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WESTERN VINYL

Goldmund

Two Point Discrimination

    'Two Point Discrimination' marks Goldmund (aka Keith Kenniff)'s 3rd release after his highly praised debut Corduroy Road and follow-up 7" 'The Heart of High Places' for Type Records. Part of Western Vinyl's Portrait Series, this collection features 11 short pieces for solo piano focusing on the sensation of touch and its relationship to sound. With emphasis on restraint and space, almost at times crossing into the inaudible, Kenniff's focus is not only on the sounds that are presented to the listener in an auditory environment but how those sounds are manifest physically. Such detail is brought out by the close micing of the piano so as to bring the listener right up to the hammers as they strike the strings, we hear the sound of the pedals being depressed, the sound of fingers moving across the keys. In the spirit of composers such as Howard Skempton and Morton Feldman, composition and sound culminate together as space is something that is dealt with directly. And interpretation along with improvisation are both tools that blur the lines between composer, performer and listener.

    'A beautiful discourse on modern minimalism' – Atmosphere, A radically bold gesture, a work of haunting beauty... Satie-like, Simplicity and resonant, elegantly etched wells of emotion." – Cyclic Defrost.

    "This gracefully timeless minimal music bears the weight of his historical associations" - Other Music.


    Peter Oren

    Anthropocene

      Indiana-born, everywhere-based singer-songwriter Peter Oren possesses a remarkable singing voice, low and deep and richly textured: as solid as a glacier, as big as a mountain. Similar in its baritone gravel to Bill Callahan, a hero of his, it rumbles in your conscience, a righteous sound that marks him as an artist for our tumultuous times, when sanity seems absent from popular discussions. His voice is ideally suited to confront a topic as large and as ominous as the Anthropocene Age.

      That term is relatively new, reportedly coined in the 1960s but popularized only in the new century to designate a new epoch in the earth’s history, when man has exerted a permanent—and, many would argue, an incredibly deleterious—change in the environment. Sea levels are rising, plants and animals facing mass extinctions; it may be humanity’s final epoch, which makes it a massive and daunting subject for a lone singer-songwriter to address, let alone a young musician making his second full-length record. But Oren has both the singing voice and the songwriting voice to put it all into perspective. The songs on Anthropocene, his first album for Western Vinyl, are direct and poetic, outraged and measured, taking in the entire fucked-up world from his fixed point of view.

      Oren attracted the attention of Ken Coomer, the former drummer for Wilco and a producer in Nashville. Together, the duo assembled a backing band featuring some of the city's finest session musicians, including keyboard player Michael Webb (John Fogerty), singer Maureen Murphy (Zac Brown Band), and guitarists Sam Wilson (Sons of Bill) and Laur Jaomets (Sturgill Simpson). On Anthropocene they provide stately backing for Oren's songs, with drips of pedal steel and quivers of strings subtly reinforcing his observations about the state of the world.

      Joseph Shabason

      Anne

        Delicately and compassionately woven with interviews of Shabason’s mother from whom the album takes its name, Anne finds its creator navigating a labyrinth of subtle and tragic emotions arising from his mother's struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Across the nine vivid postcards of jazz-laden ambience that comprise the album, Shabason unwraps these difficult themes with great care and focus revealing the unseen aspects of degenerative diseases that force us to re-examine common notions of self, identity, and mortality. Shabason’s uncanny ability to manoeuvre through such microscopic feelings is mirrored by his capacity to execute a similar tightrope-walk through musical genres. His music occupies a specific space that is as palpable as it is difficult to pin labels to.

        On Anne’s second track “Deep Dark Divide” rays of effected saxophone shine behind clouds of digital synthesizer that echoes the sound of jazz in the late 80s, but with a Jon Hassell-esque depth of sensibility that consciously subverts the stylistic inoffensiveness of that era. There is detail and idiosyncrasy beneath Shabason’s dawn-of-the-CD-era sheen that elevates the album far beyond a mere aesthetic exercise. Still, the sounds on Anne are not so experimentally opaque as to stand in the way of the album’s through-line of sincerity and emotionality. When dissonance is employed it is punctual and meaningful, like on album-middler “Fred and Lil” where a six-minute cascade of breathy textures builds suddenly to an agitated growl, only to abruptly give way to Anne Shabason speaking intimately about her relationship to her own parents. Snippets of such conversations see her taking on something like a narrator role across Anne while the sound of her voice itself is sometimes effected to become a musical texture entwined into the fabric of the songs without always being present or audible. On “November” Shabason lays muted brass textures atop a wavepool of electric chords provided by none other than the ambient cult-hero Gigi Masin, one of Anne’s many integral collaborators.

        The serene tragedy of the album distils itself gracefully into the ironically titled album closer “Treat it Like a Wine Bar” wherein flutters of piano and mournfully whispered woodwinds seem to evaporate particle by delicate particle, leaving the listener with a faint emotional afterglow like a dream upon waking. There is a corollary to be drawn here with what it must be like to feel one’s own mind and body drift away slowly until nothing remains, while the collection of memories and abilities that we use to denote the “self” softens into eternity. On Anne, it is precisely this fragile exchange of tranquillity and anguish that Joseph Shabason has proven his singular ability to articulate. 

        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Limited indies-only whale blue vinyl.

        Farao

        Pure-O

          Pure-O, the new LP by Berlin-via-Norway musician Farao, is a prog-pop exposition on the curious dichotomy between beauty and destructiveness in sex and relationships. Where so much modern pop attempts to tug similar thematic threads only to succumb to naiveté and euphemism, Farao grabs these subjects and dives headlong into a neon pool of synthesizer, zither, drums, and soaring vocals without sacrificing maturity, complexity, or artistry. Musically, she references 90’s R&B, and the untapped goldmine of Soviet disco. But the most important pillar of Pure-O – its living, breathing, biological quality-- is entirely Farao’s own. To be sure, all of the electronic ingredients are in the exact right places on Pure-O.

          Soviet-made synth tones ripple out fr om an undefined center lik e a Frank Stella painting, with sharply angled lines of color buzzing with concentric, hand-painted ecstasy. Rolling vocal melodies carry descriptive turns of phrase to gratifying heights, echoing in listeners’ minds long after their ears. In the spaces between all this electricity, there are shimmering microcosms of Alice Coltrane-esque acoustics that provide the album with an unmistakably rich, tactile marrow. Perhaps, then, we’re hearing Farao’s early youth in Norway finding perfect equilibrium with her adulthood in Berlin on Pure-O.

          She says of the time she spent recording, “I was in the process of learning how to conduct myself while not getting sucked in to the whirlpool that is Berlin party culture,” and of her childhood “It wasn’t a place I felt stimulated creatively, and felt quite lonely there growing up, which made me turn to music as a language for a set of emotions I didn’t know how to release otherwise.” It’s precisely this relationship between quiet reflection and overstimulation that makes the album unlike anything of its genre. In an age when non-electronic pop seems like an outlier, Farao constructs a bridge of humanity from the organic to the inorganic, rounding out the hard edges and sharpening the soft ones, thereby transplanting a healthy, beating heart into modern synth-pop. 

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Limited transparent vinyl.

          Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

          Ava Luna

          Moon 2

            On Moon 2 Ava Luna's de facto band leader Carlos Hernandez steps back, leaving space for the rest of the band members to step up and step into roles they hadn't occupied on previous albums. Felicia Douglass (now a touring member of Dirty Projectors) worked with percussion and sampler, Julian Fader experimented with synths, nearly every band member ran the computer during recording sessions, and Becca Kauffman (aka performance artist Jennifer Vanilla) composed her first song for the group "On Its Side the Fallen Fire," a deeply layered orchestral piece of Kate Bush grandeur meets Julia Holter reverie.

            Compared with previous Ava Luna albums, Moon 2 has fewer sharp turns into dissonance, fewer celebratory guitar parts, none of Hernandez's signature screams. Nevertheless, the infectious buoyancy of "Deli Run" and "Walking With an Enemy," are warm and bright, and songs like "Centerline" and "Phoebe (Set it Off)" venture confidently into pop territory. The title track, paint ing the elation and tumult of a crush, is set against a swaggering reggae bassline and warbling Kraftwerk synths. "It's like, every sci-fi movie has a nightclub," says Kauffman. "These are the songs in that nightclub."…… Press Quotes : “…pulsating from one energy to another, suggesting art project and ritual.” 

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            Coloured LP Info: Limited edition moon coloured vinyl.

            Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

            Brocker Way

            Wild Wild Country : Original Music From The Netflix Documentary Series

            'To describe Wild Wild Country as jaw-dropping is to understate the number of times my mouth gaped while watching the series...' The Atlantic // Wild Wild Country by Brocker Way features 15 tracks from the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary series. Way also scored the film The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014) staring Kurt Russell and #TAKEMEANYWHERE (2018) starring and directed by Shia LaBeouf.

            Working closely with his brothers and a skilled technical team including mix engineers Joey Waronker (Atoms for Peace, David Byrne, Beck, R.E.M.) and Tom Biller (Kanye West, Jon Brion, Kate Nash), and percussionist Neal Morgan (Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan), Brocker Way’s original score for the Netflix docu-series Wild Wild Country is meant to reflect the outlook of each of the show’s interviewees rather than simply emphasizing their outward idiosyncrasies. Such an approach invites the listener to inhabit the myriad personalities and situations in the show from a virtual first-person perspective, sculpting a deeply empathic auditory experience capable of standing on its own as an album.

            In Way’s words 'This kind of music gives us an idea as to the motives of each talking head, without actually scoring the motives of the character, and hopefully entices us as the audience to take the journey with them. When the Rajneeshees are building their town, you get to feel that and be right there with them. When Dave Fronmeyer is building his case, you get to feel the nobility he saw in his cause, and we hope to put you right in the room with him when he’s doing it. When a city inspector has to go onto the ranch you can feel the fear as you sit in the car with him. That’s the goal anyway.' 

            Elephant Micah

            Genericana

              Some thoughts from Joe O’Connell on his project's new album: The album title is Genericana. To me, that roughly means "the stuff from which stuff generates." It's a short hand way of evoking all the elements that I'm mashing up in this music. The idea is basically that it's this collision of genres, and collision of different versions of "American music." It's also an album that doesn't fit very neatly into a category of album — studio? live? remix? Maybe all, or none, of the above.

              This is a new mutant variety of Elephant Micah, better suited to survive the cultural climate of the moment in so-called "Trump's America." It lives! I guess the lodestone in the process of making this was the kind of global avant garde mood that's prevalent in a lot of 1980s albums I admire. Things like Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog and Arthur Russell's Calling Out of Context.

              These records where singers were making really eclectic and outward looking productions - writing *through* the process of recording, and literally *playing* with technologies tha t were totally new to them. All the gear that I gathered to make the album was basically discarded or devalued. I got a bunch of stuff from Craigslist that interested me: a cheap FM synth, some Hindustani electronics, and an old three-head tape deck to use as a "poor man's space echo." The icing on the cake is a one-of-a-kind homemade digital synthesizer called "The Mutant". I worked with my brother to design it. He built it and coded it. The concept of the synth is parallel to the concept of the album itself. It's an electronic take on "folk" sounds (bends, drones, modal playing) and folk creative approaches (a cobbling together and reformatting of existing elements).

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              Coloured LP Info: Limited editon version pressed on white vinyl is for Indie stores only. LP includes 11” square insert and download.

              Aisha Burns

              Argonauta

                Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and currently residing in Beverly, Massachusetts, violinist, vocalist and songwriter Aisha Burns began playing violin when she was 10 years old, and has been touring and recording since 2006.

                Soon after moving to Austin in 2005, she gained her start with folk-rock outfit Alex Dupree and the Trapdoor Band, and joined the instrumental ensemble Balmorhea on violin in 2007. After years of secret singing, she released her solo debut Life in the Midwater in 2013. Called "twisting, ethereal...arresting" by Dazed Magazine, and praised for its "delicate intimacy" by NPR, Life in the Midwater explored mortality and relationships with candor and wisdom. Her new album Argonauta, is a collection of songs about her struggle with the grief of losing her mother, while also navigating a new relationship, and ultimately trying to figure out what the new normal is for her life.

                Burns explains, “Argonauta is the child of a strange chasm in my life, the space where both unfathomable, debilitating loss and new love and hope reside. In an attempt to process this romantic love, the loss of my mother who lived her life as my confidant and dearest friend, and the hope of someday gaining acceptance of life’s ever-shifting cycles, these songs emerged. I had to write this record to give voice to the depression, anxiety and uncertainty I endured while grieving. 

                Juliana Daugherty

                Light

                  It’s hard to imagine that Juliana Daugherty’s softness and subtlety could materialize amid the tumult of current-day Charlottesville, VA, but every mode of being continues in the people of Charlottesville, as it does elsewhere, despite the impressions headlines might give. Despite the societal ills that dominate our screens, private struggles still exist, and Daugherty’s debut Light gives them palatable, manageable, and satisfying form. “I wrote this record partly to strip mental illness of its power,” Daugherty says. She adds, “There is nothing useful or beautiful to be gleaned from the experience of depression.”

                  Though this statement seems contrary to the romantic tone of Light, it is refreshing to hear an artist speak of their own depression with objectivity, unwilling to be charmed by the gloom. Daugherty wields her songcraft like a sword, not a diary to be buried in a drawer. As one listens, it becomes clear that Light was not a title chosen despite the gravity of its subject matter-- romantic struggle, abject depression, and throbbing vulnerability-- but rather in service of it. Light, so to speak, comes when we give shape to what haunts us. 

                  FORMAT INFORMATION

                  Coloured LP Info: Limited editon LP is pressed on milky clear vinyl and is for indie stores only.

                  Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                  Balmorhea

                  Chime / Shone

                    THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2018 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

                    Two unreleased tracks the band recorded during the sessions for their previous album Clear Language, itself released in September 2017. The band will be in phase two of their album cycle, and will be touring Europe and the US to promote this release

                    Goldmund

                    Occasus

                      Pennsylvania native Keith Kenniff's output as Goldmund has established him as one of the preeminent composers of minimal piano-based ambient music alongside peers like Hauschka, Dustin O'Halloran, and even Ryuichi Sakamoto, who himself once described Kenniff's work as "so, so, so beautiful". Hyperbolic as it may sound, Goldmund's newest collection Occasus may be his most exquisite yet. Where his previous recordings trod faithfully and sincerely on paths of dimly lit, polaroid-esque nostalgia, Occasus deepens the undeniable aesthetic that was hard-won over eight previous Goldmund albums, while expanding the palette to include desultory clouds of synthesizer and a tastefully distressed analog sheen.

                      The word Occasus means downfall, end, or the rising and falling of heavenly bodies. The title is apt in more ways than one: while the emotional tone of the album denotes bittersweet feelings of conclusiveness, it also perfectly soundtracks the quiet moments when we look up to the sky, and humbly relearn the smallness of our lives as cosmic objects churn slowly overhead with bewitching indifference.

                      Occasus feels deeply personal, private, and hushed yet simultaneously grand, colossal, and profound. Remarkably Kenniff is able to capture micro and macro with equal fidelity. Tangential to prior Goldmund material, there are a few moments of Occasus that feel dark and menacing like “No Story” and “Thread”, both of which broach urgent paranoia, and provide a refreshing counterweight to the idyll typical of the project. Kenniff’s music has always been unquestionably gorgeous, but seeing it set against an occasionally manic backdrop makes the moments of light shine that much brighter.

                      Even when elements of Occasus play by the rules harmonically, they tend to unfold with a satisfying level of rhythmical disregard. "I like mistakes, I like when things don't go perfectly,” says Kenniff of his wabi-sabi ethos, “I do have a tendency to want for things to be perfect and precise, but I have to also realize that a lot of things I like about music and art are very rough and impulsive, the slight imperfections that give something or someone a unique voice." Occasus is another strong chapter in an ever more gratifying catalog.

                      Caroline Says

                      There's No Fool Like An Old Fool

                        Moving beyond the surf-folk foundations of her debut, on No Fool... Sallee loosens her earthly tether, allowing her songs to float to ever higher altitudes on clouds of loops, immaculate melodies, and hypnotic harmonies, as she sings about aging, the daily grind, and hometown stymie. Moving to Austin in 2013 gave her a new perspective on her hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, which informed the overall vibe of the album. "I think leaving my fairly small hometown and then going back to visit it inspired the feeling I went for on this album. I observed that so many people I knew were content doing basically nothing.

                        Or that they were scared to try to do anything or leave town, like they felt stuck there." The ¬first few notes of the Daniel Rossen-esque opener “First Song” dutifully establish the surreal and slightly tragic tone of longing maintained throughout the album. The curiously upturning melodies ride out on a rich ambient texture before “Sweet Home Alabama” cuts the fog with a crackling 60's soul loop that's charming and catchy enough to induce a cathartic laugh from the listener. The brightness fades with the frosty and propulsive “A Good Thief Steals Clean,” which features lyrics inspired by the 1971 ¬lm Panic in Needle Park, and the idea of being in love with a heroin addict. “I tend to write from the perspectives of characters in dark situations, even though my songs may sound bright,” Sallee notes of her alluring juxtaposition of sunny production and grim lyrics.

                        She employs this dynamic again on “Rip O ,” a frenetically percussive song with lyrics inspired by an NPR story about a young Iraqi man who was killed in an ISIS bombing just before moving to NYC to become a professional dancer. Inspired by Terrence Malick's Badlands and Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska," the song “Black Hole" features multi-voice harmonies sung from the perspective of 50's spree killer Charles Starkweather. The hurdles she navigated to record naturally led to ad hoc recording techniques, and endless sonic experimentation, often leading to her use of the computer as an instrument. A tireless worker, and a wellspring of creativity, whatever Caroline Says, we will be listening.

                        The Skull Eclipses

                        The Skull Eclipses

                          Known respectively for their independent work as Botany and Lushlife, Spencer Stephenson and Raj Haldar selected their collaborative mantle, The Skull Eclipses, when the album became more than just a one-plus-one combination of their individual sounds. The odd title was originally given to a demo beat that Stephenson sent Haldar back in 2014, but it quickly became apt for the subject matter and emotional tone that the album and group took on during creation. “The Skull Eclipses” refers to the philosophy of Solipsism, that nothing veri¬ably exists outside of the human mind, and dually to the idea that knowledge of one’s own mortality makes inner peace unachievable.

                          Happiness is “eclipsed” by the image of death, classically represented as a “skull”. Accordingly, Haldar’s lyrics are a free-associative discourse on the value of life amid a growing population, Islamophobia misdirected at non-muslims via racist assumption, poverty, pharmaceutical abuse, mortality, mental illness, international conflict, political unrest, police shootings, and the continual failure of the drug-war that began when the album’s creators were just children. Stephenson’s trademark fractalline production, noticeably more grim and aggressive than the tie-dyed psychedelia of his Botany project, provides ample space for Haldar’s shadow-self to break through. Aside from displaying a wider tempo variation than any of Stephenson’s work to date The Skull Eclipses is spun from sonic threads dark enough to border on horror. Songs are glued together with interstitial bad-trip creep-ups: melting choirs, doomsday evangelists, and the Judica-Cordiglia recordings that are purported to have captured the sounds of Russian kosmonauts burning up on reentry.

                          Broadly, The Skull Eclipses is a post-hip hop album that harmonizes tropes of mid 90's electronic genres-- ambient, downtempo, jungle, & trip-hop-- under a hauntological umbrella. It is the first offering from a project that's as much indebted to Broadcast & The Focus Group as it is to Pete Rock & CL Smooth, but obligated to neither. Up close however, the album is a peer into the shadows by two figures uncontent with blending into the tapestry of modern music, wholly committed to creating experiences over mere content, which is pouring in from all corners of a frustrated and distracted world. 

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Barry says: A brilliantly effervescent mix of underground hip-hop, electronic beats, ambient interludes and thumping weirdo drone. It's a beautiful and varied beast, and one that demands your attention.

                          In Tall Buildings

                          Akinetic

                            Akinetic, the new album from Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall's one-man polymathic project In Tall Buildings sees its creator plunge headlong into allegories of communication, loss, impulse, vice, and mass-denialism. With the addition of producer and engineer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine) Hall crashes through the aforementioned subject matter with brightness and lucidity, yielding his most intelligent and focused songwriting yet. Working out of his house with Deck in Pilsen, Chicago, Hall's efforts yield ten tracks of spacious and textured handmade pop, comprising one of the most sharply written and deftly recorded home-studio albums in memory. Where his previous titles were natural documents of his musicianship and songcraft, Akinetic arose from deliberate intent to write in concrete pop forms, lyrically informed by what he observed of modern culture, namely its fixation on technology-driven pseudo-progress at the cost of direct communication.

                            "Rather than merely dwell in an inviting musical bed," Hall states, "I wanted to write songs with intentionality that would more directly declare themselves to a listener instead of just passively inviting them in." The epilogue “Wake Up” takes classic In Tall Buildings form with fluttering guitar, softly thumping drums, and Hall’s trademark production flourishes. Tape-crushed voices chirp behind the instruments (all played by Hall, as per the rest of the album) as our host poetically urges us to do what the song’s title suggests. The lights slowly fade up on Akinetic showing it for exactly what it is: a crystal clear, well-crafted montage of honest emotion, with pointed social commentary crouching just beneath the topsoil. That this was all achieved by one person playing every instrument, gently guided by a kindred and veteran co-producer, denotes Akinetic as the greatest height yet reached for In Tall Buildings. 

                            Art Feynman

                            Blast Off Through The Wicker

                              Dub, Krautrock, and 70’s Highlife inspired debut. Clash says “his open-ended psychedelic vision conjures simple, primal emotion.” Line of Best Fit calls it “mad genius.” Blast Off Through the Wicker documents Art Feynman looking for life in the lifeless, questioning what it means to be living. There is a calm, disciplined pocket to be felt in everything Feynman does; krautrock slink, staccato bounce, and pentatonic bursts of Nigerian Highlife fuzz pour on the temporal canvas with unquestionable ease, never falling in the wrong place. Even more admirable is, that his "canvas" is a four-track tape recorder, and that Blast Off features no loops or drum machines despite its aesthetically faithful motorik and afrobeat underpinnings.

                              Nowhere is this fact more surprising than on album standout "Slow Down" which pulses along infectiously with a crunchy backbeat, and deftly arpeggiating bass lines that are so locked-in that it would be hard to fault an unknowing ear for assuming the whole thing is tediously programmed. There are gentler sides to Blast Off that conjure the spacey tenderness of Arthur Russell inventively and respectfully, without adopting their muse's palette wholesale. In this regard Blast Off is an endearing collection of songs that capture the ear with warm-yet-clear cassette aesthetics and spot-on musicianship, both of which form an angle that points lovingly to Feynman's deep and varied influences. Make no mistake-- this one truly is alive.

                              Grooms

                              Exit Index

                                Grooms' Exit Index combines the abandon of pop with the unease of American life in 2017, cloaking its hooks in a clamor of samples and distortion, its agitation expressed in its dreampoetry lyrics. The album as a whole is a study in contrasts—light meeting dark, ampli¬er fuzz surrounding big melodies, sampled friction squaring o with fluidly played basslines. Album opener "The Directory" shrouds itself in synth-dappled mist until Johnson, backed by ghostly harmonies, asks with increasing intensity, "Where are my millions, my millions, my millions?" "Dietrich," meanwhile, pins itself on a steady bassline, its guitars whirling into a maelstrom as Johnson sings promises of fealty to a far-away target Grooms laid down the skeleton tracks for Exit Index, the Brooklyn band's ¬rst album since 2015's Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, at the storied New York recording studio The Magic Shop—the last band to record there before its closure in March 2016. "It was the end," recalls Johnson. "We ended up bashing out 13 or 14 songs—of which we kept 10—in about six hours, because it was the last day. The engineer was like, 'I can't believe it.

                                This is like working on a record in the '60s, where the band comes in and they know everything super well, because they have to.'" Johnson, drummer Steve Levine, and bassist Jay Heiselmann had battened down in a Brooklyn recording studio for a month to write Exit Index, ¬guring out the bones of tracks like the pummeling "Magistrate Seeks Romance" and the tensely amorphous "Turn Your Body." The lyrics on Exit Index combine honest expressions of anxiety with heady imagery that elicits icy, barren landscapes and dead-end streets. ("There's so few things we can talk about/Our endless words, overheard/We're not dead, we're being straightened out/We're semi-tough, it's not enough," he sings on the swirling "Softer Now.") "It's a heavier record than I've ever written lyrics for," says Johnson. "I was writing it while I watched every single debate last year—I don't know why I did that to myself—and after my wife would go to sleep, I would stay up with headphones on, recording and making samples—synths and quiet guitar, stuff like that.

                                In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world.

                                Smith (who by no coincidence, cites naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself. The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough EARS, chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP. The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the aforementioned subject.

                                Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,” which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness here, but it's elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but underreported moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up another highlight in the form of “In The World But Not Of The World” which serves its subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end pulse.

                                Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself.

                                This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On “To Feel Your Best” this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. 

                                STAFF COMMENTS

                                Barry says: Absolutely stunning work once again from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Beautifully emotive, ridiculously clever and wholly immersive, this is mindblowing.

                                FORMAT INFORMATION

                                2xColoured LP Info: This indies exclusive LP is on Twilight coloured vinyl (transparent blue with solid black and white bits mixed in).

                                Balmorhea

                                Clear Language

                                  A decade-plus on the road, near-constant musical output, and shifting creative priorities caused the revered Austin duo, comprised of multi-instrumentalists Rob Lowe and Michael Muller, to soberly assess the band's future. What, in the form of Balmorhea, was there left to say? And did they have the energy to say it? Stranger, the group's maximalist, genre-leaping full-length from 2012, had already seemed to trace the group's farthest bounds. And, over the years, they'd worked with a roving cast of accomplished string and rhythm players to craft a glassy-eyed, sage-brushed, instrumental Americana that, while celebrated in The New Yorker, Pitchfork and The Atlantic, among myriad other press, and attracting the film, ad, and television worlds risked pigeonholing them for good.

                                  As they had in the beginning, in 2006, Muller and Lowe worked simply and with restraint, letting intuition guide them as they molded the 10 elegant, spacious gestures that comprise Clear Language.
                                  A relaxed, clear-eyed wonder tumbles through these songs like herons lancing through Kerouac's "hungermaking" fog. Clear Language is the sound of two friends transmitting unfettered meaning in a milieu choked by double-speak at every turn. Co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin’s Church House Studios, Clear Language finds the duo returning to the simplicity of their roots.

                                  They eschewed complexity for complexity’s sake, allowing a watery, sand-hued mood to settle over their use of analog synthesizers, piano, vibraphone, electric and bass guitar, violin, viola, field recordings, and, for the first time in the band’s history, trumpet, performed by Tedeschi Trucks' Ephraim Owens. A relaxed, clear-eyed sense of reflection flows gracefully through the album as these two old friends transmit unfettered meaning through simple sonic gestures that resonate with the cosmos as much as they echo the pulse of a human heart. In a culture dominated by the loudest, ostentatious voices, Lowe and Muller continue to prove the power and importance of restraint and minimalism.

                                  STAFF COMMENTS

                                  Barry says: Oh Balmorhea, how my heart longs for your slowly brushed strings and delicately tinkering reverb-drenched piano refrains. This is, as much as any of their other relases, truly a gorgeous thing to behold. I've owned everything of theirs thus far, and this will be no exception. Lovely stuff.

                                  Caroline Says

                                  50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong

                                  The album title seems to refer to the contrast between what our elders tell us and the perspectives we form out of our own experiences. There's a vacillation between idealism and realism, and it expresses itself musically in the hairpin turns from gentle folk into brazen experimental flourishes, like on “Funeral Potatoes.” The track opens with lilting, somber, Satie-esque piano, but at the halfway point, typical choices of song structure and transition are discarded in favor of a screeching, static-washed loop of violin and feedback that transcends the formality of songcraft, becoming something altogether more daring and collage-like.

                                  The more band-driven songs on 50 Million recall an early-1990’s style of production in the way chorus-twinged electric guitars and tight, papery drumbeats point our mind’s eye to the West Coast sunset, like on the mid-album standout “Gravy Days.” Sallee decorates the background of most songs with hushed humming that could stand alone as a minimalist-ambient choral album, and when employed on her songs, elevates the ¬final product to an astral level. Sallee’s gift lies in pitting the familiar against the unexpected with a delicate assuredness, never compromising the one for the other. These kinds of debuts can sometimes feel like an over-promise of what is to come, but in the case of Caroline Says there's clearly plenty more thread to be unraveled. It'll be a pleasure to see where the next bus ride takes us. 

                                  Nightlands

                                  I Can Feel The Night Around Me

                                    The third album from Philadelphia's Nightlands (War On Drugs’ Bassist Dave Hartley), is an exercise in synthetic nostalgia. Each of the nine songs use meticulous choral arrangements and bittersweet pop melodies to evoke a unique type of longing, not for the past, but for a future that once lay ahead but has drifted out of reach. For Dave Hartley, the artistic force behind Nightlands, the answer is found on an inward retreat, away from the cold static of modern life and into the warmth of love and protection. I Can Feel the Night Around Me showcases Hartley's finely tuned ability to layer his voice and conjure some of the most beautiful and elaborate virtual choirs in modern music. If his first two records were vocal layering experiments, his third stands as Hartley's thesis statement: "I was determined to use vocal stacking to enable my songwriting, not shroud or obscure it."

                                    He recorded most of the album alone in a cold warehouse basement, which he affectionately calls The Space -- it's where The War on Drugs formerly rehearsed and stored their equipment. "The dissonance between the sound of the album and the atmosphere in which it was recorded is pretty striking," Hartley says. Indeed the music seems more geographically inspired by the microclimates of the Lost Coast and the moonrises of Big Sur than the post-industrial cityscape of North Philadelphia. Perhaps his periodic westward sojourns and healthy obsessions with mid-career Beach Boys albums and Denis Johnson's Already Dead: A California Gothic were influencing him more than he was aware.

                                    Despite the warm astral vibes of opener “Lost Moon," the song was born in that unheated warehouse basement during a record-setting blizzard. "I wanted to write a song like Jimmy Webb's ‘Wichita Lineman’," he recalls. "But it didn't come out like that at all. I ended up in a lonely and unexpected place, which was a really nice surprise." The massive "Only You Know”, a cover from Dion's Phil Spectorproduced masterpiece Born to Be With You, blends perfectly with the rest of the album's shades of psyched-out doo wop revivalism If there is an outlier on I Can Feel the Night Around Me, it's the exotica-tinged “Fear of Flying,” which Hartley composed with minimalist synth virtuoso Frank LoCrasto before the two had ever even met. Soft tangles of voice wash up on the shore of the song's warbling synth backbone, pushing the album briefly into the sunlight without sacri¬cing its melancholy, late-night vibe. It's the sound of the earth turning, night falling. Soon it will be dark, but there's still light seeping over the horizon. And that's a beautiful thing. 

                                    Botany

                                    Dimming Awe, The Light Is Raw

                                      Under the Botany moniker, Spencer Stephenson creates rich psychological and emotional experiences through audio. His music is a thoughtful attempt to convey the non-verbal through his particular mental prism, where sounds have potent symbolism in ways that are all but forgotten in the hermetic modern world. He explains, “Sounds have archetypal connections to things in nature the same way visual symbols do. Low-end might be associated with thunder, or the sound of a mother's heartbeat as heard from inside the womb, or an approaching stampede, or earthquake. Low-end generally indicates something bigger and more powerful than you. Treble sounds indicate something deadly rattling through foliage or something vital like water flowing close by. Reverberation has a connection to the holy and transcendent, it implies spatial largeness. It’s fun to hear these symbols coming out of ear-buds in a world where they aren’t useful on a daily basis, but are still so subconsciously powerful."

                                      Though Stephenson sees these constituent signi¬ers, he has a holistic vision of music "…functioning as a single pulsating thing, instead of a band with distinct parts," which parallels his idea of the universe as an ever emergent, single conscious entity-- a concept he ¬nds spiritually gratifying, and one that’s pervasive in his music. On Dimming Awe, the Light is Raw, the 28-year-old producer and composer continues dissolving the borders between his disparate-yet-beloved psych, hip hop, and ambient influences. Album standout "Au Revoir,” is a shimmering piece of sampler-psychedelia that bolsters verses by rapper Milo, and gracefully leads into the drum-less hum and crackle of “Birthjays”. Matthewdavid—the high-priest of ambient bass himself—lends a rare vocal feature to the uplifting burner “Glow-up" while the electro-inspired “Bad CGI” stitches Bambaataa chants and sci-¬ flutters to a shamanic pulse, then morphs into a late-night opiated channel-sur¬ng montage, and the seams rarely appear. 

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP Info: Pressed on flamingo pink vinyl. Download includes bonus album Raw Light II

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      Third LP by Austin’s Spencer Stephenson aka BOTANY, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer’s ¬first two records into meterless cosmic territory, juxtaposing free jazz arrhythmia with cathedral-¬lling harmony, ringing on the temple walls with soaring grandeur. A psych-inflected scrapbook of atmospheres with tremendous sonic and emotional breadth.. In essence Deepak Verbera is a soundscape record created through methods usually found in hip-hop; vinyl samples, looped vocal phrases, pulsing bass, and warm synths all shimmer with kosmische-indebted splendor, like Popol Vuh with MPCs and a stack of secondhand records. “Whose Ghost” opens the album, challenging the listener to endure an Albert Ayler-style clamour of argumentative drums and brass. Then follows the library-music-inspired “Has Appeared” prior to the ascendant, “Ory (Joyous Toil)”. Its incense laden sister song “Burning From the Edges Inward” plays like a mini-album unto itself, seamlessly shifting moods with each passage as rolling waves of acoustic piano diffuse into smoked-out guitar drones and witch-like choirs. Side A ends with “Outer Verberum,” a guitar-heavy track which can only be described as “free-psych”. Tracks like “Gleaning Gleaming” are built out of micro-snippets of soul records that cascade over themselves to become something wholly incomparable to their source. 

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says: Astral flickering melodies, delayed synth sweeps and soaring pads underpinned by saturated bass and echoing piano florishes. Atmospheric buildups break into stripped-back instrumental sections before psyching out into droning beauty. Highly recommended.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP Info: Clear yellow vinyl with white splatter!

                                      "This music is first and foremost about what can be done together, live in a room, to both transcend and reclaim ourselves from the noise of public living. I'm waging a sort of secular, one-man liturgy here; a public act grounded in ritual. These songs offer wordless hymns and pulsing harmonic frameworks one might use to focus their own contemporary values. Instrumental music particularly offers the opportunity for personal interpretation and reflection. In this ever-fucked world, that seems perpetually in short supply. "I've been creating instrumental music a long time now, under my own name and via bands (Slow Six, Wires Under Tension). I've also built software a long time - yes, I do this for Google. I did my time in Princeton's PhD program for music composition, NYU's Masters of computer science program, and at Bard studying creative writing. I worked live sound for years at NYC clubs now gone (CBGB's, Brownies) while immersing myself in minimalism, assisting LaMonte Young. As a string arranger I get to work with lots of great artists including John Congleton, This Will Destroy You, and Meshell Ndegeocello to name a few." "…Tignor creates a muttered hum of activity that burbles at the fringes of an internally focused halo of sustained, glowing chords.

                                      It’s diicult to follow the fragmented life and musicianship of Matt Schneider. His twofold path has always embraced both an abiding love for Chet Atkins and Nashville session virtuosity, and a begrudging though fruitful flirtation with Chicago’s post-rock underground and middleground. In his native McHenry County as a young teenager, he was a guitar phenom, an engine of local pride who played old-timey anthems and oldies for an audience of delighted townies in a button-up shirt and short dweeby haircut. The press took note and his clipping book is lled with adulatory front page praise lavished on his performances at Dobbyn’s House along the Fox River. That he made it through high school is due in part to the fact that he provided the soundtrack for many of his teacher’s drunken evenings and they let him slide through. In a parallel universe he was roped into playing with bands like Adhesive and Filament (two dierent bands who shared members and lovers) who had more in common with Seam and Tortoise than Chester or Les. Finally out of high school in 1998, Schneider hadn’t lost his zeal for the Nashville studio system and during a several week trip there that summer he found more of a ghost town than a warm welcome for a burgeoning session player; Chicago’s fecund melting pot of jazz and rock was far more inviting. He moved to Wicker Park with his Adhesive bandmates and a succession of acts followed: The Exciting Trio, then Toe (where he and Griin Rodriguez replaced, respectively, Je Parker and Doug McCombs of Tortoise), and then ex-Codeine Doug Scharin’s large fusion ensemble HiM. After touring Europe with HiM, Schneider returned to basics: he retreated to his mother’s empty house in Marengo, Illinois and woodshedded for six months. He recalls “I wanted to learn the instrument.”

                                      Maintaining his convoluted trajectory, Schneider never quite returns to the road, rather he burrows in Chicago, creating ever more complicated methods and tunings for his acoustic guitar while otherwise focusing on his children and his carpentry. He becomes, in a classic sense, the best kept secret of Chicago music. Encountering his playing, stalwart performers are consistently stunned. Without ensconcing his work in dubious spirituality he channels something somehow simultaneously poetic and mathematical, like Kepler’s “music” of the spheres. Each composition is instantaneous, improvised and launched from the aether fully formed, making sense only in relation to the spontaneously formed rules of interaction… Songs aren’t so much nite concepts but endless ragas that he taps in and out of; consequently these pieces cannot be entered mid-stream, the listener must participate in the universe as it’s created in order to live in it. His reputation is such that top collaborators need not be sought, but are intrinsically curious to participate. On these recordings, he is joined by Dan Bitney (of Tortoise fame), Matt Lux (Iron & Wine), and Sam Wagster (Cairo Gang). Producer and engineer Brian Sulpizio (Health & Beauty) records and mixes. It is possibly the sixth recording by the ever-shifting entity called Moon Bros (named for turn of the century engineers at the Moon Bros. Carriage Company) but the rst three have all been lost, likely forever, possibily irretrievable from a broken CD-R in the bottom of a box of tools and flotsam hardware. Only Dancehall Sound and Frijolillo made the jump to internet download-ability, and only These Stars has ever seen wide, intentional release. Will you hear more about Matt Schneider? Yes, but whether in the context of the great and unknown, or the at-last recognized, remains to be seen.

                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says: Much like a lot of the Western Vinyl releases (Balmorhea, Alexander Turnquist, Stone Jack Jones etc.) These Stars is obviously highly influenced by Americana and folk. Though the conduit is slightly different from the aforementioned peers. This is somewhat more urgent than Balmorhea certainly, driven by jazzy brush hits and romantic slide guitar. There are echoes of ol' country littered throughout, and subtle hints of mariachi even. Cleverly written and wonderfully performed, this is a melting pot of influence from all over the western world, and wonderfully effective it is too.

                                      Listeners familiar with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's previous album Euclid (an album that prompted Dazed to call her "...one of the most pioneering musicians in the world.") will no doubt notice her heavier use of vocals on her new album EARS. On all but one song, her gently ecstatic swells of vocals emerge to soar over a dense jungle of synths and woodwinds.

                                      After initially composing on a Buchla analog synth, she wrote arrangements for a woodwind quintet, added vocals, and further refined the pieces with granular synthesis techniques she developed in her sound design work (she contributed sound design to Panda Bear's "Boys Latin" video, and handled sound design and original compositions for Brasilia co-written by and starring Reggie Watts). Kinetic arpeggios of synths pulse, often buoying her graceful vocal mantras, while woodwinds breathe and flutter, emulating the wildlife Smith observed while growing up on the West Coast (she even studied recordings of slowed down bird calls prior to composing these pieces). Though some of her gestures echo the musical tropes used by early minimalist composers, the world she creates on EARS is uniquely hypnotic and full of life, not unlike Miyzaki's film Nausicaä, which she cites as an inspiration.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      Brothers Jared and Michael Bell have been making music together as Lymbyc Systym since 2004. On their new album Split Stones they explore the power of disparate halves coming together to form a unique whole. The idea serves as an analogy for Jared and Mike's relationship, Lymbyc's sound, and the mind/body dichotomy. All of the songs on Split Stones were created using arpeggiators but with a distinctly Lymbyc twist. Throughout the album the arpeggiators act as living machines – scientic clarity in harmony with human uncertainty.

                                      As Jared explains, “Instead of synching up the arpeggiators, they were recorded freely with countless variations, then edited together manually. It made for an incredibly dynamic and organic rhythm that set the compositional tone for the rest of the record.” The resulting collection of songs is the duo's most up-tempo, vibrant, and danceable album to date. Recorded largely in their respective home studios, the duo went to Dallas to track live drums at Elmwood Recording, where they mixed their previous albums Shutter Release and Field Studies with John Congleton.

                                      The album opens with "Generated Bodies", a song that starts as a colossal instrumental rock track, but quickly evolves into spirals of chordal synths and electronic beats, mirroring the band's metamorphosis over the past decade. Other songs like "Split Stones" and "Pulses" find the band experimenting with longer cinematic song structures, leaving behind the short "pop" song structures they've delivered on previous albums. The album veers into full on dance mode on "Paraboloid" before things wind down with the sunny groove of album closer "Scientific Romance". 

                                      Two songs on the album feature vocals by Jana Hunter of Lower Dens. The album features members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality.

                                      In 2010 Nicole Schneit aka Air Waves released Dungeon Dots, an album Aquarius Records called "...pretty much perfect pop music." For her new album Parting Glances, Schneit enlisted friends from Brooklyn's music community to contribute to the record, including members of Woods, Crystal Stilts, Ava Luna, and Hospitality. Additionally, Jana Hunter of Lower Dens contributes vocals to two songs. The album's title comes from the 1986 film Parting Glances in which Steve Buscemi portrays a gay man navigating the difficulties of being in a relationship in Reagan-era New York. More than just identifying with the story, Schneit is interested in the in the lasting effect of the parting glances we share with strangers in our everyday encounters. She explains "You see all sorts of physical and emotional traits on the train. From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc. We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate." The lingering impact of those brief moments seeps into the details and imagery she delivers with energizing hooks and a disarming lack of pretense on Parting Glances. 

                                      Shaun Fleming is a member of Foxygen. The album features Felcia Douglass of Ava Luna and Sam France of Foxygen. In December of 2012, former Disney actor and didgeridoo craftsman Shaun Fleming moved from his hometown of Agora Hills, CA to aManhattan apartment. The move took its toll on Fleming, who soon fell ill with the flu. Fleming holed up in his apartment writing and recording songs everyday, a process that gave birth to the alter-ego Diane Coff­ee, and her first album My Friend Fish.

                                      My Friend Fish was an album born out of sickness and nostalgia for the sunshine and solitude of California. Sweet, gritty, and full of life, the songs were our first glimpse into Diane's vibrant and pleasantly twisted world. According to Fleming, it was "a documentation of my new east coast existence. My acceptance and embrace of Diane. It's not surprising that after visiting the charming midwest town of Bloomington, IN (home of Foxygen's label) Fleming decided to make yet another spontaneous move.

                                      "I might just like new surroundings. Naturally the move and the return to a small town got his creative juices flowing again. Just as the move from sunny California to New York inspired a dark album with relatively optimistic lyrics, his move from New York to Bloomington inspired the new album Everybody's a Good Dog, a bright energetic album with relatively dark lyrics. Unlike the production limitations that defined the sound of My Friend Fish (recording drums on an iPhone, using a detuned guitar in lieu of a bass, etc) Everybody's a Good Dog was recorded in proper studios with a full band, horns, and a string ensemble, finally bringing to life Fleming's deep well of talent and ideas.

                                      The album opens with the dynamic "Spring Breathes", which erupts from sweet acapella into bursts of full band mayhem as Fleming croons about a new love. "Mayflower" with its big brass and Motown swagger is a contender for party jam of the year, while the head-bobbing "GovT" explores "politics involved in the music business, and the struggle to govern and be governed." "Too Much SpaceMan", a psychedelic trip into the eyes of a jaded defense attorney, is followed by "I Dig You Baby" on which Fleming comes unhinged as he channels early New York Dolls. The album closes with the bittersweet "Not That Easy", which finds Fleming coming to terms with the fact that he'll never been an ordinary partner, "I will always be the lover coming home," he says. The album's unstoppable grooves and melodies were written with live performance in mind. When you hear him pouring every bit of his two decades of experience as a performer into these songs, it's clear that Diane Co­ee is not a side project, it's THE project Fleming has been working towards his whole life.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP Info: LP features deluxe packaging including embossed text and printed inserts.

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      Erik Hall worked patiently and solitarily for four years to craft Driver, his sophomore album as In Tall Buildings. The album comes twenty years after Hall originally fell in love with home recording at age 13 - the year he got his hands on his first multi-track recorder. As a multi-instrumentalist and producer Hall eventually went on to record and tour with several groups, including old friends His Name is Alive and, more recently, dream-pop duo Wild Belle, performing the rhythm section tracks and lending an engineering hand to their Columbia Records debut.

                                      In 2010 Hall’s home recording efforts yielded the first In Tall Buildings album, which The Huffington Post called "gorgeous indie-pop", and the Chicago Tribune found "hypnotic". In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he summed up much of his philosophy about composition with a pair of conflicting quotes he attributes to Allen Ginsberg and Kurt Vonnegut, respectively: "First thought, best thought" and "Edit yourself, mercilessly."

                                      Loosely guided by these principles, Hall set out once again to assemble a new batch of songs, when he wasn't recording and touring with other bands. In stark contrast to the dense polyrhythms echoed by NOMO's albums, Driver uses a relatively simple palette to create spacious pop songs, leaving plenty of room for Hall's often Peter Gabriel-esque vocals to shine. The music, though culled from every guitar, keyboard, and drum he managed to fit into his home studio, is powerful in it's restrained simplicity, and it's a compelling foil to the haunting gravity of his vocal performance. Never rushed, his melodies deliver elliptical lyrics that manage to feel intimate, while retaining a sense of mystery. Ultimately, the album's melancholic vibe is relatable, rather than moping or histrionic, and in the end these songs are incredibly comforting and inviting.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      For the past 14 years, Elephant Micah's Joseph O'Connell has quietly self-released his music, sometimes collaborating with the psych-folk imprint Time-Lag Records or other very small labels. Despite the project's almost secretive status, Elephant Micah has repeatedly caught the attention of NPR, and has been championed by an impressive cohort of like-minded artists including Jason Molina, Hiss Golden Messenger, Dark Dark Dark, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.

                                      Where in Our Woods, the 12th Elephant Micah album and the first for Western Vinyl, is defined by its limited palette. The arrangements foreground nylon-string guitar and an antique portable pump organ. A stripped-down drum set, a baritone ukulele, a toy recorder, and harmony vocals (sung by Will Oldham, a friend of and key influence on O’Connell) round out the sound. This sparse ensemble leaves O’Connell’s voice room to breathe, while elevating and magnifying the poetry of his songs.

                                      The album follows an ensemble cast of human and animal characters as they negotiate the supernatural and the mundane: “Light Side” catalogues a friend’s search for sublime experience through a self-described “redneck mysticism” involving in drugs, sex, and travel. “Rare Beliefs” and “Demise of the Bible Birds” explore the world of a "Bible Bird Man" from Noblesville, Indiana, who trained exotic birds to perform stunning Christian-themed stunts. “Albino Animals” is a modern day journalistic ballad, summarizing three stories found in one edition of O'Connell's hometown newspaper: readers responding to the recent slaying of an albino deer, husband-and-wife meth cooks escape federal prosecution based on an error in legal process, and a rower with local roots attempts a transatlantic passage that ends in disaster. The album closes with “Slow Time Vultures,” which was inspired by the descent of hundreds of migrating vultures on O'Connell's parents’ farm in southern Indiana. At the time of this avian congress, state government was instituting the observance of daylight savings time for the first time in Indiana. As O’Connell explains, "Maybe it goes without saying that the unexplained appearance of a sky full of vultures might seem like a harbinger of doom. I wondered if it related to the time change. At its core, this song is in the tradition of American country songs that express indignation toward the idea of progress." Throughout the album, O'Connell deftly transforms the stuff of everyday American life into a series of entrancing meditations on culture, nature, religion, and modernity.

                                      “A beautiful slice of narcoleptic folk...” WIRE.
                                      “A stealthy album, which rewards your patience.” UNCUT.
                                      “Haunted Americana at its lo-fi best. Unendingly elegant.” DUSTED.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      After spending two years living on opposite coasts and pursuing their own creative projects, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp returned last spring to set to work on the sixth full-length album from the Rosebuds. Joining up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (a friend and former bandmate who, in a 2011 interview, noted that the Rosebuds make “some of the most important music in the world”), the North Carolina-bred duo spent a week in Vernon’s studio teasing out a batch of songs that effortlessly weave the hooky songcraft of classic jangle-pop, the cagey romanticism of new wave, and a refined yet full-hearted sensibility all their own. Featuring Vernon on guitar and synths - as well as Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn on bass, both longtime pals and cohorts of the Rosebuds - the resulting Sand + Silence radiates both a graceful intensity and the loose, joyful energy that comes from making music with friends.

                                      Flying Fantasy was recorded and mixed by Scott Solter, known for his work with St. Vincent, Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, and many others. As an accomplished 12-string guitarist/composer, Alexander Turnquist was naturally alarmed when the ulnar nerve in his left hand seized up in 2013, but after a surgical procedure he gratefully started the process of learning to play guitar again. His recovery was cut short when not long after the surgery he was hospitalized with meningitis. Though his recovery is ongoing, and he continues to struggle with a weakened immune system and memory loss, he was inspired to soldier on, rather than being deterred by his physical struggles.

                                      Turnquist's latest full-length Flying Fantasy confirms the idea that out of great hardship can come great art. As he wrote the material for the new album it became clear that his sensitivity had sharpened, his empathy magnified, and his sense of purpose blossomed. The unfortunate circumstances he endured ostensibly forced his metamorphosis from a remarkable guitar player to a truly great composer. Much like the butterflies that adorn the album cover, he seems to have changed form and taken flight.

                                      The album opens with the sparse harmonics of "House of Insomniacs", which are soon joined by lush swells of vibes, cello, and even wordless vocals. On the tracks that follow, Turnquist continues to make use of this dynamic sonic pallet, even adding organ, piano, marimba, steel drums, violin, and french horn to the mix. From "Red Carousel", which was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, to the somber lilt of the love song "Wildflower", to the truly arresting title track "Flying Fantasy" which uses only 4 open strummed guitars and loops of damaged tape and wire recorders, every note vibrates with life as Turnquist ushers us though his intoxicatingly colorful worlds of sound.

                                      "By embedding both new age and noise-oriented electronic themes into his pastoral pieces, Turnquist unites disparate traditions and ideals, essentially employing sonic counterweights to construct 57 minutes that are as surprisingly dynamic as they are perfectly beautiful." PITCHFORK (8.2) .


                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      In the wake of their 2011 album "Strange Hearts", the three members of Secret Cities branched off in different directions. Charlie Gokey delved into Roy Orbison's ballads about losers in love while becoming a civil liberties attorney in Washington, D.C. Alex Abnos locked in to New Orleans soul masters like King Floyd & Dr. John as he became a journalist in New York City. And Marie Parker became a teacher in the band's spiritual home of Fargo, North Dakota.

                                      Having met at band camp and on an internet message board, the trio had made music together for nine years without ever living together in the same city. After recording two albums and a handful of singles via email, they decided it was finally time to enter a real studio where they could play and record together in real time. They chose San Francisco's Tiny Telephone studio, where Jay Pellicci manned the controls for a week-and-a-half of the most spontaneous, democratic, and visceral recording of their lives. They emerged with Walk Me Home, an album that finally reflects their live chemistry and their diverging lives and musical tastes.

                                      "The bass is dewey. The harmonies are starlit. The theremin is ripe…The racket they're able to muster together in the process is enough to set them apart from the pack." PITCHFORK.

                                      Features a reading by Pulitzer Prize winning poet John Ashbery. Tignor’s previous releases received critical acclaim from numerous publications including Pitchfork, Time Out, NPR, and The New York Times. The album features Rachel Grimes of the band Rachel’s . Tignor has worked closely with Suicide Squeeze artists This Will Destroy You, and WV artists Lymbyc Sysytym. In the 90’s Christopher Tignor immersed himself in minimalism, working as an assistant for LaMonte Young while learning sound engineering on the job at a New York contemporary music festival produced by Philip Glass. He went on to refine his skills mixing live sound for bands at two of New York’s seminal clubs, CBGB’s and Brownies. More recently, Tignor has contributed his skills as violinist and string arranger both in the studio and on tour to This Will Destroy You, John Congleton’s Nighty Nite, and Lymbyc Systym.

                                      His sophomore solo album, Thunder Lay Down in the Heart features renowned Boston-based string orchestra A Far Cry performing the 20-minute title piece. The album’s additional tracks feature Tignor’s electronic reimaginings of the title piece, creating spellbinding textures derived directly from the ensemble’s gut-wrenching virtuoso performance. The album explores the natural link between numerous musical disciplines including contemporary classical, ranging from John Adams to Aaron Copland to John Luther Adams, melodic rock, ambient drone music, and electronic experimental artists such as William Basinski.

                                      After years of writing and performing, Ava Luna has refined their doo-wop soul meets punk-as-fuck aesthetic into something bold and glaringly defiant in today's indie music landscape. Following the release of their critically lauded first proper full-length Ice Level, the band spent an intense 2-week period writing and recording in upstate New York. Unlike previous efforts that were meticulously mapped out, the songs that would become Electric Balloon were "…a family effort." according to frontman Carlos Hernandez. For the new album, former Columbia composition student Hernandez relinquished the reins a bit, opting for a more organic approach to writing the material for what would become Electric Balloon. In the wake of Ice Level, Ava Luna's sharp edges have melted away just enough, making it easier to connect with their no-wave grooves and soaring harmonies. Distilling everything from James Chance and ESG to contemporaries like Dirty Projectors and Of Montreal, Ava Luna have landed on an aggressively unique sound that still manages to be accessible.

                                      “…a beaming mix o f ice-cool vintage '80s no wave grooves and extra-lush three-part girl group harmonies …Ava Luna has in fectious, minimalist, ESG-style beats for days.” SPIN

                                      Debut solo record by Shaun Flemming of the Jagjaguwar band Foxygen.

                                      Joseph Campbell describes a shaman as "person, male or female, who…has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It's a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it." We'll never know the whole truth about what happened when (Foxyen drummer and former Disney child actor) Shaun Fleming moved from the West Coast suburbs to New York, but whatever it was fractured his psyche, opened it up, and gave birth to Diane Coffee.

                                      In 2013, after joining the band Foxygen, Shaun Fleming left the green and golden fields of his hometown of Agoura Hills, CA to become the third roommate in a 700 square-foot, pre-war, closet-free Manhattan apartment. He was welcomed to The Big Apple by a nasty flu virus that drained the last bit of California sunshine out of the skinny, Macaulay Culken-looking 26-year-old's body. As he recovered, cabin fever supplanted the flu, and his relentless creative drive took over. Low on funds and bored out of his gourd, he spent the next two weeks alone in his bedroom writing and recording what would become the debut Diane Coffee LP My Friend Fish. Despite his limited means (using a pseudo drum kit consisting of a snare, one broken cymbal, and a metal pot, recording parts with an iPhone's voice memo app, playing a detuned guitar rather than a real bass, etc)

                                      My Friend Fish sounds fully realized and remarkably polished. From a Donovan-esque song about Sriracha, to experiments with distortion and garage-rock, to songs like "All The Young Girls" in which he gleefully channels Tom Jones with sex-bomb confidence, on My Friend Fish Fleming's spell-casting powers are in full effect, inspiring panty-tossing glee. After you finish listening, you'll wonder as you stretch out in bed and enjoy a cigarette, "Who is Fish?"

                                      Botany

                                      Lava Diviner (Truestory)

                                      When our human experiences defy articulation, music and film can sometimes be the only languages we have to communicate with. In 1975, Peter Weir directed Picnic at Hanging Rock, a haunting film in which a group of schoolgirls disappear while exploring a volcanic rock in the Australian outback. Through the film, Weir explores landscapes of intense memory, and the mysterious forces that bend, mold, and erode the core of our psyches. Similarly, Lava Diviner (Truestory), the debut full-length from Texas native, Spencer Stephenson, gives voice to those ancient transformative forces within ourselves, amplified to the point of distortion by the dry Texas heat.

                                      Though texturally inspired by early new age records like Iasos’ Inter-Dimensional Music, and sample-based collage ventures like Colleen’s Everyone Alive Wants Answers, Lava Diviner (Truestory) is reinforced with a robust percussive backbone. Still, Stephenson never resorts to shallow MPC trickery or contrived mixtape clumsiness. Instead, his proto-new age textures float elegantly atop a primal boom-bap pulse to paint a detailed, rhythmic mural that has the scope of a ‘70s prog rock epic. “On Lava Diviner, I wanted to conjure that same headspace that artists like Roger Dean, and even Zdzislaw Beksinski project in their iconic paintings,” says Stephenson. “I tried to evoke those grand, colorful, surreal landscapes that are mind-bending yet oddly comforting - sci-fi and epic and holy, all at the same time.”

                                      Often when you're in your mid-20's heavy realities start to settle in. Relationships that seemed like they'd last forever lose their spark, your aspirations and self-perception shift, you marvel at friends your age getting married and having babies, and you feel powerless and small, realizing that people you've known and loved for a lifetime can suddenly die. It's a serious psychological shakeup, made even more difficult if your frontal cortex hasn't fully matured yet. It's a beast, a mountain, a wall, or as in Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey, a mysterious obelisk that pushes you to evolve…like it or not. For better or worse, parts of us die, new parts come to life, and if we're lucky we emerge smarter, stronger, and more resilient. It's no surprise that for ages we've felt a deep sense of connection with music, art, and films inspired by this metamorphosis.

                                      Aisha Burns' Life in the Midwater provides a snapshot of the rough stuff, but with a delicate sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years. Burns' contributions as the violinist and occasional vocalist for the Austin band Balmorhea belie a nuanced songwriting prowess, and a dynamic and powerful voice. The album's title references a deep dark layer of the ocean that flows far below the surface, and just above what we call the deeps sea. Bioluminescent jellyfish often inhabit this layer of the ocean, emitting mysterious flashes of light despite the risk of exposing themselves to potential predators. Similarly Aisha's songs are dreamlike beacons in the inky abyss…

                                      After releasing two albums on the indie label Kanine Records, Grooms still hadn't gained enough traction to support themselves with their music and they were understandably ready to call it quits. However, in 2011, impressed with their albums and live shows, author Michael Azerrad invited Grooms to perform at his Our Band Could Be Your Life show alongside St. Vincent, Ted Leo, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, and WV alumni Dirty Projectors. It was a huge opportunity for the band, and the catalyst for what would become their new album Infinity Caller. Azerrad's enthusiasm and encouragement gave the band’s primary songwriter Travis Johnson the confidence to soldier on, keep making music, and ultimately find peace of mind.

                                      "…a revelation -- dynamic, hooky, energetic!" PITCHFORK

                                      "The ’90s indie rock lashings of Grooms, add a reminder to dust off your Polvo/SY LPs" STEREOGUM 

                                      "...some of the most exciting new sounds the Kings County has to offer.” POP MATTERS

                                      David Wingo is a busy man. In the years since the release of his last record as Ola Podrida, he's written and recorded soundtracks for several movies including Take Shelter (winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011), MUD (starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon), and Prince Avalanche (starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and co-composed with Explosions In The Sky), both of which are seeing wide release this coming spring/summer. When he had time in between films, Wingo assembled a live band featuring Colin Swietek on guitars, Matt Clark on bass, and David Hobizal on drums and began to bring his new songs in to the band. A first for Ola Podrida, the new album Ghosts Go Blind was recorded to tape in a proper studio, mostly live, with the full band. The resulting songs are energetic and accessible, while Wingo's abstract narratives are more personal and intimate than ever. Throughout the album bittersweet memories of youth are filtered through the nostalgic eyes of a man starting to accept his adult life for the first time. The album opens with last guy at the party pleading for someone to stay with him, and keep the revelry going a little longer. It's an almost cringeworthy desperation, and yet Wingo makes it feel relatable. The final refrain "It's no fun, being alone at the end" takes on a bigger meaning, giving you the feeling his friends have grown up and moved on, leaving him to decide how he'll proceed with his life. By the middle of the album, the character has evolved, now pleading with his partner again, but this time the goal is to stay home and shut out the world.

                                      On Stranger Balmorhea continues the cosmic dialog they began with their eponymous debut in 2007. Though the spirit of Texas' early inhabitants and the weight of the night sky inspired previous albums All is Wild, All is Silent (2009) and Constellations (2010), Stranger shifts the focus from the celestial to the terrestrial, or more accurately, it begins to explore the celestial resonance in all things terrestrial. Balmorhea's music has always been guided by the experience of living in Texas, but with Stranger the band moves beyond contemplative reverence for the land and the history of their home state.

                                      The most forward-leaning of their catalog, Stranger presents worlds of tenderness, aggression, estrangement, and freedom using an expanded sonic palette including guitar loops, vibes, synthesizers, ukulele, and steel pan drums. In addition to these new sounds, electric guitars and percussion take the stage once occupied by piano and acoustic guitars. Opening with the electric guitar loops, synths, and steel drums of "Days", the band invites us to move forward with them as they explore without pretense or expectation. "Pilgrim" provides the perfect ending, blurring alpha and omega...a concluding gesture taking us back to our beginnings.

                                      FORMAT INFORMATION

                                      2xLP Info: 45 RPM double vinyl.

                                      2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.

                                      Callers / Delicate Steve

                                      Further Out / Perfect Pairs

                                      Further Out / Perfect Pairs is a collaboration between Callers and Luaka Bop recording artist Delicate Steve. "Further Out" is a disjointed narrative about hotels and their occupants, left to tie up loose ends as life rockets past them, while "Perfect Pairs" explores the difficulties of maintaining relationships within relationships within relationships.

                                      Here's what Delicate Steve had to say about the collaboration: "I met Sara through some mutual friends at a Deerhoof concert last year. Soon after that I checked out her band (on myspace!!) and was really into it. I sent her an idea I had for a song while on tour, then we met for a minute during SXSW, saw each other's bands, and talked about making a song when we were both home from tour. Next we met up at Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life" concert in NY where our bands were both playing. I had an awesome time in the mosh pit with Ryan. A week or two later we started recording "Perfect Pairs" together with Don Godwin behind the board. Shortly after that, we made "Further Out" collaborating back and forth in our home studios."

                                      "Callers' mix of jazz guitar, pop hooks, and art-rock rhythms suggest a willful perversity designed to ambush curious listeners…" Q Magazine.


                                      'Feeling Today' is Spencer Stephenson's debut release under the Botany moniker. The culmination of years of assembling music, this MLP, and his forthcoming full-length, flow with a transcendental radiance. Under the gauzy patina of decades-old samples, this Texan sound-sculptor masterfully merges the past and the present, the earthly and the infinite. Spencer recalls recording a casio keyboard onto cassette-tape at the age of 4, and becoming hooked on the simple idea that he could capture sounds and share them with those around him.

                                      Now 22, he's still at it, playing instruments and stitching sounds together in his home atop a hill, surrounded by trees, fringed by the wide Texas horizon. He explores the cosmic nexus of shimmering psychedelia, blissed-out pop, and instrumental hip-hop, as he turns recycled sounds into something thoroughly modern. For Spencer there's a therapeutic value in reconfiguring the "noise" of an information-dense consumer culture into something nourishing and honest. He collects artifacts...scavenged bits of ephemera...all of the organic and inorganic matter that passes through our hands and heads everyday and he uses them to build something deeply personal. Ultimately, he reminds us that the natural world we are a part of is one of boundless wonder and color." Botany’s Feeling today EP has already received praise from Fader, Urb, Pitchfork, Stereogum, Gorilla vs. Bear, and more. Botany’s forthcoming full-length features vocals by J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes.

                                      "I love the way the elements here (music box tinkles, ghostly samples, rhythmic detritus) combine into something hypnotic and balmy. All the pieces cling to each other blissfully.." Stereogum.

                                      "Botany has a love for rhythms that'll send you running through a grassy field...uplifting melodies and twinkling sounds..." XLR8R.

                                      "...bounces with playful drumming and handclaps, accompanied by bubbly guitars and otherworldly oohs." Pitchfork.

                                      "...a blossoming soundscape made special by the decisive lack of formal structure." Drowned in Sound.


                                      STAFF COMMENTS

                                      Barry says:

                                      For nearly thirteen years Christopher Tignor lived in the 3-story commercial space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he conceived and practiced with his band Slow Six. In 2008, thanks to a tipped off fire marshal, a move was inevitable, and the walls had to come down. Drastic measures would be necessary in order to keep making music on his own terms – living completely immersed in his studio and practice space. Step one was relocating to the Mott Haven neighborhood of The Bronx. Far removed from an overwhelming hipster scene he had never connected with, he found himself surrounded by the working-class grit and intensity typically associated with The South Bronx.

                                      The new musical landscape Wires Under Tension creates uncannily echoes this transition. Charged with the desolation of a Mad Max dystopia, the songs on Wires Under Tension's debut "Light Science" form a narrative in motion from lightness to darkness. The band's name reflects the duo's ongoing struggle to balance this tension as they wrestle with an unpredictable and unforgiving machine of their own making. Wordless voices of the horns and violin feel like lightning riding a stormy sea of drums and drones. That lightning illuminates the duo's muscular rhythms, formidable dynamic, and unique musicianship. The band's previous releases received critical acclaim from numerous publications including Pitchfork, Time Out New York, and The New York Times.

                                      Press Quotes : 'Tignor's beguiling compositions move seamlessly through several stages of development, often ending up somewhere distant from where they appeared to be headed at the outset'. - WIRE
                                      '... imagine a dream collaboration between Philip Glass, Miles Davis, Cluster, and Battles...' - Foxy Digitalis.

                                      "Belly Of The Lion", is David Wingo's much anticipated sophomore effort under the name Ola Podrida. Chockfull of unsentimental love songs, the album pulses with the burgeoning sexuality borne of feral adolescent summers spent in the sprawling suburbs of the South. It's hard not to be wooed, as the songs gingerly lay to rest the calamities that inevitably befall an adventurous heart. The album sounds so organic and well-balanced, it's hard to believe Wingo wrote and recorded most of it alone in his apartment. Rather than creating overwrought studio jams, Wingo's years of recording soundtracks seem to have taught him how to use the perfect amount of restraint, while still delivering rich guitar textures that compliment his unforgettable vocal melodies and magnify the impact of his abstract narratives. If Pink Floyd had been influenced by Bedhead and Flying Saucer Attack, they might well have crafted gorgeous shimmering gems like "We All Radiant" and "Monday Morning." As tracks like "Donkey" swell, almost to the point of bursting, it's easy to be reminded of Jeff Mangum's heartbreaking croon. Alternately, the gently driving rhythm and fragile vocals on "Lakes Of Wine" project a hypnotizing mood that seems to summon the spirit of Nick Drake, while "Roomful of Sparrows" with its pastoral shoegaze rock feels like the best song Kevin Shields never wrote.

                                      The Dirty Projectors

                                      The Glad Fact

                                      Dave Longstreth, the precocious 20-year old behind the Dirty Projectors, has a voice that bleeds with intensity and energy. If his dry and percussive music is the lightning, then his voice cracks and booms like thunder. His is music that had to happen, and when you've heard it you'll understand why. Longstreth uses the standard rock palette - guitars, drums, keyboards, percussion and vocal harmonies. His music is strange and new and beautiful. A fresh voice like this comes only rarely, especially in today's increasingly beaurocratized indie world, so remember: music like the Dirty Projectors is why experimental independent pop music exists. For fans of Smog, Palace, Songs Ohia, Nina Nastasia etc.


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