Sonic Reducer

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When two masters collaborate, competing egos and agendas can undermine the work, but not on Ancient Sounds, where oud master Alhaj and sarod master Khan commit themselves to serve the music and one another. Their play together is so responsive and complementary that distinguishing who is who is occasionally challenging; as in some Navajo weavings, foreground and background shift continually, serving only to deepen your engagement and wonder. Ancient though the musical architecture may be, Ancient Sounds delivers a clear, eloquent, and moving message of compassion and beauty the modern world will do well to heed. (MM)

Fever Ray Fever Ray (Mute)

Writing about the drudgery of suburbia is nothing new. The stifling boredom and lack of freedom inherent in a domesticated lifestyle has been covered in books and movies galore. But Fever Ray makes you hear the pain. The sterile clanks and menacing synths orchestrated by Knife co-founder Karin Dreijer Andersson produce a visceral reaction to the trapped-housewife musings in her lyrics. The electronic tapestries are just as menacing as The Knife’s, but the tracks are much more atmospheric and barely up-tempo. If you’re constantly worrying whether you’ve wasted your time on this planet, Fever Ray might make you jump off the deep end. (SM)

Black Randy and the Metrosquad Pass the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie (Vinyl Countdown)

Discordant chaos, jazzy cacophony, demented sarcasm, soul covers and funky bass lines all wrapped in a punk package unite in freaky avant-garde jams. Formed in 1977, Black Randy and the Metrosquad was one of the earliest L.A. punk bands. Last month, local audiophile Zac Webb, via his reissue label Vinyl Countdown, finally put out this crass little pearl, the band’s only album. Any record collector with a fondness for punk (or just that which is twisted) would do themselves a favor by adding this waxy double gatefold dreamboat to their stacks. And, really, how could anyone turn down highbrow tracks with titles such as "Loner With a Boner"? (JCC)

(SM) Simon McCormack, (JCC) Jessica Cassyle Carr, (MM) Mel Minter

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