Author: Sasha Frere-Jones

  • Hammered Into Clouds: Nine Beginnings for Julius Eastman

    Julius Eastman was a black, gay composer in a scene with no antecedents for him. His 1970s compositions open up a counter-narrative for new music in downtown New York, foregrounding race, sex, and politics while turning the patter of minimalism into a hard rain. Eastman connected Eastern thought and Western tonality, and made art songs […]

  • Mark E. Smith’s Mantras of Disdain

    This was an actual account of the operational experience When he thought at first he was going out In fact, he was going in for it When do I quit? Where do I quit? I need to know I can’t leave this bench alone To be with my darling When do I quit? —“Chino” (2010) […]

  • Cardi B: In Control of Pazz & Jop Singles

    On December 20, Cardi B appeared on The Tonight Show. She talked about her 2017 (“I have been proven”), her family (“Once you start making money, everybody wants you to be they kid’s godmother or something”), and her engagement to Offset of Migos (“It’s the right thing to do”). She trilled, drew shapes in the […]

  • Lee Gamble Hallucinates One of the Year’s Best Albums

    Lee Gamble’s Mnestic Pressure is a compilation of electronic music that doesn’t exist. That’s one way to hear Gamble’s mastery of existing styles: the wrapped drums of hardcore, the airy bits of jungle that aren’t beats, the bits of jungle that are, the hummingbird flap of Aphex Twin melodies. Gamble is a producer from Birmingham, […]

  • Moses Sumney’s Quiet Storm of Freedom

    On Wednesday, October 11, Moses Sumney took the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg shortly after 10 p.m. His two band mates, Sam Gendel and Mike Haldeman, were playing the cloudy intro of “Self-Help Tape,” a blend of guitar arpeggios, bass hums, and a world of echo. Sumney descended in a black tunic and […]

  • Radio Refugee: Tom Petty, New York City, and 1979

    November of 1979 was hard on New York radio. Or, it was fantastic for music but tricky for programmers who had to worry about what “rock” meant. If terms of genre matter to anybody, they matter to the people in radio whose careers live or die based on what music listeners think is associated with […]

  • The Sound of Cybernetics: Roland Kayn And the Voice of Electricity

    Roland Kayn was a composer who rejected composition, a human who gave machines the benefit of the doubt. A German who began making music in the twentieth century with a pencil and paper, Kayn ended up spending most of his time with a roomful of modular synthesizers and tape machines in the Netherlands. He won […]

  • Maya Jane Coles’s Smooth “Flight”

    In 1999, a DJ named Stéphane Pompougnac launched a compilation series named after his workplace, the Hôtel Costes. The actual hotel is exclusive in the way that everything expensive is exclusive; 700 euros a night is the starting price for a “classic room.” The hotel décor is exclusive in a different way: the dark, swooping […]

  • The Peaceful, Wired Feeling of Andrea Belfi

    Two of the year’s most nourishing albums have come from Andrea Belfi, a drummer whose recordings don’t necessarily make you think about drumming. Alveare, released in January, and Ore, released only a few weeks ago, were both made almost entirely by Belfi, using percussion and electronics. He manipulates tonality and attack in tiny increments to […]

  • Gerard Herman’s Music Has a Life of Its Own

    Do you dream of dirt? Are you looking for something small and fertile and self-sustaining? You could be dreaming of the Belgian label Entr’acte, run by a Brit named Allon Kaye who relocated from London to Antwerp in 2012. Or you could be wishing for Gerard Herman, the 28-year-old art teacher from Antwerp who made […]

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