Three months in, and we haven’t destroyed ourselves! To celebrate this achievement, we’re once again sharing our favorite releases from the last few months. A lot of it is pretty heavy, focusing on grief (Mount Eerie), cruelty (Lawrence English), and self-loathing (Xiu Xiu), with other fun stuff like ritual guitar abuse (Skullflower) and the glowing horror of reanimation (Rashad Becker). But we also loved everything from urban gallery funk (Cybervision Simulcast) and philosophic horse opera (Sun Araw) to playful Afromutations (Riddlore) and pop so sugary sweet it’ll rot your teeth (Charli XCX). Something for everyone. ;)
Since these quarter lists are more informal than our year-end features, the shortlist before the list proper is equally important (especially Dasychira’s Immolated EP, which got a lot of love since assembling this list). Check ‘em all out below, and maybe see you in another three?
Shortlist: Moon B’s Lifeworld 2: Udaya, nekomimi + luvfexxx, LUVISCOLD, Sophiaaaahjkl;8901’s Toilet Abstraction Tapes, Gabor Lazar’s Crisis of Representation, Darren Keen’s It’s Never Too Late To Say You’re Welcome, Mega Bog’s Happy Together, Tonstartssbandht’s Sorcerer, Dasychira’s Immolated, Drake’s More Life, William Basinski’s A Shadow in Time, Roc Marciano’s Rosebudd’s Revenge, Future’s HNDRXX, Blanck Mass’ World Eater, and PAN’s mono no aware compilation.
A Crow Looked At Me
[P.W. Elverum & Sun]
I can barely listen to A Crow Looked At Me, an album with little room for novelty, one I’m sure Phil Elverum never wanted to make. Death is the least novel thing in life, but it makes a novelty out of what never was before. Phil (who I feel maybe too close to now) makes white noise of branches, canyons of grocery store aisles, a sunset of what is not dust. He doesn’t have to make meaning of Death, because words become futile when confronted with something so simple and absolute. His grief seems just to be here, contained by the same microphone as guitar, the way someone who dies just can’t be. I don’t think music had ever made me cry only for someone else, but none of this sounds like it was made for anyone but Geneviève and himself. He says he doesn’t want to learn anything from his wife’s death, but by the time you’ve shut your eyes for 40 minutes, alone with the creaking floor and counted days and Pacific birds and spoken dreams, I can’t imagine not coming away with (something) more. It’s springtime.
[Nyege Nyege Tapes]
The modest genius of Riddlore’s Afromutations, the January offering from Ugandan cassette label Nyege Nyege Tapes, stems from a certain perspectival grace. A longstanding figure of the Los Angeles hip-hop underground, Riddlore is known first as an emcee and second as a beatmaker. Afromutations sees the artist sketching a playful, iterative bass style drawn from samples of African field recordings, a hauntological gesture that in less subtle hands might fall into a self-serious wormhole. The tape’s beauty is in how the timbral mood of the samples gesture at and usher into place the recombinant scaffolding of the relatively untreated percussion, like how the choral tension that opens “Bakka Pygmies Riddim” blossoms into an eerie kuduro strut. Elsewhere, on “Afroed” and “The Crush,” drums and overlapping harmonies flange into natural psychedelias. Riddlore’s agenda-absent play allows the samples to mutate freely, and Nyege Nyege serves an adept platform for the project.
To unfold, usually, is to grow, to expand; to sprawl. On their 19th release, The Necks have instead tightened their improvisational nous to four standalone pieces, invoking the mysticism of Cusanus: “unfolding is enfolding.” These anti-compositions unfold insofar as they protrude into space-time and become of-the-world, cosmological chaos and all; they enfold into the broader scheme of the album, all unified through the articulate chops of Messrs Abrahams, Swanton, and Buck. Between balance and imbalance, serenity and turbulence, the respective instrumental forces of the players here circumnavigate these side-long miniatures with microscopic focus and reticence, in characteristically Necks-ian fashion. And, even when compared with classics past, there’s no compromise on ambition, not a single wasted moment. Such is the dynamism of Unfold; what initially struck as blissful stasis, best suited for gazing into the pale blue yonder, gently opens up — and, yeah, unfolds — to yield four of the most self-contained, wholly busy musics that 2017 has had to offer thus far.
[H.V.R.F. CENTRAL COMMAND]
Sewer City kicks up all the residual funk of an urban galley. Where oil encrusted kebab meat sweats on rotation, busted street lights stutter into the night, and ripple-rich puddles highlight the only natural quality to animate the scene, as thick droplets of rain are spat down from the stubborn grey heavens above. Cybervision Simulcast drape this grizzly vision through the innards of a pitch-black bypass drenched in alarms, sirens, and ricochet. Everything points to a breakdown or dysfunction, as this bleak snapshot of municipal decay melts to nothingness through our slime-smeared fingers. But those signals of distress are incorporated within the process, and they are not to be heeded for what they might otherwise signify; they orchestrate the bass-inverted crank that punctuates the residue of samples, synths, and storyline. To suggest that this grizzled and failing image results in a perfect album would be distasteful — obscene, even. And yet, that’s precisely what’s happened every time I’ve taken the plunge so far. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Let’s keep it that way.
Number 1 Angel
Out of the cold dark dust, the Number 1 Angel spreads her wings for Utopia, so emotional and so sugary sweet it’ll rot your teeth. After one of the strangest ascensions (“I! Don’t! Care!”) in the pop industry, Charli XCX is thriving. VROOM VROOM’s EUREKA! production was Charli at a 100% synchronization rate, and now she’s spun a 40-minute pop slipstream, an outside World of babygirls and babyboys. The PC Music crew sheds some of the hyperreal, sourcing Charli’s charisma and songwriting prowess to shoot for real stars: color-coded bangers, sweatsoaked and tearstained, a clarity of vision that at once opens avataric and musical possibilities in the channel of Rihanna and Kesha. The party’s enfolding. Number 1 Angel is Charli’s every intuition refined in hi-fi, the best-yet gateway for anyone not already along for the ride. Ten songs for one night. Glitter in your underwear, left on red. Let’s ride! The closing trilogy of features (Uffie, ABRA, cupcakKe) is fucked-up perfect. Each outrunning the last, headfirst till the 90s bubblegum pops. The synths kick up cinnamon for a minute-long Secret Mix outro. Inextinguishable, enlightening. It’s Charli, baby.