Happy New Year Y’all!
Liturgy’s The Ark Work graced a number of year-end lists, topping both Rolling Stone‘s and Spin‘s Best Avant Records of 2015 lists. “The most ambitious art-rock statement of the year is an ecstatic jumble of disciplines, ideas and textures” (Rolling Stone) that “blurs boundaries between worlds that you wouldn’t have previously thought even shared a border” (Spin). The record also made Washington Post’s Best Music of 2015 (#8 – a “lavish sound-world out of guitar-generated turbulence, computer-generated brass and the muscle-generated rhythms of Greg Fox, one of the greatest drummers doing it”), Consequence of Sound’s Top Metal Albums (#13- “a transcendent achievement in that it is the audible equivalent of finally rising above all and reaching your final form”), Tiny Mix Tapes’ Favorite Music Releases (#48), and Spin’s Best Songs of 2015 (#77 for “Vitriol” – “out of black metal comes black gold”) . The Ark Work is unlike anything else out there – check out the centerpiece “Reign Array” below.
PC Worship dropped Basement Hysteria, the long-form EP follow-up to last year’s Social Rust, on Northern Spy in November. Justin once again wrote, recorded and arranged these songs with his band, and we mixed and mastered together at my place. It’s looser, freer, and rawer than Social Rust, but any long-time fan of the group will find much to enjoy here. Pitchfork gave it a 7.8, opining that “Here, rock’n’roll is a pirated vessel, steered unhurriedly toward doom.” Check out the EP in its entiriety below, or head over to Northern Spy to buy it on good, old-fashioned CD.
Parquet Courts also released a full-length EP recently, entitled Monastic Living, their first for Rough Trade. The recordings were from recent studio sessions and practice-space jams, edited and arranged by Austin Brown, and mixed and mastered by myself and Austin at Doctor Wu’s. This record’s a weird one – a mostly instrumental collage of the band stretching out into some new and uncharted territories. Reviews have been mixed across the board, but personally I love to see the band exploring different facets of their sound, and it’s got some of my favorite A. Savage cover art yet.
[Cease and Desist] DIY! (Cult Classics from the Post-Punk Era 1978-1982) – the compilation that was a target of Sony’s copyright lawyers – was released at the end of October on Optimo Music. Pitchfork wrote a comprehensive and complimentary review, rating it an 8.4. The whole thing is a must for fans of this era: the selection and sequencing by JD Twitch of Optimo is excellent and unique, and the liner notes and essay paint a vivid picture of the material on-hand. I’m thrilled to have been able to re-master and add “further audio love” to the compilation. Stream the sampler below and hang tight while they repress the record, or download the (slightly-edited) digital release if you simply can’t wait until then.
Dan Friel‘s record Life continues to charm critics, with a gushing 8/10 review from Spin (“astounding”, “impressive”, “a career highlight”), a 4.5/5 on Allmusic, and a 7.8 from Pitchfork. If you haven’t heard it already, what are you waiting for? Also, make sure to check out Dan’s sci-fi book club feature on Impose, and this video of his son and friends freaking out to the song “Rattler”.
Brooklyn rockers Junk Boys (featuring members of Organs, MPHO, and Yin-Yangs) recently released their self-titled album. We recorded an EP in early 2015, and returned to Seaside Lounge this past summer to record the full-length, which both expands and refines the sound of the band. Impose says the songs “rip through attitudinal, turbocharged power-chord riffage, with crude, impassioned soloing, and incensed vocal howls”, premiering the song “Arizona Nights” last month. Check out the album below or on their Bandcamp page, and go see them around NYC and try to score a tape.
Holly Overton – singer and song-writer of MPHO and Juniper Rising – released a solo EP in November. We worked together to record and arrange the songs – breezy synth pop that fans of MPHO will enjoy – and I mixed and mastered it last fall. Check out the video Holly made for the song “Midnight Sun”, and stream the EP below.
One of my favorite projects to work on this past year is the new Turn to Crime record Secondary. I’ve gotten to know Derek and the band over the past couple years and love the music he’s been creating, but this is the best one yet. Super catchy and utterly bizarre, it’s an album full of singles beamed in from an alternate reality where new wave, kraut-rock and glam still rule the airwaves. Derek wrote and recorded the album at his Molten Sound studio, I mixed it, and Sarah Register mastered it at the Mastering Palace. I can’t wait for people to hear this record!
Another highlight of last year was mixing and mastering the new Cloud Becomes Your Hand record Rest in Fleas. It’s a wild, proggy ride of a record – alternately goofy and threatening, often in the same breath – stuffed full of unison leads, odd time-signatures, crazy synth noises, bells, whistles, kitchen sinks and more… it’s fantastic! Northern Spy is putting it out this spring – stay tuned.
I also recently mixed the debut full-length of the band Gold Dime – the new project from Andrya Ambro of Talk Normal, backed by Adam from the Dreebs and Lazar of Sediment Club. The album – recorded by Andrya and Justin Frye – is a heavy, heady slice of densely-arranged no-wave. Sarah Register was her bandmate in Talk Normal, and she’s mastering it now – I can’t wait to hear it in its full glory.
Jordan Bernstein (the other constant in the Dreebs and often-bassist in PC Worship) has a new project called Jordonna: trap beats, prepared guitar, rapping and singing by Jordan, with additional vocals by Heidi Beth Jaye and Kassie from Guerilla Toss. I mixed and mastered it with Jordan over the summer and fall, finishing it at Doctor Wu’s. It’s a total curve-ball of a project, really cool stuff. I look forward to seeing them play this live around NYC this spring.
Honey Radar is a great band from Philly, mining the best gems from lo-fi rock’s history… a little GBV here, a little Olivia Tremor Control there… They’re prolific and always interesting – just try not to get absorbed into their Bandcamp page! Plus, my old friend Jason Henn plays drums and records the group’s material, so it was a great pleasure to master their new record Blank Cartoon. Take a moment to go listen to 2014’s full-length Chain Smoking on Easter or any of their 3 EPs from 2015 to prepare yourself – Blank Cartoon drops this spring on What’s Your Rupture.
I always enjoy working with old friends on new projects, and it was no exception mixing the documentary film Up This Hill by Paul Sobota. The film follows a group of inner-city youths from Cleveland as they travel to rural southern Kentucky to repair and restore homes, shifting from one type of poverty to another, and learning a lot about themselves in the process. It was great to work with Paul and Ben Kinsley (who recorded and edited the sound), and I hope to see this moving little film making the rounds soon.
I also mixed a couple series of ads for the new TiVo Bolt, directed by Robin Comisar for Ghost Robot. You may have seen one from ‘Interruptus’ or ‘The Date’ somewhere. Robin’s got a great eye, and these ads are utterly silly… hope you enjoy.
Lots of cool stuff is already happening this month. If you should find yourself in the Providence/Pawtucket area, come see the art installation by Christopher Duffy and Eaters at Machines with Magnets, opening January 15th through February 7th. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to write if you’d like to talk about sound.