Album reviews: Golden Dawn Arkestra, Juliana Daugherty, Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy, Wooden Shjips, Mary Lattimore, Tierra Whack

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Tierra Whack's tunes are kaleidoscopic, cool and insightful. Publicity image. Tierra Whack’s tunes are kaleidoscopic, cool and insightful. Publicity image.

Golden Dawn Arkestra

Children of the Sun
(Nine Mile)

While borrowing Sun Ra’s band name and giving songs titles like “Ra Horahkty” and “Wings of Ra,” Golden Dawn Arkestra comes from a planet that’s as much spy rock as cosmic jazz. Despite some vintage keyboards and occasional attempts at menace, GDA never fully weirds the situation, and its singer emanates an off-putting vibe in the process (luckily, he doesn’t dominate the mix). The brief instrumentals are pretty cool; the stony “Ocean” and rollerskating jam “Cosmic Dancer” have nice moments but feel forced. At least you can sing “Down By the River” to one of them.

https://goldendawnarkestra.bandcamp.com/album/children-of-the-sun

Juliana Daugherty

Light (Western Vinyl)

Singer-guitarist Juliana Daugherty has been seen around these parts playing with The Hill & Wood and sharing the stage with Wes Swing and Guion Pratt. On Light, Daugherty has wonderfully sympathetic accompaniment, mostly from Daniel Clarke and producer Colin Killalea (of Klauss), but it’s definitely a solo affair, often shudderingly intimate. “Player” sets the tone—as brooding and beautiful as a deserted winter beach, the gorgeous production imparting a Lanois-like gauziness. As a songwriter, Daugherty doesn’t go in for hooky choruses; these songs are scenes, a series of heartrending one-acts. A music supervisor needs to come along and snap up the title track for a closing theme.

https://julianadaugherty.bandcamp.com/album/light

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy

Let Your Light Shine On (MPS)

Versatile Italian guitarist/composer Nicola Conte and his percussion-heavy Spiritual Galaxy assemblage churn out fierce, thick acid jazz grooves with strong Latin American and African vibes. It’s hot, and it doesn’t even matter much that Ghanaian vocalist Bridgette Amofah sounds kind of generic and delivers banalities like “all we really need is love, love, love.”

Wooden Shjips

V. (Thrill Jockey)

San Francisco-born, Portland-dwelling Wooden Shjips return with their fifth album, though it could be their first; their shimmering sunburned desert rock has not changed one iota, and that stasis also goes for each implacably grooving song—every track is a superbaked beast slouching towards Bethlehem, or perhaps a hammock. The rhythm section is so steady it almost disappears, but singer Erik “Ripley” Johnson comes off as a genial Alan Vega, and when it’s not numbing, V. feels pretty good.

https://woodenshjips.bandcamp.com/album/v

Mary Lattimore

Hundreds of Days (Ghostly International)

Raised by a harpist mother in Asheville, Mary Lattimore took to the instrument and gained renown as a session player with Kurt Vile, Thurston Moore and Steve Gunn before releasing her debut in 2012. Hundreds of Days, an instrumental album recorded in Marin, sounds like something you’d use to close out a meditation workshop at Esalen—it’s brazenly pretty. The songs are eight, 10, 12 minutes long, overcoming inertia when Lattimore thickens and plays with texture, as on “Never Saw Him Again.” Lattimore plays the Woolen Mills Chapel on July 6.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/album/hundreds-of-days

Tierra Whack

Whack World (Universal)

“We don’t deserve Tierra Whack.” Solange’s tweet hits the magnitude of what I felt encountering this Philly-based battle rapper turned capital-A Artist, but it doesn’t convey the utter euphoria I felt, blooming from the surreal joy that Whack cultivates over this 15-minute, 15-track EP and video. The tunes are kaleidoscopic, cool and insightful, but the video is
an enthralling tour de force. Whack is fearless, hilarious, poignant when she wants
to be—benevolent queen
of a land aptly hailed on the album cover as “WILD, WARM, WEIRD!” We need Tierra Whack, and by the time this column drops, she might be the toast of the actual world.

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