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California Sounds: New music from Rhye, Gun Outfit and Josiah Steinbrick

California Sounds: New music from Rhye, Gun Outfit and Josiah Steinbrick
Gun Outfit, from left: Dylan Sharp, Henry Barnes, Carrie Keith, Daniel Swire and Adam Payne. (Jenna Thornhill DeWitt)

Rhye, “Taste” (Loma Vista). The new song by a pair of L.A.-based expats shimmers like candlelight reflected through a three-carat diamond. With a natural glow that belies its meticulously crafted nature, “Taste” is the newest tease from Canadian-in-L.A. vocalist Milosh’s eagerly anticipated second album as Rhye.

In the summer, the duo issued a pair of new songs, "Please" and "Summer Days," which marked Rhye’s first new music since the 2013 release of its debut album, “Woman.” That record channeled the quiet-storm textures of singer-songwriter Sade and soul singer Roberta Flack for a new generation.

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A breakout success, it’s likely responsible for scoring countless makeout sessions. “Taste” should score some romancing, too. Set in extreme close-up, Milosh sings of being in a dream state -- “not awake” and “not alone” — and imagining a lover’s gaze.

The mid-tempo track thumps with heartbeat rhythm as Milosh’s androgynous, breathy contralto moves to the chorus, a come-on if there ever was one: “One more time for my taste,” he sings. “See me fall from your eyes to your waist.” The video for the song couldn’t be simpler: a black-and-white still of a woman’s back, shot from the waist up.

How alluring is “Taste”? As one Vevo viewer put it in a comment, “I thought I have no soul. Then I found Rhye.” The band’s new record is slated to come out in early 2018.

Gun Outfit, “Out of Range” (Paradise of Bachelors). Near the conclusion of the oblique release notes to this Los Angeles-based country rock band’s new album comes a kind of statement of intent. “Trust not: the self satisfied / the self / the satisfied / every other,” it reads. “But honor the dead and the dying in song.”

Born in Olympia, Wash., Gun Outfit’s founding members Carrie Keith and Dylan Sharp relocated south a few years ago, but have had a long connection to the scene through its early releases for L.A. punk band No Age’s label Post Present Medium. Which isn’t to say they’ve become ingrained in the Southern California scene; rather, until recently the band has kept a relatively low profile.

Now a five-piece also featuring Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ, Man Is the Bastard), the band’s fifth album both honors the ideals of classic country rock and rages against it with a freewheeling reflex to push at the genre’s edges.

Dueling vocalists Keith and Sharp swap lines and verses to offer varying perspectives, and do so with a punk-ish indifference to perfect pitch. Crisp, twangy tones wrestle with seeping noise and feedback in the distance.

Those expecting typical country themes — heartbreak, drinking, sin, depression and whatnot — can find them, but the band’s footnotes confirm a bookish bunch who reference figures including writers Wallace Stevens, Philip K. Dick and Ovid (and his telling of the Orpheus myth), the Dutch Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder and others.

Josiah Steinbrick, “Meeting of Waters” (Leaving). To describe Steinbrick’s new instrumental album as a collection of background music might seem a criticism. In an era when staring into space and actually listening to music, however, has been supplanted by staring into a screen and scrolling while music seeps in and out of awareness, the ideas expressed on “Meeting of Waters” suggest a kind of truce.

Steinbrick, a multi-instrumentalist and producer who has worked with artists including Devendra Banhart, Cat Le Bon, Danger Mouse and Rodrigo Amarante, presents the nine works as if he’s uncovered field recordings from an ancient civilization. There are no lyrics to confuse your addled brain, no noxious noise or gymnastic patterns to derail your train of thought. Rather, the musician’s meditative music seems to hover somewhere nearby, as if waiting for a chance to draw your attention.

The piece called “Two Bonangs, Coated Spheres, Piano, Two Synthesizers, Natural Objects” — all works are titled after their instrumentation — is comprised of unpatterned notes and textures that suggest the beginnings of a rainstorm. “Vibraphone, Marimbaphone, Malleted Wood, Two Synthesizers” floats as if untethered, a wash of pleasurable tones that reside outside of the realm of notation.

Combined, the pieces are distinctive enough to warrant close listening, but delicate enough to drift away when your attention heads elsewhere.

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