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If chillwave sounded like warped copies of old soft-rock and synth-pop tapes, then Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s “Pale Flower” is the sound of a warped, nearly wrecked, copy of a chillwave tape. Or in the words of its creator; the music explores ways of “conveying memory in music without being sentimental”. Sentimental or not, “Pale Flower” is like trying to adjust the knobs on an old transistor radio broadcasting a memory of a memory of a memory of a song that probably never existed in the first place.
Mexican Summer, no strangers to forward-thinking nostalgia-obsessive music, is wisely releasing A Year With 13 Moons, the follow-up to 2010’s Love Is A Stream. Cantu-Ledesma has been releasing a steady stream of music since 1996, collaborating with Grouper’s Liz Harris, and also the founder of Root Strata, a record label that released music from Oneothrix Point Never amongst others. While I haven’t heard his previous work, “Pale Flower” is an invite to explore more from one of ambient music’s best kept secrets.
Two decades into Modest Mouse’s career, it would be harsh to expect anything revolutionary. Their last album, 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, saw them climbing to the number one spot on Billboard, but failed to produce any memorable music. Modest Mouse influence on post-millennial indie-rock should however not be taken lightly. Not only as stylistic authorities, but as a band that paved the way for other indie-rock bands to reach a level of commercial success that would’ve been unimaginable at the start of the last decade. So far we’ve only been given one taste of what’s coming, but new and surprisingly great single “Lampshades On Fire” sound a lot like a synthesis of “Float On” and “The World At Large”, two of the most memorable tracks on their decade old commercial breakthrough and Grammy nominated Good News For People Who Love Bad News. While Modest Mouse greatest (artistic) achievements will always be their pre-04 albums (two of them newly reissued via Glacial Pace), “Lampshades On Fire” is the best we’ve heard from the band in a decade. Watch for their new album Strangers To Ourselves, out March 3 via Epic.
New single ”Dry Mouth” from Vision Future starts off with hypnotic, repeated metallic synth sounds underneath foreboding, almost chant-y, vocals that somehow reminds me of a distant cousin to the apocalyptic and often unsettling sound of Silver Mt.Zion, or even Swans. But the real treat is the entirely instrumental second half that stalks my ears with a quietly lurking bass line accompanied by spine-chilling synths dropping in and out. “Dry Mouth” is exceptionally multifaceted for such a short track, and makes me hope for great things from the London three-piece when their second full-length, Country Music, comes out on February 9 via ATP Recordings.
The last we heard of L.A. producer Henry Laufer aka Shlohmo was the surprisingly uninspired No More EP, a collaboration with R&B singer Jeremih. Thankfully, and as the title suggests, Shlohmo emerges with newfound strength on his latest single “Emerge From Smoke”. The track shows Shlohmo in his darkest mood yet; firing laser-beams of squealing dystopian synth lines over hollow percussions and slowly unraveling, bottomless basslines. As shown many times before, he is a master of creating tension by slowly adding layers of elements, then subtracting them before everything comes crashing down like an alien ship wreckage. “Emerge From Smoke” make me hope that Shlohmo got most of his R&B dreams out of his system, as he is at best when moving in intersecting, indistinguishable genres, and having more in common with Clark then The Weeknd.
There’s few artists of the 21st century able to make as fun music as Dan Deacon. The Baltimore native has been churning out memorably catchy electronic pieces for the past decade, and his latest work, the first single off his newest album Gliss Riffer, set to release in February, is no different. One of the most acclaimed electronic artists behind the boards, the technical abilities of Deacon aren’t anything short of amazing. His In The Studio Mini-Doc for Pitchfork is a must watch, a look at the crazed mind of a man obsessed with the technicalities of the mechanical music medium. Fans salivating for more of Deacon’s light-hearted, insanely likable melodies are in for a treat with ‘Feel The Lightning.’
Much like many of the best songs off 2009’s Bromst, Deacon’s own voice, distorted to near-indistinguishable levels, shines as a beacon to alluring listeners intent on numbing their minds and easing their stress. His latest work, 2012’s America, was an epic orchestration of a journey through America using music, but was largely devoid of vocal accompaniment. ‘Feel The Lightning’ reeks of tracks like ‘Build Voice’ off the former, and ‘True Thrush’ off the latter. If Deacon can somehow meld these two works Gliss Riffer may be an album to remember for quite some time. If one’s still doubting Deacon’s cooky, yet masterful work of electronic instrumentation, look no further than the ‘female voice’ in the track, which is his own, manipulated to transcend genders.
The allure of Death Grips stems from the fact that their music, especially new songs immediately upon release, sound like nothing released before, and yet they’re all hidden under a veil of similar pretenses. Their first single off Jenny Death, the 2nd half of their final album The Powers That Be, is a wild ride filled with a constant uneasiness that would make “Birds” seem trivial. As a revving engine of rising vocal distortions kick off “Inanimate Sensation”, classic, yet oddly simple, Zach Hill drums take over, highly reminiscent of The Money Store, the band’s most accessible album. But just as one begins to feel comfortable the bass and beat drop out, a commonality by song’s end. See, what the track accomplishes best is the fluid distinction between Ride’s tension-building lyrics and cadences, and the classic Death Grips flair for catchiness. It’s either been one or the other, but here they mold them together.
There’s times when MC Ride is hollering like his chaotic self, with lyrics entirely indistinguishable, while there’s other moments of the rapper whispering, eerily, unnerved, before a secondary verse sees his voice malfunctioning, gravely, and demon-ish. These moments of hectic pandemonium are circumvented by intersecting instrumental interludes that creek, blast, stutter, and gravitate towards anonymity, unrecognizable to anything surrounding them. ‘Inanimate Sensation’ plays this twisted game of never staying stagnant, never knowing what’s to come next, with lyrics that, upon looking them up, seem as dense as the most hard-to-understand messages found on their previous efforts.
Previously mentioned Canadian rapper Shad follows his great DJ T.Lo collaboration ”Hang On” with an entire five track joint effort titled Boarding Pass. It’s a worthwile listen from the pair; filled with optimistic, bouncy beats and soulful samples that vibrate underneath Shad’s humble, often bleak message. Above you can hear another great EP stand-out “Fire”, and check out the whole thing here.
There are many bands that sound like The Cabana Kids, but few can write an emotive “surf-pop” track like “Sortida”. The western-styled guitars are sublime and the interchanging girl-boy vocals brings an added nerve to a track that checks many boxes on how to write ear-catching, instantly gratifying melodies. If you like what you’re hearing don’t forget to check out the band’s debut EP The Bird & The Bees released via Small Plates.