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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
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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
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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The Clever North Wind

The melody is slack, played out like a loose rope across dream-like guitars and hazy vocals, given structure by the off-kilter pulse of drums. "Song of the Ancients," kicking off San Jose-based Helvetia's debut, is a pop song encased in mystery, its sweetish shards of song refracted over non-standard measures. It's hard to grasp, evoking both tense uncertainty and dreamy respite. Like the rest of The Clever North Wind, it is more complicated than it seems, gauzy melodic surfaces only partially obscuring experimental time signatures and discordant improvisation. It will remind you, a little, of Bound Stems' lithe pop/noise excursions, though the songs are dronier and less overtly structured than that band's output.

Helvetia is a joint project of Jason Albertini and Canaan Dove Amber, who also worked together in Duster. As in the earlier band, with Helvetia, they continue to explore possibilities at the intersection of drone and more structured pop. The Clever North Wind encompasses extremes of both, with Albertini, who was Duster's drummer, putting syncopated, odd-time-signatured beats under liltingly pretty songs. The gentle "Beezlebub (Leave Me Be)" is more like a pop song, its whispered lyrics atop a regular, beat-tethered piano line, in stark contrast to the jazzy, abstract "Gladness," which follows immediately after. Yet the best tunes seem to fall right into the interstices, combining hypnotic tones with recognizable melodies. "Dusty Rue," one of the album's highlights, is a hallucinatory soundscape, all distant, echoing cries and furiously altered guitar notes, the drumming frantic and freeform; yet there's a tranquil, melodic center to this one, a space for serenity in a vortex of sonic experimentation. "Viva the Decline" is also quite good; it explodes into exuberant guitar-and-drum frenzy late in the cut, yet what you probably remember is its keening, chanted vocals.

The latter half of the album contains several dub-leaning tracks, the slow reverberating bass of that style anchoring dreamy, stop-motion melodies. "Dead Hands" has the strongest whiff of this interesting texture, though once you hear it, the back-beat in other tracks ("Helvetia," "The Drowning End") becomes more evident as well.

There are lots of interesting elements in the mix here — hints not just of dub, but jazz, funk, soul and post-rock — all referenced in a low-key, soft-focus way that never seems forced. The music is probably quite loud live, but on disc it has a mellow, relaxed vibe, songs slipping by like cirrus clouds against an overall backdrop of blue-sky good feeling.

by Jennifer Kelly

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