Laura Veirs – The Lookout

For all our literary devotion to sunlit afternoons and dark nights of the soul, real life rarely works in such easy contrasts. Our gold medal moments are flecked with sadness, swollen in purples and blues under the skin, and we scold ourselves for allowing the compromise: this should be the job, the house, the lover, the moment. “How can a child of the sun seem so cold?” Laura Veirs asks on her tenth album The Lookout, and though the line appears only once in allusion to the Colorado native’s childhood memories, it is the question that permeates the entire record.

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“I’m always a little surprised when we make a new record”: DiS Meets Yo La Tengo

 

Drums are fading in. In film soundtracks, the immediate crash of cymbals is never cause for concern, but an arrival of known quantities; the singularity has passed, the explosions are here, chaos reigns. It’s the fade that unsettles, that sweeping sense that war is on the horizon. Yo La Tengo have just made a record called There’s A Riot Going On, and by the time opening number ‘You Are Here’ has swung into full view – by the time the record begins to show its hand – you realise this is, in fact, the most relentlessly serene the band have sounded since Summer Sun. The riot is elsewhere.

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Into The Shadows: DiS Meets Fabrizio Cammarata

 

The first thing you notice are the houses floating in the sky. Flashes of light rise up from the water, one after another, each one an impossible feat of geometry and space that rents the physical world asunder, unclear whether it should belong to the ocean or the stars. As the bus moves further into the city and your eyesight adjusts to unseen horizons, realisation dawns: the creases above the light do not cleave the sky from the clouds, but the mountains from the sky. In England, certainly, seaside towns are not usually distracted by mountains. If this sounds familiar, perhaps you have also seen Palermo for the first time on a late evening bus journey.

As I depart the bus and find my suitcase, a man is already stood waiting for me. Even by Sicilian standards, Fabrizio Cammarata is absurdly handsome, and although he confesses to several stories of having his heart broken across the weekend to follow, one suspects it has worked both ways. In Palermo, the eyes begin to adjust to beauty as they would to the dark; by the time we’ve reached the renovated 19th Century palace that I’d be calling home for the next two days, I fear that the slightly fancier Wetherspoons pubs of Exeter and Sheffield may no longer hold the same majesty.

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Jim Ghedi – A Hymn for Ancient Land

There are records that sing of the land, and those that wear traces of its soil beneath its author’s fingertips. Nature is a coarse thing, roughly marked by men and women who have known the abrasion of bark and nettle, skinned knees and chapped lips, seasons marked by sloe berries and the quick snap of frost. “In north-east Derbyshire,” Jim Ghedi begins at last, “I have worked my years.” Five songs in, they’re the first words spoken on A Hymn for Ancient Land, and the preceding tracks immediately feel less like instrumentals and more like their own wordless storytelling, the landscape rendered in strings and bows before anything as brittle as language is permitted to enter the fray.

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N.E.R.D – NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES

Regardless of whether anyone needed to hear this record, certainly no one needed to make it. It was famously documented in 2003 that, at one point, 43 percent of songs on U.S. radio (and 20 percent in the UK) were Neptunes-produced; the team of Pharrell Williams and Hugo Chavez were having to stagger releases, essentially to stop all their own songs competing against each other in the charts. With a hit-making machine already in place, the addition of Shae Haley to establish N.E.R.D. allowed Pharrell a playground for his more audacious off-cuts. On NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES, their first output since 2010’s wildly inessential Nothing, the trio’s meandering avant-rap is somehow more encumbered by its lack of ideas than its lack of editorial savvy.

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DrunkenWerewolf Albums of 2017: Deputy Editor’s Pick

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it – as writers, it is our job to stretch cogent narratives across increasingly cracked and disparate landscapes – but my top ten feels subdued this year. For the most part, these are albums defined by their restorative properties, where global anxieties are conveyed through sighs and whispers rather than shouts. It won’t stay that way for long.

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Ghosts of Urban Decay: DiS Meets Andrew Wasylyk

 

I think it’s a cloudy day in Hawkhill, though it’s hard to tell. A slow, hazy brightness envelops the landscape. In the middle distance there stands a grey stone building, roof long since gutted, an old tree looming over its derelict frame in defiance. Everything here is charcoal-grey and silent. I’ve never been to this place. But I’m staring at Joseph McKenzie’s black and white photograph of the area, taken from his 1966 collection Dundee – A City In Transition, and I can hear a piano arpeggio charting its course around the edges of the frame.

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Gregg Kowalsky – L’Orange, L’Orange

Like magical realism, the key signifiers of ambience are invariably opaque: as a genre, it thrives on ambiguity, haze, distortion, the ‘undecidable’, the inversion of assumed values. Light, where permitted, may only be dusky or twilit, carved out in anaemic shards of an otherwise pitch-black or cobalt totality. It may not be bright or, heaven forbid, sunny. It should not conjure Miami or California. Beyond all else, the ambient record denotes the absence of certainty, a precious world outside our own built from spiderwebs and choral loops. With L’Orange, L’OrangeGregg Kowalsky compromises all our prose about misty forests and abandoned skyscrapers. It is incandescent.

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Cults – Offering

By the time the Manhattan duo had released their debut album, the continued existence of Cults already felt like a survival fight. While breakout hit and 2011 ubiquity “Go Outside” gambolled through its four minutes with the insouciant, no-fucks breeziness of its contemporaries (Sleigh Bells‘ “Rill Rill”, Chairlift‘s “Bruises”), it also revealed glimpses of a heaviness that no glockenspiel could carry. Above all, they faced the dread fate of creating a cute hit: moving on from it. Now on their third album, Offering finds the band exploring the scope of their natural ballast with some of their darkest songs to date, while simultaneously sounding freer than ever; no longer one-hit wonders, theirs proves to be a robust kind of levity.

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