Reviews: Week of 07/12: Stephen Molyneux, Matthew Ryals, Scammers

Stephen Molyneux - Wings & Circles (No Kings, 2016)

No Kings Record Cadre's co-founder and quiet, but rising, voice in world-sick American folk returns with a perfectly tempered instrumental songs that serve as an effective counter-point to Molyneux's The Shape of Clouds to Come. The Shape...had a lot to say, even in a quiet voice wrapped around minimalist lines that jumped into sharp relief against a stark background of acoustic guitar and radio crackle of fragmented drone. Wings & Circles is less interested in sharp incisions into consciousness and more into exploring the milieu of a few instruments in conversation with one another. Both sides of this beautifully laid out tape are full of effulgent and highly emotional organ and melodica drones that slowly fade into tiny song-cycles played with dulcimers, zither, bowed banjo, etc..before a surprisingly pastoral acoustic guitar/banjo/lap-steel composition snaps into sharp relief before your brain could be wrested out of that all-encompassing organ drone. Molyneux's work has always taken a few listens for the full weight of it to sink in. Wings & Circles had me by the throat from the word drone.

Matthew Ryals - We Could Make The Ride Better for Everyone (Behind Glass, 2016)

Existing in that liminal space between club-certified 4-4 bangers and electronic-pop tracks that tend to keep their eyes glued to the pavement, Matthew Ryals has constructed a quintessential 2016 electronic record. A record that makes broadsweeping acknowledgement to the transcendence and escapism of dance music, but a record that is still very much in its feelings, a sense of dancing in a club with one eye on the news playing on the flatscreen. Sonically Ryals is able to create an album that hinges on precision, that mathematically sound yet wholly inherent talent that dictates when and where a snare hits, how long a fuzzed-out synth arpeggio should bubble up from the ether before snapping into a tight drum-machine control pattern highlighting the digital-mechanical line that is curving towards ultimate light. Recording completely sans-synths and utilizing only the soft synth package that comes with Pro Tools on his laptop, this Cleveland-based, classically trained classical guitar maestro has created a computer album that sounds impossibly tech-heavy, vintage-synths-only type operation . There are small melodies that have never left me since I've listened to this record. Recalling vintage Manitoba, Lymbyc Systym, Antartica and highly active ambience of Oval, We Could Make the Ride Better for Everyone is perfect for tfw you in your emotions and you gotta drive on the autobahn. 

Matthew Ryals is currently on tour supporting this record. Check dates here.

Scammers - Deathly Hollow (Self-Released, 2016)

Deathly Hollow is at once the easiest and most difficult album in Scammers' discography to describe. Yes, it is largely samples from Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack to the 7th installment of the Harry Potter films put to the service of a deft drum machine and Phil Diamond's landmark croon. Yes, the samples were totally, 100 % cleared so don't even ask or worry about just be cool ok. Sinking into Desplat's highly emotive film score, Diamond sneaks a question to the listener that hasn't been been so eloquently stated or existentially crushing since Foreigner asked it in 1984, "do you want to know what love is?" I do. I really do. I think I do. In an album that centers around death and endings, I've rarely come across a more visceral document of what love is. Hyper-contextual, yet widely accessible, lyrics that nest theme within themes that cut deep incisions into dark places that love brings us, cold canyons between sleeping spouses, dentists appointments, the bewildering infantilization of caring for parents that really fucking tried to raise us well, overwhelming fear and life-illuminating joy of being a father or mother. It doesn't take an immensely sensitive soul to experience these. My neighbor who just smashed his brother's windshield in with a cinderblock this afternoon probably knows more about the depths of love than I ever will. Diamond, however, is able to catch and hold these moments as they pass and then croon his fucking guts out about moments that in their starkness make us feel weird and naked. Or weird because we feel naked. Listen, Deathly Hollow is the album that Scammers would make if he were Leonard Cohen and had access to the London Philharmonic. But this world is a fucked-up mansion of debris, so be content with repurposed film franchise symphony swells on a self-financed, self-released cassette tape, because we can't have nice things and you want to know what love is, right? Are you sure? Scammers forever.

July 12th, 2016