New Music Reviews: December 2015

New Releases from Black Violin, Deerhunter, Cheatahs, and more!
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BLACK VIOLIN
STEREOTYPES
Universal Classics

In keeping with the spirit of this album, let’s not label it as “crossover” or “fusion.” Stereotypes marries the virtuosic playing of Wil Baptiste (viola) and Kev Marcus (violin) with hip hop beats and/or R&B arrangements, depending on the tune. The result is something new where lush strings often take a front seat next to vocalists such as Kandace Springs, Melanie Fiona, and Black Thought; or the string parts have backing vocals; or the strings simply take front stage as they so richly deserve.
BARBARA SCHULTZ

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HARMONIA
COMPLETE WORKS
GRÖNLAND

Comprising five LPs and a 36-page booklet, this inevitable box set brings together some of the finest Krautrock ever recorded, and it’s only available on vinyl! Harmonia’s sublime sounds remain timeless examples of Krautrock’s mid-’70s peak; Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster) and Michael Rother (NEU!) produce swirling music—ever tilting forward over rumbling tape machine rhythms, blissful synthesizers, and haunting guitar spirals—that has lost none of its curious, playful majesty.
KEN MICALLEF

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CHEATAHS
MYTHOLOGIES
WICHITA RECORDINGS

Cheatahs specialize in hazy, echo-y sounds, most recently fleshed out on Mythologies. The backward-sounding, Poltergeist-like vocals of “Red Lake” set the tone for the album, which carves distinction amidst fuzz and walls of pedals on “Freak Waves.” Not to say there aren’t moments of complete distortion (“Colorado”) or layers upon layers of reverb (such as on “Supra”). Cheatahs’ music is meant to be listened to as a whole and always has a hummable nugget at its core.
LILY MOAYERI

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DEERHUNTER
FADING FRONTIER
4AD

Coming two years after the stark, impulsive, and gritty Monomania, this seventh full-length from Atlanta-based band Deerhunter is more a spiritual successor to 2010’s Halcyon Digest in its shimmering guitar and dreamy synth washes. This warm, fluid atmosphere is aided, in part, by returning producer Ben H. Allen. Richly textured, Fading Frontier also shares a crowded, multidimensional aesthetic with frontman Brandon Cox’s Atlas Sound project—yet maintains poppy accessibility.
TONY WARE

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CHRIS WALLA
TAPE LOOPS
TRANS

Eschewing digital technology for an entirely analog-based recording process, former Death Cab for Cutie founding member Chris Walla creates a subtle, saturated tape-loop vision that has all the warmth of a puppy’s kiss and all the alienation of the Antarctic. Over an unhurried palette of piano, synths, and errant ambient effects, Walla’s inner world is exposed as a place of soothing tones and oozingly slow tempos, providing an insular escape hatch from a noisy world.
KEN MICALLEF

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ELVIS COSTELLO
UNFAIT HFUL MUSIC
UME

The 20-track companion to Elvis Costello’s new memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, features songs from throughout the artist’s catalog, plus a couple of demos and live performances. There’s also a bonus track where Costello reads outtake stories from his book. This soundtrack was chosen by Costello to illustrate his deep emotional connection and reaction to life events. As a result, these are some of the most important and heartfelt songs so far from his long, magnificent career.
BARBARA SCHULTZ

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KODE9
NOTHING
HYPERDUB

Nothing is the first solo album from first-wave dubstep pioneer Kode9 following the tragic passing of his collaborator the Spaceape to a rare cancer, and a sense of loss is palpable. Without the verbal growl, patterns can seem less fricative, though there is still a clammy sensation crafted around panicked snares and unsettling resonance. The primary vibe, however, is more hermetic cloisters than oxidizing infrastructure. Music for skittish androids exploring destabilized chambers, Nothing is certainly something.
TONY WARE