Sonic Reducer

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Death Cab For Cutie Guitarist Chris Walla may not have the pipes of his bandmate Ben Gibbard, but DCFC’s deep outer space atmosphere and sugar-pop melodies are all over Walla’s first solo album, Field Manual . It can be sickly sweet at times, but there’s no doubting Walla’s songwriting gifts, which allow him to draw in unsuspecting ears like a tractor beam. It’s airy, enthusiastic and, aside from some politically charged lyrics, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Death Cab fans should gobble this one up. (SM)

Donny McCaslin In Pursuit (Sunnyside Records)

In Pursuit adds luster to tenorist Donny McCaslin’s rising reputation as an inventive and expressive player, but it also serves notice that he is a modern composer to be reckoned with. In this sextet setting, which includes the equally exciting, alto-adept (and producer) David Binney, McCaslin’s evocative compositions take ear-opening journeys—sometimes achingly reflective, sometimes giddy and headlong—to the end of the line, riding on complex rhythmic rails and compelling postmodern harmonies. His intensely emotional playing features a preternatural command of timbre; economical, supple and surprising phrasing; and a willingness to go only- and every-where the music takes him. (MM)

Chloe Day Sugar (Self-released)

Like an old lullaby, Chloe Day‘s new EP Sugar is inviting and vaguely ominous at the same time. These electro songs are up-tempo but gloomy, with less trip-hop in its wiring than her other work. Day’s voice is as breathy and bone-chilling as ever and her lyrics are more than a tad cryptic. The perfect complement to a cold day, Sugar will have you bobbing your head and clutching the covers. (SM)

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