Is there anything more satisfying than a month of solid, genre-spanning, awe-inspiring, year-defining releases? Probably not. It's really nice to see music span out and diversify. It's like a freaking bodega at Impose this month; every thing you could need. Droney psych? In the back, next to the ginger-ale. Upbeat pop? In the freezer case next to the ice cream. More garage than you could ever need? Above the fridge, next to the toilet paper. Innovations in hip hop? That's behind the counter, next to the strawberry Phillies. Amplified African music? That's jumbled in with the Wise chips. But in all honesty: you don't have to go anywhere else for the good stuff. It's all right here.
The Best Record of April 2012
Wandering through the grey of urban decay, flitting in between fantasy and reality amongst the pawn shops, empty subway cars, and invisible enemies, woods reigns supreme in poeticizing sobering situations.
The best music of April, 2012 (in no particular order)
Swedish trio World Tour took our breaths away with “Believe,” a disarming journey across seas and sands of doubt into the submission of sound moving like the fog and mist that plays about the Scandinavian Mountains, soon followed by forest explorations in the name of peace and tranqulity with “In the Woods,” then the electronic river rock miracle work on “See” and closing it out with the kinetic choral “Too Far”.
Alkibar Gignor are an African musical group, but they are not just playing handmade acoustic guitars; they are a full-fledged rock-and-roll band, combining the traditional vocal harmony with blistering electric guitars. I dare you to listen to the album closer, “Tamala”, without experience a positive mood revision. This music is incredible, but it's also incredible that we get to listen to it at all.
AU’s managed to wedge itself in a nullspace where they have a formidable back catalog, the road chops to prove their worth, enough of a following to break through with support, the technical ability to not burn out, and a sheer force of joy that winds the heart like a spring. This music isn’t a thrust of identity at the listener—this music simply has the girth and potential to be every listener, simply by the subtlety and construction of its cues.
MC Ride's abstract anarchy of poetry still flows like a conspiracy theorist-turned prophet's hidden memoirs, the cadences dancing around the downbeats, keeping you waiting for punctuation and closure while he froths at the mouth like Chuck D bitten by a rabid dog with Zach Hill's precision and creativity to work around these blistering speeds and hyper-technical dance grooves. Even the album title feels like an allusion to the inevitable unfairness and lunacy of money, of consumption, of power, of status or authority. Not that Death Grips aim to move you to voting polls or picket signs necessarily, but passionate in its own eccentricities as to become totally resilient in the face of culture capital hoarders.
The trio making up Food Pyramid are on a motorik train to Tangiers by way of Germany on their full length debut Mango Sunrise. The sprawling explorations within the record indicate they took the long way through Istanbul, Egypt and Tunisia, rather than towards Spain and boating across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Presley’s favored fabric of tape-crackle skirts under the eight tracks comprising the almost 30-minute affair. Over top the vintage blanket of slight crackle and hiss lies Segall’s caustic tricks of bend, tremolo picking, and tasteful spikes of echoplex. Presley contributes his variety of reclined acoustic strokes, signature whips of slide tremolo bends, and reverse tape-effect outros. This combination points in all sorts of directions– garage, rockabilly, psych, proto-punk, glam, Southern rock, British invasion, etc.– but before you go trying to pick apart what it all means to satisfy your urge to pigeonhole the whole thing, relax, and let the savvy pastiche run its course through the transcendental peaks and troughs of their combined history of taste and talent.
On the album Secular Geometry, is easy to imagine being in the murky, dark world inside of the color blue, where the light lives but does not prosper and bounce around. The song “The Moon Reversed” is a slow moving drone, with all the tones scraping along the processional march, and a steady but distorted beat keeping the light prisoner inside this dark blue stone.
On the first volume of the third proper White Fence LP Tim Presley brings back to those familiar places as with the self-titled and last year's …is Growing Faith. Singles like “It Will Never Be” travels back down the road to that mysterious road where Tim emulates your favorite retro idols of the late '60s or freaky '70s with the precision of a one-man-band obsessed with playing the parts with the perfection to illicit recognition from the dusty groove recesses of your mind.
Canada's Eight and a Half is the combined talents of Dave Hamelin and Liam O'Neil of The Stills and Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene started a side project in Montreal, went to Toronto and then ended in New York with big drums, guitars, amps, pianos and weight-y synthesizers shrunk down to tiny download links and 16bit data discs.
Emily Wells can sing folk music that sticks down deep but doesn’t feel old. She can also sing the phrase “horse’s ass” prettier than you probably ever thought possible. Following her 2008 breakthrough album, Well’s latest combines experimentation with emotion, without sacrificing one to the other.
On the Kenny Dennis EP, the understanding of hip hop is beyond intimate; it's not just an understanding of music, but of the culture: the rivalries, the mythologies, the attitude. This is high-caliber parody that avoids cheap laughs by going for deeper, unspoken punchlines.
Proving that he “Can't be Contained,” Del draws on the work of Fela Kuti chopped and sampled in new sequences on this mix. Even though further details on the upcoming Deltron II album are cloudy; fans of both Del and the afrobeat King will be able to get 2 of their favorites together at last with this boss mixtape that features Fela and band as you have never heard them with Del in fine style and fashion.
Opener “Fuck Off” provides the charging powerchord build most artists reserve for long playing opuses. “Mourning Heir” does more than word play off morning bed head but faithfully revises the new-romantic sound in a tonal ecstacy that only the 45 can relate. “Nightmare” is the big single ode to dream terrors before “Bloodstains” surrounds you with synthesized spectres and a mock-macabre that leaves you you wanting more after the 2 minutes and 58 seconds are up. “Wasting” is a slow electric buzzer with an almost clandestine series of low level recorded guitars that might encompass the vision you had of futurist music back in the late '80s/ early '90s.
From Amaze 88's “51 Intro”, the tape is invites us into a G-Funk bounce that opens up the windows for the duration. On “La Pinata” he's laughing through his braggadocio, taking great pride in his various examples of being half-this-half-that, which include Black Bart Simpson, half-black Bill Clinton, Jewish Eddie Murphy in a barbershop, Jewish Mel Gibson, and Drake vs. Common – all which sums up to “who cares”. The production from Amaze 88 injects 51 with play ful soul and movement that allows Kool A.D. to slip into meditative tangents of tight bars and in the next breath, goof around listing the family affair that's in the studio with him and wish that we understood its significance.
Troller makes heavy, synthesizer led music that sprawls across a broad continuum of concepts, while never straying too far from a signature palate of mile-deep bass tones, vibrant drum machine, and meticulously tailored synth sounds. Six of the album’s ten tracks have relatively familiar pop structures and come full of affective and catchy moments.
With tightly strung guitars and autoharp and bright multi-part harmonies on quickly-spoken lyrical exchanges, Witch Gardens remind us a lot of a band we miss dearly, Best Friends Forever. There are differences, however; BFF never integrated all the different instruments you hear on this 7-inch, R-I-P, and the subjects of the lyrics are slightly more obscured.
The Sacramento beatsmith creates dream wave for colosseum gladiators and spectators alike in tracks in the grip of meditation and attention to “Kings & Stones” to “Color Calm” that flows indiscernable vocal chops into the acquaduct channels of serenity. However, we must warn you about the alluring and ominous intro “About a Blur” that begins the gradual release into the warm waters of “Ultra Frown.”
Lushlife, Plateau Visions (Western Vinyl)
Produced by Botany, “Big Sur” has Lushlife displaying an old school flow, in which he elaborates on the things he's known for. His list includes, summer time wine taster, heart breaker, pretty bird ass shaker, rhyme sayer, mind reader, and jam heater. His record, Plateau Visions, stretches in opposing directions from this track. One length seeks the sonic space of distortion and modern electronica samples, while the opposing length pursues the comforting inflections of late 90's rap nostalgia.