Noise Pollution: Blake Mills is a Genius & Ariel Pink Gets Reissued

Noise Pollution returns with a look at new ones from Blake Mills, Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes, and more.
By    May 8, 2020

Will Schube dyed his hair Ariel Pink.

Blake MillsMutable Set

In November of 2010, I DM’d Blake Mills on Twitter trying to score an advanced copy of his debut solo LP, Break Mirrors. I had been a fan of his group with Taylor Goldsmith, Simon Dawes, and had begun to hear whispers that this Malibu-born guitar player, who spent his days touring with Kid Rock and baffling audience members and judges alike at the Shred For Your Life competition, was the truth. I was 17, he was 23, and it was the early days of Twitter where you could just hit up artists and they’d generally respond. Break Mirrors turned out to be a brilliant record, as was his follow-up Heigh Ho. One of my favorite anecdotes about Mills is that around the time of Heigh Ho, he took to Instagram to note how the album would probably sound better on CD than vinyl, which is an odd note but one that betrays an expertise in sonic elements.

Look from 2018, was an instrumental collection of tunes composed on vintage synthesizers, and his new LP, Mutable Set is a wonderfully shifty batch of tunes — effortlessly defiant yet stunning and gorgeous. Mills’ songwriting is entirely singular; he approaches the guitar — as both an instrument and a vessel for composition — like no one else. The songs on this album aren’t defined by structure, rather, his instruments animate in live time, illuminating a road previously undetectable. As such, there aren’t any standout tracks, just a collection of awe-inspiring moments that cohere into one of the best LP’s of the year.

Tom Misch & Yussef DayesWhat Kinda Music

Fans of this site are probably familiar with Yussef Dayes, the virtuosic drummer who has turned the UK jazz world on its head. Less familiar is Tom Misch, a 24-year-old guitarist from London. Together, the duo have created What Kinda Music, a stunning tour through the respective genres of each, with Dayes bringing his acid-tinged fusion to Misch’s more pop-oriented structures. The record moves from deep, laid-back grooves, to proto-prog behemoths barely contained from busting through your speakers. Williams’ versatility is a highlight throughout the record. His solo albums can be reliant on the rhythm section to carry songs, but here, he lets Misch’s subtle compositions lead the show. Downtempo ballads give way to straight-ahead jazz exercises. It’s a perfect album for our era in which genre has become taboo.

Freddie Gibbs rolls through for a guest verse, and I’m still baffled as to how these two managed to procure bars from Gangsta Gibbs, but the how is unimportant. If you told me that Gibbs’ best guest verse of the year would be for two British jazz musicians, I probably would have laughed, but alas, here we are. It’s 2020, practically everything’s fucked up, but at least Yussef Dayes is considerate enough to drop more heat. The Tom Misch intro is a nice touch, too.

Ariel PinkVarious Reissues

Ariel Pink is a hero to weirdos everywhere. Whether you’re in Animal Collective or a dude that has run a rap blog for 15 years, you’re probably repping for LA’s favorite oddball. Just yesterday, JPEGMAFIA posted a photo to his Instagram story of himself standing next to Pink. Ariel Pink is truly the great uniter, which Mexican Summer crucially understands and has as such undertaken the monolithic task of systematically re-issuing all of Pink’s work with Haunted Graffiti. Before “Round and Round” turned the artist into a Pitchfork Fest pop star, he made willfully and antagonistically experimental pop music within the confines of his own home. Ariel Archives, the project’s official title, will ensure these seminal records remain in the public spotlight for the foreseeable future.

This new batch features The Doldrums, Worn Copy, and House Arrest, the latter of which is a watershed moment for bedroom and lo-fi pop. It’s purposely obscure, an archive being created in live time. Pink’s penchant for catchy melodies has always been apparent, but on these records, he drowns hooks and choruses beneath layers of drugged-out synths and tinny guitars. It’s a beautiful mess, which is a fairly accurate description for Ariel Pink’s entire discography. These re-issues help solidify the story of Pink’s career; which has been at times massively influential and at others he’s been written off as a derelict provocateur. He lands somewhere in the middle, a one-of-a-kind amalgamation of our pop generation.

AmbianceInto a New Journey

On the last edition of Noise Pollution, I wrote about the Larry Rose Band, a ‘70s group whose one album has been discovered and re-issued by BBE Music. The label has done it again with a re-issue of Into A New Journey by Ambiance, a mysterious and shifting collective of musicians led by Nigeria-born Daoud Abubakar Balewa. The folks at BBE Music are making my job easy. They release really great shit, and I just write some words. Then I get $5,000 from the blogmaster. It’s a great deal all around.

Anyways, this record rips. Spiritual jazz is probably the best umbrella term for what Balewa and his band do, but the album is fueled by Latin grooves, electronic accents, and Afro-centric overtones that bring to mind Fela Kuti if he was born a generation later. There’s even a bit of Broadway-sounding vocal duets. The band fits their songs into a pop format, rarely stretching the music past the five minute mark. It’s Sunday morning music when the hangover is surprisingly light. Impress all of your friends by including Ambiance on a playlist―no need to mention that somebody else uncovered this gem.

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