Listening recommendations from the past, present, Portland and the periphery.
The early history of techno was defined by the mutual exchange between Berlin and Detroit, and the newly reissued 3MB personifies the trans-Atlantic meetings of the minds that created today’s machine music. The 1992 album is notable just for the pedigree of the musicians involved (Detroit legend Juan Atkins, dub-techno pioneer Moritz von Oswald, the Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann), but today it stands strong for its sterling sound design and elegant vision of the future.
Jenny Hval, that delightfully ribald and academic art-pop prankster, joins forces with fellow Norwegian Håvard Volden on Menneskekollektivet, their debut as Lost Girls. Looser and jammier than the tightly constructed and intellectually rigorous music on Hval’s 2019 apex, The Practice of Love, the five tracks on Menneskekollektivet find the sweet spot between dance music and psych-rock, not least thanks to Hval’s thought-provoking yet sublimely goofy monologues.
Like many aging, increasingly grouchy millennials, the members of Picante have been on a Steely Dan deep dive recently. But if “Strawberries and Cream” is as inspired by “Dirty Work” as they say, it’s bright enough to turn Walter Becker and Donald Fagen to stone, replacing the New Yorkers’ tart-tongued wit with earnest soul singing, spoken word and a chintzy electric piano sound that it’s safe to guess didn’t require 20 state-of-the-art microphones to record.
Philadelphia’s Pontiac Streator and Ulla Straus are best-known on their own for fogged-out ambient music, but on their 2019 collaborative album, 11 Items, they venture into wilder and woollier territory somewhere between Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy and something you’d hear over the baby monitor in a horror movie. If the continuous chatter of disembodied alien voices doesn’t creep you out too much, 11 Items makes for a neuron-rearranging and continually surprising listen.