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.


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)

Grow Horns - Thunderous Fixations (Live God Collective, 2016)

Accustomed to much of Live God's output and Cincinnati/Midwest experimental music in general, I fully expected and braced myself for Thunderous Fixations to be an exercise in analog-fed harsh noise. Being surprised when it wasn't was a lesson in humility and a recognition of the incredibly varied output to come out of the Cincinnati based tape label in general. Miles Uroshevic formerly of Ann Weigel and currently playing along the famed Nelson Slater as part of the name-shifting Illusion Dogs, crafts much of Thunderous Fixations around simple, acoustic melodies and a voice that recalls Chris Weisman on some Oaklandazulasylum-era Why? lo-fi shit. These are earnest and focused song-songs that often push Uroshevic's voice into a falsetto just outside of its natural range. The yearning for something greater in both impetus and delivery - its output buried under magnetic tape hiss or as plaintive as a living room set. The dips into harsh noise, or at least augmented fragments of unfinished songs, are welcome reprieves into abstraction when the mournfulness directness gets too real.


Dura - Oceans of Solaris (Marmara Records, 2016)

Oceans of Solaris, Mattson Ogg's latest under the moniker Dura, begins with a propulsive, driving bass line underneath solar flares of buzzing drone and deep dives of processed output. This mid-game change up serves as a wonderful placeholder in Dura's extensive catalog, mostly known for crafting swelling movements of wisps and shudders, the mass of this record is something you can grasp the contours of. As the propulsion melts into a glacial pool of inky, surging waters of roiling synth and guitar drones open canyon-wide fissures into the onyx black earth that reveal something below the substrate of these tracks something radiant and hidden. A light shining through the most obsidian of all Dura releases. An album that slowly sheds layer after layer darkness to reveal new life under the thick canopy. Highly recommended.


Medina/Walsh – Vault of Angels (Debacle, 2016)

Embracing the inherent intimacy and wild possibility of the duo arrangement, Joshua Medina and Paurl Walsh enter into hyphenated last name power couple status and create one of the most satisfying of 2016 releases, an auspicious proper debut if there ever was one. PNW experimentalists to their core, Medina’s medium is delicate lines of finger-picked guitar. Not necessarily American Primitivist, but it is hard to completely escape that tag, but it exists in a liminal space more akin to the neo-psychedelic discoveries of 70’s Britain or that delicate bridge of Bridget St. John. Paurl Walsh is a classically trained musician pulling deep synth drones and layered, sonic architecture birthed out of the intersectionality of modern composition and drone. Exploring the interlacing between the two’s contributions to the whole greater than its sums we find moments of unrestrained beauty when the duo-ship is at its most pronounced, where Medina’s pilot fish runs of arpeggiated guitar dart in and out of the supertanker of the duo’s graceful glide through unbroken ocean. It’s a dynamic, textured album that demands several turns before you feel like you can begin to map its terrain – often that terrain is dark and foreboding, aural accumulation of precipitation and dread, other times it is a placid, still and wondrous. Our own braeyden jae adds his characteristic ambient shredding on the eponymous “Vault of Angels” dropping another accordion folder of evidence to the case of making this one of the best albums of the year.


Insect Factory – Work (Insect Fields, 2016)

D.C guitarist Jeff Barsky’s tireless output under the moniker Insect Factory has been an exploration of light-infused drones – like watching those backlit clouds slowly come alive signaling a new morning in a city with high amounts of pollution – with heavy, patiently-placed guitar lines that ring out and through the steady lap of hazy, guitar wash and tape manipulation. There is a somber weight to these compositions, a heavy-lidded, hypnotic motion to the B-side where the rhythmic loop of feedback crests over buried piano notes that feed back into itself to create a narcologue journey when you break through the haze and every sensory feature seems enhanced and locked in with a deeper rhythm. The A-side’s penchant for semi-improvised guitar lines that ring through effulgent clouds until they are suddenly pulled back up through some crooked shoot and ladder is classic Insect Factory: dropping some epic-sounding contemplative guitar line played with the intensity and intentionality knowing that this clarity is ephemeral and fleeting. Rewards for those who listen close and wake up early.


Benjamin Finger - 10 (Sellout! Records)

Benjamin Finger, the shape-shifting Oslo musician, producer and DJ has thrown us for a bit of a loop on his latest LP out on Sellout! Records. Much like the trajectory of Kevin Greenspon, Finger translates the engulfing nature of his ambient and tightly composed experimental works into techno landscapes that retain much of the enveloping nature of previous works. On 10, Finger takes us a guided tour through Techno's (with a capitol T) fractious neighborhoods with the subbass wobble of "Stretchpantz", to the gradual ramping out of the chill-out "Party Corpse" and the distorted arpeggios and high hats recall the best of 90's techno on "Kangaroo Court". Full of in-jokes and deliberate nods to electronic music's dancefloor prophets, Finger keeps a tight 4-4 pulse on tracks that chart a course using linear trajectory and melodic synthesizer lines to create a highly memorable and hard-beat, angular dance record. Much like the co-worker who gets drunk at the party and reveals a much more complicated human than their persona at work, Benjamin Finger lets his club-freak flag fly on 10 and can't help but come out with a highly listenable, highly danceable record centered on propulsion and melody. If you are even more keen to hang out with your co-worker after he/she wears the lampshade, reveals a deep knowledge of Electronic Body Music and pukes in your purse, this record is for you.


Stag Hare - Velvet & Bone (Inner Islands, 2016)

I am sustained and energized in times of darkness by the idea of the album given as a gift to salve fractured psyches. In this sense, the most anodyne of all musical forms is transformed into a political statement simply by its timing and positioning as a tool for those fighting against fascism. Maalox and water are just as important as bricks and stones in the fight against state terrorism. Velvet and Bone is a record that feels delivered just in time. Stag Hare has long created music that feels positioned to heal if one were to give into it. Velvet and Bone explores the ethereality of ambient music, a sense of experiencing the physical world with oven mitts, all senses muted and processed through a thick auger, with the physical sensation of beat bypassing the ear canal and passing through your sternum. On Velvet and Bone, Stag Hare expertly coalesces these two sensations to create something that works within and through the sonic milieu around you and beats right into the core of your body. It's rewarding to see the linear trajectory of artists continuing to drill down on intention and impact while expanding their sonic palate to encompass more possibilities. One of Stag Hare's finest works to date. 

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)

Cloudsound - Static Sense & Wonder Stasis (пANOEON, 2016)

Cloudsound returns with another album full of resplendent drone, a perfectly titled longplayer of songs that contain so much musicality, stirring melodies and exploration of space beneath its placid, tranquil surface. I've been mulling over the phrase "Wonder Stasis" since I've heard this record and while being the title of the album's 28 minute closer, I think the phrase here reveals a lot of what draws me to this record and ambient, drone-based music in general. While it is easy to point out the utilitarian effects of ambient music - it's calming effects, it's ability to imbue other activities with purpose and meaning - so much of the calming equilibrium belies how much music is happening at any given moment. Cloudsound's tracks are filled with long, eliding drones that unspool like tape held out of a car window, but between those massive tonal shifts are even smaller births and deaths of pulling, effulgent tones, small guitar runs, surging walls of softened distortion, feather-light arpeggios and porous walls of sound to float and be held in, rather than bashing our fists against. Out on cassette from the lovely пANOEON label out of Yaroslavl, Russia.  

Panoptique Electrical - Disappearing Music for a Face (Sound in Silence, 2016)

For someone who came of age in the era of CD-R labels it is really lovely to see labels continuing to put out compelling releases with aesthetically interesting packaging on CD. Some of my favorite releases this year came from Polar Seas Recordings, Eilean Records and now Sound in Silence - an Athens, Greece Based label. Disappearing Music for a Face comes on the heels of Jason Sweeney's highly regarded collaboration with Richard Adams of Hood and The Declining Winter (a hugely influential artist for me) and highlights the Adelaide, Australia musician's ability to compose spacious and airy electro-acoustic compositions with a variety of collaborators. Centered around hypnotic acoustic piano lines, Sweeney and collaborators wrap these compositions with swelling drone, low-end rumbling, upper-register tonal fluctuations and, on the case of "A Forest Forlorn" and "Near Life" slow BPM electronic percussion that serve to accentuate the linear movement of the album. By building off of a firm foundation of Sweeney's piano compositions each accruement is able to find ample space in the high-ceiling cathedral of the album. Highly recommended.

Oxherding - The Past is Gone and The Future is Not Yet Here (Self-Released, 2016)

"Damn. I love everything about this tape" were my initial thoughts when I received this in the mail before even putting it in the deck. The J-Card spanning shot of the sky, the clear cassette with beautiful black overlaid print, the little card dedicating the cassette to "everyone fighting against injustice and hatred in my broken hometown of St. Louis, Missouri". It is heartbreaking and ambitious. The idea of wordless music as protest music. White helmet, war-time medic. Classic style drone in the vein of Stars of the Lid assembling and massaging massive walls of drone underneath open-skied production that allow each assemblage to sound out apart and together in unison with the overall barge of the composition cutting a slow clip through some placid, high-cliffed channel. It is a gracious sort of gift. Creating these healing passages and dedicating them to your city that have recently erupted in flames. A balm to soothe the aching psyches of your peers and fellow citizens trying to process so much ugliness and bravery of the human condition.

Tristan Welch - Washington D.C. (Self-Released, 2016)

A laudable 16 minute debut by Fairfax, VA drone artist Tristan Welch. Drones in the key of "D" and "C" that are both palpable and weightless. The kind of ambient tape you can put on and blissfully forget you are listening to while wondering why your day-to-day seems somehow imbued with some golden light of meaning. Deeper listens reveal a layering of lapped notes within the same key, an excercise in kinetic meditation. Individual notes puncturing the ether and then collapsing back onto itself. Spooling and unspooling like the chain on an anchor reacting to the tides.

Endurance - City of Signals (Illuminated Paths, 2016)

"There have been people without cities. But what about cities without people?" - Saul Bellow

City of Signals serves as a soundtrack to short story of an abandoned city where the only remnants of human beings are the machines programmed to run without the aid of humans. Traffic signals direct empty streets. Automated trains glide without passengers. Computers still regulate themselves. The tape by Canada-via-Japan musician Joshua Stefane captures the emptiness and pathos that come with imagining a city without people in it. In it he captures the repeating, programmed pulse emitting sounds of digital code controlling mechanical objects while putting those sounds to the services of musical movements that tend to trigger emotions of sadness and wistfulness without being too sentimental. Light arpeggiated synth lines and long pulls of resonant drone intermingle with natural field recordings. Evidence that nature will eventually assume its rightful place. Trees growing in empty hotel lobbies. Vines choking rail systems and growing through broken windows. Conceptually and musically, it is hard not to imagine this being one of the best ambient releases of the year. 

Wednesday, October 26th, 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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)
Caress, Redact

Smashing guitars on stage. Biting the heads off of doves. Mock on-stage electrocutions. Appropriation of fascist imagery. The stand-ins for our residual, repressed and displaced violence have served as ineffective shamen. Twisting and contorting the violence that runs red under the thin veneer of a social contract and the failed promise of upwards mobility that binds together middle-class suburban America into surface-level spiritualism-as-commercialism instead of channeling it into transformative art; our prophets of rage have been shown to be nothing but Nick Cage looking-ass bureaucrats. 

In Caress, Redact by Jason Anthony Harris's project Public Speaking, we are confronted with real violence. From the meaty thud of a naked mic hitting a wooden table, to intermittent blasts of atonal squall of a processed saxophone, to the album's narrative core: a father's violence towards his son based on his sexuality, the inherent violence in relationships based on possession. These narratives are sung in croon that belies the violence being exorcised through it.

Comprised from the ground up from samples of manipulated objects: pill bottles, keys jangling, the scrape of mic on wood, these familiar sounds are processed and brought into congregation with lushly composed electro-acoustic arrangements that move from harsh-noise informed blasts to delicate electronic passages. The album starts out with "Blacksite Blues". A percussive, pulverizing march of processed saxophone accentuating the pregnant pauses between Harris's breathy croon. That contrast: the hungry and noisy underneath Harris's soulful voice is at the heart of this record. It sets to underscore the moments of true beauty with narratives of native ugliness of human life: body dysphoria, family instability, fragile masculinity and its need to control physically and psychologically. To caress, and then redact.

Tracks like, "Protect Me From My Own Paws" feature a sophisticated palate of synth arpeggio driven electronic compositions that effortlessly fold in found-sound manipulation with a straightforward pop paradigm. The album's emotional center-piece, "Shifting Weight", features extensive vocal manipulation and Harris's most straight-forward vocal melody and the album's most obvious and named violence. It is a track that means different things for different people. The intersections of physical violence and sexual identity. Family secrets and call-out culture. Brutally honest survivor perspectives and trigger warnings. "Shifting Weight" wades in those murky waters out of necessity. It is easily one of the most powerful songs of 2016. That can be said about the remainder of the album. An auspicious debut for Floordoor, a label owned and run by Harris, that finds his Public Speaking project refining both the noise and the studied electro-acoustic composition, his voice as narrative agent and pop song structures shining through an admittedly intense record.


Thursday, October 6th, 2016 | Add New Comment (0)