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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
This eighth album from The National is refreshingly different, somewhat modifying the well-oiled mechanics of this American band. First and foremost, this is achieved through the presence of several female singers who support the leader Matt Berninger on most of the tracks. The most memorable are the performances of Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie’s bassist) on Had Your Soul With You, as well as the particularly poignant performances of Lisa Hannigan and Mina Tindle on So Far So East and Oblivions respectively, the latter being especially moving. Why this sudden feminine presence for an exclusively male band? It’s likely because the album was conceived after filmmaker Mike Mills asked The National to put his short film I Am Easy to Find into song form - a film which happens to be centred around a woman. It’s this relationship to images that has somewhat upended the Brooklyn band’s pop formula. There are a few references to some classics of cinema, chiefly Roman Holiday by William Wyler (1953). But apart from the new cinematic release, fans of The National will still find the legendary melancholy of the group in both the lyrics and the music. The presence of heart-wrenching strings on all the tracks (with the exception of the staccato violins on Where Is Her Head) as well as a recurring introspective piano (notably in the beautiful Light Years) will particularly be remembered. Bryan Devendorf’s singular rhythms plays on contrasts, occasionally making striking jerks (Rylan, The Pull of You) as well as adding a sensual flair (Hairpin Turns, I Am Easy to Find). © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz  
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Rock - Released November 8, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Best New Reissue
Though wildly misunderstood when first released (like most art that’s ahead of its time), Gene Clark's third solo album—his most focused and intricately-produced shot at musical immortality—is now revered as something of a lost masterpiece. Expectations were high for the former Byrd, who had signed a solo deal after he’d been the bright spot in the band’s abortive 1973 reunion. Clark seemed poised to write and record a blockbuster that could power his solo career; the studio was filled with choice players like Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, percussionist Joe Lala, ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Steve Bruton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar on guitars and Claudia Lennear on vocals. Instead, No Other busted its recording budget, disappointed its label and perplexed fans—an expensive commercial flop that hung over Clark’s career until his death at 46 in 1991. Remastered with a brighter, more multidimensional sound for its 45th anniversary reissue, the original eight tracks are supplemented by twenty extra takes from sessions that show the songs’ evolutions, including a slow, loopy version of Clark's earlier hit, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," co-written by Bernie Leadon and later recorded by The Eagles. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye (aka Tommy Kontos) grew close to Clark during the sessions and came to share his vision for the project. Their collaboration proved to be the doubled-edged sword at the heart of No Other, one that fashioned a mystical, multi-layered, intricately-arranged singer/songwriter album with forward looking psychedelic and R&B touches. The strongest tracks, the menacing synth-backed folk of "The Silver Raven" (written about his wife's shoes), the fragile melody of the seemingly anti-drug themed "From A Silver Phial" (which speaks of "a mind that sleeps inside tomorrow,") and the glorious title track, with its sinuous changes and low keyboard line doubling the vocal choruses, are among the best of Clark's short career. And his singing throughout is extremely moving. He clearly believed in this project. And yet the overdubbed production confounded many. Slow ballads and mid-tempo songs predominate, and as Chris Hillman points out in the liner notes, Clark refused to tour, do interviews or participate in any promotional efforts, essentially dooming an ambitious project to failure. Original label Asylum refused to employ any marketing muscle and the album was deleted from the label's catalog within two years. Genius or a colossal miscalculation? This confounding prism continues to turn. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 14, 2014 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Deciding to scale back the overly pretty sound on Blue Bell Knoll while experimenting with more accessibility -- -- the Twins ended up creating their best album since Treasure. From the start, Heaven... is simply fantastic: on "Cherry-Coloured Funk," Guthrie's inimitable guitar work chimes leading a low-key but forceful rhythm, while Raymonde's grand bass work fleshes it out. Fraser simply captivates; her vocals are the clearest, most direct they've ever been, purring with energy and life. Many songs have longer openings and closings; rather than crashing fully into a song and then quickly ending, instead the trio carefully builds up and eases back. These songs are still quite focused, though, almost sounding like they were recorded live instead of being assembled in the studio. Due credit has to be given to the Cocteaus' drum programming; years of working with the machines translated into the detailed work here, right down to the fills. "Fifty-Fifty Clown," starting with an ominous bass throb, turns into a lovely showcase for Fraser's singing and Guthrie's more restrained playing. But the Twins don't completely turn their back on Knoll's sound; "Iceblink Luck," has the same lush feeling and a newfound energy -- the instrumental break is almost a rave-up! -- and everything pulses to a fine conclusion. There are many moments of sheer Cocteaus beauty and power, including the title track, with its great chorus, and two spotlight Guthrie solos: "Fotzepolitic," a powerful number building to a rushing conclusion, and the album-ending "Frou Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires." Possessing the same climactic sense of drama past disc-closers as "Donimo" and "The Thinner the Air," it's a perfect way to end a perfect album. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 18, 2019 | 4AD

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In 2015, two years after Monomania, Bradford Cox and his men signed off on Fading Frontier, a surprising seventh album that offered up new perspectives for Deerhunter. The Atlanta gang used to play muffled sonic pop with an impressive melodic mastery. A fascinating type of music inherited from My Bloody Valentine’s sound wall. This dreamlike rock was still more or less on the agenda with Fading Frontier but Cox leaned towards more purity, more melodies, and more pop, like on the frenetic and groovy single Snakeskin...Four years later, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? proves that Deerhunter have not yet completed their metamorphosis. The richness of this eighth album, which is even further removed from the shoegaze spirit of their early days, shows that Bradford Cox's brain is still in turmoil. From the harpsichord of Death in Midsummer, reminiscent of The Kinks (as well as No One's Sleeping, which is also in the spirit of Ray Davies) to the futuristic/synthetic sound of Greenpoint Gothic (it's like David Bowie's Berlin period led by Brian Eno) and the exhilarating and catchy power pop of Futurism, the album dares to do just about everything. But that’s not to say that there’s no common thread. Bradford Cox, Lockett Pundt, Moses Archuleta, Josh McKay, Javier Morales and, as a guest on three tracks, Cate Le Bon always find a plan, a melody, a punchline, an atmosphere or an unexpected digression to impress their audience. Amazing and captivating. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 14, 2014 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The first Cocteaus album to feature a full-band lineup since Treasure was also their first full studio record released in America, resulting from the group's stateside deal with Capitol. Much to longtime fans' surprise, the Twins in fact were much more content with Capitol than 4AD, hinting at their eventual full departure from that label. This was all well and good, but the trio's new inspiration didn't fully translate into their work, unfortunately. While Blue Bell Knoll has some striking moments that are pure Cocteaus at their best -- the opening title track is especially lovely with a keyboard loop leading into Fraser's ever-wonderful vocals, a light rhythm, and a great final Guthrie solo -- it's still the band's least noteworthy release since Garlands. The feeling throughout is of a group interested in dressing up older approaches that have served them well, but aren't as distinct; the quite-lush arrangements by Guthrie are fine but the songs are a touch more pedestrian. Blue Bell Knoll has enough initial steam, however, to ensure that there are reasons to listen, happily. "Athol-Brose" has the inspirational feel that the Twins can easily create. "Carolyn's Fingers," the clear album standout, is perhaps the strongest individual Cocteau song since "Aikea-Guinea," with Fraser singing against herself over a rough, hip-hop-inspired rhythm while Guthrie peels off a fantastic main guitar melody and Raymonde contributes some supple bass work. After that amazing opening, things slowly but surely slide back a bit; most of the rest sounds okay enough to listen to, but the heartgripping intensity that defines the Twins at their best isn't present. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 7, 2018 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 1989 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
After the shock of Surfer Rosa, fans des Pixies found a tighter, less abrasive, but happily no better-behaved second album. The opening punch of Debaser, the saintly nonchalance on I Bleed, the enlightened surf pop of Monkey Gone To Heaven, the gag of La La Love You: Doolittle, released 1989 stored up all manner of gems, some troubling, others fascinating, others still surprising (everything that happens in the two mere minutes of Waves Of Mutilation is mind-bending), without ever looking like just another production of the times. This fusion of punk rock, surf music and pure pop achieves perfection here. After a record like this, we can have a better idea of where Pavement and Nirvana (Cobain named the Pixies as his favourite group) got their inspiration from...© Marc Zisman
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2020 | 4AD

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The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos. At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze. Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after Comforts of Madness in November 1991. More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 7, 2018 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 6, 2015 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Her album Visions illuminated 2012. With her 4th studio album Art Angels, Grimes succeeds once again - excelling in the field of electro pop and ferverish eclecticism. This time the Canadian rounds off a few more angles, producing a range of melodies that are undeniably more 'pop', but also irresistibly catchy. The result is a diluted and diverse experience compared with past efforts, but without losing her unique identity and artistic singularity. Indeed, Grimes does not do electro pop like her counterparts. Each song from Art Angels comes with a slight twist or the vital dose of quirkiness necessary to makes it a fascinating composition. Note the presence of Janelle Monáe on one of the tracks. © MD / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 17, 2015 | 4AD

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After having built up a considerable reputation in the U.K. and Europe, the Cocteaus first fully reached America via this compilation, cherry-picking some of the group's finest moments for this trans-Atlantic co-release between home label 4AD and then-stateside label Relativity. None of the ten tracks had been released in America before, but whoever assembled the release knew exactly what they were doing in terms of whetting appetites. The only absolute rarity on the disc was "Millimillenary," originally turning up on a compilation tape given away by New Musical Express. It's a fine number, recorded soon after Raymonde joined the group -- a good mix of the Cocteaus' instrumental lushness and Fraser's vocal acrobatics. The version of Garlands' "Wax and Wane" included here is slightly remixed and arguably even better than the original, bringing out everything a little more clearly and powerfully. A sage decision was the inclusion of all three tracks from the Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops EP; as flawless as that was, all deserved inclusion, while beginning the compilation with "The Spangle Maker" was also inspired. Other cuts include "Hitherto," "From the Flagstones," "Lorelei," and the then-recent single "Aikea-Guinea." Concluding with the similarly album-ending "Musette and Drums" from Head Over Heels, The Pink Opaque is a lovely taster for anyone wanting to discover the peerless early years of the Cocteaus. ~ Ned Raggett
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording
With a regular American deal in place for the first time ever, thanks to 4AD's linkup with the WEA conglomerate, Dead Can Dance made a splash on commercial alternative radio with "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," the first single from Into the Labyrinth. Raga drones, a strange clattering beat, a haunting wind instrument, orchestral shading, and Perry's ever-grand voice make it one of the more unlikely things to be heard on the airwaves in a while. It all begins with yet another jaw-dropper from Gerrard, "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)," with keyboards and her octave-defying voice at such a deep, rich level that it sweeps all before it. Wordless as always but never without emotional heft, the song slowly slides into a slow but heavy percussion piece that sounds a bit like "Bird" from A Passage in Time, but with greater impact and memorability. As the album slowly unwinds over an hour's length, the two again create a series of often astounding numbers that sound like they should be millennia old, mixing and matching styles to create new fusions. Perhaps even more impressive is that everything was performed solely by Perry and Gerrard -- no outside guests here, and yet everything is as detailed, lush, and multifaceted as many of their past albums. New classics from the band appear almost track for track: Gerrard's a cappella work on "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," the gentle beauty of "Ariadne," the rhythmic drive and chants of the title song. The conclusion is a slightly surprising but quite successful cover -- "How Fortunate the Man With None," an adaptation of a classic Bertolt Brecht tune about the turn of fortune's wheel. Given a restrained arrangement and Perry's singing, it brings Labyrinth to a satisfying end. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 16, 2015 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Two years after Monomania, Bradford Cox and his band of merry men sign off their seventh album, which offers some radical, altogether new perspectives for Deerhunter. The group, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, originally drew us towards their sonic chloroform through an amazing melodic mastery. Their shoegaze guitars fascinated, hailing, above all, from the great Irish group My Bloody Valentine. This dreamlike, hypnotic brand of rock is still, more or less, on the Fading Frontier programme. But Cox diverges by giving in to a more purified pop sensibility this time around. Deerhunter have not sold their soul to the devil; in fact, the fundamentals of the group are so strong, that these melodic addendums could never alter the core DNA of the music. In this respect, the insane and very groovy single ‘Snakeskin’ shows off this perfect balance. In short, we might ask, has the serious car accident (and narrow escape from death) of the Deerhunter frontman mellowed this charismatic, formerly vitriolic leader? Impossible to say… Anyway, Fading Frontier confirms that Deerhunter remain one of the most interesting American indie-rock groups of the past decade. © MD/Qobuz

Electronic/Dance - Released September 5, 2019 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 22, 2010 | 4AD

The National have worn a lot of hats since their 2001 debut, but they’ve never been able to shake the rural, book-smart, quiet malevolence of the Midwest. The Brooklyn-groomed, Ohio-bred indie rock quintet’s fifth full-length album navigates that lonely dirt road where swagger meets desperation like a seasoned tour guide, and while it may take a few songs to get going, there are treasures to be found for patient passengers. The National's profile rose considerably after 2007’s critically acclaimed The Boxer, and they have used that capital to craft a flawed gem of a record that highlights their strengths and weaknesses with copious amounts of red ink. High Violet oozes atmosphere, but moves at a snail’s pace. The Cousteau-esque “Terrible Love” hardly bursts out of the gate, and the subsequent “Sorrow” and “Anyone’s Ghost” (despite Bryan Devendorf’s locomotive drumming) lack the hooks to reel anybody in on first listen. The album begins to take shape on “Afraid of Everyone,” a slow-build midtempo rocker that expertly utilizes the Clogs’ (guitarist Bryce Dessner's other chamber pop band) prickly orchestrations, but it’s the punishing “Bloodbuzz Ohio” that serves as High Violet's centerpiece. Built on a foundation that fuses together TV on the Radio's “Halfway Home” and Arcade Fire's “No Cars Go,” its refrain of “I still owe money to the money, to the money I owe” seems both relevant and nostalgic, resulting in a highway anthem that feels like the anti-“Born to Run.” Other standout cuts like “Conversation 16,” “England," and the darkly funny/oddly beautiful closer, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” trumpet Violet’s second-half supremacy, but even they tremble beneath the "Bloodbuzz" intoxication. Muscular, miserable, mighty, and meandering, High Violet aims for the seats, but only hits about half of them. ~ James Christopher Monger
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Dead Can Dance's final album Spiritchaser was something of an unusual release - it's not as much of an anomaly as the first album, but one can hear the duo wanting to stretch a bit more, however subtly. Perry and Gerrard's personal and creative tensions didn't stop them from creating another fine album, though there's a strong sense the group had finally reached a logical end. Essentially, Spiritchaser is a summing up rather than a push forward; it features all the usual elements of a Dead Can Dance album instead of further explorations to see what else could be done. Toward the Within contributors Ronan O'Snodaigh and Lance Hogan, as well as previous collaborator Peter Ulrich, appear on some tracks here, most specifically on the opening "Nierika" and "Dedicace Outro." Both are laden with lots of percussion -- unsurprising when one realizes that five performers are creating the drumming! Outside of Turkish clarinet by Renaud Pion on the Beatles-sampling "Indus," it's nothing but Perry and Gerrard throughout the album, with another combination and arrangement of multiple influences coming to bear. Both Perry and Gerrard are in fine voice throughout, their strong singing still the centerpiece of their work, but there's almost an air of predictability to their approaches at this point (perhaps explaining Perry's greater experimentation on his solo debut years later). Interestingly, overtly rock elements like Morricone-styled electric guitar appear at points amid the usual melange of various percussion instruments and arrangements. It works surprisingly well, indicating where the duo might have gone had they continued on. Spiritchaser ends on a strong note, the gentle, mysterious "Devorzhum," a Gerrard-sung number that makes for a grand conclusion. ~ Ned Raggett
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Electronic/Dance - Released May 10, 2019 | 4AD

On each of her albums, Holly Herndon thoughtfully examines the boundaries between humankind and technology, and how our innovations define us as much as we define them. She began her explorations with the sketches of physical and virtual intimacy that made up 2012's Movement and broadened her scope on 2014's Platform, where her self-surveillance of her everyday online interactions ranged from mundane to unsettling. On 2019's PROTO, she takes another significant step forward. A collaboration with Spawn, an AI that Herndon created with her partner Mat Dryhurst and programmer Jules LaPlace, her third album reflects her own evolution as an artist and thinker as it documents the project's development. As its name suggests, Herndon's neural network was in its infancy when she made PROTO. To train this cutting-edge technology, she connected it with the oldest roots of her music, and music in general: the human voice. Herndon spent her youth singing in church and secular choirs, and a major part of Spawn's education was learning how to interpret soloists and vocal groups. On choral pieces such as "Evening Shades (Live Training)," PROTO offers glimpses into these lessons that reflect not only Herndon's skills as an arranger, but the project's guiding philosophy that human and synthetic voices are more powerful together than on their own. Likewise, the album presents Spawn's growth as a creative consciousness at different stages. On "Birth," a choir surrounds her as her stuttering voice gradually assembles itself; on "Godmother," she creates fascinating, uncanny vocalizations based on song stems from Herndon and footwork producer Jlin. Meanwhile, the way "Crawler" morphs from an electronic-based duet between Herndon and Spawn to an a cappella piece feels as exploratory as creation itself. Since one of the project's primary goals was introducing Spawn to the humanity of music, it's fitting that PROTO is more melodic and spontaneous than Herndon's previous albums. "Alienation" is a strange but stately blend of choral tradition and electronic pop; along with "Eternal," it evokes Björk and Purity Ring while pushing creative technology's boundaries. One of the main reasons the album is so vital-sounding is the interplay between Herndon, Spawn, and their collaborators, a theme that PROTO explores to its fullest. Herndon expresses the theory behind it beautifully on "Extreme Love," a daringly maternal manifesto that suggests our relationship with microbes as a natural precedent for the type of connected intelligence that could occur between people and AI. On "SWIM," she puts this theory into practice, uniting a choir of human and synthetic voices in gorgeous harmony. Elsewhere, Herndon hints that living side by side with AI won't always be simple, whether on the plaintive, heavily processed "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt" or "Last Gasp," which enmeshes a delicate vocal in grinding electronics. While PROTO could be impressive for its groundbreaking nature alone, Herndon's meditations on the relationship between humans and increasingly sentient technology are moving and filled with a sense of wonder that makes a rewarding coexistence with AI seem more than possible. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 6, 2012 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released August 30, 2019 | 4AD

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The new pretender to the throne of experimental and indie R&B Jeremy Nutzman, a.k.a. Velvet Negroni, is the perfect representative of his time. With an ambient synth piano, downtempo percussion and a captivating voice, the African-American from Minneapolis, who was adopted by a family of white evangelical Christians, split his formative years between classical piano lessons and late night jam sessions. This duality has clearly influenced Neon Brown, a record that looks as much to contemporary urban soul as it does to indie rock. Following a tour with his friend Bon Iver and a single released on the New York label b4 in 2018, Velvet Negroni saw his work sampled by Kanye West and Kid Cudi on their joint album Kids See Ghosts. On i,i, Bon Iver invited him to sing on the track iMi and sampled from his track Waves. This time, for his debut album, Nutzman surrounds himself with producers Psymun (Young Thug, Juice WRLD, The Weeknd) and Elliott Kozel a.k.a. Tickle Torture and reveals songs that sweep away stereotypes. The harmonies of his gentle R&B blend into each other over intense rhythms. Soft dub follows electro soul. And his androgynous voice makes the tracks all the more mysterious. Merging the influence of Prince in the 80’s, The Weeknd’s futuristic R&B and Bon Iver-style electro folk, Velvet Negroni enchants us with the eclecticism of this brilliant album. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Their reputation growing by leaps and bounds, including a huge underground following in the U.S. -- they were able to tour there even without one domestic release available, while at one point Dead Can Dance was the biggest selling band in 4AD's history -- Perry and Gerrard once again did the business with Aion. Its cover taken from Bosch, Aion's medievalism was worn more openly than ever before, with songs adapted from centuries-old material. The beautiful, entrancing "Saltarello," with lead performance by what sounds like an old wind instrument, comes from an Italian dance of the 14th century, while the mysterious moods of "The Song of the Sibyl" derive from 16th-century Catalonia. The group's command of not merely recording possibilities -- witness the exquisite layering of vocals on the opening "The Arrival and the Reunion" -- but of musical traditions, instruments, and more from around the world was arguably never stronger. Gerrard's vocals in particular have an even stronger, richer feeling than before, not merely able to command with its power but softly calm and seduce. Perry, meanwhile, is no less compelling, his ever-strong, wonderful voice perfectly suited to his choice of material. The standout track is "Fortune Presents Gifts Not According to the Book" with lyrics from a Spanish poet. The musical combination of softly plucked guitar and buried organ drone is striking enough, swathed in reverb, but when Perry steps in with his vocals, matched by more sparkling keyboards, the result is yet another high point for a band laden with them. Guest performers once again assist throughout, including Perry's brother Robert on haunting, quite non-clichéd bagpipes for "As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins" and singer David Navarro Sust, returning again to contribute some fine backing work. ~ Ned Raggett

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