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May 17th, 2011

Guide to New Music | 5.17.11 (Africa Hitech, Dark Castle, Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara, Pink Reason, Weekend Nachos)

The number of new music releases each week is overwhelming. This is our attempt to help you navigate the never-ending deluge.

Africa Hitech – 93 Million Miles (Warp)
This is the Warp debut from Africa Hitech, a collaboration between British electronicists Steve Spacek (a member of the trio Spacek who has worked with Mos Def and Common) and Mark Pritchard (of Global Communications and Harmonic 313). The 11 cerebral jams zoom between DnB, grime, dense African rhythms, field recordings, downtempo, jazz horns, funk, and strobing rampages. The result is a cinematico-hallucinatory interplanetary journey (the title refers to the distance between the Earth and Sun), especially on the extremely celestial “Light the Way,” which quotes late-Philadelphian Sun Ra’s “When There Is No Sun”: “There is no day, there’s only darkness.” While such moments would seem to call for downcast eyes, it’s in no way a gloomy mission: the duo continuously demand a heavenward gaze with ecstatic percussion and body-shaking grooves. Listen to “Out In The Streets” here.

Dark Castle – Surrender To A Life Beyond All Form (Profound Lore)
As the album title implies, Dark Castle, a metal duo of guitarist-vocalist Stevie Floyd and drummer-vocalist Rob Shaffer of St. Augustine, Florida, are hung up on death. But unlike the old-school unconscious death-wish held by those who conceived of the body as a soul-prison that would eventually crumble and allow the spirit to wander forever in transcendental bliss, Dark Castle’s anguish stems from the loss of the world, its objects and forms. They gaze out into a valueless non-world and attempt to make sense of a shapeless existence, expressing their anxiety with pensively brutal beats, doom riffs, and demonic howls. Working in the studio with Sanford Parker, who has produced albums by Pelican, Zoroaster, and Nachtmystium, the twopiece deliver a massive, snarling and delightfully crushing sound.

Jesse Sparhawk & Eric Carbonara – Sixty Strings (VHF)
Following his epic 2010 release, The Paradise Abyss, Philly guitarist Eric Carbonara partners with Fern Knight’s Jesse Sparhawk for this fresh LP via VHF Records (a Virginia-based imprint that’s home to a few albums by Philly’s late-great Jack Rose, as well as three Fern Knight LPs). The album features two long, flowing, glistening pieces for sixty strings – Carbonara on 22-string upright Chaturangui guitar and Sparhawk on 38 string lever harp – with Julius Masri accompanying on snare drum for Side B’s “The Entwined Twin.” Mysterious melodic pathways emerge, develop, and vanish, revealing even more strangely adorned and brilliant passages, while majestic space provides as much texture as the sparkling strings and snare flurries. It’s beautiful, no doubt, but as the voyage charges forward, unfamiliar shapes and creatures guard each successive corridor. For more background on Carbonara’s musical adventures, including his studies in Kolkata, India with Debashish Bhattacharya, check out his recent interview with Pitchfork. Go here to take the Sixty Strings trip for yourself.

Pink Reason – Shit In The Garden (Siltbreeze)
Clocking in at under 30 minutes, the Wisconsin-based dirt-glam project of Kevin Failure squeezes a quick sonic shit courtesy of Philly’s Siltbreeze label. Yeah yeah, you know the drill: there’s pop melody underneath the layers of gnarly garage scuzz, you just gotta look for it. His last LP, 2007’s Clean The Mirror, has been touted as an instant outsider classic, and this follow-up rides high on those sparkly claims. A hyper-schizoid drum machine invades the guitar-pop grace Aphex Twin-style on “Holding On,” while a damaged no-wave, quasi-Mellow Gold era Beck vibe mutates and tears across “I Just Leave” until a lawnmower crashes down like a meteor halfway in, cramming itself into a wall-gazing acoustic raga pit. Centerpiece “Sixteen Years” is the catchiest tune here, summoning the spirit of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” forcing it through a rusty blender, and inviting you to suck the juice up through a barbwire-coated straw. Stream the track here.

Weekend Nachos – Worthless (Relapse)
This Chicago hardcore-sludge quartet blast through 15 enraged, crusty assaults in 26 minutes on their third LP, Worthless. John Hoffman’s vocals shift between barks, growls, and screams like a tripolar-Cujo that’s finally snapped his chain in half and is charging straight for his master’s soft throat. The lyrics are difficult to determine, but with song titles like “Black Earth,” “Old Friends Don’t Mean Shit,” “Jock Powerviolence,” and “You Could Exist Tomorrow,” where the band openly state that your being-in-the-world beyond today is very fucking precarious, I imagine they’re as brutal as the sounds. Each tune throws down a heavier bludgeoning than the last, but something special happens on the title-track: For the first 2 minutes the guitar and bass smoothly sustain a droning feedback wail, pausing amidst the bedlam, as if to provide an opportunity for us to calmly wallow in our own misery, dread, and futility after having been beaten to a pulp. Thanks, guys! Stream Worthless over at crustcake.

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