The Ganzfeld EP
Leave it to M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel—the feverish minds behind Matmos— to celebrate 20 years of making music together with a parapsychological foray into telepathically composed music. It sounds like a mouthful, but these three songs offer a compelling taste of The Marriage of True Minds, due next year. What emerges is a rich collision of electro-acoustic sounds (“Very Large Green Triangles” and the voice-based experiment “Just Waves”) and techno minimalism (the mesmeric Rrose remix of “You”) that could rock an art opening, a road trip, or a séance just as easily as a dance floor.
Pour Une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone
After making Weather last year, Meshell Ndegeocello said producer Joe Henry had wanted to focus more on her voice but she “wasn’t ready”; she has typically treated vocals as just part of her sound. She’s ready now. This tribute to Nina Simone’s songs and spirit shines a light on Ndegeocello’s lovely, soulful vocal instrument—on her terms, of course, surrounded by fluid, rhythmic music, and with the help of some wonderful guests. Sinead O’Connor, for example, sings an avant-garde blues “Don’t Take All Night.” Marvelous.
Bat for Lashes
The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan’s music draws comparisons to Björk, Kate Bush, and Imogen Heap, but she’s clearly defined her own style in the spaces between piano-based “popera” and electronic songscapes. Artfully programmed and instantly memorable, the songs on her latest album sparkle with a musicality that leaps out at you, from the dream-drifting “Lilies,” where Khan hits the upper reaches of her silky tenor, to the otherworldly tribalist stomp “Horses of the Sun,” which recalls the left-field experimental pop of Brian Eno and King Crimson (believe it or not).
Daphni is Dan Snaith of Caribou’s afterhours club DJ alter ego. Born out of his DJ gigs post shows supporting Radiohead, Daphni’s debut, Jiaolong, is a portal to Snaith’s minimalist/ track-y/disco diva side. Afro rhythms, dark percussive loops, and repetitive vocals thread together these moody cuts. From the soul-flecked, piano house of “Yes I Know” to the acidic meltdown of “Ahora,” Jiaolong is varied in its simplicity, playing like a DJ set rather than an artist album.
San Francisco quartet Tussle has been channeling the krautrock/no wave continuum since 2001, and the four instrumentalists return at their most motorik. In contrast to 2008’s Cream Cuts, Tempest’s tonal mass is denser. There’s far less room sound, fewer stray transients; the synth-prominent arrangements are more carefully sequenced rather than gradually intertwining. Produced by JD Twitch of Glasgow DJ duo Optimo, equally a fan of freeform psychedelia and machine soul, Tempest presents on-rails grooves dappled with flushes of circuit-bent saturation.
Country superstar Dwight Yoakam’s self-produced major-label return includes songwriting collaborations with Kid Rock and with Ashley Monroe (Pistol Annies), and two tracks co-produced by Beck. One new musical development: Yoakam plays electric rhythm guitar (rather than acoustic) on these songs, which pumps the tracks up in very cool ways. But overall, this varied, carefully arranged album just sounds like Dwight Yoakam: a great, authentic songwriter who sings like an angel.
The New Familiar
Goldenboy has the ingredients to be a serviceable indiepop group, but tends to fall just this side of memorable. The latest release, The New Familiar is a case in point. Always pretty, Goldenboy’s headswaying melodies stop short of gorgeous. Layered dual vocals fill out the undefined corners of “The Right Chemistry,” and strings plus whistles almost give “Steal Your Face” some bite. For the most part, however, Familiar shuffles through indiscernible song after song—inoffensive but permanently in the background.