Grouper is Liz Harris. From the evocative title through the hauntingly predictive opening track “Made of Metal,” her latest release Ruins is straight-up psychogeographic. This pattern continues with windy force through the fading formal structure of “Labyrinth” and closer “Made of Air.” The distinctive lo-fi ambience captured by recording this album on a four-track contributes to the feelings elicited upon listening. Here, the composer recalls a place that remains clear in memory but is beset by entropy as the passage of time overtakes observation. Ambient without wandering too far afield and reflective without being revelatory, Ruins drifts over the remains of the day in subtle segments that are revealing and quietly compelling. Harris’ work on the piano is especially focused here. The quietude of her vocals reveals an admirable restraint that is never resigned and always knowing.
It's as if Deerhoof recorded their new album while vacationing on a beautiful, tropical island. The band gets all free and spontaneous on La Isla Bonita, a collection of songs that liberates rock and roll from strict genre rules and propels itself into the deep blue, surround-sound sea. Ed Rodriguez’ and John Dieterich’s guitar work is playfully cohesive but stunningly competitive on “Paradise Girls.” Satomi Matsuzaki's piquant vocalizations continue to perplex, and they verge toward profundity on tracks like totally fucking punk rock anthem “Exit Only.” Drummer Greg Saunier’s propulsive approach to percussion contributes to an overarching effect that may very well cause less fortunate members of the indie rock community to wince in terror and awe. With La Isla Bonita under their belt, Deerhoof remains set to conquer the world, leaving pretenders to the throne (like The Flaming Lips) in their ever-expanding wake.
BBC Radio One is pretty decent. When stationed in Old Blighty in the mid ’90s, tuning in to the Beeb was my introduction to pop and EDM. But I eventually discovered Radio Two is where it’s at. That’s where I heard Inspiral Carpets for the first time. The Madchester band’s future seemed bright when crazy-glammy fourth release Devil Hopping landed in the Top Ten. I bought jumpy, wistful single “Saturn 5” and cranked it all summer long at Brunel. Then the band dispersed, occasionally releasing comps or touring. Over 20 years later, Inspirals are back with an eponymous album that improves on their signature jangly-guitar-and-screaming-keyboard aesthetic without sounding dated or nostalgic. While it’s not epic, Brit-psych tuneage like “Spitfire” and “Let You Down” still beat the hell out of anything Oasis or Happy Mondays ever did.