Black Mirror: Reflections In Global Musics (Dust-to-Digital)
A CD of global recordings originally issued as 78s, this 24-track compilation was put together by Baltimore’s Ian Nagoski. Considering the depth and breadth of the material, it’s amazing that, as Nagoski writes in the liner notes, he paid about $125 for these rare recordings, “never drove more than 30 minutes from home to find them, and none were bought through the mail.” Among his finds are fantastic selections by a Syrian violinist, a gypsy orchestra, an Irish piper, a Buddhist monk, and a kabuki performer. Thanks to Nagoski and the folks at Atlanta’s aptly named Dust-to-Digital imprint, these vintage gems can be heard by new generations of listeners. And if Nagoski doubles his budget and widens the radius of his record gathering activities, there’s no telling what he might find. Let’s hope there are sequels in the works.
Book of Longing (Orange Mountain Music)
A song cycle based on poems by Leonard Cohen, these songs exude warmth not often associated with Glass’ work. The Baltimore native’s trademark repetition and minimalist tendencies pop up here and there, but overall, his compositions shadow the melancholic mood set by Cohen’s writings. A master of evocative and economical turns of phrase, Cohen reflects a sense of receding vitality as he ruminates on aging, ailments, and mortality. He writes not so much of the ravages of time as he does a steady, inevitable slide toward death. Glass paces his songs accordingly, and his ensemble richly underscores the pathos in the material. Getting accustomed to the operatic voices takes a few listens, though Cohen’s recitation of a few pieces is immediately gratifying, thanks to his time-ravaged voice. All together, it proves to be a successful collaboration and a rewarding listening experience.
Devotion (Carpark Records)
At the end of last summer, I attended a wedding that featured a song by this local duo during the ceremony. Although the service was held outside, Beach House
performed from inside a nearby house—I suspect because that’s where the piano was located. Because of the distance and the acoustics, Alex Scally’s sparse playing and Victoria Legrand’s full-throated vocals were earthy and ethereal, bluesy and jazzy, at the same time. In that setting, the vibe was lush, languid, and romantic, and a similar ambiance permeates these 11 songs. Like Mazzy Star a decade ago, the material shuffles dreamily through wisps of melody tinged with gently swinging psychedelia. The tunes unfold with a sense of mystery and understated excitement, like a budding relationship that might go the distance.