NEW THIS WEEK AT THE SHOP:
When the pure musical expression known as Prince left his human vessel a little over two years ago, we knew the dark cloud would have some kind of silver lining, eventually, in the form of the opening of his storied vault of recordings. The first significant moment in that opening comes now in the form of 'Piano & A Microphone 1983', a set of demo-style recordings that follow the form prescribed by it's title, in the sense that the Sistine Chapel can be said to have a ceiling. The collection finds Prince riffing, testing, stretching, and covering songs, as he transcends the confines of the studio with cool grace, demoing songs from Purple Rain, 1999 and Sign O The Times, plus riveting versions of Joni Mitchell's 'A Case of You' and Aretha Franklin's take on the traditional 'Mary Don't You Weep'. A highlight here is the riveting '17 Days', released in final form only as a b-side to 'When Doves Cry' and appearing on this set as a rollicking stride piano strut that hovers high above any genre, which begins with Prince asking the booth "Is that my echo?" Yes sir, it is. It's a tall order to ask a modest set of 9 tunes to express the astonishing range Prince can claim on the American songbook, but here we have it. Deluxe vinyl includes a big booklet of handwritten lyrics, essays and photo prints. Oddly comparable, if a bit rougher around the edges, is this new album from fringe American artist Lonnie Holley, first introduced to the wider world with 2012's 'Just Before Music'. His latest is called 'Mith', and packs the same startling punch as that record, as Holley's idiosyncratic approach to junk sculpture art finds its analog in sound.
Big releases in the rap world this week as Nas re-emerges with 'Nasir' on vinyl, Denzel Curry drops a hot one called 'TA1300' and
west coast badboy YG's 'Stay Dangerous' arrives on vinyl.
Deep into the archives of legendary rap we go with a couple real ones. Memphis underground don Shawty Pimp's 1995 tape 'Still Comin Real' is a Youtube staple, and hits vinyl for the first time over 2 decades later. Some of the finest druggy daydream production ever put to tape runs all over this LP, with S.P.'s menacing drawl calling the shots. Jedi Mind Tricks's 2003 epic 'The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological, and Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness' is back on wax; witness Philly's answer to the Wu-Tang Clan at the height of their powers! We've also got a reprint of Pharrell's solo breakout 'In My Mind'.
The fertile world of indie rock brings us many joys this week. We've got a crunchy new one from Metric called 'Art of Doubt', Advance Base (who I still refer to as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) has his most hi-fidelity release yet with 'Animal Companionship', and Australian Mark E Smith fans Terry bring us their latest and greatest album, 'I'm Terry', which is highly addictive twitchy guitar pop. Punkers Joyce Manor continue to evolve their East Bay-goes-'Armed Forces' with the fantastic 'Million Dollars To Kill Me', Mutual Benefit are back with their lush, fluid folk, and UK Tortoise-tweakers Beak> have a great new album called '>>>" which I believe documents the growing of their beak.
The blues and roots front is well-covered this week with new releases from respected axemen Joe Bonamassa, Billy F. Gibbons, and Slash, plus a long-in-the-can album from Adam's House Cat, the band Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers first formed in the mid-80s. Major Uncle Tupelo vibes on this one. We've also got new releases from Macy Gray, Josh Groban, and Chilly Gonzales.
Ethereal femme-folk trio Mountain Man emerge again with a transporting, vaguely pagan album called 'Magic Ship'. My Morning Jacket's pedal steel maestro Carl Broemel steps out with a killer solo album. The Beta Band recollect their best with a 2 disc set of album and live tracks.
This year's round of Breast Cancer Awareness pink vinyl releases commences with 3 faves from the last decade. Rest your eyes upon the pinkish hues of Silversun Pickups' 'Swoon', Local Natives' 'Gorilla Manor', and Black Moth Super Rainbow's 'Panic Blooms'.
More biggies on the vinyl reissue front. Common's 2007 classic 'Finding Forever' and Animal Collective's best album (fight me) 'Feels' are both back on LP, as well as 'The Alchemist', the 2013 album from Swedish doom-bluesers Witchcraft. This is my first time hearing this album personally and I don't know where I've been, cuz it's great. Kindof a mix of early Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer and the more rustic moments of Dungen. We've also got color vinyl pressings of Throbbing Gristle's 'Journey Through A Body' and 'Mission of Dead Souls', plus an audiophile pressing of Holly Cole's classic 90s album 'Temptation'.
Bow down to some towers in the world of lyrical and vocal craft this week with a live document from Nico, 'Reims Cathedral 1974',a new album from the one of a kind Thalia Zedek (the only torch song rocker MORE haunting than Nico), and a fantastic collection from folk songstress Anne Briggs called 'Sing A Song For You'.
We've combed the whole world over for some incredible off-the-radar jazz releases this week and every single one is deeply backed. German group Fazer deliver a funky spiritual jazz on 'Mara'. Longtime UK jazz torchbearer Jessica Lauren comes with 'Almeria', a diverse album with nods to 90s rare groove and bossa. Akron,Ohio's Aqueduct Ensemble deliver feather-light contemplation with nods to ECM chill and rustic indie. Britisher Chip Wickham's 'Shamal Wind' is an absolute belter of latin-infused future bop. Australian trio The Necks return to beguile us with their ribbons of piano and rhythm on 'Body'. Lastly, we have a much needed reissue of Roy Ayers' headiest jazz-funk flight ever: 1977's 'Come Into Knowledge', by RAMP.
An absolutely breathtaking amount of rare reggae hits the bins this week. You might ask, "How could an album called 'Captain Ganja and the Space Patrol' ever be bad?" and I am here to tell you it can't. UK reggae icons Tradition released this album in 1980 and it quickly became rare due to it's incredible blending of cosmic jazz and alien dub. 'Captain Ganja' is a nearly peerless album of space reggae, released one year BEFORE Scientist took on the Space Invaders! We've also got 'Dubd'sco', Bunny Wailer's remarkable album of dubs from 'Blackheart Man'; two huge rarities from Phillip Fullwood, sideman of Burning Spear, called 'Words In Dub' and 'I-Mo-Jah'; a repress of the killer 90s 'weird dub' classic from Jonah Dan, 'Intergalactic Dub Rock'; and two biggies unearthed from the catalog of the mighty Wackies, the label that operated out of the Bronx studio of the same name in the 80s. The Chosen Brothers' 'Sing and Shout' is roots perfection, while Annette Brissett's 'Love Power' is the highlight of the whole week for me: an incredible blend of gospel roots, lovers rock, soul covers, and disco funk.
Buchla synth wizard and Nine Inch Nails member Alessandro Cortini has an exquisite new album under his Sonoio alias. Louis Cole's latest album 'Time' has some star quality about it, channeling the funky weirdness of Thundercat and (dare I say it) Bruno Mars into some twitchy, catchy jazzy electropop. The latest from UK trio Szun Waves hacks into some lush, Floating Points-esque territory full of cosmic, billowing blooms.
Rare delicacies from worlds beyond on vinyl this week. Pioneering musique concrete and soundscape artist Pierre Henry (who only recently passed away at 90) sees his 1960 work 'Orphee Ballet' back on LP for the first time in decades. It's an inviting, enveloping entry into a world of felt-sound that would later give us bands like Portishead, Stereolab and Broadcast (though it sounds nothing like them, full disclosure). We've also got a fresh vinyl printing of the final recordings of GI Gurdjieff, 1949's 'Improvisations'. Near death, the Armenian mystic put these harmonium laments to tape in Paris and, honestly, I don't think anyone's ever recorded sadder music. Pick this up, get really sad, then keep listening to it and find out how not-sad listening to sad music can eventually make you! Same goes for the 1970 album from French experimental chanson Catherine Ribeiro and her band Alpes: 'N°2' is a smoky seance of burning predawn psych led by ferociously compelling, sexy vocals.
Many big bombs from the techno and dance worlds this week. We've a new album from Berghain resident Marcel Dettman; cool 12"s from Against All Logic and GEO Corp; a nice archival EP of glittery minimal 90s techno from D Man on the Workshop label; a repress of Fingers Inc's 'Another Side' triple album, which is basically the bible of Chicago acid house, plus another repressed EP from Larry Heard as Loosefingers; plus unheard material from Drexciya's James Stinson, as Transllusion. Lastly, we get a serious re-up of heat from the LIES label: Broken English Club's latest, an incredible album of wobbly, odd ambient from MaxxxBass (the man behind that unreal KWC 92 album from a few years ago), plus killer new EPs from Krikor, DJ Overdose, and Circling Vultures, a project from Chicago techno lord and recent Willy Street Beats performer Justin Aulis Long.