Bendu – Portaling
Portalling is what happens when you transport Boards of Canada’s haunted Scotland to the shores of LA. Bendu’s second album for Edinburgh-based Werra Foxma Records has all the hallmarks of hauntology, but even at its most melancholy, there’s a sunniness that’s distinctly Californian. More than anything, it’s there in the bass, which bubbles and bounces, sometimes carrying the melody and sometimes accenting the hip-hop drums, but always full, round, and joyful.
It’s a refreshing sound in a genre that can get bogged down in its moodiness. Not that Bendu doesn’t indulge in some pensive moments—Portaling comes with its share of heady vocal samples and philosophical conceits. It’s just that you’re always relatively sure that, despite the questioning, things are all going to work out.
Drum & Lace – Frost
Like its title implies, this EP from London’s Sofia degli Alessandri-Hultquist is an intricate and fragile set of ambient compositions. Its five songs rarely rise above a whisper—even its brashest, most multilayered moments feel like they could be dissolved by a stray breath. Despite the title, though, and in spite of its crystaline character, Frost is an inviting album, and a comforting one. degli Alessandri-Hultquist’s wordless vocals are at the heart of the compositions, radiating warmth and reassurance with every breath, and minimal as the arrangements are, they feel complete and compelling.
Bobby Lee – Reds for a Blue Planet
Lee’s latest is a propulsive addition to the new wave of Cosmic American Music, a twangy instrumental that layers a desert-psych riff over a steadily swaggering beat. The song is all forward momentum, a soundtrack to an endless highway pointed at a perpetual sunrise.
Conic Rose – Learn to be Cool
The melodic echoes of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” may or may not be intentional, but it’s hard to deny that cribbing from one of the most stylish outfits of the past few decades is a solid way of learning to be cool. The Berlin-based quartet bill themselves as jazz, but their sound seems to pull from plenty of other turn-of-the-21st influences, too, from Chicago post-rock to Kid A ambience and the slick easy listening of Zero 7. It could stand a bit more grit, but still, a promising sound.
Lael Neale – I Am the River
Speaking of cool… “I Am the River” takes the haunting but subdued sound of 2021′ album’s Acquainted With Night and kicks it into high gear, and the result is a head-bobbing good time. The video and song both seem to be channeling the Velevet Underground with a hint of Robert Palmer, with Neale’s droning omnichord serving as a sugar-coated version of Cale’s viola. A much-needed tribute to nature and movement and the magic of music.
Masahiro Takahashi – Cloud Boat
Due out in late March, Takahashi’s Telephone Explosion debut sounds like it’ll be a perfect springtime record. With a lush saxophone melody from Brodie West and tasteful piano from Ryan Driver, “Cloud Boat” lives up to its title—warm and buoyant, you can picture it at sail amid clear blue skies, drifting between updrafts and watching as the ground below comes to life.