Danceable generous heap with of a dreamy detours, ‘Lucky Shiner’ is solid electro gold.
The Age of Adz (Asthmatic
Kitty) On his sixth full-length album, Sufjan Stevens wisely frees himself from the self-administered shackles of his 50-states project (he has stated that he intends to create an album for each state in the Union) and instead weaves a complex tapestry about the intricate contours of human relationships. The narrative sounds intensely personal at times, but the overriding sense is that Stevens has simply been listening to a lot of Björk records lately. If so, good for him. “Now That I’m Older” boasts choirs that pull you into the song by your shirt cuffs, not unlike Björk’s Medulla album, while the towering “Too Much” recalls the majestic pop of Homogenic. Stevens doesn’t have the vocal presence of the Icelandic icon, but he manages the most evocative singing of his career by compressing his voice through electronic filters and tastefully deploying a heart-piercing falsetto when the material demands it. Some of Stevens’ worse tics show up here and there. He still leaves songs in the oven too long, overcooking them until they’re mush. His self-editing, as always, needs work: the stark and powerful “I Walked” highlights how many of his songs are hampered by his excess of ideas. Nonetheless, the move to more electronic instrumentation downplays the times when his ambition gets in his own way, and Adz represents the kind of creative leap that reminds the listener that too many albums suffer from not having enough ideas. — Robert B. Ker VARIOUS ARTISTS The Orb and Youth Present
Impossible Oddities (Year Zero Records) The acid house years of the late ’80s and early ’90s may be a time better remembered than relived. Known for its ecstasy-induced, hug-friendly “cuddle puddles,” the acid-house scene ushered in the era of the rave, when dance music traded the club floor for far-flung locations in fields, forests, and abandoned warehouses. This compilation by U.K. DJs and promoters The Orb and Youth collects some classics and rarities from the era, with a focus on British artists. The sound of acid house is as instantly recognizable as its de facto logo — a ridiculous grinning yellow happy face. Acid house took the harder styles of Chicago and New York house and bathed them in patchouli, adding trancelike rhythms and psychedelic electronic squelches. This three-disc compilation won’t make a convert of anyone who wasn’t there during what many called “the second summer of love.” For those who were, these kaleidoscopic club tracks show their age even as they provoke fresh memories. This is a fleeting soundtrack of a time before media hysteria, drug abuse, and crippling rave laws brought this free-flowing scene to an end.
— Casey Sanchez
MARCEL TYBERG Symphony No. 3/Piano
Trio (Naxos) You’ve never heard of Marcel Tyberg? Don’t be too hard on yourself; neither had practically anyone else prior to the release of this CD of his Symphony No. 3 (from 1943) and his Piano Trio (1935-1936), apparently the first recording of his music. An Austrian composer and pianist, Tyberg settled in the town of Abbazia — then in Italy, now in Croatia — where he composed symphonies, sonatas, and Masses in addition to dance music for the local resorts. When the Nazis took over, in 1943, Tyberg knew he was in trouble: he was one-sixteenth Jewish. Indeed, he was soon deported to a concentration camp and is thought to have died in 1944 at either San Sabba or Auschwitz. He had taken the precaution of entrusting his manuscripts to a physician friend, who in turn passed them on to his own son, also a physician, who eventually moved to Buffalo and shared them with JoAnn Falletta, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic. Here she leads the orchestra in a rousing interpretation of Tyberg’s compelling Third Symphony, the stentorian brass writing and generally visionary stance of which recalls Bruckner, with allusions to Mahler. If you’re not a Bruckner fan — that’s allowed — you may prefer his warm-hearted Piano Trio, sprung more from the lineage of Schumann and Brahms; perhaps Dohnányi is the closest comparison. Warmly recommended. — James M. Keller GOLD PANDA Lucky Shiner (Ghostly International) After releasing some singles, an EP, and a string of popular remixes for bands such as Simian Mobile Disco, Bloc Party, and HEALTH, U.K. electronic artist/producer Gold Panda has unleashed his first full-length album. The instrumental, 11-track, 47-minute Lucky Shiner finds him gravitating toward a glitchier, less ambient, more hip-hop-and house-beat-oriented sound than before. Samples of analog tape hiss and the skips and crackles of damaged vinyl albums figure prominently, as do pitch-shifting synths that ebb and flow like computerized choral interludes on a warped, ’80s-era Art of Noise record. Golden Panda — a Pitchfork.com and A.V. Club electro-hipster darling who’s also a guaranteed easy sell for the more pop-oriented hoodie/skinny-jeans set — brings plenty of vintage Roland Rhythm Composer beats to this project, but he layers and tweaks the percussion and sampling to create something far more esoteric than he did in his previous work. His travels in Japan and a stint at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies lend portions of the album a slightly autobiographical sensibility (“Same Dream China,” “India Lately”), but a majority of Lucky Shiner is grounded in obscure European electro and Gold Panda’s gift for minimal-techno experimentation. Danceable with a generous heap of dreamy detours, Lucky Shiner is solid electro gold. — Rob DeWalt