Sufjan Stevens: Carrie And Lowell

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From Time Out:
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“They say you can’t go home again, but on the face of it Sufjan Stevens does exactly that on seventh album proper, Carrie & Lowell. It’s a return, of sorts, to the one-man indie-folk that was his bread and butter before the sumptuous Illinois and flailing electronic lunacy of Age Of Adz. And it’s also a record inspired by home and memories of it: Carrie is Stevens’s late mother, whose life and death haunts the album (Lowell, his stepdad, is a more ephemeral figure). “I forgive you mother, I can hear you… you’ll never see us again“, he coos on opener “Death With Dignity”, over brightly plucked acoustics. It is an unbearably sad moment, and not the last on the album, yet Carrie & Lowell isn’t the magnum opus of stripped-back bleakness you might be bracing for. For starters, it’s only superficially a folk record. It’s a quiet record on which acoustic instruments tend to be the loudest thing. But beneath the sparkling guitars lurk lush electronic disturbances: distorted pianos, pulsing machine percussion, eerie ambient washes. At its most out there, as on “Fourth Of July”, Carrie & Lowell sounds closer to Tim Hecker or Pantha Du Prince than it does to Stevens’s own Michigan or Seven Swans. And though death informs it, it never overwhelms it: tunes like “Should Have Known Better” or “Eugene” are more excavations into hazy childhood memories of Carrie than laments for her passing. And Stevens’s sense of whimsy blunts the bleakness: the presumably allegorical “Fourth Of July” sees him breathily mourning a series of deceased animals, while the suicidal lyrics to “The Only Thing” are delivered with a breathy, wide-eyed wonder. There’s also plenty of characteristically lovely coyness about his religion and sexuality, with the rather startling line “you checked your texts while I masturbated” (on “All Of Me Wants All Of You”) surely destined to be quoted in every review. Despite soul-baring moments, it almost feels like we learn more about Carrie than we do her son; he remains a beautiful enigma.”
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Carrie & Lowell is out now on Asthmatic Kitty; check out “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross” below.
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Lower Dens: Escape From Evil


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From Pitchfork:
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“It would be fair to call Lower Dens a bit cerebral—their breakthrough single was, after all, a Krautrock cruiser with no chorus called “Brains”. The first single from their third LP, Escape From Evil, is still very much a Lower Dens song, but the muted steel and stone textures have been swapped out for neon colouring and harmonies with brilliant sheen. All of which is to be expected from a record that enlists Chris Coady, Ariel Reichtstad and John Congleton, producers responsible for about 85% of all indie-rock crossovers in the past three years. In turn, Hunter’s singing about the most commonplace subject in rock music: “I’m not crying/ I’m just glad to be alive/ Time will turn the tide.” On “To Die in L.A.”, it’s not the same city that serves as a backdrop for Father John Misty, Lana Del Rey, and Tobias Jesso, Jr.’s recent laments of high hopes and low bottoms. It’s more a space of vulnerability, one that can still be infiltrated by Hollywood symbolism even after decades of clichéd exposure, irony and metacritique. In short, it’s the crack in a broken heart.”
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Escape From Evil is out March 31 via Ribbon Music; check out “To Die In L.A.” below.
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Ryley Walker: Primrose Green


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From The Guardian:
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“The title track of Ryley Walker’s second album answers a question no one ever asked: how would it sound if Tim Buckley had written his own version of Afroman’s “Because I Got High”? The Primrose Green in question isn’t some village garden, but evidently some strain of weed with which Walker is spectacularly besotted – and that’s not the only thing that makes this album seem like a lost relic from 1970. The influence of Buckley is so clear that you feel like asking Walker to play “Buzzin’ Fly” just to get it out of his system, while the upright-bass sound is strongly reminiscent of Pentangle (given that Pentangle’s Danny Thompson played bass on Buckley’s Dream Letter live set, that’s pretty much the model here). Even when he strays from the jazz-folk path, Walker stays in period, as on the modal guitar instrumental “Griffiths Buck Blues”. There are diversions into relative modernity – such as the systems-like ending to “Love Can Be Cruel”, underlaid with fizzing feedback – but the presiding mood is a stoned, summery somnambulance. Derivative as it is, there’s beauty here, and something admirable in Walker’s insistence on so closely cleaving to his chosen path.”
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Primrose Green is out March 31 on Dead Oceans; listen to the title track below.
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Follakzoid: III


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Follakzoid began seven years ago as a trance experience between childhood friends Diego Lorca, Juan Pablo Rodriguez and Domingo Garcia-Huidobro from Santiago, Chile. However, for most people it was perhaps 2013’s breakthrough album II that opened up their third eye to these intensely loop-heavy, psychedelic and groove-riddled sounds coming from South America. While ‘psych’ is increasingly becoming a term for any group who throws on a turtleneck and taps their foot on a wah-wah peddle, the origins of Follakzoid’s music are rooted in something much more substantial, meaningful and culturally significant. Their grooves are heavily informed by the heritage of the ancient music of the Andes and techno, amongst other influences, Garcia-Huidobro explains “our music has to do with very ancient Armonic and rhythm patterns that are used for ceremonial music across the Andes mountains, which go almost entirely across South America. It is hard to describe with words but it sort of resembles trance-like Tibetan sounds… we work from a organic electronic perspective with ancient rhythm patterns and Armonic sequences that were used in occultist happenings and rituals.” After recording and mixing the new album themselves at their own recording studio BYM Records, they partnered with German electronic master Atom TM, a musician and artist the group have a great deal of respect for. Unbeknown to Domingo, Atom was living just around the corner to him and it was a mutual friend who let on he was a fan of the band. The Korg synthesiser that Atom TM, plays on the record was used by Kraftwerk on tour during the 80’s. After the success of II the group toured more than ever, playing across the world and taking in festivals such as Primavera, ATP, Lollapalooza and SXSW. This time spent playing and experimenting solidified a deep-set musical bond that would ultimately act as the foundations for III. “We don’t really rehearse when we aren’t on tour, we just get together and have beers all the time – liquid rehearsals! All the songs on the new album were made while touring, coming out of open-air live medleys or very cold Russian basement soundcheck grooves.” These grooves found on III feel infinite in their construction, songs that are created to live on like an endless locked groove, “Songs can go on forever but are very easy to end as well because its constantly ending and beginning again, loops within loops. We work in a very similar structure to mantric songs or techno, we share a metric language there that coordinates the musical language. There are many layers in our music, most of them unknown even to us”.
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III is out 31/03 on Sacred Bones; listen to “Electric” below.
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Marching Church: This World Is Not Enough

This World Is Not Enough
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From Elias Bender Rønnenfelt:
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“Although I have done a few things under the Marching Church moniker since 2010, the project, as in the constellation on this album, was born in November 2013 with Kristian Emdal and Anton Rothstein (Lower), Cæcilie Trier (Choir of Young Believers), Bo H. Hansen (Hand of Dust, Sexdrome) and Frederikke Hoffmeier (Puce Mary). We had agreed to play with Pharmakon at Mayhem, our warehouse space in Copenhagen, even though I hadn’t done anything with the project for quite some time. With two months before the show, I threw together a few half-thought-out ideas and sketches, presented them to the new band, and was amazed to see how the songs took life in their hands. I had a picture in my head of me in a comfortable arm chair, adorned in a golden robe, leading a band while a girl kept pouring me champagne. “What would this picture sound like?” was the question. For some songs I was inspired by my friend Jamie Cripps, who unfortunately is no longer with us, and his project The Pale Horse, as well as a record by David Maranha called Antarctica that I was played one night at my favourite bar, The Nightingale in Tokyo. Those records made me want to create something that sounded half asleep and like it was being dragged across the ground, or smoldering in a bonfire, in order to keep on playing. At least that was the initial inspiration, in time it got a bit overtaken with an idea of being the leader of a soul group—people like James Brown, Young Americans-era David Bowie, and Sam Cooke were inspirations in this aspect. Improvisation, something I have never done before, was crucial in the making of this album. The album works because of the band’s incredible ability of breathing life into these loosely written and at times very simple ideas and experiments. Though Marching Church might be a dictatorship, This World is Not Enough was very much a collaborative effort. Everyone involved does other projects as well, but I wouldn’t want to see it as a “side project”. That term seems degrading. In conclusion, half-disgusted with talking about myself, I’m going to leave you with This World Is Not Enough—eight songs of nocturnal longing, preposterous self-obsession and cockeyed etiquette.”
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This World Is Not Enough is out March 31 on Sacred Bones; listen to “Hungry For Love” below.
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Thrill Jockey double: Liturgy and Lightning Bolt

    
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Liturgy are a band who truly divide opinion. Their two albums of brilliantly exhilarating “transcendental” black metal were well received by many of the industry’s most informed and influential critics, but the group are hated by hordes of “real” metallers who believe forward-thinking Brooklyn hipsters with double-barrelled surnames have no place playing “their” music, let alone publishing a manifesto recommending changes for the improvement of the genre as a whole. As far as baiting their audience goes, it would appear as though frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has learned a lesson, of sorts: for The Ark Work, the follow-up to 2011’s polarising Aesthethica, the quarter have dropped the black metal tag and now style themselves – modestly – as a “21st Century total work of art”, which I guess should at least stop fans of any one kind of music taking particular umbrage. And, to be fair, it kind of fits. The Ark Work is definitely a conceptual piece, bearing scant overt resemblance to the Liturgy of old: Hunt-Hendrix has all but abandoned the Cookie Monster growl, instead crooning, speak-singing, shaman chanting and rapping his way across violently churning soundscapes created using synths, electronics, bells, horns (both live and MIDI) and even bagpipes. Guitarist Bernard Gann still shreds furiously, but his blitzkrieg squall feels more textural in this context. The biggest concessions to the old black metal sound are drummer Greg Fox’s signature “burst beats”, and here even those are digitally processed, in a similar fashion to his contributions to Zs and Guardian Alien, so that they often sound more like the rhythmic perversions of early-Noughties “glitchtronica” than any kind of metal I’m familiar with. Not all of it works – the rapping takes some getting used to, and the bagpipes… well, they’re bagpipes – but the fact that they can take so many disparate influences (post-rock, IDM, neo-classical, yadda yadda) and mesh them together into such a singular and cohesive statement, especially one that manages, despite the radically different component parts, to still sound like Liturgy, is worthy of applause; that they have the balls to defy all the negativity and even attempt such a drastic overhaul in the first place is even more impressive. Check out “Quetzalcoatl” below.
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If Liturgy demonstrate the good things that can happen when a band is willing to change its working methods, their new label-mates Lightning Bolt are a great example of a group who doggedly refuse to deviate from the script they have written for themselves, yet continually manage to come up with new ways to have fun with it. The duo of Brians Gibson (bass) and Chippendale (drums and vocals) have been making music together as Lightning Bolt for twenty years now, and – let’s be honest – their sixth album (and first in five years) Fantasy Empire sounds kind of the same as the ones that came before it; that’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, when said sound – the kind of seismic low-end rumble you’d expect from a bass-and-drums punk band, played at breakneck speed and with a masked maniac chanting over the top through a microphone held between his teeth – is so freaking awesome. Theirs is a seriously joyful noise, the type of racket kids delight in making with their first stick-and-tub toys and kazoos, taken up a gazillion notches. It’s Godzilla dancing to footwork. It’s a chainsaw and a pneumatic drill battling it out at a karaoke bar. It’s the sound made by the souped-up racing bike revving next to you at the lights. No, scratch that: it’s the sound that scares the bike revving next to you at the lights. As Gibson riffs into infinity and Chippendale pummels the living crap out of his kit as though he’s trying to generate enough man-made electricity to propel them both into hyperspace, it’s hard not to come back to the fact that each new Lightning Bolt song sounds like a slight variation on another, as if they were jamming an old favourite and dropped a note, or picked up a beat, and just decided to roll with it, but that’s ok: every genre – even noise-rock or avant-punk or whatever it is that Chippendale and Gibson are happy being pigeonholed as – needs its Grateful Dead or AC/DC, endlessly pushing for that perfect, magical musical moment – as if they hadn’t already hit on it years ago. Check out “The Metal East” below.
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The Ark Work and Fantasy Empire are out now on Thrill Jockey.

Action Bronson: Mr. Wonderful


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From DJBooth.net:
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“After building his buzz with a slew of quality mixtapes, Flushing, Queens hip hop phenomenon Action Bronson is ready to take his career to the next level with the release of his debut studio album Mr. Wonderful. Heralded by singles “Easy Rider,” “Actin’ Crazy,” “Terry” and “Baby Blue,” the project features a total of 13 original tracks from hip-hop’s favourite gourmand. Big Body Bes, Chance the Rapper, Meyhem and more guest on the set, which features production by The Alchemist, Noah “40” Shebib, Omen, Party Supplies and more.”
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Mr. Wonderful is out now via Atlantic; check out “Easy Rider” below.
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Jimmy Whispers: Summer In Pain


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From the press release:
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““Who is this Jimmy Whispers,” you’ll ask yourself the first time you hear him, whether he’s leaping out at you metaphorically from your speakers or leaping out at you literally from the stage during a live performance fraught with physicality and emotion. It’s a good question, who this guy is, and there’s no easy answer. He’s been called Chicago’s “greatest new homegrown musical enigma” by Pitchfork’s Jessica Hopper in the Chicago Tribune, and a “weirdo loner” by himself. While both of those descriptions are correct, neither one’s complete. He’s an enigma, true, but one who sings directly from the heart about the broadest of human feelings: the need to love and be loved. Yes, he’s a loner, but one who spends his free time organizing basketball tournaments to raise money for community nonprofits, and ends his concerts by mashing audience members together to slow dance to Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” Jimmy Whispers is a walking, talking, singing, and dancing bundle of paradoxes. Greatest among them, perhaps, is his ability to transform the most seemingly basic melodies sketched out hastily with an electric organ on an iPhone voice message into such a profound racket, or how this dirty weirdo from Chicago managed to insinuate himself into the tradition of great American sentimental balladeers. His music will make you laugh and cry and dance and, unless you’re terminally jaded and hardhearted, it’ll make you genuinely feel something. And no matter how many times you listen you’ll keep asking yourself, for a multitude of reasons, “Who is this fucking guy?””
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Summer In Pain is out March 24 on Moniker Records; listen to the title track below.
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Them Are Us Too: Remain


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From the press release:
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“Emerging quietly from the California bay area through their limited edition demos and intimate performances over the last two years, Them Are Us Too have gained a cult following within independent music circles as a young, new take on the reverent “4AD-styled” dreamy goth-pop anthems with a nod to 80’s shoegaze sensibilities which create songs about tragedy and loves lost that draw devoted listeners to their nostalgic and innocent sound. Kennedy Ashlyn Wenning’s vocals have been repeatedly compared to Kate Bush, Harriet Wheeler, and Elizabeth Fraser. Wenning’s pitch perfect octave range carry songs gracefully between optimistic joy down to undisturbed melancholia, all within one moment of verse. Guitarist Cash Askew paints a layered and complex backdrop using signature reverberation and washes of stringed ambient tones, akin to Robin Guthrie, Ronny Moorings and Kevin Shields. Perfectly executed songwriting with effortless simplicity and vernal drive, Them Are Us Too’s debut album, Remain, recorded and produced by Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv, Nine Inch Nails, Sons of Magdalene), rivals the comparative magic behind the early 4AD catalog and zeitgeist of early Creation Records. Massive, seraphic sound and heartbreaking nostalgia crafted into 8 songs of uncompromising and immaculately orchestrated beauty. At only 21 years of age for both members, Them Are Us Too mask their irrepressible youth underneath their limitless imagination and unparalleled talent, dedicating themselves fully to their uncanny musical creation.”
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Remain is out March 24 on Dais Records; listen to “Us Now” below.
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Zu: Cortar Todo


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From Noisey:
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Here is a new album from Zu, the weird-as-fuck Italian noise-metal that fit somewhere between Sleep/ High On Fire, the sludgier moments of Iron Lung, and Japanese tripcore heroes Paintbox, all swimming through moments of noise, ambience, and saxophones. Sometimes it builds to minimalism, sometimes it builds to chaos, and sometime it leads to traditional song structures. This album takes you on a wild disorienting journey, leaving you jumbled but not necessarily disjointed on the other side. Cortar Todo was recorded in the countryside outside of Bologna, Italy, and is the band’s fifteenth album in as many years. Known for their prolific musical experimentation, Zu has played over a thousand shows in their career, and has collaborated with artists including The Melvins, Mike Patton and Thurston Moore. If you are interested in having your mind stretched to far out and confusing places, listen to this.”
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Cortar Todo is out March 24 on Ipecac Recordings; listen to the title track below.
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