New at Southwest Sound: Jan. 25

by Cooper Stapleton

Jan. 25Portal, “Ion”Portal is a dissonant hellscape, a window into that horrifying universe where pain and pleasure align. I love Portal, and fully recognize that most reading these words will contort their faces in disgust upon hearing the first 10 seconds of the second track, “ESP ION AGE.” The music scurries like an insect with far too many legs, moving in ways previously thought impossible, swirling and skittering in maddening mandalas. Portal has always been true to their namesake, but with “Ion,” they offer the clearest insight into their world. Songs like the aforementioned “ESP ION AGE” and “Phreq” convulse and spasm in a swirl of death metal glory, not leaving any room for headbanging, only slackjawed awe. The Curator still stuns with his throaty wails. I have no idea what he’s saying. All I know is that it sounds like an invocation of something that I do not want to witness. While previous records were so murky as to be a swirling mass of black, the mix on “Ion” strips away all the corners and shadows where the beasts lurk, forcing one to confront their fears. Sometimes, this strategy can backfire, letting the fear dissipate as the unknown becomes known. But sometimes, the clarity lets us see our reflection within the monster’s dripping fangs, making the terror all too real.

Ty Segall, “Freedom’s Goblin”Roaring to a start with trumpets blaring, the massive double album from garage-rock jesus Ty Segall begins with “Fanny Dog,” a song about his dog named Fanny, who “knows what her name is” and “knows just how to come.” It then moves into a few moments of levity, with some piano-centric tracks that call to mind some of the subdued classics of the Beatles. The album is not content to coast by on its length alone. Each of the record’s 19 tracks hold their own among some of the stronger of Segall’s catalogue. A lot of the album feels like a love letter to some of the greatest minds of rock, with obvious nods like songs called “The Last Waltz” or the heavily referenced melodic nods to Segall’s muse Marc Bolan. The hour that “Freedom’s Goblin” inhabits whizzes past, but each piece of it adds to the whole, which is what makes a wonderful double album.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, “Black Coffee”Electric blues has been going through a quiet renaissance throughout the 2010s, with the likes of Gary Clark Junior, Joe Bonamassa, and Beth Hart at the forefront. And with this album, though it is a collaboration between the two latter giants of electric blues, has ultimately cemented Hart as the heart of the modern blues movement. This lady has pipes, she knows when to go all out and when to pull herself back, and it seems like throughout most of this recording, everyone else involved is playing catch-up to her. On the title track, she busts loose so hard that she sometimes shocks the instruments into silence, only for them to pick up the pace harder just a moment later.

Other releases include: Calexico, Phil Anselmo, Steep Canyon Rangers, Craig David, Loudness, and Orphaned Land

Cooper Stapleton

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