Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Half Waif - Mythopoetics

Half Waif - Mythopoetics

Half Waif

Album title: Mythopoetics
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2021
Label: ANTI-
(143) Page Views

Patient invitations raise hopes and soothe hurts as the inquisitive, wistful, “Mythopoetics,” grows from hushed cuddly lullabies into firm determined statements, daring transformations whose trade-wind layers take root in glowing interludes casting magnificent shadows between illuminating self-truths. Comfort and surprise greet each operatic song, sonic confidence romps alongside sensitive diary entries revealing deep feelings with fabulous tragedy, coy poise and shaded grace. Nuanced and nurturing, Half Waif welcomes careful examination, well-chosen proposals blossom in emerging percussive climaxes, swirling mercurial melodies and engaging arrangements balancing delicate treasures with heavenly vehemence. Dainty angst wilts beneath sunbeam chamber-pop programmed with pathos; sumptuous and simple as required for maximum impact, Nandi Rose’s third album as Half Waif refines an already primed style that manages to be real and sublime.

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Emma-Jean Thackray - Yellow

Emma-Jean Thackray - Yellow

Emma-Jean Thackray

Album title: Yellow
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2021
Label: Movementt
(140) Page Views

Bold rainbow soul folded into bright cosmic funk and ultra-smooth fusion, Thackray’s full-length debut binges on sinful rhythms swimming in grand big-band communion, enthralling polish topped in feverish divas possessed by astral passions, kickass brass and slick synth flash. Urgent words chase breathless reflexes as tunes zoom in groomed enthusiasm, vital unbridled energy floats over Fender Rhodes space-jazz as hard stops, sharp chops and big-hearted charts mount hip trips, jive dives and cool grooves in a rousing champagne campaign. Uniting and enlightening, “Yellow,” shines, pines, coos and caterwauls through coordinated joy voicing hospitable harmonics hosting appealing ideals, musical utopias where expressive celebrations liberate and captivate. Grounded in structure and forethought, Thackray attaches ecstatic chromatics to spiritual consciousness while brokering cozy flows for involuntary bodily responses.

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Ches Smith and We All Break - Path of Seven Colors

Ches Smith and We All Break - Path of Seven Colors

Ches Smith and We All Break

Album title: Path of Seven Colors
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2021
Label: Pyroclastic Records
(368) Page Views

A vivid poly-rhythmic village, the invigorating Smith and We All Break rise in pliable alliances and groove-beat treaties performing musical unions with bold diplomacy, cross-pollinating deep pockets in a dazzling modern-jazz coalition energized by effusive Vodou traditions. Led by percussionist, scholar and Diaspora explorer Smith, “Seven,” blends hips to hearts with jump-started brains fired in tireless experimental tendencies. Doubling the group’s size from its 2015 incarnation, the three-drummer octet convulses in bubbling impulses, basing their blazing improvisations of piano, sax, bass and vocals on classic Haitian songs. Sophisticated and passionate, joyful in movement and spirit, the incandescent band’s incessant frenzy rides winding lines where, “Path,” crafts hot thoughts from cool heads, absorbing abstract forms into willful pilgrimages, joining a multi-generational journey and digging the scenery.

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The Mountain Goats - Dark In Here

The Mountain Goats - Dark In Here

The Mountain Goats

Album title: Dark In Here
By John Noyd
Posted: Jun 2021
Label: Merge
(406) Page Views

Recorded in Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studios with veteran sidemen Spooner Oldham and Will McFarlane, The Mountain Goats’ twentieth album show no signs of a band slowing down, smoothly unraveling knotted thoughts and furtive worries with naturally pragmatic aptitude balancing crackling accents with transcendent chemistry. Telegraphed passions cast in Morse Code poetry track tactfully jazzy passages as the marvelously prolific John Darnielle’s glory-bound stories draw plausible cosmologies from playful piano and baleful sax flitting beneath bendable bass, inquisitive drums and brisk guitar. Peppered in effortless metaphors riddled in Ritalin rhetoric, “Dark,” glows in intuitive musicianship, handling and channeling gallant indie-rock cantering with folksy commotion and satiny panache, rappelling down deep thoughts, congruous allusions and cross-stitched myths knitting articulate mysteries into search-party bullet points for court-reporter revelations.

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Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee

Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee

Japanese Breakfast

Album title: Jubilee
By John Noyd
Posted: May 2021
Label: Dead Oceans
(406) Page Views

Exuberant in luminous double-ply fireworks cushioned in lollipop optimism, Japanese Breakfast emerges from sorting through her mother’s passing to embrace life’s restless blessings with alt-pop frolics whose candy-coated charms hide soft aching centers beneath sweet sheltering shells shellacked in flashy brass and slinky strings and colored in devilish street-parade revelry. Irresistible dance blitzes flit with tree-swaying daydreams in the always sunny, “Jubilee,” where rejuvenated refuge becomes pro-active distractions playing in palatial spaces, languid tangled sprints through tinted synths dodge soft-rock beatboxes with tasty refrains restrained in athletic innocence; coy decoys lavished in bashful infatuations to set the mind at ease while entertaining a carefree mania for melodic tonics and emotional potions. Japanese Breakfast along with musical moonbeam Luna Li play Madison’s Majestic Theater September 18th.

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The Six Organs of Admittance - The Veiled Sea

The Six Organs of Admittance - The Veiled Sea

The Six Organs of Admittance

Album title: The Veiled Sea
By John Noyd
Posted: May 2021
Label: Three Lobed Recordings
(252) Page Views

Musical goo brewed by electronic swamps give rise to fierce maniacal solos, barbed red-eyed eels preying and surveying as the thick, “Sea,” sails through thorny storms growling and snarling in chomped stomps riding intergalactic taxis crosstown into starship ambience glancing off corrosive solar flares. Grasping leads seizing headless rapture from incredulous shreds and cosmic exhaustion, the enigmatic Six Organs of Admittance turn yet another corner in this extremely electrified version led by a very plugged-in Ben Chasny, whose Hexadic madness and meta-folk masterstrokes give way to scorching space-cowboy joyrides gliding from blistering to blissful down multi-dimensional highways stocked in looped grooves and hijacked acrobatics; centerless messengers ripped in snorting boogie falling deep asleep beneath a throbbing wobbly world then jolted awake by gritty spitfire blues. 

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Sarah Neufeld - Detritus

Sarah Neufeld - Detritus

Sarah Neufeld

Album title: Detritus
By John Noyd
Posted: May 2021
Label: Paper Bag Records
(322) Page Views

Plagued by vague layers from simmering violins, plummeting percussion and ghostly vocals, Neufeld’s evocative compositions slice icy waves from tonal oceans, tireless fireflies flitting in velvety darkness. Centerless melodies sway and fade while turbulent forms absorb shadowy passages whose thick pitches and churning surges connect swarming storms to lifeboat solos, “Detritus,” proves victoriously buoyant combatting placid symphonic patterns with mesmerizing finesse, glorious voyages navigating safe havens among rocky shores exploring transient ambience with curious fury and piercing fierceness. Whether solemn soliloquies meditating upon the vast cavernous beyond or cumulative movements exploring torrid flourishes, the brooding, inconclusive, “Detritus,” grows, flows and erodes, taming the brazen in sustaining arrangements and creating corporeal sonority from sensuous energies swirling in nervous searching urgency, chasing the unattainable into immeasurable depths.

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black midi - Cavalcade

black midi - Cavalcade

black midi

Album title: Cavalcade
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2021
Label: Rough Trade Records
(439) Page Views

Packed in oblique retreats, angular assaults and meteoric metamorphosis, black midi’s flamboyant frenzy explodes in furious blurs brewed in condensed chemistry, tactical magic and blossoming velocity. The band’s jet-propelled melting-pots gel from brisk sprints to halting jogs, dodgeball prog buzzing in microtonal metronomes, a lean machine exacting compact actions through cool attention-grabbing pageantry. Manicured in manic swirls, immaculate hairpin spins and lunging tungsten punctuality, “Cavalcade,” paves panicked dynamics beneath meticulous friction, disenfranchised geysers rising with fervent reverence into orchestrated adventures.  Shiny stomp-box romps fuse dueling staccato intrusions through kinetic mathematics and posh geometry while jazz-scorched flourishes roar past starched anarchy, braying brass blasts rhythmic logistics and sophisticated mayhem blooms in fractal collapse. A powerful live band, Britain’s black midi plays Milwaukee’s Turner Hall October 12th.

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Bachelor - Doomin’ Sun

Bachelor - Doomin’ Sun

Bachelor

Album title: Doomin’ Sun
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2021
Label: Polyvinyl
(217) Page Views

Deliberate big-picture pop tossed alongside impulsive indie-rock muscle craving flavorful chaos; Bachelor’s glamourous lo-fi clamor blissfully shifts from flash to funk to folk. Dreamy bedroom melodies dishing suspicious wishes, frank statements and taunting confidences inside haunted love-songs, stormy stories and smiling lullabies, Jay Som and Palehound’s songwriter’s skills, eclectic perspectives and potent emotions bolster each other’s best selves, balancing fragile sadness with unbendable strength, instrumental whimsy and lyrical wisdom woven around ominous caution and adamant transparency. Matched in collaborative passions, the fun, cheeky, “Sun,” glows in beautifully mutual alliances where clever effervescence meets intimate sympathies and authentic intent greets open secrets. Merged personalities committed to servicing their art, Bachelor is a marriage made in heaven, fueled by friendship and united in honest attempts to self-express.

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Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

Mdou Moctar

Album title: Afrique Victime
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2021
Label: Matador
(214) Page Views

Running downhill catching the wind, Nigerian guitar phenomena Modou Moctar bolts from the starting gate, setting the world on fire in sacred, shape-shifting psychedelia feeding screaming electric blues. A cosmic oasis fusing truly communal moods with family ambient vocals, “Afrique Victime,” simmers in brittle nimble acoustics and writhing amplified vibes, blending cohesive heat into rampant trance wired to palpitating rhythms whose steady meditations pits vigorous Tuareg traditions against blazing improvisation. Fleeting stampedes recede beneath crowded beats for lush headrushes whose galloping talents yield tangled textures through relentless cleansing tempests. Confronting a colonial past and a third-world present, Moctar’s sophomore effort channels angry pain and insufferable struggles into searing spirituality and liberating solidarity; embracing nature’s impatience with ecstatic mastery and unwavering faith in music’s transformative importance.

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Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble - Now

Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble - Now

Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble

Album title: Now
By John Noyd
Posted: Mar 2021
Label: International Anthem
(321) Page Views

Backed by nearly a dozen talented singers and musicians, Locks’ word salad acumen and compassionate activism inhabits rabble-rousing house-parties where spliced life bring live vibes to clever edits, micro-managed samples and intriguing social themes. A powerfully woke collage, “Now,” speaks truth to power, re-imagining reality through not-so-subtle cultural montage, hip snippets, communal grooves and fringe synergy intermingling with courtrooms, playgrounds, backstreets and neighborhoods. Musical mosaics engage angelic soul floating over free-jazz blow-outs, African rhythms weave between electronic concoctions while feverish beat-poet choirs spiral around assorted field-recordings, drum-circle furies and gospel-fostered jams. An immersive conversation one experiences rather than merely hears, the vibrant Black Monument Ensemble invites you to witness and absorb, assembling a contemporary sound documentary fortified by individual histories, collective messages and integrated legacies.

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Mark Mallman - Happiness

Mark Mallman - Happiness

Mark Mallman

Album title: Happiness
By John Noyd
Posted: Mar 2021
Label: self-release
(307) Page Views

Never one to go halfway, Minneapolis keyboard showman Mallman composes over-the-top pop from philosophical topics; candid stamina questioning, referencing and breathlessly testing restless definitions all while making tasty, sugar-coated raves. Mark’s first album in five years, the savvy, “Happiness,” blends funk-rock pleads, snarky tantrum anthems and epic power-pop romps with red-hot riffs, manic stanzas, earnest verses and dance-friendly hooks seeking peaceful equilibrium in a chaotic mosh-pit of emotional extravaganzas. A musical companion to Mallman’s uplifting memoir, “The Happiness Playlist: The True Story of Healing My Heart with Feel-Good Music,” the album’s theatrical passion is matched by solid thoughts, honest options and open hearts.  A relentless consent to whatever may come, “Happiness,” conquers crushing anxiety and deep grief with reassuring urgency, evangelical melodies and crackling gratitude.

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