Friday, November 18, 2022

Record Roundup: Autumn Flood, Pt. 2

Continuing on from Part 1, here are some more sips from the firehose of recent releases. The playlist has been updated and can be found here or below. And there will be a Part 3!

Olivia De Prato - I, A.M. - Artist Mother Project: New Works For Violin And Electronics In 2018, I called De Prato's debut, Streya, "an object lesson in how to put together a solo violin record" and also noted "the electro-acoustic wonders" that lay within it when I included it on my 100 best albums of the 2010s. So it was with great expectations that I clicked Play on this latest collection, which includes world-premiere recordings of works composed in the last couple of years by Natacha Diels, Katherine Young, Ha-Yang Kim, Pamela Stickney, Jen Baker, and Zosha Di Castri. I was especially excited to hear that last piece, as Di Castri's portrait album, Tachitipo, was also on my top 100. The Dream Feed opens with an electronic splash, almost a shattering of the sonic plane, that leads into pensive lines from De Prato's violin. Gradually, a piano enters and the music becomes lush and almost romantic, before building to a tangled density that is breathtaking. Created in collaboration by the two musicians, with Di Castri improvising to De Prato's violin, it has the feel of a settled piece even though it could be different every time they play it. The Dream Feed also reflects the theme of the album - the challenges of embracing the role of artist and mother - by including field recording of sonograms and the "whimpers of sleeping babies" among the electronic underpinnings. 

Emblematic of the album as a whole, there's an almost cybernetic relationship between the acoustic and synthetic sounds in The Dream Feed, an even deeper blend than that found on Streya. Noch Unbenannt, a collaboration with composer and Theremin virtuoso Pamela Stickney, is another great example of that, with the electronics and violin combining in seamless and captivating fashion. Fire In The Dark by Jen Baker, pushes De Prato into an almost spectral realm with whispery and scratchy sounds building to a soaring drone, while Kim's May You Dream Of Rainbows In Magical Lands transits from a somber, multi-tracked opening to a starlit world. The album opens with Automatic Writing Mumbles Of The Late Hour by Diels, a brief and playful electro-fantasia, and Mycorrhiza by Young, as knotty and expansive as the underground fungi to which the title pays tribute. With I, A.M., De Prato further secures her status as one of the most thoughtful, exciting, and adventurous musicians we have.

Narducci - Darkness To Light Over the course of three EPs, with the last being 2020's Journey To Los Angeles, Matt Silberman (who records as Narducci) has been building a repertoire of evocative, jazz-infused electronic music. He has also scored films, skills which he draws on here, orchestrating sounds and dynamics with the flow of narrative. Martial Meditations has some of the rainswept moodiness of Vangelis' Blade Runner score, which is only amplified by the Japanese vocals, while Boards Break would make a great TV theme song, with a haunting sax refrain, a touch of chamber music, and a muscular rhythm track. Silberman may release music at a slow drip, but each installment has been well worth the wait.

Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector Her debut, Land Of No Junction, was a dreamy drift of an album that I leaned on throughout the dislocations of 2020. The follow-up finds her adding a little more definition to the sound, especially the percussion, while also adding lush layers of instrumentation, including harp, strings, and brass. As on the earlier album, Brendans Jenkinson and Doherty provide much of the backing alongside Frances' guitar, keyboard, percussion, and drum machine. Cian Nugent, who produced and played on the debut is missing in action, which could explain the sharper sound. The songs, however, remain elliptical and hypnotic psych-folk-chamber vignettes with melodies that transport and enthrall. Her voice, serene and clear, sails over it all with a distance that sounds like wisdom, as in Only Child when she sings, "All my love/Won’t be enough this time/All your love/Can’t be enough this time," while the strings and guitar push to a near crescendo out of the Velvet Underground. Marvelous stuff.

Nev Cottee - Madrid While Cottee is continuing the fascination with moody, cinematic folk-rock that he displayed so gloriously on 2017's Broken Flowers, there's an added focus to this latest, as if he's absorbed more songwriting lessons from his heroes (primarily Lee Hazlewood and Scott Walker) that makes each track instantly indelible. Tempos have also occasionally increased, with the title track a nearly explosive instrumental, and Johnny Ray's spaghetti western update moving at a true gallop. That latter song also displays Cottee's deft toggle between wit and mystery, describing a "Leather clad stranger/God's lonely man/A modern day Lone Ranger," who "Spends his days lost in time/got no reason, got no rhyme/Hang around, he'll undo your mind." The tale ends in chilling fashion: "Then one day, Johnny/With zero resistance/disappeared from this world/Left his existence." My mind is both undone and deeply desirous of seeing that movie! He and his main collaborator Mason Neely weave backgrounds of sounds curated with the exquisite specificity of Jonathan Wilson, with bass tones and drum sounds perfectly placed in the soundscape. Could be Cottee's most impressive album yet - I know I'm addicted.

Rachael Dadd - Kaleidoscope Untangling some of the knots which made her last album, Flux, occasionally off-putting has Dadd surrounding her gentle incantations with warmth - strings, reeds, vibraphone, piano - and the results aim straight for the heart. That directness was deliberate, as she describes Kaleidoscope as being "a lot more honest and personal" than the earlier work and an effort to help people "feel held and find space to breathe, grieve and celebrate." Mission accomplished.

Bonny Light Horseman - Rolling Golden Holy The first album by the trio of Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, and Josh Kaufman was a masterful setting of traditional songs, some of them quite ancient ,and one of the miracles of 2020. Now, they have taken that deep dive into folk form to create ten (eleven, if you buy the vinyl) collectively written songs, all of them steeped in a timeless halcyon. Timeless, but far removed from our high-tech world, as made clear by lyrics like "I'll be a river and a-roving hie/And I'll be your lover when the moon is high/Above the timbers where the wolves, they call" from Gone By Fall, or "And I was merely cannon fodder/In the nineteenth cavalry/Waiting, waiting, waiting/To sing, "Nearer, My God, to Thee"" from Someone To Weep Over Me. In this way, their project is a little like that of The Band's, although the sound is quite different, more acoustic, with none of the nods to funk and soul of that legendary band. Even so, as they maintain the delicacy of the first album, there are some sharper dynamics here, with Kaufman even letting in a little of the explosive riffing anyone whose seen him on stage knows is in his guitar-slinging quiver. Most of all, what comes through is the sound of friends making the music they love. Bonny Light Horseman is a real band, then, and one of our best.

Frankie Cosmos - Inner World Peace In 2016, I declared myself charmed by the "tunefully awkward pop" of this band led by songwriter Greta Kline. Then, it seems, I promptly forgot about them, ignoring releases from 2018 and 2019 - which may be why I'm so blown away by the leap forward they make here, with Alex Bailey (guitar/bass), Lauren Martin (keyboards), and Luke Pyenson (drums) playing as a tight unit. With the help of producers Nate Mendelsohn and Katie Von Schleicher, they envelop Kline's songs and her high, thirst-quenching soprano in settings of great flexibility within the indie-pop framework they still occupy, if now with a touch of psych-rock. Over the course of 16 tracks, some of them quite short, Kline emerges as songwriter who uses a combination of broad, colorful strokes, specific details, and humor to create a persona to whom it is very easy to relate, especially if you're a creative person. As she notes in Empty Head (at 5:13 the longest song in Frankie's cosmos!): "I’m always bursting at the seams/I’ll tell you all about my dreams/I wish that I could quiet it/accept a little silence/maybe one day I’ll find it/and I’ll toe the line." God forbid that ever happens!

Winter - What Kind Of Blue Are You? Though Brazilian-born singer/songwriter Samira Winter has been releasing music for at least a decade, it took this year's collaboration with roots reggae revivalist Pachyman to bring her to my ears. Her vocals on that confection of a song, smooth yet infused with the saudade of her home country, stuck with me. I'm happy to report, that even if there's no reggae on this sophomore LP, it reveals a confident songwriter and producer (she co-produced with Joo Joo Ashworth, who also worked on that kick-ass Automatic album) who creates emotionally specific vignettes out of spare elements, both lyrically and sonically. For example, on the feedback-drenched Write It Out, her prescription for art's healing powers is one easy to take to heart: "Sit down, write it out/When there’s nothing left to do/Reaching higher ground/Keep pushing through the blues." Then there's Good, which languorously moves through its melancholy chord changes as guest vocalist Sasami repeats "I wanna be good to you/Wanna be good to you/Wanna be good..." As the guitars gain heat and noise, the protagonist's goal seems ever more remote - and fascinatingly so. By tinting her grungy shoegaze pop with some Julee Cruise mystery, Winter leaves a haunting wake on this compelling album.

You may also enjoy:
Record Roundup: Songs And Singers
Record Roundup: Rock Formations
Record Roundup: Siren Songs

No comments:

Post a Comment