Girlpool: Before The World Was Big


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From Pitchfork:
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“The Philadelphia-via-L.A. indie pop act Girlpool have said their debut LP Before the World Was Big is foremost a search for identity. In some ways, that’s what Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have been doing all along. On songs about gender, sexuality, and the fraught process of going to rock shows alone, the duo has constantly grappled with themes and subjects that demonstrate the unique anxieties of growing up in the 21st century. Tucker and Tividad are still teenagers themselves, but that puts them in a unique position to consider the bizarre weight of suddenly being thrust into adulthood. On the upcoming record’s title track, they confront the huge, unsettling world before them not with brash confidence but with a sense of longing. At the chorus, both Tucker and Tividad intone, “I just miss how it felt standing next to you/ Wearing matching dresses before the world was big.” This moment of instant nostalgia is made all the more confusing by the pair’s messily interlocking guitar lines and the off-kilter round they break into by the end. “Before the World Was Big” takes on the confounding process of inching away from youth—when you’re forced to try and find your place in the universe, sometimes it seems better to just be a kid.”
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Before The World Was Big is out June 1 on Wichita Recordings; listen to the title track below.
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Nozinja: Nozinja Lodge


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From the label:
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Nozinja is Richard Mthetwa, an electronic music producer based in the Limpopo province of South Africa, and the charismatic architect of the Shangaan electro sound. From its roots as the frantic heartbeat of Nozinja’s rural locale, where dancers convene at weekly street parties, bouncing on their heels and shaking their bell-like xibelani skirts in the ferocious heat, Shangaan electro has become a recognised genre in its own right, a burgeoning, radicalising influence on dance music worldwide. Explosive, ecstatic and celebratory, it’s the head-spinning collision of the soulful traditional song of the Shangaan people with the high-speed energy and limitless possibilities of cutting-edge music production, and it has ensnared the ears and limbs of dancers, beatmakers and DJs alike. At the heart of it all is Nozinja, who has been diligently forging the Shangaan electro style from his tiny home studio for the best part of a decade. A homegrown super-producer of sorts, Nozinja has carved out an Afro-futurist evolution through countless productions/collaborations and the regular street-dance competitions which he organises, all documented and self-distributed via the plethora of DVDs, CDs and tapes he has released over the years. After several trips to Europe to convert new fans with his team of dancers in tow, in 2014 Nozinja signed to Warp and released the hypnotic, digitally scrambled single ‘Tsekeleke’, signalling a fresh direction for the Shangaan originator. Later that year an encounter with junglist ruffian Tessela led to a studio collaboration on ‘Wa Chacha’, released as a split 12” containing each producer’s interpretation of the Shangaan track – further proof that Nozinja’s sound is at much at home besides new-school western production styles as it is on its folk-cultural home turf. That collaboration has set the stage for the next act in this extraordinary tale: spring 2015 sees Nozinja release his full-length debut on Warp. Nozinja Lodge sees him truly hit his stride as a producer, testing the frantic upper limits of Shangaan electro on white-knuckle, rave-channelling cuts like ‘Baby Do You Feel Me’ and ‘Vatswelani’, while enjoying the freedom to take his foot off the gas and bring a tender, lilting touch to the sound on ‘Vomaseve Hina’ and closing track ‘Jaha’. It’s a dance record with a unique soul, stamped with the spirit of the Shangaan people, their language and musical history, while endlessly chasing the visceral thrill of the dance. For Nozinja, his journey from small town businessman to international Shangaan ambassador has taught him that the sky is the limit – and his dreams are only getting bigger. With imagination, perseverance and an iron-clad belief in his cause, Nozinja now stands at the vanguard of the next generation of African music; no longer a novelty or fad, but a new chapter in the globalised story of electronic music.”
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Nozinja Lodge is out June 1 on Warp; listen to “Nwa Baloyi” below.
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So Stressed: The Unlawful Trade Of Greco Roman Art

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From the label:
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So Stressed initially began in Sacramento, CA as a largely improvisational noise project that included the band’s three members (Morgan Fox, Andrew Garcia and Kenneth Draper). Over time, the lineup was refined and their sound coalesced into what’s heard on The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art, a technically meticulous but anxiety ridden and sometimes terrifying cry which calls to mind everything from Q and Not U to No Trend and the Minutemen. At times, Fox’s lyrics bring to mind the emotional distress and social reservation seen in Wire and Wall of Voodoo. The fact that their sound is so violent and tense as to be physically disarming is almost deceptive; the members of So Stressed are kind, conscientious and smart young men. Writing this album took more than two years (and recording took more than six months) due to a common habit of throwing away fully formed songs deemed to be even slightly less than perfect. All this was done with no goal in mind— if no one wanted to release it, Fox says, “we were just going to delete it.” Honor Press could not be more pleased to offer this as our first release.”
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The Unlawful Trade Of Greco Roman Art is out May 26 via Honor Press; check out “Merv King & The Phantoms” below.
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Mamaleek: Via Dolorosa

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From Noisey:
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“The Flenser is one of the most unpredictable extreme music labels going, but their alliance with Mamaleek makes so much sense that it’s almost poetic. The two-man effort is one of those anonymous dealies—replete with cryptic, esoteric lyrics, zero band photos, and Bay Area roots—but, unlike so many other American black metal basics, Mamaleek is ruthlessly inventive and wholly unique. No one else sounds like them, a fact they emphasize on their fifth album, Via Dolorosa (“Way of Suffering” in Latin, a reference to the street in Jerusalem down which Jesus supposedly dragged himself to his death). It’s black metal, but then again, it isn’t; there are massive electronic, jazz, and psychedelic influences, as well as pronounced Middle Eastern inclinations in melody and aesthetic. The latter comes as no surprise: the band’s name itself is rooted in Arabic—”mamaleek” is the plural of “mamluk,” or “slave,” and according to their Bandcamp page, one of the brothers is currently located in Beirut. The end result warps black metal’s core sounds beyond recognition, and leaves something new and threatening in its wake.”
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Via Dolorosa is out May 26 on The Flenser; listen to “Nothing But Loss” below.
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Little Wings: Explains


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“Kyle Field, professionally known as Little Wings, is a living legend. He is the modern embodiment of the traveling bard and the singing troubadour. Kyle’s discography is vast and impressive, full of tunes that are plucked from the lexicon of great American songwriting. On his latest effort, Explains, he crafts melodies so haunting and familiar; it’s as if he’s not composing them at all. He is tapping into something greater, acting as a vessel for the collective unconscious that is folk music. This is an album that is immediately accessible and also unfolds slowly, revealing greater depth with each listen. Kyle’s lyrics are direct yet poetic, funny yet sad. Explains is a fantastic record that celebrates the enduring spirit of a great artist. Its release on Woodsist is all too fitting – a label whose very foundation seems based on lasting creative integrity.” – Alex Bleeker (of Real Estate/ Alex Bleeker & The Freaks)
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Explains is out May 26 on Woodsist; listen to “By Now” below.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi Love


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From the label:
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“While legions of artists show fidelity to psychedelia’s roots, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always shared that rare quality that makes the genre’s legends vital: a constant need for exploration. Last year, frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson descended into his home studio in a Portland basement to chart out where’s he traveled since his last set of unhinged psych-soul ballads. He discovered that the best way for him to move forward would be to look back. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi Love takes on the complications of being together. Nielson wrote the surrealistic II during an isolated period on the road, a walkabout throughout disillusionment and darkness when he pushed away; the more upbeat Multi Love charts a different type of catharsis and reflects on relationships. The threads of our past never unravel, they hover like invisible webs, occasionally glistening due to a sly angle of the sun. On Multi Love, Nielson walks right into this intoxicating and inviting cloud, enveloped by the haze of memory and the fog of the past: longing, loss, wanting to be tied up but not tied down. The title track plots out the geometry of desire when three people align. The languid “The World Is Crowded” speaks to an addictive obsession. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” with an opening serenade of intertwined trumpet and guitar, struts and sings, neon synths and bouncing bass telling of an airy, humid feeling pressing against your temples; Nielson isn’t animated by pain but by the mysteries that unravel from the spark of attraction. Beyond exploring universal feelings of attachment, Nielson also reconstructed his music-making process, expanding his horizons and abilities. The guitar virtuoso engrossed himself in synthesizers and production techniques, rediscovering a sense of craft and creation. Synapses fired as new musical connections were mapped out. In a basement space with cords snaking across the floor, connecting banks of keyboards and reams of new ideas, he literally rewired instruments and learned the joy of creating something out of nothing. His vocals reach new heights, especially on the soaring title track. The new psychedelic canvas moves past citing references to creating his own narrative.”
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Multi Love is out May 26 on Jagjaguwar; check out “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” below.
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Tanlines: Highlights


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From the label:
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Tanlines‘ sophomore album Highlights began in a basement in Pittsburgh and ended in a church in Brooklyn. Produced by the band and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, it trades world music sounds (as heard through YouTube) for a more alive, realized approach, the result of singer/guitarist Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen wanting to break from their ‘two guys, one screen’ writing style. The transition came suddenly: when they sat down to write Highlights in Emm’s childhood home in Pittsburgh, their computer blew up. Stranded without the samples and sounds that had previously defined their musical palette, they spent the rest of the week in Pittsburgh writing songs the old-fashioned way with a guitar and drums. They found themselves falling back on facility they’d gained with their instruments over the previous two years of touring, and an alternative, simpler process evolved, one that set the tone for Highlights immediately. Influenced by their time spent on the road touring Mixed Emotions, primarily in the States, they reached for the sounds of 90’s New York hip-hop drums, Detroit techno synths, and lots and lots of guitars. Whereas before the band had wandered their way through foreign musical landscapes and the existential ‘what am I doing with my life’ wasteland of post-youth, Highlights finds the band settled and at home, comfortable in their own skin. Indeed, one listen shows this change in subject matter has brought Tanlines to a more evolved, sophisticated place. Themes of love and desire replace questions of the unknown. Partnerships are celebrated while relationships grow and change and give way to safe-distance reflections on the past without the trappings of nostalgia. In many ways, the resulting music feels like a renaissance for a band that began in 2008 as a one-off remix project. The upbeat dancefloor-ready Tanlines lives on in songs like driving set opener “Pieces”, the dream-inspired “Slipping Away”, and the seductive “Bad Situations”, but the colours and emotional range of the album go much deeper than ever before, with Emm’s vocals and lyrics, at once personal and observational, taking center stage on songs like “Running Still” and “Invisible Ways.””
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Highlights is out May 19 on True Panther; check out “Invisible Ways” below.
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Jim O’Rourke: Simple Songs


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Few people in the music industry today command as much respect as Jim O’Rourke: few have had their fingers in as many pies for as long, and fewer still have managed to become as important and influential without actively courting success or compromising their artistic values. Having first established himself in the early 90s as a key name within his native Chicago’s busy “post-rock” scene (most notably with David Grubbs in Gastr Del Sol), by the end of that decade O’Rourke found himself with a pretty strong claim to the title of “indie rock’s most in-demand.” As a guest player the multi-instrumentalist had appeared on records by Smog, Guided By Voices, Tony Conrad, Faust, the Red Krayola, Derek Bailey and Merzbow, among others; in addition his expert production had helped shape releases by groups and artists as diverse as Beach Boys devotees the High Llamas, Will Oldham, Stereolab, John Fahey, the Pastels and Melt Banana. Here was someone equally comfortable working on jazz or folk or noise or avant-rock or power-electronics projects, and for a while he seemed to be everywhere: during the five year period surrounding the millennium, O’Rourke was the bass player for Sonic Youth and unofficial sixth member of Wilco, having played on and produced the alt-country band’s career suicide/ career reviving masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and its follow-up A Ghost Is Born, and in that time he also released three brilliant albums of his own that would come to be known as his “pop trilogy”. Although stylistically quite different, the instrumental guitar suite Bad Timing, weird pop opus Eureka! and classic rock homage Insignificance showcased O’Rourke “the star”, a gifted musician and composer, meticulous sonic perfectionist and engaging – if sardonic – lyricist; a conflicted genius who seemed as reluctant to bathe in the spotlight as he was confident in his own immense talent.
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If his brief flirtation with the alt-rock big leagues swelled the ranks of his following, the subsequent retreat back to the margins has firmly established O’Rourke as a “cult artist”: now living in Tokyo, the 46 year old continues to drip-feed fans more avant-garde material (archival releases via Bandcamp, live improv recordings from jazz festivals, collaborations with the likes of Keiji Haino and Oren Ambarchi), but he hasn’t produced a proper, song-based solo album in fourteen years. As such, anticipation among the faithful for the re-emergence of “pop Jim”, the Jim one feels sure could easily lay waste to the mainstream if he ever felt so inclined, has been at fever pitch ever since the announcement of his fifth record for Drag City, Simple Songs, which promised a return to the ’60s and ’70s rock and pop inspired sound of 2001’s Insignificance and its predecessor Eureka!. Thankfully, we can stop holding our breath and let out a big, relieved belly laugh, because Simple Songs is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. After a clanging acoustic guitar fanfare that winks knowingly in the direction of Bad Timing and 2009’s The Visitor, opener “Friends With Benefits” quickly blooms into a barbed bar-room jam, and it’s evident immediately that O’Rourke’s secret recipe for the perfect rock song remains unchanged: jabbing like a pugilist (“Nice to see you once again/ Been a long time my friend/ Since you crossed my mind at all“), he and his band of Japanese session players dance playfully around each other, each component part of this deceptively intricate composition given MVP status even as they all collide in a tangle of cascading piano lines, crisp, lively drums and duelling guitars. Wrapping something so complex up in a cosy blanket of familiarity and accessibility is typical O’Rourke behaviour, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to find that these “simple” songs are actually anything but; that they still manage to surprise when they unexpectedly pop into our heads at work, or when we’re showering, or trying to sleep, is testament to O’Rourke’s status as a master of his craft.
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Indeed, it’s hard to think of too many others who have done what O’Rourke does as well as he does it here: Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson spring to mind, but after that I’m struggling, which I guess puts him in pretty exclusive company. As fascinating as his drone and noise projects generally are, or his improvised collaborations, or even his Fahey-inspired solo guitar pieces, O’Rourke’s pop compositions have always been absolutely compelling because he approaches them like a mad scientist, using his formal training and expertise to piece together from scraps of folk and jazz and pop and rock little Frankenstein’s monsters which he then proceeds to dress up in cute hair-slides and wooly sweaters and stripy tights. Listen to a track like “That Weekend” once, and you’ll likely come away remembering the needling, see-sawing riff that sticks to you like the Jaws theme, but listen a few more times and try to pick out the various elements that comprise that “simple” motif: at least three guitars, electric piano and strings, marshalled by the kind of oddly-timed yet precise drumming one would expect to hear on some obscure ’70s German prog record. Likewise “Last Year” presents itself as a ballsy rocker – complete with squealing guitar breaks – but on closer inspection it bears more resemblance to a fusion group like Weather Report soundtracking a barn dance – a crack team of seriously talented musicians relishing the opportunity to have fun with tempo changes and tricky time signatures in much the same way that science nerds love getting to blow things up with lasers they’ve designed and built themselves.
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Even at their simplest, these songs are never dull. If the flat-footed funk of “Half Life Crisis” feels like a straightforward ’70s classic rock pastiche, it’s probably because it sounds like an amalgamation of several different Steely Dan deep cuts (right down to the brief trad-jazz interlude midway through), and let’s be honest: when were Steely Dan ever straightforward? The most basic, stripped-back moment here, the folky “These Hands“, may be laid bare musically but the lyrics – in which O’Rourke’s meat-hooks seem to have a mind of their own – invite all manner of possible readings: “Then again, my hand is not my friend/ Acting like it owns the place/ And then never sleeping when I want to/ Always has somewhere to go to.” Is it some sort of Cronenberg body horror nightmare, or a rumination on aging? Is it sexual, or something more sinister? Given his past form, it’s quite likely that for O’Rourke it’s a case of “all of the above”, and almost certain that he’s taking a considerable degree of pleasure in confusing his audience. Yes, the passage of time seems to have softened him ever so slightly, but there are still enough acidic put-downs and smart-mouthed punchlines (“If you stop to think about it/ Might be time to cash in your chips/ Cause I can tell from your face/ That you’re a charity case/ And your debt is piling up“) to remind us that O’Rourke is a treasure, and that we should count ourselves lucky that he’s seen fit, after all this time, to bless us with this wonderful record. Fans of his more outré material may feel short-changed, but one imagines O’Rourke’s response to be less “can’t please everyone” and more “do you think I give a shit?”; I, for one, am happier than I ever dared hope that he has, and I know many more will feel the same.
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Simple Songs is out now via Drag City; check out “Last Year” below.
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Shamir: Ratchet


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From FasterLouder:
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“Las Vegas youngster Shamir follows up last year’s solid Northtown EP with his debut full length Ratchet, a veritable pop kaleidoscope that certainly doesn’t run short on hooks or personality. Tipped for a breakout year when named on BBC’s Sound of 2015 shortlist, Shamir Bailey confidently strides down a path opened up by artists like Le1f and Mykki Blanco of out-and-proud guys seeking to dismantle the traditionally macho and hyper-masculine stereotypes of the American hip-hop scene. Although the direct musical links are only tenuous, it is important to recognise their contribution in terms of ethos and ideology. While Shamir does rap (infectious lead single ‘On The Regular’ might be one of the catchiest examples you’ll hear in 2015), it would be a mistake to categorise Ratchet on the whole as a hip-hop record. In reality, hip-hop only plays a minor role, as Shamir’s music sits somewhere closer to the Hercules and Love Affair sphere of disco/house hybridisation, engineered more towards a 3am set at the Paradise Garage than a trap in Atlanta. That’s not to say Ratchet is not utterly contemporary, though – one listen through the record is enough to tell any listener this music could only have been made in today’s climate. At various points, funk sits alongside deep house while minimal techno interweaves with R&B and soul – most importantly, these syntheses never feel the slightest bit forced. Throughout Ratchet, Shamir proves himself adept in both stripped back, minimal mode (‘Vegas’, ‘Demon’, ‘Darker’) and up-tempo headspaces (‘On The Regular’, ‘In For The Kill’), with his high-pitched androgynous vocal style allowing him to adopt multiple characters and moods. He flits nimbly between college cheerleader vocals in LGBT street parlance and restrained crooning about love and loss – and interestingly the record’s best moments are those closest to each end of the spectrum. ‘On The Regular’ is stylistically reminiscent of Azealia Banks, with a hypercolour cosmopolitan tapestry of influences from ballroom to rave all seamlessly integrated to form a fresh slice of pop; an oasis in the desert of homogenised, hyper-compressed modern chart house. ‘Darker’ is something closer to Sadé – adult contemporary without the blandness that terminology may imply, a captivating tale with a front and centre focus on the vocals. Though these two tracks could hardly be more different, both are executed magnificently, and neither feels out of place on a record that is both incredibly varied and yet undeniably consistent.”
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Ratchet is out May 18 on XL Recordings; check out “Call It Off” below.
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Holly Herndon: Platform

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From the label:
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Holly Herndon has become a leading light in contemporary alternative and electronic music by fearlessly experimenting within the outer reaches of dance music and pop songwriting structures. A galvanizing statement, Platform cements Herndon’s reputation as a unique musician with a singular voice. Born in Tennessee, but reared on music abroad, Herndon broke out from her formative years in Berlin’s minimal techno scene to repatriate to San Francisco, where she currently lives and studies as a doctoral candidate at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). To achieve Platform, Herndon has opened up her process to vital artists and thinkers from her creative circle, including radical Dutch design studio Metahaven and digital DIY artist Mat Dryhurst, leading by example to tackle a host of topics ranging from systemic inequality, surveillance states, and neo-feudalism. Platform underscores the need for new fantasies and strategic collective action. Herndon’s debut album Movement, released in 2012, showcased Herndon’s fascination with trance and the disjunctive sampling techniques pioneered by avant-garde composition. Subsequent singles ‘Chorus’ and ‘Home’, rolled out in advance of Platform, humanized the laptop by celebrating its capacity for memory- storage and lamenting its vulnerability in light of revelations of mass surveillance. Offering what Herndon describes as “a rupture, a paradisic gesture”, Platform is an optimistic breakthrough for Herndon, an appeal for progress, and a step toward new ways to love.”
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Platform is out May 19 via 4AD/ RVNG Intl; check out “Interference” below.
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