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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
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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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Black Hole/Blank Canvas

Since forming in Trondheim, Norway in 1989, Motorpsycho have become something of an institution in their home country and an enigma just about everywhere else. The band's more recent albums, such as Phanerothyme and It's a Love Cult, were the first to gain wider coverage beyond the specialist rock press, even as the band's mixed musical palette continued to baffle as much as it delighted, moving away from the retro-garageisms of the early years into carefully rendered psychedelic pop, West Coast folk-rock and sprawling prog with virtuoso trimmings.

Well, after a break of two to three years, the band has returned, now slimmed down to a duo of core players Hans Magnus Ryan and Bent Sæther. And Black Hole/Blank Canvas is a return to rockier climes, with less of the studied classicism of previous releases, and a generally harder, edgier sound. It also has a decidedly gloomy lyrical slant to match its tight, muscular grooves and sharp riffs. In fact, it could be seen as Motorpsycho's two surviving members placing their wagons in a circle and making a last stand with all guns blazing.

Except that nothing is quite that straightforward. The thing is, for all its blatant rock-isms, Black Hole/Blank Canvas has an impervious coating of sophistication. As the streamlined hard rock of "No Evil" launches the album, the metal that most comes to mind is not of the heavy variety, but rather polished chrome. Progressing through ostensibly weighty material like "In Your Tree", "Kill Devil Hills" and "Critical Mess," strident riffs merge with sinuous basslines, melodic leads and soaring harmony vocals.

The first disc of this double set is consistent, but perhaps a little too samey, with a sense of gradually diminishing returns as the band launches into yet another galloping groove offset by warbling lead guitar.

Thankfully, greater variety comes into play on the second half, with the self-consciously anthemic "Hyena" and a (slight) return to West Coast acoustic reveries on "Sancho Says." Special mention should go to the epic balladry of "Before the Flood," which incorporates a scorching Ernie Isley-styled guitar workout that pretty much eclipses everything else.

Black Hole/Blank Canvas seems to find the band attempting to simplify its sound, but unable to resist the urge to keep breaking out into different areas. While the sense of continuity on the more straight-up rock material is welcome, it's the unexpected variations in tone that generate the most vivid moments.

by Tom Ridge

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