This week we have new stuff from Floating Points, Salem, Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason, Maria Minerva, Onra, Saint Savior and Teebs.
Onra - Chinoiseries 2 (2011)
The orignal Chinoiseries, released in 2007, was a great album of mostly samples of old Vietnamese music. Since Chinoiseries, Onra has diverged from that sound, which is even more apparent with the throwback r&b of 2010’s Long Distance. But here Onra revisits those old Vietnamese samples again with Chinoiseries 2, which basically sounds just like Chinoiseries except less exciting. Onra doesn’t really grow or branch out from the original Chinoiseries sound and it makes you wonder why he felt there needed to be a sequel anyway. Disappointing.
Listen: A New Dynasty
Saint Saviour - Suukei (2011)
London-based musician Saint Saviour describes her music as “Kate Bush meets Slinky Dog.” The Kate Bush influence is obvious by the very first track. Saint Saviour (real name Becky something), sings falsetto most of the time and has a sense of whimsy earthiness to her songs, much like Kate Bush. Oh, and if the Kate Bush influence still isn’t obvious to you, Saint Saviour closes the EP with a cover of Bush’s “Army Dreamers.” Suukei is great and shows promise, but she’s going to have to eventually stop riding Kate Bush’s coattails.
Listen: Here In Me
Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason - Solaris (2011)
I’m a huge Ben Frost fan. His past albums, 2010’s By The Throat and 2008’s Theory Of Machines, were my favorite albums of their respective years. Here, Ben Frost teams up with Icelandic musician Daniel Bjarnason, a guy I never heard of until now. At first I couldn’t hear Daniel’s influence, but after several listens it became apparent that he provides a strong orchestral element that is missing from most of Frost’s work. Other than that, Solaris can probably stand proudly alongside By The Throat as works of equal brilliance. But unfortunately Solaris does have one flaw — it’s kind of forgettable! It doesn’t grab you the way a Frost album usually does.
Listen: Simulacra II (“Simulacra I” is better, but that one ain’t on YouTube.)
Floating Points - Shadows (2011)
25-year-old DJ Sam Shepherd has shown a lot of range from the two EPs he released this year, this one and Follow You. Follow You was typical soul with vocalist Fatima dominating most of the tracks. Here, vocals are ditched in favor for these long, ominous tracks that are, conceptually, much more interesting.
Salem - I’m Still In The Night (2011)
Salem is one of those love ‘em/hate ‘em type bands. Their sound is weird/unique enough to keep people interested, but being unique doesn’t always translate to a good sound, and a lot of people thought 2010’s King Night sounded gimmicky (myself included). But surprisingly, I’m liking this EP, probably because there’s less rapping on it. There’s rapping on “Krawl” and that’s easily my least favorite track. But with minimal vocals, the trio are good at creating beautiful ambient/bedroom pop music.
Listen: I’m Still In The Night
Maria Minerva - Sacred & Profane Love (2011)
Cabarat Cixous was definitely the surprise release of the year for me. I didn’t think some second rate Nite Jewel with a breathier voice could make much of an impression on me, but I really really like that album. So I was surprised to see she was back already with an EP of four new songs. She’s been gradually distancing herself from the low-fi sound she debuted on, and Sacred And Profound Love is just straight up electro pop. Unfortunately it’s just not working for me. Cabaret Cixous was an infectious mix of low-fi tunes and fuzzy pop ballads. To have her approach pop straight on makes everything sound a lot more amateurish than it really is. So what you have here is what sounds like four demo songs for Cabaret Cixous. Disappointing.
Listen: A Love So Strong
Teebs - Collections 01 (2011)
I was actually thinking of leaving this one out this week because I just didn’t feel like writing about it. I mean, Collection 01 is good, but I think that’s the problem I have with Teebs. He makes interesting music but it doesn’t stick with you. The music is good but not compelling enough for me to even feel like reviewing it. And that’s all I have to say, unfortunately. It’s…good. Check it out.
Listen: Pretty Polly