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September 2020

Album releases

All Them Witches — Nothing as the Ideal Highly recommended!

This is a fascinating album. It sounds like it was recorded in a hazy cloud of smoke on a sweaty Tennessee summer night; I think it's technically metal, and it definitely brings sludge and riffs, but it balances those out with equal parts poetry and soul.

In fact, I think the band has their best moments when they fully lean into their Appalachian roots. The Children of Coyote Woman starts out with Charles Parks reciting a plaintive couplet:

Romulus and Remus Hill / Lived at the top of Ouachita Bend
Momma died, they laid her down / And quickly took to squabblin'

and then gradually slips deeper down a path into epic tragedy. This ballad would fit just fine on a country record, but here it works as a beautiful transition between the unswerving riffs of See You Next Fall and the funky, winding post-rock meltdown of 41.

Overall, this record feels like an experiment gone right — another success for a band that's hard to pin down. I'd recommend this even to listeners who don't often go for heavy music.

The Ocean — Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic

Ahh, prog metal: The genre where you get a paleontology-themed, multi-album cycle that includes both sung and instrumental versions of the tracks. I really enjoyed both versions of Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic and this follow-up is no different. Jurassic | Cretaceous is one of my favorite metal songs all year, 13 minutes of smoking, meteoric thrash that also invokes a dystopian image of climate change.

The vocal versions are grindy and epic, but I'll probably reach for the instrumental side more often. There, the sound works as heavy post-rock, where distorted piano and synth melodies can co-exist with thrashing double bass and murky tar pit riffs.

Sebastian Mullaert & the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich — Natthall

Strings are plucked and bowed, piano keys are delicately brushed and the resulting tones are enveloped in a radiant electronic warmth. On Moonwaker the music tiptoes across the line into very deep techno, but most of this album is a more delicate, thoughtful experience.

If you like the record as much as I did, I recommend also checking out this documentary about it.

Singles/EPs

P Money — While We Wait

I haven't been too dialed in to the grime scene this year, but P Money is an upper echelon lyricist for me and this EP is solid as I'd expect. I'm especially here for the scorching verses with Mez on Bumbaclart Riddem and the raw honesty on Is Someone There?.

New to Me

John Roberts — Glass Eights (2010)

Glass Eights is a collection of deep and sultry house music, perfect for a late-night walk or an afterhours cooldown. My favorite track is Ever or Not, for its shuffling percussion, enveloping bass and mysterious clicks and chimes.

DRB-ADB — DRB-ADB-001 (2017)

A short EP of bare-metal drum funk. Melody comes mostly from warm and prominently positioned basslines that remind me a bit of Khruangbin, but this record is really all about the kit.

Lhasa de Sela — La Llorona (1997)

What a small world. I queued this record blindly from some list or other and immediately recognized De cara a la pared as one of the early tracks from one of my favorite DJ sets of all time (Trentemøller's 2006 Essential Mix). I'd never identified it back in the day but hearing it on this album was instantly transporting.

I'm glad to have found the record anyway; it's a blend of subtle electronic production, slinky torch songs and Mexican traditional music. The sound ranges from "very folky" to "hear this in the lounge at 2:00 AM" and it's solid at all points on that spectrum.

Preston Reed — Ladies Night (2004)

An awesome solo acoustic guitar record with slight overtones of country or bluegrass, catchy structure and a percussive propulsiveness in the vein of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Reed's technique and composition style are unique and reflect a self-taught player with wide influences. I'm glad I discovered this.