What to Listen to This Week

Lotic does a better job than anyone else since Björk at sounding like Björk.


A central figure of the 1970s’ anti-colonial Hawaiian Renaissance, Gabby Pahinui made some of the most gorgeous and exploratory records of that decade in any genre, often with his ever-changing “Gabby Band.” Rabbit Island Music Festival might well be his best album, opening and closing with a chorus of seabirds and featuring 37 minutes of music that’s at once bustling and serene, communal and visionary. But it’s hard to go wrong with anything from 1972 onward. After that, go back and check out his earlier recordings as part of the Sons of Hawaii.


There’s a lot going on in Lotic’s vocal performance on her new album Water. On one hand, the Berlin-based, Texas-born artist summons all the vocal sounds you’d expect on an aquatic-themed album: whale whoops, siren shrieks. (She also does a better job than anyone else since Björk at sounding like Björk.) But mostly, she sounds like she’s having a blast. A decade into her career, she considers this her “arrival as an artist,” and though that undersells her rich body of work, she sounds exhilarated enough for us to understand what she means.


When an album called Pink Dream comes along, and it has an endless, color-corrected cityscape on the sleeve, the first question for any ambient-head should be: Does it sound like its title and cover? In the case of Elijah Knutsen’s January album, recently reissued in an expanded edition on the small local label Memory Color, the answer is a resounding yes. This is some of the warmest ambient music on this side of the Willamette, full of distant metallic squeaks and friendly field recordings, pleasant but never losing its essential mystery.


Sound-art titan Alvin Lucier passed away this Thursday at age 90, leaving behind an endlessly curious and enduringly influential body of work. Brain waves, magnets, clocks—all were fair game in Lucier’s sound explorations from the ‘60s onward. But his most influential piece is no doubt I Am Sitting in a Room, in which a recording of his voice is played in a room before that recording is again recorded in the same room. At the end, the words have been absorbed into the acoustics of the room itself. They sound alien, frightening and beautiful.