Sunday, November 29, 2015

Things we like: Ambient edition

1) Wire Nest/Tidals split 7". This joint release of Dallas-based Pour le Corps Records (who also released one of my favorite spins o' the year, Sarah Ruth's haunting Words On the Wind, on cassette) and Fort Worth-based Dreamy Life Records (the label, studio, and store operated by local musos Jen and Robby Rux and Cameron Smith) comes beautifully packaged and pressed on green vinyl. While both Wire Nest and Tidals have released material digitally, their music -- as involved as it is in physical experience, including striking live visuals -- demands a corporeal medium. On Wire Nest's "Sea of Sand," once-and-future Sub Osloites Frank Cervantez and John Nuckels start with a throbbing, hypnotic dub bass, then use multiple guitar samples to overlay beguiling cascades of melody. On Tidals' "Sympathetic Vibrations," Joshua Wrinkle and Jeremy Lantz blend ethereal electronics with danceable beats in an agreeable melange. Together, the tracks provide an enjoyable listening experience while whetting one's appetite for more -- exactly what a good 7-incher is supposed to do. ADDENDUM: Cop via Pour le Corps.

2) Marco Oppedisano - Resolute EP. Oppedisano's a Brooklyn-based guitarist-composer-educator whom I first heard on the guitar compilations Axe and The $100 Guitar. Here he opts for conceptual unity over volume (a trend I like -- two of my probable records o' the year clock in at half an hour or less), using his guitar as just one element in his tonal palette. Each vignette is its own discrete sound-world (my current favorite is the incandescent "Reflection"); taken together, they form the soundtrack for a mind-movie you can transport anywhere. Cop via Spectropol Records.

3) Pop Clearinghouse - B Stock. This is the nom de disque of my bald-headed son and occasional musical collaborator Matt Hickey, who works slowly and so is offering some of his "cutting room floor specials" (including the creepiest Bee Gees cover ever) while we wait. "Iswatis" has the icy Europop sound he loves and frequently returns to (any female vocalists looking to collaborate, hit him up).

4) Laurie Anderson - Heart of a Dog. I missed her performance at the Kessler earlier this year, and the film that accompanies this album at the Texas Theater a little more recently -- life happens. Listening to this CD has been a challenge because the only operational one we currently have in the house is in our bedroom, and this is mastered so that I have to have the volume full-up and be in the room to hear it. (Anderson demands our full attention, but her tone is conversational -- she isn't going to shout to get it.) I haven't written about this before because I feel like I haven't heard it enough times to fully digest it, but from the couple of "deep" listenings I've been able to manage (my life is pretty noisy), she uses highly personal and idiosyncratic stories to make more universal points about love, mortality, and life in post-9/11 America, and finishes with a song by her late husband (from Ecstasy), whose presence hovers over the whole affair like her mother's.

5) Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes. It always comes back to Uncle Lou, doesn't it? I'm a lucky curmudgeon: I bitched so much about Universal milking the VU that two friends offered to hook me up with digital rips of this, then Hickey (or some red-suited gent, he said) dropped the bona fide in my mailbox. Now I can stop wondering why they don't reissue 1969 Live. This pristine board tape is vastly superior to the versions used to produce the aforementioned used-to-be-my-favorite-VU-LP. While it doesn't make Felton/Klimek/Quine/Leegood/whoever-recorded-the-Hillside-Festival-and-Gymnasium-shows' recordings obsolete, it's an unalloyed pleasure to hear the Velvets playing with all instruments clearly audible, where you can understand all the lyrics. Even my wife noticed. The intimacy of the small room (which Sterling Morrison dismissed as unrepresentative) works in favor of these recordings, which allow us to hear the Lou-Sterl interplay more clearly than anywhere else, including the studio albums, and marvel at how good the VU and Nico songs sounded when played by the Yule-era unit.


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