Sonic Reducer: Micro Reviews Of Vulnicura, I Sell The Circus And Hexadic

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In recent interviews, Icelandic genius Björk described the making of her new release, Vulnicura, which examines her breakup with long-time partner/artist Matthew Barney (The Cremaster Cycle) as tantamount to open-heart surgery. We see it clearly on the album cover. Down the center of her PVC-clad chest runs a gaping vertical slit tinted with pink and red, purple and blue—equal parts gateway to the womb and chest split open to reveal a hole where her heart should be. It’s an excoriating album, produced by Venezuelan-born New Yorker Arca (FKA Twigs, Kanye West) and British dark ambient artist The Haxan Cloak. It’s also one of her best—candid, vulnerable, perseverant. The cello and double-bass dredge that opens “Stonemilker” takes me back to Homogenic days; I was crying by “History of Touches,” a track on which I discovered Björk is one of the few artists whose voice can caress the word “fuck” as she sings it. “Black Lake” is a harrowing take-down, while “Atom Dance” uses string plucking to lead into a jittery waltz. Outstanding. (M. Brianna Stallings)

Ricked Wicky I Sell the Circus (Fire Records)

As Guided by Voices, Robert Pollard came off as an honest citizen of a galaxy that contained preposterously profound power-pop (“I Am a Scientist”) on one end and tidy but tangential triumphs (“The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory”) on the other. The artist’s first post-GbV effort is ascribed to a rocanrol entity named Ricked Wicky; it’s titled I Sell the Circus and dwells mostly and dangerously in media res, carving a deeper path out of the uncanny valley that fills the center of Pollard’s universe. While metafictive tunes like “Death Metal Kid” are only really redeemable because Pollard’s guitar work is still consistently crunchy, other tracks clearly demonstrate that constant productivity has its own rewards. “Cow Headed Moon,” “The Important Girl” and “Frenzy of Blame” show a tireless, ultimately bitching attention to the elements of rock and roll that places Pollard somewhere out among some very large, faraway celestial objects. (August March)

Six Organs of Admittance Hexadic (Drag City)

Ben Chasny’s latest album as Six Organs of Admittance is titled Hexadic, an opaque reference to the new compositional technique Chasny marks out and elucidates in this series of difficult, rock guitar-centered recordings. Formally related to one another in their deliberate attention to timbre and dynamics, each piece is a singular exploration of the electric guitar as it eschews rock convention through a brutal sort of reductionism. While pieces like “Wax Chance” and “Hollow River” hew closer to an essential idea of what comprises “rock guitar,” the use of stylistic fragments and tropes from an overarching genre—ad infinitum and without resolution—verges on pretension. Given these drawbacks, the album still has some mighty interesting tracks, as the spooky, otherworldly “Vestige” and the equally dark and dangerous preceding track “Future Verbs” formidably demonstrate. This is definitely a special occasion record, but it’s one to keep around the house in case you ever throw a party for lead guitarists and their acolytes. (August March)

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