APF Ant-1 (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)
From what I can gather (and it took me a minute) APF is the moniker of San Jose, Costa Rica noise-drone dude Árböl Pájarö Fuegö, who for the sake of diacritic marks I will refer to as APF from now on. I don't know what cosmic alignment brought APF and Vwyrd Wurd together, but somewhere, under some portentious astrological happening, these two found each other, and it is a match made in consumer electronics, bedroom noise-making heaven. APF's compositions move from lo-fi acoustic jams, to longform noise pieces with scraping, chiseling pulls of harsh noise, to understated drones that copulate freely creating ghostly mutant spawn of one another. APF often works in extreme frequencies such as the punishing "1953" and high-pitched pulls on "Monique". For much of the album, however, APF is able subdue and tame these proclivities and work with tones and frequencies that dance on that knife ridge of dissonance and equitable beauty. It is a fine line and APF walks it well, often many of the best returns being when that tension is most evident. Costa Rica/P.A connect.
Mooninite Soda (Hel Audio, 2014)
In the post-IDM world of blurring the edges between organic and digital sounds is there better purchase than the soda can? The sharp crack of an opening can, the bubbling CO2 that rises from the sound of liquid being poured onto a glass cup with ice cubes. Brilliant right? Soda by SLC-based electronic musician Mooninite is not only a celebration of the endless sample-ability (which he uses to great ends) of Utah's substitute vice but the sheer world-conquering ubiquity of the drink. When I worked at the refugee camp in Swaziland, Coca-Cola often was easier to obtain than water. Mooninite is not only able to exploit the soundscape in a can potential of soda as a conceit, but create a record of downtempo beats that snap like brittle twigs, skittering drum machine breaks and bucolic, Balearic-inspired synth arpeggios and beats that pulse and bounce with tightly regimented precision all while fronting a casual playfulness. It is always exciting getting a package from Hel Audio. Soda is a step further in shaping Hel Audio's overall aesthetic and reputation for forward-thinking electronic music.
D O R C E L S I U S Peter Prince et le Mont Analol (Vwyrd Wurd, 2014)
Last entry in Vwyrd Wurd's expanding, benevolent empire. Dorcelsius, a French duo splitting time between Riga and Paris create worlds inside of worlds full of driving, intense house beats that belie the dancefloor conotations for an intense, personal listen. Holy shit, this thing is on 10. Syrupy, sludgy synths reigning over the intense snap of snare drums in heat. Throwback to some formative Detroit/Chicago techno with a total absence of the cool, self-absorbed detachment that we Americans tend to associate with French electronic music. Rather, there is a fully-embodied, tactile engagement with the music as a function of the mind and the body. Knobs are turned, patches plugged in, chords on synths heavily pawed. There is so much human in this beating mechanical heart. Algorhythmic euphoria. Post-industrial messiness and skronk searing holes through the crystal city facade of Parisian nightclub music. This is super plugged in. Vwyrd Wurd never ceases to amaze.
Braeyden Jae - Gutted (Spring Break Tapes! 2014)
I'll be damned if these weren't some pure-as-the-driven-snow, purified winter drones. No, quite literally, I will be damned. You see, I've put all of my trust and faith into music as surrogate deity. When corporeal, Republican-leaning God(s) cease to invoke wonder and majesty, I will always have the limitless and endlessly captivating channeled-but-uncreated pool of sound to pour devotion and worshipful reverence into. I'm not not saying Braeyden Jae is a prophet, but maybe an oracle? A clairvoyant? Someone able to crystallize and condense whatever mysterious force moves through the cord connecting bass guitar to amplifier. Whomever or whatever he is, Braeyden Jae has created his second in dense, heavy and emotionally resonant drone tapes this year. I am thrilled this one found its way into the hands of Spring Break Tapes! A label I have boundless appreciation for. On Gutted, Braeyden moves his way through two longform drone pieces that start from the ground floor of a low jet-engine's roar and moves to, when Braeyden really opens up the throttle, being inside of a volcano on some Celestial, near-heaven moon. Just try listening to that moment, about 5 1/2 minutes into "The Purpose of Purposeful Delay", when Braeyden just tears into this controlled and corralled wash of feedback, rending the veil a little bit to catch a glimpse of all possible futures and pasts of whatever note he is holding infinitely. One of 2014's most thrilling musical moments.
There are things in Cincinnati. One of them is no shortage of incestuous pop-punk bands whose whole transcends the sum (melodic, relentlessly uptempo pop-punk) of its parts (members of equally incestuous punk bands). Sleeves is a young band in terms of membership and total time spent playing together, but as a group represents some of the best of this bumper crop of the loud and fast (Vacation, Black Planet, Swim Team) flourishing in the Queen City. Sleeves is comprised of John Hoffman (Dead North) and Dylan McCartney whose post-punk band Mardou will one day save us all. On their debut tape, the duo (now rounded out as a trio with addition of bassist Alex Collins) play overdriven, hook-filled pop-punk loud, fast and with all the pent-up sexual frustration of a flagellating zealot. Unplaced and channeled angst and ennui is voiced in the distinctive rough edges on the lines traded by Hoffman and McCartney's trading vocal lines. Remember how raw and tuneful those early Thermals records were? Sex is Stupid has that limbs-flailing intensity and youthful purpose writ large across the fat spine of an under 20-minute tape. I turned 30 today. This kind of stuff still makes me feel like I can move mountains.