Tag Archives: 4ad

#398 St. Vincent – Dilettante

I can’t wait to listen to Love This Giant, the album-length collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent which will be out sometime next month. The band’s third album Strange Mercy (2011), a collection of kaleidoscopic art-damaged songs, is still on heavy rotation of course, and last weekend’s Summer Sonic 2012 festival in Japan provided us with the chance to get acquainted with the evolving music and lead singer Annie Clark’s intense stage performances. The mannered chamber pop of her debut Marry Me (2007) is a distant memory, ceding to wiry musical catharsis, manic guitar soloing and a choice post-punk cover (The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil”). The studied subversion of “Dilettante” works particularly well in this context, the singer teasing out every twisted nerve and casual vacancy in the song like a sustained illusion: “I got no patience for an estrangement, anyway”. – Keith.

mp3: St. Vincent – Dilettante

Strange Mercy is available on 4AD. You can also pre-order David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant here.


#362 Zomby – Basquiat

It’s hard not to listen to London producer Zomby in the context of the long wait for Burial‘s next (dub)step. The two seem to work best in elusive anonymity, and more significantly, both share an uncanny penchant and deft touch for creating electronic music in mournful and evocative tones. Yet, while Burial’s album work – Burial (2006) and Untrue (2007) – relies heavily on hauntingly intimate vocal samples, Zomby’s palette on his 4AD debut Dedication (2011) is broader and more scattered. That’s where the comparison gets a little unfair, since Zomby’s work seems more decidedly a work in progress in contrast to Burial, who always sounds like the finished product.

But if we take Zomby on his own terms, the moments on Dedication are absolutely stellar, each showing promise of a multitude of different possibilities, ranging from the energetic shuffles of “Natalia’s Song” to the dark minimalism of “Riding with Death” and the delightfully playful bleep parades of “Digital Rain” and “Mozaik”. And in the midst of all that, another surprise is found in the form of “Things Fall Apart”, featuring the familiar nostaligic chants of Panda Bear – the only track to feature vocals. Approaching the end of this concise album, though, we find Zomby settling into a more introspective element distilled into its purest form in “Basquiat”, a moving piano piece underscored by a breathlessly enveloping layer of strings, echoing in parts the nocturnal loneliness of Burial and who knows, maybe his own. – Dan.

mp3: Zomby – Basquiat

Dedication is out now on 4AD.

#353 Tune-Yards – Powa

Undoubtedly, the focal point in the music of Tune-Yards is Merril Garbus’ voice. Intense and disciplined, it channels an immense depth of emotion and state of being, expressed across a staggering hybrid of reggae, soul, jazz and folk influences. But it’s not the only thing worth listening to on Tune-Yards’ recent second album. Without sounding congested, w h o k i l l delights in musical complexity and rewards handsomely for each closer listen. On the standout slow-jam “Powa”, Garbus’ self-assured vocals prove unshakable, whether she’s cooing softly at the start, growling in increasing tension with each chorus, or breaking out into an impossible falsetto near the end. Yet it’s not difficult noticing the other layers that make the song what it is – the forceful ukelele strums, the angelic harmonies and evilish riffs, the luxurious reverb, and that wandering bassline that gratefully laps up anything in between. Its power inside, it rocks you like a lullaby. – Dan.

mp3: Tune-Yards – Powa

w h o k i l l is out now on 4AD.

#304 deerhunter – coronado

i usually prefer to listen to a record at least a few times over, just to let it sink in before i form an opinion. yet, on this evening which marks my first proper listen to deerhunter’s newly released halcyon digest, my resistance to hasty judgment gradually wore thin as song after song compelled me to work out a response, no matter how premature or fleeting or how wrong i could possibly turn out to be.

such is the disarming effect of halcyon digest. i thought i held my critical stance pretty well, but if i have to locate that moment i finally caved in, it has to be “coronado”. the deerhunter sound has always been a work in progress, a distillation of the post-shoegaze breakthrough they accomplished through cryptograms. but in “coronado”, as in so many other moments in halcyon digest, the ideas are given the time and space to crystallize, resulting in a clarity of purpose quite unparalleled in the band’s already-prolific discography.

come on now, don’t leave me hanging“, pleads bradford cox at the start of the song’s second stanza, not long before we’re treated to a recurrent saxophone that’s never sounded better since mercury rev’s see you on the other side some 15 years ago. it works not just because it’s so well thought through, but more importantly because the band knows when to stop tinkering to keep things fresh. in a similar vein, i wish i could say more about the rest of the album, but that’s as much as i’d indulge myself after one (immensely enjoyable) listen. – dan.

mp3: deerhunter – coronado

halcyon digest is out now on 4ad.

#287 tindersticks – black smoke

Falling Down A Mountain, the eighth album by soundtrack specialist Tindersticks, kicks off with such a resounding piece of plangent lounge jazz that must whet the appetite of longtime fans, a rekindling of the wonderfully sophisticated pop sensibility that served them so well for two decades. This veteran British band, now regrouped with new members, have had a long and fruitful working relationship with French auteur Claire Denis – one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers and I’m really dying to catch her two most recent works 35 Shots Of Rum and White Material, hopefully in the theatres someday soon in Singapore – and it was acknowledged that the process of scoring these two films may have something to do with their newfound “sense of direction”. While it’s nowhere near as powerful as the second Tindersticks album (1995) or Curtains (1997), Falling Down A Mountain delves into a range of moodily baroque musical elements with a real sense of cohesion. On the album, “Black Smoke” bursts into strummy life with a touch of wistfulness, Stuart Staples’ blighted croon sounding smooth as ever and yet richly conflicted, even if that the song’s untapped reservoir of emotions is about as obsessively mundane as a masquerade of city dwellers thinning into the lonely evening. – keith.

mp3: tindersticks – black smoke

Falling Down A Mountain is out on 4AD and Constellation.

#182 camera obscura – french navy


in my opinion, camera obscura has always been a quietly confident band. on their newly released my maudlin career, however, that confidence has grown to assume a bolder and more extroverted character with a sound that’s more expansive and a delivery firm and entirely at ease with itself. nothing exemplifies this better than album opener “french navy”, a stomper bursting with energy and finesse. last year, the band gave the singaporean audience a glimpse of that as they previewed the song during their gig here, although as i noted before, they did seem rather dwarfed by the large, imposing venue. today, listening to “french navy” as it appears on the album gives me renewed hope of the greater heights the band can reach, and as evident in the song’s flourishing strings and smashing beats, it’s something they’re totally in control over.

mp3: camera obscura – french navy

my maudlin career is out now on 4ad!

albums of 2008 – for emma, forever ago


bon iver – for emma, forever ago (4ad/jagjaguwar)

rarely does an album capture so clearly and completely the atmosphere it was recorded and set in. in the same way how you can actually hear the freezing cold studio where joy division recorded unknown pleasures, bon iver‘s for emma, forever ago sounds exactly like the wintertime isolated cabin in wisconsin where justin vernon holed himself in to write and record this album. while vernon’s voice harmonizes perfectly with the sparse instrumentation of his music, what strikes me most are the perfectly timed silences that fill in all the nuances vernon leaves open. this gives the album a reassuring calm over much of the content, mostly characterized by the catharsis of songs like “skinny love” and “the wolves”, something that vernon makes clear only at the end in “re: stacks”: this is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization/ it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away/ your love will be/ safe with me. it’s fitting that even these words are overtaken finally by a final period of silence, which if you listen closely enough, is really of him leaving the room and finally hanging up the phone.

mp3: bon iver – re: stacks