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neumu
Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
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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
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+ 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
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+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Charles Atlas
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To The Dust: From Man You Came And To Man You Shall Return
Ochre
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With To the Dustů the San Francisco Bay Area ambient post-rock combo Charles Atlas craft their most sophisticated statement, merging bucolic guitars, plaintive piano and subtle electronics squiggles, interlacing them with meticulously layered drones and quietly frantic, almost neoclassical underpinnings. The resulting album, unlike most, strives not for a goal or transcendental moment, but, like Sisyphus returning to his rock, articulates the possible value to be found in holding still, returning to one's burden and living without accord.

Charles Atlas are multi-instrumentalist Sacha Galvagna, guitarist Charles Wyatt, and piano/trumpet player Matt Greenberg, with support from vocalist Odessa Chen and cellist Zoë Keating. While each piece from the their 2002 release, Worsted Weight, made sense when looked upon as a part of a whole, like chapters in a novel, each part of To the Dustů has a beginning, middle and end all its own, as though the album were a bound collection of short stories.

If these songs are, indeed, like short stories, the shifting, fluid plots, together with the multiple traits fleshed out in each instrument's character (the starry-eyed piano on "Primo Levi," the sedate glockenspiel from "Corono Norco") suggest that each story has passed through numerous drafts, yielding a carefully meditated montage of menacing reverb, clanking percussion and tender piano refrains that establishes clear themes of late-night melancholic reflection. Despite this, the record doesn't flounder in its own doleful brooding or lapse into quietism, but expresses an outlook more aptly described as sternly optimistic.

Indeed, one of the album's finest moments arrives in the form of "Chapultepic," when what begins with an interplay of sporadic, vacillating piano picks up its step and joins a crowd of instruments — a bubbly electronic beat, trombone flourishes and spirited guitar playing — as the formerly sullen expression turns into a quiet joy.

Many of the pieces in To the Dust... are structurally bipolar: while the piano or guitar melody, acting as a regrouping device, remains lodged in its groove, repeating endlessly in post-rock fashion, the textures continually shift and commingle in a manner most beautiful.

"Signal Flags" opens in this way, with a solemn guitar arpeggio soon attaining a sharp, echoing quality; chiming piano walks in and out of the piece as a marriage of woeful strings and trombone swells and gasps. Although largely an instrumental effort, "Edith" reveals Odessa Chen's delicate, feathery voice. Her intimate whisper, which recounts Wyatt's blurred memories of his mother's life, is difficult to understand unless listened to attentively on headphones.

As though from the throat of a bird, her voice's warbling coo seeps well into the extended reverberating tones and piano, thereby avoiding a the common pitfall whereby the voice's lone appearance emerges awkwardly, breaking the album's rhythm (see Fennesz's Venice). Near the end, Chen's voice undergoes faint editing, her breathy sighs isolated and reconstructed with the simple glee of a child taking apart a clock.

Elsewhere, the group allows the compositions to breathe freely, while maintaining a constant tension and balance. "Seven Digit Clock," with its reedy guitar pattern, whirring generator-like drone and gritty, crackling radio transmission, is mechanical yet loose, with minor events and differences temporarily diverting the clock's pulsing repetition.

At last, To the Dustů fades away as "Dipole Moment" borders on the territories of a sound collage, recalling Set Fire to Flames. Rustling squalls are oppressed by an unending hum whilst astringent, quivering electronic murmurs and a strangled, despondent guitar escalate for a moment before carrying on in their somber stride. At such a seeming crest, one has come to expect some form of release — a transcendental moment, if you will. Instead, this effort stays true to a reflective state that speaks to both the band's engaging maturity and the album's underlying themes.


by Max Schaefer




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