A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Jamie Ludwig, Reader associate editor
Tragedy, Fury The first music I played as the results of the 2016 election came in was Darker Days Ahead, the prophetically titled 2012 album by Portland-by-way-of-Memphis hardcore legends Tragedy—its unrelenting, blistering sounds articulated exactly how I felt. So I was overjoyed when the famously PR-shy group released a surprise EP last month—it’s the sonic support I need for the midterms.
Adam Faucett, It Took the Shape of a Bird Golden-throated singer-songwriter Adam Faucett comes from a family that’s lived in southern Arkansas for more than a century, and the complex history of the region surges through the earthy folk-rock, psych-soaked country, and gothic Americana of his vivid tunes. “King Snake,” from the new It Took the Shape of a Bird, best demonstrates his appeal—not just any burly bearded dude can take on the persona of an orphaned girl fending off abuse and end up with one of the most gorgeous, heart-rending tracks of the year.
Arabrot, Who Do You Love Led by Norwegian singer-guitarist Kjetil Nernes, avant-noise weirdos Arabrot suck you into a surreal world with depraved takes on religion, literature, and politics. Following 2016’s The Gospel, written in part during Nernes’s fight with cancer and saturated with WWI-era imagery, Who Do You Love digs into the murky lines between good and evil. Recorded at Electrical Audio and at the band’s studio in a rural Swedish church, it’s open-ended in its textures, with more of singer-keyboardist Karin Park and a petrifying version of the spiritual “Sinnerman.”
Jamie is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Fabio Brienza, vocalist and guitarist of Varaha
Anekdoten, “Writing on the Wall” In the mid-90s I found a copy of Nucleus by Swedish prog-rock band Anekdoten and felt an immediate connection. Compared to other prog bands I knew, Anekdoten were darker in tone, sharing sensibilities with some of the atmospheric doom bands I loved. Anyone who appreciates lush, evocative, and elegiac sounds should dig deep into their discography—”Writing on the Wall” is from the 2015 album Until All the Ghosts Are Gone.
Astor Piazzolla, “Finale (Tango Apasionado)” I discovered the dramatic, nostalgic, and emotional tangos of Astor Piazzolla while watching Wong Kar-Wai’s 1997 film Happy Together. During some of its most heart-wrenching moments, you can hear Piazzolla’s mesmerizing tunes, whose melodies almost seem to weep—they perfectly complement Kar-Wai’s story of helplessness, loneliness, and being forced to leave your life in the hands of fate. In this hyper-technological age, the earthy, raw moods of this music are a special comfort.
Suffocation, Frank Mullen farewell tour Ever since 1991’s Effigy of the Forgotten, I’ve had a soft spot for Suffocation. Their brutal, precise, and extremely technical music has long benefited from the unrivaled power of singer Frank “the Chop” Mullen. With his charisma and energy, he’s shaped and inspired thousands of bands in brutal death metal. Mullen retired as a touring member in 2013, and now, after 30 years in the band, he’s getting a proper farewell. Fans of death metal should not miss this tour, which comes to Joliet on October 26.
Fabio is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Nick Dellacroce of Bongripper, Bottomed, and Hate Basement
Belong, October Language Belong overwhelms with textured waves dripping with sadness and longing, but has an overarching optimism. The eight pieces on the duo’s 2006 debut focus on guitar, synth, and processing, without drums or vocals. It seems nostalgic for a nonexistent time in a reimagined dream. I recall long walks through Urbana-Champaign, listening on my iPod Classic while ruminating on family members dying of dementia and my aspirations for early adulthood. October Language will continue to soundtrack my life.
Holy Family, The Many Splendored The Holy Family project of Chicago multimedia artist Will McEvilly presents an expansive vision of ambience. Imagine waking up in a Japanese botanical garden manipulated via modular synthesis and blurry granulation. Sequences manifest in chimelike plucks, enveloping digital strings, and modulated flutters. McEvilly’s greatest achievement is his restraint in executing his dense soundscapes. The tracks move constantly but maintain structure, walking a line between engagement and meditation.
Knelt Rote, Alterity Death metal is always in rotation, and in the past few years a myriad of great releases have encompassed all its aspects. Alterity, the 2018 swan song of Knelt Rote, is a statement nailed to the door of the genre—no grooves, only blastbeats and double kick and guitars that cut through the drums with seesaw riffs channeling Morbid Angel, Immolation, and Angelcorpse. Each instrument is relentless, like a malevolent machine operating at peak efficiency. v