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Doug Paisley - Starter Home Music Album Review

Gracefully navigating the intersection of folk-rock and country, the gentle-voiced songwriter turns detailed images of domestic tranquility and promise into reflections on disappointment.
For a decade, Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley has turned quiet, specific moments into inquiries on life’s larger struggles. On his 2010 breakthrough, Constant Companion, Paisley used the inevitability of endings to explore understanding oneself, the only possible “constant companion.” For 2014’s Strong Feelings, he mulled death and its uneasy relationship with life, or how their juxtaposition ripples into every wave of existence. And now, on his fourth album, Starter Home, Paisley details the chasm that separates what poet Seamus Heaney described as “getting started” and “getting started again.” These songs examine how the person you are never truly aligns with the person you want to be, especially when you stumble upon a sticking point that’s hard to move past.

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Kate NV - для FOR Music Album Reviews

Kate NV - для FOR Music Album Reviews
The Russian electronic musician Kate NV’s sonic portrait of her native Moscow is surreal, otherworldly, and playfully inscrutable.

The city of Moscow is 871 years old. Its first entry in the annals of history is as a minor outpost on the western edge of what would become Russia. Perhaps all great cities start as backwaters, but Moscow in particular has lived many lives, from “Third Rome” to workers’ paradise to late-capitalist playground. The contemporary version of Moscow—with its opulent cathedrals and enormous underground shopping malls—is a weird and wondrous historical crossroad. The Western imagination, at least the one informed by the wreckage of the Cold War, may not necessarily think of the Russian metropolis as magical or otherworldly. But listening to the Russian electronic musician Kate NV’s sophomore album, для FOR, an eccentric sonic love letter to her hometown, one gets the sense that the ambient rumble of a city can be made to seem, from the right angle, marvellously strange.

With для FOR, Kate NV (aka Kate Shilonosova) said her goal was to provide a score to her local stomping ground. That mission statement might suggest soundscapes or field recordings, but the album’s 10 songs are made of unusual materials—wet, fleshy bleeps; bubbly, liquid noise; a whole palette of supernatural synths—that make для FOR the most surreal album of electronic music I’ve heard this year. The entirety of the record was recorded in Shilonosova’s Moscow apartment, and however she sourced the sounds she used, a certain playful inscrutability informs all of для FOR: These songs don’t provide answers, just questions.

The very first noises of the album, on opener “yxo EAR,” elude conventional description: Viscous synthesizer notes floats alongside what might be arpeggiated whoopee cushions and human hums lacerated into sharp, angular shapes. There is a sense that the music is formed from a bewildering mixture of organic and synthetic parts. But для FOR never feels like a dip into the uncanny valley; its cyborgian aesthetic is surprisingly cuddly and comforting. This is especially clear on songs like “двa TWO,” where woodblock percussion intermingles with contorted human voices that are played like keys on piano. What that sounds like is baffling and beautiful in equal measure: Burps, sighs, exclamations, and unclassifiable vocal utterances are blasted apart and stitched together into a rippling, freewheeling chord progression. There’s an uncommon sense of reverence and lightness to the album, too: On “кто WHO” robotic bird chirps are bathed in gorgeous sunbeams of synth, creating a pleasing blanket of alien sound.

The album’s cornucopia of outré instrumentation is only one part of what makes it feel special: There’s a warm, ambulatory flow that encourages not just relaxation but a curious imagination. Listening to it, I wondered what Shilonosova was seeing and hearing in Moscow as she crafted these unusual compositions: Was she wandering between the city’s noisy and baroque metro stations as she created the bleeps of “жук BUG”; did the chimes, whooshes of air, and chattering voices that populate the album come from a day at Gorky Park?

There is almost a painterly way to how Shilonosova organizes sound. More than that, each track feels like a self-contained world—an intimate and deeply odd cul-de-sac of noise. In 1975, the Portland, Oregon, musician Ernest Hood’s private-press album Neighborhoods attempted to capture the nuances of daily life in a familiar place. для FOR gives a similar peek into the richness of the everyday. Shilonosova’s corner of Moscow is bubbly and fantastical—a place where you want to live and explore every nook and cranny.

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