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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.
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+ 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
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+ 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
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+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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44.1 kHz Archive

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Cynthia Dall
Sound Restores Young Men
Drag City

In early 1996, Cynthia Dall issued one of the great mysterious/lost/under-the-radar exercises in obscurist American indie-rockist melancholia. The partner of Bill Callahan in his early days as Smog — y'know, back when he was lo-fidelity-weirdo par excellence — Dall bashfully branched out, aided by a cast including Callahan and a young Jim O'Rourke, on a record that, initially, was totally untitled, its catalogue listing really being only "Untitled." Even as it willfully buried itself in shadow and mystery, the record essentially showed Dall for what she was: an aggressive personality making passive music, with the nervous, amateurish songs of an uncredited artist actually being the work of the girl posed in a soft-porn black-and-white on the inside of the sleeve. Featuring the kind of rudimentary ad-hoc scum-and-scuzz that any fan of those early Smog days will be familiar with, the record, through some stroke of accidental artistry, totally transcended its tone; its mix of droned-out mantras and painfully threadbare ballads invariably scaled some monumental height of pseudo-outsider-art grace. Soon after, she and Callahan split, and, over the next five years, Dall made only intermittent public musical appearances. For a short time she presided over a band-based outing called Elements of Voice Culture. Nearly seven years on, it seems that Drag City had to coax Dall back into the studio — possibly even back into making music — for her second album, Sound Restores Young Men, which pretty much picks up where she left off way back when. The sounds are the same: wan vocals pushed through apprehensive breath, scratchy guitar chords and washes of guitar/keyboard drone, one-finger piano motifs, and cardboard-box-sounding drums. This set revolves around a song called "The Party," in which Dall, over a simple piano motif, seems to sing a barely-veiled song about Callahan; O'Rourke lifts the tune into regal realms with his exquisite tone and a forlorn cornet part, and the tune marches on into contemplative instrumentalism, placed proudly as the album's centerpiece. Quite unexpectedly, the album itself, as a whole, finds Dall again managing to make a record that transcends its own limitations. Initially seeming diffident, distant, and difficult, her songs are the kind that eventually draw the listener in, and get better with each subsequent spin.

by Anthony Carew

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