Teasips – Proxemic 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 Filardo – Evidence (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.
Anthéne – Permanence (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.