Time Wharp – Spiro World

A marvelously eclectic “full-length coming of age collection” from Brooklyn-based composer and artist Kaye Loggins, Spiro World doesn’t lend itself to easy categorization. There isn’t a clear overlap between the burbling melodies and spacious atmosphere of opener “East River Dusk,” the Brainfeeder-esque ambient jazz of “TOTP,” and “Mixo World’s” woodwind-laden kosmische, but the lack of an obvious throughline somehow doesn’t hurt. Despite the freewheeling approach, Loggins’ aesthetic judgement has the gravity to keep Spiro World from spinning off into the void.

The album’s eight-and-a-half-minute centrepiece “No Furniture/Tanagra” is also its strongest point, capturing the appeal of the album in its languid evolution. Looping guitar melodies and flittering woodwinds gradually coalesce around a pulsing bassline, sonic textures shimmering like dust in the starlight before drifting back into the void. It’s more a sculpture than a song, and while the second half of Spiro World does settle into a more consistent mood, the compositions still shy away from familiar forms. Instead, Loggins allows the elements to find their own structures, never forcing them together, drifting freely in acoustic space until the album dissipates in a cloud of delay.

Sound of Ceres – Arm of Golden Flame

Sound of Ceres, the cinematic dream-pop evolution of shoegazers Candy Claws, has announced an ambitious new album “inspired by Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé, Gustav Holst’s The Planets, and Les Baxter’s midcentury exotica.” The album follows a three-act narrative structure to explore the emergence of mind and meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe, which is quite a lot to tackle, but with narration by performance artist Marina Abramovic (who is set to restage her iconic piece The Artist is Present as a fundraiser for Ukraine) and dramatic orchestral accompaniment, the first single “Arm of Golden Flame” certainly sets the right tone. This will be one to watch out for.

Due out June 17, 2022 on Joyful Noise.

Podcast: The AM, Mar. 7, 2022

This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com):

Atmospheric sounds from Loscil and Earthen Sea, psych-tinged folk from Spencer Cullum and Alabaster DePlume, fuzzed-out guitars from Lorelle Meets the Obscure and Did You Die, and other soul-sating sounds for a Monday morning in March. Plus, Wordfest’s Shelley Youngblut joins in the third hour to talk about ImagineOnAir’s upcoming programming. Enjoy.

(Image by Chel Faust)

Congotronics International – Banza/Beyond

Ten years in the making, the debut from the supergroup Congotronics International is sounding fantastic so far. The two singles released so far really highlight the group’s range. “Banza Banza” is as raucous as heck, a high-energy mish-mash of skronked-out guitars, distorted thumb organs, and other unexpected sounds. “Beyond the 7th Bend” is more subtle, with acoustic guitars, meandering melodies, and atmosphere to spare. Between the two, it’s about as promising as it gets.

The full album is due out on April 29, with contributions from Konono Nº1, Deerhoof, Juana Molina, and more. I can’t wait.

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 28, 2022

This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): Take a deep breath and submerge yourself in the oblique sounds of The AM, a three-hour respite from a chaotic world. This week is bookended by new music from Bitchin’ Bajas and Orange Crate Art, finding room for vintage soul, modern pop experiments, jangling guitars, desert psych, and other offbeat albums old and new.

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Pneumatic Tubes – A Letter From TreeTops

A project from Mercury Rev and Midlake multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler, A Letter from TreeTops was written in the aftermath of his father’s death, its foundations laid in only a few days of solo recording in his family home. Knowing that, you can certainly pick up an undercurrent of melancholy in TreeTops’ meandering melodies, but it isn’t the dominant emotion by any stretch.

Take “Mumbly-Peg”, with its bubbling synths and gentle clarinet, a riverside walk propelled by quietly insistent drums; or the playful buzz of “Saw Teeth” and its overlapping melodies clamboring over one another. Both are album highlights, and both seem rooted in sun-dappled nostalgia. “Magic Meadow,” one of the few tunes to feature prominent guitar (and what sounds like maybe a singing saw?) perfectly captures the feeling of emerging from a dense wood into an open expanse; it’s a song to bask in.

With a variety that belies its rushed creation, A Letter from TreeTops is a gorgeous addition to the Ghost Box catalogue, a collection of richly textured, contemplative instrumentals.

Podcast: The AM, Feb. 21, 2022

This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): The holiday Monday made for a groggier-than-usual episode, but fortunately the music holds up even if the hosting is slightly off. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with new tunes from Cate Le Bon, Animal Collective, Exek, Ombiigizi, Congotronics International, Reptalians, and the list goes on…

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Steve Gunn – Protection (ft. Mdou Moctar) (Matador)

The opener to Nakama, a collection of collaborative reworkings of songs from Gunn’s 2021 release, Other You, “Protection” swaps out the laid-back motorik of the original for an even more stripped back arrangement. Percussive guitar and hand-claps give the song a quiet momentum, a gentle current for Gunn’s melody to drift on. Tuareg guitar hero Mdou Moctar is known for his scorching solos, but his contributions are more restrained here, approaching the tune like a sister-song to his recent album closer “Bismilahi Atagah.” It’s all sunshine and warmth, four and a half minutes of shelter from the world outside.

You can preview “Protection” on Gunn’s Bandcamp, or stream the full Nakama EP, with contributions from Circuit des Yeux, Bing & Ruth, and Natural Information Society over on Spotify.