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Best Of 2016: Noise

MAGNET’s Raymond Cummings picks the best noise releases of the year

1 Morgan & Dilloway Live In A Basement To No One (Voice Throwing/Hanson)
2 Vanessa Rossetto/Matthew Revert Earnest Rubbish (Erstwhile)
3 Bergegas Mati Pop Neraka (Gerpfast Kolektif)
4 Dial Noise Opera (Dial)
5 Newagehillbilly These Are Not The Final Days (Spleencoffin)
6 Lea Bertucci Axis/Atlas (Clandestine Compositions)
7 Youko Heidy Spirit Jazz (Omanutu Sher iiima)
8 Vanessa Rossetto Adult Contemporary (No Rent)
9 Starvation Time House Of Dust (Marginal Frequency)
10 The Dead C Trouble (Ba Da Bing!)

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Essential New Music: Papa M’s “Highway Songs”


Guitar primitivist, post-rock smoothie, dry-throated balladeer, electronic prankster, sideman extraordinaire—over the course of a three-decade career, David Pajo has disappeared into each one of these guises. At moments, Highway Songs suggests a Real World bungalow stacked to the rafters with these Pajo iterations. Brooding metal clinics “Bloom” and “Flatliners” are reminiscent of stints with Zwan and Dead Child; “Adore, A Jar” and “Walking On Coronado” recall the syncopated, liquid precision of early solo project Aerial M and 1999’s Live In A Shark Tank. “Little Girl” feels like the logical apex of his creative trajectory post-Papa M Sings. The silver lining is that still more Pajos are on this RSVP list: a devious Pajo, tweaking and twisting “The Love Particle” into sonic shrapnel; a rowdy, punk Pajo wailing on “Green Hollers.” Consider the jarring Highway Songs a retrenchment in the wake of its creator’s publicly nightmarish 2015: the album as spirit quest, as bridge.

—Raymond Cummings

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Essential New Music: Christopher Tignor’s “Along A Vanishing Plane”


In conception, Along A Vanishing Plane is an exceedingly contemporary creation, sculpted using violins, synths, electronics and software. Yet while it’s in motion, the third solo LP from NYC-based musician Christopher Tignor feels distinctly apart from time: a measured, classical tonic. As a label, “modern composition” suits these reveries, but this music breathes, swoons and swoops elegiacally, in the same way a crack symphony orchestra might on a good night. “Dead Letter Library” sheds a dour skin to reveal a stridently meditative one. “One Eye Blue, One Eye Black (Blue)” explodes 12K Records minimalism into slow-motion, pointillist showers of sparks. The yearning “Artifacts Of Longing” trilogy is at once Plane’s literal and figurative heart, a string of violin themes so impossibly sad and stately that they’re beyond the reach of any textures or effects Tignor might dispatch to steer them away from the brink.

—Raymond Cummings

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Essential New Music: Rosali’s “Out Of Love”


Loving me, you or anyone is tricky and nonlinear. So Out Of Love, as an album title, is an abject (if commanding) lie that draws attention, then fakes us out. The debut from Philadelphia’s Rosali Middleman bisects romance—ups, downs, outs—wearily and gorgeously. Though her default genres are country and folk, sinuous, Fleetwood Mac-indebted pop informs this Love, most notably on “Hangin,” where transitions between chord changes shimmer or vanish.

The spent, spare “Your Song” settles its emotional accounts with acoustic bass and vocals that scale beyond the clouds. “Black As Ashes” drowns its pathos in clipped, strummed swarms. On “Blind Bird,” Middleman interestingly complicates a hunk of prime Nashville bubblegum, her que sera, sera nonchalance colliding with a fear of herself. “Alone in this life, I’m free/Alone in this life, nobody but me,” she asserts on “Alone In This,” making a breakup’s aftermath sound like the most thoughtful, unrequested gift anyone could ever hope to receive.

—Raymond Cummings

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Essential New Music: Heliotropes’ “Over There That Way”


A world removed from the over-driven crunch, brawn and bash of Heliotropes’ 2013 debut LP A Constant Sea, Over There That Way sounds like the work of an entirely different band. Lead singer/songwriter Jessica Numsuwankijkul’s vocals float comfortably at the forefront of tunes that wouldn’t seem out of place on a late-’80s/early-’90s indie-rock compilation. Psychedelic prom torch song “Where You Live” sprouts a sax solo at midpoint; “My Only Friend” gives electric downer folk a good name. The aromatic “Easy” leans on effects pedals just hard enough that it feels on the verge of crumbling.

Numsuwankijkul recruited a new group of players for Over There That Way, and the decision pays o handsomely; this is a much more introspective, vulnerable album that benefits from a lighter touch. It isn’t impossible to imagine—or to anticipate—a moment when she does without the pageantries of echo and effect, and allows her songwriting to sing for itself.

—Raymond Cummings

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Essential New Music: Meyers’ “Negative Space (1981-2014)”


Between uncompromising releases and his Tone Filth label, Minneapolis’ Justin Meyers has spent the past 13 years spray-painting his name on the underground music map. A prolonged illness sidelined him in 2014; Negative Space, which incorporates material old and new, functions as something of recovery diary.

Illness has its own internal, infernal language, which Meyers mines with an intuitive acuity on Space, cannily shuffling those psychic distresses and perceptual misfires that seem both omnipresent and intangible when one’s physiology is in distress. Organs double-dribble, or depress tortured chords; marbles thwop on hard surfaces. Drones portend brown-acid apocalypses; cassettes accelerate and rewind feverishly. Synthesizers flicker like strobe lights, threatening to short out altogether. This is, in a way, an antithesis of Brian Eno’s Discreet Music: not the album you play to heal an ailing loved one, but the al-bum you employ to embolden your own sense of empathy.

—Raymond Cummings

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Best Of 2015: Noise


MAGNET’s Raymond Cummings picks the best noise releases of the year

1 Power Monster White Single Female (Signora Ward)
2 Chuck Bettis Pixel Bleed (Living Myth)
3 Sightings Amusers And Puzzlers (Dais)
4 Jah Excretion Meditation 5 (self-released)
5 Margarida Garcia And Manuel Mota Crypt (Yew)
6 Various Artists Ladyz In Noyz 3.5 (Corpus Callosum Distro)
7 Macchinamorbida Mind The Gap Between The Platform And The Train (A Place Called Annexia) (Ton Doigt Dans Mon Cul)
8 Lightning Bolt Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
9 Jason Lescalleet This Is What I Do: Volume 9 (Glistening Examples)
10 Sterile Garden Workforce (Basement Tapes)

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Essential New Music: Qasim Naqvi’s “Preamble”


Perhaps “abstract modern composition” best describes Preamble, a record perfectly suited to its title. Composed by Dawn Of Midi’s Qasim Naqvi and realized by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYC, Preamble is a thrilling, sonorous maze of conservatory gestures that stops just short of cohering into anything continuous or definitive.

Brass swoops, then lows, then scoops. Horns ease upward into untenable shrillness; pianos reverberate contemplatively. An entire orchestra pit appears to shift sleepily between what seems like an improvisatory restlessness and the layered din of a collective warm-up session. Grouped, these carefully carved mini-movements confound one another like opposing weather fronts, swinging through moods without quite resolving into a full-fl edged schizophrenia. But impressionism is hardly a crime, and the disappointment of Preamble is its brevity; half an hour is hardly long enough to truly get lost in the drift on offer here.

—Raymond Cummings

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Essential New Music: Beat Happening’s “Look Around”


Thirty-two years after the Olympia, Wash., trio flubbed its first notes on tape, Beat Happening’s amateur appeal remains evergreen. Cherry-picked from albums, EPs, singles, stray tracks and prior compilations, best-of Look Around isolates the bed-headed soul that Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford breathed collective life into. The apparent naiveté of songwriting and lyricism alike was informed by a curdled knowing. This resulted, often, in lo-fi dualities made all the more transfi xing because hooks were never in short supply. Scorched dirge “Nancy Sin” could function as double-dutch staple or blues-club standard; secular jangle homily “Angel Gone” deigns to damn via the faintest empathy. The rickety, Lewis-sung “Foggy Eyes” is a Polaroid of 20-something lovesickness that endures in its stark emotionality. One can imagine young campers singing “Other Side” around a fi re or from opposite ends of a game of Capture The Flag— yet it translates so easily to an adult frame of mind that the line of separation thins. As underground sacred texts go, we could do far, far worse.

—Raymond Cummings

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HEALTH: Outrunning Death


“Oh, absolutely—there were years; it was a constant, paralyzing thought,” bassist/ percussionist John Famiglietti laughs when asked if there were ever days when it felt as though HEALTH wouldn’t be able to put Death Magic, the band’s follow-up to 2009’s Get Color, to bed. “You definitely don’t wanna take this long to put out an album.”

Other ways the Los Angeles quartet spent the six-year gulf: switching labels from Lovepump United to Loma Vista; creating an atmospheric, demonic soundtrack for Max Payne 3; scoring the Lexus Design Disrupted event at 2013 Fashion Week. Yet, Death Magic was gestating throughout, and the finished product includes a handful of songs written shortly after HEALTH wound down the Get Color world tour in 2011.

From its 2007 self-titled debut forward, an eerie sinuousness has personified the HEALTH aesthetic, with cacophonous clatter, bleak post-punk and brittle synth-pop smashed together into thrilling quagmires. While the furious noise rock of HEALTH gave way to Get Color’s more accessible confidence, Death Magic might represent a fulcrum of the band’s potential. Electrifying “Stonefist” and the industrial squirm of “Flesh World (UK)” are less experiments than proper, hummable songs, with Jake Duzsik’s singing front and center for the fi rst time. A forthright introspection reigns, from the romantic confl ict that powers “Dark Enough” and “L.A. Looks” to arena-ready existential dilemma “Life.”

“On the earlier albums, there were no themes, because we wanted the lyrics to fit the aesthetic of the music,” says Famiglietti. “On the first album, Jake didn’t write anything personal; the lyrics were cryptic. On the second album, they were slightly more personal, like vignettes.” Catching Depeche Mode live proved to be a revelation, and a blueprint: “They would have extremely direct lyrics that don’t sound stupid—relatable lyrics that were dark, but sound cool,” says Famiglietti. “Relatable lyrics in a way that isn’t stupid, pandering or cynical.”

Death Magic’s warmer timbre is a result of marination and collaboration. Duzsik, Famiglietti, guitarist/percussionist Jupiter Keyes and drummer Benjamin Jared Miller worked closely with the Haxan Cloak, Andrew Dawson and Lars Stalfors, who produced, engineered and offered advice. HEALTH was ready to listen.

“A lot of the songs we’d had for a while, and we were in a rut,” says Famiglietti. “It’s really helpful when someone has an idea who’s not in the band, though there were ideas that we vetoed. There were tons. One big thing was removing elements, keeping things really simple, and leaving a lot of melodic space.” That second concept is in evidence on first single “New Coke,” where astringence and starry drift coexist in equal measure, and in those startling moments on “Hurt Yourself” where choirs echo up through endorphic synthesizer waves. A world tour is up next, Famiglietti says, and plans are in the works for a third remix album, though he won’t divulge details.

“We have two remix albums already that are very good,” he says, referring to 2008’s Health/Disco and 2010’s Health::Disco2, which feature reinterpretations from the band’s first two albums. “It’s hard to live up to that.”

—Raymond Cummings

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