Barry Adamson --Memento Mori

If the post-punk era produced a renaissance man, it's Barry Adamson. He was an integral member of Magazine and the founding incarnation of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. He played on synth pop albums by Visage and Pete Shelley. He's written and arranged for Nitzer Ebb, Ethyl Meatplow, Scott Walker, and Simple Minds, to name a few, and has contributed music to soundtracks like Derek Jarman's The Last of England, David Lynch's Lost Highway, Allison Anders' Gas Food Lodging, and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers. Adamson has also directed films, including the acclaimed 40-minute feature film noir Therapist. Along the way, he's released nine studio albums as well as singles and EPs. Memento Mori looks back on his 40-year career that, while astonishingly consistent, has branched off in several musical directions. Of these 17 tracks, all but two are culled from his solo catalog: Magazine's "Parade" and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' "From Her to Eternity." Adamson is a pioneer in the "imaginary soundtracks" genre. The tunes are sequenced aesthetically, creating a seamless -- though jarring -- listening session. While the closing cut from his widely acclaimed 1989 debut Moss Side Story  opens this set; it's followed by the Atticus Ross-produced "Jazz Devil" from 1998's As Above, So Below with its swinging B-3 and horns accompanying Adamson's humorous Beat and lounge lizard narrative. "007, A Fantasy Bond Theme," from 1992's Soul Murder, combines fat swinging brass, West Indies-patois narration, skanking reggae and ska rhythms, and razor-wire surf guitars, woven through a warped take on the original Bond theme. Adamson took three selections off 1993's Oedipus Schmoedipus in various spots, including its hit single "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis," a string-laden, psychedelic, gospelized fingerpopper co-written with and featuring Jarvis Cocker. Other highlights include the whomping junglist funk of "The Snowball Effect" from The Negro Inside Me (1994) and the Bowie-esque rock that is "The Sun and the Sea" from 2012's I Will Set You Free. Memento Mori serves as a fitting retrospective of -- as well as a brilliant introduction to -- one of the most enigmatic musicians of the last half-century. ~Thom Jurek,


Adrianne Lenker -- Abysskiss

Following her band Big Thief's second LP, Capacity, by a little over a year, 2018's Abysskiss is Adrianne Lenker's second solo album for Saddle Creek since joining their roster in 2014. It stylizes its title and track names in lower-case lettering, an appropriate signal of the intimacy to come on an album that speaks softly but with emotional potency. It was recorded in a week with producer Luke Temple (Here We Go Magic, Art Feynman), much of whose solo music could be described the same way. Though Temple also performs on the album, his presence is easily overlooked here given the spare, engrossing nature of Lenker's songs. Opening track "Terminal Paradise" sets the stage with acoustic guitar, piano, a minor key, and the singer's hushed wail as she anticipates, in the first-person voice, the transformation from death to a blossoming flower. Not all the tracks are quite as heavy -- Lenker has explained that some of the songs were years in the making and others were written in the days leading up to the recording session. The album introduces electric guitar on its fourth track, the relatively extroverted "Out of Your Mind." Elsewhere, "Cradle" is a haunted lullaby with dampened piano, arpeggiated guitar, and hummed backing vocals, and "From" attaches special meaning to certain words with subtle changes in chords and harmonic voicing. Across the record, Lenker covers big emotions and small moments, noticing horse tails, eyelashes, and silences. The immediacy of the performances has the effect of eavesdropping on a late-night living room lament. ~Marcy Donelson,




The Internet -- Hive Mind

Explicit and subtle themes of shelter, comfort, and shrugging off the weight of the world are threaded throughout The Internet’s Hive Mind.  All three are hinted in the opener with "What we gon' do?" and "They gon' get us to come together," with the second line repeated, gradually intensifying in force and volume to the point where it becomes a statement of resistance. Foremost is a carefree roller-skating jam named "Roll (Burbank Funk)," where Patrick Paige wraps a vigorous funk bassline around the oft-sampled break from Gaz's Salsoul nugget "Sing Sing."  Syd Bennett remains the prevailing voice, whispery and easy on the ear yet always heartfelt and often seductive. She continues to grow as a vocalist, sounding sweeter -- more Janet-like than ever -- on the quietly moving "It Gets Better (With Time)," while in the background of "Look What U Started" evoking the lower-end vocal of Brandy's "Baby." Hooks are not as common, sometimes concealed, rewarding listeners who don't mind delayed gratification. Just as "Mood" starts to wear out its welcome with common ingredients -- an off-the-cuff rhythm tied into a knot, plus bristly spaced-out guitar from Steve Lacy -- Bennett casually pulls out one of her most persuasive hooks like it's nothing. ~Andy Kellman,

Dead Can Dance-- Dionysus

The follow-up to the pioneering Australian art pop duo's 2012 comeback LP Anastasis, Dionysus dispenses with the more song-oriented approach of its predecessor in favor of an atmosphere-driven bacchanalian oratorio inspired by the Greek god of wine and ecstasy. Split into two tracks with a sum of seven movements, Dionysus unfurls like a guided ayahuasca trip; a curl of aromatic smoke that develops into a roaring, pre-Byzantine bonfire replete with primeval chants and ancient rites. Opener "Sea Borne" tracks the outsider God's arrival via a slow build of tribal beats and a sinewy, unfolding melody that suggests "Misirlou" by way of "Kashmir" -- the album continues to eschew the European folk proclivities of the duo's early work in favor a more Mediterranean and North African aesthetic. Brendan Perry's considerable arsenal of exotic weaponry is given a wide swath of sonic landscape, with stringed (oud), wind (fujara), and percussion (davul) instruments leading the charge. When paired with Lisa Gerrard's powerful voice, the effect is intoxicating, especially on more Gerrard-forward pieces like "The Invocation" and "Dance of the Bacchantes," the latter of which works itself into a particularly dervish-esque lather. Field recordings of Swiss goatherds, South American bird calls, and New Zealand beehives add more than just atmosphere, delivering evocative segues that invoke the pagan gods of old and the primordial forests and oceans they governed. Perry and Gerrard, who have long looked to mythology for inspiration, recognize that those foundational tales are largely immune to cultural disparity -- after all, who doesn't love an epic party? As an unofficial soundtrack for ritual madness, religious ecstasy, sex, winemaking, and song, Dionysus excels.~ James Christopher Monger



Makaya McCraven-- Universal Beings

Guiding the undulating, polyrhythmic, genre-ambiguous flow of drummer Makaya McCraven's ever-evolving "organic beat music," is a strategy not far removed from the one employed by Teo Macero and Miles Davis on Bitches Brew and subsequent dates: Here, moments from continuous improvised performances are digitally looped, cut, spliced, and edited into entirely new compositions. McCraven has been developing the approach for some time, though it came to fruition on 2015's brilliant In the Moment, culled from nearly 48 hours of live improvised performance at a single venue over a year, then processed and remixed into 19 individual pieces. McCraven takes a leap further out on the double-length Universal Beings. The spirit and inspiration of Alice Coltrane permeates the music's flow in rhapsodic whole tones. The Chicago side commencing with "Pharaoh's Intro" stars Hutchings and Paul communicating in post-bop cadences carried by McCraven's frenetic drumming. It follows to "Atlantic Black" with fiery, Nigerian funk rhythms colored by cello and bassline pulses and saxophone loops over a spacy electric piano and a spiky Reid solo pushing the tune outward. It's brought back inside by the Afro-beat rhythms and dubwise basslines undergirding "Inner Flight." The London side skates between trippy, soulful, syncopated jazz-funk and modal jazz courtesy of Garcia's illustrious horn and Ashley Henry's Rhodes piano as the interplay between McCraven and bassist Daniel Casimir balances both ends of the spectrum; they create emphasis, tension, and release. The Los Angeles side contains virtually everything that previously transpired but goes somewhere new. At the end of the recording, McCraven says "You guys got all that?" then laughs. Given all that's here, one wonders who he was speaking to, the engineers or the listeners? Universal Beings is unique from any other jazz recording in 2018: It marries virtuoso musicianship, technological savvy, a keen editor's ear for creative inspiration, and a plethora of almighty grooves. ~Thom Jurek,

Mountain Man -- Magic Ship

In the eight years that have passed between 2010's Made the Harbor and 2018's Magic Ship, Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath have been exploring divergent paths, with the latter teaming up with Nick Sanborn for the stylish electropop project Sylvan Esso, and the other two pursuing solo careers. Little has changed musically for the trio (they never officially disbanded), who, on album number two from Nonesuch, continue to weave their unembellished voices around old Appalachian folk tunes, rustic originals, and the occasional cover (Michael Hurley's "Blue Mountain" and Ted Lucas' "Baby Where You Are"). Like its equally austere predecessor, Magic Ship delivers a listening experience that's akin to eavesdropping. So unadorned are these largely a cappella songs, both on the production and execution side of the sonic equation, that it feels a bit like somebody stuck a microphone through a cracked door and caught Sarle, Sauser-Monnig, and Meath unawares. The ones that stand out, like "Slow Wake Up Sunday Morning," "Rang Tang Ring Toon," and "Baby Where You Are," usually have some softly strummed acoustic guitar in the background, but even with accompaniment Magic Ship feels ephemeral. That said, it's understated vibe can be transfixing, and its intimacy disarming. It's like having your own private house show, only the performers have no idea you're in the same room with them.~ James Christopher Monger,












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