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Savages & Bo Ningen - Words to the Blind

Savages & Bo Ningen – Words to the Blind

British post punk band Savages and Japanese psych rock band Bo Ningen came together for the collaborative album Words to the Blind.  Both bands have an experimental bent to their individual work and Words to the Blind seems to have increased those individual tendencies exponentially.  The single track album starts with about four and a half minutes of Savages’ frontwoman Jehnny Beth speaking in French and Bo Ningen’s Taigen Kawabe  speaking in Japanese with only the occasional instrumental note.  It’s unclear if the two are in conversation or even if the words are related.  Thereafter, harsh drones and baselines kick in for about five minutes followed by two minutes of eeriness. 

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Arca - XenArca – Xen

Arca is a very of the moment producer (some of Yeezus and one of my favorite albums of the year FKA twigs’ LP1), and Xen is very of the moment experimental electronics.  The album is hard hitting, glitchy, full of space, and in many ways harsh.  It’s also safe to say it is where a lot of experimental electronic music will be going in the next year or two.  This is an album to listen to on headphones when you don’t have anything else going on and can wallow in the oddness.

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RTJ2Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

Killer Mike and El-P are back with the best hip hop album of 2014 thus far.  Surprisingly released last Friday, RTJ2 is everything the duo’s first album was and then some.  The beats hit harder, the lyrics are broader, and the imagery is even sharper.  This time around, though, they’ve added some guests to the mix (most notably Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha and Gangsta Boo) who do an excellent job adding to the album without stealing focus from the guys who brought them there. 

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SOLSTØV

Walking alone this evening in an isolated spot in Texan hill country, dusk falling, a deer flashes across my path and halts a few yards away, quivering. I stop and we trade stares for a while, my stillness not quite assuaging her agitation. A bat passes erratically. A sudden movement behind me catches the corner of my eye, and I turn just as a fawn, perhaps a foot and a half high, almost stumbles into my legs. It looks up at me for a long, fragile moment, and bolts away. The moon grows brighter in a vast sky as the last light fades, the gathering night filled with air and glow and darting life and tensile peace. As I walk on I’m listening to Solstøv by Pjusk, an album not from Texas but from Norway, yet evocatively descriptive of such a night as this, a night of peace and vastness and life and surprise and glory. This walk and this music will now live together in my memory.

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Pjusk - Drowning in the Sky

Pjusk – Drowning in the Sky

I visited Ulsteinvik recently, and found time for an all-too-brief hiking excursion up along the cliffs under the guidance of a local school principal. As we clambered up steep slopes in the gathering dusk, buffeted by a stiff wind, keeping an eye out for patches of ice amid the heather, talking about fishing boats and hidden reefs, I realized that Pjusk were playing in my head. Listening to music in its country of origin is one of the perks of traveling, and I had been punctuating my trip around Norway with Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek, and Biosphere, among others. But now that I was out on the bare hillside, surf threshing below, all human habitation out of sight, and the iPod safely back at the hotel, it became evident again that somewhere in my brain Pjusk’s music has become what the Norwegian landscape sounds like.

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Porya Hatami - Shallow

Porya Hatami – Shallow

 

I’ve been listening a lot to Porya Hatami recently, and it has been a delightful experience. It all started with a bandcamp sale by the Flaming Pines label to celebrate their third anniversary – a different album was offered for free download every two days. That drew my attention to their wonderful Birds of a Feather 3″ CD series, and to the first in that series, The Black Woodpecker by Porya Hatami, and that led me to his impressive new CD on Tench, which I will review below. But first a few words about The Black Woodpecker, since that was the piece that tuned my ear to Hatami’s sounds.

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Any list implies criteria, but let’s eliminate some obvious candidates. This is not a list of the most original, or significant, or skilled, or successful releases of 2013. There is so much that I simply did not listen to that those kinds of judgments are out of reach (for me as for everyone else). Instead, I asked myself: if I were to be separated from my music for a month or two and could only keep 20 albums from my collection with me, all released in 2013, which would I choose? This approach keeps me from adding or skipping things because I somehow feel I ought to. Worthy or not in the ears of the world, this is what I liked most from this year’s releases. Listen in; who knows, you might like it too.

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MiG jumps into the year end ‘Best of’ lists, with Craig McManus leading off with his Top 20 albums of the year:

In the past, I’ve always written a blurb about each album explaining it’s inclusion on my list.  Over the years of checking other people’s lists, however, I’ve noticed that I rarely read similar blurbs.  Instead I scroll through to see what made it, what I agree with, what I disagree with, and with what I am unfamiliar.  Then I move on to the next list.  As I highly doubt I’m alone in this technique, I’m going to dispense with the paragraph of explanation and instead simply note the word or phrase by which it is best encapsulated.  Think of it as a ‘Best of’ word association.  It’ll save me time, and perhaps someone will actually read it rather than skimming to the next image.

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Winter's Fire - The Ashes of Piemonte

Winter’s Fire – The Ashes of Piemonte

A palimpsest.

First layer: Blood and hate and keening grief. In the mid-17th century the Duke of Savoy pursues a brutal campaign to suppress communities of Waldensians living in the mountains of Piedmont. The Waldensians are followers of Peter Waldo, a Bible-oriented group excommunicated in 1215 because of their departure from various Catholic teachings. Despite repeated persecution, they have been able to establish small mountain communities. In 1655 an attempt at forced conversion meets with rejection, and is followed by an orgy of rape, torture, and murder that shocks Europe. 1700 men, women, and children are burned alive, dismembered, variously and gruesomely massacred.

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Savages

Every year the Twin Cities benefits from Pitchfork Music Festival being in Chicago when several of the bands add a stop on their way to or from Chicago.  This year that meant the first local date for the ferocious post punk buzz band of the moment Savages.

The show was at the 400 person capacity Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, and sold out so quickly (despite shows at the Triple Rock selling out rarely enough that a sign on the door announced “Tonight’s show is completely sold out.  Seriously.”) that a return date has already been added at the 1,500 capacity First Avenue Mainroom in September.  If you read nothing else of this review, read this: See them now before the rooms get even bigger.

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