Clockwise from L: Dirty Projectors (Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg), Lotic (Photo: Matt Lambert), and Deafheafen (Photo: Corinne Shiavone)

Dirty Projectors’ Lamp Lit Prose calls to mind the band’s late-’00s peak, while Deafheaven reach higher on album No. 4, and Lotic softens their approach on debut Power. These, plus Pram’s first album in 11 years in this week’s notable new releases.


Lotic, Power

[Tri Angle]
Grade: A-

Lotic’s debut full-length, Power, comprises many of the same whirring spikes of anxious electronic sound that blast through 2015’s Agitations and Heterocetera EPs. But rather than aim darts at the listener, Lotic (who uses they/them pronouns) offers a path through the barbs, leading the audience right back to themselves. Gaps narrow along the way: between art music and sex jams, between masculinity and femininity, between Lotic’s birthplace of Houston and their adopted home of Berlin. True to form, the stuttering “Heart” occasionally sounds like “25 Lighters” taken on a spin through Berghain, while throughout the album the rhythmic principles of marching-band drum lines are re-skinned in glowing concrete textures. Everywhere, analog instruments accelerate at such incredible speeds that their tones seem at once both fully physical and fully digital; they’re undeniably both of these things and yet it’s impossible to hear them as anything but a unified whole.

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RIYL: Arca. Björk. Oneohtrix Point Never. Halftime of the Bayou Classic.

Start here: Opener “Love And Light” aims for the majesty of Takk…–era Sigur Rós, but Power reaches its thematic crescendo with “Fragility,” where Lotic holds a menacing wall of dissonance at bay with a haltingly delicate organ line. [Marty Sartini Garner]


Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

[Anti-]
Grade: B+

Whatever self-doubt Deafheaven has ever nursed about its divisively upbeat sound has apparently evaporated under the beaming West Coast sun. Black-metal purists be damned, these California genre tinkerers have retreated from the relative darkness of 2015’s New Bermuda and sprinted back into the blinding light of their earlier breakthrough, Sunbather. If anything, the band’s fourth LP doubles down on the unconventional euphoria: Besides the usual bright shimmer of shoegaze guitar, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love indulges in passages of Smashing Pumpkins-esque atmosphere, cheery ’90s-style solos, and a ballad—the moody, uncharacteristically brief “Night People”—that could have come from an Arcade Fire record. One needn’t agree with the “die hipster” crowd to feel occasionally drained by the all-grandeur-all-the-time approach—the way almost every song here seems to operate in a constant state of crescendo. But only the most stubborn traditionalist could deny how close Deafheaven often gets to the higher plane of its name.

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RIYL: Summer drives along the coast with the windows down, the breeze in your hair, and the temperature just right. Oh, and blast beats.

Start here: Beginning with a warm flood of instrumentation that recalls the outro to “Layla,” the skyscraping “Canary Yellow” may be the band’s most beautiful, transporting anthem since “Dream House.” [A.A. Dowd]


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Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose

[Domino Recording Co.]
Grade: B+

Lamp Lit Prose is the raucous wake that follows Dirty Projectors’ self-titled funeral. Several of its tracks—“Break-Thru,” “I Found It In U,” “You’re The One”—are tinted by the blush of new love, a 180 from Dirty Projectors’ chopped-and-screwed breakup blues and toward the polyrhythms and world-music influences of the project’s late-’00s peak. It’s strange to hear new Dirty Projectors songs that sound like old Dirty Projectors songs, but it’s also great to get some signal-scrambling guitar solos from bandleader David Longstreth, or the “Temecula Sunrise” tension-and-release of “Zombie Conqueror.” Dirty Projectors felt like an ending, but Lamp Lit Prose suggests several new beginnings and an army of collaborators looking to help Longstreth find inspiration and passion among the ashes. That’s especially true in quieter moments like the tootling psychedelia of “Blue Bird” and the smoldering Badalamenti-isms of the closing track whose title sums up the album’s emotional content: “(I Wanna) Feel It All.”

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RIYL: 2009. A public crisis of relevance that became a fruitful collaboration. Charmingly sincere lyrics with inadvisably sincere allusions (“Just hanging out all Julian Casablancas”).

Start here: “That’s A Lifestyle” is a chirpy protest song that breaks from the album’s primary themes, gets at its desire to shred, and repays the harmonic debts the Haim sisters owe “Stillness Is The Move.” [Erik Adams]


Pram, Across The Meridian

[Domino Recording Co.]
Grade: B-

Compared to its onetime labelmate (and closest analog) Stereolab, Pram’s supernatural pop was always one click further toward completely bewildering—less Space Age Bachelor Pad Music than full-on extraterrestrial, the band bending Faust-ian krautrock, Raincoats warble, and film-noir jazz to its determined and whimsical will. The group’s first album in 11 years is also its first without vocalist Rosie Cuckston, and with her goes a lot that once made Pram so impenetrable (to some). Across The Meridian is, naturally, largely instrumental, a free-flowing, expertly sorted collage of ’60s filmstrip jazz and psychedelic library music that folds in airy snatches of founding member Sam Owen’s voice, far gentler than Cuckston’s eldritch deadpan, within woozy brass and keening theremin. It makes for a generally more approachable version of Pram’s eclectic electronic cabaret—one that would make a fine soundtrack to a fever-dream matinee of B-movie sci-fi and gumshoe thrillers. Although, that also means that, more so than Pram’s previous work, it often slips innocuously into the background.

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RIYL: Stereolab. Moonshake. Laika. Broadcast. Joe Meek. BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Any kind of music that comes with an “avant-” prefix.

Start here: Opener “Shimmer And Disappear” is as good an entry point as any, a spooky, slightly kitschy swirl of dramatic trombone whomps and eerie synths over a bright, jazzy backbeat. [Sean O’Neal]


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