Velvet Underground, "Loaded: Re-loaded 45th Anniversary Edition" (Rhino/Warner Music). The fourth album by the Velvet Underground is the most polarizing of the lot and far removed from the classic grit of "Venus in Furs," the mesmerizing freakout "Sister Ray" or any of vocalist Nico's delicately morose ballads. Recorded after both she and founding member-bassist-violaist John Cale had split from singer-guitarist Lou Reed, drummer Moe Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison, "Loaded" has more in common with the Grateful Dead's melodic folk-guitar songs than with Andy Warhol-sponsored abrasiveness. There's energy in propellant tracks like "Rock 'n Roll" and "Cool It Down," but it's a clean energy, devoid of the distortion that helped define the band.
In celebration of its 45th anniversary, Rhino has offered a six-volume set that compiles both the stereo and mono versions of the 1970 album, outtakes and demos, the searing record "Live at Max's Kansas City 1969" and a never-before-issued concert recorded on reel-to-reel a few months prior in Philadelphia. The release, available on the major streaming services and as a CD package with bonus DVD (featuring a high-resolution surround-sound remix and two other alternate mixes), offers rich perspective on the evolution of Reed's approach, highlighting an artist in transition, looking for a hit or two and adapting to a new decade. This "Loaded" set is one of two big collections by the Velvet Underground arriving in November. The second, called "The Complete Matrix Tapes," compiles 42 live recordings from 1969 that the band made in San Francisco over the course of an extended residency at Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin's club the Matrix.
Chance the Rapper, "Angels (featuring Saba)" (self-released). The thoughtful, skilled lyricist Chance the Rapper broke out of Chicago a few years ago after he dropped his "Acid Rap" mix tape, and since then he's collaborated with artists including Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Madonna and James Blake. The artist, born Chancelor Bennett, has been stingy with new solo music, but last week that ended with the arrival of "Angels." Featuring a vocal hook by Chicago rapper Saba, the track mixes a midtempo beat, punctuated brass arrangements and a chorus that pops courtesy of Trinidadian steel drums.
This stylistic mishmash might sound curious, but throughout "Angels," Chance's confident voice and lyrics serve as a unifier. "I don't even need the radio," he raps of his success before dotting the line with a cussed boast, "and my new ... sounds like a rodeo." When Chance, 22, recently debuted the song on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," the choreographed performance was as frantic as a bull ride, featuring the artist's exuberant, juke-inspired dance moves, well-practiced tag-team maneuvers with Saba and backup dancers who at one point played a quickie game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The "Late Show" gig was also a portent; during a recent interview on New York rap station Hot 97, the rapper hinted at a "secret project" with Colbert.
"Streaming Spools: Tape Culture Now" playlist (Apple Music). There's rich irony in an Apple Music playlist that celebrates experimental cassette culture. But the convergence of ascendant and dying technologies that is the "Streaming Spools: Tape Culture Now" illuminates fascinating electronic music currently being issued on tape (and, of course, digitally). Located in Apple Music's increasingly beefy playlists section (specifically, on the "Apple Editors Playlists" page under "experimental") the 15 tracks on "Streaming Spools" occupy a realm that recalls the ambient sounds of Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada and the more meditative sounds of new age. Originally issued on tape labels including Hospital Productions, Never Normal and Leaving, tracks by Suzi Analogue, Lord Skywave, Sun Araw and Grant Evans rarely rely on standard pop-music structures. Rather, the excursions seem to exist in another realm altogether.
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