Kirin J Callinan - Embracism
LP $18.98 [out 7/16]
Kirin J. Callinan’s music defies easy explanation. It’s hard and corrosive, full of distorted guitars and grinding beats, while his serrated voice consistently sounds on the verge of collapse, on songs like the title track, with lyrics that fuck with gender, sexuality and social norms (“"A man can meet another man in a bar/On the sportsfield/At his place of work/Or in his own apartment/Or on the Internet right now!” he explains in a hilarious verse). It’s also full of towering beauty, as his voice reins in the terror but none of the drama for the glorious “Victoria M.” The Australian native is the rare, charismatic singer/songwriter who can keep us enthralled whether he glowering or swooning, like his Aussie forefather, Nick Cave. While his attempts at more global social commentary don’t always work — “Come On USA’s” jabs are a little hokey, despite the music’s fury, and “Way II War” is effective more for its extremely creepy atmospherics — his personal freakouts are always compelling, as “Love Delay’s” sexual outcry and hairpin turn halfway through will attest. The freewheeling Embracism loudly announces the arrival of a new, singular talent to watch — with any luck, Kirin J. Callinan is just getting fired up.
Zomby - With Love
It might seem daunting to dive into electronic producer Zomby’s double-disc With Love, but one thing it isn’t is boring. With Love’s tracks move quickly yet gracefully, never lingering on one musical idea for too long, nor depriving them of their due time. Four songs in, “If I Will” marks the first time vocals appear on the album, however minimally, drawing the listener into a cool, dark tunnel of bass notes and a vibraphones. “Isis” features disembodied female vocals cooing over a cocktail of swirling synths, piano lines and funk bassline, with a solid handclapped beat keeping everything hanging together. Within an album of this scope, there’s plenty to explore, and Zomby loads it with interesting sounds without overstuffing things — the digital mewing and laser beams of “It’s Time,” the shifting jungle beats and delayed vocal sample of “Vi-Xi,” for example. Zomby is also remarkably adept at keeping things current while indulging in some electro retroism, as with the exciting, drum-and-bass-style “Overdose,” which harkens back to the ’90s heyday of Aphex Twin and Chemical Brothers without sounding outmoded. On With Love’s second disc, Zomby goes deeper and darker into his sound, with slowed-down, dubsteppy beats and forboding tones on tracks like “Digital Smoke” and “Entropy Sketch,” and moodier, more atmospheric tracks like “Reflection in Black Glass” and the title track. With Love covers a lot of ground over its 34 tracks, but it never feels like a chore, thanks to snappy song lengths and cohesive production. It’s the most impressive statement yet from the British producer, steadily maintaining intrigue throughout. Go ahead and get lost in it.
After Dark 2
Now available on CD at Amoeba, After Dark 2 comes to us from producer Johnny Jewel, who gives Italians Do It Better acts like Chromaticsand Glass Candy their faded disco sound. puts together this second After Dark compilation. Besides the aforementioned, Desire, Mirage, Appaloosa and other acts appear who reference disco, freestyle and synth pop to create hooky yet curiously detached dance music, making After Dark 2 a sort of out-of-time and out-of-body experience. The compilation is elegantly paced, beginning with a party-starter, Glass Candy’s “Warm in the Winter,” all glimmering beats and ecstatic coos. Mirage’s “Let’s Kiss” offers robotic-voiced romanticism, referencing classic electro and piling new synth riffs on top off each other for nine glorious minutes, immediately followed by a nice slice of italo disco with Appaloosa’s appealingly-accented “Fill the Blanks.” Of course, Johnny Jewel saves the best beats for his Chromatics project — “Looking for Love” features a nasty disco-noir riff, while “Cherry” is more in tune with the act’s second album, the terrific Kill for Love, with bleary, shoegaze guitars and dreamy vocals dueling with the song’s glittery synths and minimal-funk underpinning. Of course, with a Johnny Jewel production, you get perfectionism but also elongated set times and mid-album lulls, as the 78-minute comp early makes room for a Symmetry track (Johnny Jewel’s largely vocal-free solo project) that makes for nice atmosphere but kills the momentum a bit. However, patience pays off with the album, as its ebbing and flowing energy gives the album a dark post-midnight vibe and makes the album more listenable all the way through, rather than having furiously hard-hitting tracks one after another. It leaves you feeling like you’ve just woken up after partying it up a German disco that you may have only dreamed. Pick up both After Dark 2 and the original After Dark at Amoeba! And keep an eye out for the vinyl version, which we should have in in the coming weeks.