OUTSIDE THE HEARD - August 2014

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RX Bandits
Gemini, Her Majesty
Mash Down Babylon
 
Over the course of the past 19 years (yes, 2015 will be their 20-year anniversary), RX Bandits have managed to stay light years ahead of the pack by taking a genre-blurring approach to songwriting. Their adventurous style of play gives them a unique sense of flexibility, one that allows them to seamlessly fit anywhere and everywhere. With the band’s new album, Gemini, Her Majesty, RX Bandits have parleyed that unique flexibility into how they approached recording their album. "In the past, our aim was to bridge the gap between our recorded music and our live performance," says vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree. "But this time around we really didn't ever consider that. We almost willingly ignored it. It was really nice to make a record that we didn't apply live performance constraints to. That said, now we're going to have the hefty task of figuring out how we want to arrange and play these new songs live. We love the challenge."
 
Warren Cuccurullo & Ustad Sultan Khan
The Master
Six Degrees

 
Lost tapes always raise an eyebrow. Unexpected sessions by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Marley and the Beatles suddenly emerge to great fanfare. When dealing with India's greatest sarangi player of modern times, Ustad Sultan Khan, an entire planet of classical Indian music fans are certain to turn up the volume. Khan's collaboration with former Duran Duran and Frank Zappa guitarist Warren Cuccurullo weren't exactly lost, just put on hold since the 1998 recording session in London. Recorded during a predominantly spontaneous weekend, The Master features Khan's inimitable sarangi playing and singing with a lushly textured ambient guitar soundtrack provided by Cuccurullo. You've never heard either of these musicians in such a context.
Richard Reed Parry
Music for Heart and Breath
Deutsche Grammophon

 
Richard Reed Parry is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, drawing his influences from classical music, folk and electronica. Music for Heart and Breath is his first core classical release, featuring various compositions for Heart and Breath for various ensembles, as well as small interludes (Interruptions). The concept behind Music for Heart and Breath is that every musician involved in the piece generates his own tempo by listening to his/her pulse during the performance (To enable the players to hear and play in sync with their own heartbeats, they wear stethoscopes and, naturally, generally play quietly). Fragile and intimate, these stunningly created performance effects are the basis for this conceptual compositional approach. The music is performed by an exciting line-up of musicians, including Nico Muhly (Conductor, celeste/piano), The National’s Bryce & Aaron Dessner (guitars), Kronos Quartet, and the ensemble Ymusic.
 
Karen Mantler
Business Is Bad
ECM Records

 
Business Is Bad confesses Karen Mantler, and many in the music world will sympathize. Almost 20 years have passed since Karen’s last album as a bandleader (Ironically titled, Farewell). In the interim she’s appeared with Pet Project, made several recordings with parents Michael Mantler and Carla Bley, been a member of the Golden Palominos, played accordion on street corners, given harmonica lessons, and served coffee in SoHo. The struggle to maintain her own projects has perhaps strengthened Business Is Bad’s whimsical songwriting. Snowstorms, volcanoes, lawyers and bill-collectors do their damnedest to dampen Mantler’s moods in these songs of woe but Karen’s vocal delivery remains stoical and nonchalant. Doug Wieselman (of Anthony and the Johnsons, Lounge Lizards, and Kamikaze Ground Crew fame) and Kato Hideki (whose many credits include the Death Ambient trio and projects with John Zorn) lend subtle and supple support throughout.
Dino Saluzzi Group
El Valle De La Infancia
ECM Records
 
Argentinean bandoneonist-composer-improviser Dino Saluzzi returns to his roots with El Valle de la Infancia. Recorded in Buenos Aires, it’s the first of his discs to feature his “family band” since 2005’s Juan Condori. Here Dino is heard with his brother Felix on tenor sax and clarinet, his son José María on guitars and nephew Matías on basses. Friends joining the party are 7-string guitarist Nicolás “Colacho” Brizuela, known internationally for his long association with singer Mercedes Sosa, and drummer Quintino Cinalli, brought in by Dino to gently expand the sense of freedom that informs his music. “This work is alive with different genres,” writes Leopoldo Castilla in the liner notes. “From dances such as zamba to carnavalito to chacarera... The music captures the natural world of its origins; North Argentina, ablaze with mourning, despairing with joy.”
 
Wolfgang Muthspiel
Driftwood
ECM Records

 
Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel makes his ECM leader debut with Driftwood, a trio album of subtlety and depth featuring renowned US jazz players Larry Grenadier and Brian Blade. Muthspiel – who recently made his first ECM appearance on Travel Guide as a member of a cooperative trio with fellow guitarists Ralph Towner and Slava Grigoryan – has enjoyed long, productive musical friendships live and on record with both Grenadier and Blade, leading to a sense of telepathic interplay on Driftwood. The trio creates a ravishing sound, captured with fidelity at Rainbow Studio in Oslo. Muthspiel has been praised by The Times of London for his “restless musical imagination”. Lyrical, grooving and atmospheric by turns, the guitarist’s compositions on Driftwood include tributes to his heroes Joe Zawinul and Michael Brecker.
Kimbra
The Golden Echo
Warner Bros

 
Kimbra is best known as the female voice in Gotye’s worldwide smash “Somebody That I Used To Know.” She’s also an amazing artist in her own right. Kimbra’s new album The Golden Echo is ambitious, sophisticated, and complex -- just like its creator. The Golden Echo was produced by Rich Costey (Sigur Rós, Fiona Apple, Muse) who has been on her dream list of collaborators since she was 15. The lyrics find her grappling with a range of subject matter, from feeling nostalgic about young love on "90s Music," to being caught up in a place of narrowness on "Mad House," to wanting to run away and make a new life on "Carolina," to the vulnerability that follows temptation on "Be Everlovin Ya." Kimbra wrote several of the songs with another one of her musical idols -- Daniel Johns from Silverchair.
 
Electric Würms
Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk
Warner Bros

 
Electric Würms, a prog-rock side project featuring The Flaming Lips' multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd on vocals, guitars, and keyboards and front man Wayne Coyne on bass and backed by Nashville psychedelic rock band Linear Downfall, presents a six-song album debut designed to turn brains into gummy guts (with a USB buried inside). Musik, Die Shwer Zu Twerk, will transport the listener into a new kind of transcendental orbit than one might expect from The Lips alone. Instead, these six velvety compositions appear to be harvested from a higher bardo plane of sound yet maintain a pleasantly familiar rock "experience" associated with The Lipsian oeuvre. Get weird.
 
Rosebuds
Sand + Silence
Western Vinyl
 
After spending two years living on opposite coasts and pursuing their own creative projects, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp came back together in the spring of 2013 to set to work on the sixth full-length album from the Rosebuds. Joining up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (a friend and former bandmate), the North Carolina-bred duo spent a week in Vernon’s studio teasing out a batch of songs that effortlessly weave the hooky songcraft of classic jangle-pop, the cagey romanticism of new wave, and a refined yet full-hearted sensibility all their own. Featuring Vernon on guitar and synths as well as Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn on bass, both longtime pals and cohorts of the Rosebuds the resulting Sand + Silence radiates both a graceful intensity and the loose, joyful energy that comes from making music with friends.
 
PS I Love You
For Those Who Stay
Paper Bag

 
Half of PS I Love You left home. Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson raised their band from Kingston, Ontario’s lowest places, raised it higher than basements and bars and late-night pits of the heart, until this two-piece rock 'n' roll act was like a black and red corona setting St. George's aglow. And then while Nelson minded the fort(s), Paul left home - to Toronto, following his heart. For Those Who Stay is PS I Love You's third album, and it was made after Paul quit Kingston for a different big smoke. It was encouraged by the girding strength of love but, of course, it's still dredging and confused, yet still resplendent in its churn. Of course the band had to go back to Kingston to record it -- the duo's first time in ''a proper studio.'' Three word summation: SO. MANY. GUITARS!!!
Test of Time
By Design
Bridge 9

 
With By Design Test of Time has crafted a proper full-length debut of speedy, howled hardcore à la Youth of Today, Bane and In My Eyes. By Design is guided by the careful, detail-oriented approach of architectural planning (as hinted at by its visual motif), and uses that focus to deliver unexpected shifts in tempo dynamic, musically and lyrically sly references to hardcore's past, and sincere decrees pertaining to vegetarianism, The Straight Edge, perseverance, and one's own personal growth and change. “Hopefully, we are offering a little more substance,” says Guitarist/singer Charles Chaussinand. “And allowing the listener to internalize some of what has come from our own struggles.”
 
Drenge
Drenge
Infectious Music

 
Somewhere in the racks between Ian Curtis and Frank Sinatra, you can now file a Drenge track into that small space reserved for both the cocky and the lovelorn. No simple feat, considering it also manages to touch upon the greatest bits of Pavement and Weezer most of us had forgotten we once loved. The music of Drenge—bare-boned and architectural, without flourish or fuss—is as stark as a ribcage. Linger with it long enough and the flesh begins to stick, a full body appearing amidst the din. These two young siblings, barely past drinking age, manage to conjure death and immortality simultaneously. It’s the aim of all great rock and roll: to step into the abyss and come roaring back out of it. To look deeply into those eye sockets and transfer that spirit back into the sum total of a three-and-a-half minute song that sounds as ageless as an unmarked headstone.
 
Wind And The Wave
From The Wreckage
RCA Records
 
The Wind and The Wave are Dwight Baker and Patricia Lynn, best friends who employ the mantra “if it feels forced, fuck it.” Even the band name was a happy accident, but ‘the words sounded good together – thus The Wind and The Wave came into being in late 2012. After having retired as a touring musician in 2003, Baker came to find Lynn through the production of her previous project in Austin, Texas. They describe themselves as being “cut from the same thread,” and “rarely on different pages.” This made it not only easy not only easy but essential that Baker and Lynn begin writing and producing music that satisfied their own ever-evolving creative spirits. The band’s debut, From The Wreckage, is a starry-eyed, free-spirited romp through dusty Americana and pop country that shoots out of the dust and towards the bright lights propelled by handclaps, soaring melodies, mandolin rain, and the eternal search for a big time.
 
Various Artists
Wish I Was Here (Soundtrack)
Columbia

 
Wish I Was Here (written and directed by Garden State auteur Zach Braff) is the story of Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he'd always dreamed he'd be as a little kid. The soundtrack features 15 songs, including new music from The Shins, Bon Iver, Jump Little Children, and a Cat Power / Coldplay collabo! The film stars Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Jim Parsons, Ashley Greene, Josh Gad, and James Avery in his final film. Oh: And, yes, the soundtrack will change your life.
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