New Music Reviews: Damon Albarn, Les Claypool, Yasmine Hamdan, and More

Damon Albarn’s first solo album 'Everyday Robots'
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Damon Albarn
Everyday Robots
Damon Albarn’s first solo album, Everyday Robots, has nothing in common with his other ventures (Blur, Gorillaz, Mali Music, Africa Express). Quiet and spare, his unaffected voice is the central focus while the humming, percussion-centered instrumentation sounds like found objects more so than conventional ones. Albarn has never appeared as vulnerable as on “Lonely Press Play” or as secret-sharing as on “Hostiles.” In fact, on most of Everyday Robots, Albarn seems like he’s talking to himself, and perhaps that’s best.

Todd Terje
It’s Album Time
Norway’s Todd Terje orchestrates hypnotic momentum. His cosmic nu disco piano-house correlates chunky, funky, squelchy ensembles with glissando chords and joyful, wheeling trills. Building off four semi-modular excursions composed entirely from ARP 2600, Terje filters vintage analog systems through eight additional tracks slathered with ARP Odyssey, Roland Jupiter-4, and Cwejman S1 MK II. Not digital-shy, Terje incorporates u-he DIVA, Elektron Machinedrum, multiband dynamics processing, and more. The synergistic oscillations deliver sparkly, ascendant boogie.

Our Kind of Bossa
Brazilian music is one of the world’s perennial treats, its geniuses from Jobim and Pascoal to Mendes and Cantuaria providing timeless music beyond boundaries. Brazilian trio Bossacucanova upholds and extends that tradition, exploring clever production, vibrant rhythms, and infectious compositions on its seventh album, Our Kind of Bossa. Featuring a cross section of DJs, vocalists, and samples, Bossacucanova’s music is perpetually joyous, from the 007-worthy “Balanca” to samba-rific fun on “A Pedida e Samba.”

Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang
Four-Foot Shack
“Traditional” just isn’t a word one associates with Les Claypool, but his latest project does pay homage to the roots and bluegrass music the Primus frontman says he listens to of late. Claypool’s take is (not surprisingly) totally irreverent, twisted, aggressive, and occasionally rude, but he and collaborator Brian Kehoe couldn’t pull this off if they didn’t have deep understanding of the origins of this music, and excellent chops as well.

Yasmine Hamdan
Ya Nass
Lebanese singer/songwriter Yasmine Hamdan has collaborated with Mirwais, CocoRosie, and Marc Collin; her fifth album, Ya Nass, posits her as perhaps the boldest innovator to come from the Middle East since the late Ofra Haza. Drawing on influences as diverse as Massive Attack and Burt Bachrach, Ya Nass combines rich electronic and native folk sounds in service to Hamdan’s rich, delicate, and ultimately powerful songs, gracing Ya Nass like an ancient soul in command of a modern esthetic.

A Series of Shocks
A sense of gravity, or a lack thereof, pervades these 10 tracks of shuddering, shadowy techno by Berlin-based producer Tobias Freund. Arpeggiated synths, racked drum machines, and destabilized loops are interstellar mechanics personified, the sound of volatile docking procedures challenged by freefloating cosmic debris. Anxiety and accuracy eclipse and illuminate each other, flirting along decaying orbits manually navigated by the helmsman behind the adt-audio ToolMod console. You are suspended, irradiated, in a field of syncopated flux.

Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra
The Grand Budapest Hotel Original Soundtrack
Composer Alexandre Desplat’s score for Wes Anderson’s latest film is a gorgeous blend of folk and classical, often infused with a haunting creepiness that keeps the listener in suspense. The track “Mr. Moustafa,” for example, has a reverbladen, carnival-like melody with roots in both Middle Eastern folk and American horror films. Other tunes are purely beautiful Eastern European-influenced arrangements, produced with care by prolific film music supervisor Randall Poster.