A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Peter Margasak, Reader music critic
Chiyoko Szlavnics, During a Lifetime This portrait CD features three serene, minimalist works by Berlin-based Canadian composer Chiyoko Szlavnics, built from haunting long tones and in two cases augmented by sine waves from Szlavnics. The newest is the 2015 title track, commissioned by Swiss saxophone ensemble Konus Quartett, which uses multiphonic techniques to create a spooky, meditative, overtone-rich environment. The other two pieces, composed in 2006 and ’08 and performed by UK group Apartment House, are just as beautiful and quietly absorbing.
Honest John, International Breakthrough On its second album, this Norwegian quintet led by reedist Klaus Ellerhusen Holm adds improvisatory daring to the intimacy and precision of chamber music, brushing off orthodoxies with the unexpected drum machine of percussionist Erik Nylander and the increasingly astringent playing of violinist Ole-Henrik Moe. The band’s sublime dexterity allows it to react en masse with the alacrity if not the humor of the ICP Orchestra.
Dálava, The Book of Transfigurations Vancouver singer Julia Ulehla and her husband, adventurous jazz guitarist Aram Bajakian, collaborate with cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff to present sorrowful 19th- and 20th-century Moravian folk songs in a variety of styles: art-rock, folk, even archival recordings by the singer’s grandfather Jiri. Whether the arrangements are delicate or punishing, though, the beauty of the songs comes through powerfully.
Peter is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Jenna Lyle, composer, performer, and Parlour Tapes cofounder
Bryant Smith as a didgeridoo-playing cowboy prophet Funk trombonist Bryant Smith, creator of iO’s Electrodide, has a new project called Ayahuasca Baby. It’s a monthly variety show at iO (beginning July 25) that the theater describes as “featuring an enlightened fetus-god and narrated by a didgeridoo-playing cowboy prophet.” I can’t honestly say I absorb most of the actual words Smith says, but the juxtaposition of his gravelly, fetishy cowboy voice with the similarly pixelated drones of the didgeridoo is maybe the most satisfying and transfixing thing I’ve heard in a while.
Late-career Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill In the same way I enjoy Smith and his didgeridoo, I love how much I can hear Lotte Lenya’s body in her voice—especially during her later years. On a version of “Surabaya Johnny” I especially like, she uses the fact that she’s running out of breath to her advantage, seeming to push out air faster on purpose to give her phrases a hopeless, beleaguered feel. But she doesn’t overdo it. She would never.
Whatever Dev Hynes does Dev Hynes’s music reminds me of an old outdoor wall with chipping paint. If you look closely you can see that somebody must have repainted it a hundred times—and now the color they picked in the 70s looks like sparkly urine beneath the cheesy but pleasing aqua blue from the 90s. Hynes’s work doesn’t just make era references but also reveals, via loving layers of production, the time and attention that went into its creation. And all of that is before you even see him perform.
Jenna is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Eric Fernandez, composer and techno artist
Lena Willikens, RA.421 podcast “Trippy, rough and twisted” is how Cologne-based DJ and producer Lena Willikens describes her Resident Advisor podcast from 2014. I couldn’t agree more. Industrial, electro, disco—Willikens pulls from a number of genres to make this a haunting and engaging set. Keywords: analog, basement party, funk
Rezzett, Goodness When I’m aimlessly drifting through a day or procrastinating on my to-do list, I like to throw this on the big speakers and sit down in my favorite spot—occasionally I get up and dance. Goodness, a 2015 EP from obscure London duo Rezzett, is a wild ride full of distortion, saturation, and fun sonic surprises. Keywords: fuzz, tape, hi-fi meets lo-fi, should I be dancing?
Odd J, Sanpo Disco mix This is one of my favorite mixes from Melbourne-based radio show Sanpo Disco. By tossing in some saxophones alongside the synths and drum machines, Odd J’s mix makes me feel transported to a tropical paradise with all-you-can-drink rosé. Keywords: morning, summer, beach, vibes