Category Archives: CD

STEPHEN CHOPEK – Begin The Glimmer

Album: Begin The Glimmer

Artist: Stephen Chopek

Label: self-released

Release Date: October 12, 2018

Self-Released

https://stephenchopek.bandcamp.com/album/begin-the-glimmer

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Memphis, by way of Jersey, singer/songwriter Stephen Chopek seems to have filled in the link between Nick Drake and Pete Yorn. On his third LP, Begin The Glimmer, he turns in a personal album, that despite a full backing group, some fun ragged guitars and clean production still has the spontaneous feel of a bedroom recording (think Bright Eyes or the first Jonny Polonsky record).

Chopek admits to a steady diet of Replacements and Guided By Voices in making this record and that influence clearly seeped into his writing. There is a strong pop component at the core of songs that vacillate from quieter acoustic fare to slightly more boisterous numbers. Those slower tracks, like “Dig A well,” drag down the record a bit, but there are enough great up-tempo moments, like “Radio Caroline” or the “The Ballad of Cash & Dean,” to keep the listener from moving on.

Chopek’s sometimes gig as a session drummer may help to pay the bills, but as Begin The Glimmer proves, his proper spot is at the front of the stage.

DOWNLOAD: “Radio Caroline” and “The Ballad of Cash & Dean”

 

MELT DOWNER – Alter the Stunt

Album: Alter The Stunt

Artist: Melt Downer

Label: Numavi Records

Release Date: October 15, 2018

Numavi

https://numavi.bandcamp.com/album/melt-downer

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Austrian band Melt Downer on Alter the Stunt serve up some hard hitting tunes that recall elements of Swervedriver and Helmet mixed with a Girls Against Boys type afterburn. It’s a pure joy to listen to these 10 tracks that are a partial homage to the Amphetamine Reptile (Amrep) sound, the Minneapolis label that gave us Helmet, Tar, Helios Creed, The Melvins, The Cows, and so many others.

“Alter” is a dark brooding affair that detonates everything in its path. The sonic guitar squalls work perfectly as they glide over a toe tapping beat. “Vater” is pure aggression and reminds me of early Helmet. The track provides quite the aural pummeling and shows just how talented this band is. I love every bit if this song including the production which focuses on getting the sub-sonic glaze just right.  “Clown” is my favorite song with its hazy narcotic elements augmented by a saxophone. This is the greatest Steve Malkmus tune that he never wrote. Here the singer sounds like a dead ringer for Malkmus especially when it comes to the phrasing and pitch of his voice. The song’s disparate elements while seemingly incongruous, work really well together. I love how the groove of the song slowly lumbers along towards its conclusion. Very fucking cool! “Head Call” is a slow-burner of an instrumental that keeps one foot planted on the ground until it veers off into a bit of restrained psychedelia with Nik Turner-styled sax squawks to boot.

The sheer audacity, if you can call it that, to mix these disparate sonic elements together is what makes this album such a joy to listen to.  This is a band that is able to synthesize these elements into some well-wrought memorable tunes that will remain with you long after the music has ended.

DOWNLOAD: “Clown” “Alter”  “Vater” “Head Call”

 

JOHNNY IRION – Driving Friend

Album: Driving Friend

Artist: Johnny Irion

Label: self-released

Release Date: May 18, 2018

www.johnnyirionmusic.com

The Upshot: Americana-tilting indie rock awash in glorious harmonies and melodies that’ll leave you humming them throughout the day. Available on both CD and sweet vinyl, incidentally. Check out some audio and video from the album, below.

BY FRED MILLS

Erstwhile North Carolina resident Johnny Irion—we here in the Tar Heel state are still proud to call him one of ours—has been blessed not once, but twice: First, he was born with one of the richest, sweetest singing voices on the planet, something that was evident even back in the ‘90s as frontman for Queen Sarah Saturday and, later, a member of Dillon Fence; and secondly, he married one of the richest, sweetest singing vocal foils on the planet, Sarah Lee Guthrie, of the not-too-shabby Guthrie family, and with whom he has released several must-own albums that have made the duo beloved by Americana fans. When Irion sings, he soars, period, and when the duo swap verses and harmonize, they’re not merely the latest living example of what Gram ‘n’ Emmylou taught us all those years ago—they brush the gates of heaven.

For Irion’s latest solo album, he doesn’t merely uphold the high musical and literary (did I mention that his family tree includes a granduncle named John Steinbeck?) standards he’s evidenced to date—he stakes out a permanent piece of sonic serendipity that any singer-songwriter would die to lay claim to.

This is evident on Driving Friend from the get-go, on the gently waltzing “Emily’s” where Irion, switching effortlessly between tenor tones and an upper-register, almost-falsetto, “whoo-ooo-woo…” croon, sketches indelible images of a changing South Carolina coastline that will ring true to anyone from or familiar with the region:

“Sun going down on the Intracoastal Waterway
We were Fripp Island bound
Sentry at the guard post said we had to go away
It’s a private community now
So we beat it down the road for peanuts and some cokes
Looking for a sunset for free
Came across an old boardwalk
Surrounded by the marsh
Seagulls wheeling over you and me
That old shuttered church
Sure been burned down
Spanish moss hanging all around…

Much later, in the penultimate, title, track, Irion sets in motion a gospellish reverie amid a piano/strings arrangement which, buoyed by angelic backing vocals, lends an uncommon intimacy to his lyrics:

“There’s no other place I’d rather be than right here this morn
Your arms surround me like branches sprouting from our soul
I’ve been close before, but nothing like this
Only tears produced from my eyelids
But you’ve got everything I need and more.”

In between, you’re treated to sundry gems, from the Laurel Canyon folk-pop (think: CSN meets Brian Wilson) of “Salvage the Day” and irresistible pedal steel-and-twang-powered country rocker “Once in a While,” to the stoned, Muscle Shoals-styled swamp-funk of “Cabin Fever” (here, the backing vocals once again perfectly complement the material) and a luminous ballad bearing the wholly apropos title “Angels Sing,” another tune marked by some wonderful piano-and-strings playing (it brings to mind Wildflowers-era Tom Petty). Throughout, Irion and band maintain a consistent, reassuring low-key vibe that serves as a contrasting force to underscore the cinematic richness of the lyrics. Pitching in musically are members of Dawes, Wilco and the Mother Hips, so the sonics are stamped firmly with the trademark of quality.

That twinned quality, wedded to the aforementioned Irion pipes—which at times stroke the ear canal like pure sonic velvet, nary a note out of place—create the type of musical magic so often missing from today’s indie rock and Americana artists, many of whom mistake angst for passion, or substitute lazy “got up this morning/wrote you a song” lyrics for true storytelling. Ultimately, Driving Friend simply wants to be your friend, a musical handshake and a hug from one of our most gifted songwriters. Don’t be shy, folks—return the embrace.

DOWNLOAD: Driving Friend,” “Forever Wingman,” “Cabin Fever,” “Salvage the Day

 

ROBERT POSS – Frozen Flowers Curse the Day

Album: Frozen Flowers Curse the Day

Artist: Robert Poss

Label: Trace Elements

Release Date: August 03, 2018

http://www.robertposs.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

For rock fans, Robert Poss may be best remembered for the mighty guitar rock ensemble Band of Susans and, if they’re really crate diggers, BOS precursor Western Eyes. But the guitarist and composer has been a leading light in experimental music circles for decades, working with Rhys Chatham, Ben Neill, Phill Niblock and others. Though Frozen Flowers Curse the Day is only his fourth solo album, his long years of experience make it the work of a mature artist. Consisting of both instrumental and vocal songs, the record indulges in guitar sounds of all stripes: acoustic, electric, clean, distorted, lyrical, overdriven. But Poss never lets his fondness for textural variety overpower the sturdy melodies on which his tunes are built.

As a statement of intent, he begins the album with the shimmering jangle of the wordless “More Frozen Flowers” and follows it with the crunchy drone pop of “The Sixth Sense Betrayed.” “You’ll Curse the Day” and “I’ve Got a Secret List” get noisier than “Sixth Sense,” but remain just as catchy. Written for a dance piece, “Time Frames Marking Time” uses spacey arpeggios and layered feedback to subtly explore the nooks and crannies of a simple but accessible melody – one strong enough to work without the visuals meant to accompany it. The slide-driven “Sketch 72” sounds like a long-lost classic rock track, despite a lack of vox. Even distortion fests “Bitter Strings” and “The Test Pattern Setting” keep their grip on tunefulness, no matter how fuzzy and crackling they get.

Accessible and experimental, avant garde and rocking, Frozen Flowers Curse the Day is a new peak in a long and successful career.

DOWNLOAD: “Time Frames Marking Time,” “The Sixth Sense Betrayed,” “The Test Pattern Setting,”

 

 

THE BETHS – Future Me Hates Me

Album: Future Me Hates Me

Artist: The Beths

Label: Carpark

Release Date: August 10, 2018

http://carparkrecords.com/

BY JOHN SCHACHT

One of the perks of being young and in a rock ‘n’ roll band is the license it affords you to be shamelessly self-involved. It’s practically a job requirement, in fact, yet one that being young, confused, and falling in and out of love regularly lends itself to.

Take the debut LP from Auckland’s The Beths, part of the vibrant indie rock scene bubbling up from down under the last few years. Led by front woman and primary songwriter Elizabeth Stokes, the Future Me Hates Me features 10 high-tempo tracks long on fuzzy barre chords, thrumming bass-and-drums interplay, and sunny harmonies that belie the angst-ridden lyrical fare — though without quite shucking its weight.

Stokes, who’d recently transitioned from playing in a folk outfit, takes to the singing role with relish and stands out vocally—she sounds like Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell fronting Sparkle & Fade-era Everclear, with the occasional Joan Jett snarl thrown in for contrast against the vulnerability. On the best tracks here, Stokes manages to balance the music’s adrenalin rush with enough thoughtful imagery to keep the Beths from the hordes of pop punk wannabes. Over the buzzing chords and pointed guitar lines of “Great No One,” Stokes bemoans youthful indecision, comparing herself to a “just a broken bulb/flickering with doubt.” On “Happy Unhappy, where guitars chime more than fuzz, and the back-up harmonies trend more Beach Boys than Blink-182, the Beths embrace their pop tendencies to their benefit.

Stokes’ knack for acerbic lyrics often finds her linked to contemporary Courtney Barnett, but this is not to the Beths benefit. Stokes lacks Barnett’s songwriting diversity, worldliness and clever wordplay; too many of the songs on Future Me Hates Me are interchangeable, built on quiet, jangly verses and fuzz-button sing-along choruses that lament the usual litany of “I” and “me” woes.

It doesn’t take long for the self-examination to hit overload. The song titles alone read like journal headings: “Great No One,” “Happy Unhappy,” “Whatever,” and “Less Than Thou” do not suggest much thinking-outside-the-self box.  (Admittedly, this lack of patience is a function of aging; Young Me Might’ve Been Less Curmudgeonly Than Old Me.) Over the charging guitars and red-line drumbeats of “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” for instance, Stokes worries that “You wouldn’t like me/If you saw what was inside me,” seemingly unaware that such self-awareness is pretty much de rigueur for most adults. The title track features the not-exactly earth-shattering acknowledgement that everyone Stokes knows has “has broken” under love’s vicissitudes yet “has fell for it before.” Well, luv, that explains the high-risk, high-reward attraction of it.

These shifting tides of love and mid-20s anxieties form the cornerstone that rock ‘n’ roll is built on. Nor should anyone begrudge Stokes her personal angst—we’ve all been there, but for sheer visceral terror nothing tops being in the midst of it. Still, with experience comes at least the acknowledgement that there exists a world outside our own Facebook or watering hole favorites (not to mention some different tempos or sonic variants). In the end, there’s just something to be said for taking a step back and realizing that your problems, as an old guy in a fedora once noted, “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

DOWNLOAD: Future Me Hates Me,” “Happy Unhappy” (click on each one for the video)

THE ESSEX GREEN—Hardly Electronic

Album: Hardly Electronic

Artist: The Essex Green

Label: Merge

Release Date: June 29, 2018

https://www.mergerecords.com/

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Nostalgia has always been a big component of the Essex Green’s baroque 1960s pop sound. Even in its early aughts prime, the Vermont via Brooklyn-based trio echoed the billowy harmonies and intricate keyboards of scratchy mod 78s from Thee Left Banke or the Zombies. But now, a dozen years after their last record, Hardly Electronic adds another layer of backward looking, not just to their influences but to the fuzzy Elephant Six pop revival that surrounded them the first time around.

The band’s members now live in different cities and have accumulated the usual mid-life baggage of jobs and marriages and children, but they sound remarkably untouched by all that. “Sloan Ranger,” one of the singles, bursts to life in a buoyant shuffle, all sharp, jutting guitars and wheedling organ, and soft blurrily harmonized vocals that shift from euphoria to melancholy in a measure or two. It’s quality pop a la the New Pornographers, full of a fun-house energy and slyly slanted with sarcasm. Sasha Bell, as before, sings with an endearing brashness, sugary soft but with a sardonic undertone. Chris Ziter again takes about half the lead vocals, in a reticent drawl that falls somewhere between Stuart Murdoch and Dean Wareham. And Jeff Baron plays a chiming, radiant 1960-redolent guitar with more than a whiff of the Byrds.

Yet while “Sloan Ranger” and other songs drop plenty of references to an imagined Brit Pop past (“Sloan Ranger”), the most touching of these songs invokes more recent memories.  I like “Patsy Desmond” the best, for its moody, jazzy piano and slinky violin, its whispery romantic vocals (Ziter mostly, with Bell in lush counterpoint) and its hushed dioramas of 00s indie life in Alphabet City and just south of Chicago (the lost indie siren of the song promises to tell all her friends at Drag City about something). It’s the sort of song that moves through a past that you maybe hadn’t even thought of as past yet, freezes the action and frames it in black and white.

Not all the songs on Hardly Electronic are as affecting – and some of them are just good bubbly pop fun. There are some misses – the country-ish “Bye Bye Crow” isn’t very good – but most are at least solid and surprisingly fresh, and a few are much better than that. Here’s to looking backwards and moving forward at the same time.

DOWNLOAD: “Patsy Desmond,” “Sloan Ranger”

BIRD STREETS – Bird Streets

Album: Bird Streets

Artist: Bird Streets

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: August 10, 2018

www.omnivorerecordings.com

BLURT premiered the Bird Streets track “Carry Me” recently – go HERE to check it out.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It should come as no surprise that singer John Brodeur and Jason Falkner – power pop hero from Jellyfish, The Three O’clock and a slew of stellar solo albums – would make solid music together. What is surprising is just how good they are combining talents. Bird Streets, their eponymous debut, is a fantastic blend of power pop and indie rock that manages to sound like one of the best ‘90s album that didn’t come out until now (for the record, this one was recorded between 2014 and 2016).

All of the songs here were written by Brodeur and both he and Falkner share vocals duties. Brodeur’s voice is simply sublime here, sounding a bit like Dan Wilson (one of the most underrated singers from the 1990s), and lyrically he is at the top of his game. Subtly brilliant lines like “I remember when we were tighter than Steely Dan” (“Betting on the Sun”), remind you just how much we’ve been taking him for granted over the past decade or so.

The dark “Pretty Bones” (and to a lesser extent “Bullets”) don’t really fit in with the other tracks, with the ominous strings and haunting lyrics bring down the vibe a bit, but there are plenty of astoundingly beautiful songs here to more than make up for it.

Here’s hoping Bird Streets is more than just a one-off project.

DOWNLOAD:Carry Me,” “Thanks For Calling” and “Betting on the Sun”

CLOUD SEEDER – Cloud Seeder

Album: Cloud Seeder

Artist: Cloud Seeder

Label: Lather

Release Date: April 27, 2018

http://latherrecords.com/; https://www.cloudseeder.net

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Cloud Seeder—consisting of Acme Rocket Quartet members Roger Kunkel (one of the founding members of Thin White Rope), Steve Edberg, and Dave Thompson—raised the funds via Kickstarter earlier this year to release this two CD album heavily inspired both by the German band CAN and The Swell Maps. As the liner notes states, it’s a group of spontaneous recordings with zero overdubs, which makes it even more stunning that something so coherent and yet out there could be recorded in one go.

This is an album perfect for a Sunday lay-about where you let the music wash over you. On the jazzy “Reul Vallis Blues,” with its Spanish laced nocturnal guitar, what permeated my mind was the lyric “I just kissed a girl named Maria” from West Side Story—funny what comes trickling through the ether. “Pleasure Planet” is a very evocative number that sounds like a prelude to a séance or ritual bloodletting; the exquisite guitar playing and hypnotic drumming churn together with a sinister sonic undercurrent to create a compelling and disquieting tune. “Cesium Surfer,” with its noir surfer guitar and tight rhythm section, is the perfect soundtrack to something ominous and criminal. It’s Bob Bogle meets Black Sun Ensemble. CD 2 takes a turn for the more hallucinatory side of things. Longer, more experimental numbers dominate, like the edgy “Oh Dear Edgar” with its electronic blips and battlefield snare drum, which then give way to some really laid-back psychedelic guitar; it’s an amazing track and the gem on the second half of the album.

On this album, while the guitar may be the first thing we notice, one must also give equal attention to the layered sonics, the deft bass and drum playing, as well as some key sound samples that are interspersed across several of the tracks. There is so much to dig into on this record, whether you are a Krautrock fan or just a fan of really well-crafted complex tunes that challenge you in unique ways. I think it’s criminal that bands like this, operating at such a high level of musicianship, seem to get short shrift from the music-buying public. Hopefully one day this will change, but until it does, do what you can to support these guys as this album is definitely a keeper.

DOWNLOAD: “Fed by Gravity,” “Reul Vallis Blues,” “Pleasure Planet,” “Cesium Surfer,” “Oh Dear Edgar”

 

THE POSIES – Dear 23 / Frosting On the Beater

Album: Dear 23 / Frosting on the Beater

Artist: Posies

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: August 03, 2018

http://www.omnivorerecordings.com

The Upshot: A pair of power pop classics that helped make the grunge-encrusted tail end of the 20th Century just a little more bearable.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Ah, the Posies. With a seemingly bottomless bag of hooks and sentiments that veered easily between clever and heartfelt (and often both at once), the Bellingham/Seattle band should be mentioned in the same breath as luminaries like ELO, Cheap Trick and Big Star and contemporaries Jellyfish (and its spinoffs), Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet. Instead the group had the mixed fortune of hailing from the grunge mecca that inaugurated the era of “alternative rock.” Certainly, the Posies didn’t suffer, garnering a sheaf of rave reviews and plenty of fans, even if they never quite broke out the way their champions hoped. But being one of the leading lights of the nineties alt.rock boom somehow keeps them out of the halls of the power pop masters, or at least the main wing – a minor mischaracterization, to be sure, but one that seems to put them on the bottom rung of a ladder they’ve long since climbed.

And as uncool as it may be to say it, the Posies were at their best during their major label era. Not that the rest of the band’s indie catalog isn’t delightful, but it was their three-album stint on Geffen Records subsidiary DGC that really put the band on the map. Whether that was due to the influx of corporate cash that allowed them to hire top flight producers and get great sound or simply due to the rush of singing and songwriting excellence pouring out of chief Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow then is up for debate (we tend to lean toward the latter, though it’s probably some of both). Regardless, the trilogy of Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace – the first two of which having just been reissued – is not only the best work of the band, but some of the best guitar/power pop of the twentieth century.

Dear 23, the Posies’ second album, made a splash when it was first released in 1990, but under somewhat false pretenses. By this time the band had evolved from Auer and Stringfellow’s bedroom duo into a scrappy four-piece rock & roll outfit with bassist Rick Roberts and drummer Mike Musburger, but that wasn’t reflected in the grooves. Instead, producer John Leckie (XTC, Thee Hypnotics, Stone Roses) augmented the arrangements with layers of acoustic guitars for an almost folk rock feel, and added his signature psychedelic wash to the mix, making the entire record nearly sound like it comes from another continent. The results may not have been true to the Posies’ live sound, but it works like gangbusters with the songs. The massive-sounding acoustics form a wall on which the glorious anthem “Any Other Day” is painted, while the folk rock sheen fits perfectly with the bittersweet “Suddenly Mary.” “Golden Blunders” and “My Big Mouth” transcend the designation “power pop” with bright hooks and creamy harmonies, while “Mrs. Green” revels in gentle acid psychedelia when it’s not rocking out. “You Avoid Parties” and “Everyone Moves Away” strip things back down to the original duo, coming off like big-league version of Auer and Stringfellow’s cassette recordings, while “Flood of Sunshine” becomes a widescreen, lighter-waving singalong with unexpected guitar heroics. A few awkward lyrics aside, mainly in mispronunciations necessary to fit rhyme schemes, there’s not a bum note played or sung or a track worth skipping.

As with most Omnivore reissues, this one includes generous extras. The number of bonus tracks is staggering, taking up a third of disk one and all of disk two, with a big ol’ bucket of demos (including two of “Apology,” one version from each songwriter), covers of Big Star and the Hollies, some otherwise unreleased tunes, and the original version of “Will You Ever Ease Your Mind,” which wouldn’t reach full flower until Amazing Disgrace. There’s also an enthusiastic essay from Craig Dorman and, best of all, track-by-track commentary from Auer and Stringfellow that enlightens the original songs.

For 1993’s Frosting on the Beater, the Posies hired Gumball/Velvet Monkeys leader Don Fleming to give them a muscular sonic aesthetic more in keeping with their live shows. While some critics and fans accused them of trying to come to terms with their hometown grunge (as if there weren’t dozens of former college rockers trying to do the same thing at the same time), for the band it was simply a closer reflection of their original aim. In that light, this is probably the purest of their power pop moves – loud guitars, big melodies and hooks, a simmering energy set to explode any moment. The record contains some of their catchiest and most blazing rockers: “Flavor of the Month,” “Definite Door,” the nearly hitbound “Dream All Day,” the irresistible “Solar Sister.” The rest of the record is not the easy listen of prior work, as Auer and Stringfellow began exploring knottier melodies that don’t throw hooks right into the listener’s faces. The results are mixed – some songs simply don’t stick to the ribs as strongly as the band’s best. But others – “Burn & Shine,” the enigmatic and atmospheric “Coming Right Along” – prove themselves worthy of any Posies hall of fame, and the best tracks make Frosting as essential as its predecessor.

As with Dear 23, this two-disk version overflows with bounty, including another wave of demos and unreleased songs and sterling liner notes. It’s worth noting that a large portion of the extra tracks were originally released on the box set At Least At Last, but given how long out of print and expensive on the secondhand market that project is, that’s hardly a sin. Frosting on the Beater 2.0 is another excellent reissue and an indicator that the upcoming take on Amazing Disgrace will also be something special.

DOWNLOAD: “Any Other Way,” “Flood of Sunshine,” “Golden Blunders,” “Solar Sister,” “Dream All Day,” “Flavor of the Month,”

 

TUNNG—Songs You Make at Night

Album: Songs You Make at Night

Artist: Tunng

Label: Full Time Hobby

Release Date: August 24, 2018

https://fulltimehobby.co.uk/

The Upshot: The same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities. 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Tunng co-founder Sam Genders has been missing for two albums, as under the sway of Mike Lindsay and Becky Jacobs, the folktronica collective has moved further away from its shadowy melancholic roots towards a brighter, more conventional sound. With Songs You Make at Night, Genders is  back for the first time since 2007’s Good Arrows, adding a soft wistful ache to the band’s percolating rhythms and expansively instrumented grooves. This latest album is still a fair amount bubblier than early works, with the electronic part more prominent than on Mother’s Daughter or Good Arrows, yet it has the same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities.

In this way, the single “ABOP” bleeps and burbles with dance elements, its antic syncopated beat banging on amid new wave-y chimes of keyboard. Yet it also works a night time sorcercy with lyrics evoking “A blue moon phosphorescence, ignites around my fall, like chalk around a body, like light inside a storm.”  Some of these songs are relatively folky, though even “Crow” weaves samples and shiny Rhodes and glitch-rhythms into its melody. Sounds are always in flux, one turning into another, electric morphing into acoustic, melancholy into euphoric, introspective into body-celebrating dance. “Dark Heart” is the most synthwave-y of these cuts, its ghost disco trills of “Ah! Ah la la la!” punctuating blatting, burping beats, but even it starts in birdsong and water sound. This is the music of magical realism, where anything might be transmuted into anything else at any moment.

There’s a nocturnal air to many of these songs, which are bookended by “Dream In” and “Dream Out,” two concoctions of electronic aura and wistful confidences. The first one is longer, throwing up flares of keyboard sound and glitch percussion around murmured verse. “It’s a beautiful dream,” observes Genders, in his unadorned way and an altered woman’s voice, fully of eerie vibrato, flickers up in the background. “Dream Out” has no vocals, but it also works in soft, understated textures, where ordinary strums and jangles coalesce into fairy dusted surreality. The album ends with a very Tunng-like spoken word sample of a man asking, “Why are you lying down in the middle of the forest?”  Why indeed, but also why not?

DOWNLOAD: “ABOP,” “Dream In”