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.