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New Music Reviews: December 2016 - EMusician

New Music Reviews: December 2016

New Releases from Moby, The Pretenders, Robert Rich, and more!
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MOBY AND THE VOID PACIFIC CHOIR
THESE SYSTEMS ARE FALLING
MUTE

Moby’s musical output is unpredictable. His latest album, These Systems Are Failing with the Void Pacific Choir, is a dance punk pop political manifesto. Though this album is closest to his-two-decades-old, sadly received Animal Rights album, the threat of similarly disastrous results is far less. Moby sounds happy as he shouts existential, doom-filled, conscious lyrics through these bite-sized, license-unfriendly songs. While Systems is inherently discordant, there is a funky slap to the desperate “Don’t Leave Me,” a tribal groove shot through the trance-y riffs of “Erupt and Matter,” and a glimmer of melody on the angst-driven “A Simple Love.”
LILY MOAYERI

PRETENDERS
ALONE
BMG

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If we never told you that Dan Auerbach produced the new Pretenders album, you’d guess it. You’d notice the Black Keystype room-y, crunchy, Velvets-ish rock ’n’ roll, distortion, and signature organ sound. One of the guitar riffs from “Lonely Boy” even makes it into the track “Gotta Wait.” But the sonics take on a new, sultry beauty and unmatched cool when paired with Chrissie Hynde’s voice. It all makes for a different-sounding Pretenders record, but unmistakably, another truly great Pretenders record.
BARBARA SCHULTZ

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THE NOTWIST
SUPERHEROES, GHOSTVILLAINS + STUFF
SUB POP

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Featuring a title pulled from lyrics in the 2014 single “Kong,” this is the first live album from wistful German indietronic group The Notwist. And it’s appropriately epic, spectral, and full of propulsive, poppy, anxious stuff. A soundboard ensemble with occasional crowd bleed, the 16- song, 99-minute, four-album-spanning set (recorded in Leipzig in 2015) indulges and extrapolates the band’s motorik, jangly, resonant, clanging tendencies— sonically chiming, muted, and glitchy as befits the song.
TONY WARE

ROBERT RICH
WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND
SOUNDSCAPE PRODUCTION

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As unpredictable as he is prolific, multi-instrumentalist/composer Robert Rich defies expectations on a stunning new release that combines field recordings, acoustic instruments (PVC flutes, percussion), lap steel guitar, and electronics. The result is a luscious, organic mix where textures and melodies float naturally in and out of the foreground, often to the accompaniment of irregular rhythms that decorate time as raindrops do, suggesting patterns that are always slightly out of reach.
GINO ROBAIR

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MELISSA ETHERIDGE
MEMPHIS ROCK AND SOUL
STAX

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Etheridge’s tribute to legendary recordings by Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Albert King, and more was recorded in Royal Studios in Memphis by Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, and maybe that’s part of the real, intense vibrancy and vitality of these covers. Songs get the full-on Stax treatment, with great gospel-style backing singers, funky guitar riffs, and punchy horns. Another key to this album’s success: Etheridge never over-emotes in an effort to make these songs her own. She does her thing, and that’s just great.
BARBARA SCHULTZ

ALCEST
KODAMA
PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS

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The fifth album from French blackgaze pioneers Alcest, these six meditations on transience and spirituality manifest roots and reach. Foraging in the growth ringed by Burzum, Ulver, The Cure, Slowdive, and Explosions in the Sky, metal veterans Neige and Winterhalter cultivate ripping guitars, drenching percussion, wordless vocal flurries, and echoing howls. Recorded in a large house to capture natural reverb, these flourishing tendrils balance reverence and ferocity, and elevate Alcest’s dimensionality into sublime, vitalizing canopies.
TONY WARE

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SLEIGH BELLS
JESSICA RABBIT
TORN CLEAN

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Sleigh Bells’ Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss join with producer Mike Elizondo to create nail-baiting pop that cycles through more production styles than a plug-in directory. Krauss’ girlish vocals soar over Miller and Elizondo’s trick bag which includes half-time-to-double-time beat manipulations, and head-battering doses of metal, punk, hip-hop, dubstep, acoustic folk, hardcore, drill ‘n’ bass, gooey pop and faceless EDM. Filters are as prominent as musical directions; Auratone midrange fuzz sections placed next to naturalistic fingerpicking homebrew.
KEN MICALLEF