This Week’s Best Albums: March 24, 2009

This Week's Best Albums

Mono: Hymn to the Immortal Wind (Temporary Residence)

On the verge of its 10th anniversary, Japanese post-rockers Mono issue their first album in three years, and like its predecessor, Hymn to the Immortal Wind was recorded by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studio, resulting in a grand sound that showcases the group’s epic sound. Complementary instruments make the minor-key material that much more beautiful, including glockenspiel and strings on the nearly 12-minute opener “Ashes in the Snow.”

A virtual orchestra appears over the course of the album, which holds two dozen string players and two guest flutists. The main quartet handles organ, harpsicord, tympani, and piano in addition to the glockenspiel and its original instruments, creating a majestic sound that is well worth the three-year wait.

Mono: “Ashes in the Snow”

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Dan Deacon: Bromst (Carpark)

Coming as the next logical step in Deacon’s sonic evolution, Bromst finds electro-spazz surrounding his trademark whirring synthesizers and warbling alien-esque vocals with beautiful flourishes of organic instrumentation.

“Snookered” combines the older elements with pretty glockenspiel melodies, chopped vocal bits, and traces of real singing. “Of the Mountains” throws live drums under mounting buzzes and chants, and a lively marimba part steals the show on “Baltihorse.”

Being joined by a large-scale percussion/synth/guitar ensemble for his upcoming tour, Deacon may define the rest of his career with Bromst and its resultant live performances.

Mastodon: Crack the Skye (Warner Bros.)

Possibly the best Mastodon album since Remission, the loosely themed Crack the Skye finds one of metal’s biggest names branching out ever so slightly. A banjo briefly introduces “Divinations,” newfound vocal harmonies appear on “Oblivion,” and “The Czar” is an epic four-movement affair.

The album is one of the group’s most accessible works, but the big riffs remains and Crack the Skye‘s psych-metal sounds tie them together nicely.  Though melodramatic vocals are splashed over too many good stand-alone riffs, there’s just enough of the group’s old-school gruffness to atone.

(MF) Doom: Born Like This (Lex)

Dropping his “MF” prefix, incomparable rapper and Marvel-inspired supervillain Doom prepares a disc full of two-minute hip-hop masterpieces for his newest solo album.

Like hip-hop brethren Madlib and J Dilla, Doom often grows tired of five-minute snooze fests, so he keeps most tracks short on this 17-tune affair. And like any Doom-related release, Born Like This features a nearly impenetrable wall of rhymes and flow, dizzying listeners with his ever-shifting, slowly delivered lyrics.

“That’s That,” one of the album’s “singles,” stands out with a vibratoed string loop and a bit of Doom “singing,” and “Cellz” is the absolute highlight — using the Charles Bukowski poem “Dinosauria, We” with the author’s narration of the world’s depressing reality and a post-apocalyptic future.

Clark: Growl’s Garden EP (Warp)

After whittling his engaging IDM soundscapes to focused dance tunes midway through this decade, English electronic artist Chris Clark went only by his surname and issued two more full-length discs on Warp. The newer sound isn’t as ornate as that of 2003 album Empty the Bones of You, but it more aptly fits the designation “intelligent dance music.”

Growl’s Garden keeps Clark in line with his last few releases, but a few melodic moments recall the older sound. It also pushes forward a bit with cut-up vocals on “Gonk Roughage” and computerized vocals that are sung/spoken on the title track.