Barker’s Utility imagines dance music as a flying machine: free from the constraints of gravity, head in the clouds, but always working and pumping madly to stay afloat. Utility is short compared to most albums in the expansive genre of ambient techno, but it’s easier to get lost in than most—its comforting midrange and constant pulse belying its lack of a kick drum or most things you might call a beat. Don’t let the sinister cover alarm you—this is smooth sailing.
Walt McClements is best known as the mastermind of Lonesome Leash and as one of indie folk’s go-to accordionists, but in his solo work, he uses his instruments to open up the kind of vast, churning drones that usually get made on church organs by people like Sarah Davachi and Kali Malone. The six tracks on his new album, A Hole in the Fence, show just how dignified this stereotypically eccentric instrument can be in the right hands—and when run through a ton of electronics.
Field recordings are a great way to keep a record of the transient moments in your life, helpful in a time when so many of our lives are in places of upheaval. Jason Hovatter isn’t nearly so ambitious—he likes nature, recording nature, and taking pictures of himself recording nature—but his Bandcamp archive of sounds from around Oregon is a great way to travel around the state without going outside your window. Plus, if you’re interested in getting into field recording yourself, he exhaustively lists his equipment.
Trout Mask Replica, the 1969 Captain Beefheart curiosity with a reputation as one of rock’s most difficult albums, is finally streaming. The secret to Trout Mask is how sentimental it is: Between the scatological gags and dissonant skronks are truly heartfelt and passionately sung lines about how the world is beautiful and magic is real (“a white elephant escaped from the zoo with love”). His more accessible ‘70s stuff like Clear Spot is better for my money, but give Trout Mask a spin if only so patricians don’t think you’re copping out.