Record Reviews: Week of 08.31 - Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Marielle V. Jakobsons, Kyle Landstra, Inner Travels

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - In Summer (Geographic North, 2016)

I am currently writing this review in full summer mode. In my attic, in shorts, fan on full blast writing a perfectly summery release while covered in mosquito bites from a late evening dog walk. It stands to reason that the shining skull breath master himself has relatively positive associations when it comes to summer as a concpet or creative timeframe - although he makes it explicitly clear that this is not strictly a summer record. "Love's Refrain", which chisles blasted out bass lines into insanely positivist guitar arpeggios, throws us into the album almost in mid-sentence, like walking into a party where awkward introductions have already been made and everyone is hitting their well-lubricated stride. The track accrues more auditory deitrus before its inevitable unraveling, but in those few golden minutes we have something akin to a Washed Out bass line being filtered through Belong analog sand blasting. The album takes frequent dips into worlds of low-register ambient rattle, field recordings and muted tonal shifts only to process them back through the heaving percussion of tracks like the eponymous "In Summer" and "Blue Nudes I-IV" - the albums stand alone best track. The metaphorical peg that In Summer hangs it swimsuit for skinny dips in moonlit mountain ponds.

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Marielle V. Jakobsons - Star Core (Thrill Jockey, 2016)

Adding a thrilling depth and compositional fearlessness to her solo follow up to 2012's brilliant Glass Canyons (Students of Decay), Jakobsons first for Thrill Jockey finds the multi-instrumentalist exploring the intersections of modern classical and prescient synthesizer based music. Listening to Jakobsons' harmonic shifts through the course of an 8-9 minute song is like watching a supertanker cut through a canal. Something so massive moving at impossible speed. Forming around the superstructure of tonal shifts on synthesizers, Jakobson weaves cinematic strings, flute, voice and winding, yet backbone-sturdy fretless bass lines around the song's core adding deeper hues and flashes of bright technicolor. The album's title track, for example, pairs delicate arpeggios with elegant ballroom strings over the deep pulse of a synthesizer and bass guitar sounding out from the substrate in inky, black plumes that seem to hang and hover - never quite dissipating until the track gradually unwinds. It is a beautiful album, deep and studious. A wonderful overture from a group of sound artists associated with Mills College creating music that is anything but academic, but deeply felt and emotionally resonant.

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Kyle Landstra - Jewelled Moon Codex (Inner Islands, 2016)

On the Chicago synth-maestro's latest, situated quite nicely in the Inner Islands batch, is an album that coaxes synthesized strands of pure tone into gently lapping waves that pulse and unfold with careful patience and precision. Composed of two sidelong tracks, the tape starts with "Low Light Living" a song filled with airy, but keenly dampened, synthesizer pulls and shimmering, faintly radiating lines that arc like welder's sparks against pure darkness. High drama. Release. The B-Side "Jeweled Moon" is all pathos-filled deep-end rumbles, sustained tones punching straight through sooty basement windows out into the atmosphere like reverse sunbeams. Dynamic peaks and valleys. Synth lines fraying into static as they reach their apex and start their descent. Caught and collapsing in the arms of another ascending shaft of light. 

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Inner Travels - Clear Seeing (Inner Islands, 2016)

S. Targo, who once recorded under the name Riot Meadows - a project I very much seemed to like back in 2012 - has returned under a new name and new sense of purpose. When I wrote that review of the Riot Meadows tape I seemed to be reacting to the messy, vexing duality of meditative noise. A thing that balanced chance and randomness with intended effect of bringing about clarity and focus. On Inner Travels, Targo has sharpened his gaze to create tonal clusters of notes that facilitate a sense of ease and clarity. Parsed in ever-widening intervals these clear individual ascending notes, punctuated with a deeply felt bass note, are repeated over meditative drones, bell-like arpeggios and field recordings. In fact, it is easy to think of this tape like a field recorder's journal. An individual with a non-tuned ear, a vacationer lets say, will go out "nature" and bask in what he considers silence - the lack of man-made sound. A field recorder will decamp to the same spot during the same period of time and marvel at just how loud and busy nature is. The interplay of thousands of sounds, that if we are only tuned to registering man-made sounds, we completely miss. Cursory listens we may just pick up the dominant musical lines, simple repeating phrases that float over the composition. We may even be lulled into a meditative state due to the tendency we have to associate this kind of music with purposeful relaxing activities. But just below the surface and in the silence between notes there is a whole world of sound.

August 26th, 2016