Albums du jour: Aphex Twin, The Dodos & Jessica Pratt

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Apex Twin: “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP”  Well, that didn’t take long.  Mere months after electronic dance music genius Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) broke a decade-long near-silence last year with his superb album “Syro,” he’s back again with more new material.  Follow-up?  Outtakes?  Remixes?

Not hardly.  Whereas “Syro” was purely electronic, the sounds on this superb new EP, true to its title, were actually touched by human hands.  Pianos, natural and prepared, and percussion, pitched (e.g., bells) and unpitched (e.g., snare drums), predominate, and, for the most part, sound quite natural.  The comparison with the Indonesian gamelan percussion orchestra is both inevitable and somewhat misleading, since Mr. Twin is exploring some decidedly western beats here, and very crisp and funky western beats at that.  My only complaint?  Too short!  Let’s hope for more in this vein, and soon.

 

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The Dodos:  “Individ”  The Dodos, a San Francisco-based duo (Meric Long, voice and guitars, Logan Kroeber, percussion) make some of the most rhythmically exciting music around — what an incredible rush they can create when at full throttle!  Their wildly exciting and promiscuously creative 2008 album “Visiter” (sic) made me a fan for life.  But alas, today’s extraordinary accomplishments become tomorrow’s expectations.  And nothing the Dodos did after “Visiter” quite measured up, though their elegiac 2013 album “Carrier,” written and recorded after the sudden death of a friend and bandmate, has much to commend.

But here they are again!  Over seven songs (compared with the fourteen on “Visiter”), “Individ” revels in intricate polyrhythms, delivered with classical precision and rocking ferocity.  Yet I find the music to be lilting, even placid, thanks to Long’s loping melodies and unruffled vocal delivery.  This one’s a keeper.

 

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Jessica Pratt: “On Your Own Love Again” Regardless of your initial impression, give yourself time with Jessica Pratt‘s voice before you tune her out.  Girlish, nasal, and eccentric in production and pronunciation, Pratt’s voice sounds to me like a hypothetical blend of the late jazz chanteuse Blossom Dearie, the legendary Licorice McKechnie of the Incredible String Band, and Helen Kane, the inspiration for Betty Boop.  But even if she comes across as affected at first, a distinct possibility, I think you’ll come around to Jessica Pratt by the end of “On Your Own Love Again,” her second album.

For here is a singer-songwriter-guitarist with something to say that no one else is quite saying.  Bittersweet lyrics of love and loneliness, set to naturally flowing melodies which trace lovely lines over rich jazzy harmonies gently propelled by relaxed Latinesque beats, rendered by Ms. Pratt’s overdubbed voices and acoustic guitars, and recorded in basic four-track analog with its attendant (and appropriate) aural patina…well, I’m hooked.  You?  (Sorry; this album is not on Spotify, though you can sample one track here.)

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