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New and noteworthy

MUSIC | Reviews of four albums

New and noteworthy
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Synthetic—A Synth Odyssey: Season 2 

Rich Aucoin

The second installment of Aucoin’s vintage synthesizer project picks up where the first left off but with a twist. If Season 1 sounded like a 1970s synth guy’s idea of the future, this one sounds like an ’80s synth guy’s idea of the present. A distinction without a difference? Maybe. But nothing on Season 1 sounded as much like early New Order as this album’s “Wav” or as much like fond but fading memories of Giorgio Moroder as “Pure.”

No Creature Is Hidden

Former Ruins

Levi Dylan Sikes doesn’t so much write songs as have running conversations with himself, his loved ones, and God that he then transcribes and sings in a ruminative baritone to intermittently catchy music generated by guitars, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, samples, drum sequencing, sample sequencing, and sound processing. Considerate Bandcamper that he is, he has posted written lyrics, but he enunciates so clearly that you won’t need them except to confirm that, yes, he is very conversant with Scripture and, also yes, he uses the word “millefleurs” in two songs. “Doxology,” meanwhile, is exactly what it says—and more.

Peace … Like a River

Gov’t Mule

The standard edition contains 12 songs lasting 76½ minutes. The deluxe edition’s 31-minute bonus disc adds four cuts and an alternate take. So there’s a lot to savor, especially if you’re partial to the rich fare that Warren Haynes’ once-upon-a-time Allman Brothers offshoot prepares from an aged-to-perfection blend of rock, soul, blues, and Beatles. Guest chefs include Billy Gibbons and Billy Bob Thornton, and most of it cooks. But the highlight is the one that just simmers, “Made My Peace.” What other nine-minute musical excursion can you name that relies on the Prodigal Son and phase shifting to get where it’s going?

King of a Land

Yusuf/Cat Stevens

That Cat Stevens is a Muslim has been common knowledge since his comments about the Salman Rushdie fatwa. Otherwise, you might almost think from these often gentle, often lovely songs that he was a Christian. He never says “Allah,” for instance (only “God” and upper-cased pronouns), and there’s a song about Jesus to boot (“Son of Mary”). But it’s the Jesus of Islam (the Jesus who speaks miraculously as an infant, the Jesus who doesn’t die but only appears to), not the Jesus of the Gospels. “Another Night in the Rain” is recommended to Phil Collins fans, the rest mainly to Muslims—and comparative-religion majors.


Perhaps the only musical ­artifact rarer than a five-disc box devoted to a musician whom almost no one has heard of is a five-disc box devoted to a musician whom almost no one has heard of who turns out to be not just good but really good. Rick Deitrick’s The Unguitarist: Complete Works, 1969-2022—3½ hours of intimately expressive, unfailingly pellucid acoustic guitar—is that kind of treat.

Deitrick could have become well known: He almost signed with John Fahey’s Takoma Records back in the day. But when he didn’t, he took himself and his Yamaha to the rocks, hills, and streams of California, absorbing the sounds and experiencing the vibes that would become the basis of his sound.

His compositions, he has said, have “plot points” (beginnings, middles, ends), sometimes easily identifiable ones. (See “You Are My Sunshine Sometimes.”) He has also said, “I wasn’t getting back to nature. I was nature.” It’s easy to hear what he means. —A.O.

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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