In Rotation is a regular Opus feature where I post short reviews of noteworthy music, both new and old, that I’ve been listening to lately.
It’s been seven years since Gang Gang Dance’s last album, 2011’s delightfully mercurial Eye Contact. (For the record, “MindKilla” was one of my favorite songs from 2011.) In the ensuing years, the band’s members have pursued other projects (e.g., bEEdEEgEE, The Chapin Sisters) but 4AD has announced Kazuashita, which will be released on June 22.
“Lotus” is the first single (listen below), and it blends shimmery ambient textures, snappy rhythms, languid guitars, and Lizzi Bougatsos’ sing-song vocals. Mix all of that with Jorge Elbrecht’s (Violens, Lansing-Dreiden) slick production, and you’ve got a gorgeous piece of dreampop that bodes well for the rest of Kazuashita. But then again, this is Gang Gang Dance we’re talking about, so nothing’s off the table.
Dirk Serries has released some of my favorite ambient music of all time through his vidnaObmana moniker, specifically 1996’s The River of Appearance (but the vidnaObmana discography is actually quite deep and diverse). But it appears as if Serries may leaving ambient music behind in some fashion. Earlier this month, he announced Epitaph, a two-disc release that he describes as “the swansong of music I like to name my vintage ambient” as well as “my finest collection of ambient pieces to date.”
Recorded straight into a computer from a guitar and some effects pedals, “Spectral Grey Walls” is Serries’ music at its most distilled and atmospheric. Serries’ layered guitar drones recalls Flying Saucer Attack’s pastoral phase at its most pensive and introspective, as well as Stars of the Lid’s contemplative atmospheres.
Over the last couple of years, South Korea’s Aseul has steadily released one track after another of sterling dreampop filled with shimmering electronics, gauzy guitars, and her breathy vocals. Her latest single, “Sandcastles,” continues that trend. It’s one of her finest compositions to date, and brings to mind both Pure Bathing Culture’s effortless pop and Stina Nordenstam’s soulfulness.
If all you know of Korean music is K-pop and “Gangnam Style,” then “Sandcastles” may be something of a revelatory experience.
Damien Jurado began his solo career writing pensive, melancholy indie-folk, with the result being heartbreakingly beautiful albums like 1999’s Rehearsals for Departure. But beginning with 2012’s Maraqopa, Jurado’s been expanding his sound, thanks to producer Richard Swift, and incorporating elements of lounge and psychedelia into his songs. The resulting music still has the heart and soul of his earliest recordings, but with deeper, lusher, and more intriguing sonics.
“Allocate” is the first single on his new album, the self-produced The Horizon Just Laughed, and it’s exactly what one has come to expect from Jurado. His sighing voice is perfectly blended with Clientele-esque string arrangements and sprightly rhythms, and his lyrics — “Once we were lost and we never came back/I can only exist so long as you laugh” — convey a sense of world-weary malaise and disquiet that is also spell-binding.