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Wovenhand, tUnE-yArDs, Eno and Hyde

Sound Advice

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Refractory Obdurate

Wovenhand

Refractory Obdurate

Glitterhouse Records

File next to: Nick Cave, Calexico

Christian spirituality and rock music have shared an uncomfortable relationship since the days of burning Beatles records, with many religious folk distrustful of rock's secular debauchery, and rockers skeptical of insipid proselytizing that's wrapped around electric guitars to reach a wider audience. Occasionally, however, artists come along with enough fire and fervor to make the marriage sublime. Wovenhand's David Eugene Edwards states his devout beliefs with no ambiguity, but his Southern Gothic inclinations shouldn't put anyone off. The thrashing garage-gallop of "Hiss" sits comfortably next to the eerily shimmering "Good Shepherd" and the Native American-influenced dark folk of "King David." Like a holier Joy Division crying out in the desert, Wovenhand's distorted vocals, tomahawk guitars, and insistently pounding drums conjure a very post-punk brand of fire and brimstone. — Collin Estes

tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs

Nikki Nack

4AD

File next to: Essential Logic, Dirty Projectors, Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The tough part about being a drop-dead genius like Merrill Garbus is that fans have such high expectations of what's to come. Garbus could have decided to get crazier, but instead she opted to step back, steep herself in Haitian rara music, and make her band's third album its most accessible. The effort is bearing fruit, as witnessed by tUnE-yArDs' recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon and headlining date at the Gothic later this month. How can anyone not catch the joy of the "Water Fountain" video, recalling a Pee-Wee's Playhouse gone even wilder than Paul Reubens might imagine? If the bulk of the album seems too normal for some, Garbus also includes spoken-word poetry about eating small children. An experimental artist can always get more unlistenable; it takes someone like Garbus to make the uninitiated want to dance. — Loring Wirbel

Eno and Hyde

Eno and Hyde

Someday World

Warp/Opal

File next to: 801, Underworld, Peter Gabriel

After a decade spent in ambient obscurity, Brian Eno has spent 20 years in collaborative projects with everyone from the Velvet Underground's John Cale to spoken-word poet Rick Holland, usually with satisfying results. His latest effort with Underworld founder Karl Hyde (and young producer Fred Gibson) may be his best jam session yet. While meandering close to mainstream pop, Hyde's tight compositions keep the album humming and throbbing, certainly more so than Eno's lackluster '09 duet with David Byrne. "A Man Wakes Up" and "Who Rings the Bell" recall Eno's legendary 801 band, or perhaps 1978's Before and After Science. Hyde benefits from Eno's and Gibson's production, putting out some of the best music of his career. None can say, at the 40th anniversary of the Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy release, that Brian Eno has lost any of his relevance to modern music. — Loring Wirbel

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