Three new albums have been commanding our attention over the past few weeks courtesy of the always remarkable Thrill Jockey and Kranky record labels. Our latest sonic revelations and accompanying thoughts, if we may be so bold...
TIM HECKER 'Ravedeath 1972' (Kranky 28.2.11)
Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker has without a doubt captured some of his finest work here on his new 'Ravedeath 1972' album. Dense, warm and sometimes claustrophobic waves of tectonic, pulsating bliss drive the recording but what really makes this a triumph is the attention to detail in his composition.
'Ravedeath 1972' is based around a series of pipe organ recordings captured on location at the Frikirkjan Church in Reykjavik, which were subsequently taken back to the studio and became part of this glorious soundwork. Richly layered, Hecker knows exactly when to build the vast, almost religious atmospheres skyward but he is also master of restraint, dialing it all right back down or adding just the right sound to capture a perfect, yet always epic balance throughout. Quite wonderful and one will be hard pushed to find a more captivating, emotive and engaging electronic record this year.
THE SKULL DEFEKTS 'Peer Amid' (Thrill Jockey 14.2.11)
Swedish based no-wave post punk five-piece THE SKULL DEFEKTS have really nailed it on 'Peer Amid'. With the addition of Lungfish vocalist, artist, writer, mad-monk, cosmic yogi and all round modern day renaissance man, Daniel Higgs, to their ranks, we were naturally excited and intrigued. And we were not disappointed.
It rocks hard. It's a blown out psyche-out. Kosmische repetition is key here -- driven by a drum beat that is almost tribal and a bass that rattles to your bones. 'Gospel Of The Skull' hints at classic Lungfish for a moment too, both lyrically and sonically before drifting into the hypnotic haze of 'The Silver River'. Higgs' vocal delivery is perfect; ranging from almost spoken word mantras, to wayward chanting; working effortlessly amidst the Skull Defekts noise. It all comes alive on 'Fragrant Nimbus', with the tightest percussion breaks this side of Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley before it takes off into the cosmos. The result will be ringing in your ears long after the record has ended.
ARBOURETUM 'The Gathering' (Thrill Jockey 14.2.11)
'The Gathering', the fourth album from Baltimore's ARBOURETUM is one beautiful record. Steeped in a rich folk / Americana tradition yet laden with a resonance of warm, reverberating late 60's / 70's heavy rock, the striking force here is the delicate songcraft.
'The Gathering' breathes an air of honesty throughout. Somehow relaxed and organic yet somber and introspective. We'll hold our hands up and say we don't have any knowledge of the lyrical source material (that being Carl Jung's 'The Red Book') but appreciate it's sentiment and depth nonetheless and vocalist Dave Heumann's delivery here is powerful and provoking. From it's pastoral roots, 'The Gathering' is never afraid to bring the heaviness; inducing a psyched haze from overblown bass speakers and doomed country low-end. The tone is pure vintage, but never forced and it's stark, alluring simplicity reaps rewards; but there's also a cloud of sadness that hangs heavily over the proceedings, never more so than on the haunting rendition of Jimmy Webb's 'The Highwayman'. Arbouretum have created something really special here and 'The Gathering' will be playing on our minds for some time...