COLUMNS

  • Sasha Geffen

    1 SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDEs (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) An emphatic departure from her initial singles, SOPHIE’s debut album deploys the producer’s unique pop vernacular to probe questions of identity, survival, and freedom. Plasticky synthesizer sounds warp around vocals from Cecile Believe as the record proposes an ecstatic vision of utopia beyond the body’s historical confines.

    SERPENTWITHFEET, “CHERUBIM” (Secretly Canadian/Tri Angle) A love song doesn’t have to be light. It can dent the earth with the weight of its singer’s devotion. In “cherubim,” serpentwithfeet renders queer

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  • Vivien Goldman

    1 LUDWIG GÖRANSONN FEAT. BAABA MAAL, “WAKANDA” (Marvel) It is ironic that it took a film (Black Panther) about a fictional country to make much of America embrace the idea of Africa. Nonetheless, Maal’s sustained griot vibrato summons and enthralls on Göransonn’s theme song “Wakanda.” All bow to the handy magic of the imagination.

    CARDI B, BAD BUNNY, AND J BALVIN, “I LIKE IT” (Atlantic) The surge in rich-world collaborations with Afrobeat and reggaeton artists de-exoticizes the squirmy tag “world music.” Are Brits and Yanks really out of this world? Debates aside, it’s joyous when phenom Cardi

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  • Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

    TIRZAH, DEVOTION (Domino) Devotion is refreshingly tender and an exciting departure from Tirzah’s more club-forward work. Repeat listening reveals the intimate complexities of her understated voice, a perfect pairing for Mica Levi’s restrained production.

    JULIA SANTOLI’S PERFORMANCE OF SIREN SORE: BURNING BODY OF LOVE WITH ZACH ROWDEN (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, July 13) Santoli and Rowden really did something special that evening in July. When Santoli dragged a metal ring across Issue’s marble floor, creating otherworldly feedback, my hair stood on end. The frisson of sonic potential

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  • Wander Woman

    MILES DAVIS DID IT thirty years into his recording career, in 1981, on The Man with The Horn. Dylan only needed thirteen years to get from Bob Dylan (1962) to Blood On The Tracks (1975). Chan Marshall took twenty-three to move from Dear Sir (1995) to Wanderer (2018). What these artists found, at the end of the arc, was the moment of synthesis, when the particulars that initially marked them moved across a divide (accidents, taxes, getting high, heartbreak) and reappeared as elements of a vocabulary. The broken and twisted and obscure tendencies were folded in and out of various styles, then

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  • To Hat and To Hold

    THE LIGHTS DIM, a slight figure in a huge plumed hat emerges from the wings, walks slowly across the stage and sits down at the piano. The lights do not come back up. “Don’t hurt me,” speak-sings Annette Peacock, launching into her first tune of the evening.  

    She might be addressing the audience. Although Annette Peacock’s career is long and distinguished enough for her to be called a doyenne of song, she remains a reclusive mystery even to devoted fans. This performance, for the 2018 October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music in Philadelphia, is likely the first time anyone in the room

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  • Half-Life of the Blues

    WHEN A FRIEND FIRST INTRODUCED ME to the music of Loren Connors, I refused to listen to it on the grounds that it was too beautiful. In his signature electric improvisations, Connors makes use of layered swells and serrated feedback; just as arresting is his permissive handling of negative space and scattered fuzz. Connors’s playing often luxuriates in extended caesura, punctuated by thin squeals and deliberately skeletal leads. Unanchored notes seem set aloft, only to drift and kink mid-air or be cut short by little catches of breath. Always plangent and often surreal, the more recent sounds

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  • The World On Six Strings

    A SUMMER OF MARY HALVORSON will tell you anything you want to know about the guitar. Her sound is as clean and strong as water, sustaining everything around it. She plays an electric archtop guitar, a Guild Artist Award issued in 1970, which is essentially an acoustic guitar with a pickup installed near the neck, where the strings sway and the body sings. The Artist Award, as Halvorson plays it, is a guide into the line and the note. Her tone serves her ideas, not the reverse. Halvorson doesn’t often distort her signal or blur what she’s presenting. She doesn’t go for clouds and sheets. If her

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  • Ode to Destruction

    PETER BRÖTZMANN AND KEIJI HAINO are free improvisation elders who, as a duo, have developed a sonic theater of destruction. While composers use pitch, melody, and rhythm to establish themes and develop them, these improvisers use those tools to work in counter-intuitive ways to instigate instability and flux. Their recent show at the Chapel was SRO. While many Bay Area residents are mourning the gentrification of our cultural landscape, I honestly can’t remember a time when three hundred people gathered on Valencia Street to hear free jazz.

    In the late 1960s, critics compared Brötzmann to Albert

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  • Reheat Waves

    THERE IS NOTHING I LOVE MORE than seeing bands of older white men reunify—off the top of my head, I can say that I’ve seen Faust, Television, the Patti Smith Group, Sonic Arts Union, and the Beach Boys all within the last four years. It’s an unholy hobby, but a hobby nonetheless. I missed the Fall, which will always be a disappointment to me, but I wasn’t going to sleep on a chance to see what remains of This Heat, the Camberwellians known for their two studio albums, This Heat (1979) and Deceit (1981), as well as their lone 12-inch, Health and Efficiency (1980). And so I forsook The Bachelorette

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  • On the Infinite Plane

    TONY CONRAD PASSED AWAY in 2016 at the age of seventy-six, leaving behind a sprawling and idiosyncratic body of work that spanned over five decades. His voluminous output was not always legible to the mainstream; it wasn’t always legible to the avant-garde either. The remarkable recent exhibition “Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective” at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York—with additional works on display at the University of Buffalo, where the artist taught from 1976 until shortly before he died—is wide-ranging and ambitious in scope. Was Conrad a composer, a sound artist,

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  • The Mercy Seat

    ON MAY 5TH, AT THE UNION TEMPLE OF BROOKLYN, a theater called Murmrr hosted the last date of a short tour called Conversations with Nick Cave. For just two appearances in Massachusetts and two in New York, he flew over from Brighton, England. Later that night, to explain why he had come to America, Cave channeled Sinatra: “I just sort of thought if I can get through New York, I might be able to do this elsewhere.”

    But why did he need to do this? In a press release, Cave wrote, “There has been a connection happening with the audience through the recent live shows where we have all shown a kind of

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  • Hey Superstar

    FROM THE RECENT BROADWAY REVIVAL of the postmodern epic Cats (1981) to NBC’s live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) starring Chrissy Teigen’s husband as the Son of God, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is everywhere these days. The tsar of the mega-musical has long been on the mind of the British experimental musician Klein, who recently graced New York with a live performance, her first since the premiere of her musical Care at London’s ICA this past February. Care, which was in part inspired by her appreciation for Lloyd Webber’s melodramatic, melodic storytelling, gave Klein a chance to work,

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