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The Decline of Western Civilization Collection

Second Sight Films

The Decline of Western Civilization CollectionPenelope Spheeris‘s epic three-part documentary series about the shifting scene in music in LA in the ’80s and ’90s makes even more interesting viewing now than it did before. Well, I’m mostly talking about the first two movies, as until now I’ve never seen the third.

The documentary form, as well as Spheeris’s hands-off style (of which more later) mean that instead of becoming dated, or simply frozen as historical artefacts, they’ve grown new layers of meaning as context has changed all around them. (Just for some context for those of a less American disposition, filming on Part I concluded in the same month that Ian Curtis of Joy Division died).

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Laura Cannell – Beneath Swooping Talons

Front & Follow

Laura Cannell - Beneath Swooping TalonsThe inscription inside the cover of Laura Cannell’s beautifully packaged CD reads “Beneath swooping talons we choose to be brave, or else to edge the shadows of open spaces, Silent wings come upon us in a strobe of feathers, we choose to be free, or else let the unknown control us.”

There is a pleasing sparseness to these single-take recordings, made in a mediaeval church in the wilds of East Anglia, played on fiddle, overbow fiddle and double recorders, and originating from scraps and fragments of mediaeval music — with echoes of Hildegard von Bingen and Guillaume de Machaut (among other sources) ringing through these improvised pieces to create something quite extraordinarily beautiful.

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Beirut – No No No

4AD

Beirut - No No NoIt’s been nearly a decade since teenage wunderkid Zach Condon released The Gulag Orkestar, Beirut’s bells-and-whistles, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-and-Granddad’s-accordion, Eastern-European- influenced debut album. Whist both The Gulag Orkestar and its follow-up, 2007’s The Flying Club Cup packed in a lot, Beruit’s third album, 2011’s The Rip Tide, suggested a shift in tone, moving away from the large brass and strings sections found on previous albums towards a lighter, more electronic-tinged sound.

No No No continues this shift, as evidenced in the title track, the chirpy, piano-led opener “Gibraltar”, and “Perth”, all of which highlight both Condon’s beautiful voice and the poppier sensibility that has emerged in his music in the last few years Tracks such as “At Once” and “So Allowed” show

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