Kompjotr Eplektrika - Polyspærion (Self-Released, 2016)

A strange record in a striking LP jacket that contains on it letters that are as indecipherable (but weirdly beautiful) as the music contained within. Kompjotr Eplektrika is music as hieroglyphics. Communication in digital jolts and whistles, the swift pop of slowed oscillating frequencies and glitched alien club tracks recorded and sealed up in a thin black tomb. Communiques that lack a Rosetta Stone, although Nurse with Wound, August Traeger and Oval offer clues and peeks into what is going on in that laptop of Mats Björk. The Danish musician works over wet analog sputtering, metronome stuck in a polar reversal and future ceremonial rhythms to create a record that never quite lets you sink in and get comfortable. While never grating, its anxious, the jittery rhythms and smeared harsh tones mimic the sound of a computer throwing up its hard drive or a full synth rack becoming self-aware the moment before falling down a flight of stairs. Out of these loosely held together bits and pieces, Björk is able to tie just enough melody into a percussive lunge forward with notes hitting all over the tonal range. A strange and beautiful record.


Black Eagle Child Lobelia (Geology Records, 2016)

Black Eagle Child has the uncanny ability to marry pastoral post-folk – high humidity front porch rambles to sparse and exploratory arpeggios that are thick with pathos and tinged with nostalgia for the disappearing horizon of definable memories – and soaring guitar lines that ascend above the field recordings and layers of looped acoustic and electric guitars. Lobelia creates emotional landscapes of great loss combined with those flying dreams that we have where we are soaring above the fragments of broken lives. Through little else than manual dexterity, a few pedals, field recordings and sparse percussion, Lobelia is able to cover extensive ground. Songs like “The Rivers Course” and “Summer Street” are bucolic explorations on blues-informed guitar lines with cavernous space between lines filled with field recordings of glistening afternoons under forest canopies. “The Quarry Slide” contains one of those irresistible eliding guitar passages over looped guitar passages and auxiliary percussion in the vein of Marc McGuire’s more heroic phrasings. A blissful exploration of an imagined utopia.



Secret Pyramid Distant Works II (Self-Released, 2016)

Amir Abbey’s work carries a distinct sense of holiness to it. Enshrouded under thick mists that envelop a coastline in one gulp, Distant Works operates as if lost in a dense fog. All sharp points are blurred to their most vital components, landmarks obscured through the passage of time. On this latest self-released collection – following two stunning releases on Cincinnati’s Students of Decay – Abbey creates works of subtle movement and shift, dense ambient passages that feature stirring arrangements for strings, piano and synth as well as the Theremin sounding ondes martenot. These passages are bolstered by a thick shroud of field recordings, tape manipulation and soul-searing drones that ride the razor’s edge between bucolic and warm and dark and unsettling. Distant Works is an album for deep contemplation. An ambiguous blank canvas that can hold anxiety as much as it can wonder and reverence.


Vapor LanesHieratic Teen (Usonian, 2016)

Pressed on vivid pink vinyl and housed in a melty, goopy blue jacket, entombed within is a collection of A. Karuna’s unsettling and nervous drones. Starting with the lovely arpeggiated “Appearing”, which meditates on a three note ascending and descending pattern, Hieratic Teen soon veers into the sort of unsettling, nocturnal micro-tones of that appear and disappear beneath your hearing threshold. “Mary” is one of those sorts of tracks, a constant digital wind through digital glass. It is a whistling, throbbing, roiling sea of drones and distant, sacred percussion. The album’s centerpiece and best track “ Embers” is the most dynamic noise/drone 10 + minute experience on the album. Submerged synth lines surface into the red while doubling back on themselves to create moving, whole cloth tonal shifts that tug on weary heartstrings and suspend heavy-lidded eyes. It’s a surprising moment of warmth and beauty on an album that tends to use tonal frequency to keep listeners at arm’s length. It is an album of true solipsism and solitude, an album of indulgences, risks and large payoffs.


Shovels Beat the SunSky Wires (Bitrot, 2016)

Sky Wires is intense. Like buckle yourself in and expect not to see daylight for an hour intense. Buried under concrete slabs of drone from a variety of inputs - cello, lap steel guitar, synthesizers, processed trombone, electronics - not that you would be able to parse out any of them individually. Sky Wires hits you up front with an impregnable wall of drone, with tonal shifts happening throughout the entirety of the song, sometimes incomprehensibly within the whole. Shovels Beat the Sun is comprised of two German drone-aficionados Bjorn Granzow (End of the World Championship) and Steve Fors (Aeronaut) and find the two sculpting melodies out of metric tons of static and bending rebar-thick processed noise into monolithic structures and haunting melodies. This interplay between overwhelming amplifier worship and musical superstructure highlight the album’s two best features: Sky Wire’s tendency to crush and then coddle. Punish and forgive.


David NewlynLinen (Polar Seas Recordings, 2016)

Linen takes the shape of whatever hard surface it covers. For David Newlyn’s shape-shifting album of solo-piano and modular synthesizer, Newlyn’s work envelops many different spaces while maintaining constant motifs of placidity and subtle, shifting movement. Linen begins with a beautifully wistful piano piece with violin accompaniment. An elegant and sparse arrangement that serves as a perfect mise en scène for the rest of the record that traverses between the unsettling and the divine. Linen then takes a sharp left turn into the modular synthesizer driven “Chemical” which lays thick tendrils of processed tones and wisps of fragmentary births and death of augmented tone over a vague superstructure. Much more bed sheet blowing in the analog wind than covering for ghosts. This push and pull between easily won beauty of solo piano and the patient, but more challenging synthesizer pieces, create an album that rejects stasis and placidity often associated with modern classical music while operating under aesthetic of minimal ripples in a mountain lake. The production on this album is amazing, utilizing ample amounts of natural reverb, the notes sound cavernous and distant. Album closer “I’ll Walk Home” is able to pull both of these tendencies together and create a stately elegant fade out perfect for bleary walks home under the influence of fatigue and alcohol.


M. Ostermeier Tiny Birds (Home Normal, 2016)

M. Ostermeier’s latest album on Home Normal is a further exploration of the interplay between sparse solo piano compositions and micro-tonal embellishments. As a reductive explanation, Ostermeier composes contemplative solo piano pieces of arranged melodies with plenty of room for exploratory note clusters before striking out into a new melodic phrase before returning to the anchoring composition. Ostermeier’s compositions perennially inhabits rainy Saturday afternoons spent indoors. Even the brightest notes are put to the service of some unnamed nostalgia. These compositions are bolstered by manipulated sound objects that tend to support the avian theme of this record. Mechanical squeals tuned to the chirp of a bird, rattles, pops, clinks inhabit the spaces between the deep caverns between notes denoting and mimicking the aleatoric and often patternless flight of birds in repose. An occasional violin joins Ostermeier’s solipsism, this time joined by Christoph Berg. M. Ostermeier has long been one of my favorite pianists and modern composers. Deep listens to this record reveal melodies that pull on the heartstrings while creating stirring mood pieces to lose an afternoon in.


MJ Guider Precious Systems (Kranky, 2016)

After an impressive EP on the always meticulously curated Constellation Tatsu, the enigmatic MJ Guider’s debut on Kranky would seem like a major leap if Precious Systems wasn’t so fucking perfect. Cold and distant Roland 808 marshal eliding drones reflecting swamp lights dancing across the ruins of a hurricane sunken city, and that voice – Melissa Guion’s voice sounds as if it has never smoked a cigarette or huffed gasoline – no sharp edges while remaining the driving factor of each song. Precious Systems isn’t a sterile coldwave affair – when the album gets its hooks into you, the syncopated groove conjures night drives through bombed out cities at recklessly high speeds. There is this sickened synth sound that sounds like a decaying siren on the album opener “Lit Negative” that I can’t get out of my head. MJ Guider has received comparisons to Liz Harris’s project Grouper, on tracks like “Former Future Beings” Guion channels Harris’s aching vocal delivery sounding out beneath the pall of slowly chugging guitars underneath mountains of reverb. “Evencycle”, the album’s 10 minute centerpiece, unfolds as a slow-motion dance track with Guion’s voice as a percussive instrument. It is a driving, highly positivist song that reaches rapturous heights when listened to under the right circumstances. One of 2016’s best debuts by far.


PatkusThese are But Dreaming Men, Breathe and They Fade (Self-Released, 2016)

The Philadelphia based musician Patkus has composed a highly emotive album that straddles the line between ambient and highly orchestrated post-rock. Composed from the ground up from looped guitar lines, “These Are But Dreaming Men…” takes additive movements and breaks them wide open into lush, evocative soundscapes that breathe with tension and catharsis. The album opens with “Tanam Shud” which starts with a desaturated, fuzzed out guitar line, adding line after line as well as distant percussion to create a composition that wades into the uneasy and mysterious deep waters of unexplained cold war murder mystery. The album’s centerpiece is the deeply affecting “The Doorbell Requiem of Catherine Philomena” – led by swelling strings a handbell rung main melodic motif – the song is a highly satisfying and emotionally resonant exploration into memory and loss. The album closer, “The Minutes”, is the album’s most poignant moment of underserved beauty. Pulling, aching drones, ringing bells and subtly looped guitars that bleed out into a distortion-filled melody that envelops the entire track before slowly fading out – like a pinhole aperture closing on an empty boardwalk.

Monday, October 24th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)
Caress, Redact

Smashing guitars on stage. Biting the heads off of doves. Mock on-stage electrocutions. Appropriation of fascist imagery. The stand-ins for our residual, repressed and displaced violence have served as ineffective shamen. Twisting and contorting the violence that runs red under the thin veneer of a social contract and the failed promise of upwards mobility that binds together middle-class suburban America into surface-level spiritualism-as-commercialism instead of channeling it into transformative art; our prophets of rage have been shown to be nothing but Nick Cage looking-ass bureaucrats. 

In Caress, Redact by Jason Anthony Harris's project Public Speaking, we are confronted with real violence. From the meaty thud of a naked mic hitting a wooden table, to intermittent blasts of atonal squall of a processed saxophone, to the album's narrative core: a father's violence towards his son based on his sexuality, the inherent violence in relationships based on possession. These narratives are sung in croon that belies the violence being exorcised through it.

Comprised from the ground up from samples of manipulated objects: pill bottles, keys jangling, the scrape of mic on wood, these familiar sounds are processed and brought into congregation with lushly composed electro-acoustic arrangements that move from harsh-noise informed blasts to delicate electronic passages. The album starts out with "Blacksite Blues". A percussive, pulverizing march of processed saxophone accentuating the pregnant pauses between Harris's breathy croon. That contrast: the hungry and noisy underneath Harris's soulful voice is at the heart of this record. It sets to underscore the moments of true beauty with narratives of native ugliness of human life: body dysphoria, family instability, fragile masculinity and its need to control physically and psychologically. To caress, and then redact.

Tracks like, "Protect Me From My Own Paws" feature a sophisticated palate of synth arpeggio driven electronic compositions that effortlessly fold in found-sound manipulation with a straightforward pop paradigm. The album's emotional center-piece, "Shifting Weight", features extensive vocal manipulation and Harris's most straight-forward vocal melody and the album's most obvious and named violence. It is a track that means different things for different people. The intersections of physical violence and sexual identity. Family secrets and call-out culture. Brutally honest survivor perspectives and trigger warnings. "Shifting Weight" wades in those murky waters out of necessity. It is easily one of the most powerful songs of 2016. That can be said about the remainder of the album. An auspicious debut for Floordoor, a label owned and run by Harris, that finds his Public Speaking project refining both the noise and the studied electro-acoustic composition, his voice as narrative agent and pop song structures shining through an admittedly intense record.


Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

The latest video off of braeyden jae's Fog Mirror is an invitation to vertigo. High spatial profile and three-dimensional layering as we descend through the copper-plated tunnel of a brass instrument or calcified lotus pod while color-shifting liquid boils. A primordial soup that matches braeyden jae's roiling ambient passage "Two Mirrors Looking" that teems and builds with gentle tonal shifts, heavily strummed guitars and resolute piano emerging from deep below the surface of all that top-level swell and noise. A beautiful visual interpretation of a beautiful song. 

Fog Mirror available on Whited Sepulchre Records.

Thursday, September 29th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

TeasipsProxemic Realms (Heavy Mess, 2016)

On her debut album with the moniker Teasips, Angela Francis Wilson (one ½ of the duo Electric Sound Bath) moves out of the realm of creating music as practice of guided meditation and into the realm of sound sculpting that has, at its core, the dynamic relationship between tension and release. Proxemic Realms manages to space sounds in three-dimensional reality. Deeply moving pulls of modulated synthesizer and processed pan flute slowly floating into the foreground and then receding while the omnipresent hum of evening insects and low rumble of distant thunder maintain clear spatial relation with human-made sounds. Tension mounts as pan flutes begin doubling back on themselves creating lines of growing unease while matched with the increasing growl of thunder. Modulated synth scraping deep below the low-end while the upper register is occupied by the frantic bowing of grasshoppers. Moving out of its role of leavening influence, the field recordings on this album have clear interaction with the musical movements showcased both as an accompanying mood piece or musical/non-musical counterpart in its spatial relationship. A wonderfully unfolding and patient tape.


Christian Michael FilardoEvidence (Heavy Mess, 2016)

After seeing Christian Michael Filardo perform a set similar to the description of this tape – two improvised clarinet performances while under the influence of a mescaline compound – I was holding my breath for something much more confrontational than the relatively soothing and occasionally violent tape known as Evidence. Mostly known for his pointillist electronic compositions and visual arts work, Evidence is a direct, albeit augmented, brain-to-tape document that freezes in carbonate a performance that blurs clean runs on a clarinet into ragged stabs of air through reed and into the sounds of breath and lips over and through the instrument. A mouthing that resembles a make-out. The sounds Filardo is able to pull out of the clarinet by breathing around and into the reed are akin to experiments in exhalation by the Norwegian jazz ensemble Ballrogg's Klaus Elerhusen Holm. It is a short but ultimately rewarding document as we listen to the unedited mind of an established outsider genius at work.


Blush Stains – Impurities (Heavy Mess, 2016)

Blush Stains is the bedroom downer-droner pop project from Seven Feathers Rainwater’s Taylor Christensen and it is one of the most compelling listens of the year. The album is bookended by maximalist pop songs that heave emotionally resonant hooks under the scratchy wool blanket of decomposing magnetic tape and a beautiful mid-section built on reverbed-out slow-scrawl burners. Christensen’s voice is often exhausted, a buried crawl under the heavy drones that range from static-charged pulls of harsh noise and elegant tonal gathering. On the album opener and closer Christensen puts this to the service of swelling compositions that highlight his ability to write emotionally wrought songs that recall Planning for Burial’s ability to float above dense and noisy soundscapes with heavy-lidded calm and reserve, transmuting anxiety through the gather and release of cloud-based drones and the occasional lead guitar chugging out from beneath the din.


AnthénePermanence (Cathedral Transmissions, 2016)

Brad Deschamps – proprietor of Polar Seas Recordings and one ½ of North Atlantic Drift – has crafted an ambient record of pure tidal drift. Drones that hit in that blissful golden mean between spectral aural lightness and deep, resonant pulls of a lunar tide low-end that are held together in momentary stasis without birth or death. Gently lapping drones break over uneasy baritone washes of softened static on “Disquiet” while the album’s tonal center “Permanence” is a slow build wash filled with deeply felt guitar drifts and fragmentary high-end tendrils that spiral out of the corpus of the song with mathematic irregularity until we are left with resonating fragments of guitar drones gathering and receding back into the sea which gave it life. One of the most unrestrained and unabashedly beautiful records of the year.


Bitter Fictions Jettison (Shaking Box Music, 2016)

An array of pedals, an amp and a guitar, Devin Friesen’s Bitter Fictions project is distillation of guitar-based drone music – solipsism mimicked as conversations between the past, present and decayed future of the looped guitar line existing and dying all at once in front of us. Clanging prepared guitar hangs over the low rumble of a chest-rattling drone while bright, metallic solo lines shoot roman candle sparks that blaze against a dark backdrop only to be extinguished in the black sea. The Calgary based musician sculpts wet feedback and tape decay to create tension-filled soundscapes that fill an entire room with resolute musical lines and jettisoned clatter. Somewhere at the center of all of this is a human heart, manual dexterity and a patience to see sounds through to their not-so-bitter end – rejoining the sea of sound being pooled, collected and then born again, channeled the circuitous maze of cords from guitar, through effects pedals and out through the amplifier onto tape, and then back again. The circle is never broken.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

Amulets In Flux

In 1923 two Russian explorers set out to find the hollow earth kingdom of Shambhala. While it is open for debate if Nicholas and Helena Roerich discovered the mythical Tibetan kingdom, their expedition across Tibet and India brought various mountain peaks and fauna into Western classification. A discovery of something already known but lacking taxonomy. Randall Taylor’s work under the moniker Amulets has been one of great reaching and striving, treks into territory not so much undiscovered as it is yet to be defined, looping guitar lines and night sky streaking drones as emotional markers and sign posts along the way. On In Flux, these trails are slight wisps of fragmentary guitar-lines circling each other like worried smoke from a signal fire. These tendril-like lines dance around each other in repeating, additive layers under the deep pull of tape manipulation and submerged drone. Other instances, such as on “Counterparts” these lines are drawn together in huge swells of power chord worship under the crackling electric storm of feedback and distortion. One of Amulets’ most challenging and rewarding works today. A welcome addition to the Wounded Knife family.


Lake Mary & Nathan Wheeler Also

Most well-known for his composition work around acoustic guitar, Lake Mary has found a collaborator in Nathan Wheeler that allows left-turns like this to be incredibly rewarding furrows into emotional pay dirt. Also is comprised of two side long pieces, the first of which, is the output of an acoustic piano, harmonium and computer-generated drones. Chaz Prymek (Lake Mary) opens the track with a steamroller minimalist passage that continues to fan its marathon-length major chord plumage through the 15 minute A-side of the tape. Nathan Wheeler supplies subtle and deft touches of droning omnipresence from harmonium and computer generated signal. It is an astounding piece of work. A lesson in endurance and melting tonal shifts. Side B, “Flamingo Cup” finds the duo exploring mawing drone and the see-saw of Prymek’s bowed guitar. More cicada than city hum. A comforting, giving and empowering listen.


Nils Quak - einige sehr populäre songs

Drawn to the subterranean pulsations and commanding, chest-rattling drones of the German electronic musician, einige sehr populäre songs is the sound of a tired city filtered through a cheap upper-floor apartment of a high rise built on unsure architecture. Bucolic synth arpeggios seep through corrugated concrete walls, submerged beats clamor like the hooves of subway cars rattling beneath the street and the ouroboros drone is always before us, tonally shifting back on itself and eating its own tail. Sentient drum machine patterns on “Singular Events Framing The Day” slow-decay until they resemble the drip of sulfuric water torture in some dank basement. Conversely, the relatively bright tonal patterns of “The Burden of Dreams” is a pointillist composition made up of a thousand synthesized patterns with a swelling major-chord drone running underneath the entire thing. It is a wonderful send-off for late night writing sessions.


German ArmyDiego Garcia

I just feel blessed to live in a world where music like German Army exists. For fans of the insanely prolific duo you will know that it is often hard to classify what you are hearing. While German Army has many antecedents: serrated 80’s minimal wave, the inherent spiritualism of komische and the sharp (softened) skronk of no-wave, but as for contemporaries, it is hard to think of too many that match the level of dedication to craft and output across labels and platforms. There is a ritualism to this music, a deep sense of patterned spiritual response to repeating synth arpeggios – a shambolic trance in the far-away vocals and programmed percussion that comes into the auditory field out of another dimension. Anxiety-inducing hard-edits of self-possessed drum patterns are held in tension incredibly blissful tonal center and comfort found in repetition. Named after a fraught island – and possible CIA blacksite and definite site of removal of an entire colony of people – Diego Garcia balances the natural beauty of a pristine tropical island with the nefarious meddling of one colonialist government after another. Great beauty and great dread in one sonic space. One of my favorite tapes of the year.


Sébastien Branche, Miguel A. García, Wojtek Kurek, Mateusz Wysocki Harigrams

A cloistered electro-acoustic soundscape that bends familiar everyday sounds into disquieting fragments of auditory illusion that slowly form from aleatoric visitations into rhythmic superstructure. A meeting of likeminded experimental artists existing in each other’s sonic space and pushing record. An exercise in extreme frequencies and marathon-level patience on the A-side collaboration and straight from the gate collaborative intensity of the B-Side. Harigrams is the work of French saxophonist Sébastien Branche who can bend and mold his instrument into unrecognizable pretzels of auxiliary breath placement and sustained tones, Basque sound artist Miguel A. García who utilizes electronics and the Jen Brio keyboard to provide auditory shadings ghost-like tonal fragmentation. The two met up with Warsaw-based drummer Wojtek Kurek and field recording artist Mateusz Wysocki to create a 42 minute improvised piece of music that creates worlds inside worlds, sustained electronic droning folding in on itself while every instrument disguises itself into something so far outside of itself it takes a furious reading of the line-up to attempt to understand the sound source. A vital and compelling exploration of collective improvisation and collaborative sound-sculpting.


Charles Barabé + Roadside Picnic - National House Milk

After having released one of my favorite tapes this year on Orange Milk, the Montreal-based synth and soundscape-based musician returns with the UK based Roadside Picnic to produce what is likely their finest work since their 2014 release Worn Paths in Crown Dust on A Giant Fern. Centered around chopped and digitally fragmented drum machine patterns over and beneath fluttering synth and piano lines, synthesized vocal textures reminiscent of Barabé’s Orange Milk release, washes of scattering static and contact mic stabs, horror movie ambiance and massive amounts of sound shoved through tiny portals until all becomes a giant smeared blur of oscillating floating points. Highly dramatic build ups, tear downs held together in fragmentary stasis ins short song bursts. Stitched together to create a warped tapestry greater than the sum of its parts.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)
Sleep Drive

I completely understand the implications of using a platform such as your own blog to promote a record put out on the label you run. But I will be completely honest with you. I NEED you to hear this. Here's why. Writing about music on this blog has lasted longer than my relationship with my wife, taken me through two degrees and two years of Peace Corps. For all of that time spent writing and even more time being paid attention to listening to music there have been few albums that have had such immediate return on investment as this record. From the plodding percussion and commanding lead synth line of "Hood" to the hypnotic looping of massaged drones and off-kilter beats of "Kasuisai" to the maximum melt and buried piano pieces fighting through cumulous layers of softened noise in cicada lifecycle appearances on the sidelong ambient B-Side of "Msdass", Sleep Drive is a record that had me completely transfixed without any sense of lost time.

It has been a de-centering experience watching response move to passion and from passion  to calculated plans, spreadsheets, budgets, hours in front of a computer sending press e-mails into the void. But at the heart of it, putting out a record is not very different than gushing on a music blog about a piece of music. You love it and you hope by exposure through a forum, that this discovery you made will spread through viral replication, setting off triggers of those who are genetically predisposed to share in the same idiosyncratic joy-finding in cloud-scraping ambient passages, aching silence between the crisp snap of a plodding beat, the giddy sense of being lost in a room of funhouse mirrors that stretch and compress synth lines into kaleidoscopic controlled chaos. I know there are people out there who feel the same way. Weirdos who feel the same heart-stirring in decaying tone. That's why I feel no type of way about writing about this record on this site. I NEED you to hear this. The same way I NEED you to hear every album by every artist I write about. In this case, if you like this record and decide to purchase it, you will be helping the label continue to put out music that I feel is absolutely vital for people to hear. 

Friday, September 16th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

Jon Lorenz - For T.C. (Soft Exit, 2016)

Cincinnati, OH experimental stalwart and saxophonist Jon Lorenz (Wasteland Jazz Unit, Public Housing) has released a new tape on the excellent Bellevue, KY label Soft Exit. Recorded in the wake of Tony Conrad's passing, For T.C. channels Conrad's piercing upper-register and looping, droning passages that accumulate dread and beauty until reaching a rapturous climax where everything not sound becomes swallowed in a massive sheet of noise. On the tape's highly dynamic A-Side, Lorenz processes his saxophone to capture - in moments of mindflaying noise - terror-locust swarms of harsh noise, isolated mechanics of the instrument itself and the saxophone transformed into unrecognizable squeals and submerged subterranean wind over exposed contact mic. Side-B is a marathon of frantic saxophone passages looped in and out of themselves in terrifying speed and regularity bookended by uneasy ambient passages. It is graceful and intense. Tony Conrad's passing this year has highlighted how the experimental luminary has inspired generations of weirdos across various mediums and instrumentations. Lorenz pays a fitting tribute. 

Sunken Cheek - From Behind (Soft Exit, 2016)

Released on a flexi 7" from Soft Exit, the latest from the Ithaca, NY noise musician is an exploration into gnawing, ever-increasing anxiety punctuated by moments of sheer, primal panic. A steady pulse, oscillating through the entire track serves as a conduit in which much darker things pass through. Stabs of microphone feedback, pulses of high-register metallic grit that turn horror-film violin staccato, tortured, disembodied voices always present - both coloring the tonal center of the composition as well as providing moments when the fight-flight partition has cracked and paralyzing fear sets in. An excellent, seat-paralyzing exercise in dread and unease.

Frank Baugh & Grant Evans - We Know Nothing. Nor is there Anything to Know (Adversary, 2016)

We announced on Friday that the music festival Crawf and I have worked on for the past five years - Goldrush Music Festival - had run its course and would not be continuing on. Doing a bit of backtracking on Grant Evans I came across this interview Crawf and Jamie did with Grant and Rachel Evans (Motion Sickness of Time Travel) before the first ever Goldrush music festival in 2011. Grant and Rachel played under the moniker Quiet Evenings, running the excellent label Hooker Vision (R.I.P) and solo under Nova Scotian Arms. Seems fitting that in 2016 I am covering Evans' collaboration with Goldrush 2015 alumni and luminary behind Sparkling Wide Pressure, Frank Baugh. The result is a subtly beautiful CDR that dips into cavernous analog sound sculpting of audio detritus, plenty of exigent harshness pressing firmly against your temples and the earnest synth arpeggios of some warped VHS sci-fi film. It is not hard to take in the hour long CDR in a single sitting, it is dynamic and compelling, moving from foundational samples and contact mic manipulation into fully fleshed out compositions that are fully 3D and moving. There are moments of real brilliance at work: the sunfried psych-raga play out of "These Were the Lonely Nights" stands alone as a compositional outlier, the 8 minute mark of "Poppy Thieves" is the album's apex where the scattered bits of audio data are coalesced into a Ben Frost-level aura of approaching terror. It is a beautiful terrorbird.

Siavash Amini and Matt Finney - Familial Rot (Umor Rex, 2016)

Two artists who are no strangers to the Tome, Iranian drone-composer Siavash Amini and spoken-word artist Matt Finney have put together an arresting tape for Mexico City label Umor Rex. This split tape is an incredible showcase for the two artists. Siavash Amini has long straddled the line between chest-caving drone and modern-classical compositions, for Familial Rot Amini's compositions wade deep into the red, crafting cresting waves of static into angelic drones of processed guitar set to the haunting narration of a family crushed under the minutiae of modern life. A dissolution caused by the small secrets that cause huge rifts told in hyper-specific vignettes by Matt Finney. Finney is no stranger to collaborations. Past partnerships have found him partnering with ambient musician under the name Finneyerkes and the Ukrainian post-rock musician Heinali to carry his dire observations of poverty, despair and the strangulation of the Southern working class. Finney has found a near perfect collaborator with Amini. Finney's narration evokes the wide-screen spectacle of small details of Terrance Malick, in the wrong hands his narratives can seem overbearingly cinematic. With Amini's focus on placid drones dissolving into rivers of whitened noise and back again, Familial Rot is easily amongst the best individual efforts for both musicians and one of the more affecting releases of 2016.

Jib Kidder - New Works for Realistic Mixer (Care of Editions, 2016)

Entirely composed on a no-input mixer with a drum machine, New Works for Realistic Mixer is an abject left turn from the lush, orchestrated Teaspoon to the Ocean but a par-for-the-course move in the jibberverse. Ostensibly a jittery, no-frills dance record on the excellent German label Care of, Jib Kidder coaxes lock-step beats and searing lines of sound out of the notoriously difficult to manage instrument. From the high-pitched harshness of the opening track backed by the solitary thud of a programmed thud, it is clear that the album isn't going to be a straightforwardly enjoyable album, but rather one of those oddly rewarding albums that is conceptually rich but still fills that primal urge to feel something leaden and hard pass through your body. Beats pound in stolid regularity while high-register tones squeal and squeak, a harsh low end scrapes the grime filled dance floor. These are arranged in a jittery, anxious procession that offer unfolding views into the mind of the creator. There is little additive pressure in these compositions, but rather a whittling down into essential sounds bound together with a linear aggression and a steady hand. 

Purchase on Care Of Editions

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

"Wine into Water" is a seamless transition from analog imagery into fractal digital pixelation under the heavy-lidded spell of Jennifer William's delicate song craft, silken guitar lines and refractions into noise-laden interludes. The transformation from liquid to crystallization takes eons to occur, on "Water into Wine" we are lulled into this full change with images of inky liquid superimposed into spidery tendrils until, through the course of the song and almost invisibly, those images harden into full digital crystallization, pulling itself apart as Gossimer's lithe fingers compose the transubstantiation. Gossimer's tape Close the Circle, Lay the Stone are full of these moments. Shapeshifting compositions that twist and turn into spirals and shifting crystal staircases. It is out now on braeyden jae's Heavy Mess label. 

Monday, September 12th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

Highlighting Jacob Koestler's penchant for eking the beauty out of post-industrial rustbelt cities by showcasing our collapsed industry's ubiquitous infrastructure as novel and sadbeautiful against the lithe movement of the human form in high definition, "Spacer" embodies the human warmth he brings to cold dead places - underpasses, train yards, sofas along the side of a rural highway. A visual artist and musician living in Cleveland, OH, Koestler's Rural Carrier project keeps the human heartbeat and cold technology in tension with one another. Koestler utilizes plenty of dubby percussion, harsh tones and start-stop arpeggios that provide a hypnotic, dread-inducing backdrop in which dancer Maria Custer slow-motion vogues to. It is chilling in its effect. A mournful elegy - dancing atop the remains of a post-war future. Make America great again.

Jacob Koestler is a co-founder of the Johnstown, PA arts collective My Idea of Fun.

Spacer by Rural Carrier from Jacob Koestler on Vimeo.

Friday, September 9th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

There are a few artists you should count lucky to hear in your twenties. William Basinski and Scott Tuma are two of them. Basinski radically changes the way you look at medium's relationship to music, while Tuma challenges conventions of genre to create something that transcends but never quite leaves the orbit of folk music. Listening to The River 1 2 3 4 I heard elements of ambient music in banjo lines, looped acoustic guitar and eternal-breath organ drones. There was real dirt under those nails picking out meditative melodies and exploratory meanders. Ambient music - as a imbuing source - was taken out of processed guitar and synthesizer music that made tonal shifts seem weightless and into a genre weighted and rooted to the land.

The pairing of Scott Tuma with Columbia, MO's Nevada Greene on Ragged Hollow 12" is an encouragingly fruitful conversation between generations. Nevada Greene's stirring oeuvre of work thus far is heavily indebted to Tuma's explosion of folk music - fleshing out Tuma's evocative guitar work with compositional acuity adding strings, synthesizers and woodwinds to find similar fertile soil further down the river. 

Nevada Greene's A-Side find the collective treading friendly and familiar paths of swaths of effulgent strings cutting paths through dual-guitar interplay both gentle and resolute. "Earthquake Hollow" is a track full of deer-trails that take circuitous routes that always loop back to the main melody. Reaching a false summit about 8 minutes in, "Earthquake Hollow" dissolves into total effulgent drone - an unbroken golden ray - until all sound fades out and all we are left with is a field recording of the birds - something that could have been with us the entire time.

Tuma's "All the Ragged Glory" finds massive pay-dirt in the interplay between guitar work that are immediate and crystal clear and lines that are processed a bit more distant riding out the eddies and swells of a moving current always present in the track. Strings rise and fall throughout the composition until guitars are almost silenced. The encompassing maw of multi-layered strings take the reigns in highly emotional movements in which Tuma's guitar serves the role of coloring and shading.

This 12" record is being released on Columbia's Hitt Records and distrubuted through Thrill Jockey. Hear these performed live as Scott Tuma and Nevada Greene hit through the road on a Midwest tour and return to Columbia for the insanely well curated Dismal Niche Festival

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)