After co-founding and touring with Black Mountain for over a decade, Amber Webber and Josh Wells decided to make Lightning Dust their sole focus, delivering an album that echoes the spirits of quintessential rock vocalists like Grace Slick and Beth Gibbons, through a collection of songs that range from expertly sculpted folk-rock ear candy, to sparse Judee Sill-esque ballads consisting of little more than piano and voice.
Full of Prince-esque riffs, Blood Orange-style beats, and David Bowie allusions, The Neon Machine is a dystopian future-funk dance party, and everyone’s invited. Though he gives center stage to his vintage Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, and a drum sequencer, his lyrics reveal a narrator full of anxiety and skepticism about the country and culture that he’s grown up with, but hasn’t always felt at home in.
Born in a rural upstate NY town of 500 people, Cara Beth Satalino aka Outer Spaces, studied studio composition at Purchase College, where she also met her bandmate and life partner Chester Gwazda (producer of the first three Future Islands albums, and Dan Deacon’s Bromst and America, among others). While writing her new album Gazing Globe, Satalino felt lost and listless, after she and Gwazda decided to take a break from their long-term relationship. To deal with her anxiety and self-doubt, and ultimately evolve emotionally and spiritually, she began a daily meditation practice, and writing songs. “I think I was trying to get back to myself and my identity, separate from my relationship,” says Satalino. The result of her efforts is a collection of Murmur-era REM-esque power-pop songs, full of catchy guitar riffs, sonically juxtaposing her despondent perspective.
“I See Her Face”
Rob Burger is an accomplished keyboardist and composer whose storied career comprises film soundtracks and other compositional work, as well as meaningful contributions to the albums of artists such as John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and Iron & Wine with whom he maintains an ongoing working relationship. Burger rightfully brings his skills and nuanced sensibilities to the fore on The Grid, an LP that combines neo-classical soundscapes, Harmonia-esque kosmische, and jaunts of 20th-century exotica into a multigenre quilt-work all his own. As a listening experience, the album meanders gracefully between the jovially playful, the contemplative-- and occasionally the menacingly stark-- with masterful ease.
“Where I Lay”
Heather Woods Broderick has played in Efterklang, Horse Feathers, the live bands of Laura Gibson, Lisa Hannigan, and Damien Jurado, and has also been Sharon Van Etten’s longtime collaborator and bandmate. While this list may seem enviable for an aspiring young musician, any experienced player will know that the life of a touring musician comes with its own sacrifices. Lasting relationships and financial certainty can be tenuous, as can mental stability itself. Feeling this firsthand, Heather traded her usual launchpad of Brooklyn for the sleepy town of Pacific City, where she would quietly take a job cleaning houses, sitting down at the piano in the off-hours to unpack the personal tragedies and triumphs of the intervening decades since her first trips there as a child. Invitation is an album of dreamy baroque-pop that swells and whispers with grand string arrangements, and intimate lyrics, built around earnest piano melodies, painting a lifelike picture of the locale in which it was written. However, it’s not about the epic and beautiful physical features of the Pacific northwest seaside. Rather, it’s about how the stillness of such settings can unearth the disquiet often buried by the infinite distractions of a life without pause. +
The Anne EP is the afterword to Joseph Shabason’s acclaimed 2018 harmonic suite Anne through which he examined and processed his mother’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Employing a small supporting cast that includes vocalist Dan Bejar (Destroyer) and guitarist Thomas Gill (Owen Pallett), Anne EP spotlights the Toronto saxophonist as he builds empathic tropospheres of woodwinds and synthesizers, deepening the sentiment established by the EP's companion album, which was released in November 2018. The detail and idiosyncrasy beneath the material's dawn-of-the-CD-era sheen, elevates Shabason's work far beyond mere aesthetic exercise, cementing jazz, ambient sound design, and new age revivalism into a timely new genre all his own. To support the EP, Shabason will tour in the US and Canada with Jessica Pratt. +
Even if you’ve never heard of Hugh Marsh you’ve almost certainly heard the sound of his violin. He’s a featured player on soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams, was nominated for a Juno award, recorded with Iggy Pop and The Stooges, and was in the backing band for Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy, all a tiny fraction of his decades-long list of credits. The latest addition to that list is Marsh’s own Violinvocations, an LP recorded while Marsh lived in L.A. with friend, mentor, and fellow soundbender Jon Hassell. Despite the album’s title, one would be hard-pressed to say with certainty whether violin was even involved in this album without being told so ahead of time. In one moment a ghost is heard weeping into a dictaphone; a digitized anime character is nervously chattering in the next; and in still another, jagged sheets of distortion avalanche toward the listener beneath auroric swells of harmony. It’s the kind of sound design that requires a dedicated attempt by any Oneohtrixian laptop composer, only it’s all being generated by Marsh’s violin and his curious cabinet of effects pedals often in just one take. +
On With Voices, experimental artist Machinefabriek constructs a bewildering aural architecture around vocal contributions from Marissa Nadler, Peter Broderick, Richard Youngs, Terence Hannum, Chantal Acda, Marianne Oldenburg, Zero Years Kid, and Wei-Yun Chen on what may be the most affecting Machinefabriek release to date. +
Between his stints as a touring member of Girlpool and Dear Nora’s live bands, Utopia Teased, Steinbrink’s 8th full-length album, was written and recorded in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Stunned with grief in the months that followed the fire, he ate LSD daily, bought a synthesizer, and locked himself in his shipping container studio, refusing to sleep for days as he worked on the album that would become Utopia Teased as a means of working through his overwhelming feelings of cynicism and loss. Pitchfork calls lead single “Bad Love” “a perfectly-hewn pop song.” +
A penumbra is the space between the shade and the light of a partial eclipse, the area that is neither blacked-out nor illuminated fully. Like this twilit fringe between being and non-being, the production of Spencer Stephenson-- known for his output under the name Botany-- gives shape and circumference to The Skull Eclipses’ self-titled debut. Penumbras lays bare that album’s hybrid scaffolding of ambient boombap, dubby jungle, and hauntological sample-collage revealing a multifaceted beat tapestry unadorned by lead-vocals, standing alone as a full-length listening experience. Hear lead single “Take My”, which samples The Free Design below. +