In praise of some of this year’s releases that have featured prominently around Spinal Tapdance HQ lately, and in avoidance of some of the actual work I ought to be doing, I present a quick rundown of, as the title says, some of the new(ish) shit I’ve been spinning.
Slough Feg, The Animal Spirits – Officially out today [ed.: Tuesday], I believe (along with enough other new metal releases to choke a horse, or at least force it into an equestrian approximation of headbanging), this is a nonstop grin-fest of everything wonderful and energetic about classic heavy metal. Mike Scalzi’s vocals are as potent as ever, and the songs are both carefully honed and gloriously meandering. Put it in yr ears and smile, smile, smile.
Intronaut, Valley Of Smoke – For whatever reason, I’ve missed all the previous releases from this band. This new album, though, really shook me by the shoulders and slapped me around a bit. Excellent songwriting, beautiful textures, great clear bass lines and tasteful jazz-inflected drumming have kept this spinning over and over around here. The instrumental title track may be the best thing here, though that’s not to downplay the judicious use of both harsh and clean harmonized vocals throughout. Definitely recommended.
Horseback, The Invisible Mountain – Tough to describe, but equally tough to ignore once it has sunk its claws in your flesh, this hypnotic album is something like an Americana act discovering krautrock and throwing in the menacing undertones of black metal. Oh, plus the entire second side is a lilting ambient piece, the trip down the other side of the mountain after the first side’s arduous ascent. A curious piece of work, but kudos to Relapse for picking this up for wider distribution.
Autopsy, The Tomb Within – Brilliantly atavistic, mud-sodden death metal for murdering zombies. It’s only five tunes, but all the death and doom you could hope for is alive and (un)well. Welcome back, you perverts.
Cough, Ritual Abuse – I haven’t got my grubby hands on the new Electric Wizard yet, but this new Stateside entry in the grand tradition of nihilistic sludge metal goes down just fine, all ragged edges and shaking hands. Also playing of late has been Cough’s tremendous split with The Wounded Kings (reviewed at this very site by yours truly last week), out in November. I’m pretty sure both sides of the split are streaming somewhere out there in computer-land, so get yourself to Google and soak in the doom.
Celestiial, Where Life Springs Eternal – One of the most atmospheric albums I’ve heard this year. Exceedingly nature-touched, overdriven-to-the-point-of-ambient ‘funeral doom’, though that genre description is hopelessly inadequate to describe the equally soothing and crushing sounds at work within. Reminds one of neo-folk, without actually forcing one to listen to neo-folk.
Antony & The Johnsons, Swanlights – Antony Hegarty simply will not rest until he has made each and every one of us weep bittersweet tears. This is fragile, strong, desperate, haunting music. His duet with Björk is especially stunning, but the variety of songwriting styles on display throughout the album is most impressive.
Gilles Peterson, Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura: Remixed – Last year’s original issue of the Havana Cultura recordings were already excellent enough, but here Gilles has enlisted the help of some top-notch remixers and reinterpreters to put a more club-friendly (without the horrific connotations that phrase can entail) spin on this broad pool of Cuban musics past and present. Funky, soulful, and always a lot of fun. It can’t all be heavy metal all the time, friends. Gilles is there for you in your time of need.
Bob Dylan, The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 – A massive two-disc set of early demos of future Dylan classics, plus something like fifteen previously unheard songs. This is a treasure chest to be explored, and in which to lose yourself. The man is clearly not a ‘record once and move on’ kind of studio musician, as the strikingly alternate versions of some of these tunes illustrates. Perhaps the most jarring alternate on here is the demo version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” which is slowed way down, and led by piano only.
Sailors With Wax Wings, Sailors With Wax Wings – Debut album from this side project of R. Loren from Texan weirdos Pyramids. Features a shit-ton of guest vocalists and musicians, but succeeds largely because it doesn’t seem bogged down by that fact. The album still presents itself as a coherent aesthetic whole, featuring a gorgeous variety of textures and moods. Best heard as a piece, straight through, with mind set a-wandering.
Akercocke, Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone – Okay, so this is clearly not a new album. In fact, it’s from way back in the Stone Ages of 2005. But SONOFABITCH this album is so good. You should play it all the time. Each and every day. Also, if the gentlemen of Akercocke would see fit to give us another album one of these days, why, that would be just swell.
Random bit of old news that I’m still bumming hard about:
Beatrik went and broke themselves up a while back. Dude also broke up his more straight-ahead black metal act Tenebrae In Perpetuum, which is also too bad, but man, Beatrik was where it was at. If you haven’t listened to Beatrik’s second album Requiem Of December yet, well my goodness, you just really ought to do so. All the best bits of depressive black metal, proper black/doom (like Nortt, see), and the great organ textures of Skepticism, topped off with fabulously excruciating vocals… A really tasty treat, is what I’m trying to say to you.
So, what’s been keeping you lot auditorially-occupied of late? Don’t be shy.