Electronica Album Reviews

Moses Boyd: Dark Matter review – party-facing solo debut


Moses Boyd is a drummer in the same way Questlove from the Roots is a drummer, which is to say that the twice Mobo-winning 28-year-old Londoner is a producer-composer-collaborator-influencer not bound by the kit surrounding him. A progenitor of the current London jazz scene, Boyd’s official solo debut goes large on cross-pollination – and dancing.

Whereas Boyd’s previous Mobo-winning duo with the saxophonist Binker Golding and his Exodus ensemble remained more or less on-genre, Dark Matter exists very much in the wake of Boyd’s breakout track of 2016, Rye Lane Shuffle (which featured Four Tet and Floating Points on mixes). This is the London hybrid jazz of now – a party-facing electronic record that takes note of Afrobeats, two-step garage and Boyd’s travels in South Africa.

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Katie Gately: Loom review – nightmarish orchestrated despair

Earthquakes, shovels and screaming peacocks are all sampled in a bombastic and occasionally ingenious album

A nail-bomb of grief explodes in this second album by US musician Katie Gately, trauma seeming to rip open its edges. It was written while her mother was dying from a rare form of cancer; the title suggests this horror looming into her life, but also somewhere she can thread it together and tie it down.

Related: Katie Gately: ‘I’m a pretty diehard Billy Joel fan’

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DJ Diaki: Balani Fou review | Ammar Kalia’s global album of the month

(Nyege Nyege Tapes)
DJ Diaki’s debut is a speeding cascade of sound that skilfully re-creates the pounding atmosphere of Malian street party Balani Show

Recent years have seen some of the most exciting dancefloor-focused music moving further and further away from its spiritual homes of Detroit, Chicago, Berlin or London. Now, styles such as South African gqom or Angolan kuduro-techno are pushing their way into club sound systems with rattling tempos in excess of 200bpm and unpredictable polyrhythms replacing the familiar four-to-the-floor kick.

The work released by Ugandan label Nyege Nyege Tapes is among the most inventive of these styles. Encompassing sounds from the ground-shaking rhythms of Tanzanian singeli to the electro-synths of Ugandan acholi, the label has been challenging a recent trend towards often purposefully punishing “deconstructed” club music with their joyous reimaginings of east African music. Their latest release by Malian DJ Diaki is no less formidable. A stalwart of the Balani Show sound system – a party setup playing electronic, layered versions of the marimba-style instrument balafon – Diaki now releases his debut on Nyege Nyege.

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Beatrice Dillon: Workaround review – a global future-folk manifesto

These exuberant electronic experiments in mixing 150bpm dub-techno with live instrumentation fizz with the joy of artistic creation

At the end of last year, the Guardian declared Beatrice Dillon “the most thrilling new voice in British electronic music”, and her first full-fledged solo LP, Workaround, demonstrates why. Put together during stolen moments over three years, it feels as though it’s been in the works for even longer. She released a solo mini-album in 2014 and has busied herself with collaborations, DJ sets and art commissions since. Her musical knowledge came through countless hours absorbing music as a record shop assistant. Visual art, literary and other cross-media influences began to crystallise some time after her fine art studies, lending themselves to her installation work. Dillon’s defining feature, however, is the insatiable curiosity for sound that sees her follow sonic leads to their unpredictable ends and beyond. Playful percussion and electro-acoustic experiments are central to her records with Rupert Clervaux, with dubby, jazz-tinged house and techno coming into focus on her club-peripheral productions.

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Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello review – devilish, danceable return

Tom Jenkinson goes back to his mid-90s moniker and makes use of old electronic hardware in a fun, if bumpy, ride

Emerging in the mid-90s as part of the generation of artists defining Warp Records’ IDM sound, Squarepusher now presides over a discography that positions himself directly opposite the genre’s ideological associations. His dense, frenetic electronica interprets sonic complexity as a million open invitations, rather than as barriers to entry. Pairing machine programming with dazzling live performance and eschewing loftiness in favour of embracing the straight-up silly, his is a sound that presses its abundance of influences into something that can only be processed through movement. Drum’n’bass, acid and Essex rave collide with jazz, organ music and television themes to create something both devilish and danceable. It’s a high-risk, high-reward gamble that’s present once again on new album Be Up a Hello and, as with many Squarepusher releases, you’ll know where things start but nothing about where they’ll end up.

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Jazz & Blues Album Reviews

Joel Paterson – Let It Be Guitar! | Album Review

Joel Paterson – Let It Be Guitar!

Ventrella Records


CD: 16 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Spectacular Beatles Covers, Instrumentals
Google time! Do a search for “most covered band of all time.” It’s no surprise the top honor goes to four lads from Liverpool: John, Paul, George and Ringo. According to Whosampled.com, the Beatles beat out their nearest competitors – Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra – by an astounding margin. Second place goes to “Traditional Folk,” which is a genre instead of an individual artist. That goes to show you how perennially popular the Beatles are, and how time-honored. Maverick Chicago guitarist Joel Paterson pays homage to them on his latest, Let it Be Guitar! Joel Paterson Plays the Beatles. It features sixteen spectacular covers, several of them lesser-known Beatles offerings. For sure, there’s “Drive My Car,” “From Me To You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but how long has it been since you’ve heard “Michelle,” “Things We Said Today,” or “No Reply?” Therein lies one of the chief delights of this CD. A second one?

Joel Paterson’s guitar might as well be a living being of flesh and blood. It converses with you: chatting, chuckling, moaning, gently weeping. It tells stories within songs, causing listeners to imagine what might have been going on inside the Beatles’ heads as they composed 237 of them, as listed on Wikipedia. Joel’s instrument of choice is a mentor and boon companion, not just a vehicle for victory. Another of Paterson’s gifts is presenting all of his material, whether old or new, in a refreshing manner. His music possesses a definite 1950s surfer vibe updated for a new decade of the 21st century. He even makes the head-scratcher “Her Majesty” sound great (is the final note missing? No, as it turns out). No matter how many Beatles releases you own, or how many albums containing their covers by blues artists, this one’s absolutely unmissable.

Joining Joel (guitars, pedal steel, lap steel, tic-tac bass) are Beau Sample on upright bass; Alex Hall on drums, percussion, vibes organ and piano for “No Reply”, and Chris Foreman on Hammond B3 organ for “From Me to You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Drive My Car.”

All the tracks here are terrific, but yours truly would like to draw special attention to two of them: “Things We Said Today,” number eight, and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” number ten. First of all, why didn’t these two songs hit #1? Second of all, Paterson’s versions should. “Things We Said Today” contains fabulous fretwork and wonderfully-weird echo effects. “Party” is so country-catchy that it might as well be an offering by Tim McGraw, not Paul McCartney et al. Both selections have superior melody, tonal quality, and earworm potential.

In the mood for a fresh take on the Fab Four? Pop this in your stereo and Let It Be Guitar!

Myles Goodwyn – Friends of the Blues 2 | Album Review

Myles Goodwyn – Friends of the Blues 2

Linus Entertainment/Government of Canada


CD: 14 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues, Ensemble Blues

Blues artists have not only have their signature style of music, but their signature aura as well. The aura of Myles Goodwyn can be distilled in one word: “neighborly.” His voice is so familiar among his native Canadians as to be immediately recognizable. The leading man of multi-selling platinum rock band April Wine returns to his first love – the blues – on this fantastic follow-up to his JUNO-nominated and East Coast Music Award-winning debut in the genre. Friends of the Blues 2 presents thirteen original soul-infused ensemble tracks and one funky cover, “All Over Now” by Bobby Womack. When he sings, Goodwyn sounds like the guy next door that you can always count on, whether in an emergency or for a boisterous barbecue. He doesn’t try anything fancy: no vibrato, crooning, or anything that draws attention away from the instrumentation. Speaking of which, it’s provided by an extensive list of co-musicians. On harmonica to horns to good old guitar, the Friends of the Blues make a tremendous splash.

Goodwyn grew up poor and is the classic “small-town kid makes good” success story. As a young teenager, he honed his skills playing in cover bands and began writing original material as soon as he could play the guitar. One of April Wine’s biggest hits, “You Won’t Dance With Me,” was written while he was still a teen. Myles and the other members of April Wine were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He also received the prestigious East Coast Music Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and the SOCAN National Achievement Award in 2002. He’s also written two books: Just Between You and Me and Elvis and Tiger.

Myles (on all lead vocals, guitars and keyboards) is backed by drummers JR Smith, Scott Ferguson, Mike Carrol, and Blair Mackay. Bass players are Bruce Dixon and Richard Pallus. Background vocals are provided by Reeny Smith and Lisa MacDougall. “Featured Friends” are a who’s who of the Canadian blues music scene, including Jack de Keyzer, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Warren Robert, Ross Billard, and several more. For the full list, check the liner notes.

Starting things off is “Hip Hip,” an easygoing boogie with powerhouse piano by Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne. Reminiscent of Delbert McClinton and Bruce Hornsby, it features top-notch melody and a convivial atmosphere. “You Got It Bad” is this CD’s first memorable slow number, starring Shrimp Daddy on harmonica, John Campbelljohn on slide guitar, John Main on piano and Ross Billard on organ. “When you said one of us has to go, I didn’t scream or shout. I said ‘I know,’” says the narrator of this song, not so much resigned to his fate as accepting of it. The intro to “Speedo Revisited” adds an old-fashioned touch from the early days of radio. Ms. Wetnight wishes the whole song would have continued in this vein, but it’s nonetheless great. Further down the line are sock-hop-style “Help Me Baby” (dance or die) and the finale, “Even Singing Cowboys Get the Blues.” It’s a tip of the ten-gallon hat to Jimmie Rodgers, yodeling included. It’s so good-natured and gutsy that it could have been the opener.

Friends of the Blues 2 is a dynamite collaboration by Myles Goodwyn and Canada’s superstars!

Johnny Burgin – Live | Album Review

Johnny Burgin – Live

Delmark Records – 2019

14 tracks; 69 minutes


Live albums tend to follow a tried and tested formula: start with a familiar number, put in some tracks to promote the latest album and conclude with the fan favourites everyone wants to hear. Johnny Burgin had other ideas though when he contemplated his first live album in twenty years – he went for an album of new songs and there are just four covers here, two of which are part of the guests’ slots. It’s a risky approach but Johnny was confident that his regular rhythm section and Northern Californian friends would cope and the evidence is here for us to hear! Johnny is on guitar and vocals with Chris Matheos on bass and Steve Dougherty on drums, plus Kid Andersen on guitar and piano,; special guests Charlie Musselwhite (harp on three cuts), Aki Kumar (harp on two and percussion on two), Nancy Wright (sax on five) and Rae Gordon (vocals on four) up the ante on a total of nine tracks.

The opening four songs are all new originals with Aki lending his harp to the swinging opener “You Got To Make A Change” with lyrics about the girl who can’t stop drinking, both Johnny and Kid on guitar and a solid start to the show. “Can’t Make It Blues” is a classic slow blues with despairing lyrics and “She Gave Me The Slip” is a gently funky tune with a touch of Little Feat to it courtesy of the infectious rhythm work and some ferocious soloing. Johnny opts for the core trio on “You’re My Trinket” and his guitar rings out over the rhythm section’s steady shuffle beat, another good cut.

Aki returns to the bandstand for a great run through Earl Hooker’s “The Leading Brand”, the first cover of the show and, naturally, it also provides a vehicle for both guitarists. Popular West Coast singer Rae Gordon then joins in on four songs: first up is Robert Junior Lockwood’s “I Got To Find Me A Woman”, as Johnny and Rae share the vocals, Rae’s deeper voice a good contrast with Johnny’s lighter tone and Nancy adding a striking sax solo; “Late Night Date Night” is a co-write between Johnny and Rae with Kid shifting to piano, Johnny pulling out a great solo and Rae on great form on the vocals as she describes how working musicians only see their loved ones after they finish playing – a good song and a fine performance. Another new song by Johnny finds Rae claiming that “You Took The Bait” with Nancy’s rasping sax to the fore and Rae concludes her mini-set with “Daddy’s Got The Personal Touch” which Johnny wrote with Wes Race, Johnny taking the lead with Rae on harmony vocals.

“Louisiana Walk” is an instrumental originally on the B-side of a 1959 Phillip Walker single and written by his then pianist Pauline ‘Lindy Lou’ Adams; it’s an excellent track with Nancy’s sax beefing up the tune as Johnny and Kid play some great stuff. Johnny then introduces Charlie Musselwhite who plays in his distictive style on three tunes: “Blues Falling” is a Jimmy Rogers tune that is played at a breakneck pace; Johnny’s “California Blues” recounts his move from Chicago to the West Coast and starts out as a slow, reflective piece that morphs into a pounding Chicago blues with Kid back on the piano and Charlie really enjoying himself with a lung-busting solo half way through; “When The Bluesman Comes To Town” slows the pace for a longer track on which Charlie plays expressively. “Jody’s Jazz” references Jody Williams’ classic riff on “Lucky Lou” in a jazzy tune with Nancy’s sax again a key feature, making a fine close to the disc.

Johnny may have dropped the ‘Rockin’’ prefix for this release but the album definitely is rocking! A brave project has reaped its due rewards and this is one to watch out for on lists of live albums of the year.

Brody Buster’s One Man Band – Damn! I Spilled the Blues

Brody Buster’s One Man Band – Damn! I Spilled the Blues

VizzTone Label Group/Booga Music VT-BOOGA-01

10 songs 35 minutes


Former child prodigy Brody Buster teams with Kenny Neal to share promising new ground with this CD: It’s the first full-length offering from the Kansas City native since 2000, when he was in his mid-teens, and it’s the first release for Gulf Coast legend Kenny’s new Booga Music label.

A native of Kansas City, Brody grew up playing harmonica on Beale Street in Memphis, where he caught the attention of B.B. King, who invited him on stage and was so impressed with his talents that he called him “one of the greatest harmonica players of our time.”

Their relationship was so strong that Brody spent a great deal of his childhood entertaining Bluff City tourists from the stage at B.B. King’s. He became a frequent performer on national TV at age ten after someone from the Tonight Show discovered him when he played opening night at B.B.’s new club in Los Angeles.

Buster played the prestigious Montreux Blues and Jazz Festival in Switzerland at age 12 and released his first album as a harp player with a full band, Blue Devil, at age 16. He spent the balance of his childhood developing skills as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Brody burst on the scene again at the 2017 International Blues Challenge, where his new act as a one-man band – simultaneously playing harp, guitar and percussion on kick drum and snare – took the crowd by storm. He finished second in the solo-duo category, delivering high-energy blues with rock overtones, and he walked away with top harmonica player honors, too.

One of the judges in the audience that night was Neal, who immediately arranged to bring him to Baton Rouge, La., where he was launching both his Booga Music studio and label. Released in association with Boston-based VizzTone Label Group, this tasty, hard-driving album serves as their debut in the blues world.

The all-original set opens with “Old Hog Blues,” which comes across with an easy-going Delta feel as Brody boasts to a lady that he might be old, but he can still learn new tricks. His voice is both strong and rich and distinctive, his guitar skills are rock-steady and his harp runs are clean and sweet. Brody trades harp and guitar licks to open “Bad News,” an electric blues that announces he’s walking out on his lady after she’s been up for three days straight. His mid-tune harp solo cuts like a knife.

“2029,” a percussive Southern rocker, fires out of the gate after a short harp solo as Buster describes planning to leave the earth in style when the world ends – on Sept. 23, 2029 before he advises his lady to walk away because things haven’t changed in “The Wind.” It’s a lyrics-heavy number full of angst. The troubles continue in “The Reason” – with the singer losing his job, getting a ticket, losing his license and much more – but his attitude remains positive.

Brody’s guitar skills come to the fore for a few bars in “Alligator Blues,” which blazes out of the gate before settling into a steady rhythm pattern. A funky old-school rocker, Buster has the 14-ft. amphibian’s head hanging above his bed, and he’s wearing its hide and pretty well fed.

“Like ’em Like That” follows and carries on the old blues tradition of describing in detail the different types of women the singer likes before “The Hustle (Just Fine When I’m Gone)” describes the highs and lows of living on the road and returning home to find changes there and in his lady, too. The hard-driving “Week Long” describes needing one more drink after a long night out before heading off to work before the straight-ahead “This Time I Got the Blues” brings the disc to a close.

Brody Buster is a one-man band like no other. His simultaneous attack on multiple instruments delivers consistently on all counts throughout. Pick this one up. It’s different – and a whole lot of fun.

Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers – Salone | Album Review

Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers – Salone

Moosicus/MIG Music

15 songs – 50 minutes


The origins of the blues come through loud and clear on this CD, and it’s no wonder because guitarist/vocalist/songsmith Bai Kamara Jr. was born in West Africa, where it all began.

The son of a former ambassador, Kamara was born in Bo Town, Sierra Leone, grew up in the United Kingdom and has spent the better part of the past 25 years based out of Brussels, Belgium, where his father once served.

Deeply imbued with the polyrhythms of his native land, he started playing music while attending school in Manchester and Bath, England, where he fell under the spell of John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Broonzy and other American bluesmen. He’s enjoyed a successful career on the European soul/R&B circuit, releasing a handful of successful CDs since his debut release, the EP Lay Your Body, in 1996, but delivers a full plate of tunes rooted in the blues here.

The themes of corruption, abuse of power and the social injustice – all of which he witnessed in Africa and beyond — run like a river in the music he’s created previously. But this CD goes in another direction entirely. Using the Krio language word for his homeland, Salone, as its title, this work is literally a return to his roots, not surprising considering that he’s actively involved with Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and other charities.

Kamara fronts a five-piece ensemble called The Voodoo Sniffers for this all-original set. The band’s composed of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic: American-born Tom Beardslee and Belgian Eric Moens handle guitar duties with Désiré Somé, who hails from Burkina Faso, on bass and Belgian Patrick Dorcean on percussion.

A rich baritone with a warm delivery, Bai will remind many listeners of Keb’ Mo’ – both for the quality of his vocals and for the intense rhythmic nature of the music he generates. Like Keb’, he digs a cadenced ditch from the jump, dives into it and drives relentlessly and pleasantly forward throughout, beginning with “Can’t Wait Here Too Long,” which finds Kamara standing at the crossroads in his life, knowing he has to move on, circular figures on the guitars building tension.

The theme continues in “Lady Boss,” a complaint about working overtime in a shop for a demanding a feminist who switches off between a suit and tie to high-heeled boots. The uneasy ballad “Black Widow Spider” recounts awakening from a dream to find an invader terrorizing his family in the kitchen before “Homecoming” celebrates a long-awaited return and revisiting the seeds planted long ago to see how they’ve grown.

The tempo picks up for the sprightly “Morning School Run Blues,” which finds Bai running late once again, while the polyrhythmic “Cold Cold Love” recounts the good times and feeling chilled to the bone but without any regrets long after a lady’s gone, a theme that continues in “The Rest of Everything,” which describes splitting belongings and the singer noting that all he needs is the bottle of wine, and “Cry Baby,” which finds the woman’s attitude change once the man’s handed her his keys.

The title for the next tune, “I Ain’t Lying (Can’t Give You What I Ain’t Got),” might seem like more of the same, but it’s a proud statement that Bai’s self-sufficient no matter the situation. A “natural-born hustler,” he’s a good provider with a train wreck for an ex. But, as the next number states: “Don’t Worry About Me” because he’s used to dealing with pain and suffering.

The mood changes considerably for the childhood remembrance, “Naked Girls on the Merry-Go-Round,” which weaves a lesson from Bai’s father with an observation about his brother. The pace quickens again for “Time Has Come” before the driving “Fortune” addresses lost love once more. “Riverboat Blues” reflects on regrets before the action closes with Kamara yearning for “Some Kind of Loving Tonight.”

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, Salone is hauntingly beautiful throughout — and strongly recommended. If you’re looking for something different, this is definitely it!

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Pop Album Reviews

Adele Says Her New Album is Coming in September

Adele’s long-awaited fourth studio album will apparently arrive this fall.

Over the weekend, the pop singer sang at and served as an officiant for one of her friend’s weddings. At some point during the evening, Adele let it slip that her follow-up to 25 is due out in September.

Audio of Adele’s proclamation was subsequently posted to social media, as was footage of her performing “Rolling in the Deep”. See the clips below.

Adele hasn’t said about her new music, but it’s safe to assume her breakup from husband Simon Konecki will be a large part of the album’s narrative. She insinuated as much in a social media post last year marking her 31st birthday.

“30 tried me so hard but I’m owning it and trying my hardest to lean in to it all,” Adele wrote at the time. “31 is going to be a big ol’ year and I’m going to spend it all on myself. For the first time in a decade I’m ready to feel the world around me and look up for once.”

Adele Says Her New Album is Coming in September
Alex Young

Beach Bunny: Honeymoon review – a short, sweet blast of sunny indie-pop

(Mom + Pop)

What began in 2015 as a bedroom project for Chicago-based Lili Trifilio had become something of an online phenomenon by the time 2018’s self-released Prom Queen was streamed 67m times. Now a fully fleshed-out four-piece with an actual record deal, Beach Bunny’s debut full-length effort doesn’t disappoint: Honeymoon is a blast of upbeat indie-pop that in February sounds as anachronous as it is welcome. Throughout, lyrical anxieties (“I’m afraid of being alone”) are offset against breezily carefree hooks that waste little time getting to a bittersweet chorus, before ending just as quickly.

The most obvious touchstone is the sun-kissed indie perfected by Best Coast, down to the sentiments expressed in Beach Bunny’s Ms California (“Everything’s better in California”), which mirror Bethany Cosentino’s love letters to her home state (most notably The Only Place) – albeit in Trifilio’s case, looking in from the outside. Colorblind and Cuffing Season are particularly irresistible, while the more intimate Racetrack, with Trifilio backed by just a slightly distorted keyboard, shares much with Big Thief. The slightly leaden climax to Rearview aside, there’s barely a second wasted in Honeymoon’s 25-minute running time.

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Justin Bieber: Changes review – mid-tempo wedded bliss

(Def Jam)

Nothing frames a pop album quite like a redemption narrative, and for Justin Bieber this is his second in a row. While 2015’s Purpose, preceded by problems with the police and a much publicised breakup, was full of culture-shifting hits, from the pleading Sorry to the bitter Love Yourself, Changes – created in the midst of health issues and a hasty marriage to model Hailey Baldwin – finds Bieber swapping instant anthems for mid-tempo, trap-adjacent R&B often rendered frictionless by bedroom-centred wedded bliss. So on the tactile Available he coos: “Say I’m number one on your to-do list,” while Come Around Me’s “Do me like you miss me” hook swims around a modern approximation of 90s new jack swing.

There are welcome changes of pace – the rib-rattling Forever featuring Post Malone a highlight – but the tempo drops again for a suite of acoustic sketches that touch on God (the title track), patience (Confirmation) and, on ETA, the joys of online surveillance (“Drop me a pin so I can know your location”). It’s a subdued end to an album that feels like a purely selfish endeavour on Bieber’s part. After years of people-pleasing, perhaps that’s its biggest success.

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Tame Impala: The Slow Rush review – polished disco funk

Kevin Parker shifts further away from his psych rock roots, while pondering happiness and his continued relevance

Around the time of 2015’s Currents – the third Tame Impala album – mainman Kevin Parker described having an epiphany some time previously. Driving around Los Angeles on magic mushrooms and cocaine, he realised just how magnificent the Bee Gees sounded, emotionally and technically. Parker is an Australian man given to singing beatific, double-tracked harmonies in falsetto; he is also a studio nerd with a long and attentive study of psychedelia behind him. The sound of the Bee Gees on mushrooms insinuated itself into Parker’s work, culminating in a massive and deserved hit album.

Currents was an album all about transition, on which Parker disentangled himself, as gently as he could, from a relationship to begin anew. At the same time, this progenitor of the 00s revival in psychedelic rock was also outgrowing his early sound, a monomaniacal stoner guitar fuzz. Parker embraced the expansive possibilities of electronics, of the dancefloor, of popularity. The mainstream, it turned out, was in a similar headspace: riding an uptown funk renaissance, high on weird production and flirting shamelessly with soft rock.

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