2020 Playlist — numün, So Sure, SUMAC, Bent Arcana, Daniel Blumberg, Hekla, Butcher Brown, Bully

To whom it may interest,

Collecting sounds over the past couple weeks for a new entry for my 2020 Playlist. I'd been largely absent for most of July thanks to the demands of my day job, the high doses of pain killers I had to ingest thanks to a severe back issue, and other distractions and otherwise tiring things that required attention and focus. I'm hoping to have more to say in the coming months, (though I've made THAT promise before).

If you've hung in there, thank you. If you haven't, maybe I can win back your approval.

Hope you're all well and staying safe. Please wear your masks.



numün: "voyage au soleli"
(via Clandestine Label Services / Musique Impossible / YouTube)

Album Pre-Order

via Clandestine Label Services

Numün is a trio of New York City soundscape designers who combine a wide range of music and visual influences to create hypnotic aural and visual experiences. The band members include “ambient country” pioneer Bob Holmes (from SUSS) as well as new music composer and artist, Joel Mellin, and percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Chris Romero (both from Gamelan Dharma Swara). Their influences range from sonic artists like Brian Eno and Morton Sobotnick, to the environmental visual artists Olafur Eliason and Elias Romero, to Balinese composer I Nyoman Windha and shadow puppet master I Wayan Wija. As individual artists, their work has been seen and heard at MOMA, The Met, Basilica Hudson, The Bali Arts Festival, NPR, New Sounds, Echoes, and has been featured in Mojo, Wire, Pitchfork and Aquarium Drunkard.

Numün’s first album, “voyage au soleil”, will be released on Musique Impossible in Fall 2020. The original sessions came out of a project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. The initial track, “Tranquility Base” was featured on the compilation, “The Moon and Back – One Small Step for Global Pop” and released on London-based WIAIWYA that same year. With 1969 as a starting point, numün began exploring what that period of history meant to them both personally and musically. Using a combination of traditional Balinese and Americana instrumentation, along with synthesizers and loop manipulation reminiscent of their musique concrete forbearers, numün created soundscapes that explored the hope, turmoil, and psychedelic escape and promise of that pivotal era. The final result is 6 tracks that take the listener on a trip to the heart of the sun. 


So Sure: "Paper Thinned Skin"
(via MPress Records / Noise Trade / YouTube)

Album Order

via MPress Records

Caffeine Drip is the first offering from So Sure, which was officially formed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The EP features songs that are all-too-timely and reflect the international frustration and anxiety due to the virus and recent protests sparked by the tragedy in Minneapolis. Initially, the group's bond was their common love of bands such as My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive, and the Cocteau Twins. And a front-to-back live performance together of My Bloody Valentine's seminal Loveless album sealed the deal.


SUMAC: "The Iron Chair"
(via Thrill Jockey Records / Bandcamp)

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via Thrill Jockey Records:

Following the recent announcement of their new album May You Be Held, out Oct. 2nd, SUMAC have shared the record's first single "The Iron Chair". SUMAC's creative improvisations defy expectations and “The Iron Chair,” a spontaneous moment in the studio, is at once a cathartic and uninhibited release and heavy dive into what can only be called alien logic.

May You Be Held's compassionate tone stands in stark contrast to the misanthropic and death-obsessed nature of most heavy metal music. The album's emotional resonance is bound less by melody, but each member's considered performance and interaction with one another. Here, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner’s bellows and howls seem less threatening than wounded, primal, and mammalian. On guitar, his subversion of melody and penchant for noise seems less like aural punishment and more like an open horizon for frequencies and timbre. In a traditional metal context, drummer Nick Yacyshyn’s dexterous beats, exhilarating fills, and creative flourishes might seem like the pinnacle of rhythmic ferocity, but on May You Be Held there’s a kind of ecstasy in his performance, a fluidity and ability that conveys both urgency in purpose and joy in execution. Bassist Brian Cook glues it together with a heavy handedness that could be seen as hostile or malicious if it didn’t also provide the clearest path to navigating the band’s thorny arrangements.

May You Be Held is a record that feels more human than anything else—at times flawed and wounded, at others, triumphant, purposeful, and pensive. The music is by no means a salve or anodyne, but neither is it nihilistic. Rather, its forceful approach and challenging timbres are like a confrontation, a baptism by fire, a therapeutic razing.


Bent Arcana: "Oblivion Sigil"
(via Tell All Your Friends PR / Castle Face Records / KEXP / YouTube)

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via Tell All Your Friends PR:

Bent Arcana have shared the third single, "Oblivion Sigil" off of their upcoming self-titled debut. The track was shared exclusively with KEXP praising, "Each of the group's many players, through virtue of their talent, explore these long instrumental passages with the verve of soul seekers walking along busy city streets like wanderers in a desert seeking the clarity of the world's meaning with the help of a peyote and ayahuasca cocktail. Like suited-up ensemble players dwelling life's big questions every night in a hole-in-the-wall jazz club reeking of the foulest of dank smells, clouds of smoke filling its tight space." 

Bent Arcana features Ryan Sawyer, Peter Kerlin, Kyp Malone, Brad Caulkins, Tom Dolas, Marcos Rodriguez, Laena "Geronimo" Myers-Ionita, Joce Soubiran, Andres Renteria and John Dwyer.
Bent Arcana is the inceptive chapter in what I hope to be several releases showcasing these types of off-the-cuff musical compositions. So you can try your fry on and turn off. This one is very much on the ECM / 70s hard fusion / prog-kraut tip. It is a many pronged weapon, swung by the spontaneous sentinel.

It’s out on Castle Face Records August 21st.


Daniel Blumberg: "On & On & On & On & On"

via Mute

Daniel Blumberg has released his new album On & On, a 9-track song cycle that confirms the London musician and visual artist as a unique creative force, and pushes the art of song into expansive new territories.

On&On is out now on vinyl, CD and digitally via Mute, and is accompanied by an essay written by the author David Toop. Album available physically in the US/CA from August 28.


Hekla: "Tvö Þrjú Slit"
(via Phantom Limb / Soundcloud)

Album Order

via Phantom Limb:

Icelandic theremin maestra Hekla returns with the gorgeously sparse and haunting new EP Sprungur, out digitally and limited cassette on August 28. A follow up to her acclaimed 2018 debut album Á, the upcoming EP was written and self-recorded at her home studio in Reykjavik during maternity leave.

Hekla's delicate, spectral music pierces the dark negative space within Iceland’s dreamy, permanight magick and folklore with a deep, intense sonic soundworld all her own. A long-term scholar of solo theremin, Hekla (shortened from her own name Hekla Magnúsdóttir) coaxes otherworldly and powerfully evocative sounds from her instrument, alternately howling and yearning with equal grace.

Hekla's debut album Á was released by Phantom Limb in 2018, attracting high praise for its beautifully expressive range and its eloquent spareness. For her latest release Sprungur – she develops her palette to include gently reverberated piano lines and subtle synth parts alongside the theremin and her own ghostly vocal delivery. Opening single 'Tvö þrjú Slit' begins as a haunted waltz, the forgotten memory of an abandoned ballroom, trading its melody between voice and theremin. 'Sofðu Unga Ástin Mín' is an arrangement of a traditional Icelandic lullaby (Hekla writes that it “always scared me out when I was little” - you can see why). Its mournful theremin melody blooms amid a garden of dulcet synthesis and twinkling piano. And within the lyrics lies the line "Í jöklinum hljóða dauðadjúpar sprungur" [Eng: In the glacier rumbles deadly deep cracks], from which Hekla took the title of the EP, exploring the imagery of great mythical beasts inhabiting the earth and causing deep fissures from their rumbling movements.

In Hekla’s hands, the theremin covers an enormous range, from skittering birdsong of high frequency chirrups and chirps, to grinding, tectonic sub-bass. She is a rare virtuosic player, joining a miniscule group of musicians in mastery of such a notoriously difficult instrument. While classically informed, her playing style allows a crucial distinction from kitsch or tokenistic use of the theremin, instead offering gravity and a sombre melancholy. Her fans in the wider music community - PJ Harvey, for example - describe her alongside experimental musicians such as Colleen, Julia Holter or the late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.


Butcher Brown: "Cabbage (DFC)"
(via Clandestine Label Services / Concord Jazz / YouTube)

via Clandestine Label Services:

#KingButch—hashtag proudly attached—is the title of Butcher Brown’s soon-to-be top-trending album, the eighth in the band’s up-from-the-roots legacy, and their first with Concord Records, on the Concord Jazz imprint. The 13 tracks collectively represent a bold step forward for the 5-piece group from Richmond, Virginia. Remaining true to the group’s heady fusion of contemporary hip-hop, ‘70s fusion, ‘60s jazz and funk—even echoes of Southern rock and marching band music show up—#KingButch is a powerfully original statement that reaches across divisions of genre, generation, ethnicity, and geography. Significantly, the new recording also reveals a side of Butcher Brown that’s been developing and is now in full-flower: a song-crafting, studio maturity on a par with their national reputation as an explosive live act.

#KingButch, like previous Butcher Brown recordings, was recorded in their home recording facility—Jellowstone Studios (the group’s “nerve center”)—and features the striking and diverse talents of the band’s members: deejay / producer / keyboardist DJ Harrison; drummer Corey Fonville; bassist Andrew Randazzo; trumpeter / saxophonist / MC Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney; and guitarist Morgan Burrs. The album also benefits from the production skills of Chris Dunn (N’Dambi, NEXT Collective, Leela James, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah), Concord Records’ Sr. Director of A&R, and was recorded in a furiously creative, two-week period last October. The cover art was created by famed designer Lou Beach, famed for his iconic cover of Weather Report’s 1977 classic, Heavy Weather. Butcher Brown’s career has been guided for the past four years by veteran artist manager David Passick (Herbie Hancock, Don Was, Maxwell), whose management firm represents a number of pioneering musicians in the jazz/hip-hop overlap; #KingButch is dedicated to Passick’s long-time partner, Jack Leitenberg, who passed away last year.

Track by track, the musical menagerie on
#KingButch is a balance of stylistic flavors—polished and raw, urban and country, North and South—offering a fluid, feel-good sonic journey: from the party-starting, neo-soul lope of the opening track “Fonkadelica”, and the exuberant, horn-driven energy (serious EWF echoes!) of “Cabbage (DFC)”; to the hypnotic, guitar-driven groove of “Broad Rock”; the ethereal cover of Ronnie Laws’ “Tidal Wave”, fusing it with flavors from Black Moon’s 1993 classic “Who Got Da Props” which sampled it; and the soaring, skipping-through-clouds feel of “Love Lock”, reviving a 1978 Mtume tune with a melodic line that stays for days. There are the album’s four tunes highlighting Tennishu’s rhymes and flow: the relaxed, acid-jazz vibe of the title track; the skillful, free-styling “Hopscotch”; and the bossa nova-flavored “Gum In My Mouth”. “For The City” offers a taste of South Coast hip-hop flavor, and features RVA rapper Fly Anakin.

#KingButch is a direct outgrowth of Butcher Brown’s burgeoning popularity, building since the group’s first homegrown releases in 2013. Many of the songs were born on the road during a busy two-year period, when they shared the stage with such jazz, funk, and jam-band favorites as Kamasi Washington, Galactic, Turkuaz, and Lettuce. “We did so many tours from 2017 through most of 2019,” Corey Fonville says. “We were working on much of this material, working it out every night like an open rehearsal, developing a set list and sharpening these songs until it just felt natural once we got into the studio.”

Butcher Brown settled into Jellowstone studio last October with Harrison engineering and Chris Dunn producing, setting their sights on creating a new level of experience for their fans. “All the guys in Butcher Brown are great players but also can think like producers,” says Chris Dunn. “For a few tracks, they brought in music from their live shows, some that were more than twelve minutes long. We discussed what the recipe should be, and they jumped right in trimming, shaping, adding, and finally fashioning a blend of rawness and lo-fi sophistication that was all their own. Watching it come together track by track, I believe #KingButch opens up an exciting new chapter for the band creatively.”

Two weeks was the longest the group has devoted to a single recording project. “We were all in the room together, no other dates to get to, no other distractions,” says Harrison. “Some days we went from 11 to 7, some it was 12 noon until super late at night but nothing else. It was like the whole Quincy Jones-Bruce Swedien-Michael Jackson team aspect.”

Harrison’s familiarity with the recording team behind Thriller suggests his—and Butcher Brown’s—fluency with the musical tradition they are carrying forward, and their appreciation for the production and engineering side of their craft. The group’s decision—and Concord’s—to release #KingButch in the midst of the current pandemic was not one they made lightly, but with the conscious intention of sharing a needed spark of joy and connection. “It’s a time now when people need to be uplifted, they need to hear new music,” says Chris Dunn. “Of course we were worried about releasing an album without the chance to tour, especially with a live band like Butcher Brown, but we said, no—we can’t wait. This music has to come out.”

#KingButch will be released in full on September 18, with a number of single tracks dropping before then, as part of the Butcher Brown’s mission to share the music and their message.


Bully: "Hours and Hours"
(via Sub Pop / YouTube)

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via Sub Pop:

Bully’s “Hours and Hours” is the latest standout from SUGAREGG, her incredible new album out next month on Sub Pop. Alicia Bognanno offers this about the song, “‘Hours and Hours’ is about my mother and I finally figuring out our relationship. She and I had a really hard time connecting growing up and at times felt like it would never happen. Over the past five years we have become best friends, she is now the very first person I call when I am at my absolute lowest and has saved my life. I realize now how similar we are and how that probably had everything to do with why we had a difficult time with each other growing up. I wish I knew sooner how much we could relate but am eternally grateful that we have figured it out now and I’m just so thankful to be on good terms, I love her dearly.”

Bully will release SUGAREGG on August 21st, 2020 worldwide through Sub Pop. LP preorders through megamart.subpop.com and select independent retailers in North America will receive the limited Loser edition on a translucent blue w/white "smoke" colored vinyl. Meanwhile, preorders in the U.K. and Europe through select independent retailers will receive the Loser edition on transparent red vinyl. There will also be a new t-shirt design available.

SUGAREGG was produced and mixed by John Congleton and Bully’s Alicia Bognanno, with additional production and mixing by Graham Walsh, recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and Palace Sound in Toronto, Ontario, and mastered by Heba Kadry.

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