Matmos – The Marriage of True Minds
This experimental electronic duo is a new discovery for me, and I’m wondering where I’ve been since they formed in San Francisco in the mid ‘90s. The sounds found on this record and previous ones are not of the pre-loaded synthesizer variety, but instead derived from recordings of various pulses, plinks, clicks, and clacks found in nature and everyday objects. While this type of approach tends to lead to the difficult and abstract realm of musique concrete, Matmos’s largely instrumental music is highly rhythmic and occasionally bordering on pop. It certainly gets weird in spots, but not jarringly or unpleasantly so. The Marriage of True Minds is the perfect headphone album in that you can’t wait to hear what interesting new sound they’re going to throw at you next, and you want to absorb every bit of texture from every beat. Each song stands alone, but the album should be enjoyed as a whole so that you can focus on the strange places it wants to take you. If you enjoy the ambient techno of Autechre and Aphex Twin, or the found-sound collages of The Books (R.I.P.), this record is surely for you.
My Bloody Valentine – m b v
On their hugely anticipated follow-up to 1991’s Loveless, Kevin Shields and co. sound as if they’d never left. The shoegaze noise and dreaminess is all still there and it doesn’t sound a bit outdated. Nothing here is as immediately poppy as ‘When You Sleep’ or hefty as ‘Sometimes’, but My Bloody Valentine still have the ability to evoke imagery and emotions in a way that few groups ever could. The familiar sounds are more than welcome, but it’s the handful of tracks that go outside of their well-tread territory that leave an impression. The beautiful fourth track, ‘is this and yes’, takes a sudden break from the loud guitars and features only layered organ and softly sung vocals. Later, ‘nothing is’ blasts out like a machine gun with super loud drums and repetitive droning guitars that barely go anywhere but somehow keep you listening. The pounding drums carry over to the final track, which has more of a symphonic arc resembling the work of Glenn Branca and more recently Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Longtime My Bloody Valentine fans should marvel that this group can still put out art of this magnitude and that the effort is worth much more than cheap nostalgia.
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down We the Common
Thao Nguyen’s newest album has a similar feel to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, with perhaps a bit more sincerity. It plays like the kind of indie folk rock that appeals to more than just hipsters and hippies, with a bit of funky country honk at its core. There is the occasional discordant guitar rocker, but We the Common generally relies on organic sounds, like acoustic strings and the occasional horn section, and primarily the singer’s raspy voice. In a made-for-each-other duo, ‘Kindness Be Conceived’ features Nguyen and guest Joanna Newsome singing playfully above a light stomp, guitar and banjo. It’s sure to be found on the future soundtrack of some whimsical independent film. Other highlights are the classic soul throwbacks ‘Human Heart’ and ‘We Don’t Call’, as well as the bouncy opener/title track.