Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
Minikon’s music exists at the junction between pop, folk, and electronica. Imagine Sufjan Stevens sitting down with some folks from the Darla label and composing some chiptune music together. Or, as Minikon puts it, imagine if “My Bloody Valentine wrote soundtracks for the Nintendo Entertainment System” (a mind-blowing idea, to be sure). There’s an element of kitsch at play, thanks to the bleeps and bloops that evoke all manner of 8-bit nostalgia. But below it all beats a heart that imbues the music with some real emotional heft, not to mention an ear for killer melodies. Minikon has recently reissued his entire catalog on Bandcamp, culminating in Rare Candy, a collection of Minikon remixes by a number of Japanese and American artists (including Dance Contest Winner and Heart Bit Village). Even if you’re not necessarily into the retro sounds that comprises much of Minikon’s sonic palette, his music is just the sort of light, frothy, and joyous pop that summer weather requires.
Earlier this month, the East Coast Ballet company performed a ballet inspired by the book of Ruth. The soundtrack was composed Eric Painter, a director of music ministry at the Beth Israel Messianic Synagogue. The soundtrack — which can be listened to in its entirety here — is a gorgeous collection of music that is well in-line with the modern classical “tradition” of Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson. In other words, stirring orchestral arrangements that are by turns epic and intimate, cinematic and introspective. Highlights include “Nightfall”, the Dead Can Dance-meets-industrial of “Thresher” (by James White), and the penultimate track, “Ransomed By Love”.
On paper, The Caretaker’s An empty bliss beyond this World can seem a little gimmicky. The album is essentially a collection of 15 tracks comprised of loops made from old jazz, big band, and other “vintage” 78s from the early half of the 20th century that have been subtly manipulated with glitch, noise, and other bits of processing. But the more I listen to it, the more evocative and arresting I find it. Listening to it is like listening to ghosts of old recordings, or sifting through photographs that have been lost for decades. At times, the songs can be creepy, even ominous — on “Libet’s Delay” or the aptly titled “I feel as if I might be vanishing”, it sounds like the very ravages of time themselves are eating away at the tracks as you’re listening to them. At other times, the songs can be curiously playful, as is the case with the woozy, nonchalant “Camaraderie at arms length” (my favorite track on the album). Most of the time, the album is somewhere in-between.