New Music Reviews: January 2016

New Releases from Kill the Noise, Food, Barbara Morgenstern, and more!
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KILL THE NOISE
OCCULT CLASSIC
OWSLA

In its first decade, dubstep transitioned from a forum for moody production to a template centered on wobble bass and distorted drops. On his 10-track post-dubstep debut album producer Jake Stanczak brings EDM festival-pleasing intensity, expanding his endorphin-rush arrangements to include elements of electro house, drum ‘n’ bass, dancehall, and trap bangers. Stanczak minimizes sound design fatigue, however, by effortlessly swinging between metallic and melodic alongside the chopped samples and petulant synths, while also peppering in humor.
TONY WARE

FOOD
THIS IS NOT A MIRACLE
ECM

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Saxophonist Iain Bellamy may provide the warm and fuzzy factor in Food’s bittersweet ambient palettes, but it’s fellow members Thomas Stronen’s drums, electronics, and Fender Rhodes and Christian Fennesz’s guitar and electronics that push their strange sounds over the edge. An album of brooding, chilling surreal-scapes that recall some lost journey over an airless Irish bog, This Is Not . . . is all percussive rattles, electronic warbles, and Bellamy’s soulful sax–horror-show central.
KEN MICALLEF

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DAVID WAX MUSEUM
GUEST HOUSE
THIRTY TIGERS

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It already was challenging to pigeonhole David Wax’s group. Tex-Mex, folk, blues, rock ’n’ roll—this band always has a lot going on. But this record is altogether different, with bursts of processed vocals and airy and weird synth textures bending the familiar accordions, guitars, fiddles, horns, and hand claps on several songs. But whether they keep the music raw or blow those production values up, DWM takes a joyous approach to music that speaks to the heart.
BARBARA SCHULTZ

JAMES LAVELLE PRESENTS UNKLE SOUNDS
NAPLES #GU41
GLOBAL UNDERGROUND

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The bespoke concept is amplified on James Lavelle of Unkle’s contribution to the re-jumpstarted legendary Global Underground series Naples #GU41. The double-disc collection is Unkle-heavy with exclusive edits of Unkle tracks plus Unkle remixes of Lana Del Rey, Noel Gallagher, London Grammar, and Jagwar Ma, among others. Unkle signatures—hollow tones, spooky vibes, and magnetic rhythms—flow smoothly. This custom compilation doesn’t sacrifice cohesion for diversity, yet it avoids retreads and predictability. A definite collector’s item.
LILY MOAYERI

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BARBARA MORGENSTERN
DOPP ELSTERN
MONIKA ENTERPRISE

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A doppelstern, or binary star, is two luminaries orbiting a common center of mass, but on this album of international collaborations Berlin’s Barbara Morgenstern proves the greater force. Morgenstern has spent nearly 20 years exploring the melodic side of Teutonic electro-pop and dubby microedits, anchoring them around delicate piano ballads. No matter her neo-classical or laptop production partner, Morgenstern centers the tender drones, murky filters, fragile synths, glimmering chamber pop, and dramatic baroque chorales into coherent, compelling trajectories.
TONY WARE

JOJO MAYER & NERVE
GHOSTS OF TOMORROW
SELF-RELEASED

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Manhattan’s instrumental drum and bass innovators Nerve return with their third album, embracing a future where “creativity and improvisation will become the new strategy for cultural evolution.” Though Nerve think big, there’s no denying the buzzing bass worm holes, tweaked up/trilling snare sounds, and jerky programming of yesterday’s jungle currency. But perhaps embracing the past is key to realizing the future; amalgamation conserves capital, “smart robots” do the thinking.
KEN MICALLEF

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WAINWRIGHT SISTERS
SONGS IN THE DARK
PIAS RECORDINGS

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Two of Loudon Wainwright III’s talented offspring, Martha Wainwright (Kate McGarrigle’s daughter) and Lucy Wainwright Roche (Suzzy Roche’s), have recorded a tender and sometimes spooky collection of western-style folk ballads and lullabies. The debut album by the Wainwright Sisters includes songs by Simon and Garfunkel and Jimmie Rodgers as well as by their famous parents, in spare acoustic arrangements. The sisters’ vocal harmonies are inspiring in their beauty, whether evoking sweetness and light, or darkness and mystery.
BARBARA SCHULTZ