COLUMNS

  • Johanna Fateman

    1 BEYONCÉ, LEMONADE (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia) The Queen broadcasts on her own frequency, cutting through the chatter of a thousand hot takes to assert soulful authority on personal matters as well as those of grave public concern. With Lemonade she appears betrayed but unstoppable, triumphant on a sinking cop car, ready with hooks, hashtags, and fresh choreography.

    2 M.I.A., AIM (Interscope) Now that the West can no longer deny center stage to border politics and mass displacement, M.I.A., who has trained her spotlight on the refugee experience all along, tells us this album will be

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  • Total Freedom’s Anthem

    THIS SUMMER, the comedian Conan O’Brien was spotted outside the cult Berlin nightclub Berghain with a camera crew. Located at an abandoned power plant, Berghain is a legendary bastion of secrecy and freewheeling bacchanalia—no pictures allowed—and DJ the Black Madonna chastised O’Brien for his impropriety: “I don’t need to know what he’s joking about to know that he’s taking millions of people into a space that is private for a good reason.” Just weeks before, Wolfgang Tillmans’s techno track “Device Control” had appeared on Frank Ocean’s surprise album Endless, and apparently he and

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  • modern protest pop

    You don’t have to live next to me

    Just give me my equality

    —Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam”

    IF THERE’S A PLAYBOOK for modern protest pop music, it is usually culled from the images and tropes captured, thank goodness, with indelible clarity in photographs taken more than half a century ago in the Deep South and all across the US at lunch counters, in churches, on college campuses, and on picket lines as the second Reconstruction unfolded. Such images conjure the sounds of secular and sacred music emanating from the masses, from the we-shall-not-be-moved, Sly and the Family Stone “everyday

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  • Matmos’s Ultimate Care II

    SINCE THE LATE ’90s, the electronic duo Matmos have brought together musique concrète and dance music in singular, arch fashion, crafting ebullient tracks from audio samples that frequently exhibit a penchant, descended from industrial music, for grisliness: Materials they’ve wired or otherwise manipulated to produce sound include a human skull, a goat spine, a cow uterus, and the neural tissue of a crayfish. On Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey), released in February, they have narrowed their scope to a Oulipian degree, deriving all audio from exactly one, notably nonbiological, component: the

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  • Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klang

    BEGINNING ON MARCH 25, in celebration of the opening of the Met Breuer—the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new satellite in the old Whitney Museum building on Madison Avenue—a complete performance of all twenty-one sections of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s unfinished cycle Klang (2004–2007) will be presented for the first time in the United States. This US premiere, undoubtedly one of the cultural highlights of the spring season in New York, will be performed over the course of two days, in three locations: the Met Breuer, the Met, and the Cloisters.

    When the German composer began writing this

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  • Porches

    “LET THE BOOTY DO what the booty wants to do,” instructs Porches front man Aaron Maine in a 2014 video shot in New York. Maraca in hand, the drummer counts off and is joined by the four other members of the band as they launch into the insistently danceable ballad “Mood.” The breakneck chittering of a staccato guitar is tempered by the slower throb of the bass line, the melody of Maine’s vocals doubled by a synth. After a couple of verses, the voices ascend in unison, through a two-chord bridge to the hook, over which Maine laments, “I think I said the wrong thing. . . .” Later, he feigns

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  • Justin Bieber

    BIEBER FEVER, largely dormant these past few years, has resurfaced in recent months, but the virus has mutated into a more vital strain. With his album Purpose, released this past fall, Justin Bieber has cast off the bad-boy affect of his teens, which tended to manifest via such adolescent shenanigans as egging neighbors’ houses, reckless driving, and public urination. He’s now promoting a redemption narrative that conflates performer as repentant sinner (a conceit familiar to fans of new country) with performer as Christ figure (a staple of almost every contemporary music genre besides new

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  • British Sea Power

    SEA OF BRASS, the album by British Sea Power released this month, is a collection of songs spanning the band’s entire discography, which they have rescored (with the help of collaborator Peter Wraight) to include a full brass band. This arch, antiquarian, massive record stands as a summa of the group’s decade-plus career churning out complex indie tracks that have always begged to be described as “pompier.” Its rewards are disclosed gradually, on repeated listening, and the album is something of a valedictory for the particular brand of rock music that the band have championed from the outset.

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  • Giorgio Moroder

    IT WAS JULY 4TH WEEKEND IN 1977, just five months before the release of Saturday Night Fever, and disco was my sound track, as it was for so many Americans. During most of the holiday, however, I wasn’t in a club but stuck in a traffic jam on a freeway in the middle of Michigan. For any disco head, it was a radio dead zone. As the car crept along, a station finally came in, just barely. At first all I could make out was that whatever was playing was extraordinarily long, even by the standards of disco. It took a while before I realized that the DJ was playing the same record over and over again.

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  • Cybernetic Serendipity Music

    THE OPENING of “Cybernetic Serendipity” on August 2, 1968, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts was nothing if not timely. The seminal exhibition centered on “computer art” and drew its name from the burgeoning field inspired by Norbert Wiener’s analysis of technological and social systems in his 1948 book Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. The discipline was then making waves in both mass culture and the arts. Indeed, a few months before the show opened, 2001: A Space Odyssey hit movie theaters and implanted artificial intelligence into the collective

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  • Viv Albertine’s autobiography

    VIV ALBERTINE was the guitarist for the Slits, the female London punk band that could have been called Upheaval. Her autobiography is a great book. It can stand next to Chuck Berry’s Autobiography (1987), Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One (2004), and Jenny Diski’s The Sixties (2009). But no genre can hold it.

    The title refers to Albertine’s mother’s judgment on the only things her teenage daughter cared about—and the title hits home near the close of the book. “Side One,” the first half of the story, ending with the demise of the Slits in 1981, is a tremendous ride, coursing through infinitely

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  • Aphex Twin’s Syro

    IN THE 1990S, producers of IDM—so-called intelligent dance music—faithfully observed three unwritten rules. One: Stay anonymous, hiding your true name behind an arras of aliases. Two: Keep pushing the music into the future; nostalgists, stay away. Three: Never show your face. Time and again, Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, broke these cardinal rules and many others besides. Despite or because of his intractability, he became an early poster boy for the new generation of bedroom producers. His music, forged in the afterburn of late-’80s underground rave culture, heralded an altogether

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