New Plastic Ideas – week of April 19 2012

I’ve found myself listening to Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland ’s Black is Beautiful quite often this week. I’m not sure why Blunt and Copeland opted to use their “real names” this time (quotations because most of the things these two list in press releases are purposely unreliable) instead of their usual Hype Williams moniker but in any case Black is another worthwhile addition to their steadily growing catalogue. Much of the album has a sort of disorienting neon-smeared atmosphere which is furthered by a myriad of brief shifting instrumental vignettes placed throughout. This inability to sit still lends the duo’s more restrained tracks (e.g. the low-key cruisin’ feel of the second track) an assertive poise — so while some of this stuff may just be half-baked instrumental ideas and keyboard noodles it’s to the duo’s credit that Black is Beautiful manages to present its assortment of hazy basement synth pieces as something coherent and largely engaging.

Speaking of albums with “black” in the title Thrill Jockey just put out Black Mesa a collection of meditative solo guitar pieces from Jon Porras . Porras’ drones are laced with tremolo and hints of twang which evokes an overall feeling of dusty desolate Americana. With additional layers of improvised atmospherics (e.g. feedback echoes very light touches of percussion) Black Mesa is a haunting patient album that sounds like a chillingly lonesome trek across a barren desert at night. The tension between Porras’ compositional arrangements and atmospheric improvisations is likely why I dig this more than his usual work in Barn Owl (a group I’ve often tried to get into but usually just find drab and tiresome) so while I probably won’t put Black Mesa on very often I definitely consider it a successful collection of evocative and reflective guitar meditations.

Lastly I’d be remiss to not at least bring attention to a handful of Record Store Day releases. Reissues of brash contrarian recordings such as McLusky’s McLusky Do Dallas and Pussy Galore’s Feel Good About Your Body EP stick out like a sore thumb amidst split singles by the likes of um Michael Buble and Ray Charles but I’m happy to see both releases back in print. Sacred Bones is also issuing their second label compilation Todo Muere Vol. 2 which contains a smattering of tracks (some unreleased) from The Men Crystal Stilts and Amen Dunes amongst others. There’s also supposed to be a 7-inch single of Eddie Vedder singing a song called “Love Boat Captain” which I hope is just a Vedder-ized version of the Love Boat theme song: “Whoaaaherrrr love life’s sweetest reward even floooow it floats back to youaarrruh.” Sounds dreamy right?