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Belbury Poly, the first and still poppiest artist on Ghost Box’s roster, released their third full-length record earlier this winter. Despite being the least abrasive of the Ghost Box club, they’ve still always retained a creepy vibe, something that is a little less pronounced here. Still, it’s more of what you’ve come to expect from the niche label — gurgling and plunking electronics seated squarely in a half-imaginary past of British alchemy, mysticism, and educational multimedia.
Also notable is the album art’s increased departure from the Romek Marber homages that have characterized Ghost Box releases. I’d have admired their tenacity if they had stuck with the same template through every release, but I guess they can’t be blamed for wanting to try something a little different.
And if you are in or around London, be sure not to miss the Belbury Youth Club Night at The Shunt Lounge, this Wednesday, March 11.
It seems Ratatat are getting ready to follow up their 2006 sophomore release Classics, which I thought was leaps and bounds above their debut self-titled, and certainly one of my favorites from that year, if not this decade. Two weeks ago they released the single Shiller, whose A-side you can listen to here. Both tracks are creepy and less beat-driven than their recent stuff, for sure, and I’m glad to see them reaching again this time around. “Shiller” will be featured on their forthcoming LP, LP3, which Evan Mast describes as being “wildly different than anything we’ve done” as well as “by far the best album we’ve ever made,” in this interview with Audiojunkies. Hey that sounds promising doesn’t it.
Although I love listening to Breakfast of Champions each morning, there are actually very few times I’m compelled to take note of any particular thing they play. But this morning I heard “Family Romance” by Department of Eagles, and had to call in make sure I got their name.
Department of Eagles is a duo composed of Daniel Rossen (of Grizzly Bear) and Fred Nicolaus. The song, while amazing, didn’t represent the full range of what they do. I was able to snag a copy of The Cold Nose; it’s a surprisingly varied blend of odd samples (strings, piano, spoken word), electronic manipulations, drum machine, acoustic/electric guitar, vocal choruses, and probably several other things I’m forgetting. The pervasive hip-hop leanings — which tend to be dark, DJ Shadow-inspired dalliances — are probably most exemplified in “Forty Dollar Rug,” a tongue-in-cheek glorification of bachelor life (“Forty dollar rug/ Twenty dollar lamp/ Playstation 2/ Tony Hawk 4”).
Meanwhile, they don’t mind sounding like Radiohead at times, in their creepy, Kid A-like harmonies, albeit backed by weird things Radiohead would probably never touch.
The Cold Nose was originally released in 2003 under a different title, and was just reissued this year with some bonus tracks; for my money, it’s better than anything Rossen has done with Grizzly Bear, and I’m sorry to have only come across it so recently. The project is, as far as I can tell, defunct.
Songs of Green Pheasant is the recording name of Duncan Sumpner, originally of England, and residing now in California. I’ll be damned if I can remember where I heard about Aerial Days, 2006’s follow-up EP to his debut LP of 2005, but for a while in June it soundtracked my falling asleep at night.
Anyway I just got a hold of his new LP, Gyllyng Street, and it’s pretty beautiful. Accusations of freak-folkdom weren’t totally unfounded before, but I think this release will help to abolish that miscategorization. It’s gauzy, even a little shoegazey, and, admittedly, kind of pastoral. But its chugging momentums and electronic flourishes recall Bibio, Chessie, Caribou at times (due to the vocal quality, I think), and I swear I even hear a little Joy Division. “West Coast Profiling” is particularly great, rattling along gracefully for five minutes before morphing into a bleak, funereal electric guitar line, soaring, unidentifiable pipes, and thumping, tambourine-led percussion. A great soundtrack to the falling temperatures.
I first encountered this album years ago, when somebody mentioned it in a forum thread about favorite album art. The cover is certainly intriguing, with that fat sans (Futura?) and the glowing purple mountain — and like all good album art, it really lends something to the sound it’s representing. The DC band does a kind of chugging, throbbing, ambient dronescape thing, which is typically more formless than the tracks I’m sharing here. Overnight is their third and most recent LP, from 2001.
I’m not sure whether “Chessie” is a reference to “the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s former holding company, the Chessie System,” or “a legendary sea monster supposedly living in the Chesapeake Bay,” but it seems to me that both meanings offer a perspective on their sound.