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neumu
Friday, August 29, 2014 
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artist
Donato Wharton
recording
Body Isolations
City Centre Offices
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rating


As a contemporary dance term, "body isolations" refers to the manner in which an audience is brought to concentrate its full attention on a single element of the performance. Following this principle, Donato Wharton sets out to arrange this album in such a way that each composition manifests a sole sentiment most acutely.

While he does sometimes achieve this, there remains a continuity between pieces, a sameness in mood, pace and arrangement; it leaves the impression that these individual works are merely tiny scatterings of a sole shaft of light refracted through a prism.

By and large, tracks are hushed and slightly dour. A gray cloud of fizzling ambiance wavers atop "Blue Skied Demon," punctured by gaunt guitar lattices and ripples of static. "Transparencies" hints at this very same nostalgia, its watery loops of piano and subtle digital scratches testifying to some unknown missing contents.

With "Underweave," the forms become a bit more mangled, a bit more aggressive and to the point, but they still lead back to the same sentiment of reverence and dismay before some unknown, yet seemingly important absence. After the dense buildup of steely timbres and luminous organ chords, though, "Puget Sound" follows with slow swirling pools of organ and electric piano, shaded by fuzzy electronic tones, and slips back into a gauze of sublime nostalgia. Near the end of the work, an odd bluesy slide of guitar is blended against skeletal bell-like tones and ectoplasmic smears of sound, but this comes along too late to really tear the album away from pretty spiraling.

Much of this album is indeed pretty, and it could well sit amiably alongside any number of other ambient electronica acts (Marsen Jules and Yellow 6 come to mind). But prettiness aside, it's rarely anything more than the empty foam on the sea. More importantly, rather than achieving a flow of each track from its own internal episodic logic, Wharton is mostly content to repeat a limited number of basic themes.


by Max Schaefer




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artist
Tim Hecker
recording
Harmony In Ultraviolet
Kranky
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Tim Hecker's sound gives coloration, form, and intensity to something that never entirely says what it is. It balances carefully crafted melodies and occasional sonic dissonance, taking a certain solace in recognizable forms; but that aside, compositions forge into the constantly mutating and indefinable.

Hence this album can be appreciated on numerous levels. Hecker's broad, slowly evolving brushstrokes and the sharp momentum of the overarching structures invite listening to the work as a whole, while it's also rewarding to approach from a more specific standpoint and appreciate the sublime level of detail underneath. On a large scale, for instance, "Stags, Aircraft, Kings and Secretaries" is marked by a rubber-textured, muffled melancholy, but beneath the surface, there is an underlying network of quietly abrasive electronics, placid piano and flecks of incidental color. On "White Caps of White Noise," the squalling sonics grow more rabid. Crunchy, bone-crushing electronics beat against jagged detritus and flurries of heavily manipulated guitar feedback, moving to an orgasmic climax and being lulled to sleep by an undertow of delicate organ tones.

Within this montage of crystalline frequencies, low synthetic hum and rubbery, prowling basslines lies a series of minor-key melodies, emitting a warm melancholy that heats the track from the inside. A woozy, aged atmosphere thus lingers throughout this infrastructure of avenues, dungeons and hidden rooms. Hecker's ear for harmony also infuses these compositions with a kinetic energy, all but assuring safe travels through the sprawling structures, rife with subatomic particles and gaseous clouds. Harmony in Ultraviolet refines Hecker's emotionally complex and powerful voice, providing pieces that are as harmoniously and texturally challenging as they are absorbing.


by Max Schaefer




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Editor's note: We have activated the Neumu 44.1 kHz Archive. Use the link at the bottom of this list to access hundreds of Neumu reviews.

+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive


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artist
Svalastog
recording
Woodwork
Rune Grammofon
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On Woodwork, poles collide, distances disappear, everything is interchangeable and mobile. Ergo, songs are a smooth and functional surface where the rustic tones of Per Henrik Svalastog's Norwegian zither flow audaciously. Along the way they're intercepted, mixed and reborn into a welter of different sounds, some austere and rhythmical, some hazy and hushed.

One can still faintly detect the warm, bellowing tones of the Kuhorn (a cow's horn) and the Bukkehorn (ram's horn), but it's usually impossible to identify with any certainty what is real and what is not. "Slow Blowing Wireless" seems to contain the almost gong-like intonation of the Bukkehorn, but blurred into a series of droning notes and set against a minimal, repetitive burble and grind of electronics, so one could easily be mistaken.

On most other pieces, the music is on the quieter side, nursing out small nuances such that minutely differentiated pitches ring, phase and rub against each other. "Connecting Joints," for one, samples the earthly timbres of the zither, layering loops that weave back and forth in the sound field, while the crunchy electronics' shifts in rhythm and pitch give the composition a rather woozy feel.

There's a downside, however, to all this integration. Not only do the more archaic instruments lose their particularity, it becomes altogether apparent midway through that a great deal of recycling is going on here. Minimal techo and dub already rely on repetition so much as it is; for this album, melting everything down for seamless performance threatens to act as the final nail in the coffin.


by Max Schaefer




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artist
Rosy Parlane
recording
Jessamine
Touch
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On his previous full-length effort, New Zealand sound sculptor Rosy Parlane used cycling guitar and organ patterns to erect mountainous drones and dense layerings. Spurred on by mite-like rustlings and frozen blocks of digital ice, they loomed off into a vertiginous, chromatic climb. John Wozencraft's immaculate blue-filtered photographs of snow-encrusted landscapes and silent stone buildings seemed to echo the album's mystique, and here on Parlane's second CD, his images once again prove telling.

The album's artwork features leafy foliage dangling over a murky pool, which reflects the dense pall of green. The album works in much the same manner, as subtle guitar dynamics stretch into tightly manipulated, gently expanding and contracting textures. In turn, a cluster of high-frequency tones and the soft thrum of an organ quickly mirror their movements, creating a fine sense of space and letting the sound grow wider and deeper.

This almost minimalist discipline continues on the second track, as composed, chiming harmonics and swooping feedback tones are gradually fragmented by the scuttle and trickle of field recordings. The crisp digital repetitions and sustained tones then begin to drift towards despondency — a steely-edged, roaring patch of noise suddenly attacks the errant drone before receding into the night.

Here, Parlane demonstrates restraint and delicacy of feeling. Although heavily manipulated, pieces proceed naturally, with each discrete element quickly responding and often building upon the subtle movements of the others, which themselves disappear and reemerge at key moments. There's a fine coordination on display in pieces both constant and disjunctive, diffuse and coherent.

At 19 minutes, the third and final track again builds up blocks of sound, then rearranges them to suit the mole-like burrowings and slashing shards of digital clicks and hiccups. The opening moments are serene, but the sounds of nature slowly encroach, joined by various string-scraping sounds, pointillist guitar plucks and hoarse feedback, turning the entire sound field into a mucky pulp. It's the most blistering, overblown piece Parlane has put together so far, and a fine highlight to his deceptively knotty sound.

Jessamine draws from Parlane's ongoing tendency to contrast arching drones with slivers of digital noise — which, in one way or another, often mimic animals or events normally seen in nature. But it also shows a new complexity, capturing his sound from new angles, bringing in jarring elements to create a tense balance.


by Max Schaefer




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artist
Jarvis Cocker
recording
The Jarvis Cocker Record
Rough Trade
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Can hips be witty? Jarvis Branson Cocker proved it last year as part of the stellar ensemble for Come So Far for Beauty, the Leonard Cohen tribute. Spanish handclaps, snaky stage moves, an irony in his deep and oh-so-English voice that could come on like a taste within a single word, yet never compromise a moment that mattered: oh yeah, Cocker caught the eye and ear completely, the clown prince of the occasion.

If you knew Cocker's old band Pulp, you'd already be aware of this mix of sly and heartfelt. Most people saw Pulp's height as 1995's Different Class, one of the anthemic records behind the Britpop phenomenon. I always preferred the darkness and sophistication of 1998's This Is Hardcore, Cocker's mid-life pop-star crisis record, crashing Bond theme orchestrations and Bowie glam frosts together with pornographic confessions on his own used-up identity. Something had to give, and it seems it was Pulp, as well as Cocker's long-term relationship at the time.

Now married to a French stylist, and a new dad to boot, he finally returns with a very fine solo album indeed. It resounds with booming Nancy Sinatra ballads ("Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" was actually written for her) and Spector-ish cathedrals of space, not to mention a brilliantly naked sample of "Crimson & Clover" on his song "Black Magic." Much like Pulp, yes: as the gunning guitars and bam-bam, garage-rock drums of "Fat Children" ("took my life") or the crooning piano menace of "I Will Kill Again" (his serial murderer benignly enjoys "half a bottle of wine") variedly and further suggest. Behind the bookish glasses and op-shop hipster image, Cocker has always been a great storyteller, an outwardly playful satirist with a ferocious moral vision of modern English life. Over the ambient hum of "Quantum Theory" he sings "somewhere everyone is happy. Somewhere fish do not have bones." Strangely enough, you can feel this almost angry romantic wants to believe it. It's probably because he really cares.



by Mark Mordue





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