Laibach, “Das Nachtlied I” (Mute). I didn’t anticipate liking a Laibach album so much in 2017, but here we are. The Slovenian deadpan humorists have returned with Also Sprach Zarathustra, an LP that reflects Nietzschean philosophies about the “eternal recurrence of the same,” the death of god, and the Übermensch in an aural oubliette that makes you think futility is the ultimate drug. When a band can conjure such bleakness with such power and with so few gestures, it’s seriously impressive. If you’re a sucker for guttural German vocals and chilling, dungeon-aura minimalism, “Das Nachtlied I” will be right up your dark alley. Abandoning all hope… kind of feels good.
Lost Horizons, “The Places We’ve Been” (Bella Union). What’s Cocteau Twins’ former bassist/keyboardist Simon Raymonde up to? Well, he has a new group called Lost Horizons with ex-Dif Juz/Jesus and Mary Chain drummer Richie Thomas, and Raymonde’s Bella Union label is going to release their debut album, Ojalá, November 3. This early warning, “The Places We’ve Been,” lacks Cocteau Twins’ overwhelming cascades of efflorescing guitars, concussive drumbeats, and Liz Fraser’s unparalleled vocal acrobatics. No, that was a once-in-a-century happenstance. What Lost Horizons offer instead, based on “The Places We’ve Been,” is a pleasant pastoral reverie in the vein of Dream Academy or the Sundays. Featuring the pastel vocals of Karen Peris, the song spangles and pirouettes with a leisurely spriteliness, but underneath Raymonde and Thomas work out some subtle dub patterns. I'm intrigued to hear the rest of Ojalá, which features guest vocals by Marissa Nadler, Sharon Von Etten, Liela Moss, Tim Smith, and others.
The Telescopes, “You Can’t Reach What You Hunger” (Tapete). The Telescopes were poised to be the next big thing in the late ’80s/early ’90s with their whiplashing, hard psychedelia, Creation Records deal, and penchant for soaring Beach Boys covers (check out “Never Learn Not to Love,” which could’ve made Charles Manson’s head explode with bliss, if he’d ever heard it). Alas, stardom never came for the Telescopes, but Stephen Lawrie, Bridget Hayden and company have persisted for nearly three decades, and nowadays are a much darker proposition, as new album As Light Return proves in spades. “You Can’t Reach What You Hunger” is actually the most “pop” thing on the record, and it’s still dank af. Imagine the Stooges circa “We Will Fall” trying to write a shoegaze song—or early Jesus and Mary Chain on strong sedatives. Yeah, this is murky, burrowing stuff, but it induces a seductive glumness that makes you work hard for its surreptitious euphoria. And that’s rewarding.
Sarah Angliss, “Camberwell Beauty” (self-released via Bandcamp). Deep gratitude to The Wire magazine for turning me on to Sarah Angliss this year. Her revelatory Ealing Feeder album somehow doesn’t have a label, but no matter. It’s a phenomenal collection of Wicker Man-like folk eccentricity, evocative field recordings, and bricolages of forlorn, bucolic beauty. In other words, fans of the Ghost Box label should take note. “Camberwell Beauty” exists in a preternatural state of eerie calm and alluring mystery. It sounds like a rare artifact from a distant, much less toxic time, yet here it is on a shiny new Bandcamp page. Miracles still happen.
Kylmyys, “The Haps” (Kylmyys Media). Over the last 20-plus years, hundreds of electronic musicians have been trying to emulate the smudged funk and hauntingly gorgeous melodic magic of Boards of Canada. Few have matched the Scottish duo’s faded-photo beatitudes—maybe Casino Vs. Japan, Freescha, and somebody else currently eluding my memory? But Seattle twosome Kylmyys (Brian Kidd and Jason Chamberlain) have made a valiant attempt to ease on into BOC’s sublime downtempo territory with a series of releases that deserve wider attention, including the new full-length Dusk. “The Haps” is the album’s peak, riding crisp, head-nodding beats, delicate xylophone sparkles, and a serene, cyclical guitar figure into a sundown-shiver vanishing point. As satisfying as a deep, drawn-out sigh.
Noteworthy July 7 album releases: Jay-Z, 4:44 (Roc Nation); Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder (Arts & Crafts); Haim, Something to Tell You (Columbia); Toro Y Moi, Boo Boo (Carpark); The Telescopes, As Light Return (Tapete); The Melvins, A Walk with Love & Death (Ipecac); Chris Bell, Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star (Omnivore/Rykodisc); Violent Femmes, 2 Mics & the Truth (PIAS); Prins Thomas/Bjørn Torske, Square One (Smalltown Supersound);