No Sounds Are Out of Bounds (Cooking Vinyl)
The English ambient house legends have had an uneven if steady output since their landmark debut in 1991, but they seem to have settled into a reliable if redundant groove after their 2012 collaboration with Lee “Scratch” Perry. No Sounds Are Out of Bounds brings the band’s usual combination of dubby beats, found dialogue and elegiac instrumental passages, all underpinned with unsettling humor. Holly Cook’s vocals are squandered on the trite “Rush Hill Road” but Jah Wobble fares better on the affecting Dilla tribute, “Doughnuts Forever.”
Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures (Stones Throw)
Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures sounds like what Justin Timberlake might have done for a Motown subsidiary in 1984, and this is a good thing. Stimulator Jones—né Sam Lunsford of erstwhile Roanoke jangle rockers Young Sinclairs—doesn’t achieve the vocal fluidity of JT, but he’s more than serviceable, and his affect is dead on —randy but unwaveringly earnest. “Trippin on You” is hilarious and infectious; the funk of “Soon Never Comes” is stylishly understated; and elsewhere pitch- bended keyboards and 808 handclaps reign supreme.
Water Sign (Spinning Top)
Born Johnny Mackay in Australia, Fascinator occasionally adds “Lord” to the moniker; sports an ’80s track-
suit, cheesy shades and a curtain of strawberry-blond hair; and has transformed a room in NYC’s Carlton Arms Hotel into “a physical manifestation of [his] subconscious.” So he’s a genial scamp, and his low-stakes merriment extends to Water Sign. Slacker dance beats, ’80s synths and wah guitar are in full effect, suggesting Beck front-
ing Happy Mondays, and D.C.’s newly relaxed pot laws seem tailor-made for his July 18 show at the Black Cat.
The Future and the Past (ATO)
From the local chapter of the retro camp comes Natalie Prass, a Richmond native who records with Spacebomb, the capital city’s crack throwback-soul assemblage. The Future and the Past is slinkier and funkier than Prass’ self-titled debut, but still provides plenty of cool shade. Prass’ voice is wispy with a tensile strength, as she proves on the shimmering “Short Court Style” and the acrobatic “Hot for the Mountain.” She has charisma to spare, and her Southern show on August 10 is a welcome opportunity to catch her in an intimate venue, while we still can.
Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music (Dust to Digital)
The sub-subtitle says it all—“1950s Popular Music from the Congo, Tanganyika, Zanzibar and Kenya”—and Listen All Around is an absolute joy. The fabulous liner notes provide historical context on trends political, economic, creative and technological. The last item is especially illuminating: the role of the gramophone; the mass production of guitars; and the daily miracle of radio all get their due. Each of the 42 songs has a lengthy note with fascinating biographical and cultural information, and nearly every selection has amazing features to recommend it—picking techniques, timbral marvels and harmonic turns. Jubilant clarinets startle on “Stanleyville is Dusty”; “Gitari Na Congo” (actually performed on a five-string harp called a kundi) is mesmerizing and sublime; and Mwenda Jean Bosco, whose “Massanga” should be a planetary anthem by now, contributes “The Journey That We Took,” another lovely charmer. Vital stuff, deserving of bountiful awards and, gosh, actual record sales.