Category Archives: Essential Albums

Looking back on albums that need to be remembered

William Basinski and Lawrence English – Selva Oscura: An Album for Autumn Exploration

Written By: Joshua Reedy

There is something about the works of both William Basinski and Lawrence English that incites a lust for exploration. Basinski and English are both massive figureheads in the ambient/avant-garde music genre, neither of which are strangers to collaboration. Basinski is likely most recognized for his sprawling multi-faceted Disintegration Loops which, in a nine lp box set, runs for over 600 dollars on Discogs. Basinski has a wealth of other emotionally and mentally stimulating albums such as Melancholia, released in 2003. Lawrence English is an Australian ambient artist known best for his 2009 album A Colour for Autumn. English has worked with various artists including Fennesz, Grouper and even Xiu Xiu. English is responsible for the experimental music label Room 40, which houses various artists including some Tim Hecker releases. Basinski and English have come together to create Selva Oscura, released on October 12th, 2018.

“Selva Oscura” translates roughly to “Twilight Forest”; the album is perfect for any hiking through the woods this fall. The first collaboration between these two feels like an exploration into hollow and decaying spaces in nature: a marriage between cold man-made stone structures and the golden-brown descent of autumnal changes. The album combines sounds of isolating drones with pulses of life interspersed throughout. “Selva Oscura 1.2” feels as if you are traversing through a tunnel deep within the woods. Rhythmic Industrial clanking and movement pierces “Selva Oscura 1.2”, portraying imagery of rusted and abandoned machinery found lingering in a hidden place. Quiet signs of life shimmer through the drone on both “Selva Oscura 1.2” and “Selva Oscura 1.3” testifying to the final stand of nature before the Winter comes. The album exudes a feeling of curiosity, of being in an unfamiliar place and discovering something that has been left behind a long time ago. The album is a perfect ambient expression of Fall; it is lonely, dreary and endlessly echoing yet wonderfully beautiful. Fall, and this album itself are a tragically beautiful “Memento Mori”: A reminder that all things collapse eventually to time. Selva Oscura however, reminds us that this loss is what makes life beautiful in the first place, and that even the twisted nature of loss can be beautiful just as autumn forests drenched in twilight manage to evoke such emotion from us.

The first four tracks of the album, “Mono No Aware 1.1” through “Mono No Aware 1.4” lowers us into the forest with brighter sounds, and more frequent melodies. “Mono no aware” roughly means “an empathy for things” which relates to the melancholy feelings people often have during the transition from Fall into Winter. Selva Oscura as an album represents an empathy toward the slow falling of leaves and coldness of air. The album manages to find a level of warmth on top of the howling winds, providing mental images of being wrapped in a coat and hat to combat the stinging air. The “Mono No Aware” half of this album is certainly the brighter side, representing an initial entrance into Fall or one’s first step in an unknown collage of trees. Sounds reminiscent of a train bobbing along in the distance graces “Mono No Aware 1.3” bringing the idea of nature and machinery together. The albums feels like a testament to the duality of that which is natural and that which is created; as both fall apart just the same. Nature, however, always rebounds and even at the peak of Summer, wind will still blow through the various lifeless and forgotten metal structures that have been reclaimed and engulfed by trees and grass.

Overall Selva Oscura manages to be a beautifully comfortable reminder of our mortality, just as Fall. Hopefully, the existential comparison of natural cycles to the futility of our time on Earth does not unnerve the reader/listener; if it does, take comfort in knowing Halloween is just around the corner where artificial scares and vast amounts of candy can help us cope. Selva Oscura is great for getting comfy with a warm mug of tea, or for walking through your local forest.

Listen to this album below!

Boy Pablo’s Roy Pablo

At just 18, Norwegian-native Boy Pablo has already released 3 singles and a 6 track EP. He is joined on stage by his best friends and is currently touring around Europe. His latest release, Roy Pablo, was released this past May and quickly gained attention among the dreampop community, being compared to acts like Mild High Club and Banes World.

Check out the EP below:

(recommended tracks: everytime, ur phone, ready / problems)

10 Years Ago Today: Radiohead’s In Rainbows

Ten years ago today, on Oct. 10th 2007, Radiohead self-released their seventh studio album In Rainbows, after breaking from their former label. In Rainbows was announced and released on Radiohead’s blog, with pay-what-you-want download link. They were the first major band to do this, and it sparked international debate about revolutionizing the role of the music industry, garnering mostly positive reactions. The album received critical acclaim, won 2 Grammys, and was named one of the top albums of 2007. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked In Rainbows as #336 on the updated list of Greatest 500 Albums of All Time.

Take a look back and give it a spin:

 

Peach Pit- Being So Normal

Peach Pit, a four-piece act from Vancouver, released their sophomore album Being So Normal on September 15th. In February 2017, a YouTube channel sent their self-titled track, “Peach Pit” viral after discovering it on their Bandcamp. The group quickly started to amass a following, and are now on a worldwide tour (stopping in NY at Baby’s All Right Oct. 8th!). Self-described as ‘chewed bubblegum pop’, their latest album flows along with melodic guitar riffs and dreamy vocals. Each track sounds a bit different than the last, a clear experimentation with sound while progressing in their music-making.

Listen to a track off the new album below:

Essential Albums: The Microphones- The Glow Pt. 2

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In the midst of a harsh, snowy winter, there are few albums that reinforce the feeling of bitter coldness as well as The Glow Pt. 2. The Microphones are the solo work of Phil Elverum whose desperate songwriting goes perfectly with the organic instrument sounds he created in the studio. Ambient noise runs consistently in the background behind spindly acoustic guitars which weave back and forth in the stereo field. There are crashing instrumental sections and periods of stillness, much like the schedule-halting snowstorm and the calm afterward. The album was recorded entirely without the use of digital effects on analog audio tape. There is a distinct warmth of tone present in the frozen soundscapes. An extremely interesting podcast for fans of how tracks are created, called Song Exploder, did a spotlight on the first track of the album, I Want Wind to Blow. It can be listened to here: http://songexploder.net/episode-13-the-microphones/

Essential Albums: Bob Dylan- The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Freewheelin Bob Dylan

I’ve done a poor job of balancing out actual classics in this segment with albums that are classics in my mind within the alternative music mindset. You should be aware of who Bob Dylan is and what he has done, though I suppose you never know in a world where “Who Is Paul McCartney” exists. Dylan is the premier folk artist pretty much without a doubt, the man who defined the genre and inspired countless artists from the 1960s until today. As his career progressed Dylan’s sound did as well, with him experimenting within different genres including rock and blues, but a look back to his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan does a great job of outlying his talent in the traditional folk sense which captures him at his best.

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Essential Albums: Belle & Sebastian- If You’re Feeling Sinister

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Pop music is called that because it’s popular music, music that most people will find enjoyable because it’s melodic and pleasing. It can actually relax you as you grow to trust the song and recognize the patterns, and this can be soothing as you listen to it. There’s a certain safety in this environment where you can freely listen to the sound and know that all the sounds to come will be beautiful. This is the best I can do to introduce Belle & Sebastian, a group from Scottland which created two fake personas to represent their band so that the actual members could stay out of the spotlight.

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Essential Albums: Bright Eyes- Letting Off the Happiness

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A lot of WCDB DJs, myself included, drool over the work of Bright Eyes and frontman Conor Oberst. He’s likely the premier singer in the indie folk genre for the past generation, and has released a few albums and songs in his career which could easily be referred to as classics. Letting Off the Happiness came early in the career, following only A Collection of Songs, and it captured Oberst immediately before he started making the epic albums that would grow to define his career. One of the nice parts about Letting Off the Happiness is that Bright Eyes was still developing at that time, and you’re able to hear the birthing of some of the imperfections that became defining qualities within his career.

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Essential Albums: Big Star- Radio City

Big Star is a band that isn’t as easily recognizable today as they probably should be. They were a band who released their albums in the ’70s and played a mixture of rock and power pop, and they ultimately had to stop making music because record sales didn’t match the critical acclaim they received. It’s a typical story within the alternative music world, but Big Star is one of the better early examples of it, and Radio City gives you an idea about why many artists in the 80s and 90s listed Big Star as one of their main influences.


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Essential Albums: Pavement- Slanted & Enchanted

I’m a big fan of the ’90s college rock scene, as can be evidenced by my previous write-ups on Bee Thousand, Doolittle, and The Lonesome Crowded West. These bands all played a large role in defining alternative music and what college radio stations were expected to play and look for from that point forward, and Pavement might just be the most important one from the group because of what a stereotypical college group they were. Pavement is Lo-Fi rock which came across as cool, and the band today is still the topic of debate about just how good they actually were between diehard fans and critics who call them talentless. One thing that helps their legacy for sure is how they left their impression on the music scene both in the mid 90’s and today, inspiring current artists with qualities that began on their 1992 debut album Slanted & Enchanted.


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