Our Spilt Milk returns with our favorite things this week, including rare groove reissues on vinyl.
“Promise I won’t cry over spilt milk,” sang Solána Rowe (SZA) on “Love Galore,” the second single from her new album Ctrl. Rowe released “Love Galore,” featuring Travis Scott, at the end of April alongside an incredible video (watch all the way to the end), and it generated plenty of hype for Ctrl. As it turned out, Rowe would not deliver on her promise. Like this blog, Ctrl is all about spilt milk, and Rowe often seems to be crying over it, spilling more in the process.
It isn’t all tears, though. In the process of parsing out the spilt milk of what so many non-millennials are calling “modern love,” Rowe experiences all the cardinal emotions of romance: lust, loneliness, passion, gnawing insecurity, etc. It isn’t exactly original subject matter, but Rowe’s take is nuanced and deeply personal. The album uses its eponymous concept as a frame, continually addressing it head-on through brief snippets of speech from Rowe’s mother, strategically placed at the album’s start, its end, and in-between tracks. In the interlude between “Doves in the Wind” and “Drew Barrymore,” Ms. SZA muses on coming to terms with the loss of control. “While it can be scary, it can also be comforting / because I know that when I get to that point, and can acknowledge OK, that’s as much as you can do / I can actually let it go,” she says.
But after “20 Something,” the album’s finale, she expresses the opposite sentiment. “I’m gonna hang on to it, because the alternative is an abyss. It’s just a hole, a darkness, a nothingness. Who wants that?” The quote perfectly captures Rowe’s unending struggle for control—of her body, her emotions, her actions, and the bodies, emotions, and actions of the men in her life. Taken altogether, Ctrl a beautiful, tragic, inspiring lament on the innate human longing to pick up all the spilt milk and put it back in the carton. (Raphael Helfand)
The Internet is the planet’s junk drawer. Nothing is ever truly gone anymore if you know where to look, and now it seems like everything recorded will eventually resurface on vinyl as well. I understand the documentary value upcoming reissues of John Coltrane with Thelonious Monk, but when Concord Records’ Jazz Dispensary series reissued organist Charles Kynard’s Afro-Disiac (1970) and sax player Rusty Bryant’s Fire Eater (1971), I had a Huh? moment. Both soul jazz albums are certainly funky enough and feature great drummers—Idris Muhammad on the former, Bernard Purdie on the latter—but neither seemed necessary.
My hunch was that DJ culture and the search for rare, funky grooves that come with a cool mood drove the reissue—a hunch that felt pretty solid when WhoSampled.com did a story on the reissues and pointed out that Bryant’s title track had been sampled more than 20 times, and Kynard and the members of his band had been heavily sampled as well. Part of what makes them good to sample is that the music is a little faceless, and as stand-alone albums, Afro-Disiac and Fire Eater are great for brightening a mood without taking over the moment. Still, I wonder if scarce, anonymous, funky records are overvalued because two of those three characteristics are overvalued too. (Alex Rawls)
Lately I’ve been getting caught up in music that challenges me—tracks that are hard to listen to but rock me from my center. I’ve dipped my toe into such metal artists as ISIS and electronic musicians as Oneohtrix Point Never. But with recent releases from Dean Blunt (specifically Hotep under the alias Blue Iverson) and Slowdive, I’ve been reminded that stripping music down to a simple form is challenging and provocative, which is why I’ve delved back into The Durutti Column.
The Durutti Column’s 1981 LC (Lotta Continua), meaning “continuous struggle” in Italian, is one such album. The band’s head man and guitarist, Vini Reilly, recorded this album at home on a four-track cassette deck—technology that made it minimal by default. Although LC was recorded in the midst of post-punk Manchester and the band had previously collaborated with Joy Division, John Dowie, and Cabaret Voltaire, this album transcends any sort of genre classification. On “Sketch for Dawn” and “Portrait for Frazer,” the echoey guitar has a dream pop vibe, resembling the lucid nature of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. The low drone of the guitar melts into mumbled vocals and paints the scenery with sounds.
While the album borders on ambient at times, it boils over into funk or dub at others. On “Detail for Paul,” the heavy strum of the guitar over an intricate drum beat makes the listener bounce. It is astonishing that it came out in 1981, and the blend of genres and sheer originality make it prophetic, setting the stage for shoe-gaze, dream pop, and art rock to come.
Sometimes looking back can be the only way to look ahead, particularly when trying to wrap your head around the complex, persistent development of music. As electronic music develops and ambient sounds build in complexity, we will continue to see inspiration drawn from The Durutti Column and other artists in their vein. Not only has this album given me break from glorious cacophonies, it has also been a nice complement to the New Orleans rain. (Lisa Chupp)