Black to Comm, "Seven Horses for Seven Kings"

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Black To Comm is the solo project of German sound artist Marc Richter. Through his output both as an artist and through his eclectic Dekorder label, Richter has established himself as a singular voice of new music. Operating at the fringes of drone and ambient genres, his music is darkly magical and deeply atmospheric, underpinned by a signature surrealism. A relentless sonic explorer, Richter approaches the studio as his instrument, using sampling, analogue production and digital manipulation to offer an almost infinite choice of tones and textures. Audio fragments are liberated from their original context and sculpted into surprising new shapes, creating work that transcends time or genre. Seven Horses For Seven Kings sees Richter reaching out again into the limitless field of sound, summoning forth his darkest and most visceral work to date.

Seven Horses For Seven Kings was completed during a particularly prolific period for Richter. Working on a broad range of commissions since his last album - from writing for film and theatre works to composing for art installations, apps and sleep music - generated a flurry of new ideas and influences. Site-specific residencies in particular let Richter shift his focus from melody and song architecture to more abstract sound art. Extensive touring would equally come to inform a key shift in Richter's music, simulating the raw, unpredictable energy of live performances on record. Rather than ironing out mistakes in samples or his own playing, he exploits or even forces such imperfections. While rhythm has been largely absent from previous Black To Comm releases, here the music seems totally bound to it, from the fractured techno breaks of "Fly on You," to the pounding war drums of "Rameses II" and pulsing Mellotron sounds of “Angel Investor." The album's breath-taking pace drives Richter's music to new levels of intensity.

Richter's creative practice is informed as much by careful, attentive listening as it is studio experimentation. Pieces often begin life as a single sound that catches his ear, be it a record from his extensive collection, or something in the natural environment. Samples and instrumentation are sometimes presented authentically, a deliberate reference to an era, place or player, and at other times are twisted beyond recognition. Samples from contemporary artists like Nils Frahm are bent and compounded with fragments of early recorded music and medieval song. Richter blurs the lines between organic instrumentation and digital production to the extent that the two become inseparable. Being able to separate sound from context gives Richter complete command of the emotional impact of his music, imbuing pieces with meaning or stripping it back as he sees fit.

While Richter questions whether instrumental music needs to have deeper meaning beyond its sonic qualities, he accepts that the wider world inevitably bleeds into his art.  Reflecting the violence and unreality of modern life, Seven Horses For Seven Kings is unashamedly dark, undeniably angry. But rather than be consumed by such emotions, Richter employs them as ecstatic release. Through his mastery of sound, he achieves transcendence through noise, beauty through intensity.

More information can be found here.

4297 Hits

Meg Baird/Mary Lattimore, "Ghost Forests"

Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore’s collective work—as solo artists, band members, and collaborators—could fill a small record collection. Despite this productivity, these two long-time friends have never recorded an entire album focused exclusively on their unique talents. Ghost Forests mysteriously, thrillingly fills that void.

Independently, Baird and Lattimore have each cultivated highly individual and idiosyncratic tools of expression. Baird's timeless and soaring voice, guitar, and drums have underpinned pastoral and folk rock explorations as a soloist and in band settings with Espers and Heron Oblivion. Lattimore's albums of enigmatic, spectral experimental harp sounds move and unfold like films and nature itself. The list of artists that have called upon their voices, talents, and visions to enrich their own work is expansive—a virtual pocket encyclopedia of contemporary indie and experimental musicians.

Over the course of Ghost Forests' six collaborative compositions we hear deeply sympathetic conversations between the two artists. With access to a deep pool of shared influences, these two friends assembled a collection of sounds conjured from harp, guitar (both acoustic and electric), synths, the human voice, and a shared poetic language. Baird and Lattimore's subjects range from the sound of light on water, seismic geopolitical anxiety, the smog-exploded sunsets of Don Dudley's paintings, and vertigo from their respective relocations to San Francisco and Los Angeles from their once-shared home in Philadelphia.

The synthesis of their vision welcomes listeners who might have been familiar with only one of the performers' solo oeuvres. It also speaks to long-time fans both artists who have long wondered what this dream collaboration might yield.

Steve Gunn has long known Baird and Lattimore and worked with both on his own albums. He says "Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore are two musicians that I greatly admire. Ghost Forests is an ace meld of their abilities; Meg's guitar and voice, and Mary's harp lead each other (and us) into further regions of the strata. With each song you can hear this remarkable kinship. I'm thankful for this soundtrack."

Ghost Forests' musical conversations are intimate, fluid, effortless and spontaneous. They're filled with the euphoria of creation and, at times, they articulate hard truths and tangled emotions with an ease only trusted friends can manage. The songs alternate between extended ethereal instrumental excursions, gauzy and dreamy pop, blown-out "Bull of the Woods" heavy haze, and modern reimaginations of epic traditional balladry—all while touching on the strange and otherworldly places between these stations.

With Ghost Forests, Baird and Lattimore have given us all a timeless gift that generously rewards immersion and deep investigation. It is our collective good fortune as listeners that we are able to eavesdrop on their conversation through these songs. It is also a wonder to hear two unique artists interact to such beautifully original ends.

More information can be found here.

3953 Hits

Alessandro Cortini/Lawrence English, "Immediate Horizon"

Having become mutual admirers of each others work; English of Cortini's Sonno and Cortini of English's Wilderness Of Mirrors, the pair were very pleased to receive an invitation to collaborate together.

Following a number of months exchanging compositional ideas and materials, Cortini and English met several days ahead of the Berlin Atonal festival and commenced an intense period of rehearsal and arrangement. The resulting piece, Immediate Horizon, traces their shared interests in harmony and texture. It is a work that meditates on saturation and the ruptures that occur when harmonic elements are stacked. Immediate Horizon's five pieces swell and burst in a perpetual sense of pulse.

This LP is a live recording, made at the premiere of the piece, held at Kraftwerk in Berlin.

More information can be found here and here.

4250 Hits

Áine O'Dwyer/Graham Lambkin, "Green Ways"

Recorded Doon, Dungarvan, Plaistow, Shoreditch, Singö, Stratford 2018.

Releases November 20, 2018 on Erstwhile.

5435 Hits

Saariselka, "Ceres" (Marielle V. Jakobsons/Chuck Johnson)

There is an old Norse myth that says the great northern glaciers stored energy until they burst with fluorescent light, creating the Aurora Borealis. Saariselka is inspired by the meeting of earth and light, where slowly moving land masses merge with enveloping light fields. This sonic collaboration is between composers Marielle Jakobsons (Fender Rhodes, organ, synthesisers) and Chuck Johnson (pedal steel guitar and treatments).

Chuck Johnson is an Oakland, California based composer and musician. He approaches his work with an ear towards finding faults and instabilities that might reveal latent beauty, with a focus on guitar, experimental electronics, minimalism and soundtrack composition. Recordings of his work have been published by VDSQ, Trouble in Mind, Scissor Tail, Merge, and Three Lobed, among others.

Marielle V. Jakobsons is a composer and intermedia artist based in Oakland, CA. Her compositions evoke minimalism with melodic drone and enveloping polyrhythmic soundscapes of synthesizers, strings, and voice. She has published recordings and toured internationally on Thrill Jockey, Mexican Summer, Students of Decay, Digitalis, Important Records, among others.

Artist notes:

"Ceres is inspired by whiteouts, where the rhythm of your breath and body become a container for experiencing the fine gradations of your surroundings. The process of creating this piece was one of learning how to get out of the way, and of emphasizing the use of space and decay to alter one’s perception of time. With a skeleton formed by a simple chord progression, we focused on the compelling sonic subtleties of the pedal steel guitar, Fender Rhodes electric piano, and a Yamaha electric organ.

One of the many profound lessons I learned from my studies with Pauline Oliveros was the concept of truly existing inside the sound. Rather than thinking about a sonic structure as a horizontal timeline as in a score or audio editing software, or as a vertical stack of frequencies as depicted in a spectrogram, Oliveros' approach invites us to exist inside a piece as if it was a three dimensional structure that surrounds the listener like a sphere. In fact, in her meditation exercises she encouraged participants to think of any sonic environment as a composition that is always available if one is willing to listen. These ideas inform my music making to this day." (Chuck)

More information can be found here.

4957 Hits

Felicia Atkinson/Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, "Limpid As The Solitudes"

When is one plus one not two? When two paths converge and a new one appears. But what is this newly activated neural pathway? A Third Mind? In the 1960s, multimedia artist Brion Gysin cut through the words of a newspaper and rearranged them to reveal a new kind of truth contained within the words but not freed until his knife cut it loose. He described this as part of the Third Mind. Likewise, Limpid As The Solitudes cuts through sound-making techniques to enter a new zone of sonic revelations.

If you had to look for musical precedents, you might say the record recalls the turn-of-the-century Mille Plateaux glitch era, the warmth of La Monte Young's raga-inspired microtonal electronic "dream house" drones, a sense of adventure evident in the acousmatic non-space recordings made by GRM artists in the 1960s/ 1970s, 4AD's floor-gazing guitar sound circa Cocteau Twins peak, and blissfully diverse field recordings. But you could equally equate it with entirely different recording sources.  Limpid As The Solitudes has a widescreen sound that is both familiar and unfamiliar. Warm, comforting and also unsettling in unpredictable ways. Deliberate yet exploratory. It’s a record composed of opposites and contrasts. Following historical guidelines yet also throwing them out of the window. It's hard to tell if the process of creating it was more akin to abstract painting but it might possibly be easier to understand if it was a large museum painting (to steal a thought from David Stubbs). To describe the album as ambient would indicate a much too passive engagement with the sound – leave it to play in the background and you’ll miss a lot of the joy.

Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma describe the record as a series of postcards - things and sounds that happen vertically as a slow ascension, vessels communicating in dreams.  In this collaborative recording, there is a feeling of "becoming" - things metamorphose - a concrete sound turns into a electronic sound that turns into a spiral-like melody which then furls / unfurls at the same time.

The title of the album - Limpid As The Solitudes - as well as track titles, are all verses stolen from Sylvia Plath's poems. If you look at the cover, you’ll find another key clue - you’ll see an image created by photographer Julien Carreyn of a young women wearing destroyed jeans, playing with bubble wrap. The image is intended to give the viewer an eerie 1990's feeling that echoes the recording.  Think films like Trust (Hal Hartley, 1990) or Chungking Express (Wong Kar Wai, 1994).  It's the ultra modern solitude of characters lost in an early-digital urban vacuum, looking for a more time to wonder, a soul mate or just some compassion in the grey sky.

Among the many other references for this album is how Google Maps have created new digital perceptions of space, Gilles Deleuze's examination of Alice In Wonderland, Andre Breton's poems, and more films including the classics Sacrifice (Tarkovsky), Passenger (Antonioni), and Last Year In Marienbad (Resnais).  To dig into the more of the ideas and sources behind this record, you'll simply have to talk to the duo.  We simply cannot give you the full depth here.

Be sure to come back to this record more than once - it's then that its power will work - you'll recall the sound of a lover, a garden you once walked through, an echo of a record you once loved. To be appreciated, Limpid As The Solitudes requires you to immerse yourself as if in a hot spring, letting the sounds float over you and alter your perceptions and memories.

More information can be found here.

5111 Hits

Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt, "Brace Up"

Brace Up! is the first ever studio release from the duo of Chris Corsano (drums) and Bill Orcutt (guitar). Recorded in Brussels at Les Ateliers Claus by Christophe Albertijn on March 19th and 20th, 2018. Stage dive photograph by Jason Penner.

"Over the past six years or so, drummer Chris Corsano has proven to be one of Bill Orcutt's most reliably flexible collusionists. Regardless of whether Bill is cluster-busting electric guitar strings, weaseling around with cracked electronics, or playing relatively spacious free-rock, Corsano is able to provide the proper base for his aural sculpting. A lot of Orcutt's instrumental work has traditionally felt hermetic even though he's exploring caverns of explosive ecstasy. One often got the impression Bill was operating in the way John Travolta did in the classic 1976 ABC television drama, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Orcutt's actual interaction with collaborators emerged not from communication so much as pure observation. While he was fully cognizant of his musical surroundings, his reactions to it were walled off. This approach did not encourage sonic dialogue so much as parallel streams of discourse. These streams could interact with each other, but not in particularly standard ways. On Brace Up! , their first ever studio release, this precept has changed considerably. Whether it's a function of emotional familiarity or an intellectual choice I dunno, but there's a whole new kind of duo exchange going down on this record. Bill and Chris are clearly playing off each other's moves throughout the album. And it really raises the level of the music to an all-time high. From the cop car see-saw of "Poundland Frenzy" to the mutual pummeling of "Paranoid Time" (possibly a Minutemen tribute?) to the lazychicken-gets-stung-prog of "She Punched a Hole in the Moon for Me," the sounds on Brace Up! display a constant flow of ideas and instantaneous conjugation of newly forged verbs. As great as Bill and Chris's previous duo records have been, this one's greater." -- Byron Coley

More information can be found here.

5040 Hits

Rivulets, "In Our Circle"

To simply categorize the music of Rivulets as spare or desolate is to unjustly deny it the hot blood sizzling through its very veins.

Sure, on the band's 6th album In Our Circle, there are prairies of space over which notes and tones often hang like dust specks in a light beam. But there is a pulsing intensity to these moments, these Rust Belt incantations. Denver-via-Minneapolis Songwriter Nathan Amundson might be laconic in his presentation, but his music is abound with thoughtful sentiment and rich in soul. Think of the way the seemingly austere music of Low (with whom Amundson has toured and collaborated), Jason Molina or even, say, the repetitive psych-metal of the vastly under-appreciated Lungfish, vibrated with raw nerve and dark energy. In Our Circle vibrates with a similar hard-earned confidence and perhaps with an even darker energy.

In Our Circle dwells heavy in a contemporary American psyche. Rare is the news that doesn’t feel worse than the day before. If we're currently in the Autumn of the American Era, then In Our Circle sits out there in late November in a first snow made of ash. And this is from a band who once called an album We're Fucked. But the hounds of time are really nipping at our heels now.  "Another dark day, another dark day, another dark day, another dark day," Amundson quivers in his lovely, breathy tenor over a slo(ooo)w shuffling strum and a striking lap steel. Coming at the album's midpoint, one might see this as Rivulets waving the white flag halfway through. But there's a comfort in these blues, some sort of communal sadness in the dark. If the dad in Cormac McCarthy's The Road had a guitar in his grocery cart, these would be the last songs he played before he used the guitar for campfire kindling.

More information can be found here.

5115 Hits

BEAST, "Ens" (Koen Holtkamp)

BEAST is a new project by composer Koen Holtkamp, known for his sweeping, maximalist work with Mountains, as well as his labyrinthian solo recordings. While taking some time away from music to focus on working with light and color his approach shifted, opening himself up to new working methods which led to the creation of a virtual ensemble of sorts. The process of refocusing on music found Holtkamp gravitating towards pieces centered on simple rhythmic patterns which, when built upon one another, create elaborately intertwining castles of sound. On Ens, Holtkamp reins in his sprawling sound with new resolve, crafting tightly constructed pieces of engaging and ecstatic beauty.

Ens was made during a time of anticipation of change for Holtkamp: the birth of his first child. Having recorded and mixed the album late at night and at odd hours in the months leading up to the birth and during the early sleepless days of fatherhood, Ens (which means entity or existence) is a profoundly intimate and heartfelt journey into Holtkamp’s psyche. The constant motion created by the ebb and flow of rhythmic elements connects Ens’ diverse compositions and mirrors the building expectation of such a momentous change.

Holtkamp’s initial recordings as BEAST (Vol 1 & Vol 2) were mostly conceived for the immediacy and physicality of performance and were directly linked to a series of visual environments he created with 3D laser projections. As a purely studio project, Ens takes on a more precise and contemplative approach. Moments of blissful grandeur such as the convalescence of melodies in "Paprika Shorts" are at once overwhelming and crystalline in the placement and clarity of each sound. Deceptively simple pieces like "Boketto" and "Miniature" appear more sparse and subtle, but the arrangement of sounds reveal deeper levels of nuance with each listen. By carefully arranging and selecting each element, Holtkamp both references genre tropes, from classical minimalism to beat-driven dance music, and constructs a sound all his own. The intricately detailed depth of field gives the album an almost sculptural presence. This level of detail is underpinned by Holtkamp's move towards more virtual instrumentation which he utilizes to push beyond the physical limitations of their acoustic equivalents, as well as to synthesize new instruments.

As BEAST, Holtkamp has nimbly altered his process of creating dense, immersive music. Ens stands as not only the culmination of his newfound methods, but also a deeply personal moment. In crafting the graceful and passionate sonic tapestries into compact compositions, BEAST's Ens masterfully melds the earthbound and the ethereal.

More information can be found here.

4859 Hits

Hiro Kone, "Pure Expenditure"

Since assuming the recording moniker Hiro Kone in 2011, New York City-based electronic artist Nicky Mao has personalized a space predicated on dark layers interacting with rhythm. With her early EPs on Group Tightener and Bitterroots, leading up to the EP Fallen Angels and the acclaimed debut full length album, Love Is the Capital (both on Geographic North), Mao's meticulously crafted textures attracted collaborators like Drew McDowall (Coil), Little Annie, and Roxy Farman (Wetware) while driving against the grain of experimental techno. Mao's explorations often cast themselves against danceable structures, creating a duality of crisis and escapism.

For Pure Expenditure—her debut on DAIS Records—Mao continues to weave a labyrinth of electronic pattern, with an often economical usage of repeating sequences and ethereal stasis to drive the narrative. The title refers to the sovereign release of a surplus energy, divorced from all imperatives of utility, which otherwise threatens to become morbid. Working from this creative theme, Mao uses this theoretical concept to seek out a long form statement without regard for any immediate interpretation or return.

In the context and construct of the album's format, Pure Expenditure reaches into the psyche of sacrifice and the danger of excess, not in a traditional allegory, but in the actual investigation of where energy is absorbed and how it’s often negatively seeped into moral fiber. While the albums' seven tracks don't offer so much as a resolution to these conundrums as they do a case study, Mao's sound has developed forcibly into the conscientious voice of systematic injustice, albeit often without syntax. Pure Expenditure creates thought through concept and volume through space. Thematically, acclaimed visual artist Tauba Auerbach created the album art, lending a conceptual cohesion through her spectral dissection of structure and ornamental arrangement.

As a journey, Pure Expenditure plunges into meditation and throbs in and out of a lucid consciousness orchestrated by Mao, but never veering into vanity. Pure Expenditure is as much rumination as it is ritual, querying the corners of Capitalism by hypnotically circling its tenets in measured cadence.

Mixed by Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis, mastered and cut by Josh Bonati.

More information can be found here.

4681 Hits

Bvdub, "Drowning in Daylight"

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Apollo welcomes ambient legend bvdub AKA San Franciscan Brock Van Wey for a new album Drowning in Daylight.

Van Wey's latest explores cavernous soundscapes on a grand canvas that throbs with a delicate intimacy. A stalwart DJ and promoter of the halcyon '90s San Francisco rave scene, Van Wey fled to China in the early 2000s to escape the curdling of his musical dreams as the scene became more commercial.

Since his return, he's been incredibly prolific in his creation, etching out peerless ambient works that have captivated listeners with their delicate melody and fascinating textures through releases for the likes of Echospace, Kompakt and Styrax  - 2018's A Different Definition of Love marks his 30th bvdub album to date.

Classically trained in piano and violin as a child, Van Wey's symphonic approach to ambience is truly remarkable,

Epic in its scale with each of its 4 tracks clocking in around the 20-minute mark, Drowning In Daylight envelops the listener in swathes of nostalgic pads and nested layers of distortion, strings and haunted voices.

Drowning In Daylight could well be Van Wey's crowning achievement to date and a testament to the power of instrumental abstract music to emotionally engulf the listener.

More information can be found here.

5112 Hits

Casino Versus Japan, "Suicide By Sun"

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Wisconsin-based guitarist Erik Kowalski’s expansive and expressionistic solo vehicle, Casino Versus Japan. Across the past two decades he has explored variously interwoven realms of ambient sound – hazy IDM, experimental shoegaze, cinematic drift – but his latest collection voyages even deeper into soft-focus abstraction, unspooling 73 minutes of emotive electric immersion.

Suicide By Sun accrued across countless home studio sessions, slowly sequenced into four sides of narcotic reverberation, reflective loops, and dream-soaked delay. Guitar gestures refract into twilit horizons; hymnal drones swell and shimmer; smeared notes sway like lullabies of quiet communion. This is pensive, patient, personal music, mapped with feeling and finesse by storied hands.

More information can be found here.

5969 Hits

Uruk, "Mysterium Coniunctionis" (Zu/Thighpaulsandra)

URUK comes from the meeting in 2016 of two totally unclassifiable musicians: Thighpaulsandra and Massimo Pupillo.

Thighpaulsandra has an impressive track record particularly playing on many Coil albums. Traces of this influence can be found in the keyboards used on Mysterium Coniunctionis. We could randomly pick such masterpieces as the two volumes of Musick to Play in the Dark and Astral Disaster, records that were and still are among the best ambient albums ever made. He has also made several records in his own name (including the unpredictable Double Vulgar) and was a member of the UUUU (Mego Editions) project in 2017 which also featured a particularly creative Graham Lewis (Wire).

Massimo Pupillo is well known for having slammed a lot of ears as the bassist with the highly imposing Italian jazzcore trio Zu (those who saw them on stage will understand). 2009's Carboniferous or the more recent 2014 collaboration with Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) still resonate for a lot of listeners. In 2016, Massimo was in Triple Sun (no doubt a reference to the splendid song by Coil, again..) alongside two well-known musicians at Ici d'ailleurs - Raphaël Séguinier and David Chalmin (The Third Eye Foundation).

URUK also and especially brought out their first album in 2017 - I Leave A Silver Trail Through Blackness (Consouling Sounds). This is an imposing piece of dark ambient music in which the two musicians proved that they are more than just the sum their respective experiences. They are sound explorers obsessed by grasping the detail that shifts listeners from one world to another.

Their second album, Mysterium Coniunctionis makes direct reference to the eponymous and testamentary work of the psychiatrist Carl Jung, subtitled An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesis of Psychic Opposites in Alchemy. It clearly reflects the duo's intention to create particularly immersive and meaningful music from supposedly opposing materials - in this case the meeting of electronic and organic sounds.

More information can be found here.

4985 Hits

Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh, "Sparrow Nights"

There is complexity in simplicity, and Sparrow Nights is Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh's most enduring record to date, and their first studio album. A series of emotionally rich and boldly elucidated tonal and timbral exchanges played like compositions on pedal steel and reeds, the tracks (released as a 6-track LP and 10-track CD) are cold-forged minimalist blues motifs dragged from instrumental laments.

After three years playing together Brötzmann/Leigh's connection and understanding is by now both cerebral and deeply invested in the physical and sensory possibilities of their combined sound, while retaining a melancholic distance. Within this duo there is fluidity – neither is the anchor – and these recordings sound with as much variety as the sea. At times Sparrow Nights carries the clarity and poeticism of still water and open horizon ("This Word Love"), and at others it contains the elemental and ferocious roar of white water breakers on black rocks ("This Time Around").

On their previous three live albums (Ears Are Filled With Wonder, Sex Tape, Crowmoon) the duo have developed an intimate and intense language that manifests here as a focus on power and control, where figures blasted of unnecessary decoration are drawn from the shadows and smoke of collapse. The studio setting also allows Brötzmann to bring a broader range of reeds than in live scenarios: where previously he has played primarily tenor, clarinet and tarogato with Leigh, here he delivers the heat of alto and the low pressure of bass saxophone and clarinet.

Brötzmann's duo with Leigh continues to trace a fresh new arc in his trajectory, and this release also falls at a time when Leigh releases Throne, her most song-based record to date. Here as a studio duo they play a new-old blues for times of complexity, noise and chaos, continuing to redefine and re-sound possibilities for improvised music.

More information can be found here.

4884 Hits

"Don't Look Now: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North"

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Geographic North proudly presents Don't Look Now, our second frightening foray into Halloween-inspired sounds to delight and dismay throughout the season. Featuring 90 minutes of haunted, hellish hysteria composed by some of the most abominable names in ambient music, the compilation nearly splits at the seams with grotesque grace.

All proceeds from this morbid mirth go directly toward youthSpark, an Atlanta-based non-profit that works directly with, and protects, at-risk youth from exploitation, abuse and trafficking in the Southeastern United States.

The compilation opens with "The Visitor," a peculiar prologue that portends potential peril ahead and one of two bookends concocted by Arp, who serves as the compilation's crypt-keeper of sorts. As the fog begins to swell, Ka Baird’s "Clearing" brings a trickle of overcast textures and exquisitely disorienting organ tones. Algiers shatter into the scene with brooding vehemence, sounding like a biting mix of John Carpenter and the Pop Group. Perennial witching hour heroes Anjou bring a moonlit mantra of eroding melodies that blossom with decay. "Sada," composed and performed by Clarice Jensen, steers the action deep into the underworld, projecting an inverted soundscape of smeared beauty. Western six-string virtuoso Danny Paul Grody carries the bizarre bewilderment into an open den of shimmering, pristine melody and resonance. The first main passage is nailed shut by "Cement Dossier," one of three anonymous and obscene chapter breaks from the Geographic North house band.

Next up, Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennett unfurl a hypnotic hymn of rustic kosmische bliss that balances a deathly mix of paranoia and resolution. Eluvium's "Surrounded by Illusion" is a mini-epic of textural maximalism that only confirms the Pacific NW ambient godhead's emotional prowess. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma summons the ghost of Hildegard von Bingen for an organ-filled interpretation of "O virtus sapientiae" that's both life-affirming and devastating.

Robert Donne (Labradford, Anjou) crafts a pummeling waltz of soot and emaciation with "Rakkauslaulu," a stinging salute to Mika Vainio. Ilyas Ahmed offers an ice-cold hand to lead you through the ornately crumbing decay of "Local Blues," blurring itself almost too perfectly into the eerie, almost too comforting calmness of Félicia Atkinson’s "Little Things." Richard Chartier assumes his Pinkcourtesyphone guise for a purely cinematic lapse into the netherworld. The incognito amusement continues with "Stabbing," an extended, slow-motion scene that brings some of Suzanne Kraft’' most volatile and vile work to date.

"Thunderhead," a menacingly paced slow burn from Moon Diagrams (Moses Archuleta of Deerhunter), could be the soundtrack to the most alluring haunted house you’ve ever seen, while Roberto Carlos Lange's "Indian Rope" casts a curiously charming spell of glitter and gloom. Vancouver's own Secret Pyramid crafts a bewitching bereavement from the North, permeating everything it touches with bedeviled beauty for an unforgettable climax of bleak allure. Arp returns again to bookend Don't Look Now with "Love Theme," a fitting epilogue that reflects on the receding haze with hopeful optimism.

Although the sun has finally rose, plenty of shadows remain.

More information can be found here.

4452 Hits

Nick Malkin, "Slow Day on a Brilliant Drive"

Los Angeles-based DJ and composer Nick Malkin is perhaps best known for his noirish, backlit ambient dance music under the name Afterhours (Not Not Fun). Malkin's also moonlighted as a casual collaborator with LA Vampires and Sun Araw, served as an early DJ with Chinatown-based experimental radio station KCHUNG, and currently hosts a radio show of atmospheric selections on NTS radio called Post-Geography. Now, Malkin returns with Slow Day on Brilliant Drive, his most radiant work to date.

Along with Maxwell Sterling (double bass) and Jon-Kyle Mohr (percussion), Malkin self-instituted an intricate form of collaboration that required extensive amounts of improvisation, meditation, and editing. Malkin introduced a curated series of loops to his collaborators, who then embellished them with textures and muted motifs. Malkin then laid everything out and went to work scouring, polishing, and re-contextualizing certain elements into something entirely new, with elements within dating back to 2014.

The end result is a profound live-band ambient record that celebrates a curated but communal musical dynamic, along the lines of The Necks or Supersilent, but heavily informed by the micro-delicacy of Mille Plateaux’s most fathomless works. Even with the highly disparate sound sources, Slow Day on Brilliant Drive is a deeply cohesive and surprisingly intimate work that speaks to Malkin's uncanny ear and devotion to a concept.

More information can be found here.

4475 Hits

Sean McCann, "Saccharine Scores"


An album/artbook documenting Sean McCann’s recent chamber compositions. Ranging from the 10-person ensemble performance of "Portraits of Friars" at Fylkingen, Stockholm in February 2018, to his first quartet piece "Victorian Wind"performed in Toronto in 2014. McCann’s scores leak pastoral and bizarre passages, dancing in the banal beauty of sound poetry. The performances feature guest musicians Sarah Davachi, Zachary Paul, Geneva Skeen, Celia Eydeland, Maxwell August Croy and more.

The book holds in-depth scores, program notes, and photography by McCann.  A lovely compliment to finger through while you lay down to listen to the disc.  It holds text and imagery from the pieces, along with musical notation.

The notes for "Pistons" follow here:

I assembled this piece while wanting to make my life of leisure and gluttony in London somehow artistic. I was in London for a week or ten days in October 2017 for a business trip. I love London. I love doing two things at a time or more. So it worked out.I find I have a hard time enjoying anything unless I am multitasking. For example right now as I type this description I am also drinking old coffee with ice-cubes in it, exporting a master from Pro-Tools downstairs, and watching Friday the 13th: A New Beginning on the television set.

So in this British multitasking I decided to work on a piece of music while indulging in food and drink roaming around London. I was also reading Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal during these outings (talk about sentimental). Some elements of those poems crept their way, drawn out of order, into Celia’s singing text.

As with all my compositions to this point, they are left open to interpretation – no real meaning, just flickers of settings and emotions.

The taste of everything below (the score) spawned thoughts of colors and elements and people and emotions, though with the text I decided to keep it simply about the food and the beverages. The romantic music and singing is the rendering of the emotions I felt, while my banal reading was the actual act of consumption. I recorded the text while lying down in my childhood bedroom in Goleta, California. Half asleep just trying to get it over with. A fitting situation for the piece: forced beauty.

"I had the great pleasure to perform on two of the pieces within this unique collection of Sean’s work.  What I admire most about Sean’s process is his ability to synthesize various prosaic experiences of day-to-day life so delicately and so beautifully within numerous contexts – music, speech, sound, text, visual imagery, and physical space.  Although these four works each offer a particular frame to an indefinite moment, they are united in my mind by a sort of latent simplicity.  Their classical orientation is unconventional – it is not the pastoral mechanism at work here per se, but rather the lingering aftertaste of a place and a time, unfolding in a decidedly visceral manner.  Hearing these works again in their recorded format, I am reminded of the deliberate hand behind the composition, and the careful pacing and placement of the musical experience here, both as it manifests in the player’s awareness and as it is quietly subsumed into the elegant folds of the collective whole."         -Sarah Davachi

More information can be found here.

5177 Hits

Distant Animals, "Lines"

Distant Animals is the artistic output of Daniel Alexander Hignell, a researcher and sound, video and performance artist from South East England. Hignell has developed a practice indebted to political and participatory resonance of creative acts, interrogating notions of autonomy, collaboration, and the tension between sense (what is perceived by the senses) and sense (what is made sensible by the community). He has recorded, written, performed and researched numerous socially-oriented sound works across Europe, often choosing to work with a diverse range of collaborators, including visual artists, choreographers, theologians, lawyers, and political activists.

In 2017 he completed an AHRC-funded doctorate in composition exploring the social function of art-making, of which Lines constitutes the first of several sonic responses. Inspired by a 130-page text-score, and performed upon a modular synthesizer, the work explores participatory approaches to performance, utilizing text that leads its performer to undertake emergent and evolutionary changes in timbre and rhythm over extended time periods.

Drawing upon the works of La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Eleh, and Mauricio Kagel, the album employs a highly conceptual approach to its genre, incorporating the notion of the drone as both a compositional method, a spiritual approach, and a participatory tool for engaging its audience. Although ostensibly a musical work, the movements and relations the score invokes are designed so as to be applicable to any context - mowing the lawn, fixing the sink, having an argument, or even going for a walk. It is from this diversity that the musical content is born – as the work is constructed via site-specific interpretations of the scores core text, passages are invoked not to arrive at a specific musical point, but as a means of a more general rumination, an engagement with the works ecological context that encourages slow, emergent phrases that unfold over time.

With this open-ended approach to composition, Lines relies on conceptually rich sonic phrases, exploring over its length both the purity of a musical tapestry that amounts to little more than a complexly modulated square wave - often pushing the filters that shape it to near breaking-point - and the rhythmic dissonance of the voice, noise, and distorted bells that erupt violently from it as the work progresses.

The album contains a pack of 4 postcards, documenting a land-art intervention undertaken during the creation of the score. Included in each pack is an individually hand-stamped and numbered print, created by inclusive artist Layla Tully, and responding to the album's central theme - materiality, substance, emergence, and the process of 'line-making.'

More information can be found here.

4764 Hits

This is Where (ex-Swans)

This Is Where is the collaborative project of Algis Kizys, Norman Westberg and Lynn Wright. Having previously released a limited edition cassette tape in 2016 under the name of ALN, their self-titled album for Hallow Ground is to be considered the three-piece's definite studio debut as This Is Where.

Recorded and mixed by Kizys, This Is Where delves even deeper into the psychedelic and at times cosmic drone sound previously to be heard in the New York City-based trio's live recordings.  As a logical next step after what the Swans guitarist Westberg has presented on recent solo albums like The All Most Quiet for Hallow Ground, it integrates three distinct musical visions into a whirling ocean of sound.

This Is Where's sound is neither dominated by the thundering brutalism of Swans - where also Kizys took over bass duties for a while - nor the gloomy Doom Pop of Wright's Bee and Flower. Instead Kizys, Westberg and Wright use delay, reverb and effects to weave a pulsating web of sonic textures, moving effortlessly from dark depths to almost jubilant high notes. With Kizy's roaring bass guitar as a sonic backdrop, Westberg and Wright give rise to a musical dialogue marked by density and tension.

Over the course of 40 minutes, This Is Where create a mesmerizing musical experience, divided into four discrete movements. This Is Where is a blissful journey through space, time and most of all a yet unheard-of approach to guitar-driven drone and ambient music.

More information can be found here.

4991 Hits

Mike Cooper, "Tropical Gothic"

Since 2016 we’ve been blessed with Mike Cooper in our catalog. The first installment was New Kiribati, revisiting a self-released 1999 CDR in which Mike Cooper was experimenting with a lap steel, electronics, prepared guitar and live recordings, creating what he called “Ambient Exotica Soundscapes”. In the following year, Reluctant Swimmer showed an enigmatic, exotic and elegant adventure into Mike's 1920s National tri-plate lap steel guitar and his Vietnamese electric lap steel. Two pieces, two sides, each ending with beautiful interpretations of some Mike’s favorite songs, "Movies Is Magic" by Van Dyke Parks and Fred Neil's "Dolphins."

2018 and it's time for some new discoveries into Mike Cooper's limitless exploration in his collection of guitars. The title itself, "Tropical Gothic” references Cooper's beloved areas of 'the South' with a Gothic, dark, remote interplay... Tropical Gothic includes, but is by no means limited to, a reflection on a region where European colonial powers fought intensively against indigenous populations and against each other for control of land and resources.’

In each side Mike Cooper studies different approaches to his method of uniting guitar and field recordings into a constant stream of sound, where he delivers chaos and melody – not necessarily in that order. Side A is composed of shorter pieces. Each of them offers a myriad of images and sensations, between the enigmatic and terror ("The Pit"), joy, happiness and freedom ("Running Naked") or pure contemplation ("Onibaba").

"Onibaba" runs as a fitting introduction to Side B and its 18-minute magical piece "Lelong & Gods Of Bali." A mix of ambient exotica music, silent film soundtrack and distorted rhythms that dance around Mike's guitar. It keeps reinventing and transforming itself throughout those eighteen minutes, summing up the dexterity and muscle of Mike Cooper's music of the last two decades.

More information can be found here.

5274 Hits