal measure, something that feels less like balancing than soaring. Sparse and otherworldly percussion interspersed with found sounds and hypnotic harmonics, it’s sonically sumptuous but thematically sharp enough to cut you from the first chord. This isn’t just good music, it’s important.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis: Superscope

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 25th 2017

Rolling around in their antiquated sounds, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have landed far more than they’ve missed, and they’ve always played with distinctive mirth, but their fourth time out feels flat as hell, almost as if they had nowhere else to go after Smoking In Heaven.

Pinpointing that lack in Superscope is as easy as finding a hole in the dark, all you can do is say that something’s missing. Structurally the pieces are there, but they lock together with the dry joie de vivre of a Swedish construction manual.

Despite a few standout tracks, and the Durham girls outshining their brother, most of the songs feel dutiful rather than doting. Oh, Lewis still lets out the odd exceptional wail and there’s a whole lovesick redemption through-line to enjoy if you care to construct the narrative, but Kitty, Daisy & Lewis really make you work for that emotional oomph, then they even spoil that by serving Broccoli Tempura as the last track. It sounds roughly as delicious as it sounds and works wonderfully as something for venues to play while rousting patrons after last call.

Superscope lacks some intangible element, but still serves a small plate of passable tracks. Unfortunately just having the right ingredients doesn’t default to making meals taste great.

Jordan Rakei: Wallflower

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 18th 2017

If you’ve woken in a sweat worrying about Jack Johnson putting down his acoustic and picking up a Korg, don’t worry, Jordan Rakei already has you covered. After shedding his debut, Cloak, Rakei has picked up a collection of sensitivities to add to his soul style, steering away from the rougher auteur elements that originally endeared or intrigued – ambient deviations and break-beat constructions – sliding instead into an introspective funk. Rakei’s rhythms are skin-rakingly soothing and his voice is anachronistically attenuated to an evaporated era, singing Wallflower as a shy piece of work, a current-smoothed river stone sparkling in a bed of thousands.

Kedr Livanskiy: Ariadna

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 7th 2017

Where last year’s January Sun carried strange warmth wrapped in cold Siberian grit, Ariadna radiates light without giving off heat. Kedr Livanskiy’s latest is dangerously indistinct at times, walking you through a synth-based tundra where any distinguishing landmark is a meagre joy celebrated simply for being distinct in its surrounds. The halfway mark holds a small spoken word beacon that hasn’t respite, revelry, or revelation but is rather a reminder you might want to visit more hospitable climes. Maybe it takes patience to traverse, though there doesn’t seem to be enough payoff for it to matter unless your desire for indecipherable Euro-gaze pop is unusually high.

Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination

Article originally appeared on The Music 18th Aug 2017

Taking us on a tour through human atrocity as guided by thoughtful earworms, saying Shah’s Holiday Destination is politically charged is like saying batteries hold electricity – true but meaningless unless that energy is channelled. Once again, Shah shows her greatest strength is an ability to craft pieces that float high ideas above grounded musicianship without sacrificing the merits of either. Like a nightingale floor, it’s a tightly constructed artefact full of traps for the careless and meaning for the wary, an album that delicately balances its rhythmic joys against dark purpose developed in a complex climate.

Devil Electric: Devil Electric

Article originally appeared on The Music Aug 11th 2017

Devil Electric are dark in the same way that Venetian blinds block out the sun – it works but there are pitch black solutions out there you may prefer. Positioning themselves as purveyors of a profound doom, the songwriting is more syllogism than soliloquy and sits on a platform that panders to whatever derivation of “Put a bird on it,” plays in the monochrome twilight. They’re much more engaging when they lean into the rougher riffs and grit. Oh sure, they’ve got licks for days, and they’re very happy to show them off, but it’s more slideshow trudge than triumphant spectacle.

Deafcult: Auras

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 27th 2017

Auras is full of melodic drone, flecked with classic rock, sort of like listening to another band through a few sheets of gauze. While it might set a shoegaze pace, it’s often far more proactive, peppering each track with catchy little hooks and alluring deviations, subtle traces of ’80s electronica or an off-kilter country refrain, slipping in and out of the swelling grit that permeates their sound. It’s vaguely hypnotic – after a while, everything starts to fade away and you’re left floating inside someone else’s dream, like being trapped on an ice floe watching the Aurora Borealis shimmering faintly overhead.

Melvins: A Walk With Love And Death

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 28th 2017

A two part, two hour, concept album-soundtrack hybrid, A Walk With Love and Death is a strange schismatic mess, purposefully abrasive, lashingly discordant and, in its way, a straightforward vanity project delivered with avant-garde disdain… typical Melvins really. The soundtrack portion, Love, consists of layers of aural antagonism, like listening to the inner thoughts of a Lovecraft protagonist in the last chapters of madness. The LP portion, Death, while being expectedly dark is unexpectedly lacking any of the hellish erraticism that saturates not just the first half but their entire career, yet it’s still some of their finest music to date.

Hachiku: Hachiku

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 2nd 2017

Hachiku’s debut is a strange little obscurity dressed in mainstream clothes, or possibly it’s the other way around. Self-described as “modern opera rock meets princess fairy pop” it’s more like pushing that fairy through a speaker grill then taping it back together with a lullaby. Beginning with moments of intentional blowout and ending with the cold abruptness of a winter morning wake-up, the EP folds itself purposefully into the shape of a dream, peppered with adorable dissonance, oblique fidelity and deliberately distorted landmarks. Underneath all the ethereal grit, it’s exactly as good as listening to someone else describe said dreams.

Saint Surly: Lo/Sketches

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ May 25th 2017

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Saint Surly, so long that some might have thought he was out of the game, then -out of nowhere- instead of the unexpected but predictable follow up to The Gleaner Part 1, up pops Lo/Sketches, something altogether better.

Saint Surly has always leaned heartily into instrumental hip hop, with a wild array of samples and eclectic beatscapes that often reminisce over the more obscure elements of the genre, though without languishing in the homage trap or rolling around in references like some kind of sample swine.

It’s a certain kind of restraint you don’t often see, but, for Lo/Sketches, it seems those reins haven’t exactly been loosened so much as changed out for a better bridle setIn some ways it can feel as overt as it does subtle, some of the sampling comes close to basically checking the chambers, and while it digs pretty hard on a few of these notable tropes it does so sparingly and with an organic grace that is immediate in a nostalgic way. While it can feel a little too conspicuously humble at times, that’s far preferable to any kind of overt gloating and actually leaves some room for interpretive enjoyment.

Most notable are the portions of full blown lyricism, a rarity for Surly that drags the hip hop out of the instrumental and throws it on stage. Tracks like DustyOnetime, and Guilty shine rather than glare, adding a robust new dimension that never felt missing until it appeared.

For something billed as sketches, or self-referentially as “a mix of hazy instrumentals and spot-welded rap acapellas [Sic],” the overall flow, track to track transitions, and general smoothness is really to be commended. There’s a seamless quality that’s lent in part by the obvious lo-fi intent and occasional scratch masking, but it comes out as curation, these are contiguous chapters bound together and not simply a box full of singles for sale. Lo/Sketches is a wonderful and welcome surprise that shows Saint Surly at his best.

Shrimpwitch: Eggs Eggs Eggs

Article originally appeared on The Music May 11th 2017

Shrill, fierce and loose, living in the vein of Bikini Kill, Shrimpwitch is ripe with classic riot girl motifs and a distinctly Aussie twang and colloquial quirkiness. Shrimpwitch’s debut EP is the best ten minutes of thrashed out sentiment on the scene, and it hits like a shot of vodka with a face slap for a chaser. Although it’s missing a bit of the personal charm and banter captured on their Live At The Tote recordings, it’s not lacking any of the bracing ferocity or frenetic energy of those performances. With two main ingredients and four hot tracks, Eggs Eggs Eggs is a simple but delicious recipe.

Ellis Dewald: Hammer

Music video made for Brisbane Band Ellis Dewald

Spirit Bunny: Spirit Bunny

Article originally appeared on The Music Apr 21st 2017

To get a feel for Spirit Bunny, put your hand on a Tesla ball and tell your hair not to stand up. Spirit Bunny almost crackles with that same electronic frisson, yet it feels, if not contained, then channeled into an amazingly precise conduit with clear purpose. A feather-light mesh of synth, key, repurposed rustic-tech, and coordinated percussion that’s as meticulous as the other elements are gritty and distorted. Battles, the second track on the album, is the audio equivalent of Ghost Dog nodding to RZA in the street, an understated acknowledgement of peers on different missions. It could be pure coincidence but it seems more like well deserved confidence.

El Michels Affair: Return to the 37th Chamber

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ Apr 24th 2017

Back in 2009 Leon Michels, le titular the in El Michels Affair, put together a collection of funk riddled neo-soul renditions of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The original being an inarguably seminal album, certainly sacrosanct to some, Michels efforts were met with both derision and celebration. Seen by some critics as poorly sketched shadows of their inspirations, and by others (Raekwon included) as interesting extensions of source material, obviously the best thing to do was wait almost a decade then try the same thing all over again.

Where Enter the 37th Chamber was a more straight laced piece of interpretive derivation, Return to the 37th Chamber offers a much more oblique approach to appropriation, with far less Wu-Tang touchstone moments than the 2009 offering. In the intervening years acts like Vulture St Tape GangKerbside Collection or BADBADNOTGOOD have done a lot more to reshape the territory, El Michels Affair seems almost tawdry in its ministrations now, a little late game Mrs. Robinson play.

The whole thing would have been better served without the immediate affiliation, the ghost of the Clan hovers over this, and not completely in that pleasant Patrick Swayze way. Standing alone these could have been a brace of largely instrumental curios smattered with surprising vocals, a handful of interesting thematic deviations and a benignly upbeat disposition, making your toes take note to tap later. So you know, all in all, good, good, not bad.

That’s what a Return to the 37th Chamber feels like, really, not exactly fresh and not exactly stale, a state of fresh-yesterday forward thinking nostalgia that feels like a score to an unwritten movie you’re sure you know you saw, which, if you wanna talk appropriation, is like a stalker becoming their own victim by wearing their parents’ clothes. That’s not how identity theft works.

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