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MUSIC | Reviews of four albums
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Synthetic: A Synth Odyssey: Season 1
The “rare and historic” old-school synthesizers displayed on the cover represent the refreshingly grainy, analog-era electronica you hear when you press play. Those curious about the specs can find the physical edition’s back-cover notes reproduced on Bandcamp. Everyone else will simply revel in what drove their parents or grandparents to revel in Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield, and Isao Tomita back in the day: cool sounds! The main difference is that Aucoin boosts the beats, some of which are so infectious that even those who “can’t dance” will.
The Innocence Mission
As chamber-folk types, Karen and Don Peris avoid grand gestures. So instead of celebrating the 27th anniversary of their final A&M album, the impressionistically melancholy Glow, with a super-deluxe box, they offer this disc of demos with rerecorded vocals (four), previously unreleased songs from the Glow sessions (two), and bootlegged live recordings from the Glow tour (six, eight on the Bandcamp edition). Seven of the original 12 songs appear in one version or another, the Holy Spirit–acknowledging “Brave” among them.
Of the six albums that this somewhat Soul II Soul-ish British collective released last year, Earth is the most overtly Christian. Most of the other six include references to “God” or “the Lord,” but this one peaks with an eight-minute song built on John Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement” riff that replaces “A love supreme” with “The Lord’s with me” and that features a preacher praying for children to be “brought up and trained in the ways of our personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Western Electric (Extended Edition)
When this album first came out in 2000, its leading light, the cowpunk pioneer Sid Griffin, had been making music with DNA traceable to the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers (among others) for close to 20 years. But no style retains its bloom with the public for that long, so folks had stopped paying attention. If they pay attention now, here’s what they’ll most wish they hadn’t been missing: “The Power of Glory” (in which a channel surfer randomly stumbles across preachers of widely varying orthodoxy), “Faithless Disciple” (with DNA traceable to “Wayfaring Stranger”), and “Everything” (the super-hooky sure shot that had been eluding Griffin—sometimes just barely—all along).
The second-most overtly Christian of Sault’s six 2022 releases is the oxymoronically titled Untitled (God). In none of the songs does anyone mention Jesus, but the two tracks recited by women, “Guide My Steps” and “Dear Lord,” could pass for modern-English psalms, and the track recited by a cheerfully devout young boy, “Rafael’s Prayer,” demonstrates to the considerable amusement of his (Sunday school?) classmates what it means to take 1 Thessalonians 5:17 literally.
The music of the remaining 18 selections covers the collective’s usual spacey-R&B bases, with a skeletal funk serving as the backbone. But while the sequencing department deserves props for saving the two catchiest numbers (“God in Disguise” and “Life We Rent but Love Is Rent Free,”) for last, the graphics department should definitely pay more attention to punctuation—there’s a huge difference between “We Are Gods” (track 13) and “We Are God’s” (what the collective meant). —A.O.
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