New Releases: Beck’s songs aid your travel without movingBy MIK DAVIS,
Beck Hansen veers back into rhythmic futuristic Pop on "Hyperspace." Working with Pharrell Williams, he sounds at home in between the chiming harp-like synths and terse upfront beatboxes on "Uneventful Days" but it never takes you anywhere.
The slow jam "Dark Places" works better with its Alan Parsons-ian motif and technicolor production. Chris Martin helps on "Stratosphere" and Sky Ferraira pitches in on "Die Waiting."
Ultimately, Beck wants these songs to give the feeling of traveling without moving - the production of Greg Kurstin and Paul Epworth definitely frame him beautifully – but with that goal it is hard to wrap yourself around so many songs about going nowhere.
(LP/CD) (Third Man/Parlophone)
Coldplay has become THAT band. The one that wishes to be the next U2. Stadium-ready, arena-sized songs that feel like they were written specifically for you. "Everyday Life" has several songs that build from their more familiar ballad like territory (the title cut lays out its purpose right up front – "Everyone hurts. Everyone cries. Everyone tells each other all kinds of lies") to a massive, swollen beat-driven climax much like the pair of hits from 2015's "A Head Full of Dreams."
The playfulness of "Orphans" is new, while the brassy collage "Arabesque" was a big surprise. Now on their eighth album, "Everyday Life" is the Coldplay everyone wants but still leaves you wondering when they will perfect their own sound.
(LP) (Because FRA)
French Dance Music should have its own history. Always radiant and ebullient, French Dance Music is simply some of the best in the world. Whether its a true disco burner from Cerrone or a lost classic like Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You," these ignite the dancefloor. SebastiAn looks to challenge that world with "Thirst," his new album that touches on history (the Cerrone-ish string-laden "Handcuffed To A Parking Meter" makes music from thin air,) while the epic R&B slow jam "Run For Me" with the helium voice of Gallant richly deserves to be a crossover hit. "Pleasant" sets the bass oscillations to stun and adds a whispering female to make it menacing. "Thirst" is not what you would expect from a French Dance Music album, meaning this is exactly what that music needs.
APOLOGIES (a/k/a Better Late Than Never)
TFS - Braindrops [LP](Joyful Noise/Flightless AUS)
This Australian four-piece is the result of the band two members of The Drones wanting to take a holiday. Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin departed into a dubby Slits-ian atmospheric Rock band where the song's changes are everything. "Braindrops" is not an easy record. Song structures are elastic and the foursome counter quiet intrusion with thunderbolts of Sonic Youth-ian noise. Liddiard openly credits Captain Beefheart as their influence. While you can hear "Doc at The Radar Station" in the bending guitars and raspy vocals, Liddiard's words roll off the tongue like a rapper (favorite: "Doin' on bout a monkey/High up in a tree/If you think about his coconuts/He'll kill your family" in "The Happiest Guy Around.") Behind him bassist Kitschin and drummer Lauren Hammel, whip the beat fiercely (the title track is downright funky but pugilistic.) Guitarist Erica Dunn makes her guitar into fellow background vocalist, noisemaker and always knows just when to hit the chord to place the period at the end of an abstract phrase (the Dada-esque "Aspirin.") Most of the songs carry a surrealistic vision of politics and social structure, but only to the degree they point out how ridiculous both they and these lyrics are ("The Planet of Straw Men" boasts "They want the glory of a coup de grace/A mating ritual or courtship dance/But all paths lead to nowhere/And it all adds up to nothing.) That admission sounds like a loss of humanity, until the album closes with the thrilling reportage of "Maria 63." This song neatly bookends the album's main sentiment but through an observer's eyes seeing the difference between the lies in print and real life. Beautifully arranged to emerge from subtle chords and harmonious vocals to cacophonous rancor, "Maria 63" is a jawdropper. Rock has always been confrontational, TFS are here to prove we must have more music to make us think. Exemplary of the best of the year.
JOSIN - In The Blank Space [LP](Dumont Dumont FRA)
This wintertime burst of chilling temperatures is the perfect time for this icy but beautiful record. The daughter of pair of opera singers, Josin upon first listen is quite like Sigur Ros with Thom Yorke on vocals. Her expressive phrasing is heavily borrowed from the gyrating Radiohead frontman. Honestly, that is where the comparison stops. Yorke wraps his syllables around each other, while Josin intones every word with a hint of delight. These are generally sad songs awash in synths and set free on an ocean of doubt. However's writing and voice are the rudder that steers through the treacherous waters. Her triumphant "Company" is just Josin and piano until her vocals spring skyward. When the faint murmur of analog synth enters and grows into a whooshing wall of sound - it is changed and she is likely changed forever. A promising debut.
FAR OUT REISSUES
Drummer puts together the simple
(LP) (Soul Jazz)
Mid-Seventies Jazz was drowning in the mire of fusion and a hangover from Funk and Dance music. While all of this was bubbling up from the underground in New York City, so was a new traditionalism in Jazz.
Rooted in the Afrofuturistic windings of Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra, former James Brown drummer Steve Reid put together the simplest band and recorded them simply going modal.
Pianist Les Walker is not miked directly so his notes may be lost in the mix on the wonderful "Kai," but his key-crushing fury is there.
"Rocks (For Cannonball)" features some mind-blowing bass work from David Wertman inbetween Reid's expert high-hat pulls.
When the band finally goes after a composition (the very "A Love Supreme"-ish but concise "Center of the Earth,") you can hear how the explosion of Free Jazz that led to this nexus gave Jazz its real soul.
GONG - Angel's Egg [LP/CD](Charly)
After being left in France following the first Soft Machine tour, Daevid Allen started his own Psychedelic/Jazz/Rock band with Gong. When his former band dipped heavily into Jazz, Gong made three marvelous albums that established their mythos and pulled their sound out of the Hippie 60's. Part one, 1973's "Flying Teapot" is a Prog Rock masterwork. Guitarist Steve Hillage spins webs around their music allowing the weirdness of Allen and his wife Gilli Smyth to sound otherworldly. Months later, the second part "Angel's Egg" dropped out of the sky with all its ethereal wildness and Jazzy flute and saxophones to further emphasize that Gong wanted to take you on some kind of journey. The swirling cuts like "Oily Way/Outer Temple/Inner Temple" are a wash on vinyl, so lysergic in places the colors change before your eyes. With "Sold To The Highest Buddha" and "Castle In The Clouds" coming off like meditations that rivaled those Pink Floyd records in your record collection. The trilogy ends with the bold and more Rock-oriented "You" in 1974 where bassist Mike Howlett and drummer Pierre Moerlen sought to bring the spacy weirdness down to Earth. Anyway, you enter the trilogy is a victory. Add 1971's furious Camembert Electrique (where the awesome drummer Pip Pyle dominates nearly every song) and consider yourself ready for intergalactic travel.