This was the first sentence from my 2014 review of Snake Hymns, a tape by bus gas.

"After digesting the news this morning, Snake Hymns seemed like a natural choice to ruminate on those feelings that things probably aren't getting better."

2014. That was 2014. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. But...

TBH anyone remotely sentient could portend about international and domestic developments not getting any better. But even at my most pessimistic couldn't have predicted the shit years of all shit years that 2016 was and the oncoming storm we are watching come in as we contemplate the next four.

The feeling of involuntary stasis while watching something thick and black on the horizon coming at you is the #currentmood of Bus Gas's latest on Spring Break Tapes! Live On Leave Us begins with the sidelong "Top Ten Funerals" which serves to explode the unsettling ache of Snake Hymn's electro-acoustic, semi-improvised compositions and instead moves into the longform piece that surges and eddies with swells of static-surfing guitar drones and washes of clarion-clear sustained tones that ratchet up the tension and suspended dread on each pass. The piece is an exercise in sustained tension. A storm cloud that builds and builds but never quite breaks.

Side B - "Infinity Cymbals" is a propulsive, longitudinal composition that grows out of a slight pulse of a bass line until it accrues more and more audio fragmentation, including the strangled clang of underwater solo line that spirals into an all-is-lost squall. All of this is sustained by some truly effulgent and golden drones, a gilding that suggests wonder and connectedness in defiance and struggle.

A truly mesmerizing fork-in-the-road in one of most undersung but praiseworthy groups putting out music today.

Purchase from Spring Break Tapes!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 | Add New Comment (0)

 

Less talk, more rock. For the second episode of the Tome to the Weather Machine Podcast I delve into some of 2016's unsung heroes of Indie Rock. You'll notice the improved audio quality. I produce all of these at the Hamilton County Public Library. Thanks tax payers!

Intro - Fly Ashtray – Coefficient of Haze – We Buy Everything You Have (Old Gold)

019 - Talk Break

03:43 - Fly Ashtray - "Coefficient of Haze" - We Buy Everything You Have (Old Gold)

06:12 -Jerusalem and the Star Baskets - "Golden Green" - L.A. Freeze (Hitt Records)

09:26 - Graham Repulski – "Typhoon Reform" - I’m Even Younger Now (Self-Released)

11:27 -Soda Lillies – "Honey Wire" Love Cemetary (RokLok)

14:08 - pills - "Make U Cry" - sleepy pills (demo) - (Self-Released)

17:01 - Turnip King – "Carsong"Laika (Fire Talk Records)

Talk Break

22:18 - All Your Sisters – "Open Wide"Uncomfortable Skin (The Flenser)

26:27 - Terminus Cursus – "Enthroned" On Of – (Self-Released)

30:41 - Behavior – "New Postures"Split with Maxwell Genders (Squid Records)

Talk Break

34:12 - Silent Tongues – "Painted Blood"Creatures of Habit / Habits of Creatures (Self-Released)

38:16 - Stronger Sex – "K in a Sunbeam"Blight Makes Right (BLIGHT)

44:27 - Supplier – "Birth Daing" Supplier I (Floordoor Records)

47:45 - Graffiti Trials – Excerpt from Side B No Dancing (Split Pursuit Tapes)

Talk Break

55:08 - The Hecks – "The Thaw"S/T – (Trouble in Mind)

57:58 - The Furr – "Aeroplane"Human Too (Fleure Tapes)

1:01:39 - Blueblack – "Don’t Call Me Girl" Destroy (RokLok Records)

1:04:20 - The National Park Service – "Knowing 1"Secret Wind (Lily Discs and Tapes)

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 | Add New Comment (0)

Tome to the Weather Machine Podcast rides again! Welcome to the revamped, reenergized, soon-to-be improved podcast from Tome to the Weather Machine covering a wide variety of experimental releases from around the world. From here on out this will likely be the form of the Tome. This format allows me to cover more releases and not totally exhaust my adjective bank of describing experimental music. Enjoy.

A note on the audio quality. Bear with me on this. Next week I will have access to some higher quality recording equipment. 

0:00 - Lost Trail - "Turning Point, Grassy Gap Fire Trail" - A Retreat More Than a Surrender (Geology Records)

0:31 - Intro

08:10 - Tippy - "Good Communication" - Public Displays of Affection (Self-Released)

13:50 - Hazy Montagnue Mystiques - "Sous le Soliel" - Les Vacanes Psychedeliques (Never Anything Records)
17:26 - Reighnbeau - "Hide" - Hide (Self-Released)
21:20 - Erasurehead - "The Ceremony of Friendship" - Yauhtli (Plume)

24:34 - Talk Break

25:30 - Takhiro Mukai - #9022 - Normcore (Bicephalic)
33:49 - Odd Person - "Basement Acid" - Junk Tropics (Bicephalic)
37:04 - Hylidae - "Variable Speed Control" - Hylidae (Night People)

41:14 - Talk Break

42:02 - The Gate - Rembrandt von Schlippenjov - Live! (Tubapede)
51:44 - Philippe Vandal - "L'Action (Troisième Partie)" - L'Action (Never Anything)
57:00 - Shane Parish and Frank Rosaly - "Hera" - Labrys (Cabin Floor Esoterica)

1:01:35 - Omrr - "The Rise & Fall of Cairo" - Music for the Anxious (Eilean Rec)
1:08:03 - Problems that Fix Themselves - "Clogsvert" - The Mold Will Die (A Giant Fern)
1:13:01 - Interstates, Etc - "Ten of Cups" - Queen of Wands (Jungle Crunk)
1:21:19 - Jeremy Bible - "Centaurus A" - Music for Black Holes (Aole)

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

Sister Grotto - You Don't Have a House to Be Haunted (Self-Released)

As I am writing this, the Denver Police and Fire Department are rooting through the personal detritus of a collective living and art space known as Rhinoceropolis and GLOB in Denver's RINO district. 11 years of artists manifesting their lives into their existing space being blithely ransacked and mocked by the overreach of the State attempting to control culture. The outcasts being cast out again. Being slammed against lockers and having your front door padlocked, the song remains the same.

Madeline Johnston, a resident of Rhinoceroplis for the past year and a half, was displaced as part of this wave of raids. But it seems fitting that, in the wake of violence writ large upon our communities, this album reminds me of how much music is embodied by the people and the spaces it is created in. But even when they take those spaces away it still reverberates through a collective dust and cigarette smoke that clings to our clothes for years to come. A structureless haunting. In 2015 I was made aware how significant music could be in navigating personal tragedy, in 2016... I just want to hug all my friends. Music is all we got.

 
 
Nevada Greene/Scott Tuma - Ragged Hollow (Dismal Niche)
 
A record invariably wrapped up in people and spaces that made 2016 a year in which the people making music seemed just as vital as the art being produced. A split between Columbia, MO collective and the famed post-folk innovator Scott Tuma explores complimentary meditative sidelong pieces that wrap even the most beautiful passages with a sadness wrung out of most exquisite joy. Weeping through a Scott Tuma set...

 
 
Drose - Boy Man Machine (Orange Milk)
 
It’s hard to think of an album that even sounds close to Boy Man Machine. Mic’d floor toms, guitars that seethe and writhe like live wires touching water and Dustin Rose’s voice - an ancient, raspy, pleading thing rising out of some Midwestern sub-basement. In case you had any hope, Boy Man Machine reminded you of how fucked 2016 was. This is saying a lot, but Boy Man Machine is the weirdest thing Orange Milk has ever put out.

 
 
Anthene - Permanence (Cathedral Transmissions)
 
Worried, pensive drones that drift like bracing winds across open tundra. The Toronto based composer has produced something of a high watermark here, an ambient album that creates a definable structure and shell and then imbues it with equal parts wonder, dread and fatigue leading the pack of albums that paired straight-forward ambient records with linear sense of rhythm.

 
 
Endurance - City of Signals (Illuminated Paths)
 
The conceit behind Endurance’s “City of Signals” is a compelling one. Imagining a post-human world, fully automated and running smoothly without its human subjects. Post-vaporwave dystopian dreamscape of self-driving cars navigating empty streets, obeying traffic lights and stopping to let herds of antelope gallop across newly claimed turf. Endurance’s collection of pensive, but placid, soundscapes capture the wonder, dread and eventual ennui of the first 20 minutes of every post-apocalyptic film.

 
 

MJ Guider - Precious Systems (Kranky)

On her debut for Kranky, Melissa Guion sets her controls for the heart of a dying sun and creates an incredibly compelling pop record on outmoded bass guitars and drum machines that never quite settle. Forever pulling up to the intersections of unease and blissful release of a reckless drive through a sleeping city.  
 
 

HEXA - Factory Photographs (Room40)

A dream collaboration between Australian drone heavyweight (and straight up wonderful human being) Lawrence English and Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart reimagine and  intepret the dying gasps of the industrial age documented in David Lynch’s series of black and white photographs of post-industrial wastescapes with the clang and suffocating denseness of those monolithic structures that swallowed humanity from 9-5. It’s a driving, abrasive and towering noise record that tells truths about who we are with what we leave behind.

Horse Lords - Interventions (Northern Spy)

A pummeling, marathon-length excursion into sax-led arrangements that blur the line between improvised chaos and tightly composed kraut genius. Self-generating landscapes of propulsive minimalism that warps into a droning raga, entire super-structure movements made out of a billion moving parts. The best of a pack of especially great releases for Northern Spy.

Marielle V Jakobsons - Star Core (Thrill Jockey)

Part of the incredibly exciting cohort of artists surrounding Mills College in Oakland, Star Core is a high-concept electro-acoustic album that bends and folds Jakobson’s synth lines around a variety of arrangements: Japanese fretless electric bass, cinematic violin strings and her airy, holy-space making voice. “Star Core” the eponymous song explodes in highly evocative bowed strings and arpeggiated synths that score the long-awaited return of a spaceship caught in blackhole.

Eluvium - False Readings On (Temporary Residence)

Striking a balance between Eluvium’s inherently emotional ambient works and his highly sentimental composed works, where False Readings On seems like it should dial it back a bit on the colossal heft of, let’s say, an disembodied operatic voice spiriting through crackle of a dead radio or the heavy major chord reverie of sanded-output synthesizer, Eluvium doubles down, charging through any accusations of manipulation and imprinting straight on the emotional map of your brain that leads to the purest sepia-toned memories of Malick-level cinematography.

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11. John Bellows - L O N G (Planted Tapes)

12. Public Speaking - Caress, Redact (Floordoor)

13. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - IN SUMMER (Geographic North)

14. North Atlantic Drift - Visitor (Polar Seas Recordings)

15. Claire Cronin - Came Down a Storm (Ba Da Bing!)

16. Black Spirituals - Black Tape (Astral Spirits)

17. Oxherding - The Past is Gone and The Future is Not Yet Here (Self-Released)

18. Insect Factory - Work (Insect Fields)

19. Medina/Walsh - Vault of Angels (Debacle Records)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Honorable Mentions -
 
 
 
 
 
Sunday, December 11th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

LGBTQ youth make up only 7 % of the entire youth population, but represent 40 % of all reported homeless youth.

Think about that. Almost half of all homeless youth in this country identify as something other than straight.

In my professional life I work as a case manager for homeless youth at a shelter in Cincinnati, OH. In those statistics I am reminded of some painful anecdotes that illuminate the lives behind those numbers.

I am reminded of when I worked in homeless outreach in Salt Lake City, UT. A young, well-dressed man was dropped off in front of our shelter with a roller backpack and Armani shirt as a black Suburban peeled away from our parking lot. He said to us, in a shaking voice, that he was kicked out of his house today because he came out to his Mormon family.

Currently, a young trans-woman facing dead-end after dead-end from employers in Cincinnati. The anxiety she has that she will lose her apartment once the one month subsidy we were able to secure is palpable.

A young gay client of mine who was tortured - suffering permanent vision problems from having the contents of a ramen noodle spice packet poured in his eyes while held down by his peers.

Trans individuals facing housing barriers. Homeless shelters as unsafe and psychologically triggering places for people with PTSD due to a lifetime of being mis-gendered and physically attacked for who they are. 

These are the most vulnerable and resilient people I've ever met. 

Jason Harris known under his musical moniker Public Speaking has created an album that speaks, in acute detail, to the physical and psychological violence perpetuated against the bodies and identities of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It is an intensely personal and acutely-aimed political album that ascribes the most intimate violence perpetuated against a person to a culture writ large.

It is with the greatest honor that the Tome is partnering with Public Speaking, Floordoor Records and our longtime friends Already Dead Tapes to premiere this remix album of Public Speaking's 2016 masterpiece "Caress, Redact". All proceeds from this album will go to the NYC organization New Alternative for LGBT Homeless Youth which serves to, "increase the self-sufficiency of homeless LGBT youth and to enable them to transition out of the shelter system and into stable adult lives. We do this by providing case management, education services, life skills training, community-building recreational activities, opportunities for self-expression, and support services for HIV+ youth. Our guiding principles are those of harm reduction, youth development, and empowerment."

The remix album itself explodes the intensely personal and noise-laden compositions by a series of remix collaborators that break and rebuild Harris's tracks from the ground up while keeping his voice at the front and center. Jeremy Bible turns the textural crunch of "Blacksite Blues" into the highly cinematic stabs of a tightly composed string section, the pitch-shifted mutations of More Eaze on "Shifting Weight", the beautiful, operatic rededication of ARIADNE's "Blacksite Blues" weighed against sizzling black noise, to Umin's chopped rendition of "Caress, Redact".

Listen and purchase.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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)

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)