[the] Caseworker - Voices Out There (Hidden Shoal, 2013)
For: Half Film, The Chills, Broadcast
I love the back story behind [The] Caseworker's former band, Half Film. A couple of Irish musicians move to San Francisco in the 90's to start a band. Not because of the Haight-Ashbury scene, or the Bay Area punk rockers, but because of Mark Eitzel. Mark.Eitzel. Half Film moved to San Francisco to be a slowcore band. I love that. 2/3 of that criminally overlooked band have reformed as [The] Caseworker playing in the similar vein to Codeine, Seam, American Music Club of navel-gazing, plodding guitar music accompanied with some truly inspired outsider pop elements a la Flying Nun Kiwi pop legends The Chills or The Clean. Perfect low-key pop album for walking on decaying leaves on some bright, chilly morning. I also love [The] Caseworker because, as a case worker (case manager is the preferred term for my agency) I totally understand the prevailing sadness and discontent that this album exudes. Welcome to my job.
nevada greene - Across Our Wide Misery (Dismal Niche Tapes, 2013)
For: Dylan Golden Aycock, Padang Food Tigers, Pete Fosco
Besides the stripper sounding name, Nevada Greene plays some excellent, excellent open-tuned guitar work. Nevada Greene basically operate as an acoustic Kevin Costner Suicide Pact. Four guitarists swooping in and out of each other's sonic space, creating some heavy drone-based ambience beneath the spiralling and ascending lead guitar lines. Gorgeous violins and synth lines spill out sporadically over a delicately picked passage reminiscent of Peter Walker's transcendental Rainy Day Ragas. There are some truly unexpected pleasures that here that make the world seem like a livable and begrudingly beautiful place. This record was (and will continue to be) my immediate go to during intense finals studying or paper writing. Pick this up on tape through Dismal Niche.
safiyya - Shareek hayaat (umor rex, 2013)
The who of this record will hopefully illuminate the what and the why that inevitably follow digesting this record. Safiyya is the second collaboration between Brad Rose (former owner of Digitalis Industries (R.I.P), and driving force behind his solo project The North Sea and band Altar Eagle) and Pat Murano (owner/proprietor of Kelippah Records, records under the moniker Decimus and is a member of the legendary No Neck Blues Band). Each member's geneology should give some precedence for this, but really, any historical familiarity with music won't really allow you to process this on one listen. Well, musical history of this world. Wordless chants, snarling insects, organic electronics. The blank tape is an endless frontier and a blank canvas. Relying heavily on deconstruction, the what of this record (guitars, synths, electronics, field recordings) are brought back to life in a loving assemblage of voices and shadings that always remain twenty-faced, impervious to our understanding. A thinly formed visage forming beneath the pall of sweat-lodge smoke. My favorites moments are halfway through Side-B, right before the electronics start getting buzzy and out of hand, there are snippets of a Muezzin giving the Adhan. That, more than anything, ties this record to this world. Voices we understand, although foreign, center us in the terrestrial. Otherwise, this is a cut balloon. A screaming, benevolent missive from a Celestial plane.
ben best and karl jØrgensen
For: Espectrostatic, Tangerine Dream, Stag Hare
Coming on the heels of a well-received 2012 collabortion, Utah County's finest sonic pioneers and purveyors of structural, minimal experimental music regain that same magic in their aptly titled album 2. Yep. Arpeggiated melodies are overlayed with elongated guitar lines and drones processed to sound far, far away. Cold, serated synths and swirling melodies shade nooks and crannys in sheaths of glimmering, spectral communication. No question that this would be a jam. Ever since Alpine Sequences dropped last year, Jorgensen has really found his niche in creating these repetitious, hypnotic and beautiful grooves firmly in the kraut pocket and dedicated to an aesthetic that finds little room for deviation, but persistant honing and exploration of his craft. 2013 required.