do with five—and this is only an EP. We are not men, No Spill Blood says. We are beasts, and you—you are street meat. –Benjamin van Loon
classic American millennial. “Go Dancing” tells a story similar to Miranda July’s The Future: a young couple feels old and unhappy, and Serengeti’s hopeful refrain, “we’ll go dancing; believe me this time,” is unconvincing.
Comets on Fire—which remains on hiatus—the new Six Organs of Admittance is a force of raging psychedelia. And by winding down with the slow-jam beauty of “Visions (From Io),” Ascent leaves the listener ready to repeat the journey. –David Metcalfe
Ty Segall: Twins (Drag City) On last year’s Goodbye Bread, garage-rock singer-songwriter Ty Segall displayed a newfound sense of maturity—most notably on “Comfortable Home (A True Story),” in which he announced the rather adult decision to invest in some real estate. Now the San Francisco wunderkind prematurely grapples with his own mortality on his newest solo release. “Took 22 years to die / 22 years to lose to my mind,” he laments amid the grinding guitars of “Ghost,” imagining himself as a specter who haunts the California coast. It’s heavy stuff—musically and lyrically—especially from a guy who used to sing about girlfriends and Coca-Cola. These morbid sentiments don’t pervade the entirety of Twins, the rest of which casts Segall as a young lover awash in Beatles-indebted melodies filtered through thick, grimy distortions a là Big Business or Lightning Bolt. And he hasn’t entirely abandoned lean, fist-pumping rockers like “You’re the Doctor,” but either way, Segall truly shines when he embraces his gifts as a singer-songwriter. Paired with a female vocalist on the John Lennon-esque “The Hill” or harmonizing atop the gentle acoustic strum of “Gold on the Shore,” his songcraft is as adept as ever, even when it’s not blowing out speakers. A fitting finale to his trifecta of releases this year, Twins finds Segall not so much settling down as settling in. –Zach Long
Serengeti: C.A.R. (Anticon) “CAR.” What is that exactly? Chicago MC Serengeti makes a case that it’s all about a funk-fueled vibe under enough scratching to require a daily supply of new vinyl. With the help of Anticon producers Jel and Odd Nosdam, Serengeti (born in Chicago as David Cohn) has released the latest in his double-digit hip-hop discography. Though there’s a “classic” feel to the programmed beats and horn blips, CAR is also classic Serengeti, full of self-deprecation, disappointment, and worry, which is definitely
Known for unordinary instrumentation (at a recent hometown show, the MC rapped over a cello and melodica), Serengeti blends styles across CAR, with tracks built on samples that range from buzzy, machinistic loops to acoustic guitar. The latter sneaks onto the album in the last track for a surprising finale. “Uncle Traum” is innocuous, good for a vista or two, but if a listener picks up the pieces of the rapper’s quiet one-liners, a tragic tale unfolds. This is the surprising power of Serengeti’s style. Without bravado, rap can seem empty, but the MC’s monotone delivery and love of the mundane has a way of sneaking up on a listener and has a poetry all its own. –Timothy A. Schuler
Six Organs of Admittance: Ascent (Drag City) An undulating, tripped-out space opera, Ascent is the latest from guitarist Ben Chasny’s psych-folk project Six Organs of Admittance—here joined for an electric, full-band lineup by his Comets on Fire bandmates. From the start, Chasny’s guitar comes alive with candescent color, invoking the avant psych-geist without pastiche. Rolling lines of finger play provide atmospheric breaks, and reflective pieces like “Your Ghost” prove that, despite the special guests, his softer sensibilities are undamaged. But make no mistake: the main focus here is the roar and reason of electric guitar. Anchored in rock beats, the album moves hypnotic melodies into cascading crescendos, with Chasny’s voice closing the circle; his fragile, sardonic delivery provides a path through the shifting soundscape. “Waswasa” opens the album with a raw energy that quickly redirects to sway—from swagger into roaring, abstract planes of amped-up guitar on “Close to the Sky.” “They Called You Near” then takes the listener on a tour de trance, from drone to rhythmic repetition.
Tin Hat: The Rain is a Handsome Animal (New Amsterdam) Originally known as Tin Hat Trio, the San Francisco-based chamber-folk collective Tin Hat is back with its first studio album since 2007. Following the live Foreign Legion from 2010, The Rain is a Handsome Animal is another new adventure—a 17-song exploration of the modernist work of EE Cummings, with each member offering his or her own interpretation. In recent years, clarinetist Ben Goldberg has played a pronounced role in the group’s sound, and here his nimble melodies find the right balance of restraint and action. Long-time Tin Hat fans, however, will be delighted to hear an expanded vocal role of violinist Carla Kihlstedt. Though she has sung on previous albums, this is the first that places Kihlstedt’s breathy croon at the fore—no longer making room for contributions from vocal legends such as Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, and Mike Patton. Anyone expecting Cummings’s words to translate directly into the songs—a là Rufus Wainwright with Shakespeare’s sonnets—will be mistaken. The jazzy “So Shy Shy Shy” is a direct recitation of the poem, but Kihlstedt’s voice dances around like Cummings’ words do on the page, a melodic interpretation of the poet’s own reading. Other songs are less direct in the musicians’ approach to his work. “Grapefruit” is entirely instrumental, featuring Rob Reich’s somber accordion later accompanied by a weeping violin, aimed more at capturing a certain quality of Cummings’s poems rather than any particular work. –Meaghann Korbel
Six Organs last utilized this lineup when touring in 2002 for the release of Dark Noontide. A reconfigured version of “A Thousand Birds,” now “One Thousand Birds,” acts as a bridge between now and then. The song’s transformation, however, is a pristine rebirth, and without the lyrical hooks, it would be difficult to recognize the two as the same piece. Much like
Published on Sep 21, 2012