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SALEM King

Night (Iam­sound Records) Beau­ti­ful, vis­ceral, and strange,

King Night, the first full-length al­bum by Chicago/Tra­verse City dark­wave/chop ’n’ screwed hip-hop trio Salem, is the kind of sound­scape that re­quires a sharp and sturdy pair of mental cleats. Of­ten re­ferred to as “drag” (not campy drag; more like a real bum­mer or a sui­ci­dal sloth on ’ ludes) and “witch house,” the mu­sic of John Hol­land, Jack Donoghue, and Heather Mar­latt is a stew of all things crunky, church-y, cryp­tic, and creepy. (It’s some­thing Tea Party Se­nate can­di­date and ad­mit­ted sa­tanic-pic­nic dab­bler Chris­tine O’Don­nell might have hummed in the shower dur­ing her hazy col­lege days). Or­gans and synths and Mar­latt’s dense and echo-laden voice are lay­ered over fuzzed-out gui­tars; stac­cato drum ma­chines; bursts of stereo-sys­tem-wreck­ing bass; Donoghue’s hor­ror­core-like rhymes; and Hol­land’s woozy vo­cals. Sam­ples, such as a choir sing­ing “Silent Night” on the ti­tle track and war­bled vo­cal loops from ori­gins un­known, slice through the al­bum’s re­lent­less shoegaze drone like a hot scythe through a happy day­dream. The whole al­bum sounds and feels like a for­bid­den rit­ual, re­call­ing the cer­e­mo­nial air of mu­sic by John Bal­ance’s Coil and Ge­n­e­sis P-Or­ridge’s Throb­bing Gris­tle (the early years). King Night is rife with witchy ways. It may be a chal­lenge for many ears upon first lis­ten, but Salem even­tu­ally casts its mar­velous spell, and leaves you hyp­no­tized, if not also a lit­tle de­pressed. — Rob DeWalt

ANTONY & THE JOHN­SONS Swan­lights (Se­cretly

Cana­dian) I’ve of­ten won­dered why Antony & the John­sons so of­ten get lumped in with in­die rock — and not only be­cause they don’t sound par­tic­u­larly in­die rocky. Antony’s evoca­tive so­prano should ap­peal to fans of opera or croon­ers, while the John­sons are es­sen­tially a jazz en­sem­ble. This isn’t a mu­si­cal world that’s abra­sive or in­dif­fer­ent in the slight­est; this is one that en­velops and over­whelms you emo­tion­ally — it’s an open in­vi­ta­tion to mu­sic fans of all stripes. On Swan­lights, Antony’s in­fat­u­a­tion with death and re­birth is im­me­di­ately rekin­dled with the opener, “Ev­ery­thing Is New” (a line that is reprised near the al­bum’s end). And from there he con­tin­ues to ex­plore themes of tran­si­tion. On “Ghost,” he im­plores a ghost to leave his heart and go into the light, and it comes off as Shake­spearean in its anguish and im­agery. An al­bum high­light is the ex­per­i­men­tal and ar­rest­ing “I’m in Love,” which boasts rich bass and twin­kling syn­the­siz­ers, manic hand claps, and an el­e­gant string sec­tion. The sub­jects of these trans­for­ma­tions are uni­ver­sal and vary from song to song — the birth of a child, the loss of a par­ent, new­found love, and the with­er­ing of a re­la­tion­ship. Antony’s mu­sic is a con­tin­ual rev­e­la­tion; it feels so warm and com­fort­ing even when ev­ery­thing is new.

— Robert B. Ker LY­DIA CLARK AND THE GOSPEL RY­DERS It’s a Brand New Day (Crazy Red Head Pro­duc­tions) As a child, Ly­dia Clark played pi­ano for ser­vices in her fa­ther’s church in Kansas. In New Mex­ico since 1964, she has per­formed rock, jazz, and coun­try, as well as blues and gospel, and has writ­ten six chil­dren’s op­eras. She pos­sesses a fine voice, strong and clear, for get­tin’ out the gospel mes­sage. On It’s a Brand New Day, she does the tra­di­tion proud on nine songs, of­ten in call-and-re­sponse mode with backup singers Hil­lary Smith and Joanie Cere. There are lots of other fa­mil­iar names here, among them the singer’s brother, drum­mer Mark Clark, and bassist Justin Brans­ford, gui­tarists Ra­mon Ber­mudez Jr. and Pat Malone, and trum­peter Paul Gon­za­les. Six of the songs were writ­ten by Ly­dia Clark. The disc opens with the funk-groove ti­tle song. Clark waxes op­ti­mistic on a strong beat set up by Brans­ford and brother Mark with brass ac­cents from Gon­za­les and sax­o­phon­ist Glenn Kos­tur, and a fiery gui­tar solo by Dimian Disanti. The leader’s bluesy “Love One An­other” and “King of Kings” are stand­outs, as are vi­tal cov­ers of Sis­ter Rosette Tharpe’s 1940s song “Up Above My Head”; “Pre­cious Lord,” a gospel stan­dard by Thomas A. Dorsey; and, go­ing way back to the mid-19th cen­tury, “Abide With Me” by Henry Francis Lyte. This is a short al­bum, just shy of 35 min­utes, but it’s full of good mu­sic and good feel­ing. — Paul Wei­de­man

STEVE RE­ICH Dou­ble Sex­tet and 2x5 (None­such) When Steve Re­ich won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Mu­sic for his Dou­ble Sex­tet, the only real puz­zle­ment was why he hadn’t re­ceived the award sooner. Of the four com­posers who de­fined mu­si­cal min­i­mal­ism in the 1960s — Re­ich, La Monte Young, Terry Ri­ley, and Philip Glass — Re­ich has trav­eled the fur­thest in his mu­si­cal devel­op­ment, and at least two of his works,

Te­hillim (1981) and Dif­fer­ent Trains (1988), have long qual­i­fied as clas­sics. When he was ap­proached about com­pos­ing a piece for the much-ap­plauded en­sem­ble Eighth Black­bird, Re­ich hes­i­tated: each of the group’s six mu­si­cians plays a dif­fer­ent in­stru­ment, but Re­ich’s style de­pends on us­ing mul­ti­ples of iden­ti­cal in­stru­ments to play against one an­other, of­ten in canon. His so­lu­tion was to write a piece in which the group would pre­re­cord one part and then play a sec­ond part live, ef­fec­tively over­dub­bing it­self. The re­sult is splen­did on this first record­ing of the piece, in which up­per voices of­ten sus­tain chords above the pul­sat­ing bass line. No less ef­fec­tive is 2x5 (from 2008), in which five mu­si­cians from the Bang on a Can col­lec­tive sim­i­larly play against a record­ing of them­selves. Its in­stru­men­ta­tion for a rock en­sem­ble yields a still brighter tim­bre, and its cease­less en­ergy is hugely in­vig­o­rat­ing. Play this shim­mer­ing CD while you’re do­ing your house­clean­ing, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you fin­ish. —James M. Keller

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