Sunday, May 1, 2011

16 Mini Reviews for April 2011

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Hauschka, Timber Timbre, Moon Duo,
Cass McCombs, Zita Swoon Group, Big K.R.I.T., Paul Simon,
Dengue Fever, Dirty Beaches, Bill Callahan, The Weeknd,
A Lull, Low, Tim Hecker and Hoquets

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine <> 7.5 out of 10
A Scottish indie folk singer/songwriter teams up with an electronica producer, the result is delicacy. Despite it's shortness, the kind of record which is slowing down the passage of time to create a world of its own. Sorry for the wordplay but "Diamond Mine" is a little goldmine.

Hauschka - Salon des amateurs <> 7.5 out of 10
Hauschka is the alias of Düsseldorf-based pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann, "Salon des amateurs" is his eighth album. Hauschka's music is mostly prepared piano, which is given additional layers with the use of loops and electronic treatments. Joining Bertelmann are drummers Samuli Kosminen (múm), and John Convertino (Calexico), with additional contributions from cellist Joey Burns (Calexico) on "Girls" and violinist Hilary Hahn, there are even some horns on "Taxitaxi". The result is closer to electronic dance music than classical music, but it remains delightfully listenable. Very inventive arrangement, supple interplay between the instruments and the sound mix is impeccable. You can file this thing among your fav Caribou's and Four Tet's albums or with your Pascal Comelade and Michael Nyman collections, you choose.

Timber Timbre - Creep On Creepin' On <> 7 out of 10
Odd Canadian band Timber Timbre released its fourth album "Creep On Creepin' On". There's folk, blues, psychedelism, doowop, it's at the same time dark and quirky, laidback and slightly theatrical.
Guest sax player is no one less than Colin Stetson.

Moon Duo - Mazes <> 6.5 out of 10
Parallel project from Wooden Shjips' guitarist Erik "Ripley" Johnson and fellow San Franciscan Sanae Yamada on keyboards. Very hypnotic and repetitive psych-krautrock, closer to Suicide than Grateful Dead, when the beat is launched nothing can stop it throughout all songs. Excellent guitar solos and great vintage synth sounds.
Stream the album here :

Cass McCombs - Wit's End <> 6.5 out of 10
Delicate singer/songwriting on this already fifth album by Cass MsCombs, bittersweet arrangement with hints of jazz and folk. Long songs which take their time, no hurry. Sometimes Cass McCombs sounds a little precious, mannered for my taste. All in all a fine album.

Zita Swoon Group - Dancing With The Sound Hobbyist <> 6 out of 10
Zita Swoon is an already veteran Belgian pop band (their first album under Moondog Jr. moniker was out in 1995) lead by Stef Kamil Carlens (ex-dEUS' bassist) and they have created music for a Rosas dance project with choreographer Simon Mayer, with collaboration by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Samples, toys and all sorts of odd instruments were added to the band, extended to Zita Swoon Group, already varied sound palette. Zita Swoon is never better than when they get out of the song format to let their huge imagination blossom. Very listenable and enjoyable instrumental album, maybe their best since the masterpiece "Music inspired by SUNRISE, a film by F.W. Murnau" in 1997.
Stream short previews here :

Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva <> 6 out of 10
Soulful Southern hip hop on this mixtape/album by Mississippi rapper and producer Big K.R.I.T. Full of soul, jazz and funk samples, this thing is quite close to Outkast/Big Boi stuff with a warmer more welcoming voice. Crisp beats, groovy basslines, horns, organs, keyboards, that's warm and organic hip hop with good stories and rhymes.

Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What <> 6 out of 10 Paul Simon, 69 year old, created carefully crafted pop mixed with world music dealing with themes like God, mortality and spirituality in his twelve studio album to date. His soft light voice hasn't changed a bit and despite the heavyweight subjects this album sounds surprisingly fresh and youthful. At time particularly moving. One of the best pop singer/songwriter ever still stands above most of his contemporary and even far younger artists busy today. Play snippets of the album on

Dengue Fever - Cannibal Courtship <> 6 out of 10
Warm and quite joyful blend of American indie-rock and Cambodian-influenced psych/pop/surf sung in Khmer and English by Cambodian chanteuse Chhom Nimol. Horns, saxophones, guitars, percussion and Farfisa organ all over, the mix, just like the cover art, is slightly obsolete but it gives this album refreshing and out of time flavours, at times bordering on some kinda Bollywood rock musical.

Dirty Beaches - Badlands <> 6 out of 10
Dirty Beaches is Alex Zhang Hungtai's one man band, a Taiwan-born Canadian immigrant who released this first mini-album or long EP with 8 songs. "Minimalist rockabilly" or cinematic fuzzy lofi rock'n roll between Eddie Cochran, Suicide and The Cramps fueled with David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch darkest imagery. At time more attitude than substance but there's something appealing in this music if not simply fascinating.

Bill Callahan - Apocalypse <> 6 out of 10
Callahan is getting back to a bleaker, rougher and more minimalistic sound reminiscent of the earlier Smog era. Very strong songwriting again and always if rather cryptic.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons <> 6 out of 10
Mysterious Canadian R&B outfit which has created quite a buzz in the blogosphere and elsewhere with some tremendous reviews around with their free to download album "House of Balloons". Pretty bleak, cold and experimental take on R&B (cold wave R&B? There's even a retake of Siouxie and The Banshees' "Happy House"). The mix is excellent, the main singer is fine and he's using only parsimoniously the dreadful autotune, it even works here. It seems that the lyrics are rather corny, but I mentioned elsewhere my sort of ADHD which makes it hard for me to concentrate on lyrics if they are not sung clearly. An innovative album, very focused, haunting. It surely worths the download, a very promising debut album despite the hype.

Low - C'mon <> 6 out of 10
Some comeback for Low to a more reserved and  less production heavy (Dave Fridmann's all over the place studio gadgetry is no more) effort, somewhere between "Things We Lost in the Fire" (2001) and "Trust" (2002). Fine melodies and arrangement, but it wears off a bit at the end of the album. A minor edition to that band's impressive discography.
Stream the album here (different tracklist order) :

A Lull - Confetti <> 5.5 out of 10
Very promising album by art-pop Chicago band A Lull. This thing is heavily and busily relying on tribal percussion and huge amount of synths and multi-vocals layers with strong melodies. Sometimes, this music reminds me of Freur's "Doot Doot" without the new wave flavours. They could do with a little more sobriety in the arrangement, there are moments when all these sounds and stuff are an assault to the ears and silence is a welcome relief when the album ends. Otherwise, a band to discover if you look for something different, that band offers music which is hard to pinpoint in one way or the other, I'll suggest to listen to two or three tracks at the time, the whole album being quite exhausting.
Stream the album here :

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972 <> 5 out of 10
Canadian electronic musician and sound artist Tim Hecker built his sixth album around a pump organ recorded during a one day stay in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland. With help from producer Ben Frost, Hecker then finished the record in studio, digitally adding synth and shoegaze guitars to his live recordings. There are some interesting contrasts if not battle between this church organ and the atonal digital supplements, and there are moments when it's hard to distinguish between them. I won't tell you who's the winner in the end, this album works as a story of industrial, musical and beyond, decay. Very interesting concept it is, only it doesn't work too often as a whole. It's hard not to think of Christian Fennesz' own journey through similar territories and "Ravedeath, 1972", despite its evocative title and cover art, can't compete qualitatively with anything the Austrian already issued.
Busy experimental ambient meandering through apocalyptic urban landscapes and going nowhere somewhere "In The Air".

Hoquets - Belgotronics <> 4 out of 10
Hoquets is a Belgian trio, with an American among them, whose main inspiration is African bands like Konono N°1's Congotronics : homemade electrified instruments. 16 songs or 16 jokes which are hard to call music, except for the single "Couque de Dinant". They would fit better into 80s Boucherie Production with French punks of the era. Being signed on the crucial label Crammed Discs (Tuxedomoon, Minimal Compact, Konono N°1, Lonely Drifter Karen, Hector Zazou, etc.) gives a pretty arty aura to this band who didn't ask for so much. Lyrically, prefer fellow compatriots Sttellla. Fun(ny) but devoid of substance. Malalatête! Or headache in English. Very well recorded stuff tho.

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