Reviews: Week of 05.16

Danny Paul Grody - Sketches for Winter VI: "Other States" (Geographic North, 2016)

And with this we have the end of winter, a slow loosening grasp that comes with a cyclical forgetting and remembering of warmth. I'm writing this well into May in the middle of an awkwardly placed cold spell. Remembering winter has brought me back to Daniel Paul Grody's excellent contribution to Geographic North's Sketches for Winter series. Grody's tape is an effortless blend of placid American Primitivist guitar (think Scott Tuma and Lake Mary) being played out in languid contemplation in a living room near a roaring wood burning fireplace instead of the front porch which seems to be natural habitat for these kind of folk-drone compositions. This inward turning displays some beautiful drone passages beneath the deft, rhythmic propulsion of Grody's acoustic guitar. Washes of heavy reverb flow through and illuminate these passages leaving spectral tracings like pyrite glinting in a quick moving river. Field recordings of forests and streams remind us that life is hibernating just beyond March. A wonderful tape to lose 30 minutes in while watching life return outside your window.

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Orra - They Mean No Harm (Heavy Mess, 2016)

A ponderous, heavily-spaced electroacoustic slowburner from Sean Conrad (Ashan, Inner Islands Records) and Jennifer Williams (Gossimer) is a realtime exercise in space-finding between two interconnected beings. Pregnant pauses follow sonorous guitar-lines bending and arcing in the upper register that are played back through a ghostly apparatus that leave the casing of the passage while letting the soul rattle about like a ghost in the machine. About half-way through "Glass Sisters", Williams' voice rises through the settling electroacoustic mist, ebbing and flowing with the same regularity of the passages of silence and sound. Then the essential stringness of strings are explored: the oxymoronic brittleness of metal, the tensile slack and tightness. These are played over a faraway oscillation and buried, leading, coaxing voice that creeps in so slowly you swear it was there the whole time. The B-Side, "Come Down the Night" is a propulsive passage of basement effused beats, washes of warbly synthesizer drones, wandering acoustic instrumentation and contact mic solipsisms into a wonderfully pastoral marriage of all four. A satisfyingly calming and contemplative listen.

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Urthsla - Wannsee (Field Hymns, 2016)

A revelatory record by Berlin's Artem Bezukladnikov for Field Hymns. Wannsee rides the spectral drift from droning passages with acoustic folk overlays to forever-ascending kraut synth lines that break free into earthy, reverb-laden psych burners that mark the return of the pastoral that never really left. The tape's eponymous B-Side is a hushed, intimate hymn underneath piles and piles of pillowy drone before a stately guitar riff breaks free from understatement and arrives, smearing its painted-black likeness across the entire canvas. Boris's heavy meditation on Nick Drake on "Farewell" comes to mind in its crushing annd hope-in-humanity giving power. Like "Farewell", the riff endlessly replicates itself, squeezing into noise-laden, roof-scratching intensity of epic squalor, or pulsing radiantly beneath the surface of roiling, searching drones. If I do a best-of list this year, Wannsee will definitely be on there.

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dugout canoe - Over Unity (Self-Released, 2016)

"Over Unity" by Denver D.I.Y. vet and Goldrush alumni Jacob Isaacs is a 54 minute journey through perma-ascending minimal synth lines that slow fade into hyper-pointilist compositions that layer chopped shoegaze guitars over self-aware programmed electronics that play like a pinchinco machine caught in a wormhole. There is this strange effect, halfway through "Over Unity I" where notes are flying at and past you at such speed and regularity that it becomes impossible to grasp individual notes, yet, comprehend the superstructure of the composition itself, a sort of meta-melody constructed from the rise and fall of a thousand independent musical movements. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, but it feels true. The way this tape segues through these sections is one of the most exciting things about these compositions. All wind-up and major release when the BPM slows a bit and some space opens up to reveal sugary melodies, washes of dense, drunk electronics, echoes of earthly voices, buried-but-unashamed electronica, pastoral industrial, trigger-effect reverbed out bass lines Over Unity is arresting from the jump, a rare record that demands so little from the listener but delivers a million sensory pleasures at regular intervals, plus it is recorded and mixed by Ryan McRyhew (Thug Entrancer) so, can't stop, won't stop with this one.

May 16th, 2016