Robert Piotrowicz, "Afterlife"

AfterlifeHaving dabbled in other styles and methods of instrumentation in recent years, Afterlife finds Polish composer Robert Piotrowicz returning to modular synthesis, the mainstay of his career thus far. Rather than using that complex array of modules and patch cables to generate bizarre, idiosyncratic sound effects, as many do, he instead intentionally utilizes it to emulate traditional, physical instrumentation, with the pipe organ being the most utilized. Combined with harmonic structures that the physical instrument would be unable to replicate, the result is familiar, yet alien, and is a wonderful demonstration of the psychoacoustic properties of electronic sound.

Penultimate Press

"Rozpylenie (Overdusting)" leads off the disc with a massive church organ like swell of sound, although there is a hint of modular squeal to be heard peppered throughout. Overall, though, the layers of massive shifting, enveloping sound are almost overwhelming at times, sounding both like it could have been captured in a medieval church as much as a state of the art recording studio. The forceful dynamic he utilizes throughout makes the abrupt conclusion all the more jarring.

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Fortunato Durutti Marinetti, "Eight Waves In Search Of An Ocean"

Eight Waves In Search Of An OceanI have not encountered Dan Colussi's work before this album, but the Turin-born artist is a bit of a lifer, as he has been steadily releasing music and touring for the last 20 years with various Canadian bands "of varying degrees of obscurity." His solo project, Fortunato Durutti Marinetti, first surfaced back in 2020 with the acclaimed Desire cassette. This latest release is his second for Soft Abuse (and his first for Quindi) and it is something of a bold creative leap forward, as returning collaborator/producer Sandro Perri has steered the project into a more synthpop direction with the addition of synths, drum machines, and other electronic touches.

Soft Abuse/Quindi

Notably, Colussi is an artist who makes no secret of his influences (Robert Wyatt, Lou Reed, Annette Peacock, etc.), but the main one definitely seems to be Leonard Cohen and this album amusingly mirrors Cohen's own stylistic evolution from his acoustic beginnings into the kitschier, more jazz-influenced work of his later years. I cannot say that I was entirely thrilled by that move in Cohen's case, but Cohen did not have Sandro Perri in his corner: the louche "yacht rock" charm of these arrangements is frequently the perfect counterbalance to Colussi's wonderful literary melancholy.

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Mark Solotroff, "Today the Infinite, Tomorrow Zero"

Today the Infinite, Tomorrow ZeroAn artist who always has something in progress or forthcoming, Mark Solotroff's has been most prolific under his own name as of late. Different from the frenetic, yet organized chaos of BLOODYMINDED, the doomy bombast of Anatomy of Habit, or the murky improvisations of The Fortieth Day (and those are only a few examples), his solo material in recent years has been more introspective and meditative, at times drifting into almost ambient territories. Following 2020's You May Be Holding Back and 2021's Not Everybody Make It, Today the Infinite, Tomorrow Zero continues his focus on using analog synths alone with a four track, but creating a depth and variance of sound that belies its rather Spartan origins. Compared to these recent albums though (and the Return to Oneself compilation of digital singles), the depth is even greater and further realized, and the sound has expanded to one that is almost musical, without ignoring any of the intensity expected from Solotroff.

self-released

From a structural standpoint, Today the Infinite features shorter pieces than the previous two, with You May Be Holding being a pair of 30-minute pieces, and Not Everybody Makes It's six, ten-minute segments. He once again imposes that rigid hour-long duration on the album, but in smaller, six-minute increments this time. Because of this, the sound and style differ more notably from song to song than it did on those previous albums, emphasizing both noise and melody throughout.

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Lea Bertucci, "Of Shadow and Substance"

Of Shadow and SubstanceThis latest full-length from NY-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Lea Bertucci features two longform Just Intonation commissions composed for small ensembles. Given that, it is no surprise that Of Shadow and Substance is a unique album within her discography, but the added participants and the non-standard tuning were not the only new elements, as Bertucci embraced a "textural approach to composition" as well.

Cibachrome Editions

The results are quite unique and compelling, as Bertucci and her collaborators nimbly avoided any missteps or predictable decisions to produce a shapeshifting and emotionally intense drone album like no other. In fact, even Bertucci herself was a bit surprised with how Of Shadow and Substance turned out, as she notes that these two pieces feel informed by a "sense of deep, ancestral knowing" beyond herself as an individual, which seems like a valid and insightful claim, given that she shared the driver's seat with both ancient mathematical relationships and textural affinities and was also inherently prevented from falling back on any familiar scales or melodies. Ladies and gentlemen, Lea Bertucci has just crossed over into The Twilight Zone (or at least into releasing a killer album that borrows its title from that show's introduction).

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Mary Lattimore, "Goodbye, Hotel Arkada"

Goodbye, Hotel ArkadaThis six-song album borrows its title from a beloved Croatian hotel damningly slated for modernization, which is a fitting inspiration for an album that "celebrates and mourns the tragedy and beauty of the ephemeral." Obviously, that is an especially resonant theme these days, given the endlessly accelerating pace of change and the relentless erosion of the comforting and familiar. Lattimore has always been unusually well-attuned to such feelings, but Goodbye, Hotel Arkada is also inspired by her passions for collaboration and travel, both of which "shake loose strands of inspiration."

Ghostly International

In keeping with those themes, this album features a number of intriguing collaborators (Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, The Cure's Lol Tolhurst, etc.), as well as a number of pieces inspired by warm memories of specific places and times from her travels, tours, and childhood. In fact, this is now the second Lattimore release that alludes to the island of Hvar (the first being 2020's landmark Silver Ladders). Naturally, the end result of all those reawakened memories and inspired collaborations is yet another gorgeous Mary Lattimore album, but it took a few listens before I fully appreciated this one's magic, as Goodbye, Hotel Arkada often feels deceptively simple on its surface. In reality, however, these are some of Lattimore's most focused and beautifully crafted pieces to date (they just take a little bit longer than usual to reveal their full depths).

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Techno Animal, "Re-Entry"

Re-EntryOut of print soon after its initial release in 1995 and on vinyl for the first time, the second collaboration between Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) and Kevin Martin (The Bug) has always been considered a high point in their lengthy collaborative discography. A sprawling two-and-a-half-hour masterwork of heavy beats and rich ambience, it is just as captivating today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Reissued and repackaged with care from all involved, it is a masterpiece that is deserving of the attention it is receiving.

Relapse

Any time some sort of social media prompt of "favorite albums of all time" or the like pops up, Re-Entry is one of the first titles that comes to mind for me. I still have vivid memories of purchasing the original CD set. It was a bit after its release, so roughly late 1995 or maybe early 1996, when I managed to get a special order (one of the few options in a pre-Internet ordering world) from Blockbuster Music in Brandon, Florida as an import. I had become a fan of Godflesh the year before, around the Merciless EP, and started tracking down some of Broadrick's numerous side projects, with this one being among the most hyped at the time. To say it was an influential release for me is an understatement: It fundamentally changed the way I perceived music, and electronic music specifically.

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American Cream Band, "Presents"

PresentsThis is not my first exposure to Nathan Nelson's freewheeling Twin-Cities improv collective, but it may as well have been, as the droning kosmische psychedelia of last year's Embrace You Millions provided no hint at all of the dramatic stylistic reinvention looming on the horizon. To my ears, the band's entertaining new direction is best described as "James Chance fronts the B-52s," but the album's description goes even further and promises both "a spiritually-charged journey" and "a shit-kicking party record." The fact that Presents emphatically delivers on the latter claim is quite an impressive feat indeed, as the number of shit-kicking party records successfully recorded by shapeshifting collectives of synth and space rock enthusiasts tends to historically be quite low. To their everlasting credit, American Cream Band buck that trend quite decisively, as Nelson seems literally evangelical in his desire to make a fun and raucous party album and he assembled one hell of a killer band to bring that dream to life.

Quindi

The "building blocks" for Presents were originally recorded back in December 2021, as Nelson brought ten musicians to Cannon Falls' Pachyderm studio to "live together," "eat together," and "lay down some drum-heavy sessions." That studio choice was presumably quite deliberate, as Nelson seems like a guy who is intuitively attuned to seeking and setting the right vibe and Pachyderm birthed quite a few iconic albums in its first heyday (The Wedding Present's Seamonsters and PJ Harvey's Rid of Me being two prime examples) and became a post-foreclosure labor of love for the late engineer John Kuker in more recent years.

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Choke Chain, "Mortality"

MortalityAs evident from many of my reviews at the time, I was (and remain) a big fan of the noise to EBM pipeline of genre overlap that was popular a few years back. Representing my two most momentous musical preferences during high school, hearing the two alongside each other was a perfect paring. Choke Chain, the solo project of Milwaukee's Mark Trueman is keeping this tradition alive, with a new album that leans more towards the rhythmic, rather than harsh end of this spectrum. Synth heavy, yet with aggressive vocals and production, it makes for an appropriate, fully realized album.

Phage Tapes

Mortality is the first full length from Trueman's project, following a handful of EPs and stray songs. Fittingly, it is the most definitive refinement of his approach to date. The components are consistent from what came before: pummeling drum machines; grimy/aggressive FM bass synths; and simultaneously angry/pained screaming vocals. The aforementioned noise influence is more notable on the unconventional production and the aggressive vocals that could almost be lifted from a power electronics record. The overall feel/aesthetic leans more in to the black and white austerity of the noise world, as opposed to the more cliché goth industrial world.

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Rick Reed, "The Symmetry of Telemetry"

The Symmetry of TelemetryAustin's Rick Reed has been an active composer and performer of electronic music for over 30 years, but The Symmetry of Telemetry represents his first release since 2018. Using synthesizers, organs, vocoders, and found radio noises, Reed's compositional approach of developing smaller, disparate segments that are then later strung together in a collage is perfect for this material, juxtaposing different sounds and moods across the album's three lengthy compositions in a way that is dynamic, yet still coherent and cohesive as a whole.

Sedimental / Elevator Bath

The 20-plus minute "Dysania" is immediately a work of weird, wet electronics. Coded transmissions beep and bleep through what sounds like synth bass and stuttering machinery. At times the more modular qualities of the synthesizers pierce through constantly evolving idiosyncratic bursts. Reed eventually steers the work into old school sci-fi soundtrack territories, but just as quickly introduced luxurious, glossy tones. The dynamic nature of the piece is what makes it most captivating, as Reed jumps from different sounds, moods, and dynamics effortlessly, while still retaining the cohesion of a composed work. Symphonic loops, humming machinery, and crunchy wobbles all appear at some point, making for an almost disorienting pace and development.

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Radian, "Distorted Rooms"

Distorted RoomsIt has somehow been seven years since this long-running Vienna trio last surfaced with 2016's stellar On Dark Silent Off, but they seem to have spent that time diligently dreaming up innovative new ways to be amazing. In a general sense, Radian's vision is not a far cry from the austere, jazz-adjacent post-rock of their celebrated labelmates Tortoise. The magic of Radian, however, lies in the band's singular attention to detail and their quixotic compulsion to continually turn sounds upside-down in imaginative feats of dynamic sorcery. The overall effect is akin to that of dub techno being made by an incredibly tight live band, but the live aspect is quite illusory, as Distorted Rooms presumably sounds almost nothing like what the band originally recorded (in fact, the band themself note that one piece "eliminates nearly all traces of the original performance"). While many of the sounds do remain present in one form or another, Radian revels in celebrating and amplifying the barely audible and non-musical bits while also eliminating or burying the louder, more traditional "rock" tropes like chords and melodies. Obviously, The Dead C have made a fine career out of similarly deconstructing and inverting rock music, but Radian are the gleaming, precision-engineered opposite of Dead C's own shambling, spontaneous, and blown-out vision.

Thrill Jockey

The opening "Cold Suns" was also the album's first single, but it is unclear if it was chosen because the band believed it to be one of the most perfect distillations of their vision or if they merely thought it was one of the album's more immediately gratifying pieces. I suspect the reason may be the latter, as the album's second single "Skyskryp12" features a similar level of comparatively heightened drama. For the most part, however, "Cold Suns" offers a fairly representative first impression of Radian's current direction: gently stuttering loops, killer drumming, and a remarkably minimalist palette of guitar sounds. Unlike many other songs on the album, however, it eventually coheres into a brooding and tense chord progression, which lands the piece in somewhere near the post-punk revivalism of Moin (at least until the bottom drops out for a lengthy outro of distorted vocals, smoldering distortion, whimpering synth quivers, and broken, skeletal drums). "Skyskryp12" has a roughly similar aesthetic, but with one key difference: after it collapses upon itself, it kicks back into gear and builds towards a darkly cinematic crescendo. While both pieces are admittedly enjoyable and satisfying, however, the album's strongest pieces tend to be the ones with a bit of a lighter touch.

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