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Visions of Darkness IIWhen the anthology Visions of Darkness (In Iranian Contemporary Music) was released in 2017 and then co-published in collaboration between Unexplained Sounds Group and Cold Spring, it was immediately clear that the Iranian music scene was not just promising, but already a rich chest of treasures. Years later we have further confirmation of the creative richness and variety of musical languages that flourished in the Persian land. In spite of the title, this second volume of the legendary anthology also gives us a broad picture of the musical experience of the Iranian underground that is not limited to the dark ambient, but explores sonic territories that reach concrete music, electro-acoustic experimentation and sonic abstractionism.

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Wasserfuhr“Mosaic”. The Wasserfuhr brothers, Julian (trumpet) and Roman (piano) explain the title: “It fits in with our musical processes of the past two years. Despite a huge variety in the individual pieces – and also in the emotions associated with them – and even though we have chosen a wide range of musicians and friends to record this music with, the whole album nevertheless forms a coherent picture. It has emerged from our experiences, conversations and encounters with people during this time.” “Mosaic” has also been pieced together from places a long way apart: from the Wasserfuhrs’ studio in peaceful Hückeswagen, the small town to the North-East of Cologne where the two brothers, who have…

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Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic XIIAmong the legends of jazz, Louis Armstrong still stands out as the best known of them all, but Miles Davis also has his unique place: as the greatest genius and innovator the art form has ever known. Born in St. Louis in 1926, the trumpeter was not just an instantly recognizable figure, he was a visionary who repeatedly gave new, decisive impulses to modern jazz, starting in the early 1940s while still in his teens, when he was at the heart of the invention of bebop. Then, in 1949, he countered the heat of bebop with cool jazz. And when the groundbreaking recordings of this period were released on “Birth of the Cool“ as late as 1957, Miles Davis, together with the masterly arranger Gil Evans, was already…

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Nicholas PhanComposer Nico Muhly has been on concert bills all over the U.S. and beyond in the early 2020s, and one reason is that he has a knack for creating music for the right performer at the right time. Tenor Nicholas Phan is a rising star who here contributes an essay about his difficulties, when performing at the Singer of the World competition in Wales, in coming up with a song that reflected his “American” identity, inasmuch as he is Chinese Indonesian on one side, and Greek American on the other. He would have found the perfect solution in Muhly’s seven-section Stranger, for voice and string quartet. Muhly, himself the product of a highly multi-ethnic background, sets writing about the experience of immigration from various sources, including an interview with…

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Hot ChipIncludes the bonus track “The Most Painful Game” and an alternate “vinyl version” of “Guilty.”
You come to expect certain things from a Hot Chip album, especially now that the UK group are incredibly in their 18th year of making records. You expect song-based electronic music to make you dance with a grin on your face, first and foremost, which may lead to extravagant displays of affection towards friends. You expect synthpop with a big heart, from a group unafraid to marry radio-friendly hooks and tenderly sung choruses to house beats, hip-hop grooves, and seriously goofy lyrics. Which isn’t to say the London-based five-piece don’t keep it fresh on each album because they do. That’s whether by sampling the drawl of Todd Rundgren, the chanting of Buddhist monks,…

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Unplugged Eric Clapton‘s Unplugged is far more than an album. It remains a majestic picture of a moment in time; an unvarnished glimpse into the soul of one of music’s most legendary artists; a visionary journey into the inspirations that helped shape Clapton’s character; a re-exploration and re-evaluation of deep-seated roots; a continuation of critical blues heritage; a building block on which a subgenre sprouted; a launching pad for both a later-career resurgence and discovery. The best-selling concert release of all time, Unplugged now takes on an irresistible luster that veritably gives you a front-row seat at Bray Film Studios.
Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s numbered hybrid SACD enhances the blockbuster work for today – and the ages to come.

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SleepyheadSleepyhead recorded their sixth album, New Alchemy, at the legendary Boston area recording studio Q Division with esteemed producer and Q Division co-founder Jon Lupfer at the helm.
New Alchemy features Sleepyhead founders, drummer/vocalist Rachael McNally and guitarist/ vocalist Chris O’Rourke as well as bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Derek van Beever who joined the trio in 2004, a few years after the other two had moved to Boston. The title track to New Alchemy was inspired by the exploits of the New Alchemy Institute, a utopian endeavor founded by idealistic scientists in the 1970’s in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the hometown of Sleepyhead guitarist/vocalist Chris O’Rourke.
The members of the New Alchemy Institute…

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Au SuisseMorgan Geist and Kelley Polar (aka Mike Kelley) have been flouting dancefloor orthodoxy for more than two decades. Around the turn of the millennium, as producers on both sides of the Atlantic were stripping house and techno down to their essence, Geist and Darshan Jesrani’s duo Metro Area went the other direction, reviving the buoyant hallmarks of early-’80s disco and boogie — airy flute solos, pew-pew raygun drums, and sashaying Rhodes keys, topped with a splash of Kelley’s insouciant strings. Kelley, a viola prodigy and Juilliard graduate, went even further with his two albums that have inspired feverish devotion, while Metro Area helped lay the groundwork for Lindstrøm, Hercules & Love Affair, and the slowly building disco revival that would bring us,…

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Chat Pile America is the root of this rot. However, rarely is anguish and recognition toward this notion projected from places of modesty and relative obscurity – like Oklahoma.
When photographer Robert Frank immigrated to the United States, he arrived with romanticised eyes. He soon realised the seedy truth of this country’s faux opulence, a realisation that permeates his famed photograph series, The Americans. This book captured the gradual deflowering of hopeful eyes, seeing into the unsightly underbelly hidden beneath all the glitz and glamor. Eventually, a grim energy would consume Frank’s entire body of work – a muddy cynicism onset by mere exposure to the truth. Since time immemorial, this American horror story has been retold countless times via…

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EaglesMastered from the original analog tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s hybrid SACD helps take ‘One of These Nights’ to new limits. Playing with reference sonics and incredible clarity, it provides a rich, dynamic, transparent, and three-dimensional view into a release that moved country-rock ahead by leaps and bounds – and paved the way for the Eagles’ ascendancy to global superstardom.
The Eagles recorded their albums relatively quickly in their first years of existence, their LPs succeeding each other by less than a year. One of These Nights, their fourth album, was released in June 1975, more than 14 months after its predecessor. Anticipation had been heightened by the belated chart-topping success of the third album’s “The Best of My Love”; taking a little…

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Forrest McCurrenForrest McCurren may just be one album into his career, but he’s carrying on a tradition of laid-back no-frills Americana / folk songs about the underdogs that dates back more than a generation.
Across Oh Me, Oh My, you can hear echoes of some of the genre’s legends like Jerry Jeff Walker and John Prine – especially on songs like the album opener “Big Blue Space” and the catchy “Heavy Old Hearts,” championing small town nobody’s – with a knack for writing succinctly brilliant lyrics. His raspy delivery just adds to the appeal. That’s not to say he’s just copping their style, but he uses their musical influences as a jumping off point for creating his own comfortable sound.
Heartache and dodging loneliness are common themes weaved throughout the record and…

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Walt WeiskopfTwo distinct types of jazz album have emerged in the difficult Covid pandemic times: the do-it-yourself statements, usually recorded in a home studio, often with internet sound swapping; and the pent-up energy, post-pandemic energy bursts, musicians getting together again after a year or more of minimal in-person collaboration. Diamonds and Other Jewels, from the Walt Weiskopf European Quartet, is of the latter type. Saxophonist Weiskopf, pianist Carl Winther, bassist Andreas Lang and drummer Anders Mogensen jump out of the speakers from the start with “Spatacus,” one of the seven dynamic originals offered up here.
The quartet began its life under Weskopf’s leadership in 2017. Diamonds and Other Jewels

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LighghtEamon Ivri, from Cork on the Irish south coast, is a polymath. He’s a poet (his nom de techno is taken from minimalist poet Aram Saroyan), a fascinating political thinker, and a searing online satirist of cultural mores (or “shitposter” as the vernacular has it). He is also one of the most exciting electronic music talents in the world right now.
His first two solo albums, Gore-Tex in the Club, Balenciaga Amongst the Shrubs and Holy Light, and his recent Entropy in collaboration with Claire Guerin, are flat-out masterpieces, blurring the most out-on-the-edge ambient sonic abstraction and mindbending spoken word meanderings with club music oomph. On this album, though, he’s leant heavily towards the latter. Listen to opening track “Rib” and you might even…

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Plínio FernandesThe Portuguese word “saudade” is often given as an example of a term that has no precise equivalent in English; it denotes a kind of nostalgic longing for something out of reach. It’s also the title of the debut album by guitarist Plínio Fernandes, who generally sticks to the nostalgic mood. Fernandes is plenty charismatic in performance, and the charisma comes through in this recording. It would have been easy for him to begin his career with an album of guitar favorites, Brazilian or otherwise, but instead, he has chosen something less readily classifiable, and this is to his credit. Fernandes indicates that the pieces here were familiar to him from early in his life, and they do have a kind of organic unity as a result, but they are quite a varied lot, crossing from classical…

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Elaine HowleyAs a founding member of Cork band the Altered Hours and a collaborator in projects like Crevice, Howlbux, and Morning Veils, Elaine Howley has spanned impressive territory in the Irish musical underground. On her solo debut, The Distance Between Heart and Mouth, the singer and musician turns to twilit experimental pop as she muses on closeness and in-between worlds. Recorded on a 4-track cassette machine and released by Belfast label Touch Sensitive, it’s an ad hoc collection of songs that draw their muted power from everyday ritual — a testament to the magic of not making plans.
The idea for the album originated with a 2018 series on Cosmosis, Howley’s fortnightly show on Dublin Digital Radio, where she invited listeners…

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Jimetta RoseOnly six months after the release of her first album in six years, Jimetta Rose returned with How Good It Is, an undertaking quite different from the one it follows. Whereas The Gift: Around the Way Queen was the grimy hip-hop soul result of Rose writing and singing over tracks handpicked from the Street Corner Music label’s beat tape series The Gift, How Good It Is took shape in more organic if atypical fashion. In a period of adversity, Rose wrote songs specifically to cope and improve her state of mind, and then formed a choir, dubbed the Voices of Creation, with participants chosen less on talent than on their desire to heal themselves and others. It was through social media that Rose sought the vocalists, so it’s not coincidental that some of them — such as Novena Carmel,…

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Blues Cafe…The musical genre that has come to be known as the blues has made quite a journey. The blues has traveled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and meandered up the Mississippi River from the rural South to the urban North. It has crossed racial and class boundaries as well, migrating from rough and tumble juke joints to sophisticated concert halls.
​The blues was born on the cotton and tobacco plantations of the South, descending from field hollers and created to express the sorrow and tribulations that plagued enslaved African Americans and their sharecropper descendants. Although it was once consid- ered “devil’s music,” the blues is now recognized widely as a major American art form. It has influenced…

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David PaichGiven his lengthy tenure with Toto, it’s hard to believe that singer and keyboard player David Paich never took time to release a solo set. That’s been remedied with the release of Forgotten Toys, a seven-song set that reflects Paich’s prowess in a variety of genres. To his credit, Paich doesn’t necessarily mimic the efforts he pursues with his day job, and yet at the same time, there’s no denying the anthemic overview and the progressive posture maintained throughout. “Will I Belong to You” and “Spirit of the Moonrise” bring to mind such archetypical ‘70s stalwarts as Yes and Styx, while the decidedly dramatic “Queen Charade” rocks in a way that will likely remind some of T Rex. So too, the soothing sounds of the reflective and refined “First Time,” the ethereal ballad…

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ClaudeDespite the futility of his never-ending task and his awareness of that futility, one must imagine Sisyphus happy as he plods down the hill after the rock, concludes Albert Camus in his landmark existentialist essay The Myth of Sisyphus. Although she too self-identifies as existentialist, it would be difficult to accuse Claudia Ferme, who performs as Claude, of sharing Sisyphus’ contentment. On debut album a lot’s gonna change, Ferme is as lucid as Sisyphus but hardly as comforted by the absurd. She neither seeks nor finds enlightenment within a tidy 27 minutes of organ-ified new wave synths, bare-bones sax à la Cate Le Bon, and one heady LCD Soundsystem-style spiraling-at-the-club number. Her existentialist orientation, laid out point-blank in album closer “Oh, To Be,”…

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BrijeanSummer is most definitely here. If you’re looking to sweat to something less vigorous than IDM bangers and multi guest R&B jams, singer/percussionist Brijean Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Doug Stuart follow-up last year’s Feelings with another colorful collection of amiable cocktail hour exotica. The nine tracks and 22 minutes of Angelo again worship at the altar of samba and bossa nova but this time around Brijean introduce some afternoon discotheque beats and a little wow and flutter. It sounds as much like Dimitri from Paris as The Girl from Ipanema.
Murphy’s voice has a touch of Claudine Longet’s gauzy diffidence as it floats over layers of marimba, congas and vibes. That voice, combined with Stuart’s touches of Denny and Esquivel…

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