Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lest no-wave be mistaken for a neat, tidy movement, Amplified: New Music Meets Rock, 1981-1986 (Orange Mountain) gathers 10 diverse tracks from live performances at The Kitchen, the art space that once reigned in New York's outer cultural reaches. A young Sonic Youth scrapes and screams through two songs before Swans come in to stomp them out with a roar. Other notables include guitar-mangler Rhys Chatham and turntable whiz Christian Marclay, but the highlights belong to Arthur Russell, whose murmured songs for voice and cello are as devastating and transcendent as any burst of noise. (See also: a new reissue of the 1993 Russell collection Another Thought, also on Philip Glass' Orange Mountain label)… B

The hypnotic tracks on Juana Molina's Son (Domino) sound less like songs than like logs of moments when tape just happened to be rolling in the studio. The Argentine singer's post-folk voice is thin, warm, and prone to wander—imagine a milky mix of Robert Wyatt and Gal Costa—and it fits snugly within delicate flecks of acoustic guitar. The match is so natural that accompanying spells of weird electronic processing find their quiet way into visions full of rustling morning leaves and tea sipped by a riverside… B+


Shearwater, from Austin, Texas, evokes washed-out swimming holes full of corroded batteries and bad dreams. The group's haunting Palo Santo (Misra) lopes around guitar, piano, banjo, and the voice of a singer who sounds unduly poised even when he's on the brink of losing it. Portentous atmospheres and patient pacing recall the ornate movements of late-period Talk Talk, but flashes of fuzz and brusque indie-rock urgency make the rarified moods bristlingly real. It's the kind of album that can steal a breath and pay it back, with interest, after the debt is long forgotten… A

Ever heard a piano riff in a petulant rush to find a song's end so as to steal a moment to refill its drink? That's what figures into the hot, hectic opener of Panama! Latin, Calypso And Funk On The Isthmus 1965-75 (Soundway). The 15 songs churn through seemingly opposing cycles of acoustic jazz and electrified funk, but the difference is hard to divine amid harmony-streaked horn blasts and those Cuban basslines that pick a compelling two-note story and stick to it. Representative song title just waiting to be stolen by a hip advertising agency: "Mambologica"… B+—

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