Staff Picks

Staff Picks2020-06-01T18:00:23+00:00

Mark’s Picks

Leafar Legov “Mirror” (Giegling)

Leafar Legov “Mirror” (Giegling)

Leafar Legov’s debut album with some lovely lush techno and electronix!

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Night Sea “Still” (Silent Season)

Night Sea “Still” (Silent Season)

Night Sea is honoured to present their first LP to the Silent Season family. The album is the culmination of a two-year journey playing with the relationship between sound, repetition, and impermanence. The slowly evolving musical landscapes of Still are an invitation to slow down and explore the ever-changing facets of one’s experience.

This album is dedicated to Betty and Cassius for their inspiring resilience, and Glenda for her constant support.

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Various Artists “Spiritual Jazz 11: SteepleChase” (Jazzman)

Various Artists “Spiritual Jazz 11: SteepleChase” (Jazzman)

Double LP version. Gatefold sleeve; features two vinyl-only tracks from Jackie McLean & The Cosmic Brotherhood and Michael Carvin; includes download card. Subtitled: Esoteric, modal and progressive jazz from the SteepleChase label, 1974-84. Founded in 1972, SteepleChase Records is one of the most significant and prolific European jazz record labels. With a catalog running to well over 200 titles, the Copenhagen-based imprint has recorded and released music from some of the greatest names in jazz, including Dexter Gordon, Andrew Hill, Jackie McLean, Horace Parlan, Chet Baker, and Stan Getz. Starting out by recording visiting Americans when they performed at the legendary Café Montmartre, founder Nils Winther was encouraged to start the label by none other than the great Jackie McLean, who was the first artist to release a record on the new imprint. From there, Steeplechase rapidly grew into one of the foremost labels to document European jazz with all its distinctive originality and style. With a particular emphasis on recording front rank American artists who had chosen the expatriate life in Europe, Steeplechase was first in line to document the sounds of the greats as they developed in exile. Features extensive liner notes including a history of the label as well as notes on each of the individual tracks. Photos from the recording sessions and cover art from each of the LPs from which Jazzman Records’ selection has been taken is also included. With in-demand tracks from the likes of Billy Gault, Johnny Dyani, and Khan Jamal, and the unearthing of deep cuts from greats like Jackie McLean and Mary Lou Williams, Jazzman Records’ Spiritual Jazz Vol. 11: Steeplechase pays tribute to one of Europe’s most important jazz labels and furthers our exploration into the infinite realms of spiritual jazz. Also features Sam Jones, Rene McLean, Jim McNeely, Michael Carvin, and Ken McIntyre.

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Medline “Solstice” (My Bags)

Medline “Solstice” (My Bags)

When we first heard Medline doing cover versions of tracks from the La Plante Sauvage OST, we were blown away. We said something cheeky like: -this thing needs to be on vinyl.- Well wish it and will it enough and it will happen. Solstice is here, and it s a record chock full of covers of legendary original soundtrack, library and jazz funk music. Many of these records are tough or impossible to find, and Medline s concept of interpreting these killer cuts and getting them all together on one record is a rare find itself. This is definitely a record that you can go back to again and again. High quality, brilliant interpretations of these songs, most of which were sampled many times before, is not just a digger s delight, but something that needs to be in a collection. Every track was performed by Medline. He translated the compositions his way, into his world, and the end product is something we will be talking about for years

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Derek Carr “Pursuit Part 1” (Pariter)

Derek Carr “Pursuit Part 1” (Pariter)

An absolute future classic album of the incredible Derek Carr on Sushitech’s sub label – Pariter.
A long journey of 15 tracks that starts with some deep and dubby chords, acidic grooves and ends up with lush string based ambients.
For the fans of Convextion, Schatrax and of course Derek himself! Huge release!

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Corey’s Picks

Severed Heads “Clean” (Dark Entries)

Severed Heads “Clean” (Dark Entries)

Dark Entries’ first release of 2020 is a deluxe 2xLP reissue of Severed Heads’ debut 1981 album Clean. One of the longest surviving bands to emerge from the Australian post-punk independent music scene, they began in Sydney in 1979. Severed Heads is basically a nom- de-plum for Tom Ellard, who incorporates elements of ‘industrial’ noise-generation, tape cutting & looping and electronic sound synthesis. As the project developed song-structures and vocals were employed in a more-or-less recognizable mutant electro pop style.  Clean was amongst the first vinyl releases under the Dogfood Productions banner of Terse Tapes, previously a cassette-only label. For this records Tom used an array of synthesizers (Kawai 100F, Casiotone, Roland CR78+SH1+CSQ100), sequencers, tapes and occasional guitar and violin played by Garry Bradbury. Severed Heads have a language of their own, music that juxtaposes all sorts of noise, in all sorts of ways so that a structure evolves, (fragmented) melody and rhythm being almost a by-product. As one reviewer said in 1981, “It is an ugly album that you simply cannot ignore, it thuds and screeches and makes you stare just to wonder what kind of people would procure such an album.” For this deluxe reissue we’ve included a bonus disc featuring 13 songs, 5 of which have never been released before, culled from live performances, the Side 3 cassette and a Clean demo tape that only surfaced last year, plus “Food City” missing from previous reissues.  Each copy is housed in a gatefold jacket featuring black and white xeroxed artwork from the first vinyl edition. Inside the gatefold are liner notes by Tom Ellard plus photos and press clippings from the period. 25% of proceeds will be donated to the Australian Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities, that offers specific direct support to some of those communities with critical costs to cover expenses.

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Coil “Stolen & Contaminated Songs” (Cold Spring)

Coil “Stolen & Contaminated Songs” (Cold Spring)

Double LP version. 180 gram vinyl; glossy, 350gsm gatefold sleeve. Cold Spring Records announce the long-awaited reissue of Stolen & Contaminated Songs, Coil’s 1992 album. Stolen & Contaminated Songs was recorded and produced by Coil in 1992. It is comprised of over 60 minutes of outtakes and unreleased songs, evolved during the recording sessions for their prior album, Love’s Secret Domain (1991). A wealth of superb material showcasing the diversity of Coil: dark, violent, vivid, and fractured, yet cohesive and beautiful. Combined with the latest studio technology and Coil’s ever-evolving production skills, S&C Songs walks a fine line between tradition and innovation, continually creating semi-abstract soundscapes with a cinematic quality.

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Khotin “Beautiful You” (Ghostly International)

Khotin “Beautiful You” (Ghostly International)

“Beautiful You needs little framing. “No distinct storylines or themes. It’s really just a collection of songs as rudimentary as that sounds,” Khotin-Foote explains. But the title of the album arrives with some lore: in high school, Khotin-Foote found a handwritten note on his windshield that read “Beautiful you, thanks for the smile.” Whoever left the note, they gifted the producer with this anonymous phrase that perfectly suits the work now, here, years later. Paired with the record’s cover, an ASCII-rendered photo of his mother and her parents living temporarily in Italy as refugees in the ’80s, the information graphs a malleable outline for listeners to shape into their own experience. A sensation akin to déjà vu, of misremembered hospitable climes, broadcast via ambiguous transmissions, birdsongs, melody and static.

Songs drift at a leisure; environments and voices pass by, some distinguishable, others pitched down or truncated to single words. In the case of “Vacation,” the message comes into focus over time, beginning in fragments, assembling above a suspended note to sublime effect. On “Merged Host,” a cycle of melodic phrases becomes punctuated by a clipped half-time beat and injected with a sample’s reoccurring comic relief (“I am so happy / how great I am”). On album closer “Planet B,” nostalgia is encountered head-on, with coiling and smooth synth lines twisted and spiraling around a nodding and assured percussion pattern.”

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Various Artists “Touched Electronix 002” (Furthur Electronix)

Various Artists “Touched Electronix 002” (Furthur Electronix)

Touched Music and Furthur Electronix two forward thinking labels have merged together to put out exclusive compilations. Putting some of the best music in the electronic genre in one place. This is part 2.

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Muslimgauze “Azzazin” (Staalplaat)

Muslimgauze “Azzazin” (Staalplaat)

Azzazin is a double standout Muslimgauze album, first LP originally issued in 1996, as a CD (Muslimgauze Subscription 003); the second disc originally as a 10″ of remixes (Muslimgauze Subscription 007). This 2LP adds two unreleased tracks. Tightly focused on a singular palette of monotone drones and swarming electronic buzzes, which arguably sound like a parallel to early Editions Mego. They’re probably the most minimalist Muslimgauze tracks you’ve heard, and even still he manages to express a fine range of abstracted emotions, from aggressive buzz to tender ambient pieces and spectral concrete prisms. Starting with an extremely minimal opening number — it’s no surprise Finnish experimental duo Pan Sonic were Muslimgauze fans, based on this track — Azzazzin has a much more electronic feeling than most of Bryn Jones’s other albums, eschewing the traditional elements used elsewhere for a rough, quietly aggressive, and disturbing feel. The fourth track, with its unpredictable keyboard snarls over a low, quiet pulse, and the sixth and seventh songs, with distorted, high-pitched noise tones mixed with a soft series of bass notes and a slight spoken-word interjection from time to time, are some of the strong points from this intriguing release. Surprisingly this album contains no trace of percussions whatsoever and instead presents a dry and claustrophobic minimal electronics that sounds more like a Warp band or a project by some S.E.T.I.-inspired laptop artist than a Middle Eastern-inspired band. Outer space sci-fi sounds meet with found sounds and human-made noises, isolationist experimental knob tweaking and mostly hi frequency material loops playing at random. Beats are used in an extremely limited way throughout Azzazzin, with rhythm, always a key component of Jones’ work, more suggested at points by the nature of the keyboard lines than anything else. draws a picture of the artist that is different than the one we got to know. Closing with an equally minimal track, Azzazzin won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but adventuresome listeners will find themselves rewarded. All tracks written, played by Muslimgauze. Edition of 700.

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Eleanor’s Picks

Faith Healer “Try ;)” (Mint)

Faith Healer “Try ;)” (Mint)

When Edmonton’s Jessica Jalbert first began performing solo under the name Faith Healer, the alias was her way of avoiding being pigeonholed as a singer-songwriter. Now, however, times have changed: Faith Healer has blossomed into a band, with singer-guitarist Jalbert joined by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Renny Wilson and their first album as a duo is Try ;-). The follow-up to 2015’s Cosmic Troubles was largely recorded during an intensive month-long session in September 2016 at Wilson’s personal studio in Montreal. During the process, Jalbert rented a room in Wilson’s house and the pair spent hours jamming and listening to bargain bin rock records in the basement. The resultant pop-rock arrangements are overflowing with beautiful sonic details-from the Twin Peaks synths that enshroud “Sterling Silver” to the funky clavinet nestled within the paisley-patterned pop of “& Waiting.” Jalbert and Wilson were also inspired by the garage-punk snarl of Wipers, the deadpan drama of Leonard Cohen’s Death Of A Ladies’ Man, and the classic songwriting chops of Scott Walker and Elvis Costello. The intensive creative process of making this album inspired the title and serves as a reminder that sometimes you need to grab life by the horns rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. As for that winky face: “I always use that winky emoticon,” Jalbert says with a laugh. “I think it’s hilarious. I think it’s cheeky and fun, which is something I was trying to access a little more with this record.” Balancing melancholy lyrics with playful moods, lush melodies with straightforward arrangements, this album is the sound of an introspective loner leaving her bedroom to make a rock record with her best bud.

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Downtown Boys “Cost of Living” (Sub Pop)

Downtown Boys “Cost of Living” (Sub Pop)

The United States’ myriad inequalities, hatreds and phobias are painfully evident in 2017, offering proof that the age-old dichotomy of “political bands” versus “apolitical bands” simply doesn’t exist. Either you are comfortable and unfazed by the current reigning power structures, or you use your music as a vehicle for the dismantling of oppression and the creation of something better. No matter what your songs are about, you are choosing a side. Cost of Living is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto (Fugazi; producer of Blonde Redhead, The Gossip), one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.

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Sheer Mag “Need To Feel Your Love” (Wilsuns RC)

Sheer Mag “Need To Feel Your Love” (Wilsuns RC)

A tear in the firmament. Beyond the noxious haze of our national nightmare – as structures of social justice and global progress topple in our midst – there lies a faint but undeniable glow in the distance. What is it? Like so many before us we are drawn to the beacon. But only by the bootstraps of our indignation do we go so boldly into the dark to find it. And so Sheer Mag has let the sparks fly since their outset, with an axe to grind against all that clouds the way. A caustic war cry, seething in solidarity with all those who suffer the brunt of ignorance and injustice in an imbalanced system. Both brazen and discrete, loud yet precise, familiar but never quite like this, Sheer Mag crept up from Philadelphia cloaked in bold insignia to channel our social and political moment with grit and groove. Cautious but full of purpose. What is it? By making a music both painfully urgent and spiritually timeworn, Sheer Mag speaks to a modern pain: to a people who too feel their flame on the verge of being extinguished, yet choose to burn a bit brighter in spite of that threat. With their debut LP, the cloak has been lifted. It is time to reclaim what has been taken from us. Here the band rolls up their sleeves, takes to the streets, and demands recompense for a tradition of inequity that’s poisoned our world. However, it is in our ability to love-our primal human right to give and receive love -that the damage of such toxicity is newly explored. Love is a choice we make. We ought not obscure, neglect, or deny that choice. Through the tumult and the pain, the camaraderie and the cause, the band continues to burn a path into that great beyond. But where are we headed? On Need To Feel Your Love, they make their first full-length declaration of light seen just beyond our darkness. Spoken plainly, without shame: it is love.

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Laurel Halo “Dust” (Hyperdub)

Laurel Halo “Dust” (Hyperdub)

There’s a track on Laurel Halo’s first album, 2012’s Quarantine, called “Joy.” At first it glows with warmth, but after a while dissonant chords cool the mood. On a record full of angst and paranoia, the message seemed to be that joy was something lost, or unattainable. Halo’s music since has pursued the emotion. On 2013’s Chance Of Rain, she ditched the anguished singing to focus on spry drum tracks inspired by her live sets; at the time, she wondered if “this is the kind of music that I’m meant to make, because it just makes me feel better. It’s more of a joyous process.” Dust, her latest and best LP, returns to vocals but goes one further: it’s “the happiest album I have made.”

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Mount Eerie “A Crow Looked At Me” (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

Mount Eerie “A Crow Looked At Me” (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

A new Mount Eerie album unlike anything else in the Mount Eerie or Microphones back catalog. Eleven stark songs about basic deep grief, loss, real death, love, significance and non-significance, reality. Nothing wise or learned, just the described experience of living through unimaginable domestic obliteration, with names and dates.

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Michael’s Picks

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