Porter Ray, “Russian Roulette” (Sub Pop). Cloud rap? Porter Ray's "Russian Roulette"—which was recorded during the sessions that produced his Sub Pop debut full-length, Watercolor, but didn't appear on it—is somehow even more ethereal than that. Backed by what sounds like cascades of heavenly synths from Steve Hillage's Rainbow Dome Musick, clipped clapper beats, and subtle bass pressure, Seattle's slickest MC flaunts his low-fat-buttery, laid-back flow that always makes me think of Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt cruising across the finish line in second gear, still beating the field by a comfortable margin. Former THEESatisfaction singer/rapper Stas Thee Boss sensuously murmurs the hook and adds some ODB-esque "Ooh, baby, I like it raw"s to Ray's poetic litany of lust/love for a woman who gives the rapper "hips hypnosis," as he watches "her floss her components," and then rhapsodizes, "face angelic, convo was eclectic." "Russian Roulette" is easily as strong as anything on Watercolor, and it makes one wonder how many other stray Ray gems exist.
Thurston Moore, "Cease Fire" (thurstonmoore.com). Sure, this song may contain familiar Sonic Youth moves (think their early-'90s-era, nonchalant, slash-and-burn rock, plus an intro that's pure Rhys Chatham circa Die Donnergötter), but "Cease Fire" sure pushes those mellow, post-No Wave buttons with authority. This incisive non-LP cut can hold its own with anything on Goo or even (whisper it) the overrated Daydream Nation. Moore describes the song: "The song is also about the power of love, in all its freedom of choice. A power that no gun can extinguish as love will rule always. Melt down your guns and kiss your neighbor.” (Thurston Moore Group play Neumos May 9.)
Laurel Halo, "Jelly" (Hyperdub). Laurel Halo is one of many women artists today (Holly Herndon, Maria Minerva, Fatima Al Qadri, etc.) who are artfully twisting electronic pop into fascinating convolutions. "Jelly"—off her new album, Dust (out June 23)—is a translucent turquoise Cubist sculpture of a song, abounding with intriguing percussive timbres, snappy counter-rhythms, and gorgeous vocal arrangements that elongate melodies into disorienting vortices. "Jelly" is tropical and alien in a way you rarely hear.
Demen, “Niorum” (Kranky). Swedish newcomer Demen is some kind of platonic ideal for the stark, Scandinavian diva of fathomless brooding. The vocalist/producer's Kranky Records debut album, Nektyr (out May 19), dwells in a frigid shadowland of slate-gray synth washes, tinted midnight blue by Demen's hushed, morose vocals. Imagine Jarboe in a direly subdued mood, a 21st-century Marble Index-era Nico with more range, or Cocteau Twins on a fistful of chill pills. Yeah. It's easy to slip into melodrama in this mode, but Demen exerts a remarkable poise—epitomized on stately lead track "Niorum"—throughout her first LP. Such beautiful dejection... I'm North Pole-axed.
Autocreation, "Justice Loop" (Medical). Another crucial Medical Records vinyl reissue, Autocreation's Mettle. is a deeply psychedelic techno/ambient opus originally released on CD via the Orb's Inter-Modo label by ex-Seefeel member Mark Van Hoen (aka Locust), Tara Patterson, and Kevin Hector in 1992. One highlight of many is "Justice Loop," which sounds like minimal techno you might hear in a rain forest while on Ambien (one can dream). It induces an oneiric hypnosis while chugging with utmost efficiency to the vanishing point. (Mettle. drops April 22, which is Record Store Day, aptly enough.)