This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): From the foggy beginnings of Easy Idiot’s dungeon-synth and Concretism’s VHS-inspired synths, to the jangling guitars of The Reds, Pinks & Purples and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, the first AM of February is here to wake you into a bright, sunshiny week.Continue reading
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.
Animal Collective – We Go Back (Video by Winston Hacking & Michael Enzbrunner)
Winston Hacking’s videos never fail to blow my mind. Whether it’s his work with musicians like Flying Lotus, BadBadNotGood, Washed Out, and Andy Shauf, or his own personal work, his endlessly inventive collages make for some of the most beautifully surreal media artworks out there.
His worlds are always in motion, and are never quite what you think they are. Scene transitions don’t follow any obvious logic. The ground falls out from under you. The camera rotates and reveals that what you thought was a flat surface is a 3D sculpture. Everything is collage and deconstruction, constantly reshaping and reorienting. As someone who’s never had much of a visual sense, I can’t wrap my head around what it takes to map out these kinds of nested illusions.
It’s basically a magic trick, and I’m more than happy to keep falling for it.
Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection – In a Mist (Full Time Hobby)
Cullum’s 2020 debut slipped under my radar on its initial release, but made it onto my 2021 year-end list thanks to a conveniently timed reissue. Its mastery of pastoral British folk and psychedelia made it an easy album to get lost in, and this tune from Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions covers series is a welcome addition to his catalogue. Borrowed from British folk singer Duncan Browne, it’s a prettily finger-picked tune that hides devastating lines like “we are born alone, and we die alone, and we cannot possess anyone in between.” It’ll break your heart, in other words, in more ways than one.
Group Listening – Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works, Vol. 2 (PRAH Recordings)
The second full-length from Stephen Black and Paul Jones is another testament to the Welsh duo’s impeccable taste. That’s apparent in eclectic covers assembled here, including takes on two outsider Can-con classics in Syrinx’s “Hollywood Dream Trip” and Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “Sunset Village,” one from new-age legend Laaraji (“All of a Sudden”), and an offering from unheard-of-outside-Wales New Waver Malcolm Neon, among a half-dozen others.
It’s also obvious in the arrangements, which generally feature the two titular instruments, embellished by occasional flourishes of keyboard, guitar, glockenspiel, and subtle percussion, but always given plenty of room to breathe. It’s clearly a labour of love, the sort of affectionate reinterpretations that can only come from a deep and respectful understanding of the originals.
Reverent and playful in equal measure, Selected Works Volume 2 is a work of beauty in its own right, a collection of thoughtful, inventive instrumentals. Better still, it doubles as an entryway into the catalogues of a diverse assortment of ambient, new age, and otherwise left-of-centre artists, a rich vein of sounds waiting to be unearthed.
Podcast: The AM, Jan. 31, 2022
This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): Saying goodbye to January with a mellow assortment of analog synths, Italian soundtrack groovers, folk beauties, psych-pop ponderings, and other eclectic sounds for a Monday morning.Continue reading
Podcast: The AM, Jan. 24, 2022
This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): I didn’t notice that the 400th episode of the AM had come and gone, but celebrating number 402 works just as well. I shared the first song ever played on The AM, and there’ll be a Spotify playlist of the first episode’s tracklist available sometime shortly—visit theam.ca for that one. But, we’re always looking forward, and this week’s mix of cosmic synthesizers, melodic art-rock, and psychedelic surf is your recommended way to ease into the last week of January.Continue reading
The Soundcarriers – Wilds
Released Jan 21, 2022
What a delight to have The Soundcarriers back in my life. There have been quite a few bands mining the same vein of nostalgic psych-pop in the seven years since the band’s last release, but very few have pulled it off with quite the same flair. Their sound has never been about faithful recreation of an era, though; it’s an imaginative mish-mash of scenes that existed separately at the time, stitched together from the most appealing elements of Nuggets-era psychedelia, krautrock grooves, Free Design whimsy, and breezy tropicalia.
For this reunion, prompted in part by AMC’s short-lived series Lodge 49, the band picks up right where it left off, their chemistry not at all diluted by the extended hiatus. If anything, those years have only concentrated The Soundcarriers’ sound. The songs on Wilds are concise and focused (no 12-minute jams here), built around Paul Isherwood’s forceful bass and drummer Adam Cann’s relentless drive. The commitment to melody is still there, Leonore Wheatley and Dorian Conway’s vocals blending as sweetly as ever, but the songs feel a little more urgent, more anchored.
Album closer “Happens Too Soon” is about as gentle as the album gets, but even that one ends with a build-up of head-held-high defiance. It’s a fitting end to a release that feels assured from start to finish, a confident reclaiming of The Soundcarriers’ space in the psych-pop pantheon.
January 22 New Music Roundup
Ben Lukas Boysen – Clarion (Kiasmos Remix) (Erased Tapes)
The first single from Boysen’s upcoming Clarion EP, this reworking of a track from 2020’s Mirage condenses the sprawling original, adding a propulsive kick while preserving the elliptical melody. That pulse becomes the gravity holding the intellectual and emotional halves of Boysen’s composition together, keeping the body rooted to the dancefloor while the spirit soars into the cosmos.
Ben McElroy – How I Learnt to Disengage from the Pack (Slow Music Movement)
The Slow Music Movement’s first release of 2022 is a collection of spacious folk music from Nottingham’s Ben McElroy. Droning bass provides the soil from which McElroy’s songs grow and flower, fragments of melodies from flute, strings, and voice coalescing like breath in winter air. It’s ideal January music, sounds that would evaporate in the summer sun, but that linger and shimmer in the cold.
Jenny Hval – Year of Love (4AD)
The second single from Hval’s upcoming Classic Objects, and her first for 4AD, is a much more straightforward tune than her last few offerings. But even Hval’s most straightforward songs tend to feel more like questions than statements, and “Year of Love” is no exception. Her vocals here are as inquisitive as ever, tracing outlines of ambiguity even in a conventional structure.
Ray Barbee – Always Dreamin’ (Plant Bass Records)
ELECTRONIC KUMOKO cloudchild is an eclectic compilation that’ll take a few more listens to digest in full, but the chance to hear new music from Barbee is already enough to justify a spin. The skateboarder and musician is in full-on kosmiche mode here, gently drifting along with twinkling electronics and melodic bass. My only complaint is that three minutes isn’t nearly enough; Barbee wakes us up before the dream’s even really begun.
Podcast: The AM, Jan. 17, 2022
This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): Picking up from last week’s show, an episode anchored by Krautrock and kosmische, with new music from Roedelius and a controversial classic from Neu!. Plus psychedelic jams from Mt. Mountain and Kikagaku Moyo, atmospheric electronics from Bonobo and Sun Rain, and other sounds to warm you up, wake you up, and get you ready for a new week.
Roedelius, Tim Story • Four Hands
- Ever New – Reworked by Joseph Shabason & Thom Gill
Beverly Glenn-Copeland • Keyboard Fantasies Reimagined
- Dust and Light
Tape • Revelationes
Kindly Spoken Thieves • Resistor
- Man from Gdynia
Proxima Psychoacoustics • Ataroth
- Willow Tree Testing (Animal Party Remix)
Sun Rain • Single
Bonobo • Fragments
lokey • an eternal bloom
- Reports In
Die Scum Inc. • The Epoch Code (a Notion Picture Soundtrack)
- Tintoretto, It’s For You
Destroyer • Labyrinthitis
- Keep Yourself Together
Contagious Yawns • Dream of Consciousness
Makaya McCraven • Deciphering the Message
- Flare Intropin
Tawni Bias • SEL Fellow
- Faith in Strangers
Andy Stott • Faith in Strangers
- No Refuge in the Past
Botany • Portal Orphanage
- Drive (Grundfunken)
Neu! • Neu! ’86
Neu! • Neu! ’86
- Cold Dice
Garcia Peoples • Dodging Dues
Lael Neale • Single
- Always Lovers
Cindy Lee • Malenkost
Scott Hardware • Ballad of a Tryhard
- Freezee Pops
Sam Evian • Time To Melt
Cedric Noel • Hang Time
Spiritualized • Everything Was Beautiful
- Swim in Eyes (Rerecorded)
Pia Fraus • Now You Know, It Still Feels the Same
Parker Sprout • Milk In the Sun
- We’re Gonna Run Away
Beach Towels • Single
Mt. Mountain • Centre
- Green Sugar
Kikagaku Moyo • House in the Tall Grass
- King of John St.
Century Palm • Meet You
- Neutron Star
Circuit des yeux • -io