Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Bones’

Amen Dunes

So, it is that Freedom follows Love, maybe that’s always the way it must be. Damon McMahon’s fifth album proper lands him a far cry from the scuffed surfaces of noise folk that wrought Dia, but while his exterior may be softened and refined, it’s the turmoil underneath that’s churning now. Freedom is at its core an exorcism of masculinity. Rightly so, perhaps there’s no better time to measure the weight placed on the idea of what is and isn’t acceptable from society’s view of males and the often-disastrous ways those expectations play out in callousing and setting our youth adrift. It’s also about taking down the statues of heroism that wind up hollow inside. Through his series of characters scratching at the hero myth, McMahon pulls the veil off the swaggering alpha and casts a clownish shadow clipping at his heels.

Still, while the lyrical undercurrent is heavier than most of Amen Dunes’ catalog, the surrounding songwriting is more buoyant than ever. Enlisting a deep pop bench of collaborators for this including Delicate Steve and Chris Coady, McMahon and crew give the album a palpable atmosphere that ranges from the cold humidity of songs like “Saturdarah” and “Blue Rose” to a baked-in warmth on “Miki Dora” and “Believe.” The record practically exhales steam at some points, creeping the cold up the listeners’ spines in sense-memory tingles. When he wants to shake the frost though, the twilight beach burners let the skin crackle with a burn that’s just past palatable and a tiredness that pulls the diaphragm from winded through to depression.

The album works its way over plenty of ground, from childhood to the final lock on childhood’s door – losing a parent. McMahon enlists his mumblecore vibrato to great effect here, giving his songs and characters a fragile edge that’s never surefooted and always looking to the horizon for answers. Still, none of this would work if it weren’t for a solid base of songwriting under the coated atmosphere and lyrical sandpapering of the cult of the boorish hero. To that end McMahon has succeeded handily, letting this one soak in deeper with each listen like a balm on a wound we’d all been letting fester.


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Vive la Void – “Red Rider”

All things tangential to Moon Duo are heating up this year, with a new album on the way from Ripley’s Wooden Shjips and now the announcement of a new solo project from Sanae Yamada. The first track, “Red Rider,” paints the project in strokes of throbbing German Progressive, which isn’t a surprise given the Duo’s love for ’70s proggy Teutonic rock. Yamada injects her own brand of coldwave/dreampop to the proceedings, though, pushing the sound into mesmerizing waters. The accompanying video is delightfully psychedelic and dark. Down to see how this whole thing shakes out but loving this one for the moment.

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Amen Dunes’ Damon McMahon on The La’s – S/T

Years ago Damon McMahon contributed a track to one of RSTB’s first free download compilations. At the time his debut, Dia was just released and it was a flickering window of static rimmed folk that played well with the lo-fi crowd that dotted an indie landscape. Years later he’s embarking on his most ambitious and stridently pop album yet and he’s back to contribute to Hidden Gems, an exploration of albums that haven’t necessarily gotten their due in the pantheon of pop. Damon’s chosen an album that’s often lauded for its single but forgotten as a whole piece. The La’s 1990 debut will always be known for “There She Goes,” but as an album it lies squarely on the fault lines between jangle and Britpop.

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Amen Dunes – “Miki Dora”

This songs is so good it kinda makes me mad. No really, it has not place getting under the skin like this, but I’ll be damned if Damon McMahon isn’t on the precipice of laying down his shining moment. Good to see too, as he’s been riding out a long game career that’s crawled out of a fuzz-strewn psych foxhole, hammering his take on pop slowly but surely. Guess getting Chris Coady behind the boards doesn’t hurt and Nick Zinner sitting in on guitar work for the album seems like the kind of information that would have seemed inscrutable when his first album Dia landed all those years ago. Very excited for this one and for now keeping “Miki Dora” on repeat for as long as possible.

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Event Rundown: Basilica Soundscape 2017

I’m not usually one for live coverage. There are those that do it well and photographers with a better eye and I’ll usually leave it to them. This, however, being my fourth year in attendance at Soundscape in a town I’ve called home for as long, it feels fitting to at least weigh in. This might be even more true given that the mass that descends on Hudson is so often swept up in telling you to check out this “cute” hamlet nestled by the river that they forget to stop and reflect on who and what Hudson really is. So, while I’ve always appreciated Soundscape for giving an easily accessible glut of great artists (both literary and musical) it’s often hard not to grit at the parade of weekend goths gawkin’ up real estate prices during Fall Musical Recess 2017 sponsored by Warby Parker clear frames.

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Zola Jesus

If, at this point, you’re on the fence about the greatness of the new Zola Jesus record, then you’ve clearly not heard any or all of Okovi. Nika Rosa Danilova’s codifying moment comes in the form of 40-minutes of pleasure and pain that wrench the very soul from the listener. She then douses said soul in a harrowing darkness that explores loss and mortality, while showering it in the light of one of this decade’s most powerful and uplifting voices.

The record shows a marked return to Danilova’s darker instincts, she blends her exploration of personal tragedies with a shift from Taiga’s pop aspirations and back towards the body flattening atmospheres of the Stridulum EP. However, she incorporates lessons gleaned along the way, injecting the darkness with a stadium sized feeling that’s full of a hope that peeks from the walls of despair. She’s also taken the soaring orchestral swells of her re-interpretive album Versions and applied them liberally to an album proper, giving Okovi a grandness that’s angelic in its exploration of life’s consistent lean towards heartbreak and loss.

Again, I’m by no means going to be the first to tell you this is a monumental achievement by an artist who has spent a career consistently crafting high water marks. If the top 40 was too blind to see what they had in her turn towards accessibility, then they’ll likely miss out here as well, but they’d be remiss. Taiga was accessible in its move towards the light, but Okovi is universally touching in its dive into the dark. We’re all besieged by the despair of familial loss, the hairpin turns of life at any chaotic moment, the overwhelming face of the cosmic inevitable. However, Danilova has distilled those feelings into a glowing beacon of an album that we should all be able to relate to, and deep down, that we all need.




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Zola Jesus on Magdalith – S/T

There have been a lot of artists that have popped up repeatedly on RSTB over the many years, but few with the consistency of Zola Jesus. Nika Danilova’s first appearance was in 2008 on a year end list of 7″s, marking her “Souer Sewer” cut as one to watch in the coming years. Seems like she’s not only been one to watch, but one to anticipate with great hopes as each release nears. Her work has set a high bar not only for those enamored with the dark strains of industrial and goth but for any electronic or pop record in a given year. Her latest, Okovi is one of her most personal albums and a stunning reminder of her power as a vocalist – confronting tragedy with a strident battalion of sound. For her entry to Hidden Gems, Danilova has picked a record far from the beaten track, the 1973 eponymous work of French Gregorian singer Magdalith, whose works echo Zola Jesus’ own balance of desolation and heart-stopping vocals.

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Zola Jesus – “Exhumed”

With a new Zola Jesus release on the way this fall, the horizon’s grown invitingly dark. In the clip for “Exhumed” from the upcoming Okovi Nika Danilova channels The Ring with a shallow wooded grave escape and a multitude of VHS glitch effects provided by Corey Johnson. The song itself hits as hard as any of Danilova’s best – pounding, leaden beats push against the soaring cello work of Shannon Kennedy and over the it all Danilova’s voice beckons, an angel of destruction and redemption in one. It’s a powerful track and given the sense of loss that she’s exploring throughout this album, it winds up one of her most overtly powerful statements.

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Moon Duo

As the sequel, or rather, better half to their Occult Architecture Vol.1 from earlier this year, Vol. 2 acts as the softer side of the band’s motorik psych-punk universe. Where the first volume was steeped in anxiety, tension and darkness; the second volume is by turns blissful, celebratory even. Its still chugging along with a chainsaw grind and lysergic stabs of guitar via Ripley Johnson, but now the tone is relaxed and surprisingly languid. The albums form a duality or a complete picture, but taken on its own merits, Vol. 2 is still pushing into Moon Duo’s best work.

There are strums, I think perhaps a first for Moon Duo, or even Wooden Shjips’ catalog. There are genuine moments of resplendence, flipping the band’s Kosmiche switch from throb to fizz. The pair submerge into a milky bath of sound that’s pulsating with light and love and all the Springtime green feelings that may have eluded their grasp in the pursuit of Krautrock edge in the past. Instead, this is pure dreampop, a silken submergence into ionic bliss that can’t hold back its own giddiness. Sanae Yamada’s synths emerge as a key component here, floating in waves of magenta majesty primed to induce shudders in the listener. As part of the band’s Yin and Yang concept, this fills the bill nicely, but even left to its own devices, it’ll sate your hunger for higher consciousness grind for months to come.




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Moon Duo – “Lost In Light”

Just off the release of the first volume of their Occult Architecture series, Moon Duo announces pt. 2, leading off with a lighter side of their sound. As promised, the second volume strips back the night terrors and dives into the lush, ethereal arm of their recordings, winding up pillowing down into dreampop territory where the first went for nervy Krautrock. The song is a total bliss-out and given the video treatment again by Micah Buzan, who picks up with similar themes from the “Cold Fear” clip and coats Moon Duo’s world in a dizzying array of animation. The first volume was a total killer, so it goes without saying that I’ve got volume 2 high on the anticipation index for the year. Sounding great from the gate.

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