Ralph Heidel is quickly becoming a notable force in conservatory-trained classical and jazz musicians embracing the embryotic potential of combining the romantic appeal of neo-classical composition with improvisational elements of electronic music, ambient modes and drone. “Sweet Dark Moves” marries these two worlds through roaring low-end augmented saxophone, late-nite techno thumps and soaring strings over top and embedded throughout.


Albany, NY duo create that kind of ethereal, note-bending, volume-swelling, bright-veneer-of-shimmering-reverb-over-everything-type of shoegaze that recall My Bloody Valentine, Stargazer Lillies and some of the best of the genre. Anchored around a melodic bass line and breathy vocals, “Dream.Sleep” swells into one of those chest-tightening choruses that crash through the track’s tamer elements.


“Bravo” is a beautiful showcase of German trip-hop beat palate with clean ascending and descending melody weaving itself through the gritty breakbeat. It’s a nice palate cleanser and instrumental pause on a busy and bleary worklife. An opportunity to nestle into the warm analog snap and thud of sampled live percussion and a thickly pulsing bass line while the synth lead washes over you like a serotonin rush to the dome.  


There is something in this woozy composition – full of free associating samples, heat-warped psych-guitars, overlapping and intersecting sing-song melodies – that warmly reminds me of early Animal Collective and the promise of freedom that existed in a pre-2008 experimental music scene. Toronto’s OVER brings this fleetingly back to mind. It’s full of dark water drones, distant vocals that lap and loop melodies one on top of each other creating a perma-fried tapestry of broken sounds.


Pairing reverb-heavy post-rock guitars with the patient, slow pull of acoustic piano this long distance duo (Ireland & Iceland) capture a sense of settling in with a musical partner, the push and pull of editing and adding to while not in the same room. The result is a sparse and mournful track that allows the processed guitar and the natural resonance of the piano to hang in the air a bit, casting ghostly doubles of themselves as they fade and diminish.

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Of all the pieces that are supposedly designed to be a sleep aid, for my easily-stimulated brain, this one by Noccult (Nocturne + cult?) sounds like it would actually be useful. Full of elongated, gentle lapping of droning overtones without easily discernable movement, I look for tracks like “I Wonder I Wander” to serve a utilitarian purpose while still functioning as a beautiful piece of art. Something akin to an ornate chest of drawers or high backed chair.

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This Ghanian duo of Link Man and DJ Eat Me have created an infectious banger that incorporates everything from UK Grime to the model of shouting, high-energy repetition found in songs like Father’s “Look at Wrist” and XXX’s “Look at Me”, these distinct reference points are coupled with Ghanian regional flare. The result is a track that should be rattling car windows from Accra to Albuquerque.


Recorded around the pairing of an acoustic guitar, an out of tune piano and field recordings, this simple track strips away any unnecessary compositional element to get at something that exists when we listen to a melody that objectively beautiful. Inspired by her trip to the Falkland Islands, this Columbian experimental musician provides a perfect brain-to-tape travelogue. Gorgeous stuff.

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Recalling bands like Ida and the Secret Stars, the lush and earnest songs that make up “Escort Mission” are centered around the push-and-pull between songwriters David Costanza and Anne Speroni and a growing list of instrumentalist guests. “Jesus Said, Mary Said” illustrates this necessary tension by framing a philosophical debate between Jesus and Mary with aching drones, twinned vocals and a sturdy, but subdued acoustic guitar melody weaving them all together.


Holy shit. Inhabiting a totally spraked, speaker of the multi-dimensionally transient, this guitar and drums free-improv journey curated by Eddie Bond hits in all the right places. Hyper-prolific runs on the guitar, pointillist attacks buried under a shit-ton of feedback and static, a drummer at once locked-in and totally impressionistic, exploring a full range of resonance on his kit. It’s a perma-fucked fairy tale of reaching full consciousness in 11 minutes.  


Coming from the same school of new-school scream as Touche Amore and Loma Prieta, the Brooklyn/Philadelphia-based Army Wives come out swinging on “Hearld” with a pulverizing rhythm section, a brief staccato break down and a reign-in-piss-and-vinegar approach to writing choppy riffs with impassioned vocals that frequently push the entire composition into the red. FFO: Defeater, Foundation, Raein, Julia.


Moonweather recall a modality, less than a specific time and place, in indie rock that hits every exposed nerve connected to wistful and blissful memories of listening to bands like Duster, Modest Mouse, Pinback or Aloha on overcast days when the air turns crisp. The Cincinnati-based band craft an achingly beautiful song-cycle of unfolding vocal melodies interwoven around a simple guitar line and the immediate dopamine rush that comes with it. Fantastic stuff.


Centered around deep, warm drones from cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Brady Kendall folds in layer after layer textural synths and strings to sculpt a composition that puts full service to melodious lines while exploring the resonant depths of electronic and acoustic shadings and leads.


This Australian droner tagged their music as the “unfiltered sound of an air conditioner”. If that were indeed true, I would thank that air conditioner for the mechanical symphony of roughed-up tones, distant clangs and omnipresent drones, that when pitched just right, create a digital ocean of enveloping sound that is easy to get pulled beneath and not want to come up.


Recalling the wide-open production and swelling choruses of bands like Nothing and introducing a Bruce Springsteen-meets-Slowdive swagger that combine bracing immediacy of Sam Hong’s vocals and the glossine sheen of ace shoegaze production around the anthemic guitars, the North London band punch well above their weight on “Big”.


Coming out of South Korea, Park Hye Jin’s ridiculously fine-tuned ear on “ABC” moves from a vocal line floating above a smokey piano sample is  Park Hye Jin’s to a middle break down that brings in a steady motorik groove and an understated House throb that centers the track squarely on the dancefloor. Expect to hear more from this young producer. 


“El Paso” by the Peruvian indie rock band Mundaka is impossibly catchy. Taking cues from Vampire Weekend,  Scottish Twee bands like Orange Juice and the laid back Beach twang of Real Estate, they take a laid back guitar riff and intertwine melodic bass line, unrelenting hooks and tussled surf guitars to create a sound track for the soon-to-be-coming Northern Hemsiphere summer.


Hailing from Ufa, Russia Semena Mertvyk records that kind of placid, utterly serene ambient music that, despite its short running time, has tonal shifts like tectonic plates. Slow moving, glassine drones floating across the surface, overlapping and sliding below one another, each creating an imprint of its former self that slowly dies as it decays.


Eve Maret has created quite a stir in her home town of Nashville. Her mastery of synth based experimental music showcases a layering of thick synth leads atop a pulsating rhythmic bass line while syrupy tones bleed in from the edges overtaking the entire aural field. These slow-evolving passages marry Kraut’s inherent lurch forward with the patient wonder and exploration of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s recent work. 


This solo piano piece from Azerbaijan is a delicate and stately work that features slow and contemplative ascending melody that anchors the track while the other half of the track explores flitting and transient beauty in deft runs and tiny counter melodies. It’s a beautiful track making its way out of Azerbaijan.

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