Top 4 Pleasantly Surprising Sonic Artifacts
1. Animal Collective feat. Vashti Bunyan - Prospect Hummer EP [Fat Cat]
Before you get your hearts a-flutter, realize this: it's only fifteen minutes long. I listen to it every morning while I make breakfast. Contemplative. Makes you feel like you're swimming in luminous pools of sound when you wake up each day. I'm pretty sure that some of those achingly gorgeous ripples of sound-color come from an autoharp, too, so chalk one up to the Collective (Collectivists?) for rehabilitating that grade-school standard with panache. I have no problem with near-forgotten ethereal Brit-folkie Vashti Bunyan being held up as this deity of America's weird-music movement, either; if I had my way she would be singing on everybody's recordings (and this means you too, Wolf Eyes.)
Comes with gorgeous Mondrian-thru-a-drippy-watercolor-filter cover art too.
2. Spire: Organ Works Past, Present, and Future double CD [Touch]
Fucking awesome! Sometime last year I sat through five hours of a nine-hour marathon performance of Olivier Messiaen's complete works for church organ. At least four or five times during the performance, I literally thought I could feel the wrath of an all-powerful being flowing through the pews (I'm not Christian, even!) I get the same rush out of this that I occasionally do when I'm made to listen to hypermelodic, overwrought black metal from far off, icy places like Norway, or Transylvania. Totally rips when it's in high gear. The stuff on this by Wire pretty-boy Fennesz is the weakest stuff on here; stick around instead for Recchion, Jeck, Z'ev.
3. Ariel Pink and the Haunted Graffiti - Worn Copy
I'm torn between wondering if this dude's a genius or a total sham, but that's part of his shtick, isn't it? I like falling asleep to this one; I always get strange dreams about the one time I road-tripped (heh heh) across the USA. I don't recommend seeing Mr. Pink's live gig if he's with a full band; when I saw him at Tonic last year they practically fell apart onstage, with this terrible in-jokey persona, like Ween or something. Listening to his tinny home-recorded tapes in yr bedroom is the best way to get with the Ariel Pink experience I think.
4. Aphex Twin - Analord 3 [Rephlex]
I'd given up on this guy, pretty much. There was a time years ago, I admit, when I bought into Mr. Richard D. James and his mythos wholesale--but this was back when his music (and his mythos) was way more intriguing than it is now. When I saw the ridiculous Analord packaging (10 vinyl-only releases; the first one costs $70--that's right, seventy bucks!--for a chintzy-looking tan-colored vinyl binder keepsake that reminds me of those Time-Life subscription sets from the '80s or something) my bullshit-radar went off. But it's not freaky or ludicrously huge enough of a fetish object to hold a candle to the 50-CD leather-upholstered Merzbox, and the music in it isn't forward-thinking or compelling enough (or pulse-poundingly extreme enough, in Merzbow's case) to make me want to care. Yeah, so he uses analog synths only, apparently! That's cool I guess, and some of the dense, thick webs of skin-crawling sounds he spins are pretty beautiful. So I like this one, side 2 better than side 1. But I've been listening to so much minimal electronic music over the past few years that does so much with so little that this, for the most part, sounds like it's doing too little with too much.
Special bonus entry:
5. I shit you not, the new issue of Rolling Stone (with Hunter S. Thompson on the cover.)
RS is dead to me, usually. This marks the first time I've bought an issue of that magazine off the stands in three years at least. I expected the weepy 3000-word tribute by Jann Wenner ("We were brothers in arms!" etc etc.), but I didn't expect such a content-rich, heartrending spread besides. The Douglas Brinkley piece is flat-out amazing, and I had no idea Johnny Depp was such a great writer! I laughed, I cried, &c. Wow.