New Music for August 28, 2012: Late Summer Doom, Gloom, and Glam

Remake/Remodel

Roxy Music The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982
Reissue (Virgin)

Released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the influential band's debut album (the timing is made more poignant given the passing of founding bassist Graham Simpson this past April), the Roxy Music: The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982 box set includes all eight Roxy Music studio albums (remastered from the original analog master tapes, and restored to their original sequencing, i.e., no "Virginia Plain" on the first record), along with two discs' worth of non-album singles, b-sides, alternative mixes and remixes - the entirety of the work the band released during their productive first decade.

No vinyl or hi-rez versions, but for those who haven't scrupulously updated their Roxy Music collections over the years (or those just coming to the band via the myriad artists they (and their most famous alumnus, Brian Eno) have influenced, this is a pretty fantastic resource guide to the best work of Brian Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson, and their revolving cast of collaborators.

I See a Darkness

Swans The Seer
New Release (Young God)

The latter-day Swans have ventured far from the awe-inspiring noise assault of the original lineup, but though the levels have come down and the sonics have change by way of infusions of vintage Americana, gnawa mysticism, and insectoid soundscaping, the leader's interests haven't varied: ecstasy, deliverance, transcendence, illumination, and release are the order of the day, with the incantatory, beautifully realized, assuredly performed music making those notions tangible. The two-hour (yep) Seer will keep you riveted to your listening chair, even through the 32-minute title track. The band's dense brew of electric and acoustic drones recalls the best work of Sonic Youth and Grails, while Gira's impassioned vocals (along with guest appearances by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O and once-and-current Swan Jarboe) keep things grounded, albeit in a bleak, unforgiving landscape. It's heavy. Give it a chance.

O, Death. . .

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Lawless (Original Soundtrack)
New Release (Sony Classical)

This soundtrack to Nick Cave's second collaboration (he wrote both scripts) with director John Hillcoat (the first was 2005's covered-in-flies homage to spaghetti Western, The Proposition) finds Cave and frequent collaborator Warren Ellis smashing together country, bluegrass, and rock'n'roll into a fantastical, anachronistic stew that fits the film's setting in Prohibition-era Virginia. Case in point: there are two takes on the Velvets' "White Light/White Heat," a fiddle tune and sprightly old-time version voiced by Ralph Stanley. Also featured are Emmylou Harris (on the scary "Fire in the Blood"), Willie Nelson (with a rollicking "Midnight Run"), and Mark Lanegan, providing his signature whisky-soaked growl and gravitas on the majority of the tracks. Get this as your comedown disc for when you make it through The Seer.

Beyond Driven

Katatonia Dead End Kings
New Release (Peaceville)

The latest from long-running Swedish metal outfit Katatonia marks yet another step in their evolution away from their doom/death beginnings into a full-fledged prog outfit, with ever-more-complex and careful arrangements, full-bodied guitar tones, and downright pretty singing getting the band into Porcupine Tree territory, though the harmony's more inside and the overall approach is decidedly more metallic. Like recent work from Katatonia pal and collaborator Mikael Åkerfeldt's Opeth, this is the sound of extreme metal all grown up.

Eternal Return

Terry Reid Rogue Waves
Reissue (Capitol)

One of the perennial also-rans of the British blues-rock explosion, the gifted guitarist and singer Terry Reid famously turned down the vocal chair in Jimmy Page's New Yardbirds (he did have the foresight to recommend the untested Robert Plant for the gig, however); missed out on leading Deep Purple, and has released a string of well-respected albums packed with oft-covered tunes ever since, fading into cognoscenti-only obscurity 'til a unlikely rediscovery by Rob Zombie (who used three Reid tracks for the soundtrack of his 2005 retro-horror flick The Devil's Rejects) sparked new interest in Reid's career. Capitol's now rereleased his 1979 outing Rogue Waves, which may feature one of the worst cover illustrations of all time (sure, we all miss those big vinyl covers, but maybe not this time), but includes nothing but spot-on Faces-meet-Janis-meets-maximum-R&B-proto-powerpop goodness within.

And also entering the rotation. . .

Matthew Dear Beams (new release, Ghostly International): post-techno vet in a Pet Shop Boys mode with a touch of rockin' LCD Soundsystem early-'80s mutant disco. Dan Deacon America (new release, Domino): leaves behind the silliness of his Carpark output in favor of aggressive electro experiments and some nice sampled string arrangements for a travelogue through an American landscape filtered through Glass, Reich, and maybe Sufjan Stevens. Mekons Devils Rats & Piggies - A Special Message From Godzilla (reissue, Quarterstick): a cleaned-up release of this transitional 1980 second album, which saw them already beginning to chafe at their early mannered twitchings in favor of something more sprawling, all-encompassing, and songcrafty. Ian Gillian and Tony Iommi Who Cares (new release, earMUSIC): Sounding for all the world like the album Sabbath's Born Again should have been, this finds the duo (backed by ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, and Gillian's former Deep Purple mate the late Jon Lord on keyboards) in perhaps the best and hardest rocking form they've been in for years. Minus the Bear Infinity Overload (new release, Dangerbird): Enlisting former member and Mastodon producer Matt Bayles behind the boards on this outing cuts some of the post-rock electronics of 2010's Omni, reintroducing lots more guitar and ending up with a more relaxed, focused prog-rocking band than you might have expected at this point in their career. Divine Fits A Thing Called Divine Fits (new release, Merge): The songs on this supergroup outing owe far more to the sounds of Britt Daniel's Spoon and Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner than to the punk purism of Sam Brown's New Bomb Turks, but the trio's tuneful indie rock, somewhat reminiscent of the more rocking moments of the New Pornographers, sounds like a serious band effort, with a minimalist spareness that manages to stand independently of the contributors' discographies (and sounds great too, courtesy of post-punk veteran producer Nick Launay).

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