Ryan’s Music Picks: 14 September 2016

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. Life’s been getting in the way, but music that I want to talk about keeps piling up. I need to get some of this out of my system, so here’s a bunch of stuff that’s come across my plate lately:

clipping. – Splendor & Misery ​(BandcampiTunesSpotify)
This is a hell of an incredible album. It’s a dark afrofuturist science fiction story, told by insanely precise, heavily rhythmic raps over avant-noise soundscapes. It’s unquestionably the evolution of noise-hop, and a clear next step from the noisy Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein (iTunesSpotify), and afrofuturist scifi rap of Deltron 3030 (BandcampiTunesSpotify). There’s a Vigenère cipher embedded in one of the tracks, that’s probably one of the more obvious deeper meanings buried in this story. It’s kind of crazy to think that Tony award winning rapper Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton, he originated the dual role of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson) left the insanely-successful musical to release this album and tour. I’ll be honest with you, this can be pretty grating at times, and I’m not using ‘noise’ as a descriptor to talk about staticky music or whatever. This is a co-release between Subpop Records (who have released albums from Nirvana, the Shins, the Postal Service, and Fleet Foxes) and Deathbomb Arc, who specialize in weirdo sound collage, noise-punk and drone music (of course I own a lot of their music on CD and limited edition vinyl). So the fact that DBA had a hand in the release of this album should be an indicator that they’re not afraid to make your ears bleed in a ‘drill a spike into your brain’ kind of way. The album’s also killer in a good way, so I guess your milage may vary. Not appropriate for kids.

Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
It has taken me a long time to get into Saint Etienne. I remember in the early 2000s, doing music research online, they (and this album) kept coming up in the “recommended if you like” column of various sites I frequented, but I just never could get into it. They sounded hopelessly dated to my pretty immature ears in 2002, but this 25-year-old-album sounds amazingly fresh in 2016. Foxbase Alpha is a combination of incredibly-smooth, mellow vocals, early hip hop beats, and low key groovy baselines that just plant themselves in your brain. It’s super chill and has mellowed and gotten classier with age.

Shirley Collins – Sweet England (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
There’s something magical to me about folk music from the British Isles. I was raised in a family with some Irish heritage (but not really enough to trace to a source) so it manifested in just generally being into Irish and British folk music. I discovered the music of Shirley Collins a few years ago when Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) recorded a tour-only EP of her music, which is not available for download anywhere officially (but it can be found…). She was/is part of the British folk revival and she documented, arranged and recorded a lot of folk tunes that really should be considered classics. I picked this collection because it has Charlie, one of my favorite of her tunes, but I really could just listen to her recordings on repeat for days.

Leno Lovecraft – Platinum Planet (SoundcloudiTunesSpotify)
Sometimes, bro, you just need bright pink, ultra-glossy electronic grooves to get you out of a rut. Leno Lovecraft split the difference between that chill Saint Etienne sound and the sparkling Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack in a way that’s ultra-listenable. You might listen to this EP a lot of times in a row, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all. IT’S ALSO FREE AT SECRET SOUNDS.

Raymond Scott – Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
You have absolutely heard the first track on this compilation of jazz composer and bandleader Raymond Scott’s popular work. It was under license to Warner Brothers during the heyday of the Looney Tunes, so the piece Powerhouse has been interpolated into quite a few classic Bugs Bunny, et al cartoons. Animaniacs even did a riff on it, using a re-orchestrated version of Powerhouse. Raymond Scott is someone I’m comfortable calling a great American composer, and his later work and experimentation with early electronic music have endeared me even further. One of his key focuses in this work and others was to bring music into the mundane everyday and to turn the mundane everyday into something musical. A ton of the music here has names that describe a specific scene, and a lot of it borders of musique concrete before it morphs into a more traditional (but extremely precise, not unlike Daveed Diggs raps) jazz number. This is another one of those things that works perfectly just playing all day for me.

evax – Parking Lot Music (BandcampiTunes, Spotify)
This is one of my all-time favorite albums, and an important one in my personal growth as a music listener. Parking Lot Music was the first album I got into where I discovered that calm, relaxing music could be more interesting than as just something to help you fall asleep. The beats here are too interesting for sleep, and the soundscapes built by the mostly-digital sounds calmly usher you to a place where you can put your feet up and sip some Lacroix or whatever. Also, it’s worth noting that e
vax is the non-guitar half of another of my favorite bands, Ratatat (their new album Magnifique (iTunesSpotify) is rad af).

Okay, so it’s not really that many more albums, but it’s the longest email I’ve sent. See you next week. 💖