Holly Herndon isn't just on top of her game, she is on top of THE game. This refers to any/all games heretofore played or games to happen in the immediate or near future. "Interference" is a leading track from her forthcoming album Platform and it is a white-knuckle intense ride through interconnected beats and vocals that exist on that bleeding edge where the digital and corporeal meet. Like drawing blood on the razor sharp spine of some supercomputer's processor. The digital/bodily concept works well for this video. Natural footage shredded by digital overlays like the impossibly real looking flag whose varying degrees of tattered-ness obscure layers of footage put through a monochromatic THX-1138 filter. God, this is amazing. Incredibly honored to share this on day four of honoring women in experimental music. 

Ryan H.

Preorder Platform Here

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Un Autre Voyage

When we use the word "cinematic" to describe music not explicitly made to score a film, what do we mean? I would assume that the term is used to describe music that reminds us or is adjacent to similar types of music used in films we've seen. I think we use it to describe music that we imagine could be used in a film score. Or music, for whatever tonal quality, tempo or effects have some sort of visual quality to it, it's mood evocative enough to place us in some uncreated scenario or the storytelling so vivid that we can't help but play the scenes out in our mind. It seems that most of the time a "cinematic" quality exists only in our mind. Musical qualities dredging the subconscious where images, motifs and archetypes are stored from years of watching films. Could it be that "cinematic" is a heuristic that shallowly defines our relationship between audio and visual stimulation at a neurological level and that we react more to this process than a culture of associating arpeggiated synths with Blade Runner when we describe something as cinematic? 

Marie Davidson's latest album on Holodeck Records is by all accounts cinematic. Sung in French and English, the Montreal-based "Coldwave Unicorn" (thanks TMT!) has created six vignettes based on actual experiences, that if the narrator can be trusted, we have reason for concern for Ms. Davidson's day-to-day safety. The real life impetus behind this record is obfuscated by - there's that tricky word - the cinematic quality of this record. Instead of straightforward retellings, Davidson's tales possess all of the subconscious dive into myth and symbolism of Twin Peaks without the small town charm - but not without the murder mystery. These tracks are seductive, mind-bending, plugged-into-the-grid sequenced synth masterpieces that have a sense of danger, sexiness, and sexy-danger that either bleeds out at the peripheries or is in the forefront of Davidson's spooked, spoken delivery.

At the heart of this album is Davidson's ice-cold sequencing. Davidson uses synthesizers as an expressionistic extension of her cinematic storytelling. Tracks like "Excès de Vitesse" are full of surging arpeggios that create scenes laden with external danger forcing me to constantly look over my shoulder on walks home at night, long-droning passages on "Kidnap You in the Desert" scores a long tracking shot of a single car driving through the desert at night. "Insomnie" takes place exclusively in those early morning moments between waking and sleep where you are really relieved and grateful that those terrible things you did in your dreams really didn't happen but you can't shake those awful feeling of regret, remorse and self-disgust.

Likewise, this album is hard to shake. Blurring the line between personal journal narrative-making and dreams that feel all too real, Un Autre Voyage is a nocturnal, cinematic masterpiece that leaves its impression on you for days.

Purchase from Bandcamp

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

In day two of honoring female experimental musicians, I want to honor all women of color who are creating incredible pieces of forward-thinking sound exploration. Cher Von, from Louisville, KY is one of those individuals. Cher Von possesses an almost inhuman range that dips, lilts and rises suddenly like a hawk caught in a thermal column, but most of the time rides that golden mean of shot-through-the-heart tonality that sounds wholly uncreated, as if it were omnipresent but we just now tuned our ears to hear it. Creating looped passages out of various objects MacGuyvered into percussive instruments, hushed acoustic guitars and a sturdy bass line, this additive composition reaches a pitch when those rich textures are shaped into a dense, interwoven thicket of sounds, melody and voice. 

Ryan H.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
A Readymade Ceremony

A Readymade Ceremony is a massive album in both scope and depth. It inexplicably manages to cover miles of musical ground while drilling down beyond the substrate - beyond abstraction - to capture the moment synapses unwind and the air is expelled from lips, a bit too close to the microphone. The album feels intimate, lived in, but also impeccably thought-through and intentional. It is expansive for being the work of what is, ostensibly, a home recording. The sounds on A Readymade Ceremony - abstract washes of wind on the microphone, recordings of domestic objects, vaguely industrial ambience and mechanical clang and clamor - serve to augment the sturdy core of every song movements somewhere between Ben Frost's epic build ups out of industrial-tinged drones, Dale Cooper's dark-ambient jazz and Laurie Anderson's guiding light of the avant-garde in service of beautiful songs.

These aspects are only two parts of this triptych album - the third  is Atkinson's distinctive vocal contributions. On "L'Oeil", the album's centerpiece, Atkinson "extracts and derives" passages from George Bataille's 1941 short story "Madame Edwarda" into loosely tied together sentences that should sound anachronistic on their own, but in the song come together as either a sort of elegy for a violin or a lament of a kept Parisian woman. Atkinson's vocals are whispered extremely close to the microphone resulting in cavernous amounts of static and distortion in between breaths or in the hard-clipped beginning and ends of consonants. These clips and phrases of literature-inspired passages are woven in and out of the album - folded in and out of the dark-ambient "Carve the Concept and the Artichoke" - or cooed with the pitch and timbre reminiscent of Julie Doiron singing quietly to herself unaware of the tape player running.

Musically, this album hits all the sweet spots for me. Distant, dank percussion sound as if was coming up from some terrifying subbasement. Washes of noise stop the track dead on its feet, building, suspense-laden drones, HD synth strings, plodding bass lines, improvised piano lines that sound plucked out with deliberate concentration. All of this could have been recorded in a bedroom with a few instruments lying around but sounds impossibly huge through a pair of really nice headphones. Sometimes, when I am in the thick of this album, digging deeper and deeper into some undiscovered crevice or crook of sound, I can't think of a better album to come out this year.

Ryan H.

Purchase on bandcamp

Felicia Atkinson "A Readymade Ceremony" (SP055) — Trailer from Shelter Press on Vimeo.

Monday, April 20th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Imagine being in a geodesic dome, stripped of of your sense of sight and groping your way through a maze while this...THIS! is playing over the loudspeakers and is projected onto the dome as you wander like some kind of modern Jonah inside the cavernous belly of a whale. On May 7th at The Exploratorium in San Francisco (possibly rivaling St. Louis' City Museum as the coolest museum in the states) this excerpt turned educational science video will be making its debut a few days after Alexander's newest album Wayfinding Beacons from Planet to Planet drops. Alexander, who doubles as a member of Jackie O'Motherfucker and freak-folk revivalist has produced one of the best videos I've had the pleasure to share on this site. The wandering, manipulated analog media scores perfectly the wandering, equally manipulated, zoned guitar/drone passages of Alexander's exploratory improvisation. The thought of this being seen by multitudes while practicing keen tactile awareness brings me a lot of warmth thinking about. Enjoy this for now. If you are anywhere near San Francisco around May 7th...Fucking go to this.

Wayfinding Beacons from Planet to Planet on bandcamp

Friday, April 17th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
El Dorado

In this startlingly good follow up to 2014's icy masterpiece Arktika, x.y.r's latest excursion is into thick, steamy jungles in search of the lost city of gold - an interesting time-out-of-place topic for the St. Petersburg, Russia 1/2 of old-school Tome favorites 2muchachos. Under the 2muchachos banner, Vladmir Karpov explored the hidden temperaments of deciduous forests: the early morning business of insects and birds, the deep tranquil afternoons and the haunted noisescapes at night. Subsequent releases brought the flat, edgeless landscapes of the arctic circle into sharp relief. Vladmir's latest explicitly theme-based work, however, explores an environment located only in myth. This conceit makes it immediately tempting to use adjectives such as "dream-like" or "ephemeral"  to connote some ill-defined, hazy concept floating just out of consciousness. But, El Dorado, much like Herzog's Aguirre, The Wrath of God is caught in the slip-stream of someone else's consciousness but very much tied to the visceral world. It is easy to imagine the plodding clomp of horses on unsteady footing on the lurchingly rhythmic "Conquistador", or the muted stillness of the rainforest with a high noisefloor of audio fragments rising and settling into clothes and hair like steam, or, finally, the panoramic "Purple Sunset" that marries truly elegent synth lines with field recordings to recreate the peace and uneasiness of the last few moments of daylight.

x.y.r's adept synthesizers mimic real life sounds and actions with as much accurateness as this impressionistic piece is willing to give. High-register tones create a dense canopy of bird and insect songs, while the steamy floor is rooted by arpeggiated synth lines that step over each other in slight delays creating ghostly doubles of themselves. Karpov does not overdo these compositions. One of x.y.r's greatest strength's lie in the complexity of these songs being comprised of simple, three or four note synth lines looped and delayed without sounding hopelessly lost within the hall of mirrors that many composers find themselves in. These are structural and affecting, a kind of placeless music that works perfectly scoring a movie, never made, about a place that does not exist, but is fleshed out in such exquisite detail you keep asking yourself, "when did I see this. Wasn't it the one with Klaus Kinski in the Amazon?" You're going to have to be more specific...

Ryan H.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Violence...amiright? If you've mumbled you're way through your twenties, head against a wall because you are too polite to spend an hour looking at your phone or too cripplingly shy to join the swollen murmur of drunken voices threatening to overtake the vanity propulsion mechanism that everyone is too anti-critical to tell is making them very bored and very angry and making them seriously reconsider going back into the ministry/infantry/fraternity because, "is this really how I pictured spending my Wednesday nights?" or at least at the frat house "I don't have to not not pretend I don't like that new Zedd single". Then pray your savior comes in off the frozen Midwest tundra to turn your noise-ordinance complying basement show into a Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt-style rave comprised of equal parts ecstasy and horror through the cleansing power of physical violence. Save us from our complicity, we pray. May your hands always be near our throats, we pray. May the force majeure of turning 30 cause us to wile out, forever. To thee, the power and the glory. Amen.

Ryan H.

VATS Bandcamp

VATS - SLOW EYES from Tim Krause on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)
Image of an Other

Although the convalescence of spring is upon us, let’s all cast our minds back on how brutal this winter was for us Midwesterners and East Coasters – perhaps the contrast making the first warm days seem that much more luminescent and healing. If you are having a hard time doing so because – daffodils, crop-tops, jean shorts, food trucks! – Rural Carrier’s latest tape on My Idea of Fun can assist you in casting your mind back to those days spent inside. Image of an Other is both very much a winter and an indoors album…a record made indoors in winter. Embedded in this tape are dark washes of noise that creep like sick-breath rattle of the dying gasps of a radiator or the gasps of water from frozen pipes. Synthesizers and guitar drones tuned to the feeling of utter defeat of miscalculating a slush-puddle’s depth. These are disorienting, woozy songs that come out of being too hot, too cramped, too accustomed to your human smell while the world outside freezes. These gnawing, droning songs encapsulate not just the claustrophobia of winter indoors, but the limitless possibility to, when deprived of other options, to burrow deep inside your psyche and the means at your disposal. For Jacob Koestler, these consisted of a bevy of electronic equipment, guitars, mazes of cables and old televisions endlessly looping VHS vacation reels of the rustbelt’s prophetic, apocalyptic grandeur.

These songs go deep into the meaning of winter – reeling, unspooling sounds of analogue electronics turning on themselves, guitars sending out guttural, reverb-drenched sheets of noise (not totally the blackened, misanthropic kind) but dark and mechanical, sounds that haunt you in unfinished basements and boiler rooms. Songs like the goth/post-punk inspired “Shadow of our Plane” remake those sounds in the service of a tuneful songcraft, Koestler’s heavily processed voice either floating in between melodies, carrying the tune in a spooked, backwoods drive at night style paranoia, or appearing as stark, processed statements in “Grow Twice”, unaccompanied by the familiar host audio ghouls at his disposal. A prolific visual artist as well, Image of an Other is an effecting piece of media that reminds us, in a visceral way, of how alive we feel right now, because our hearts take on the shape of whatever we surround it with. And not too long ago they were frozen and barren.

Ryan H.

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Rachel Grimes has a new record coming out and if this track is any indication it is going to be tremendous (actually, I just listened to it...It is tremendous). Grimes, as we all remember, was a seminal member of Rachel's - Louiseville, KY's classical music answer to post-rock's question of "now what"? - and has produced a stunning long-player of structured and improvised piano works with notable guests including Shipping News' Kyle Crabtree, Loscil and, on this track, the stirring saxophone of Jacob Duncan of Liberation Prophecy. Keep your eyes peeled as this is destined to be one of the most important releases of 2015.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)

Family Underground - No Host. No Guest 

Danish drone duo make improvised guitar music that would sound breezy if not under the harsh light of distortion, fuzz and steerage of passages straight into dark, forlorn places we were warned not to go. With that said, the twisting passages of seriously spooked guitar work float on a never-ending cusp of a great idea that shatters on impact into a thousand strung together fragments of its once ideal self. This spectral shattering creates shards of fuzz-laden naked guitar improvisation, a brilliant Krauty approximation of Hookworms on a dangerous level of sedatives and bluesy sky-ripping lines that ascend in archangel triumph out of a shimmering sea of angular guitar tones and overdubbed piano lines. The price of entrance is relatively high, but the rewards come frequently and intensely. Try not air-guitaring along to "The Original Freezecult" and all associated passages of transcendent guitar communalism and secret language sharing. Constant breakdown. Constant renewal. 

Eye - The Future Will Be Repeated

The Future Will Be Repeated is a whiplash call-and-response record of some of the greatest New Zealand noisemakers around today. Recorded live, these tracks capture the dynamism of this supergroup of sorts. Equal parts sea of contemplative interplay between guitars, percussion and electronics involved in an animalistic courtship ritual that explores sweet, understated tones that pulse, scrape and fill in politely for each other when the chance to explore gaps in the composition arise and fuck-all displays of power and violence (but not powerviolence) on tracks like "Owls at Noon" that recalls the glory daze of other NZ and Ba Da Bing stalwarts Dead C. Frantic, but never unhinged, drumming races to an epic climax with a sea of distortion and fuzz while a single line of lead guitar distortion stays just above the fray like a nervous surfer trying to outrun the a wave much bigger than he intended to ride. That kind of works for this record. A sound this huge was never intended to be contained by compressing bits of data. Other, quieter tracks work quite well for the walk home, but something like "Owls at Noon" will always keep us watching our backs, realizing we are caught in something a bit too big for casual listening. "Skeleton Key", the aptly named sum of this records parts, serves to bring us back home. Equal parts contemplative improvisation with the ongoing maw of the cavernous potential to decimate always kept just at bay.

Peter Kolovos - The Wolf Should Ever Be Lone

Another, "you had to be there" albums of live recordings of a guitar player with almost superhuman dexterity, stamina and timing. Kolovos knows that exact moment of when to let a violent, shuddering, quivering line of deconstructed rummage sale of misfit tones bleed into rumbling seas of amplifier-destroying distortion that soothe the psyche in ways you never thought possible after watching/hearing a guitar take such abuse with welcome and full-disclosure on its telling. Or when to throttle back and lay golden, naked tones minister to the infirm. Kolovos reaches climaxes on "Seattle" and "Portland" that rarely change in tone but rely on the ancient hand-around-the-neck strangulation and mandible strength that led our ancestors out of caves and into the lone and dreary wilderness in search of prey, along with the schizophrenic crack-ups and piercing, blinding light and sound that came with revelation from on high from older, angrier gods.

 

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Add New Comment (0)