Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

40. Pigeons - Si Faustine
39. Ou Où - Baron Von Baron
38. Kemialliset Ystävät - Ullakkopalo
37. Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
36. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love is a Stream
35. Avey Tare - Down There
34. Chris Schlarb - Psychic Temple
33. The Last Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth - Colossus Archosaur
32. Caballos y Entusiasmo - Hidropony
31. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People

30. TOMO - Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works

If you scroll down a bit, you'll see that I just recently reviewed this one. An absolutely gorgeous instrumental guitar/drone album with magical healing qualities for the body and soul.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sore Eros - Know Touching

Sore Eros
Know Touching
(2010, SHDWPLY records)
RIYL = The Skygreen Leopards, Kurt Weisman , Ariel Pink

You’re missing this right now. I mean, probably. It’s late in the year, your compiling your year-end list of favourite tunes. You already have a backlog of albums that you wanted to listen to this year that you realize you will never get around to. Discovering new music isn’t a part of the MO. And, even if you have heard of and legitimately heard Sore Eros’ latest, if you’re not listening to it right now, you’re missing out. Because this is meowing hot right now. The follow up to his terrific debut, Know Touching follows a similar path of lo-fi pop balladry that feels just that much better than everything else of its ilk. And who isn’t making lo-fi bedroom pop? The songs are pleasantly ghostly, soft edged and creeping with minorly swirling fuzz. Robinson’s meek vocals fit perfectly in the atmosphere of each song. Just a wonderfully loose, weird little album of outsider folk that focuses first on the strength of its songs and then on beauty of its ambiance. Backwoods magic here, through and through.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love Is A Stream

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
Love Is A Stream
(2010, Type)
RIYL = Tim Hecker, Belong, Fennesz

It feels like some time since I’ve listened to shoegazer droning this syrupy delicious. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, of Tanaterel, The Alps, and the Roots Strata label, is set to eclipse the work he contributed to his bands and label with this, his second solo album, Love Is A Stream. The album suffocates with pure, noisy beauty. Cantu-Ledesma has conjured a deep, layered, grinding sound that burrows into the subconscious and lays hard against the pleasure centers of the brain, turning bristly edged drones into magnanimous plates of earth-shifting beauty. And with noise like this, it’s all about the undercurrent. Ledesma (Is that ok? Can I lop off the Cantu for brevities sake?) obviously has an aim here and its written in the title: love. Love or beauty or gorgeousness or whatever, that’s what sleeping at the bottom of these streams, snoring melodiously up into the babbling ether, kissing your ears. Listening to Love Is A Stream on headphones feels like dropping a knife into a thick, steaming pie – it’s sugary tasty as all get out. If you liked October Language, if you liked Endless Summer, if you liked Harmony in Ultraviolet then you will like Love Is A Stream. It’s in that company.


Stream Love Is A Stream on Soundcloud

Where I End & You Begin by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chris Schlarb - Psychic Temple

Chris Schlarb
Psychic Temple
(2010, Asthmatic Kitty)
RIYL = I Heart Lung, Mary Halvorson, Dirty Three

Composer/guitarist/collagist Chris Schlarb isn’t one to rush things. It has been a good three years since his gorgeous debut, Twilight & Ghost Stories (one of my favourite records of the past decade), blew my mind. What a gift that album was. The stretch has allowed me ample time to get completely psyched for his follow up, which has now finally been released, and I must say, is stunning. As an artist, I respect Schlarb greatly for his immense creativity and communal approach to making art. Similar to his debut, Psychic Temple is filled to the brim with contributors. Some notable members of this swelling 29 person crew includes the gorgeous vocal talent of Julianna Barwick, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter DM Stith and Weird Weeds percussionist Nick Hennies. Of course, amidst 29 talented musicians, the list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, Schlarb’s been working with the best of the best. And it shows. Psychic Temple is a statement of pure elation. And, under the patient, meticulous guidance of Schlarb, is a singular world where brassy horn conversations, ghostly vocal choirs, fluttering drums and Schlarb’s signature guitar work, all melt into one another in order to produce a body of sound that envelopes the listener. Similar to Twilight & Ghost Stories, Psychic Temple is a collage of sounds, however, this time around, everything seems to fit together much more smoothly, the coarse edges having been sanded away, setting loose a musical flow that enters the ear canals without resistance. The album is hypnotic. Meditative. It’s introspective, allowing, through the psychic gestures of the instruments, the resignation of the body and the heightened activity of the mind. The intent isn’t to lull one into slumber (though I can’t say it couldn’t achieve this with ease), but to provide a space for active reflection on the relevance and influence of beauty. In four fluid movements, Psychic Temple makes a lasting imprint with ease.


Chris Schlarb - "I Can Live Forever If I Slowly Die (excerpt)"

P to the S - due to some generous Kickstarter contributions, Psychic Temple will be pressed to wax as well. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TOMO - Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works

Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works
(2010, Subvalent)
RIYL = James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Loren Connors

TOMO, or Transcendental Organic Magical Objective, is the project/objective of a single Japanese sage who, through fingered dexterity, a sense of godly calm, and mystically impressive instrumental calisthenics has achieved his aim embedded in his name. As it is represented here, on Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works, TOMO has managed to flex his guitar (most usually of the 12 string variety, but also of through the use of 6 strings) most beautifully, unwearyingly, patiently and eternally, with what I imagine to be twelve fingered hands (though even these fingers, in their abundance, display patience, plucking and stretching the strings, each in their rightful turn), often atop the droning presence of TOMO’s hurdy gurdy, buzzing underneath, and then magically atop the perpetual performance. Organic? Yes. Transcendent? Yes. Magical? Absolutely. TOMO indeed. That TOMO lays out over an hour of genre melting, culture melting, stress melting tunes is simply a gift of unheralded proportions. TOMO’s work here is magic, pure and simple, extending far beyond the already impressive (understatement) grandeur of its 20+ minute title track, and off into the horizon. Don’t miss this album.


For a better review of this album and a music sample to boot, head over to my buddy at Anti-Gravity Bunny, here.

Minamo + Lawrence English - A Path Less Travelled

Minamo + Lawrence English
A Path Less Travelled
(2010, Room40)
RIYL = Chihei Hatakeyama, Sawako, Stars of the Lid

The album title for Minamo and Lawrence English’s collaborative effort, A Path Less Travelled, doesn’t seem wholly accurate. This path is well trodden. In fact, the music itself, a minimalist drone, actually mimics in a way a heavily worn path, a trail ground down into dust, nearly into disappearance. It’s something I’ve touched on before (something I feel I almost always think of when listening to a new drone album), but, as is always the case when I end up having the strength to post something about an album, A Path Less Travelled manages to be one of the exceptions. Minamo and Lawrence English manage, without straying from the well-worn course plotted out be their predecessors (which includes themselves), to sparkle. A Path Less Travelled though does hint at, in a narrative or visual sense, lonely road. A solitary space, slow, but none the less, a place of motion. The music is gentle and patient, submerging you bit by bit into its sense of warmth and cold, its tinkering tones and small majesty. It’s a beautiful journey, and for those who complete it, A Path Less Travelled manages to add something not easily described to the building blocks of a person. A simple little notch of honesty, beauty and character.


Minamo + Lawrence English - The Path by ROOM40

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Avey Tare - Down There

Avey Tare
Down There
(2010, Paw Tracks)
RIYL = Animal Collective

It feels weird calling Avey Tare underrated, but I’ll still say it. I mean, when compared to Animal Collective bandmate Panda Bear and the golden halo that critics have crowned atop his head, Avey Tare might as well have been handed an empty KFC chicken bucket for a hat. Look what happened to Pullhair Rubeye (of which I will take every opportunity to champion in its original, reversed form – sooooo good). Down There isn’t getting hammered quite so bad as that album, but still, people seem a bit iffy about throwing weight towards it. For me, it’s not perfect, but still really great. Glum yet playful, muddy as all get out, and filled with all manner of lurking Down-There-ness. Avey really hit that swamp feeling perfectly because Down There feels like tromping mudded through a dark, sludgy stream, stringy slings of foliage milking the headspace above and yellow eyes peppering the darkness from left to right. I’ve heard people cherry picking the last couple songs as the only high points, but that feels like a rushed assessment. Sure they’re great, of course. But so is the mid section and beginning – simply needs a bit more time to creep in apparently (though, honestly, I found it immediately enchanting/haunting). I love Avey’s wiry vocals, the monstered effects he adds to them, and his general left field approach. As much as I love Panda Bear (and I do) Avey is what really sells me on Animal Collective (I suppose we shouldn’t forget Geologist and Deakin either). But Down There is a winner fer sure. Check it.


Dragging An Ox Through Water - They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford

Dragging An Ox Through Water
They’re Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford 7"
(2010, Stank House Records)
RIYL = Ghost To Falco, Alex Tedesco, Castanets

I’m so behind on reviews. I’ve missed a million of them. The fact that I almost forgot to post about this gem just goes to show how big of a slacker I am. And you should know that I rarely post on EPs or 7 inchers. But, of course, this isn’t just anyone here. This is Forest Gospel favourite, Dragging An Ox Through Water, AKA Brian Mumford. And what we have here, available digitally and, more suitably, on 7 inches of wax, is They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford Pencil Box Factory featuring DAOTW’s signature scatterbrained electronics bustling from end to end and a couple a folksy acoustic-based songs dropped down in the mist of it all. If you enjoyed Tropics of Phenomenon (AKA if you listened to it), then you will be very happy with this. And Mumford tells me there is more on the way. Oh joy!


They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford on Bandcamp