2017: First Quarter Favorites From LAMPGOD & Lambkin to Charli XCX & Xiu Xiu

The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign.

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Various Artists

Club Chai Vol. 1

[Club Chai]


When you’re in the right club, with the right music, with the right crowd, you can feel your body. You’re present in it, in its creases and protrusions, in its decorations and accoutrements, in its movements and vibrations in space, in its careful caressings and navigations around and through other bodies. You can feel it as something fluid, the cells and lipstick and lungs and heels and bass and drugs and genders and hi-hats and drifting and splitting melodies and languages morphing the movement of your limbs into a movement of potentials. You think, “I am in this body and I am feeling these other bodies and I know that this body can be something else, it can be what it wants to be, it can be what it doesn’t want to be, this shell is the end and the beginning and I am going to be fucking gorgeous.” Club Chai is a loose collective of queer and trans club DJs and producers out of Oakland pushing that continuum into the right-now-right-now-right-now of sonic uncertainty, gender uncertainty, national uncertainty. And it feels right.


Lawrence English

Cruel Optimism

[Room40]


I consider myself an optimist, but I haven’t always been positive. My sense of trust in goodness has grown as I’ve unpacked how cynicism has poisoned many of my relationships (with partners, with friends, with art). Then again, being an optimist, as Louis CK once asserted, means being stupid. There’s a delicate balance between being confident in humanity’s potential for good and accepting humanity’s cruelty as simply the cost of business. Lawrence English’s latest release is music for contemplating what’s writhing around deep in humanity’s psyche. Its requiem is solemn, because nobody’s sense of “goodness” has won yet, its negative drones promising because they still have matter to vibrate through. Cruel Optimism is nominally a meditation on how human desire often breeds cruelty at humanity’s own expense, but as a sound work, it is also a reminder that optimism, shed of its colonizing skin, can overcome cruelty.


Quelle Chris

Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often

[Mello Music Group]


In college, a friend of mine had a line that went something like, “Your shit is wacker than the ‘you’ that every rapper writes about.” Although I can’t remember exactly how it went, or if it was ever even put to record, I always thought that was so dope: taking aim at the proverbial second person by acknowledging its ubiquitous metanarrative; uplifting recorded battle rap by breaking its third wall. Doper still, the idea that an omnipresent, sucker MC named “You” might actually exist. Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often complicates the above concept by incorporating hip-hop’s superego, the proverbial I, and framing that id character as both a role model for personal success and a self-destructive nemesis. Like “Who Am I” as a slapstick comedy about the creative process.


Sun Araw

The Saddle of the Increate

[Sun Ark/Drag City]


The Saddle of the Increate shuffles the few short steps across from Belomancie’s chambers of internal refraction to twitch and twinge its way through into the shining territory of the lonesome whippoorwill — outdoors, that is. Well, at least there’s a pedal steel or two, a cactus, and a 10-gallon hat — it’s a [“psychedelic”] philosophic horse opera, tough as an actor, distracted but gruffly tender, especially in its latter sections. There’s a space and a half between every point; we can give names to/for every constellation, a classical reference or two even, but it’s still… complex — and how is the soul (your soul) distinct from its powers anyway? Spatially disorienting, temporally atomistic, concrete in image, plastic in execution: seven lampstands have become seven horses (and four hats, a head of cattle, one bowl, etc. etc.). Like pulling a wishbone with yourself, be 100% ready to spit in the skillet.


Graham Lambkin

Community

[ErstSolo/Kye]


As Jackson Scott so rightly put, Graham Lambkin’s Community is “a document of what a community can create without dictating what a community should entail; it is evidence without the arrogance of conclusion.” Not community, but the evidence of community. In fact, the trace audible evidences of sound becoming located in new environments is exactly what establishes Lambkin’s practice and medium — a medium that so mysteriously auditions sonic evidence into richly communicative listening spaces. In Community, we are bathed by this evidence, in communion with it; it is threaded inside of the spaces we inhabit, our daily lives and interactions — those already in articulation. Voiced as such, the album is a masterclass in Lambkin’s quotidian character, flattened into a natural, weathered state close to the void — close to how impossible and brilliant our communities are. It reminds us that our communities exist often without us, within and without our human attempts to locate them.


Camedor

En Ut / Alba

[Debacle]


The scoff that is heard ‘round the world at any mention of “world” music may not be the constructive criticism the catch-all term deserves, but it is the noise necessary to make a greater point. But may we suggest replacing that negativity with a positive denotation? Enter Camedor’s debut 12-inch, which is the sound of the world sucked into a wormhole wherein time, space, and location matter little. In a nutshell, it represents the “new” idea of world music, where we no longer place such a limiting genre marker on what is music now easily accessible to all. Both songs borrow from mid-century composers (including a “cover” of Terry Riley’s “In C”), but also pull everything out of the grab bag of motorik, drone, and pop. José Orozco Mora has layered it all into a wondrous noise that may heavily borrow from Western tropes and styles, but is music from parts (un)known. You may not catch much Berber or Aboriginal influence, but what matters is how Mora’s Camedor speaks to building bridges between cultures through music. It’s a shared form of expression, and the joyous, raucous nature of En Ut / Alba is a celebration of worlds colliding into symphonic harmony.

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