Into the Folds of Bliss.

Piano Magic | Writers Without Homes
U.K. technocratic visionary Glen Johnson is the modern avatar of 4AD’s Ivo Watts-Russell, with perhaps a greater range of skill and savvy, and two fingers on the pulse of avant-garde electronic music. Much like Ivo’s ever-morphing goth/ethereal project, This Mortal Coil, Johnson spreads a spangle-studded mortar of talented musicians and vocalists to build his amalgam of his amazingly diverse and satisfying songs. They are cohesively bonded by one thing only – his willingness to project emotion and beauty inside the barely-audible lull of the intermittent harmonic spaces. Incredibly prolific and evocative in his work, Johnson might just be the most multi-layered artist in the genre.

Mark Lanegan | Whiskey for the Holy Ghost
While Seattle’s Screaming Trees provided North-Westerners with a grungy, anthemic backdrop to their rain-soaked 1990s, the band’s frontman emerged from the moistened wreckage with a somber, alcohol-fueled agenda for a new era and a new generation of listeners. Now Lanegan rumbles his solemn dirges and tales of southern-gothic blasphemy that burn like Jack Daniels and bad holy water. His miles-deep voice is hollow and haunting like a dark cave full of bats and stalactites, and his music conjures the chugging insistence of a train bound for nowhere savory – and you’ve just missed the last one, leaving you cold and alone on the platform.

Cranes | Loved
Certainly the highlight and the most representative album of Cranes’ dark-experimental background, ‘Loved’ was also the most perfect release from their tenure on Dedicated. While the popular single from this darling gem was the hard, beat-driven ‘Lilies’, the beauty of ‘Loved’ lies in the droning lullabies that create an envelope of underwater-warmth around the listener, à la ‘Bewildered’, ‘Come This Far’, and ‘In the Night’. Finding a quiet acceptance in being unable to grasp the past, Alison Shaw whispers secrets into your ear that carry hopes and promises for the future; vulnerability and a celebration of having loved, but lost now amidst the relentless tide of age.

Bowery Electric | Beat
Out of the mid-1990s trip-hop exodus drifted Bowery Electric, a two-piece rippled blanket of crispness and warmth from Brooklyn. ‘Beat’ takes the formulaic staccato that many hip-hop and electronica projects utilize, but filters them through a sieve of subtle genius. You won’t always know where the line between organic and electronic lies – the loops and grinds are slow, steady, and driving, and the ever-fading voice of Martha Schwendener blows through on the wind like the spray from a rain-slicked intersection. These are urban hypnotics at their best, mesmeric and groovy in all the right places.

Devics | The Stars at St. Andrea
Possibly the most beautiful album of 2003, Devics left behind their earlier, derivative roots and journeyed to Italy to craft this masterpiece. Soft, somber, and lilting, Dustin O’Halloran sets up a translucent backdrop of guitar, piano, synthesizer, and percussion to let Sara Lov’s mournful and dreamy lyrics creep up and down the bars, paralyzing and probing all the way. You simply must listen, hanging on her words, looking for a resolution. Signed to Simon Raymonde’s excellent Bella Union label, ‘The Stars at St. Andrea’ is both an emotional roller coaster and a rich, wistful treat.

Halou | Wiser
‘Wiser’ is the second full-length release from this talented Northern California trio, an incredibly masterful descent into gorgeous, dynamic electronic music blended with live strings and powerful percussion. Rebecca Coseboom’s vocals are full of love and light, like open arms that offer a soft respite from the creeping dusk, and the deep, labyrinthine valleys and exploding peaks of technical brilliance in their songcraft reach out and pluck you from your daily routine. This is music that makes you sit up and take notice, and you’re guaranteed to read it again and again like a favorite book.

Scorpion Wind | Heaven Sent
Banner-waving nihilist Boyd Rice has cultivated and performed in many projects that span the dark neo-folk genre and beyond over the last three decades. On ‘Heaven Sent’, he teams up with Death In June’s Douglas P. and a host of other world-enders to proselytize his own brand of subversive neo-Gnosticism. Throughout the album, Rice calmly meanders his way across reverberating guitars and deep, resonant bass, all the while conjuring images of the futility of humanity and the danger of pop-culture’s enveloping facade. Almost a spoken word album with textured, pretty music accompanying, the whispered description of the uselessness of human love and equality makes for incredibly intriguing listening, even if you don’t buy his schtick. Who knew nihilism could be such fun?

Cross-posted, as always, to ixmae and Ixmae.

5 Responses to “Into the Folds of Bliss.”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    March 20th, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Bowery Electic
    Beat is my fave gloomy Sunday morning music 😉
    Your writing is really great, btw. ~ (*

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Re: Bowery Electic
    Coming from you, that's a serious compliment. Thank you, dear.

  3. lilmissnever Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    You'll have to imagine me making happy squealing noises at the reviews of Halou and The Cranes and Bowery Electric. I highly recommend Halou live, if you haven't seen them a thousand times already. It took me a long time to discover Bowery Electric, but I was especially happy when I did so – it was like finding an extra pile of Curve albums I'd never heard before.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    When I imagine you, it's almost always making happy squealing noises.
    Bowery Electric = Curve on barbiturates, without the angst.
    I think it's safe to say that I've seen Halou live. As a matter of fact, you and I chatted briefly at their last show. R&R are dear friends of mine, as well – wait 'til you hear the new album…you're gonna poop!

  5. lilmissnever Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    See, now I feel dumb. I forgot that I'd run into you at the Halou show.

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