Today I have three very different recommendations for you. Each is crucial listening, but for rather different reasons. Read on to learn why.
Billy Nomates — CACTI
British musician Billy Nomates’ latest album, CACTI, is an inspired work of deftly crafted post-punk (or, whatever delightful genres she’s cultivating in a bouillabaisse of bliss in any given song). As with the best of her fellow Britons of similar genre persuasions, her tightly arranged gems keep the various electronic and rock elements in a complementary power-sharing agreement. There’s no overwrought 1980s nostalgia or slapdash guitar or bass splintering dominating any given song — it’s just purely balanced magic and skill through and through. (To be sure, there is plenty of DIY experimentation on this album, but it’s not for the sake of itself. You can bet that Nomates isn’t interested in unserious streambait.) And as good as the instrumentation is, Nomates’ powerful lyrics are often a standout on a given cut. Her love songs are as complex as real human relationships and her political musings as astute as anything from Gang of Four, albeit less stuffy. (Out now via Invada Records in digital and physical forms.)
Window Seat — As Far As Possible
The ever efficient Ariel Loh is back with the second EP from his new ambient project, Window Seat. This one continues the first’s practice of pairing hypnotic acoustic and electronic meditations with poignant soundscapes and field recordings (or samples thereof). His scores and production work have always shown a tendency toward the tight and tempered — a sense of discipline that has yielded much for him — but on Window Seat his knack for unleashing gigantic, melodic meaning from minimal arrangements is fully on display. A ton of ambient artists are always compared to folks like Brian Eno nowadays, but Loh seems to understand Eno’s intent far more than most. (Out now on streaming platforms.)
Tim Hecker — Infinity Pool (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
One of the most out-there horror flicks of the past several years is no doubt the work of a Cronenberg. This time it’s Cronenberg fils, Brandon, who follows up Possessor with something far more fucked up and risky, the Mia Goth- and Alexander Skarsgaard-starring Infinity Pool. Amid all of the captivating acting performances and addictive visuals, and the mind-fuck plotting, is Canadian musician Tim Hecker’s delectably complementary journey into the use of acoustic and electronic instrumentation and sound design to draw out the horror-show psychedelia of the rich tourists’ exploitation of a poor country with its protected enclaves of luxury. Mica Levi-style unsettling passages and heaps of soul-tearing foreboding abound, as do contemplative synth-pad passages and lustful horn and brassy-synth leads that sound like Badalamenti scoring a sweaty but productive replicant/human orgy in a Lynch remake of Blade Runner.
In other words, Hecker’s score is profoundly fantastic on its own and as part of the film, and I really need to interview this guy. This is already on my best-of list for the year. (Out now on streaming via Milan Records. I imagine a vinyl iteration is on the horizon, but I’m not 100%. I’ll update this when I do figure that out.)
(Editor’s Note: Listening List is the recommendation column replacing its long-running predecessor, One-Liners. The basic premise of short reviews for recommended releases remains, although the title doesn’t give off the impression that I can dutifully exercise vast concision.)