Broadcast, "Berberian Sound Studio" (Warp)
From its start in the mid-'90s, the British band Broadcast seemed influenced by soundtrack music. Like Stereolab, they looked back to visions of the future, building on space-age music from the 1960s and spacious electronics of the '70s to create something that sounded new and contemporary, especially on 2000's seminal "The Noise Made by People."
Broadcast's vocalist, Trish Keenan, died in January 2011, but she and partner James Cargill had already composed the soundtrack to British director Peter Strickland's "Berberian Sound Studio," a film about an obsessive film sound engineer.
With 39 tracks in 38 minutes, the album plays as a continuous soundscape -- sometimes churchy and imposing, sometimes pastoral and beautiful, sometimes angelic and ethereal, sometimes punctuated by unsettling screams and eerie voices. It's uneasy listening, but it's also a fascinating blend of daydream reveries and nightmarish horrors.
STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Bonnie Bishop, "Free" (Be Squared)
After you hear this Nashville-based Texas native belt out this swaggeringly Stonesy rocker "Shrinking Violet," you'd never mistake her for being one. And that's not the only bracingly organic blast the raspy-voiced singer-songwriter delivers here: There are also "Keep Using Me" and "Bad Seed," the latter fueled by slide guitar and pounding piano.
Bishop proves just as potent as a balladeer. She co-wrote, with Al Anderson, "Not Cause I Wanted To," one of the standout tracks on Bonnie Raitt's latest album, "Slipstream." That song is not here, but you do get the equally stellar "World Like This" and "The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts."
NICK CRISTIANO, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Super Hi-Fi, "Dub to the Bone" (Electric Cowbell)
Although dubstep evolved from dub (sort of), the two genres frequently have the opposite effect on listeners -- the former can be a wildly aggressive rush of electronica while the latter tends to be an especially hypnotic form of reggae.
The Brooklyn-based quintet Super Hi-Fi pays loving homage to the older genre with an unexpected twist: trombones as a centerpiece.
Their approach pays off: The trombone's ambient tone is a natural fit for dub atmosphere, especially when two are played in tandem and processed with vintage tape delays.
Bandleader/bassist Ezra Gale and drummer Madhu Siddappa turn out tasty, reggae-rich rhythms while guitarist Will Graefe patches through what could have been tedious stretches (an unfortunate dub trademark).
The two trombones (Alex Asher and Ryan Snow) generally sub as vocals of sorts on this virtually instrumental release, but otherwise they work seamlessly with the other instruments.
CHUCK CAMPBELL, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE