The new album by Wilco, Star Wars, is available for free download through Aug. 13 at wilcoworld.net. Jeff Tweedy and collaborators get all mysterious and experimental, producing work reminiscent of the White Album, Blonde on Blonde and From a Basement on the Hill—not necessarily for musical stylings, but for the wholehearted embrace of the deconstruction of a sound listeners have come to expect from the band. Their most expansive and excellent recording yet, Star Wars draws heavily upon influences like the aforementioned fab four, Blind Boy Grunt and the inimitable Smith without any sense of derivation coming to mind. Opening tracks “EKG” and “More…” begin the recording’s foray into experimental excellence with crazy rhythms and rocked out force while closer “Magnetized” has a dark, stately elegance in its simplicity that bears repeated listening and absorption. Wilco says they make country rock, but what comes out here is as far beyond those boundaries as they have ever dared to reach.
Sleaford Mods Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)
Vulgar and timelessly observant in a way that truly represents the world as it is, the new recording by Nottingham hip-hop punk pranksters Sleaford Mods is a frightening yet energizing listen filled up with spectacularly naughty word-play, anxious tempos and a sense of electronica that is both simple and profoundly head-rattling. Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn continue to lambaste popular culture and politics through their disgusted, working-class personas. An acute examination of urban anger and alienation with bombastic, funky bass-riffs thrown in for sauce, the entire venture reeks of the desolation of postmodernity expressed as humorous vignettes, anecdotes, insults and declarations. With tuneage that includes the already legendary single “Bronx in a Six,” the dubtastic lamentation “Rupert Trousers” and the sly electro-funk indictment within “Silly Me,” Key Markets ranks as one of the rare finds of an overly fecund summer.
Although Dave Pearce’s experimental project has been largely absent from the music world for nigh on 15 years, the latest record from his outfit, Instrumentals 2015, has a quality of mesmerizing re-emergence into the world that makes for an engaging, sometimes perplexing listen. The guitar work drones and slithers before drying newfound wings and flying off spectacularly into the bright sunshine. Multilayered and organically complex like the cocoon it tears itself out of, the album varies between stark noise and ghostly melodicism. The lo-fi recording techniques used by Pearce add to the palpable sense of something new and altered emerging from what came before. Each track is untitled and instead given a reference number. The result is a set of pieces that seem to speak in sonic fragments about the nature of order and chaos, the difference between the empty past and the unknown future. Challenging and rewarding, Instrumentals 2015 takes listeners on a flight both unbounded and beautifully damaged in the process of completion.