Audion—the carnal machine-funk alter ego of tech-house producer Matthew Dear—has always been presented as the soundtrack to fervent dancefloor foreplay. Audion’s sodden, pitch-shifting timbres, balancing between Detroit grit and Euro glint, are as much about circulation as perspiration. Alpha, Audion’s first full-length in a decade, continues a legacy of vascular basslines, oxygenated white noise, and vacillating melody. Pulse-slaved modular synths dilate as samples pant, teasing parasympathetic response across 13 tracks.
“Blood Bitch is an investigation of blood… the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: menstruation,” Jenny Hval states in the liner notes to her latest album, music of placid vocals, deep-space belches, freakish delays, and reverb. Produced by Lasse Marhaug, Blood Bitch combines bubbling rhythms and serene synthesizers in arrangements as beautiful/terrifying as a return to the womb. Hval retains her magical vision through it all.
PETER BJORN AND JOHN
On the first full-length from the Swedish indie-pop trio in five years, these 12 tracks show PB&J at their creamiest. Working with a committee of outside producers (including Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin, Emile Haynie, and Pontus Winnberg), the three-piece has gone all-in on meticulous hook-driven radio pop. Gone are frayed choruses and martial percussion, replaced with modern contours of reverb, bouncy compression, and disco-meets-digital consonance. It’s tidy but never stiff.
TREAS URE HOUSE
Cat’s Eyes, the project of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira, is an exploration in understated sound. Treasure House revolves around subtle strings and spooky organs, turning the focus toward a complimentary vocal volley: Zeffira’s soaring chimes and Badwan’s smooth rumble. There are a couple of out-of-place songs: the handclap-driven “Be Careful Where You Park” and the strident “Standoff.” The rest, however, are quiet and gentle; see the swinging “Drag” and the pulsing “Missing Hour.”
GOLDEN SINGS THAT HAVE BEEN SUNG
Expanding beyond the Alice Coltrane-meets-John Martyn splendor of his previous album, Primrose Green, folk adventurer Ryley Walker returns with a more concise vision. His exceptional band still navigates serpentine melodic lines and harrowing arrangements, but Walker’s songs are more succinct, his vocals better formed, the music’s urgency more palatable. Produced by frequent Wilco multi-instrumentalist LeRoy Bach, Golden Sings blazes spiritual folk trails even Robert Plant could love.
COOL ROCK/THIRTY TIGERS
The Westerner, the latest from punk legend John Doe, begins with a psychedelic train song called “Get on Board.” And he only needs to ask once. Westerner fascinates with its lush roots arrangements, weird keyboards, and guitar-noir. The soaring beauty of Doe’s voice is unmatched, and this particular collection of dreamy rockers and ballads are poetic in their lyric simplicity. There’s even a bonus gift of punk treasure: Debbie Harry duets with Doe on “Go Baby Go.”
MONDAY London-based producer William Phillips—a cowriter of Sam Smith's Grammy-winning “Stay With Me”—is a self-taught sound designer who transitioned from posting chopped ’n pitched indie-pop edits to sequencing fine-grained Balearic tracks throbbing with fluid melodies. His cathartic debut album focuses on the haunting longing of dubstep’s treated vocals, a steam-valve swing hinting at twostep garage’s pressurized insistency, and the resonant affectations of gently wobbling deep house bangers.