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neumu
Thursday, November 23, 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
+ 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

44.1 kHz Archive



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artist
Calvin Johnson
recording
Before The Dream Faded...
K
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Like the broad slashes of black in a Franz Kline painting, Calvin Johnson's sepulchral voice dominates the stark white screen of his second solo album's arrangements. Although he is joined on various tracks by a Who's Who of Olympian indie artists — Mirah, Phil Elverum, Yume Bitsu's Adam Forkner, Glass Candy's Johnny Jewel — Johnson's offputting yet curiously affecting style is the crux of these 10 songs, the vehicle through which their haiku-like simplicity attains drama and heft. Whether he is intoning like a deadpan priest, swinging uncomfortably in time to rock-song rhythms, or howling and hooting like an untamed beast, Johnson's voice is an arresting instrument, always ready to charge off into challenging territories.

Like What Was Me, the K Records founder's first solo album, Before the Dream Faded... has a stripped-down intensity. Tracks like "Red Wing Black" spike pastoral images with foreboding, funereal percussion, the slow, downbeat-hammering thuds underlining the barest hint of Rhodes. The melody, if you can call it that, is simple and repetitive, three rising notes hedged by silence, then followed with a march down the same short scale progression. It is more than minimal; it is almost the pure essence of a song, and its elements — the bare beat, the shimmering keys, the deep vocals — combine in disturbing ways. A sense of unease permeates the whole composition, undermining the calm of its nature-loving lyrics.

Other tracks are more embellished and collaborative, yet retain the eccentricity of a Johnson's singular vision. "Rabbit Blood," for instance, is one of the disc's most upbeat and rock-oriented tracks, a swampy bass line and slashing ad-hoc guitars lending heat to its humorous, sexually charged vibe. The track is funny, in a creepy way, because it's so direct and unselfconscious. Not many other singers could make a come-on like "Stop by my hutch/ We'll conduct experiments designed to prove/ Whether the carrot or the stick is intrinsically better/ At bringing a dumb bunny luck" work, but in Johnson's damaged-stalker voice, it's outrageous and hilarious.

The collaborations are not well documented, so we don't always know whose fingerprints, besides Johnson's, mark the tracks. It's clearly Mirah's cotton-candy sweet voice weaving harmonies in opener "When Hearts Turn Blue," and Glass Candy's Johnny Jewel produces the ominous Johnny-Cash-on-Quaaludes "I Am Without." K Records mainstay Phil Elverum lends a buoyant jangle to the excellent "Deliverance." Still, many of the most interesting accents go unattributed. For example, there's an uncredited-but-wonderful blurting no-wave saxophone on the crazy-quilted "Leaves of Tea," and a madly off-kilter guitar line in cathartic "Obliteration Overload" — but no indication of who to thank.

Perfect-pitch purists may object to Johnson's voice — an opera-loving friend of mine once switched off Beat Happening's "Indian Summer" in horror because she couldn't stand its flatness — but fans of distinctive, unmediated personal vision will find that part of the appeal. Calvin Johnson sounds exactly like himself and no one else. How many artists can you say that about?


by Jennifer Kelly




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