Viet Cong - Viet Cong

Viet Cong are the sort of band that makes you think use of the word "eclectic" should have been saved especially for them. On their first full-length album, simply titled Viet Cong, this group's music encompasses lo-fi noise and hi-fi electronic sheen, fuzzy guitars and thundering digital percussion, relentless drum patterns looping through banks of undefinable and formless sound, droning keyboards bumping up against indie rock guitar bashing, and clean and jangly 12-strings cheek by jowl with deep, echo-laden vocals. While Viet Cong only boasts seven songs, there seems to be at least three times as many musical personalities making their way through this music, and despite the spacious range of sounds and perspectives, Viet Cong manage to fuse it all into something scattershot yet coherent, unified by a strong stylistic through-line and an abundance of energy. Viet Cong's four collaborators -- Matthew Flegel, Scott Munro, Michael Wallace, and Daniel Christiansen -- have filled this album with cool but addictive melodies, guitar work that can sooth or bludgeon at will, and plenty of sonic atmosphere, while producer Graham Walsh (working in tandem with Flegel and Munro) gives the music a muscular presence, making especially interesting use of the stereo image. And while Viet Cong have more than a passing fancy for indie rock's past -- Sonic Youth, Gang of Four, and the Jesus and Mary Chain are just three of the obvious touchstones one can hear in these songs -- the performances are full of the joy of discovery and the crackle of fresh ideas introduced to the mix. Viet Cong were a group full of promise on their debut EP, Cassette, and with their harder, heavier, and more powerful debut album, they're making it clear they have the talent and smarts to become a major force in Canada's indie community.

 

Public Service Broadcasting -- The Race For Space

Themes of the space race of the 60s lie at the core of Public Service Broadcasting's new album, The Race For Space, a song cycle that retells the American and Soviet tentpole events between 1957 and 1972 — roughly from Sputnik to Apollo 17 — and lets us hear that historical arc the way many experienced it at the time.

Part musical group, part performance-art outfit, Public Service Broadcasting is the innovative and geeky work of Londoners J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth. The two earned their reputation for marrying looped dance beats and electronics with spoken-word passages culled from old public-service messages, synced to meticulously edited film footage projected while they perform. With The Race For Space, Willgoose and Wrigglesworth incorporate original news broadcasts and communications between the astronauts and NASA's master control. From song to song, this tapestry of source material narrates each chapter chronologically, placing the listener inside the drama of the moment — propelled by futuristic Kraftwerk-meets-Aphex Twin-meets-Daft Punk sounds suitable for a laser show at the local planetarium. ~Mike Katzif, NPR

Laura Marling -- Short Movie

Laura Marling returns with her fifth studio album in seven years Short Movie. The album, a follow up to 2013's Mercury Prize nominated Once I Was An Eagle, marks a new chapter in her sound and artistic development. Short Movie sees Marling move into new musical territory and may surprise fans with its prevalence of electric guitar. The album is freer and looser sounding than anything she has done before. Marling produced the album, was recorded at Urchin Studios in London and aided by her long time drummer Matt Ingram and studio engineer Dan Cox.

From Nate ChinenThe New York Times: "Ms. Marling sings with lean, responsive accompaniment: cello, violin, keyboards, bass and drums. (She produced the album in London with her drummer, Matt Ingram, and his fellow engineer Dan Cox.) The fundamentals of her style are unchanged: the austere beauty of her singing; the grace and propulsion of her fingerpicking; the drones that underscore both Indian ragas and pensive British folk."



Courtney Barnett -- Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

A convincing argument that rock & roll doesn't need reinvention in order to revive itself, Courtney Barnett's full-length debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. falls into a long, storied rock tradition but never feels beholden to it. By almost any measure, Barnett is a traditionalist -- a singer/songwriter supported by a guitar-bass-drum trio, cranking out ballads and squalls of noise. Barnett's thick Australian accent carries an unstated pride for her homeland, but her sly twists of phrase, alternately wry and melancholic, give a greater sense of place, time, and character. Offhand observations mingle with understated insights, a nice trick of songwriting that the music cannily mirrors. When called upon, Barnett and her band can be furious -- "An Illustration of Loneliness" and "Kim's Caravan" both work themselves up to a knotty, gnarled head -- but they can also slip into a soothing sadness ("Depreston," "Boxing Day Blues"). Usually, they're punchy but not precise, hammering the hard hooks of "Aqua Profunda!" and "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" into place, giving "Elevator Operator" and "Pedestrian at Best" an urgency that mimics Barnett's cloistered, clever words. There are no frills here but there is a distinct, compelling voice evident in Barnett's songs and music alike. That's what makes Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. so invigorating: it may have roots -- perhaps even some inadvertent ones -- but it's music that lives thoroughly in the moment. ~Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

 

Buena Vista Social Club -- Lost and Found

It's hard to believe that it took Nick Gold and his World Circuit team to plunder the vaults for unreleased Buena Vista Social Club recordings. This loose-knit group of all-but-forgotten all-star musicians from pre-Revolutionary Havana was assembled by Juan de Marcos González and American guitarist Ry Cooder -- and supported by a cast of players they influenced -- to record its self-titled 1997 album that went platinum in the wake of Wim Wenders' 1999 film of the same name. Lost and Found compiles unreleased vault tracks from the original 1996 EGREM studios sessions, live tracks, and rehearsal sessions from subsequent albums. But this music is anything but a hodgepodge, half-baked assortment. It is assembled with care and attention to the group's legacy. The somgs were recorded after-hours during the 1997 album recording sessions. Ruben González is represented handsomely and poignantly: first by his last ever recorded solo on "Bodas de Oro," a swinging danzón from a session led by trombonist Jesús "Aguaje" Ramos; by the elegant live piano solo "Como Siento Yo"; as well as by his informal scat singing on set closer "Rubén Sings!" Lost and Found is better served as a companion volume to the painstakingly curated Buena Vista Social Club album than as a general listener's introduction to the various musicians. That said, for anyone who ever wished there was more music in the can, this all-killer, no-filler program is indispensable. ~ Thom Jurek



Badbadnotgood -- Sour Soul

Ghostface Killah's 2015 collaboration with Toronto jazz/hip-hop trio BadBadNotGood seems to be turning his 2010s work into a themed trilogy, as his 2013 LP, Twelve Reasons to Die, found the Wu-Tang rapper partnering with Adrian Younge for a '70s slasher-themed release, while 2014's 36 Seasons was action movie-inspired and recorded with Brooklyn band the Revelations. Sour Soul is more abstract, as the title track tells the tale of a character that's a cross between Johnny Mnemonic and a pimp, while the music touches upon a wide range of soundtrack styles from the '60s and '70s, including the soft-porny "Stark's Reality," where vibes and strings float about the speakers. "Tone's Rap" is either semi-drunk funk or the sound of a warped Fat Albert record, and to their credit, BadBadNotGood are more soulful than usual, laying down grooves that could complement any adventurous MC. Out of all of Ghostface's recent albums, this one stuns with its features, as MF Doom ("Ray Gun"), Elzhi ("Gunshowers"), and Danny Brown ("Six Degrees") all spit and kick with left-field excellence. In James Bond terms, Sour Soul is the almost addendum-ish Quantum of Solace as it offers adventurous fans the same opportunities for a quick fix while sacrificing a bit of weight. In Toronto jazz terms, it's verygoodgoodnotbad. ~David Jeffries, allmusic.com

 

 

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