“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. +

“1517”

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. +

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