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Roberto Opalio, "Once you'll touch the sky you will never return to dust"

cover imageSeemingly birthed from the same fascination with vinyl surface noise as The Sky With Broken Arms, Roberto Opalio's solo companion piece is perhaps even more unique and consciousness-expanding than its sister. It is also unexpectedly varied and weirdly beautiful at times, blurring together the usual deep-space lysergia with viscerally unnerving dissonances and hypnotically looping crackles and pops. While those added touches certainly delight me, this album is unmistakably and absolutely Opalio-esque to its core, standing as one of the most sharply realized and distilled releases in the MCIAA oeuvre. If The Sky With Broken Arms is a brief glimpse into a hypnotically otherworldly scene, Once You'll Touch The Sky is a phantasmal travelogue of the troubled dreams that follow in its wake.

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7089 Hits

Bruce Gilbert, "Ex Nihilo"

cover imageRemarkably, this is the first Bruce Gilbert solo album that I have ever heard in its entirety and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is radically different from any of his other work that I have encountered: it is clear that I woefully underestimated the depth and breadth of the Gilbert oeuvre. This latest release continues to delve deeper into the coldly futuristic and menacing vein of his previous Editions Mego album (2009's Oblivio Agitatum), yet does so in wonderfully explosive and visceral fashion. Ex Nihilo feels like the soundtrack for a bleakly alienating dystopian city of endless metal and neon, composed by a cyborg with a fairly hostile disposition. Those hoping for any trace of melody or tenderness in Gilbert's industrial dread should probably skip this one, but there is definitely a gleaming, inhuman majesty to these grinding and throbbing soundscapes.

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7366 Hits

Taylor Deupree, "Fallen"

cover image For his first solo album on a label other than his own for quite some time (although 12k and Spekk could almost be siblings in the world of record labels), Fallen features the prolific sound artist turning his focus to beautifully understated sounds to the piano, culminating in eight songs of delicate and pensive tones, with the focus shifting between the pure sounds of the instrument to gorgeous production and back again.

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7269 Hits

Luciernaga, "It Takes Strength to be Gentle and Kind"

cover image Joao Da Silva’s latest release under his Luciernaga guise was a quickly made work, but that is anything but apparent from the contents. The tape, recorded this past winter, is an excellent summation of the work Da Silva has been involved with for the past eight years, with some additional and unexpected twists and turns along the way. Rich electronics, unconventional guitar, and lush production all define this latest entry in the growing Luciernaga discography.

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7293 Hits

Slomo, "Transits"

cover imageI have been casually aware of Slomo since the murky, gnarled gloom of 2008's The Bog, but apparently not familiar enough to realize that each of their infrequent releases tends to unveil a significant evolution. As a result, I slept on this 2017 release, only belatedly realizing that it was one of the year's most woefully overlooked masterpieces. With Transits, Chris McGrail and Howard Marsden shed all traces of their doom-shrouded ambient sludge past to craft a transcendently lysergic tour de force of pulsing minimalist drone brilliance. I am always hesitant to throw around Coil as a comparison for any artist, yet I am legitimately hard-pressed to think of any closer kindred album than Time Machines, as Slomo achieve a similarly singular feat of reality-blurring slow-motion wizardry that feels far more like a ritual or invocation than a mere album.

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7067 Hits

Ashley Paul, "Lost in Shadows"

cover imageIt has been roughly four years since Ashley Paul's last album and I was beginning to despair, but she has been busy moving to London and becoming a mother. While the latter is not particularly conducive to tirelessly crafting brilliant experimental music, she somehow still managed to compose her finest album to date during a brief residency in Spain. Characteristically, the pointillist, prickly dissonance of Jandek is probably the nearest touchstone, yet Paul radically transforms that stark foundation into something sensuous and eerily beautiful (sometimes even embellishing it with perversely festive splashes of color).  In fact, a few pieces even sound like grotesque caricatures of nursery rhymes (Paul’s baby was perhaps a subconscious and subversive muse), which only deepens Lost in Shadows' dreamily wraithlike and otherworldly spell. While it can definitely be a challenging, dissonant, and disturbing listen at times, Shadows is unquestionably Paul's masterpiece.

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7547 Hits

Hawthonn, "Red Goddess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing)"

cover imageIt was quite a pleasant surprise to discover that latest Hawthonn album was getting a physical release in the US, as few things scream "zero commercial potential" quite like Phil and Layla Legard’s quasi-pagan and psychogeography-inspired drone-folk reveries. While characteristically arcane and anachronistic to its core, Red Goddess actually drew its initial inspiration from relatively current culture, as the Legards were (rightly) fascinated by the primal themes of Lars von Trier's Antichrist. From there, however, Red Goddess evolved into something far more mysterious and temporally ambiguous, abstractly exploring the symbolic role of mugwort in folklore and tradition ("an herb associated with dreaming, travel and menstruation, mugwort particularly favors edgelands: those abandoned, untended places, part man-made, part rural, where nature begins to reclaim what humanity has left behind").

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8800 Hits

Jim Haynes, "Electrical Injuries"

cover imageWhile I doubt I would ever use the term "peaceful" to describe Jim Haynes' prolific solo output, this newest record makes his previous work seem just that. Electrical Injuries may not be far removed from his body of work sonically, but there is a different edge, a malignance to it, and one that is not so subtly referenced in the album’s title. With literal and metaphorical references to the unpleasant nature of electricity, this is perhaps his most harsh work to date, but one that clearly bears his signature brand of audio decay.

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8595 Hits

Omit, "Enclosures 2011-2016"

cover imageNew Zealander Clinton Williams has been operating as Omit since the late 1980s, but his hermetic approach to electronic music has kept him largely on the periphery of any related musical scene. His early works were handmade tapes and, once the technology became available, CD-Rs created on his own label, with his own artwork, and produced by none other but himself. His insular approach to his art meant work was only known to a handful (I myself had heard the name, but none of the music prior to this review) until this new box set joint released by Lasse Marhaug's Pica Disk and NZ based End of the Alphabet Records. Not intended to be a career overview, it instead is a compilation of five self-released CD-Rs from 2011 through 2016, packaged with a lavish booklet that only sees the surface of Williams’ unique brilliance.

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7071 Hits

Muslimgauze, "Mullah Said"

cover imageEarlier this year, Staalplaat took a break from their plunge into Bryn Jones' seemingly endless archive of unreleased/hyper-limited material to put out a double-LP vinyl reissue of this beloved landmark album from 1998. While the vinyl format is an odd choice for this particular release (I have the digital version), I am delighted by this new reissue campaign: the sprawling Muslimgauze discography is a hopelessly intimidating and overwhelming labyrinth for all but the most die-hard fans, so the world definitely needs a knowledgeable curator to call attention to the most timeless and essential releases in the Muslimgauze canon. This is one of those. Normally, my own favorite Muslimgauze albums tend to be the more ethno-percussion-driven ones, but Mullah Said's heady drone/dub-inspired collage aesthetic is a striking exception, as it stands as one of Jones' most immersive, evocative, and fully formed works.

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7692 Hits

My Cat is an Alien, "The Sky With Broken Arms"

cover imageThis latest opus from the Opalio brothers continues their restlessly experimental hot streak, taking inspiration from a characteristically bizarre event: two years ago, Roberto discovered that a bunch of his records were corroded by an "inexplicable oxidation process." After some time, he decided to listen to one of them anyway and found himself fascinated by the way the listening experience was transformed by the surface noise. Naturally, the instantaneous composition that resulted from that revelation is considerably more bizarre and idiosyncratic than a mere celebration of crackle and hiss, but the added layer of noise beautifully adds an evocative textural layer to The Sky With Broken Arms' sublime and eerily otherworldly reverie.

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7391 Hits

Andrew Chalk and Daisuke Suzuki, "Yama to Nashi"

cover imageThe work of Andrew Chalk and Daisuke Suzuki seems as if it has been intertwined forever, so I was somewhat startled to discover that this is their first new collaborative release in almost a decade. As befits the re-convergence of these two masters of understated tranquility, Yama to Nashi feels like a relaxed and unhurried reunion of old friends rather than a bold new vision. As such, it is a somewhat minor (if lovely) addition to the Siren/Faraway Press oeuvre that mostly lingers in familiar territory, but there are a couple of divergent gems lurking amidst these new pieces that longtime fans will not want to miss.

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8041 Hits

Cindy Lee, "Act of Tenderness"

cover imageA month ago, I had absolutely no idea who Patrick Flegel was, but the buzz surrounding Superior Viaduct's Cindy Lee reissue series piqued my interest and Flegel quickly became one of my new favorite people. In a past life, Flegel was the frontman of Canadian indie-rock band Women, who famously imploded in a Halloween-costumed, guitar-smashing onstage meltdown in 2010. Soon afterwards, Flegel began dressing in drag and his "diva alter-ego" Cindy Lee was born. Sometimes a full band, sometimes a solo act, Cindy Lee has a strikingly guileless, idiosyncratic, and oft-disturbing aesthetic that almost feels like outsider art. On Act of Tenderness, Flegel's vision focuses primarily on intimately and eerily channeling '60s girl-group pop through a hissing and hallucinatory fog of melancholy. Some songs certainly work better than others, but when Cindy hits the mark, it feels like a memory-haunted chanteuse has stepped directly out of David Lynch's imagination and become actual flesh and blood.

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8273 Hits

Rafael Anton Irisarri, "Midnight Colours"

cover imageI was a bit surprised to belatedly discover that Irisarri’s latest release was conceived as an imaginary soundtrack to the Doomsday Clock, as Midnight Colours is often an atypically warm and beautiful release, shedding much of the pervasive melancholy that runs throughout his previous work. Perhaps, however, it would be more accurate to say that Irisarri has merely become a bit better at effectively wielding that melancholy, as the shadows that shroud the lush heaven of Midnight Colours tend to add depth and gravitas without crossing the line into brooding reverie. That may sound like a subtle evolution, yet it is quite an important one from my standpoint, as Irisarri's eternal somberness was always a bit of an obstacle for me. I am not normally one to praise accessibility, but I am delighted by it in this instance, as his grainy, hissing, and gorgeously enveloping drones have rarely been more listenable than they are here.

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6709 Hits

Contrastate/various, "Your Reality is Broken"

cover imageEver since their inception in the late 1980s, this UK project has simultaneously dabbled both in the worlds of musique concret and harsh electronics; two styles that are undeniably similar but have very few in the way of crossover artists, all with a distinct sense of irreverence. Active again after a lengthy hiatus in the early part of the 21st century, Your Reality is Broken is another piece of work that successfully blurs unnecessary lines; in this case if it is a tribute album to them, a remix collection, or a compilation of collaborations. In truth, it is all of these things at once, and it is excellent.

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7590 Hits

Spykes-Parashi

cover imageThe four untitled pieces that make up this (similarly untitled) cassette were recorded one November in 2016 as John Olson (Spykes) was in the upstate New York area and looking to collaborate. Thus enters electronics virtuoso Mike Griffin (Parashi, also a member of psych rock collective Burnt Hills), and the two got together in Griffin's suburban basement studio. With Olson in full on psy jazz mode and Griffin manning the pedals, the final product is a combination of two disparate, yet perfectly complementary performers.

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6811 Hits

The Skull Defekts

cover imageThe Skull Defekts have long been one of the most baffling, wonderful, and unpredictable bands in underground music, equally likely to dazzle, disappoint, or just thoroughly confuse me with each fresh release. While far from infallible, they were also a restlessly experimental, viscerally heavy, and frequently fascinating creative force. Consequently, I am very sad to see them go, as The Skull Defekts is the band's farewell album (though a bit of the band's brutal alchemy continues to live on in The Orchestra of Constant Distress). As far as swan songs go, however, I am pleased to say that The Skull Defekts' final chapter is an especially strong one, inventively balancing noisy experimentation, art-damaged rock, and visceral brute force.

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7735 Hits

Dedekind Cut, "Tahoe"

cover imageI cannot think of many other projects that have been quite as instantly revered as Fred Welton Warmsley III's Dedekind Cut, nor can I think of any other artists who could comfortably fit in at both Hospital Productions and Kranky. Tahoe, Warmsley's first album for the latter, admittedly focuses primarily on Dedekind Cut's more meditative, drone-based side, but there are still some moments ("Spiral," for example) that would not seem out of place on a Raime or Haxan Cloak album. That shifting and elusive aesthetic sometimes leads to some unusual sequencing choices and disorienting mood shifts, but any potential grumblings I may have about Dedekind Cut's fitfully focused vision are silenced by how gorgeous these pieces can be when Warmsley hits the mark (which he does with truly impressive frequency). This is one of the best albums that Kranky has released in a long time.

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6440 Hits

Eyvind Kang, "Plainlight"

cover imageBack in 2001, Eyvind Kang recorded an absolutely wonderful album on Sun City Girls' Abduction imprint (Live Low To The Earth In The Iron Age), which I naturally missed because everything related to Sun City Girls was maddeningly difficult to find in those days. Also, I was not at all familiar with Kang back then, though he has long since become a reliably ubiquitous presence in the experimental music scene. Sadly, Live Low is still woefully out-of-print, but Kang has finally recorded its follow-up anyway. Plainlight is quite a bit different from the drone- and shoegaze-influenced post-rock of its predecessor though, as the only real consistent thread between the two is a vague aesthetic of rustic psychedelia. Instead, the two albums feel like very different stages of the same long journey, which is a large part of why Plainlight took so long to appear: Kang did not want to repeat himself and patiently waited until the next stage of this project's natural evolution finally revealed itself. If Live Low To The Earth can be said to resemble a slow, subtly hallucinatory journey across a vast, open plain, the more structured and ritualistic Plainlight is a glimpse inside an ancient and remote temple nestled in the mountains.

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7991 Hits

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, "August 53rd"

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The last time I covered this enigmatic Midwestern ensemble, I was a bit frustrated by the limitations of their constrained palette, but I have since warmed to them quite a bit due to their endearingly obsessive commitment to their aesthetic. Fossil Aerosol Mining Project is less like a band than like the extremely persistent ghost of a blackly funny anthropologist hell-bent on dredging up everything our culture would like to forget. That is truly a niche that needed to be filled and August 53rd fills it beautifully. Cryptically billed as a prequel to The Day 1982 Contaminated 1971, this latest album seems to revisit the same source material of decaying film reels liberated from an abandoned drive-in, yet instead focuses upon the ones in a less conspicuously advanced state of ruin. As such, this album is every bit as haunted, murky, and mysterious as its predecessor, but not quite as eviscerated of all human warmth.

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7462 Hits