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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
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
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+ 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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Leafcutter John
The Forest And The Sea

London-based musician John Burton mines folk music as a point of departure for his second full-length effort, the follow-up to the much lauded Housebound Spirit. The Forest and the Sea needs to be read as a whole, a fable informed by folk music's death-haunted laments and tales of metamorphosis. From these basic elements, however, Burton breeds supple, exploratory electroacoustic collages, spotted by swooping melodies and austere harmonic drifts.

Not as intensive as its predecessor in its use of electronic manipulation, The Forest and the Sea takes this element no less seriously, displaying a complex virtuosity, connecting quivering note-bends, gusts of distortion, and high-pitched computer beats and giving them an integral part in the album's overall sense of transformation. Accordingly, this record is not a work of binaries, nor of singularity. Instead, it seems simply about Otherness, about a strange duality bordering on the paradoxical. Dark harmonies constantly unravel like a dizzying, vibrating force, augmented and reflected by digital splutters and percussive squeals and thuds.

Tracks are complex, but each layer is distinct. Swelling pipe organs, waspish synths, and chasmal sub-bass drones are coordinated like so many orchestra sections. A controlled intensity is evident, capable of assuming a number of forms (traditional or otherwise). Every instrument, every particle, every empty space in these songs seems to bristle with life, with spirit. In "Maria in the Forest," trumpets rise up into monstrous figures, then swiftly recede back into tiny fragments and atmospheric effects. At other times there is an equal distribution of timbres, but then elements start dropping out of the mix, reentering slightly tweaked so as to change the point of focus.

Burton's mournful warble is another important aspect of this sound. Sometimes it takes shelter under the earth-tones of sustained, moaning strings; other times it stands high atop a bed of gently strummed guitar, adding a certain fairytale feel; still other times it makes only brief appearances, providing structure or nudging a segment further along.

Even in the more minimal pieces, the more modulated electronics are no less powerful. "Dream II," for example, is replete with wiry, ringing guitar strings shaded by unbroken bowed drones, and panned glitches and flickers that push the piece into odd meters.

Burton displays an astounding breadth and versatility, and this entire album comes to read like a medieval tale — one where spirits live in the rocks, in the animals, and in the birdsongs that float through the trees.

by Max Schaefer

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