The Gold and Silver Sessions – Elder. This is 32 minutes of adventurous, technically-excellent instrumental psych-rock. Elder have managed to create sonic gold out of expansive, spacy psych jams–they’re neither too noodly as to lose the thread of the tune or too concise to really turn into jams. Instead, these three tracks spread over the halfhour develop at their own pace, slowly accreting ideas and movement until individual moments of release. Special shout-out to the bassist, who does excellent work not just holding down the low end but also providing some melodic work. Fans of mystic/spacy/loose psychedelic work will find much to celebrate here. Fans of instrumental music in general should give this one a look: the composition quality is very high.
MØDVLXXR – 0010×0010. This album is one of the most unusual, adventurous electronic albums of the year. The album itself is a soundtrack to A/V visual art exhibitions by the musician/artist; I would be fascinated to see what type of visual art goes with these wild electronic cuts. The opening track is a dark, eerie modular synth wash similar to r beny’s work; it smashcuts into breakbeat/footwork-style roiling beats and rhythmic bass synths. Elsewhere there’s scorching techno beats, strange noise experiments, and stuff that defies explanation. Whether it’s fast or slow, it’s all dark, heavy, and very electronic–it puts the alien-ness of electronic music firmly in your face (and your ears). I’ve not heard anything like it all year, and I’ve subsequently been spinning it a lot. If you’re up for very experimental, beat-driven work, you need to listen to this.
Hasta El Cielo – Khruangbin. I’m told by the press release that Hasta El Cielo is a dub version of their album Con Todo El Mundo. Whatever that means to them and whatever that means to you, it means to me that this is a way more chill and groove-laden version of Khruangbin than I’m used to hearing. It’s laidback and cool–I mean, Khruangbin was already very cool, but this is coooool cool. The whole record is basically a bass and drums jam now–you can pick any song at random and just hit the groove (“”Sisters & Brothers,” “How I Love,” “The Red Book,” etc.). If you’re a bass player (or a bass lover), you’re gonna love this record. Such a cool idea, and such an interesting execution of the concept.
Mustard After Dinner – An Anthology of Fighting Kites – Fighting Kites. “Mustard after dinner” is a little-used idiom that means “something that arrives after you actually need it.” Fighting Kites picked it for the title because, unfortunately, the band has already broken up. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy some inventive math-rock! This band has all the patterned guitar melodies stereotypical of the genre (and their bassist can really rip ’em; get it get it get ittttttttt) but has a lot more indie pop and modern emo in their blood than most mathy outfits. (They don’t do a lot of distorted rhythm guitar or heavy drumming, and that sets them apart dramatically.)
You can hear all of this on display in opener “Anthony Gankin,” which opens with a Football, Etc.-style intro, jumps into patterned guitars led by a wild bass run accompanied by electronic click (instead of drums), and then closes with a reprise of the melody from the intro in a sweet setting. “Cat is Egg” shows off more of that, but “FR.” is more post-rock than math-rock in its slow build, while “Slowly Slowly” is an acoustic post-rock song in the vein of Balmorhea or The Album Leaf. There are eighteen more songs beyond those. One is a Christmas song. Trust me, you’ll like this record if you have any interest in melodic instrumental music.
The Nineteen – Nate Kohrs. Nate Kohrs’ record is an unusual animal. It’s not quite a soundtrack (it is not soundtracking anything) nor is it a traditional electronic record that has at least some relationship to dance music. It’s more akin to classical composition than to techno, but it’s written in the sounds and idioms of electronic music (synths, beats, drums, etc.). It’s very thought-provoking and very inventive. The clanking piano and grumbling undertones of opener “501” could situate this in a suspense film, especially given the contrast with the delicate, pretty piano line that runs through the piece. “Alasya and the Train Tracks” is like a chase scene with whirring percussion/beats. “Gilpin Park” sounds like being dropped in a windswept, barren, ominous wasteland. It’s followed by “Super Cheap Fabrics,” which relies heavily on piano for gravitas. It’s not a major-key record by any means, but it has its light moments; while dense and gloomy in its overall timbre, it’s got enough rays of light to keep the listener held. (For instance, the lovely marimba on “Super Cheap Fabrics.”) This is an unusual, fascinating record, and one that rewards many listens. Kohrs is doing great work with this record.