Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records. Experience the ISC listening space from home through our (( ROOM RECORDING )) audio player below.
The pandemic. George Floyd’s murder and the furious protests that followed. The election. The isolation and its physical and mental tolls. Brilliant creators like Harold Budd, Charley Pride, Hal Willner and too many others, extinguished. We’ve all endured a whirlwind of emotions this year.
Music has been crucial for surviving these once-a-century circumstances. With so much time spent at home, we’ve collectively listened, deeply, to more music than ever in 2020: revisiting favorites from our collections; tuning into online radio; buying music in support of creators during Bandcamp Fridays; and sharing countless playlists.
And though our In Sheep’s Clothing collection mostly features classics and rarities, as fanatics we’ve absorbed tons of new work this year too, and have featured a number of 2020 favorites on the site that would certainly land on our year-end list — Tara Clerkin Trio, Lemon Quartet and Duval Timothy, for example.
Instead of repeating ourselves, what follows is a selection of releases that you may have missed amid the volumes of transcendent music that has come out this year.
Consider it more of a “when in doubt, listen to this” collection than a “best of” list…
We hope you enjoy and thanks as always for supporting In Sheep’s Clothing. Much more to come in 2021!
ARTIST: Eddie Chacon
TITLE: Pleasure, Joy and Happiness
LABEL: Day End Records
STYLE: Jazz, R&B, Soul
We all craved comfort this year, and from a music perspective, that meant returning to stuff that at some point in our lives has served as salve. In particularly harrowing moments, the warm tones of Sade and Shuggie Otis got a lot of play in our particular bunker. But when the pandemic has passed and we recall this extended isolation, singer Chacon’s Pleasure, Joy, and Happiness will be at the top of stack. A mesmerizing half-hour of candlelit melancholia produced by John Carroll Kirby, the eight-song record sees Chacon, best known as half of the ‘90s soul duo Charles & Eddie, crooning through songs about being caught up, hung up, alienated, hurt and lost. Chacon’s less interested in lyrical gymnastics than ease of expression, and across these eight unimpeachable songs, he and Kirby locked in on a vibe that seems to envelop you in its loving arms. – EL
TITLE: Sweet Company
LABEL: (do you have peace?)
STYLE: Electronic, R&B, Dub
Sweet Company is the second LP from Jabu, the trio of producer Amos Childs and vocalists Jasmine Butt and Alex Rendall. The group is closely tied to Bristol-based bass collective Young Echo and bring much of the same dub-infused, leftfield electronic sound to this release. Mostly vocal-driven but carefully minimal and restrained, Sweet Company is intimate, modern R&B at its finest. – JM
ARTIST: Space Afrika
STYLE: Ambient, Experimental
~ have you been through what i’ve been through? ~ by Manchester duo Space Afrika was released June 5 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests and global movements that followed. The 18-track mixtape includes “off cuff new work / cuts / edits & extractions” from their NTS radio program and plays out like a reflective piece of sound art that captures the Black experience at this pivotal moment. The tracks are powerful and deeply moving, often including found sounds and recordings from the BLM movement. One particularly emotional moment in “oh baby” includes 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant’s statement “We shouldn’t have to feel like this” at a 2016 Charlotte City Council meeting. Required listening for these times! – PC
ARTIST: Josiah Steinbrick
TITLE: Liquid / Devotion & Tongue Street Blue
LABEL: Hands In The Dark
STYLE: Electronic, Ambient
Liquid / Devotion & Tongue Street Blue by Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, and composer Josiah Steinbrick takes you on a Fourth World journey into an enchanted and mischievous dimension with lush and languid landscapes. Low key tribal ambience and hypnotic polyrhythmic percussion bring you into a borderline ceremonial altered-state, with moments so submerged and dissolving that the lines of the real and hyper-real become blurred, making you feel like you the hero of your own adventure — or maybe just deep into a heroic dose. – JR
TITLE: Blindman the Gambler
STYLE: Ambient, Folk, Experimental
There isn’t much information around the elusive Nashpaints, who dropped his debut release Blindman the Gambler silently on tape back in June on the Dublin-based label wherethetimegoes. Strewn across the album’s 9 tracks are sketches of songs covering a wide array of experimentations in freak folk, dizzy pop, guitar infused bass music and heavy layers of field recordings. A truly original and personal piece of work, we recommend giving this one a full listen. – JM
TITLE: Tumbling Towards a Wall
LABEL: Experiences Ltd.
Philadelphia-based ambient artist Ulla Strauss follows up last year’s excellent Quiet Time Tapes release with 8 tracks of fuzzy, smudged out ambient tracks. Deep and melancholic textures seemingly suspend time, while sampled instruments and voices pull you into dream worlds. As described in release notes, it’s “the sort of record that may leave users struggling to even get up and flip the sides, such is its soporific pull.” If you can make it through, the album reaches an emotional close with the rain-drenched “i think my tears have become good” that bears similarities to a Dominique Lawalrée or Ryuichi Sakamoto piece. – PC
TITLE: Cult Survivor
LABEL: Stones Throw
STYLE: Dream Pop
The debut release from Los Angeles native (currently Vienna-based) Sofie Fatouretchi on Stones Throw, released in the summer, is a versatile display of talents from the rising artist. Labeling Cult Survivor as bedroom pop would do a disservice to the musicianship and songwriting on display across the album’s 12 tracks. Definitely a bright moment in a seemingly shadowy year, we loved the album’s closing disco track “Happen 2 B There” and its accompanying music video! – JM
ARTIST: Clarissa Connelly
TITLE: The Voyager
STYLE: Folk, Pop
Clarissa Connelly’s The Voyager is a whimsical collection of post-new age compositions that invoke a world of folklore and magical realism. Employing an experimental approach to traditional pop, featuring layered vocals, lyrics and visuals inspired by Celtic mythology, shifting soundscapes featuring elaborate arrangements juxtaposing synths and strings, she creates an interwoven tapestry with the natural with the spiritual, the mundane with the fantastical, simultaneously evoking imagery of a Utopian future and an ancient past. – JR
ARTIST: Bent Arcana
LABEL: Castle Face
STYLE: Jazz, Experimental
The pitch: gather a bunch of killer players at Oh Sees/Osees/Damaged Bug/Castle Face king John Dwyer’s Stu-Stu-Studio in Northeast L.A. for five days of structured improvisation, then stitch the mind-bending parts together to create a record. What they bore is some many-headed beast that at different points channels Can, Grateful Dead, Boredoms and “Bitches Brew”-era Miles Davis. Deep and exploratory without ever being noodly or wanky, it’s the kind of record that heads will be discovering for years to come. – EL
ARTIST: Pontiac Streator
LABEL: Motion Ward
STYLE: Ambient, Downtempo
From one of our favorite local labels, Motion Ward, Pontiac Streator’s Triz is a modern ambient stunner that seems to sit perfectly between the warm organic soundscapes of the past and the artificial synthetic textures of the future. Oozing psychedelic sound design harmoniously ventures into dub, downtempo and acid territory to make one beautiful cosmic whole. Up there with the best of 2020. – DM
ARTIST: Lloyd Miller with Ian Camp & Adam Michael Terry
TITLE: At the Ends of the World
STYLE: Jazz, Fusion, World
Renowned world music expert and modern pop music cynic Lloyd Miller returns with At the Ends of the World, an apocalyptic jazz album that expresses “the social and cerebral atmospheres that Miller personally predicted for the pestilence of 2020.” Fans of Miller will be pleased to hear the artist diving even deeper into the wood flutes, hand drums, kalimbas, Dilruba, Santur and various other Far Eastern instruments that make up his signature esoteric, spiritual jazz sound. Though the album deals with the grim realities of the modern world, the overall feeling is a sense of hope as Miller attempts to heal with his divine music. – PC
ARTIST: Various Artists
TITLE: Chill Pill II
LABEL: Public Possession
Munich’s Public Possession continues their Ibiza-inspired Chill Pill series with their second volume, Chill Pill ll. Another perfect dose of chill out and balearic offerings from their stellar roster and some very welcomed guests. The label’s suggestion on consuming Chill Pill II? “Listening to this music will improve your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. While consuming Chill Pill a healthy mix of relaxation and hedonism is recommended.”- DM