New Music Reviews: March 2014

Darkroom, John Luther Adams, Nashville Pussy and More
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Gravity’s Dirty Work
The UK-based duo of Michael Bearpark (guitars) and Andrew Ostler (synths) expertly ride the line between luscious, old-school progressive rock and modern ambient electronics. At times reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, with hints of Fripp and Eno, Darkroom creates clouds of sequenced synths, chewy grooves, and looped phrases to support a variety of acoustic and electric guitar melodies that twist and turn in surprising, occasionally aggressive, ways. Moody and wellorchestrated, this release takes you places.

John Luther Adams
Performed by nine to 99 percussionists banging bottomless-sounding tom toms while issuing mating calls on ram’s horns and thunder sheets, Inuksuit could be an alternate soundtrack to the “man-apes bludgeoning the enemy tribe” scene in 2001. The mood eventually chills, the drummers leaving the stage, replaced by chirping birds and reverberating jew’s-harps. Included with a stunning DVD depicting the stone cairns or Inuksuit found across the Arctic, beautifully mixed surround sound puts you in the middle of the action.

Nashville Pussy
Up the Dosage
Atlanta quartet Nashville Pussy has been cranking Dixie-fried bar-brawl rock since 1998, redlining through bloodshot, throbbing ’70s influences. Compared to 2009’s From Hell to Texas–which sounded almost like a live soundboard mix, it was so flat–this new album significantly improves depth, width, and clarity. Assisted by Supersuckers bassist Eddie Spaghetti and producer Rick Beato, Nashville Pussy has cut in extra grease and grind to these 13 arrangements, railing through sleazy, sweltering boogie.

Dirk Powell
Walking Through Clay
Multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell is a musician’s musician—a player who roots icons like Steve Earle and T Bone Burnett want on their projects. Powell’s fourth solo album showcases his versatility, as NOLA-style dirges sit alongside zydeco accordions, crunchy electric blues guitar solos, mountain music, and Powell’s virtuosic banjo playing. With Powell’s plain-speaking, unglamorous but tuneful vocal style, these songs have enough modern edge to find a home with alt-rock lovers as easily as with Americana fans.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Give The People What They Want
One of the best songs on Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ rollicking fifth album is a “do the funky chicken” styled track, “People Don’t Get What They Deserve.” In a brief 3:27, the band joyfully embraces the ’60s styles of Archie Bell and The Drells, Southern funk kings Chairmen of the Board, and the early Spinners with sheer perfection. The song’s popping groove, gospel-good vocals, and Jamerson-worthy bass line never lets up. Neither does the rest of Give The People . . . showing Jones & co. meeting adversity head on and partying like it’s 1969.

Shit Robot
We Got A Love
Comprising the second full-length from Irish-born, Germany-based DJ/producer Marcus Lambkin, these five- to seven-minute excursions throb with historical reverence and revivalist bliss. Entrenched firmly around 120-125 BPM, Lambkin commands dance music tropes from 1975–1995, including discohouse (robo-funk and cosmic varieties), HiNRG, Chicago jack trax, and deep, dubby piano house. Six guest vocalists glide atop both live and synth bass, pitchbent synths, and supple arpeggios, plus buoyant leads and floor-filler riffs.

Lydia Loveless
Somewhere Else
Loveless simply has one of the most powerful, thrilling voices in rock ’n’ roll, plus she has abundant songwriting talent, sweetness, and soul. She’s got a punk sensibility but she’s never insincere. And she’s 21. Somewhere Else is packed with wall-of-sound guitar-driven arrangements that stand up to the artist’s massively impressive vocal instrument. Highlights on this young talent’s fourth Bloodshot release include the hard-rocking ’80s-esque “To Love Somebody” and the punk-via-the-’60s love song “They Don’t Know About Us.”