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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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Tracer AMC
We Love Records

Purely instrumental rock is probably always going to be a fringe activity. Even at its most brutally direct (early Mogwai for example, or almost anything produced by Steve Albini) it retains a distinct air of cultish obscurity. Basically, it's unlikely to trouble the mainstream, with its limited penetration usually confined to better known cult acts or media-designated "movements" (Tortoise in particular and post rock in general) or integrated into songs within a specific style or genre — the Allman Brothers' jams, Television's lengthier guitar explorations, substantial chunks of Can's oeuvre.

This isn't to say, though, that it's not a worthwhile activity, just that it carries around a degree of notional baggage that puts it at something of a disadvantage in the wider marketplace. Tracer AMC, an instrumental four-piece from Northern Ireland, exist in an age where rock's historical alignments and partisan stances have to an extent collapsed into one another, where a band can sound, at various moments, like Wishbone Ash AND Sonic Youth. And while they are relative latecomers to an amorphously vague strain of instrumental music (post rock, ambient rock — call it what you will), with the in-built disadvantage this implies, their triumph is to nullify any argument about the worth of their chosen path through the sheer beauty of their sound.

Islands follows the course set by their debut in 2004, and while not deviating from it greatly, builds on its strengths to produce music that is accessible yet consistently inventive, melodic but subtly challenging. Bookended by the epic "Paper Machete" and "You Follow the Snow and Are Wasted," the album showcases a deft sense of melody and the band's ability to shift gear and alter the whole tone of a piece with the smallest of changes, adding to or subtracting from a broad sound palette in order to alter the music's mood while still retaining a taut momentum.

With such smooth transitions in texture and tempo there's always the danger of making this sound too easy, but there's something about the consistency of these tracks that makes them thoroughly absorbing. Tracer AMC's sound is a concentrated distillation of diverse elements, a streamlined combination of texture, shimmer and groove based on a twin guitar, bass and drums lineup, with its exploratory impulses offset by its seemingly effortless dynamism.

by Tom Ridge

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