Nuestro Tiempo/Our Time
The history of electro-acoustic music has become richer with the release of this unusual retrospective of works by Cuban composer Juan Blanco (1919-2008). Like other pioneering musicians of his era, Blanco pushed the boundaries of sound and multimedia performance by inventing instruments, establishing an electronic music studio, and challenging societal and political norms. This disc provides a concise introduction to his exceptionally beautiful electronic music and includes tracks combining synthetic textures with voice, Latin percussion, and sax. Essential.
The Flaming Lips
Fragile melodies in anthemic arrange- ments; anxious trans- missions sputtering across the stereo field like time-lapse daybreaks: These are Flaming Lips calling cards, and all are evident on this 36-minute EP inspired by the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Following The Terror (labeled bleak and somber by many), these six songs capture blankets of hazy synths, console input- overloading motorik drums, and zero-gravity harmonies in symhonic jams that are equal parts dystopian and celebratory.
Billie Joe + Norah
So mad are Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones about the Everly’s classic Songs Our Daddy Taught Us that the punker and the sweet country sister recorded a note-perfect cover album, right down to matching close harmonies, twangy guitars, and hop-a-long drums. Recorded at the Magic Shop in Manhattan, the album has all the sweet appeal of a reverential museum piece. Though immaculately performed and sung, this odd couple makes you interested in hearing the original item.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Original Soundtrack
Music for the Coen brothers’ latest film, set in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, has Justin Timberlake singing “500 Miles.” That’s intriguing enough, right? There’s also a previously unreleased Dylan song, and an embarrassment of rich harmonies and strumming by Mumford & Sons, avant-bluegrass group Punch Brothers, and more. As he did for O Brother, co-producer T Bone Burnett strikes a balance of true folk art and that slight, deliberate overearnestness that comes with critical distance.
Kieren Hebden spins yesteryear to flow forward, reminiscing with jungle drum loops and short sample passages while imbuing everything with his trademark psychedelic melodies. Such rolling tracks as “Gong” and “Parallel Jalebi” are downhill loop extravaganzas, while the stuttering cadences of “Kool FM” borrows sub bass notes from what sounds like a ’90s-era jungle sample CD. “Body Feels” has the agitated pulse of a broken sonar transmission, until spider melodies wrap its frigid rhythm in honey-coated goodness.
Divided and United
Soundtrack producer Randall Poster developed this 32-track tribute to music of America’s Civil War era. Beautifully arranged for authentic instrumentation, these songs evoke the pain of families separated by war, the shame of racial prejudice, and patriotic pride. It’s both a joyful, enjoyable listen and a music history lesson taught by today’s greats, including Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Disc two closes with the late Cowboy Jack Clement’s version of “Beautiful Dreamer.”
RIYL: Nirvana; My Bloody Valentine; Smashing Pumpkins; Pixies; Sonic Youth; Hum; quiet-loud-quiet; Fender Jazzmasters, Jaguars and Mustangs; BOSS, DigiTech and DOD distortion; thrashin’ guitarists; stoic bassists; resolute thwack; strangled chords; scuzzy “solos”; woolen riffs; third-generation VHS tapes of “120 Minutes”; watching infomercials while baked; despising yuppies; mangy thrift-store sweaters and flannel shirts; the smell of teen spirit and suburbia burnout; every- thing that defined the early ’90s, over- driven but miracu- lously not overblown.