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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Imaginary Sonicscape
Century Media

Cynical Gen-X target marketers are always claiming that this or that set of rules "no longer apply," but the exact moment when all rules really did stop applying and reality broke itself in half arrived recently, unsponsored and without much fanfare, at the 3:39 mark of "Scarlet Dream," the second song on Sigh's new album, Imaginary Sonicscape. A trio from Japan whose vocalist rasps tunelessly in the black-metal tradition while the most incredible collection of '70s analog synths ever assembled grooves along behind him, Sigh had been barreling happily through a chugga-chugga metal song in a modified march tempo; the synthesizers were making all kinds of weird chirping noises while bells chimed occasionally through the verses (I can provide proof if you need it). "I am the sun/ I am the moon/ Born in heaven/ Raised in hell," the lead singer spat, the guitars behind him recalling Judas Priest, the female backing vocalists (really!) cooing counterpoints prettily, tambourines and twin guitars conjuring up a pure, uncanny vision of '70s album-rock filtered through Norwegian '90s metal. And then, as suddenly as a god descending from above the stage at the climax of a Greek tragedy, "Scarlet Dream" became a dub reggae song. Not metal that resembled dub reggae. Not reggae-inflected hard rock. Reggae. Dub reggae.

Imaginary Sonicscape is a flowing cornucopia of such what's-going-on-where'd-the-floor-go moments. Clocking in at around 63 minutes, it's not hallucinatory; it's the laughing face of hallucination itself. No style is too unlikely for Sigh: one minute they're quasi-symphonic guitar bombast, and the next they're wah-wah pedal and bloop-bloop synth music from a never-aired '70s cop show. While their craft is spiritually akin to the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style that makes Indian soundtracks such a blast to listen to, what gives Imaginary Sonicscape its uniquely woozy charm is the way nothing ever really seems jarring. Mastermind Mirai Kawashima engineers transitions between disparate, even mutually hostile styles — "A Sunset Song" somehow weaves 30 seconds of honest-to-goodness disco into its Guns-N'-Roses-meets-Wishbone-Ash frame — by turns resembling Slayer, Thin Lizzy, Return to Forever, and that guy who plays piano at Nordstrom's. It never lets up; song after song, the surprises keep coming, like trapdoors in a funhouse. Like a less serious-minded Radiohead with a hard-rock obsession, Sigh loathe complacency; while Radiohead tilt at their windmill with high-minded poetry, Sigh let their hair down and unleash every cool sound they can think of. Yielding more "wow"s per song than any other album in recent memory, Imaginary Sonicscape is worth the price of admission for the keyboards and vocoders alone. That's right: vocoders. I told you, people. Folks usually say this just to get attention, but for once, all bets really are off.

by John Darnielle

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