Tim Hecker, Daniel Lopatin - Instrumental Tourist
Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never’s Instrumental Tourist brings out the best in two major figures in electronic music, producing a musical endeavor that’s as interested in pleasing its audience as it is turning over new stones. “Uptown Psychedelia’s” mechanical noise ebbs in and out while an eastern-influenced synth line wriggles chaotically. While more glacially paced, “Scene From a French Zoo” eschews the notion that ambient music need be peaceful or serene; its foreboding tone indicates some unstated melancholy. “Vacation for Thomas Mann” grows more ethereal as the pair set their synths skyward. Appropriately titled “Intrusions” tracks back to themes introduced in “Uptown Psychedelia” with industrial noise bursts, though it retains the ethereal feel of “Vacation for Thomas Mann,” until it gradually gets nastier and disintegrates. “Whole Earth Tascam” builds tension with noise and synthesized vocals before breaking apart to the sound of birds chirping, but then it gets even tenser than before. The song’s intriguing push-and-pull makes it the most soundtracky song on the album and definitely a highlight. “GRM Blue II” makes for a quick, strangely melodic respite full of glassy tones, while the more aggressive “GRM Blue III” is full of squelching sounds like an alien response to earthling radio signals, challenging the listener as the song stretches to nearly six minutes. The albums final tracks continue pushing the album’s ethereal and unsettling qualities in seemingly equal measure, particularly on the Eastern touches and wind instruments of “Grey Geisha,” never losing listener attention, though Instrumental Tourist can be a demanding listen. By keeping things unfussy and not overly layered, Hecker and Lopatin create excitement in their interplay. Their union proves not to be a collective patting on the back but rather another notch in the post of excellence for both artists.
How does this sound so good? Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones reunite in 2007 for a tribute concert to the late, legendary music executive Ahmet ErtegÃ¼n, their first full-length show together since 1980, when drummer John Bonham died. Together with Bonham’s son, Jason, Led Zeppelin tear through their catalog as both the seasoned veterans they are and with the ferocity of a band decades younger. With the exception of Plant’s vocals, which are strong but understandably more restrained than their wild young versions, this could have been recorded in 1977. The band performs songs from across their career on Celebration, not wimping out by relying only on hits or avoiding songs like “Black Dog,” which particularly hard and nastily — Page just destroys it. “No Quarter” similarly snarls with nocturnal power, as Plant soars his vocals overhead while the audience adds subtle atmosphere to a song that’s already dripping with it. Bonham proves his dad proud on an extended take on “Dazed and Confused” — no easy feat, as it’s one of the great rock ’n’ roll drum songs of all time. With mixing work by Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, The Smashing Pumpkins), everything sounds remarkably full for a live recording. It’s rare that a reunion sounds so impassioned, and for one as anticipated as that of Led Zeppelin (and as sadly short-lived), this has got to be nearly as good as having been there. (The deluxe edition includes bonus rehearsal video and BBC footage. A triple-LP vinyl version will be released on Dec. 10.)
LA Vampires, Maria Minerva – Integration
Cohorts on the Not Not Fun label Amanda Brown, who has a number of releases as LA Vampires that spin spaced out, lo-fi art pop heavily influenced by classic house music, and Maria Minerva, a similarly minded Estonian artist whose experimental pop reached acidic heights on this year's Will Happiness Find Me?, team up for an album that sees the two blending their styles into an enticing disco-noir exercise. Songs like the spare "End of the World" pulse by on a driving house bassline while Brown and Minerva breathe and wail like banshees in the background. Though every track is marked by steady dance beats, the songs themselves don't slap you across the face but rather bubble and froth in a dark stew. The album closes on a euphoric note with "A Lover & A Friend," an unlikely bit of lightness from two purveyors of heady, gothic underground dance pop.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Rifts
One of two albums released by Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never this week is Rifts, a box set including his first three albums — Betrayed In The Octagon, Russian Mind and Zones Without People — now reissued with bonus tracks. For those who are only be familiar with Replica, Lopatin’s 2011 breakthrough on Mexican Summer, or for those who might not be familiar with him at all, Rifts is a treasure trove of beautifully rendered, sometimes psychedelic, sometimes ambient and often emotional electronic music. Prettier tracks like “Behind the Bank” and “Betrayed in the Octagon” first grab the attention, while snakier songs like “Eyeballs” gradually get under your skin. Though the set flows together as one experience, you can also chart his progression from the more straightforward Octagon and Zones Without People through the denser Zones Without People. It’s a great one-stop for Oneohtrix Point Never after digesting the terrific Replica, especially since these albums are otherwise out of print.
The Evens - The Odds
Rihanna - Unapologetic
Deluxe CD $18.98
Rihanna's latest includes production work by The-Dream to No ID and guest spots from Eminem, Mikky Ekko and erstwhile boyfriend Chris Brown, with minimal distraction from the dancefloor. Several tracks display a movement toward EDM that has mixed results but works well on tracks that don’t minimize Rihanna’s vocals, which have grown more impressive over the years, such as on the hard-hitting “Right Now.” First single “Diamonds” is a classy power-ballad that rides high on a subtle earworm of a hook and a simple simile about everlasting love.
Alicia Keys – Girl on Fire
LP (out 12/4) $19.98
Alicia Keys' latest continues her dance pop transformation, featuring Nicki Minaj on "Girl on Fire" (Inferno Version).
Adele – Skyfall
Vinyl 7" $7.98
Bad Brains - Into the Future
Naomi Punk - The Feeling
Cool start-and-stop grooves, post-punk guitars and faded out vocals from Seattle's Naomi Punk, who create a big of a garage-rock/alt-rock fusion on The Feeling.