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FEATURED RELEASES

Wednesday
Aug212013

DAWN OF MIDI - Dysnomia

The most recent album in Thirsty Ear's Blue Series that's seemingly come out of nowhere to surprise and impress us (the last such instance perhaps being last year's Shipp/Spaceman/Noble/Coxon Black Music Disaster session), Dysnomia is a continuous suite of clicking, pulsing, well-honed electronic minimalist jazz, but minus the actual electronics, and in so reducing basically throwing down the gauntlet at likeminded, longer-standing acts from the rock side of the spectrum such as Battles (to give a listen, stream the entire album via the band's SoundCloud page).

"There's been plenty of jazz groups that tried to reach out to the rock kids in recent yearsThe Bad Plus and Brad Mehldau (both trios, incidentally) have shown up on the radar with covers of indie-rock songs, though the covers feel more like like a bait-and-switch operation to get a wayward rockist into their more straight-ahead jazz charts. Unlike those groups, Dawn of MIDI aren’t interested in coddling the uninitiated into the world of trading fours and Dmaj11 chords. On Dysnomia, they more interested in, or rather wholly focused on, rhythm. It's a new bridge out of traditional jazz to the rest of the world, and it's built with obsessive precision...It sounds close to an acoustic Beak> session playing a Steve Reich composition, though even closer to something totally unprecedented." - Pitchfork

Wednesday
Aug212013

JULIANNA BARWICK - Nepenthe

Evoking the wordless ethereality of the Cocteau Twins and Sigur Ros, Julianna Barwick's new album is stunningly beautiful. It's not surprising to see she collaborated with Alex Somers, whose 2009 album Riceboy Sleeps similarly captures ambient sounds from the heavens.

"Over the course of her recordings leading up to this third album, Brooklyn-based solo musician Julianna Barwick's vaporous compositions were largely the product of infinite layers of her own voice, looped and processed into misty, near-cosmic realms.

Spreading out across a wide range of octaves, her mostly wordless vocalizations found a specific state of emotional transparency that could instinctively communicate by turns feelings of harrowing darkness, contemplation, fear, and confusionor even an understated humor. No small feat, being able to say so much without any conventional language, and Barwick pushed her atmospheric songs to new places, adding subtle layers of guitar and piano to her walls of voices on 2011's The Magic Place. With Nepenthe, the depth of her sound expands even further, including more collaboration and experimentation than ever before, without ever losing the direct approach that guided her earlier work." - Allmusic

Wednesday
Aug142013

THE HEAVY BLINKERS - Health

Taking inspiration from Frank Sinatra and Bob Gaudio's mournful concept album Watertown and from all things stringed and lush, The Heavy Blinkers' Health is a gorgeous baroque pop album that sits in the same ornate cinematic netherworld as Watertown and Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle.

"For 15 years, the Heavy Blinkers have been delightfully out of step with Halifax’s lively fiddle acts and lo-fi guitar rock bands, a fact never more evident than on Health, a seven-years-in-the-making masterwork of heavily orchestrated pop stacked with symphonic dynamism, lilting, complex vocals and jaw-dropping sweep. Only one founding member remains: the incomparable Jason Michael MacIsaac, who draws influence from soft-focus '60s-'70s singer/songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters. But the Blinkers are not MacIsaac alone. David Christensen is behind the dynamic orchestration, and lead vocalists Melanie Stone, Stewart Legere and Jenn Grant handle wistfully optimistic melodies and lyrics about love and war with aplomb. Sondre Lerche and the High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan also sing lead on a tune each, a testament to the Blinkers’ international cult status." - NOW Magazine

Friday
Aug022013

MICHAEL FENNELLY - Love Can Change Everything: Demos 1967-1972

As also recently occurred in the case of Drag City's Chris Darrow reissue at the beginning of this year, here's another instance of overdue solo exposure for an underappreciated late-'60s/early-'70s Californian singer-songwriter.

"Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was fertile breeding ground for folk-rock songwriters on the make during the mid-'60s. One of these kids with an acoustic guitar jumped right into a historically important album project within weeks of his arrival. Michael Fennelly quickly became one-seventh of The Millennium, who produced Begin, a lush audio carpetorium of an album that found a cult audience upon its reissue thirty years later. After the Millennium shattered, Fennelly jumped directly into his next effort, the power-pop legends Crabby Appleton. Love Can Change Everything: Demos 1967-1972 charts the development of Fennelly as a songwriter. Starting with his earliest demos produced during the Millennium era and closing with stripped-down renditions of his Crabby Appleton songs, Love Can Change Everything makes the argument for Fennelly as a power-pop legend." - Sundazed

Friday
Aug022013

WHITE FENCE - Cyclops Reap

While we've championed Tim Presley quite a bit over his short but prolific solo career thus far, last year's Family Perfume Vols. 1 & 2 might have proven to be too much of a good thing, as we didn't pay as much attention to that double-set as his previous pair, which is why we're especially glad that Cyclops Reap has now reared its ugly eye, reminding us of what's so singular about Presley's one-man psych-pop productions.

"The ever prolific psychedelic wizard behind White Fence, Tim Presley, meant his first album of 2013 to be a collection of older tracks that had yet to see the light of day. Somewhere during the process of picking songs that had fallen in the cracks between albums, he decided to switch it up and Cyclops Reap became a batch of his most recently recorded tracks (barring one that was done way back in 2009) and stands as one of his most cohesive and enjoyable albums." - Allmusic

Thursday
Aug012013

DARK - Dark Round The Edges

Proto-metal, psych-prog, private-press: if any of these plosive descriptors lead your pleasure center to light up in anticipation, then pay attention to upstart label Machu Piccu's second reissue, an English group whose lone album was originally issued in 1972 in a run of only 50-odd copies (but could have just as easily come out via the esteemed likes of Vertigo)!

"Axeman Martin Weaver from Wicked Lady joined up with the Dark right before this was recorded, so that’s his fuzz you’re hearing, which should give you some indication of what this sounds like. A more sophisticated, proggier Wicked Lady perhaps, a Wicked Lady with more in the way of 'songs' rather than freakout jams, though this gets bluesy/jammy at times too." - Roadburn

"To be sure, other groups may have taken the formulas further or assembled a heavier, freer slab of psychedelic boogie, but concision and melody count for a lot in the lysergic world that Dark inhabited. Although Dark disbanded soon after the LP was published, cultish interest inspired a brief and well-received reunion in 1996. More than four decades after their lone LP was waxed, Dark Round the Edges deserves to be visited anew." - Tiny Mix Tapes

Sunday
Jul282013

JAMES GOVAN - Wanted: The Fame Recordings

The FAME vaults keep producing riches, this time in the form of a compilation from the previously little-known James Govan. The title track "Wanted" appeared on the excellent 3-disc boxset FAME Studios Story 1961-1967, but it's quite a revelation to hear his soulful versions of The Beatles' "Something" and The Band's "I Shall Be Released". Last Saturday night, we put this on in the shop and by the end, four copies had flown out the door (our very own High Fidelity moment).

"The Mississippi-born, Memphis-raised singer has long been something of a mystery. Sometimes known as Little Otis due to his vocal similarity to the great Mr Redding, he has for over 20 years played at the Rumboogie Café in Memphis, but before that his career was low key and extremely sporadic...His 1969 sessions for the company produced 11 songs, among them the George Jackson compositions ‘I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew’ and ‘Your Love Lifted Me’ and wonderful versions of Fame standards ‘You Left The Water Running’ and ‘Take Me Just As I Am’. This is fine southern soul from the label’s greatest period. If James’ career had taken off, the tracks would have made a classic album. Instead they got left in the can." - Ace Records

sissippi-born, Memphis-raised singer has long been something of a mystery. Sometimes known as Little Otis due to his vocal similarity to the great Mr Redding, he has for over 20 years played at the Rumboogie Café in Memphis, but before that his career was low key and extremely sporadic. - See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/wanted-the-fame-recordings#sthash.OJUUfDi2.dpuf
The Mississippi-born, Memphis-raised singer has long been something of a mystery. Sometimes known as Little Otis due to his vocal similarity to the great Mr Redding, he has for over 20 years played at the Rumboogie Café in Memphis, but before that his career was low key and extremely sporadic. - See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/wanted-the-fame-recordings#sthash.OJUUfDi2.dpuf
Thursday
Jul252013

HOLDEN - The Inheritors

Effectively splitting the difference between an approach seemingly (perhaps moreso earlier in his career?) influenced by the likes of Four Tet and Caribou, and one a bit more grey-scale and rough-around-the-edges (comparisons could be made to both Geoff Barrow/Portishead/Beak>'s recent work, as well as The Knife's last album's instrumental offcuts), James Holden's second record sounds as strangely substantial as the ancient/otherworldly runestone on its cover.

"If Holden was already starting to push the boundaries on his debut, The Inheritors is techno music not so much fragmented as smashed into tiny pieces; rocks ground into sand and cast into the ether. The Inheritors draws as much on ancient Pagan rituals, the repetitions of Steve Reich, Elgar's pastoral majesty, prog-rock, krautrock and Aphex Twin at his wilful best, as it does from the output of Detroit's techno pioneers." - The Quietus

"Calling James Holden a producer might not be correct. He’s more of a playground engineer. Since putting out his first single at age 19, the English DJ has fallen in love with the work, play, and joy of making music. A serial remixer, he created the label Border Community as an arena for artists like Nathan Fake and Misstress Barbara to stab at the edges of what gets grouped under the 'electronica' umbrella. True to form, The Inheritors, Holden’s first LP since 2006′s The Idiots Are Winning, spills over with math, color, and life." - Consequence of Sound

Friday
Jul192013

RÖYKSOPP - Late Night Tales

One of the most consistent cross-genre artist-curated mix series keeps its batting average mighty high with this installment from Norway's Röyksopp; we'd especially recommend this bespoke blend of mainly '70s/'80s soft rock, electronic ambience and subtly strange slow jams to anyone who picked up earlier volumes by Air and Lindstrøm, as well as Groove Armada's recent Music For Pleasure entry.

"Röyksopp's selections generally live somewhere in a late-1970s/early-'80s setting. The most compelling include Tuxedomoon's 'In a Manner of Speaking,' a showcase for part-time member Winston Tong's portrayal of romantic miscommunication over a stark arrangement of nervous guitar and distant swirls; Vangelis' "Blade Runner Blues," a pure synthesizer realization of the late-night and disconnected melancholy of Blade Runner that steers clear of the pounding doom of its end theme, and F. R. David's remarkable synth ballad 'Music,' which sounds like a Eurovision winner with all heart and inspiraiton and no irony, even 30 years after it was originally written.

There are also choices that merrily trash received ideas of coolness, like 'Stranger on the Shore,' Acker Bilk’s clarinet-lined Easy Listening smash from the early 60s, which is a kind of outlier from the midcentury that nails both big-band jazz and romantic film music. Ready to be reclaimed by the cassette/chillwave generation, Andreas Vollenweider's 1981 track 'Hands and Clouds' is a brief bit of swirling delicacy that sounds like a lost track from the high point of West Coast radio stations like The Wave. Meanwhile, the neo-classical impulses of acts like Johann Johannsson, whose composition of strings and deep electronic bass plus voice of “Odi Et Amo” features here, showcase a further connection at work." - Pitchfork

Friday
Jul192013

THUNDERCAT - Apocalypse

Two years ago, Thundercat's debut album The Golden Age Of Apocalypse slowly but surely won over enough of us here to reach #11 on our Staff Best Of 2011 chart, and the pared-down title variation for this follow-up seems fully fitting, as Stephen Bruner's funky fusoid tendencies and falsetto vocal melodies continue to set him apart from any of his 'beat scene' peers, but with a slightly darker, barer tinge to it all this time around, due in part to the passing of keyboardist collaborator and friend Austin Peralta, to whom last track "A Message For Austin" is dedicated.

"The chord this record strikes hardest is an emotional and highly personal one; it’s a record that conveys with exceptional delicacy the transition from relative naivete to a more reflective and worldly view. For most of us, this happens in our twenties: much has been written on the subject of the 'lost years' when we establish, or fail to establish, relative stability, and peace with ourselves. For Bruner, this transition seems to have been provoked by a tragic event, but for most of us, it’ll be something experienced painfully and gradually for the better part of a decade.

Apocalypse is very literally a rewarding and difficult second album, with its roots in tragedy and loss and its furthermost fronds in hope and moving forward, an album that challenges listeners with an incredible level of subtlety, hidden depths and wash of openly expressed emotion. It might even just be the album that best sums up what the Low End Theory beat scene in LA has always been about: the perfect blend of virtuous technicality and cosmic self discovery with a message delivered wrapped in genuine human warmth." - Drowned In Sound

Monday
Jul152013

VA - Sophisticated Boom Boom! The Shadow Morton Story

Best known for his role as the Shangri-Las' svengali, Sophisticated Boom Boom! serves to shine a light on the rest of the reclusive producer's behind-the-scenes career.

"George 'Shadow' Morton was an instinctive musical genius who, despite never really playing an instrument, somehow wrote and produced several milestone works, most notably the great sequence of Shangri-Las pop-operettas which established him as the 'East Coast Spector.' But he was no one-trick pony: he would go on to produce 16-year-old Janis Ian's controversial breakthrough hit about interracial love, 'Society's Child,' discover The Young Rascals, and help invent heavy metal." - The Independent

"This collection covers Shadow’s career from his debut as lead vocalist with the Markeys and the Lonely Ones through to the New York Dolls' Too Much Too Soon album. Also included are tracks by the Beattle-ettes, Shangri-Las, Goodies, Ellie Greenwich, Shaggy Boys, Nu-Luvs, Janis Ian, Blues Project, Vanilla Fudge, Vagrants, Iron Butterfly and Mott The Hoopleeverything from 1950s doo wop to 1970s glam-punk via girl group melodramas and Long Island psychedelia. In other words, a very varied listening experience." - Ace Records

Monday
Jul152013

HAILU MERGIA - Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye

Gently spaced-out and thoroughly out of time, this CD remaster of a cassette recorded in 1985 and now reissued by Brian Shimkovitz's Awesome Tapes From Africa label (once a blog, ATFA now selectively officially licenses their finds for release) is quite a find indeed, unfurling at a leisurely pace while its pattering drum machine, insistent accordion runs and digital handclaps entrance and invigorate.

"In Ethiopia, Mergia found fame as an organist and keyboardist in the soul and jazz ensemble Walias Band. Four years later, while playing in the ex-Walias Band ensemble Zula Band, he released Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument, an instrumental record dominated by a sound that hadn’t been heard in much popular Ethiopian music for decades: the accordion. Amplified instruments had come along and usurped the squeezebox, which had been de rigueur in the 1950s. But it wasn’t a total throwback: Mergia recorded it with a Moog synthesizer, a Rhodes electric piano, and a drum machine, piecing together a drifting, meditative, and thoroughly psychedelic interpretation of traditional acoustic Ethiopian music." - Washington City Paper

Monday
Jul152013

VA - Très Chic: More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s

Just months after the release of a vinyl issue of 2010's C'est Chic! CD compilation (one of Ace's bestselling titles in our shop these past few years) hit our shelves, the follow-up comp is upon us, and as expected, it's a fun, frug-friendly mix of name artists (such as France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot and Anna Karina) and equally strong cuts from a cast of lesser-known yé-yé singers.

yé-yé
yé-yé

"Pretty much completely free of filler, Très Chic is a thoughtfully researched and curated cache of French pop, digging deeper below the surface than most collections by looking beyond just the biggest names to reveal some deeper cuts."- Allmusic

Monday
Jul152013

JERRY MOORE - Life Is A Constant Journey Home

A near-dead ringer for the late Terry Callier in his early New Folk Sound days, Life Is A Constant Journey Home is another predominantly guitar-and-vocal/song-based surprise from the ESP-Disk archives to perhaps enjoy alongside the likewise-underheard Michael Gregory Jackson album Clarity.

"This 1967 reissue is definitely of its time. Recorded shortly before his ordination as a preacher, Jerry Moore's Life Is A Constant Journey Home is a meditative plea for peace and faith, delivered in a smooth plaintive voice and utilizing many of the familiar folk, country, soul and light blues styles of the era. Moore’s message is subtly Christian, but its overtly compassionate and fiery defense of love is certainly all-inclusive. With its light, soulful blues and gently chiding lyrics, the title song opens things up with a mellow but edgy tone. This is a call to wake up, a search for a fast track to insight and redemption." - Music Emissions

Thursday
Jul112013

MONOMYTH - King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold The Power)

Halifax-based guitar guys Monomyth have been hoofing it across Canada this summer, and a couple of us Soundscapers were lucky enough to catch them recently in Toronto and grab some CDs that feature their new EP, their old EP and a couple of other tunes. While we eagerly await a full-length release, this compilation flows like it was intended to be a cohesive album, all woozy layers, three-part harmonies and sweet jangly riffs. Sure to please the Flying Nun Records fan in all of us.

"Easily one of Halifax's best acts, these guys have been on my radar for a while now. Their recordings jump between psychedelia and weirdo-pop; it's experimental yet catchy and accessible...Their latest release King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold the Power) is a four-track masterpiece.. it's surfy, its shoegazey, it's poppy yet complete punk rock." - Londonfuse.ca

Thursday
Jul112013

RODION G.A. - The Lost Tapes

Crackling with distorted organ, synth, guitar, drum machine and live kit, this archival set from Strut reveals a persecution-skirting hybrid made between 1978 and 1984 by Romania's Rodion Rosça, one that in hindsight can be slotted somewhere between Kosmische prog and the punky sci-fi defiance of Heldon's Richard Pinhas, all while maintaining a degree of regional tradition in its scales and melodic lines, aligning Rosça and band with the psych-rock of their Turkish neighbours just across the Black Sea.

"In the late '70s and early '80s in communist Romania, Rodion Ladislau Roșca and his band Rodion G.A. created a hybrid of electronic music, psychedelics, and progressive rock that, decades later, has revealed itself to be remarkably ahead of its time. After years of obscurity, and only a handful of singles ever released officially, Rodion’s music is finally getting the recognition it deserves" - Wax Poetics

"This is some of the raddest music you’re likely to hear this year: rad in its overall excellence, and radical in its forward-thinking nature, sounding so even today, though recorded at the height of Ceausescu’s suppression and censorship." - The Quietus

Thursday
Jul112013

VA - Enjoy The Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992

Running the gamut from oddball entertainers attempting to capture/recreate their live act for posterity to home-recording outsiders hoping to create an LP-sized business card of sorts, this 2CD set documents the US private-press phenomenon in all its strange, colourful, varied and unvarnished wonder!

"[W]hile now one can upload content to platforms where it can be found with little effort by millions for free, from the late 1950s to the early '90s, aspiring stars paid out of their own pockets to press their music on vinyl. And then, without distribution, radio play, buzz or press coverage, their music languished in basements or crawlspaces, accruing dust and mold. It is the spirit of the latter that inspired the art book Enjoy the Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992, released this month by Sinecure Books in conjunction with New York's Boo-Hooray art gallery, with a companion 2-CD set of some of the choicest bits." - NPR

"Take note: this is not a novelty freak show. Contained in this anthology are examples of some of the most highly regarded rock, soul, jazz, funk and singer/songwriter albums from the '60s through to the early '80s. From the awkward-yet-talented to the genius-yet-bizarre, one thing unites all musicians presented here: they sincerely hoped to become stars, they committed themselves to record, and they left themselves vulnerable to an industry not understanding of nuance, not appreciative of character." - Now-Again

Thursday
Jun272013

MICHAEL HURLEY - Armchair Boogie/Hi Fi Snock Uptown

Following limited-edition vinyl pressings of both these albums by Mississippi Records, Light In The Attic's new Future Days imprint has now remastered these second and third records in Michael Hurley's storied but long-unavailable discography, originally respectively released in 1971/72 on The Youngbloods' Warner Bros.-distributed Raccoon label. Snock on [mouth trumpet solo]!

"The semi-reclusive Hurley is best known these days for high-profile reissues from Light In The Attic and Mississippi, as well as his association with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. But he rose to a strange sort of fame in the '60s via his association with outsider folk acts The Holy Modal Rounders and The Youngbloods. He then struck out on his own and released Armchair Boogie and Hi Fi Snock Uptown, masterpieces of left-field Americana characterized by Hurley's brilliant, offbeat guitar playing and creeping insanity. This is the first time either album has been reissued on CD, and in typical Light In The Attic fashion, they come remastered with thoughtful accoutrements. For example, a Hurley-helmed comic book accompanies Armchair Boogie. Hurley's drawingswhich also grace the album coversare good indicators of his music: nonsensical, non-linear, funny, warm, and somehow familiar." - Ad Hoc

Thursday
Jun272013

PETER JEFFERIES - The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World

A punky, piano-led solo debut placing proper emphasis on Jefferies' weathered baritone and world-weary yet outwardly-engaged lyrics, this is a crucial document of the '90s New Zealand cassette underground thankfully brought back to life by ever-discerning, primarily archival left-field label De Stijl.

"Last Great Challenge... is a claustrophobic, private-sounding collection that ranges from homegrown, tinny post-punk to melancholic piano ballads to fucked up tape manipulations to the sound of a man singing calmly (and resignedly) while he does the dishes." - Pitchfork

"Though no one’s gotten around to writing a book on it yet, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World nonetheless stands as one of the singular singer-songwriter albums of all time, existing on a sparsely populated plane with Pink Moon, I Often Dream of Trains, Blues Run the Game, Our Mother the Mountain and not many others. In a sandy voice that soothes and slashes, Jefferies offers a compassionate, piercingly lucid view of the endeavor of life, all our pain and small glories rendered in tones both harrowing and tender. On piano, drums and percussion, he pounds out melodies that roar, sweep and lilt, accompanied on many songs by the serrated guitars of a variety of players." - De Stijl
Thursday
Jun272013

STEVE GUNN - Time Off

A melodiously drony set of boogie-folk by a fellow who's currently turning heads as guitar slinger-for-hire with Kurt Vile and the Violators, after years of plugging away in the psych underground with a discography that includes multiple releases for Digitalis and Three Lobed Recordings. Highly recommended, and likely to appeal across a wide swath of listeners.
 
"Even when Gunn fries up an electric solo on 'New Decline,' the drums are mixed to the back like silverware being thrashed around a bar kitchen. His sly, muted vocals disintegrate and replenish as they please. Dynamics or structure are not a major concern; these songs sound happy to just get the ignition working...'Found a spot to kill time and look around,' he sings, and that's what Time Off sounds like: a resting place, both for the riffs that this sideman needed to exorcise and a comfy little alcove for us to hear them played, with care and patience." - SPIN  

"[Time Off] bathes in gauzy pastoral hues and rippling guitars, and Gunn’s voice is distant and ethereal, but don’t mistake that vibe and the album’s title for some sort of slacker folk. Instead, this stuff meditates and digs, with slow rotations, grinding through the dusty surfaces it creates." - PopMatters 
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