A fine St Valentine’s Day soundtrack, if there ever was one.
Keyboardist of crucial Ethio-Jazz band, Walias Band, Hailu Mergia now lives and drives a cab in the Washington DC area. In 2014 @awesometapesfromafrica re-released one of Mergia’s albums, which inspired him to get back to writing and recording music. Lala Belu is the result.
Number 27 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
From the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting Autoharp vibe of “Soothsayer Song” to the Joan Baez fronting Sweetheart of the Rodeo era Byrds groove of “Indian Burn” Josephine Foster is anything but predictable.
Her unusually retro vocal stylings, think Meryl Streep in the Prairie Home Companion movie at best or Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins at worst, cut an unusual audio profile for a modern recording artist. On the plus side, there is no detectable auto-tune.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I really care for Sweetheart of the Rodeo era Byrds or Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings.
Having grown up going to those prayer meetings and listening to Country and Western music, Faithful Fairy Harmony cuts a little close to the bone for me.
Number 28 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
“Black Helicopters is Anarkea (Keaton Transue); a 20 year old producer from Richmond, Virginia,. “
It is funny, I was reminded about an interview at a recent City Arts and Lectures with Jeff Tweedy. Talking with author George Saunders about the myths of rock music, “There are tons of Rock and Roll myths that I think that are extremely idiotic…one of them is the generation gap…the notion that we are supposed to be adversarily related to previous generations. It’s like, it doesn’t do anybody any good. And it was marketing, it was basically for youth marketing…It really makes Rock music a less serious thing…If people only read books by people 19 years old! It would be miserable. It would be the worst. People don’t read any books by 19 year olds. Hardly at all, I would imagine.”
Well, this is a pretty interesting album by a 20 year old. Samples from the media over hip-hop type beats. A bit like a funkier negativland.
The subject matter is that of living in the modern day surveillance state.
But, it is hard to tell where the creator is coming from.
I am reminded that there is a sort of reverse confluence among the conspiracy theorists of the far right and the far left; anti-vaxers, tin foil hat theorists, flat earthers, etc. Those who believe that the government is conspiring against them and their ability to live their lives as they choose.
One of the voices I recognize among the samples is that of InfoWar’s Alex Jones, and I don’t think it is used in a satiric manner.
Number 25 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
Hannah Silva is, “an award-winning writer and sound poet known for her innovative and virtuosic vocal performances.”
This is her debut recording.
This is Poetry informed by the modern cultural landscape. It is Post-Black Mirror, Post-Hannibal, and, especially, Post-Fleabag poetry.
Which is to say, her imagery is often disturbing and she is very frank about sexuality.
Two songs are about women as sex dolls, the term “fleshlight” comes up multiple times. One of those songs starts about a prostitute wearing a corset over a puffer jacket, segues to Barbie, then to a life size sex doll. After that she seems to transform into a sushi bar on “gyno row”.
Another songs seems to be about the pleasure and (mostly) pain of S&M.
A couple others may or may not be about serial killers.
As a performer, aside from her poetry, her fixation is with de-composing her communication into the basic elements of language; vowels and consonants without the burden of meaning.
About her poetry, I am ambivalent.
Putting herself out there is brave.
On the other hand, it feels a bit like a woman talking about herself through what she imagines are the mouths of men and wolves, rather than speaking for herself.
Number 23 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
I had thought Dedekind Cut was a sort of combination of ambient and goth.
I don’t know if Tahoe is representative, but if so, it is more of an ambient drone.
Digital reverb soaked keyboard washes, occasional early music vocals, the odd field recording, and quasi-Asian keyboard noodling are mixed in a static casserole of sounds, baked at 375 until bubbling, then refrigerated. Reheated the next day on a paper plate.
It reminds me of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks music or a low rent Popol Vuh.
Brace Up! by Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt; Bandcamp Link: Brace Up!
Number 22 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
Chris Corsano is a drummer who lives in the North Eastern United States and Bill Orcutt is a guitarist who lives in, or near, San Francisco. Chris Corsano has a diverse recording history, from Björk (Volta) to the skronkiest free improvisation with Paul Flaherty and a little of every thing in between. Bill Orcutt has been mining the black seams at the edges of punk, folk, and improvisation, for the better part of 30 years, first gaining notice as the guitarist in the band Harry Pussy.
Some of Mr Orcutt’s records can be contemplative, edging along the sort of work that John Fahey did, reinterpreting American popular and folk traditions.
Brace Up! is not that sort of work.
Mr Corsano’s playing is almost always propulsive, sounding like an octopus has been dosed with meth and let loose in the pantry.
They complement each other well, each pushing the other further than they might go on their own, but in different directions.
Corsano keeps Orcutt skittering, barely letting him get a footing before taking off with another idea. Orcutt pulls Corsano down a bit, making him dig more repetition than he usually does.
It’s a great album, though, obviously, not one to put on if you’re looking to relax and take a nap.
Number 21 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
You got me on this one.
I must be missing some critical United Kingdom cultural context, ‘cos this just sounds like fairly plain lo-fi electronic pop music. I feel like about a million people are recording music pretty similar to this with garageband or on their phones every day.
It’s not bad, per se, I just can’t detect anything of note in the music, beats, lyrics, or production that would place it in this Top 50 releases of 2018.
Number 20 in the wire magazine (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 releases of 2018.
Odd, as far as I can tell, this album by Nordra was released in October of 2016, strange that it would be in the wire magazine best of 2018. Maybe it was initially released independently and got picked up by a label ?
Well, I missed it back in 2016, so a pleasure to listen to it in 2019.
Nordra is the project of Seattle musician Monika Khot.
This music was composed to accompany a multimedia performance Pylon II (there was a Pylon and there is now a Pylon III).
The music is pretty fascinating, it dances on the jagged edge, tilting between abstract electronic music, film scores, pop music, and dance music.
It is mostly instrumental, with the odd well placed sample. The self slicing brownie pan commercial provided a bit of levity, though it was playing against another slightly disguised home surveillance advertisement.
Another win for the wire magazine top 50 releases.