Giovanni Di Domenico, "Decay Music n. 4: Downtown Ethnic Music"

cover imageI believe this is Di Domenico's first appearance on Die Schachtel, but the Brussels-based pianist/composer has had quite a prolific and fascinating career, racking up collaborations with a wildly varied array of iconic artists ranging from the ubiquitous Jim O'Rourke to free jazz sax titan Akira Sakata to Nigerian drum god Tony Allen. Given that pedigree, it is a bit of a surprise to see him turn up in a series of ambient albums, but the strange and eclectic Downtown Ethnic Music is too much of a freewheeling and hallucinatory experience to fit comfortably in that milieu (or any milieu at all, really). That said, the album is something of a spiritual (but not stylistic) descendant of Jon Hassell's "fourth world" vision, as Di Domenico set out to reimagine "the future of urban music" with a varied and eclectic host of collaborators. While I sincerely doubt the future of urban music will be anything like the kaleidoscopic and boundary-dissolving psychedelia of this album, Di Domenico has certainly managed to conjure up some truly unique and alien-sounding gems in the attempt.

Die Schachtel

The opening "Gap-Filling" is a half-great/half-maddeningly teasing introduction to the album’s elusive and chameleonic aesthetic, as it makes me feel like I managed to just catch the final spaced-out minutes of an intense performance by an experimental guitar/free jazz drummer duo. Regrettably, drummer João Lobo never makes a prominent return, but neither does anything else from that opener, as Di Domenico's imagined future cities feel like a surrealist hall of mirrors. For example, the following "Yoghurt to Yoga" resembles a tense nightmare about an exotic ritual in a distant temple, while "SKJ" resembles a tonally unpredictable retro-futurist synth reverie. At other times, the album resembles a haunted and deranged carnival, a stiltedly funky krautrock jam, and a mash-up of old sci-fi film soundtracks. The latter, "Teratology," is definitely the most strikingly bizarre and "outer limits" moment on the album. In fact, it felt even more so once I realized that it was composed and performed (with an actual choir) and NOT merely a collage of samples (not a pure one, anyway). At its peak, "Tetralogy" calls to mind the cacophonous scene one might imagine if The Shining, 2001, and Solaris crashed into a modern dance troupe and a short wave radio enthusiast. Is it good? Possibly. Is it unique? Absolutely. My personal favorite is considerably more conventional, yet eerily beautiful nonetheless: the closing "Soft on Demand," which is basically a mournfully trippy elegy of gloopy classic sci-fi synth tones.  Part of its appeal may be because a relatively unmangled melody feels like a safe harbor in a maelstrom of endlessly shifting moods and juxtapositions, but I liked a lot of the maelstrom too. While not all of the phantasmagoric urban futures conjured within Downtown Ethnic Music quite hit the mark for me, all are certainly imaginative and vividly realized, which makes this is a solid headphone album for those with a taste for the unusual.

Samples can be found here.

  4115 Hits

Rachika Nayar, "Our Hands Against the Dark"

cover imageFour years in the making, this inaugural release from Brooklyn composer Nayar is something of a small, genre-blurring masterpiece that brings together stuttering, laptop-mangled melodies a la early Fennesz and Oval with billowing ambient warmth. Our Hands in the Dark is a bit more inventive and distinctive than a hazy and heavenly homage to the golden age of Editions Mego and Mille Plateaux, however, as it also features some unexpected nods to Rilke, classic Midwestern emo, and Indian mysticism along the way. To some degree, I am the target demographic for all of those things, but this album is wonderful primarily because of Nayar's oft-brilliant execution, as these eight songs are a veritable feast of exacting craftsmanship, tight songcraft, vivid textures, warm harmonies, and immersive atmospheres. If this album had come out twenty years ago, it likely would have become a regularly name-checked cornerstone of the laptop/experimental guitar scene. Since it is coming out now instead, I suppose it will just have to settle for the consolation prize of being an early contender for one of 2021's strongest debuts.

NNA Tapes

The album's lead single "The Trembling of Glass" is an interesting piece, as it immediately made me want to hear the album, yet does not quite capture Nayar's aesthetic at its most distinctive and seamlessly executed. The fact that her influences are so readily displayed ("killer early 2000s laptop guitar album dissolving into American Football-style arpeggios") does not diminish my enjoyment though, as the churning, chopped, stammering, and unpredictable guitar loops of the first two minutes are absolutely gorgeous. To my ears, however, the album fitfully blossoms into something even better and more unique as it unfolds. For example, "Losing Too Is Still Ours" follows the same "one thing transforms into another" theme of the opener, but the motifs are a bit more radical. It starts with a shimmering, flickering bed of processed guitars joined by some intense and haunting wordless vocals from guest Yatta, then evolves into a second act that resembles a chopped, fluttering, and beautifully poignant orchestral loop playing over some unusually warm, shoegaze-damaged space ambient. That piece is definitely a highlight, but there are several others that reach similar heights. In fact, I am probably most fond of the pair of pieces that close out the the album. The first is the epic-feeling "Aurobindo," which blends dreamy synths; a lovely arpeggio progression; swooning, reverb-swathed vocals; and a host of flickering, hissing, and gently warped sounds into a shape-shifting gem of reality-blurring psychedelia. The closing "No Future," on the other hand, sounds like an achingly beautiful cello melody from Zeelie Brown being violently and repeatedly mashed together with I'm Happy, And I'm Singing by a malfunctioning computer before giving way to a lovely and tender coda of unexpectedly unmangled piano. Aside from being a great piece, "No Future" is an especially illustrative example of why Nayar's vision is so instantly and deeply appealing: she excels at finding the precarious nexus where sophisticated avant-garde sensibilities mingle with simple, lovely melodies and genuine human warmth.

Samples can be found here.

  1670 Hits

Graham Lambkin, "Solos" boxed set

The years between Graham Lambkin’s tenure with the legendary Shadow Ring and his more recent improvisational duos mark a distinct period of creative production within the artist's insular career. Living with his family in Poughkeepsie, NY, from 2001 through 2011 Lambkin recorded and self-released four solo albums that valorized mundane domestic situations while reveling in the liminal spaces between the acts of listening, recording, and producing. Created through an ingenious economy of means, these solo records are as beguilingly seductive as they are uncanny. Perpetually laughing in his own duplicitous face, Lambkin breathed new life into musique concrète and sound poetry, giving outmoded forms a contemporary consciousness while setting the gold standard for a continuously unfolding canon of 21st century tape music.

Poem (For Voice & Tape), Salmon Run, Softly Softly Copy Copy, and Amateur Doubles are now remastered and finally back in print, with Salmon Run and Softly Softly Copy Copy available on vinyl for the first time. This deluxe boxed set of Graham Lambkin's first four solo records includes an expansive 42-page book featuring unseen photos and reproductions of artworks as well as essays and anecdotal recollections providing fresh insight and divulging hermetic secrets by Ed Atkins, Mark Harwood, Matt Krefting, Lawrence Kumpf, Samara Lubelski, and Adrian Rew.

Graham Lambkin (b. 1973, Dover, England) is a multidisciplinary artist who first came to prominence in the early '90s through the formation of his experimental music group The Shadow Ring. As a sound organizer rather than music maker, Lambkin looks at an everyday object and sees an ocean of possibility, continually transforming quotidian atmospheres and the mundane into expressive sound art using tape manipulation techniques, chance operations, and the thick ambience of domestic field recordings. His Kye imprint, founded in 2001, was an instrumental platform for the dissemination of and dialogue between work by an intergenerational cast of artists using sound, including Henning Christiansen, Anton Heyboer, Moniek Darge, and Gabi Losoncy. He began showing his visual art in 2014 with Came To Call Mine, an exhibition curated by Lawrence Kumpf and Justin Luke at Audio Visual Arts in conjunction with the publication of Lambkin’s children’s book (for adults) of the same name, and has since exhibited his work at 356 Mission, Künstlerhaus, PiK, and Blank Forms.

More information can be found here.

  3377 Hits

Rootless, "Docile Cobras"

Jeremy Hurewitz's intuitively original, transcendental work as rootless initially crossed our path through cosmic-yet-earthbound instrumental acoustic guitar tapes on two of our favorite labels, Cabin Floor Esoterica and Aural Canyon. Sensing a kinship in sound, we connected online and linked up for a joint rootless & Starbirthed tour across the northeastern US in summer 2019. It was between soundcheck and set on the second day of our tour together that Jeremy recounted to us the fascinating details of the rootless album he worked on before his recent move from Los Angeles to New York.

Recorded April 2019 in the LA studio of sculptor Michael Todd, the two-day session found Jeremy's double-tracked guitar compositions and improvisations meeting the inspired multi-instrumental expression of Mexican musician and folklorist Luís Pérez Ixoneztli. Overseer of a collection of priceless, one-of-a-kind, indigenous instruments from Mesoamerica (many of them pre-Colombian), Luís Pérez’s deep understanding and reverence for these instruments is apparent in his approach to the music. The recording process for each track began with Jeremy's stunningly evocative widescreen fingerstyle acoustic guitar, after which Luís Pérez would listen, consider, and then visit his treasure trove of instruments, returning with several (or many) to contribute to the track. From ocarinas and small whistles that can resemble forest sounds ("peculiar travel suggestions") to dried cocoon shells strung together and used as shakers, to clay flutes that are possibly over a thousand years old ("silence has a sound"), Luís Pérez’s contributions were as spiritual as they were grounded in musical technique. Befitting Jeremy's own experimental, avant-garde approach, some of these contributions moved beyond ancient folk instruments, such as simply pouring water in a tub (on "shared consciousness") or Shamanic breathing ("gorillas in the zoo").

Naturally, upon hearing Jeremy's account of the session we couldn't wait to hear the results. Still, pressing play on the private stream a few weeks later, we could hardly believe the songs and sounds that emerged - existing in form far beyond what our imaginations could conjure. Jeremy's instrumentals create entire worlds, lucid visualizations and emotions colored in perfect detail by the singular presence of Luís Pérez Ixoneztli. Here, rootless has produced an album in perfect harmony with the spiritual and sonic blueprint that Flower Room has articulated across 18+ releases, and this represents a monumental moment for an imprint created solely as a private press label for our own in-house work. For the first time, we welcome a new voice, vision, and source of expression to the Flower Room family, and are proud and ecstatic to present the wholly original melding music of this most high collaboration: rootless' vinyl debut, docile cobras.

More information can be found here.

  2990 Hits

Merope, "Salos"

For their fourth album, Merope is joined by the 24 voices of Vilnius chamber choir Jauna muzika and conductor Vaclovas Augustinas.

Interpreting old Lithuanian folk songs and weaving them into their own sonic islands.

More information can be found here and here.

  3174 Hits

Exael, "Flowered Knife Shadows"

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This latest release from Students of Decay’s eclectic sister label comes from prolific and chameleonic Berlin-based producer Naema. On this solo release as Exael, Naema takes the project in an almost single-mindedly rhythm-driven direction that I would roughly categorize as stripped-down or deconstructed techno, but most of the beats are far too idiosyncratic and viscerally pummeling for that to feel quite right. There are also a handful of warmer, more ambient-adjacent pieces that are more in line with what I would expect from someone in the oft-compelling West Mineral Ltd./Experiences Ltd. milieu, as well as a dreamy closing piece that feels almost like hypnagogic pop. While the leftfield surprise of that last piece ("Reality’s Sweetheart") is the most immediately gratifying and memorable moment, the entire album is quite good and masterfully crafted, as Naema is impressively skilled at unleashing skittering and clattering futuristic beats so vibrant and textured that no further accompaniment is needed.

Soda Gong

As far as I know, Flowered Knife Shadows is not a concept album, but it nevertheless has an arc that would be completely appropriate for some kind of mechanized sci-fi dystopia narrative. That is not to say that it is dark, but it definitely starts off with jackhammering and precision-engineered percussion assaults that feel like they were created by a cyborg with a real knack for forward-thinking dance music. Then, as the album progresses, the songs start to gradually warm as hints of melody and hissing, crackling ambient textures subtly creep into the mix. In theory, it seems like the latter half of the album would appeal to me more, but early pieces like "Quikgel" and "Boneheaded" are explosive and relentless enough to win me over instantly ("Quikgel" in particular sounds like it was composed by a robot woodpecker with an amphetamine problem). Normally, beats that can be described as "manic" or "hypercaffeinated" tend to grate on me, but Naema is uniquely skilled at quickly and seamlessly evolving from "convulsive" or "obsessively looping" to "sophisticated polyrhythmic onslaught" within the span of a four-minute song. Of course, the more melodic pieces near the end of album are quite good as well, particularly the half-skittering/half-sublime "Anc," the hissing ambient dub of "Rotor," and the lushly melodic, blissed-out finale of "Reality’s Sweetheart" (which sounds like a hypnosis tape transformed into swooningly beautiful futuristic pop). Soda Gong is generally not the first label I turn to when I want to hear a total banger, but Flowered Knife Shadows is exactly that (except when it is something else that is similarly great).

Samples can be found here.

  1974 Hits

Jacober, "Sketch for Winter X: Immortal Word"

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This latest installment in Geographic North's endearingly eclectic and unpredictable Sketch for Winter series comes from Dope Body drummer David Jacober, who returns to revisit the melodic marimba terrain of his previous tape for the label (2015's The Gray Man). This latest release is considerably more minimal and tropical-themed than its predecessor, however, as Jacober reduces his palette to little more than marimba, kick drum, and a very dub-influenced approach to production. It is an admittedly narrow niche, but it quite a delightful one and Immortal Word is a near-perfect winter album, as it almost makes me forget that it is winter altogether. While I had never considered throwing a hypnagogic beach party before today, any anxieties that I may have had about what the soundtrack should be are now definitively eradicated.

Geographic North

I proudly stand behind "tropical beach party" as a solid summation of Immortal Word's general ambiance, but Jacober conjures an impressive variety of emotional shadings within that overarching mood. In fact, only the brief Hawaiian-tinged "Flashbacking" can be said to take a particularly straightforward approach to evoking moonlit beachside bliss. Admittedly, it is one of my favorite pieces of the lot, but I appreciate that Jacober nimbly avoids predictability or lapsing into kitsch. As befits his background in noise-damaged and aggressive music, there is a subtle darkness and sense of unreality that imbues many of these songs with legitimate depth and poignancy. In fact, most of this tape more closely resembles an exotica album for ghosts, as everything is elegantly blurred and slowed and leaves a rippling dreamlike haze in its wake. Moreover, Jacober has an appealingly sophisticated harmonic sensibility, avoiding obvious chord progressions in favor of something far more spectral and bittersweet. The stronger pieces tend to fall on the album's first half where the shadowy beachside reveries are enlivened with a propulsive thump, but the closing "Universal Sign" offers a glimpse of something more transcendent, vividly casting a haunting and sublime spell that calls to mind a hallucinatory midnight grotto of dark, swaying palms and slow-motion breaking waves. I could probably listen to that piece in an infinite loop for hours, so I suppose that makes it the album highlight, but nearly every single song on this brief release is cool as hell.

Samples can be found here.

  1626 Hits

Mouse on Mars, "AAI"

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I cannot think of any other artist who consistently mystifies and perplexes me quite like Jan St. Werner, which is probably an admirable trait but makes his discography a bit of a minefield for me. This latest opus unsurprisingly continues that trend and even raises the bar a bit, as AAI is an ambitious collaboration with writer/scholar Louis Chude-Sokei and a talented team of programmers and artificial intelligence experts. The result is a complex sci-fi concept album that would likely fry the synapses of even the most devout prog rock fan, as the album attempts to mirror the "sound of an artificial intelligence growing, learning and speaking." Having seen the Matrix and the Terminator films, I am not sure I fully share the artists' thesis that we need to "embrace AI and technology as a collaborator to break out of our current cultural and moral stagnation and ensure our survival as a species," but AAI is certainly a challenging, wild, and unique album. Sometimes it is also a very good one too.

Thrill Jockey

I suppose a radical premise deserves a similarly radical structure and AAI does not fall short in that regard, as these twenty pieces of varying lengths form a fitful and kaleidoscopic narrative of sorts. The words and voices technically originate from Chude-Sokei and Yağmur Uçkunkaya, but things certainly get quite complicated and convoluted along the way, as they were fed into voice modeling software and "played" like a synthesizer by St. Werner and Andi Toma. The accompanying music is stylistically all over the place, ranging from something akin to robot pop ("Artificial Authentic") to deranged-sounding loop collages ("Paymig") with many strange detours in between. The overall feel is definitely a futuristic one, but it is less "this is the blueprint for the next phase of electronic music" than it is "this feels like a disorienting, sensory overload mindfuck akin to drifting through a cacophonous gauntlet of televisions all loudly playing different things." If that sounds weird, nerve-jangling, and uneven, that is because AAI is unapologetically all of those things, but I definitely applaud St. Werner, Toma, and their collaborators for being this wildly adventurous (and Thrill Jockey for releasing something this bizarre). While I cannot say I embrace the entire album, it does feature some strikingly original and compelling individual pieces, particularly near the end, such as the stammering, deconstructed hip-hop of "Cut That Fishernet" and the heavy, lurching groove of "Dead Definition." I also like the obsessive and fragmented gibbering of "Go Tick" quite a bit. Obviously, I would not be terribly interested in this album at all if there were not some good songs, but the larger achievement here is how completely Mouse on Mars shoot past well-traveled territory to craft something that provocatively blurs together art, technology, and philosophy. Someone should definitely give them a pile of money to turn this into a traveling installation.

Samples can be found here.

  4117 Hits

Biosphere, "Angel's Flight"

cover imageI believe I have been listening to Biosphere for at least 20 years now, but the project's evolution over the last five years or so has been especially fascinating, as Geir Jenssen's creative restlessness has led him to release one surprise after another. To my ears, 2016's Departed Glories remains the high water mark of this adventurous phase, but I am delighted that Jenssen seems to be actively looking for new challenges and that the results are almost invariably enjoyable and distinctive. This latest release continues that trajectory of endlessly breaking new ground, as the bulk of Angel's Flight was composed for a Norwegian dance production entitled Uncoordinated Dog. More significantly, all twelve pieces were crafted from repurposed fragments of Beethoven's "String Quartet No. 14." Unsurprisingly, much of the album would be unrecognizable to Beethoven, as Jenssen does an admirable job of blurring, stretching, blackening, and chopping his source material into a compellingly hallucinatory neo-classical fever dream.

AD 93

The album instantly descends into darkly phantasmagoric territory with "The Sudden Rush," which conjures a sinister-sounding impressionist swirl of blurred and uneasily harmonizing orchestral fragments. To some degree, that is the tone for the entire album: a series of variations upon the theme of smeared and slowed strings bleeding together and queasily undulating. Both the mood and structure of the individual pieces can vary quite a bit, however. Most of my favorite moments fall in the middle of the album, like the oscillating, slow-motion chord progression of "As Weird as the Elfin Lights" or the dreamlike flutes and viscerally throbbing pulse of the title piece. That said, the album probably reaches its zenith with the stuttering and gnarled closer "The Clock and Dial," which calls to mind several orchestral loops being played at once through a blown-out bass amp. Jenssen treats the hapless Beethoven similarly violently in the heaving "Unclouded Splendor," which achieves an almost operatic intensity from erratically timed and overlapping slashes of strings. There are a number of other fine pieces throughout the album as well, many which call to mind a reincarnated Debussy with a penchant for loops, a newfound love of dissonance and tension, and access to contemporary production software. Or maybe they simply resemble Beethoven as re-envisioned by The Caretaker, albeit considerably more vivid and robust than that sounds. Angel's Flight is not a stroll through the ruins of a haunted and moldering memory ballroom so much as a lush, enveloping, and oft-poignant symphony in which the fabric of reality frays and bulges as time ceases to be predictably linear. Needless to say, that is quite an appealingly disorienting and immersive illusion to linger in. I certainly did not expect Biosphere to ever sound like this, but I am delighted that Jenssen's muse led him to such wonderfully unfamiliar territory.

Samples can be found here.

  2001 Hits

My Cat is an Alien, "The World That IS and IS NOT"

cover imageThe Opalio Brothers somehow managed to release three strong albums last year, but I believe only this one was (spontaneously) composed and recorded during the pandemic. It was also inspired by it, as The World That IS and IS NOT is billed as a concept album of sorts: an "existential reflection" on a scenario "where everything seems to vanish into the void." That admittedly sounds like a recipe for a bleak album, but the Opalios arguably went the opposite route, heading in a warmer direction to illustrate how music and art can help us transcend the "spiritual disquiet and moral despair" of the current age. To new or casual fans, that increased warmth will probably be nearly imperceptible, as it will be largely eclipsed by the fundamentally outré and mind-meltingly psychedelic elements of this project. Longtime fans will definitely notice a difference though, as this is an unusually meditative album with a satisfying and purposeful arc. While I tend to enjoy the comparative unpredictability of MCIAA's collaborations the most these days, this one captures Roberto and Maurizio in especially inspired form on their own, as I would be hard-pressed to think of a more perfectly distilled example of their warped and wonderful vision.

Elliptical Noise

This three-song suite deceptively opens with an extended piece that explores somewhat familiar alien terrain, as rattling, discordant, and broken arpeggios from Maurizio's self-made double-bodied string instrument erratically tumble through the dreamlike haze of Roberto's wordless vocalizations. The execution is unusually wonderful, however, as the increasingly sliding, scraping, and bleary strings create a deepening sense of immersive otherworldliness. That sets the stage nicely for the album’s centerpiece, "Whispers of Hope and Illusions," which calls to mind a ramshackle, post-apocalyptic structure of rusted metal wires being violently shaken by a passing storm of extradimensional psychedelia. It is probably one of my favorite MCIAA pieces to date, casting an immersive spell of rattling, undulating, and semi-curdled heaven. Granted, it is still a surreal mindfuck beyond earthbound tonality, but it is complex, nuanced, and weirdly beautiful enough not to feel like a lysergic nightmare (though the storm does get kind of intense). The album closes with yet another unusual (if brief) piece entitled "Prayer For A New Aurora," which feels like a window into a ritual or religious ceremony from an alien planet or alternate dimension. I especially liked whatever sounds like a homemade synthesizer dissonantly attempting to replicate a vuvuzela being strangled. Together, the three pieces flow into quite an absorbing and memorable whole and not a single theme ever overstays its welcome. While I sometimes pine for the days of incredibly long MCIAA albums, I am similarly enamored with beautifully focused and concise statements like this one. If there is another album by the Opalios that strikes a better balance between bold outsider vision and repeat listenability, I certainly cannot think of it.

Samples can be found here.

  1614 Hits

Ashley Paul, "Ray"

cover imageI am not sure which is more impressive: that Ashley Paul managed to compose a focused, inventive, and challenging album like this while living with a toddler or that she somehow managed to (remotely) form a tight new trio of like-minded collaborators during a pandemic lockdown. Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about the latter development, as the fragility and uneasy intimacy of Paul's past work has always been one of its more endearing aspects, but her instincts thankfully proved to be characteristically unerring, as Ray continues her recent streak of great albums. In fact, this is probably an ideal entry point to Paul's singular aesthetic, as it beautifully balances her more "broken" and discordant tendencies with an increased warmth, as well as a side that approximates a hallucinatory cabaret as envisioned by the Quay Brothers. It all works wonderfully, as this more varied approach yields some instant career highlights while sacrificing none of the precarious magic that made her work so unique and mesmerizing in the first place.

Slip

Any doubts I had about a trio potentially diluting the eerie beauty of Paul's art were immediately erased by the opening "Star Over Sand," which makes me feel like I just stumbled into a jazz club in a nightmarish inversion of the Muppet universe. It is quite a impressive feat, as the piece somehow manages to be fun, catchy, and propulsive while also sounding artfully strangled, clattering, and ramshackle. Later, "Light Inside My Skin" hits similar heights, as the intertwining sax and clarinet melodies, plinking and lurching groove, and Paul's vocals combine to approximate a sultry jazz chanteuse performance that would be right at home in Twin Peaks. Notably, I was taken aback when I realized that Paul's new bandmates were actually a clarinetist (Yoni Silver) and a bassist (Otto Willberg), as I was absolutely certain that she had recruited a killer drummer instead. As it turns out, Paul herself was the killer drummer, which bodes very well for future albums, as the unusual percussion is probably my favorite of Ray's new innovations. That said, Paul is still quite a compelling presence with even the most minimal backing, as evidenced by the languorous, tender beauty of "Choices." I also like the similarly intimate and slow-moving "Blue Skies Green Trees" quite a lot, yet Paul's vision alone would be spellbinding enough without any stand-out songs, as she occupies a truly fascinating nexus where emotional directness, fragility, strong songwriting, childlike creepiness, stellar musicianship, and radical harmonic and melodic sensibilities not only intertwine, but somehow feel perfectly natural and unforced together. No one but Ashley Paul could have envisioned and successfully executed an album like this one, but Willberg and Silver certainly ground and flesh out her aesthetic quite nicely. This trio format turned out to be quite a fine idea.

Samples can be found here.

  1673 Hits

Senyawa, "Alkisah"

Alkisah tells a story of a society that disbanded itself from a collapsing civilization and regroups to build a new one for the future. However, that future may not be there because the impending doom is upon them. What comes after is all that matters.

This album is co-released by multiple independent record labels across the globe. The labels are given full freedom to design their own versions of the cover art and packaging, and curate their own remixes/reinterpretations of the album as part of the release.

Dekorder will release a vinyl edition of 100 copies. A special reinterpretation of the album will be announced soon.

This decentralized method of music distribution allows the album to be more accessible, while at the same time redefining music exclusivity by sharing its ownership, and empower smaller scattered powers to grow and connect.

Jogjakarta's Senyawa embodies the aural elements of traditional Indonesian music whilst exploring the framework of experimental music practice, pushing the boundaries of both traditions. Their music strikes a perfect balance between their avant-garde influences and cultural heritage to create truly contemporary Indonesian new music. Their sound is comprised of Rully Shabara's deft extended vocal techniques punctuating the frenetic sounds of instrument builder, Wukir Suryadi's modern-primitive instrumentation. Inventions like his handcrafted 'Bamboo Spear'; a thick stem of bamboo strung up with percussive strips of the animal skin along side steel strings. Amplified it fuses elements of traditional Indonesian instrumentation with garage guitar distortion. Sonically dynamic, the instrument can be rhythmically percussive on one side whilst being melodically bowed and plucked on the other.

They have collaborated and performed with many notable musicians such as Stephen O'Malley (Sunn o))) ), Yoshida Tatsuya, Otomo Yoshide, Lucas Abela, KK Null, Keiji Haino, Rabih Beiani, Trevor Dunn, Greg Fox, Sophia Jernberg, Arrington De Dionysus, Melt Banana, Jon Sass, Damo Suzuki, Jerome Cooper, Oren Ambarchi, David Shea and Kazu Ushihashi.

"Indonesian duo Senyawa is one of the most intense live bands in the world" - Red Bull Music Academy

"Senyawa can be counted among the most thrilling, edgy and original live performance units anywhere in the world." - The Wire

"Senyawa forged a sound that brings with it another dimension of weight, one that can't be measured." - The Quietus

"Senyawa's music rises from the belly of the beast and crawls out of its gaping maw" - Pitchfork

"Generally speaking, Senyawa operate on a force-of-nature level" - Resident Advisor

More information can be found here.

  1972 Hits

Tapan, "Europa (Abul Mogard Reworks)"

Watching Abul Mogard’s Live performance in Atonal Festival 2017 and his releases on Not Waving’s Ecstatic record label were somewhat of a milestone in Malka Tuti's sonic aesthetics. His ability to touch us with those pulsating sonic textures coming out of his modular machine inspired us in MTHQ for years to come.

We were more then happy that Mogard chose to contact Tapan about their album and eventually deciding to remix not one but two tracks from the Belgrade duo…it was like a circle coming to a close.

On the A-side, Mogard take the original 17-minute sax-infused piece that is "Europa" and drenches it with drones and low frequency pulses and atmosphere, creating a some sort of a post-apocalyptic intense atmospheric soundtrack. The effect of drowning the horns from the original track in a sea of drones and pads, contributes to the over all impression of listening to a distant memory of music… fitting for days like these....

On the B-side, Mogard takes it to the next level, capturing a line from Tapan's original collaboration with Jerusalem In My Heart's Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, and passes it through his modular system, amalgamating an epic piece of tense build-ups and repetitive movements...

The original artwork was made by artist Marja de Sanctis and adapted, as always, to the sleeve by Morey Talmor.

More information can be found here.

  1691 Hits

Mainliner, "Dual Myths"

"This new album is the second chapter of this present Mainliner. finally we could open to the next stage to break old customs since 1995"

The follow up to 2013's Revelation Space has been rumored for many years. I've even heard tales of several recordings being finished and scrapped over the last five years. That's how hard it is to run a band when members are based on different continents and in other very busy bands themselves.

But it's finally done. And it's being pressed as I type.

The killer trio from the original reformation is all intact, we have Kawabata Makoto (motorpsycho guitar), Koji Shimura (drums) and Kawabe Taigen (bass/vocals) and we're back to calling them just Mainliner once again.

Q. What does Dual Myths sound like ?
A. Mainliner, it's nasty!

More information can be found here.

  1773 Hits

Neutral, "Grå Våg Gamlestaden" reissue

Neutral's seminal LP, Grå Våg Gamlestaden, is widely considered ground zero for the explosion of creativity that has transpired in the Swedish Underground ever since. It is the noisy experimental rock album that opened the door and welcomed in so many artists working behind the scenes. Gothenburgers Dan Johansson (Sewer Election) and Sofie Herner had previously made music together in the band Källarbarnen when they started discussing a new methodology and a fresh sound for recordings in 2013 under a new name as a duo.

After witnessing Sofie and Dan's live performance in an artist’s studio in the spring 2014, Gustaf Dicksson, who was running the Omlott record label at the time as well as performing under his own moniker, Blod, offered to release an album by Neutral on the spot.

Sofie recorded most of the instruments and voice, Dan worked on manipulating the recordings, experimenting with reel-to-reel techniques. The title of the LP translates as "Grey Wave Gamlestaden" and was chosen as an inside joke about the neighborhood Gamlestaden where Dan and Sofie lived. A major theme on the recording is a certain kind of bleakness but with a wry smile closely identified with the spirit of the neighborhood.

In the fall of 2014, Grå Våg Gamlestaden was released, limited to 200 copies, and sold out quickly without many copies making it outside of Sweden. Around the same time, Dan & Sofie joined forces with other underground artists in their widening circle to form a sort of Gothenburg supergroup making music together as Enhet för Fri Musik.

Grapefruit's reissue of Grå Våg Gamlestaden is the first time Neutral's masterpiece has seen the light of day since it sold out quickly in 2014. Our vinyl-only gatefold reissue is limited to 300 copies. 

More information can be found here.

  13087 Hits

Caterina Barbieri, "Fantas Variations"

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"Fantas" is the epic opening track on Caterina Barbieri’s acclaimed 2019 release Ecstatic Computation. The original "Fantas" laid out a magical path of patterns leading the listener on a journey into the sound itself. Fantas Variations maps out eight new potentials sprung from this initial path as constructed by a diverse mix of artists lending to a wide spectrum of new works extrapolated from the original work. For this project Barbieri invited friends and long time collaborators from a variety of musical backgrounds to create a more sustainable and inclusive landscape in terms of stylistic, geographical, gender and generational balance.  The results are a diverse array of approaches and instrumentation which blur the boundaries between the acoustic and electronic.

Fantas Variations embraces a platform for mutual exchange and support between like-minded artists, where active and collective re-imagination is prioritized over the traditional model of remixes, which is often strategic, functional and more passive.

Longtime friend and collaborator Kali Malone rearranged "Fantas" to a slowed-down, austere and eerie version for two organs. Evelyn Saylor created a piece for a vocal ensemble consisting of her, Lyra Pramuk, Stine Janvin and Annie Garlid, joining forces to express the choral, psychedelic and vitalistic nature of the piece.  Barbieri's former guitar professor at the Conservatory in Bologna, Walter Zanetti, composes "Fantas" for electric guitar, by translating every single gesture of the original electronic piece into a personal, nuanced and detailed interpretation. Bendik Giske's reinterpretation for saxophone and voice captures the atmospheric essence of "Fantas" and its psychic meteorology. Longtime collaborator and along with Barbieri the other half of the outfit Punctum, Carlo Maria, resynthesizes "Fantas" for TR808 and MC202, bringing a more club-oriented dimension of the piece to life whilst unveiling the sonic continuum between rhythm and pitch through a sensitive timbral approach. Jay Mitta's Singeli reinterpretation of "Fantas" transpires with pitched-up percussion and turbo-fast poly-rhythmic patterns unleashing the frenetic, shifting, transformative matter within the piece to a higher plain of euphoric dance. Baseck's variation is a rave fantasia, where the prismatic trance of the original is channeled into fierce, uncompromising hardcore, whilst Kara-Lis Coverdale's take is a phantasmagoria for piano that gently, yet inexorably, captures the relentlessness chimerical qualities of the original, unveiling its spectral backbone.

More information can be found here.

  1715 Hits

Kelly Moran/Prurient, "Chain Reaction at Dusk"

Originally initiated for the Merzbow, Kelly Moran, Prurient USA tour (representing three generations of heavy electronics), this archival recording is finally released as Chain Reaction At Dusk.

Moran and Prurient first met in 2018 and the two bonded over an unlikely composite of piano, drone and noise synthesis (Moran from John Cage, while early Prurient tapes cut-up Erik Satie).

A leader in the realm of prepared piano, Kelly Moran quickly drew attention for her massive and seamlessly complex juxtapositions of plucked icy melodic sequences and deep sub bass compositions, culminating in a stunning 2018 LP, Ultraviolet.

With 3-tracks of continuous intertwining melodic tension, Moran continues her juxtaposition of crystalline single note attacks upon a bed of massive low end prepared drones.

Shattering genre, Moran culls from a broad palate of classical, post-minimalism, ambient and other forms to free the piano from convention pushing high and low frequencies through electronic pairing and coupling. Recorded at her home in fall 2018, Moran’s split side showcases the composer’s prepared piano treated with delays and granular synthesis over a heavy wash of droning, arpeggiating synthesizers.

Similarly, Prurient returns with a side parallax-view vocal barrage complimentary to Moran’s fractal modes. Composed at Guy Brewer's (Shifted) former Berlin studio, Fernow accessed a cache of pristine analog synthesizers and sequencers while finishing the process with Kris Lapke in New York with layers of crude telephone dictation manipulation, resulting in surrealist vocal cut-ups - and "exquisite corpse" static.

Kelly Moran speaks of her music and as movement on the psychedelic path and the interior, while Prurient's noise derives nearly exclusively from dissociative and nightmarish imaginations.

This is the meeting of psychedelia and anxiety disorder, but the opposing morphosis is ultimately one creation of "classical doom electronics."

More information can be found here.

  1549 Hits

Chuck Johnson, "The Cinder Grove"

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I can think of few other artists in the midst of a hot streak quite as wonderful as the one Chuck Johnson is currently enjoying, as nearly everything he has released since 2017’s Balsams has been downright revelatory. In keeping with that theme, his return to solo work is yet another sublime stunner and a strong contender for his finest album to date.  While Johnson wisely does not depart much from his winning Balsams aesthetic, he does subtly expand his palette with some help from Sarah Davachi, a small string ensemble, and an endearingly exacting approach to reverb.  For the most part, however, everything beyond his swooningly gorgeous pedal steel playing is merely icing on an already perfect cake: virtually no one crafts warm, achingly beautiful soundscapes better than Chuck Johnson and he seems to only get better at it with each new release.

VDSQ

The album opens with an absolute masterpiece in the form of "Raz-de-Marée," which poignantly combines a lovely descending organ theme with a lazily shimmering haze of pedal steel heaven. Everything about it is damn near perfect, from the melodies to the textures right down to the bittersweetly beautiful mood. It is frankly an impossible act to follow, which makes the more vaporous "Serotiny" pale a bit by comparison, though its floating dreamscape is still a very pleasant place to linger. The strongest pieces tend to be the ones that anchor the sliding, liquid bliss of the pedal steel with something more solid though, as the instrument can start to feel a bit weightless on its own. On "Constellation," that solidity is initially provided by a repeating pattern of warm bass tones, but the structure eventually gets fleshed out further by some reverberant piano chords courtesy of Davachi. The following "Red Branch Bell" is the album's most adventurous and unexpected delight, as Johnson fades into the background while a churning string theme steadily builds in visceral intensity, then reappears to finish the piece with a languorously psychedelic coda. The closing "The Laurel" feels similarly epic, marrying an elegiac string motif with some achingly beautiful pedal steel that evokes vivid steaks of color in a slow-motion sunset—a fittingly great end to a near-perfect album. Johnson hits the mark on nearly every possible detail with The Cinder Grove, but my favorite facet (aside from the songs themselves) is just how incredibly wonderful it all sounds, especially the way the sharper textures of the strings tear through the soft-focus swirl of dreamily sliding melodies. This album is going to be in heavy rotation here for a long time.

Samples can be found here.

  1798 Hits

Andrew Chalk, "Incidental Music"

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In characteristic fashion, Andrew Chalk quietly released this cassette last fall and it is damn near impossible to find out anything about it other than the fact that it compiles pieces recorded between 2008 and 2016 and features regular collaborators Timo von Luijk and Tom James Scott on one piece. All outward signs suggest that Incidental Music was intended as a modest and minor release, so it was quite a pleasant surprise to find that it is actually one of the stronger Chalk releases from the last few years, roughly approximating the slippery, shivering, and floating bliss of 2015's A Light at the Edge of the World in more bite-sized form. While there is enough variety to periodically remind me that this is indeed a collection of orphaned songs rather than a focused and complete new statement, the quality of these treasures from the vault is high enough to make such a distinction feel quite irrelevant.

Faraway Press

The album immediately dissolves into sublime impressionist heaven with the opening "Fallen Angel," which captures Chalk at the height of his textural and harmonic powers. It is the sort of piece that people tend to describe with terms like "ambient drift," but it makes me think of water droplets quivering on a gently swaying spiderweb: there is an underlying structure, but the true beauty lies primarily on how the individual notes linger, shiver, and bleed together. It also highlights Chalk's singular talent for making extremely nuanced and sophisticated music feel organic and effortless, as "Fallen Angel" feels loose and spontaneous, yet delicately shifts moods while deftly avoiding any straightforward melodies or chords at all. While several of the following pieces return to roughly the same aesthetic with varying degrees of success (perfectly fine by me), the second half of the album is a bit more diverse and offers some more unexpected and rare pleasures. While I am still not entirely won over by the warm synth reverie of "Solas," I absolutely love "Sparkled in My Eyes," which sounds like a fever dream organ soundtrack to some masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema a la The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Elsewhere, "From Mountain Tops The Dusky Clouds" crafts a languorously undulating fog with gentle drones and subtle wah-wah effects, while "To Many A Harp" conjures a wonderfully haunted and tender scene with a slow-motion melody of wobbly sustained tones.  At least two or three of those pieces are stone-cold gems, but the entire album sustains a wonderfully immersive and absorbing spell.

Samples can be found here.

  1799 Hits

Abul Mogard, "In Immobile Air"

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The latest album from this enigmatic Serbian composer is a significant departure from his previous work, as these five pieces were primarily composed on an old upright piano during lockdown. While the usual synthesizers are conspicuously relegated to a background role, In Immobile Air is nevertheless still very "Mogard" in both its central theme (memory) and its meditative and melancholy mood. It admittedly took me a bit longer to warm to this side of Mogard's artistry than usual (the piano is not my favorite instrument), but a few pieces capture him in especially inspired form and feel like significant breakthroughs in the manipulation of harmony and overtones. The other pieces are intriguingly adventurous as well, inhabiting a murky shadow realm somewhere between Harold Budd and blackened, desolate dronescapes.

Ecstatic

Partially inspired by an unnamed Italo Calvino story, both the song titles and the general mood of In Immobile Air evoke the bleak grandeur of a rocky beach on an overcast day. For the most part, Mogard paints the album's various somber scenes with a balance of gently rippling minor key piano melodies and deep, brooding drones, but that balance can shift quite a lot between songs. The darkly beautiful title piece is probably the most equal balance of the two elements, as a sad, tumbling piano motif lazily repeats over a gnarled and heaving backdrop of synth swells. The following "Clouds," on the other hand, abandons any recognizable piano in favor of dense, blown-out, and downright seismic waves of drone. Nevertheless, it is an unexpectedly melodic piece, as the roiling miasma cyclically resolves into a repeating bass tone. As befits the title, "Clouds" calls to mind a sky full of dense black clouds that periodically breaks to reveal faint rays of warming light. It is quite a mesmerizing piece, but it is later eclipsed by the album's centerpiece "Sand." Like "In Immobile Air," it is centered upon a tender, minor key piano melody, but the brilliant bit slowly emerges from the background, as massive, buzzing oscillations swell from the murky swirl of lingering decay to steal the spotlight. The album's two more drone-based pieces are a bit less memorable, but In Immobile Air's highlights are impressive and unique enough to make it a strong album.

Samples can be found here.

  1858 Hits