Here's some thoughts about some of the excellent music that came out around the middle of August:
August 15th, 2021
Neil Luck - Downturn Fantasies (Entr'acte)
I first heard about Luck through his album with the choral ensemble Musarc, Bloody Sirens. I was immediately taken in by how inventive the music was, how it would use the struggle to get the words out as a meaningful part of the composition. This album feels like it continues that spirit, but now it's the recording as the point of origin for sounding trouble. The music is full of singing, and it even features a genuine standard, Polka Dots and Moonbeams. It has been performed by Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, John Denver, and Bob Dylan, to name a few. The rest of it isn't exactly crooner-friendly material, but there's a simplicity to them, like there's one track where the vocals are basically just a descending scale. But the simplicity in that area feels like it is meant to emphasize just how much music there is in what happens to sound, sort of like the way Rashad Becker's "Traditional Music Of Notional Species" albums use simpler forms for the same purpose. Though Becker's stuff is more sonically consistent. With Luck's album, there's guests who bring in different instrumentation and help provide a sense of each track having their own distinct biome, though the various types of sonic damage also go a long way to their unique characteristics. I cannot recommend this highly enough for anyone craving adventurous music, this is some of the weirdest music I've heard all year and I love it.
August 20th, 2021
Bob Bellerue - Radioactive Desire (Elevator Bath)
This one has quite a lineup! Bellerue is joined by gabby fluke-mogul, Brandon Lopez, Jessica Pavone, Luke Stewart, all artists who have been on some great albums that have appeared on this page, and also Ed Bear, he's new to me, but I think it's fair to say I should probably check out his stuff if he shows up in a place like this. Bellerue is also a new name for me, but he has a really cool approach on here, where he performs with feedback generated from/directed to each individual performer. At first I thought of it like he is encasing each performed in a forcefield, the description says "the performers were physically located within speakers of varying sizes to create multidimensional feedback systems", and for some reason that made me envision the way the seven maidens would look after you would beat a dungeon in The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, when they show up encased in a crystal. I thought Bellerue would be doing that to the performers, but with feedback. But I don't think that's accurate, the feedback is more focused than that, directed to the amplify specific portions of the sound body rather than being so all-encompassing. It's more like an overflowing energy emanating on one part of a body, and sometimes that energy bursts out and turns into it's own thing. Maybe I'm off-base with this analogy, I still need to work on pulling the sound apart when I listen, but I'm having a great time with my attempts. And it helps that there's a piece that is drastically simpler than most others, with only has Pavone on organ, accompanied by Bellerue's feedback. And then another piece goes even further, with just Bellerue playing feedback against the instruments on his own. I think paying more attention to those ones can help unlock what's happening with the full ensemble, it's really cool that they're included. But not at the start, you have to work your way through the full experience before you get that kind of info.
Jon Collin - The Fiddler Now Steps To The Road (Unifactor)
I've never heard Collin's music before, and I do wish that I had a bit more knowledge about his music, because it's tricky to write about. I could say that the experience feels like trying to grab smoke, but that feels more like I'm talking about the difficulty of talking about it, rather than talking about the music itself. There's a few things I can pick up on, like how the music is constructed outside of real-time, but still shows a confident restraint in knowing that it doesn't need a lot of sound to draw you in to the way it unfolds. And the instrumentation of guitar and fiddle alongside environmental and ambiguous sounds has the type of beauty that gains from its blemishes. I feel like there's a lot more to it, but I guess that's a positive attribute too, when music can hold on to the mystery.
Gordon Grdina & Jim Black - Martian Kitties (Astral Spirits)
This is another instance of Astral Spirits introducing me to artists that I need to know. I went in to the listening experience armed only with the preconception that "Martian Kitties" would mean a lot of emphasis on timbre and effects. You know, get some instruments processed so that they sound like cat noises, and then make them even weirder with some alien digital reverb or something. I would have been perfectly happy to get that, but this is much different, launching right off with some rockin' guitar from Grdina and drums from Black, the type where it's like always on some awkward footing but it still manages to barrel forward with absolute confidence. There's some additional electronic manipulations from Black that pop up that sort of get into the sound work that the name made me expect, and Grdina jumps over to the oud sometimes, but mostly this is some weird instrumental rock, I am into it.
Pasquarosa/Gerycz - II (Unifactor)
At first I was a little disappointed that I didn't get something written up about this at the time of release. Because the casual waves of guitar and drum on here totally have a "late summer night with lingering heat" kind of feel to them. But when this came out, that was already happening, we already had those nights. Right now, it's cold outside and my windows are leaky, so it seems like an even better time to have this music move into my life like a warm breeze. There's a flexible tempo, but both Pasquarosa and Gerycz are locked into it, neither one taking a step out of place for each rise and fall. It's not all serene, sometimes they do kick up a storm, but it's more like the excitement of some sudden rain against the window rather than anything that suggests possible mortal danger. They're only cooking up good weather as far as I'm concerned.
Rosali - Chokeweed (Unifactor)
Another stellar entry from this batch of guitar albums from Unifactor. The tracks all feature some kind of looping foundation, sometimes it's light drum machine, but usually just guitar, with additional guitar layers that take a more expansive approach to time. I feel like the word "meandering" gets a bad rap, like people associate the term with aimlessness. But I see the meandering qualities here as more like being on a road that might take some twists and turns, but there's never any exit, this one road is the whole trip. But there is still a purpose to the course, a sense of direction. And since most of the songs here are only around 3 minutes long, it never gets anywhere near the point of travel exhaustion. The whole thing's got an engaging serenity to it, very cool stuff right here.
Jumping forward to now, here's a quick overview about the great stuff that has come out this weekend!
October 15th, 2021
Anz - All Hours (Ninja Tune)
brin - Water Sign (sound as language)
Fire-Toolz - Eternal Home (Hausu Mountain)
Perila - 7.37/2.11 (Vaagner)
Marina Rosenfeld - Teenage Lontano (Room40)
Aho Ssan - Simulacrum Remixed (Subtext Recordings)
Jimmy V x Slum - AUDI COMA (Orange Milk)
October 16th, 2021
Requiem & Simon McCorry - Joy; Division (Woodford Halse)
October 17th, 2021
MonoLogue - MOVIMENTO (Grisaille)
I wrote a bit about Fire-Toolz on Friday with a focus on all of the music videos that have come out for her incredible new album, so if you'd like to see some additional thoughts you can give that a read. I'll have to go in-depth with the whole album later, but for now just know that I think it's tremendous. There's also the Ninja Tune debut of Anz, if you're not familiar with her dance music, you are in for something special. Then you've got brin doing some great work with the lush sonics that have been showing up on the collaborations from this year, and this Aho Ssan remix album has a great lineup (including FRKTL, Exploited Body, and KMRU), I'd actually missed the original album but it seems like something I need to hear. And then these new ones from Rosenfeld, Perila, and Jimmy V x Slum are all very promising as well. And then Saturday had the new Requiem & Simon McCorry album, it's a very nice earthbound alternative to the ascensions of their last meeting.
On Sunday we should see the new MonoLogue album. It's the conclusion to a three-part suite, with the preceeding parts coming out on Enmossed x Psychic Liberation and Falt. I'm not sure if there might be some delay with this latest one, it would be understandable since delays are happening with nearly all physical goods, seemingly. So why not check those first two parts while you wait, because she has such a great take on the GRM acousmatic electroacoustic composition style. There's a real sense of care for the details of the sounds, and a deft ability to maintain the sense they can make together, like the compositions will spend a lot of time in the quieter end of the dynamic range, and it's easy for the sense that's made with synthetic sounds to get lost in the silences, but the connections here are quite strong. Superb stuff, definitely check it out.
There were also a whole bunch of surprise releases, or maybe I just missed the initial news. Dasa Tapes has a new batch, including a new one from Eventless Plot! And I don't know if I'm just missing their announcements, but Klammklang have a new one that I only just now found out about from Diana Romanova, I haven't heard anything from it yet, but everything they put out is worth paying attention to. But I've been missing some of their other recent releases, I need to go back and check those out too. Then there's also this new Lag OS album, I loved the previous album on anòmia, I'm excited to see what's in store for this one. Then there's also the regularly scheduled surprises like with Takuroku, this week's pair include a new one from Julia Reidy that I'll absolutely need to hear. And SUPERPANG put out their 100th release with something from Finlay Shakespeare, they'll be taking a break until 2022, which is helpful since I need some time to catch up on their recent activities.
So yeah, lots of great stuff to check out, and I'm sure there's plenty I'm missing!
Tonight at 8:30 PM EDT, there will be a premiere party for the new Fire-Toolz album Eternal Home, with small sets from Ben Levin, Euglossine, Bhob Rainey, Giant Claw, ---__--___, and more! There's an ambitious plan for a visual accompaniment to the album utilizing footage sent in from fans, it should be an exciting time for eyes and ears alike. So it seems like a great time to look back at all of the music videos that have been coming out in the lead-up to this release. I'll only be posting images in this thread, but if you are going to watch these videos, please note that they contain flashing imagery which may not be suitable for people with photosensitivity.
If you're entirely unfamiliar with Fire-Toolz, I've described the music Angel Marcloid puts out with this alias as "risky", because she operates it as such a big tent, welcoming to different styles of theatrical, harsh, and colorful music. Each one of these, on an individual level, can be a challenge to the sensibilities of good taste for many listeners, myself included in some cases. So to have this all working together seems like it is inevitable for someone to be put in a position of needing to forgive some ultimately meaningless stylistic transgression before they can fully let the music into their heart. Which seems like a big ask! And it may not come right away, and the music still asks me to adjust in new ways, but the rewards have absolutely been worth the effort.
The first video for the new album was for Shenpa Indicator Light!!!, directed by Faye Fadem. She performs music as Trust Fund Ozu, and will be one of the additional performers for the premiere party. She has a few animations on her YouTube page (and a great Yee meme), but hopefully that page gets full of more animation, because this rules.
I love these kind of narrative character based videos, like Blur's "Coffee & TV", where the focus is on some small creature going through some ups and downs. Having the emotional attachment to whatever they're going through can open me up to amplifying the response to the music, or take me down a path with it that I might not have arrived at so quickly if I only had the music.
The video is quite eventful, but I'd like to just highlight this one small moment in the beginning. The character is on the move and the song's lyrics are appearing on screen.
As the character passes by a streetlamp, the words disappear, and this is noticed. The face displays confusion and alarm at this development, and it heightens my own sense of uneasiness that pops up in the music at this very moment from the synth. There's a lot of great synchronicity like this, even as the song and visuals get much more dense in content and meaning. Really fantastic execution on this one.
It's also a great introduction to the album, making it clear that you're going to get something a little different with the vocals on this album as one of the primary vehicles for melody in the song. Previous releases mostly stuck to extreme vocal presentations, so it's very cool to continue to get my expectations and sensibilities challenged, to still not entirely know what I'm in for.
The next video is directed by Ben Levin, who does a lot of strange comedy/educational musical stuff along with some animations, very wild. He provides the visuals for Lellow Birbs.
This track gets to the harsh vocals that are more familiar from previous Fire-Toolz releases, with some kind of spatial diffusion distortion that makes them sound particularly earth shattering, especially when paired with some pummelling drums. The visuals are appropriately abstract and visceral, like there's a lot of stuff with this fluid in the screenshots above, there's something about the way it pours out of this red orb, it feels like I'm seeing something that is physically extreme, but like it's a few degrees removed from the real thing, enough to nudge the parts of the mind that would be getting set on fire by the unfiltered version. There's even a bit where we see some Hamburger Helper type of character decay. Sprouting moss, falling apart, and spilling goo, it's kind of extreme, but I think the abstractions operate as a similar sort of diffusion as what's on the vocals, like the horror of what's happening to this hand person is not as extreme as it could have been with some slight changes in how it was represented.
The third video is for I Am A Cloud, directed by Jesse Bond. I haven't done as much digging into Bond's other work, but there's a new video that just got uploaded the other day called "BMX BARNACLE", very cool stuff.
This one looks a bit different the previous two videos, like this picture looks like it's out of those freaky Quiznos commercials. No more glossy 3D, this one gets messy with some video collage. There's a lot of stuff with eyes.
There's a lot of keyframed motion and psuedo-3D perspective warping, done in a way that takes a sledgehammer to any perception of a coherent physical space, and there's so many loud colors. I found it a bit strange at first, because the song feels like more on the relaxed side, like there's a bit of a clash between visuals and song. But that works for the song, since there is a strong contrast between the harsher vocals and the rest of the music. I may have gotten a bit numb to the shock of that, and this video probably helped reactivate that, which I take as a positive.
This one may have some kind of narrative aspect to it, Marcloid appears frequently in various magic-using guises, like this point where she's some kind of miniature winged being stirring a cauldron.
I dig it, but I'll probably need to get a bit more focused if I want to pull anything like a plot out of it. But I think it still works great as a purely sensory experience.
The fourth video is from Nick Krueger, for the opening two songs from the album, ≈ In The Pinewaves ≈ / guardian angel bear. This one operates in a similar space to what Levin produced, though it's much less of extreme in how it treats the eyes. There's still some vivid saturation in the colors.
But overall I would say the palette is a bit more neutral/natural.
I think this is an excellent choice, and it really pays off with the quieter moments in these tracks. The end of In The Pinewaves has everything die down and lets through some environmental-type of sounds, and then guardian angel bear has a bit of a false start before it really gets going. And when that happens, it's like the camera goes inside of a diamond and we see all of these reflections of Marcloid, hair bright red, it's an excellent payoff to the restraint that was shown up to this point.
The last video is directed by Marcloid herself, for Thick_flowy_glowy_sparkly_stingy_pain.mpeg.
This one is kind of operating on a smaller scale than the others, it's a "straightforward" performance video. Except the impression of a band is created through duplicating Marcloids image, and the layering and color saturation gets so extreme, like in the 2nd screenshot there, it's like the layering isn't purely additive, the way they blend is ripping a hole into the image rather than just purely stacking. It's another great addition to a strong collection of videos!
So yeah, give these a watch, and be sure to check out this stream later today!
I'm still running behind on my focused writeups, I'm close to the next batch though, I'll try to get some dispatches out over the next few days. But as far as new releases go this week, you're in for a treat. There's so many great choices!
October 8th, 2021
Marja Ahti - Still Lives (Students of Decay)
HMOT - This Music Greets Death (Warm Winters Ltd.)
Hoavi - Invariant (peak oil)
Jerusalem In My Heart - Qalaq (Constellation)
l'ocelle mare - Sans Chemin (Shelter Press)
Ergo Phizmiz ft. Depresstival - Plaza Centraal (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Stice - Stice's Satyricon (Ramp Local)
Toshimaru Nakamura - Culvert - No-Input Mixing Board 10 (Room40)
Topdown Dialectic - Vol. 3 (peak oil)
MVW - Classic$ (MVW Productions)
Cody Yantis - Physical Silence (Round Bale Recordings)
Nick Zanca - Cacerolazo (Full Spectrum Records)
October 10th, 2021
Giant Claw - Millennium Bug Live 2018-2021 (Genot Centre)
October 12th, 2021
Kyle Bruckmann - Mesmerics/Hindsight A (Infrequent Seams)
I've been a big fan of the Topdown Dialectic releases that peak oil has been putting out, so the conclusion to that trilogy is very exciting to see. But that label does not put out a whole lot, so it's noteworthy that they've got this Hoavi album coming out. I'm quite eager to see what that one's all about, the preview makes me think it's on a similar level of highly refined electronic sound as the Topdown Dialectic material. Then while we're on the topic of great sound, there's also this Nick Zanca album, a musique concrète feast for the ears with some real drive behind it. And then Marja Ahti's also got a new one! And this HMOT album is so gorgeous... it's a really good time for ears right now. Then in poppier territory, there's some great tunes on this Ergo Phizmiz/Depresstival album, I'd never heard his stuff before but this one certainly brings the joy.
The biggest surprise for me is this MVW album. That's Michael Vincent Waller, who you may remember from his 2019 album on Unseen Worlds, Moments. When I heard the charmingly direct piano and vibraphone melodies, it never occurred to me that this would work great when paired with the producer of Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard In Da Paint". That song is amazing, but it's still not a pairing I would have ever considered possible. But on Classic$, Waller teams up with Lex Luger to take his approach to melody into hip hop. I was uncertain of how this would turn out when I first read about it, but it all made complete sense when I listened.
There's a lot of other great stuff out on this Friday, I'll give them all some focused attention here in a few weeks. And then on Sunday, you've also got an album of live tracks from Giant Claw, and the first half of Kyle Bruckmann's awesome new electronic work arrives on Tuesday. A lot of other promising upcoming releases have been getting announced, and I've got some updated info about delayed releases (like that Coltrane Live In Seattle album that got bumped to the 22nd) on the anticipation list.
It's another one of the Bandcamp Friday promotional events, where they waive their cut of the purchase price so that more of it gets to the artists and labels running the pages. Somehow, even though these events have been going on for a while now, people are still complaining about getting buried by Bandcamp e-mails. I tweeted out a rough guide on how to make a filter in Gmail to separate all the Bandcamp e-mails from your regular e-mails. You can reclaim your inbox! This doesn't have to be a problem!
No individualized blurbs this week, but here's a long list of brand new releases:
October 1st, 2021
AJA - SLUG (Opal Tapes)
Black Dice - Mod Prog Sic (FourFour Records)
Wendy Eisenberg - Bloodletting (Out Of Your Head)
Hairbrushing - Unlisted Natural (Obsolete Staircases)
Sven-åke Johansson / Niklas Fite / Joel Grip - Swinging at Topsi's (Astral Spirits)
Lungs/LoneSword - The Birth of LoneSword (PTP)
Brett Naucke - Mirror Ensemble (American Dreams)
Yann Novak - Bathed In Light And Rapture (Room40)
Oriente Lux - Oriente Lux (The Jewel Garden)
Pilgrim Raid - Anna Agenda (CHINABOT)
RDL Shellah - Showcase EP (Bokeh Versions)
Matt Robidoux - At Dust (Already Dead)
claire rousay - 17 roles (all mapped out) (Shelter Press)
Loren Rush - Dans le Sable (Recital)
Paula Shocron / William Parker / Pablo Díaz - El Templo (Astral Spirits)
SSS - SSS (Decoherence Records)
TAK + Brandon Lopez - Empty And/Or Church of Plenty (Tripticks Tapes)
Tirzah - Colourgrade (Domino)
Various Artists - Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier - Deutsche Experimentelle Pop-Musik 1980-86 (Bureau B)
Various Artists - The Future Disintegrates (The Jewel Garden)
Various Artists - Tresor 30 (Tresor)
Wobbly - Ethical Monitress (Self Released)
October 5th, 2021
Baggie - Sour (Haord Records)
WEATHER - XTRA-PHYSICAL (Haord Records)
October 7th, 2021
JD SWIFT - JD SWIFT (Psychic Liberation)
There's so much cool stuff coming out! It would be enough just to see the return of Black Dice and Tirzah's sophomore album, but then there's also Tresor celebrating their 30th anniversary with a compilation that nearly reaches 5 hours in length. There's also another artist following up their 2018 debut, AJA. Her last album achieved this particularly vivid electronic brutality, it offers some great catharsis, I'm really curious to see where she goes from that starting point. I think Opal Tapes has a few other new ones, I got a little confused by the listed release dates, but I'm sure they're all worth a look, they do great work. There's also some stuff I looked into on a whim, like this Hairbrushing album, Tabs Out tweeted a link and said "goes so hard", I checked the previews and they were right, it does. I'm eager to hear the rest.
I need to make sure to call extra attention to this latest chapter from Wobbly's Monitress project. The way each chapter engages with ideas of surveilance through the use of audio-to-midi software, operating it as a listening device, expanding and corrupt a musical input, it's all something that has been quite thought provoking for me, since I've been engaged with my own self-surveilance project with my listening data for nearly 6 years. The albums so far have all turned the failure to capture the whole truth into something musically playful, but this one seems to go all-in on capturing the creepy and disconcerting feelings that these technologies and processes can (and should) evoke. It's maybe my favorite in the series. But probably not the one to start with.
But yeah, there's too much to give every release their fair due, that will have to wait until later. But for now, just know that I think everything listed is very cool, and you should click some of the links and see whether they're something you're into.
It's also worth noting that there's a few releases that come a little later in the week that are worth keeping an eye out for. I love the mutant zolo that Haord gets out into the world, so I'll definitely be checking out these two new ones from them. And this JD SWIFT is another one where I basically know nothing about it, but the label has been popping up a lot for me lately via the Marie Rose Sarri album and the LXV / Glyn Maier split, and the previews sound cool. So make sure to save some room for those later in the week!
Here's some thoughts about the music that came out around the first half of August:
August 9th, 2021
Temporal Marauder - The Shape Of Love (Ketu)
Ten years ago, Joseph Raglani put together a fictional band called Temporal Marauder, they had a whole elaborate biography and everything. He had been around working publicly with modular synths since the mid 00's, and I'm no expert on everything that he's put out, but it felt like up to this point the closest he would get to going into song mode would be on a track like the opener on his split with Outer Space, there's a lively and dynamic melody that makes the equipment apparent by the way it takes its steps, while also operating with a depth that defies the expected limitations. But it doesn't quite get into the type of overt structure with distinct parts that I'd expect from pop music. A lot of different wonderful things happen, but it all feels like an uninterrupted stream. His fake band didn't really change that sense of linear flow, but there's something about the flashes of a heavily-vocoded delivery of the title line in "I Saw You Walking" and the way that stood out in the disorienting swirl of perpetually lagged music attempting to catch up to itself. But then some years back, Erica Sparks joined and with her vocal and songwriting contributions, the band has produced a collection of songs that find unopened doors in the sorts of hallways that Broadcast or Stereolab have traveled in. There's space age bachelor pad vibes on tracks like "Through Windows Over Lawns", but then there's also "The Lives In You" sounding like the land-based inverse of The United States Of America's "Cloud Song". The songs still feel like they have the linear flow of Raglani's early stuff, like in the way that Sparks' vocals casually step into the higher notes on "State Of The Station", but there's still enough delineation to make it unambiguous that this is pop. The whole thing feels like it's targeted directly at the pleasure center of my brain, it hasn't been far from my speakers or headphones since it came out and I expect it to stay that way for quite some time. Highly recommended!
August 13th, 2021
d'Eon - Rhododendron (Hausu Mountain)
This album has been getting compared to older video games a lot, particularly the fantasy worlds of something like Zelda, due to the instrumentation being modeled after the type found in the chamber music that commonly accompanies stories with swords and castles, synthesized in a way that makes no attempt to hide its nature, evoking a time when this sort of sonic limitation was mandatory. But while technology may have advanced to remove this limitation, that doesn't mean that it still isn't necessary for some music. And it feels necessary here, it heightens the sense of uncertainty in the stranger turns of the narrative, like the later portions of "Into the Clearing" and both parts of "Through the Mangrove", and it makes me more willing to buy into the charm of the plucky determination in "Rhododendron" pt I, II, and III. That series in particular actually makes me think of a strength that this album has over the sorts of video games I'm reminded of. I remember playing Chrono Trigger, after going through an initial adventure through time, you make a stop back in the starting town before continuing on to new battles. There was something comforting about hearing the same music as before, a nice moment of respite. But when "Rhododendron pt. II" comes on, I get that same type of comfort from the return of the familiar, but the music is beefed up. It feels like I've leveled up from the tracks that came between this and pt. I, and it's details like this that elevates this far beyond the realm of nostalgia and into the world of great music.
Sally Decker - In The Tender Dream (NNA Tapes)
This experience reminds me of the way that I hear certain noise music, even though a large portion of this album doesn't even have any sharp edges in the sound. And when the abrasive side does show up, it's not operating at an overwhelming scale. But listening puts me in a place where I don't feel myself moving, it's the kind of music where I count the rhythm by saying 1 and then eventually the music ends. There's definitely a sense of form to it, especially when vocals show up. But even with the variety in all of those aspects, the experience feels like one whole something, beamed down onto me by some kind of towering giant.
Minua - Simulacra (Warm Winters Ltd.)
This trio is new to me, but I'm really enjoying the introduction provided by this mini-album, it does has such a satisfying structure. It starts with these two tracks that have a lot of layered woodwinds, with all of the breathing highlighted in the recording. And maybe I'm just a little naive about the realities of playing an instrument with your breath, but something about the construction makes me feel like there's this huge imbalance, with way more air coming out than going in. It's not upsetting, the music still sounds gorgeous, but it makes me feel a little off balance. But then on the third track, the air abruptly goes still, and the music is just some strums ringing out over a small synth drone. It's like the earth stops spinning. I find the effect highly satisfying, it pulls me in even deeper, into an even better position to connect with their time-scale.
Rachika Nayar - Fragments (Commend)
Earlier this year, Nayar had her debut album out on NNA Tapes featuring a lot of really great granular mangling of guitar sounds that never gave the impression that it was losing any musicality through all the technological warping. Really fresh stuff, definitely go back and check it out if you missed it. This new one feels like it's on a smaller scale and plays the sound a bit more straight. It's a collection of miniature snapshots, rarely exceeding two minutes, featuring many layers of guitars, and they all very clearly sound like guitars. I do generally have a preference for going out adventuring in the larger structures and constructed timbres, but sometimes I want to relax at home and not have to put on shoes, so it's really cool to see that she has music for that mood as well.
Lucy Railton & Kit Downes - Subaerial (SN Variations)
I've been having a great time with all of Railton's music released over the past few years, but it turns out that even before the first album came out in 2018, she had recorded this project with Downes the year before. They're friends from school days, and have featured on each other's work, but I wasn't aware of his side of things before now. I'll have to check it out, because he does a great job meeting Railton's cello with some organ. A lot of the music will have the cello taking a fluid and expressive position while the organ sounds more blocky, with the latter aspect really getting played up with the way the higher notes cut to the front of the sound. It gives me a sense of muscles and bone assembling in real time, with each side informing how the other constructs their next step and taking on an assertive role when needed for the overall creature to be functional. It's just a great process to witness, I'm very glad this made it's way out into the world!
Jana Rush - Painful Enlightenment (Planet Mu)
If you have any interest in footwork/juke, this is an essential listen. And if you don't, then you're in luck. Because Rush says that this isn't a footwork album, and my perspective of the genre is far less informed, but this really does feel like something else. Though there's a lot to unpack with the influences, honestly I need to read more about her and all of the context around this. There's a recent interview in The Wire but I still don't have a subscription, but this interview from South Side Weekly gives a peek into her history. One thing that stood out to me was what she said about what unifies her productions: "Well, what my music has in common is that it’s typically crazy—and it sounds chaotic, but it’s not. In my mind, it works out. I guess that’s one reason why I like Venetian Snares. When my mom listens to his tracks, she’ll be like—“what is this noise?” But you know, it makes sense to me, and that’s how my music is". Venetian Snares' music would often get abrasive and pummeling, but I had a shift when I listened, where it became about moving with power through dangerous territory. There's probably metalheads out there who have explained the sensation better than I could, but I feel like that spirit animates Painful Enlightenment, and the ways that it engages with its dark emotional subjects. The album's got all of this, while also maintaining a sense that anything can happen, with all sorts of fresh idea about rhythm and sound. It's tremendous, do not miss this one!
Ludwig Wandinger - Rooms (Orange Milk)
You might see the artwork on this, and the 16 minute runtime, and think you're in for some kind of information overload experience, one that's packed to the brim with intricate and jagged handcrafted waveforms moving with the plasticity of hand drawn cartoons, in the style of a computer with really good graphics. And there's sounds that fit the bill for that on this album, but there's also plenty of calm moments that let you catch your breath. I do love a good all-out overload, but it can sometimes be more difficult for me to see what the music is doing beyond the spectacle, to get out of the headspace where I'm always expecting the unexpected, so that it all becomes expected. But this has just the right amount of space to allow the personality and differences to shine through. "Mindroom" has this dull metallic sound as this sort of root of the music, where chaotic stacking rarely goes long without seeing the root reassert itself in the bottom of my ears, except for a few moments of maximum intensity. Something about it feels much more focused on vertical height, it's way different than "Pferdestärken", which is more like a very large collection of projectiles without the kind of single mass connection of that first track. I'm sure I've got a long way to go before the whole picture is clear, but it still feels like I got to skip the part of the magic eye poster where it doesn't look like anything at all, and that's very cool.
And if that's not enough for you, there's so much music that is coming out around now!
September 23rd, 2021
FRKTL - السَّمْت Azimuth (Self Released)
Mong Tong 夢東 - Orientations 向位 (WV Sorcerer Productions 巫唱片)
September 24th, 2021
Crazy Doberman - "everyone is rolling down a hill" or "the journey to the center of some arcane mystery and the entanglements of the vines and veins of the cosmic and unwieldy millieu encountered in the midst of that endeavor" (Astral Spirits)
Crazy Doberman - illusory expansion (Astral Spirits)
Equipment Pointed Ankh - Without Human Permission (Astral Editions)
Headboggle - Digital Digital Analog (Ratskin Records)
Devin Hoff - Voices From the Empty Moor (Songs of Anne Briggs) (Kill Rock Stars)
Hiro Kone - Silvercoat the throng (Dais Records)
Maurice Louca - Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour) (Northern Spy)
Lyra Pramuk - Delta (Bedroom Community)
RXM Reality - WEWEREFRIENDS (We Be Friends)
Saffronkeira + Siavash Amini - The Faded Orbit (Denovali)
Macie Stewart - Mouth Full Of Glass (Orindal)
Taranoya - Becoming (sound as language)
Temp-Illusion - PEND - REWORKS (Zabte Sote)
Mark Tester - Oblivion Rhythms Revisited (Moon Glyph)
Henry Threadgill Zooid - Poof (Pi Recordings)
Richard Youngs - CXXI (Black Truffle)
September 27th, 2021
Barbara Dang & Muzzix - Michael Pisaro: Tombstones (Elsewhere)
Jordan Dykstra / Koen Nutters - In Better Shape Than You Found Me (Elsewhere)
SELVEDGE - THRESHOLDS (Self Released)
Guy Vandromme - Bruno Duplant: l'infini des possibles (Elsewhere)
September 30th, 2021
MonoLogue - MOVIMENTO (Grisaille)
I'll have some more to say about all of these later on, but I will say anyone who caught RXM Reality's performance at the HausMo Fun One last July and was wanting to see where he was going with that pop stuff... it's here. And it rules. And that Temp-Illusion remix album does a great job finding people to take the information overload drum programming into some cool directions. Normally I get frustrated when remix albums feature too many takes on the same track, but everyone puts enough of an imprint on their work to where it was never an issue. But yeah, there is an overwhelming number of promising possibilities here, roll some dice and no matter where you land, you should end up somewhere cool.
I don't have any blurbs this week, but I will be making some big moves to catch up soon! A lot of very special music has been released recently, and I really want to be correct about how I highlight them. In the meantime, here's an overview of some of the music from today, and a couple that are imminent:
September 17th, 2021
Blue Lick - Hold On, Hold Fast (American Dreams)
Will Guthrie - People Pleaser Pt.II (kythibong records)
Jan Jelinek - The Raw and the Cooked (Faitiche)
Moor Mother - Black Encyclopedia of the Air (Anti- Records)
RP Boo - Established! (Planet Mu)
Luke Stewart - Works For Electric Bass Guitar (Tripticks Tapes)
Byron Westbrook - Mirror Views (Ash International)
September 21st, 2021
Aryo Adhianto - Sintaksis (DIVISI62)
September 22nd, 2021
Prolaps - Ultra Cycle Pt. 3: Autumnal Age (Hausu Mountain)
It feels like the RP Boo, Will Guthrie, and Moor Mother releases are all getting some deserved attention, and I am psyched to check out all three. But you also won't want to miss that Blue Lick album, it's Havadine Stone nailing a long text all in one take while Ben Baker Billington joins in on synths, such a good mix. I'm also excited to check out that Jan Jelinek, I thought that one was going to be vinyl only, but there's a digital version, so I'll actually be able to hear it relatively soon. Moor Mother isn't the only bandmember of Irreversible Entanglements showing up, Luke Stewart is here as well, always a welcome sight. And Byron Westbrook has his second release of the year following Distortion Hue from back in February (great album!). Once the weekend wraps up, there's this Aryo Adhianto album from the DIVISI62 label from Indonesia, they came to my attention a little while back for this awesome gamelan techno thing by Uwalmassa, I haven't been great about keeping up, but this Adhianto release seems like it's getting into some very fascinating far out electronics, seems like it'll be a big one for anyone interested in that world of sound. And then on Tuesday, Prolaps' third entry in the Ultra Cycle series will ring in the Autumnal Equinox with their strangest music so far.
Before that weekend comes to a close, I'll be playing some songs I like alongside some friends at https://www.twitch.tv/chagrecords, Saturday at 8PM EST. I put some visuals together using OBS, taking a compilation of commercials from September 1998, using a luma key to only let through the sliver of brightness that produced the best outlines, and then using display captures cropped to the approximate area of the preview window (with slight differences so that they produce some directional movement in the initial feedback off of the commercial outlines), and then adding on an additional level of complexity with a free roaming camera with luma key pointed at the screen, to try and get some feedback with motion that had some synchronization with the music. This output was recorded and then used to produce a displacement map over the first episode of Columbo (directed by Steven Spielberg!), and then that video was overlayed with the video feedback, so that the Columbo episode would appear to be getting pushed around by the motion of the colors (when the conditions of the video allowed it to be legible). It's possible that spending all that time playing with video feedback is why I don't have any blurbs this week, but in my defense, it's a lot of fun and it looks really cool.
Just added some thoughts to the anticipation list, about some recent music from the beginning of August:
August 3rd, 2021
Mukqs - In Human Form (Husky Pants Records)
This is a great introduction to the way Mukqs does things. Not because it covers everything in his repertoire (there's none of the aquatic ambience of Water Levels, or the relatively coherent beats on his work with Sharkula), but the journeys taken here embrace a good variety of the possibilities of his hybrid live/prepared electronics. It operates as two distinct live sessions, each with their own approaches to moving between direct (though highly warped) tunes and more spaced out hazy territory. The first one opens with four quick ones, going off like a rollercoaster that's been made more fun by the increased danger of its age. But the second one keeps it a little more even. There's some great interconnectivity in the sets, like the way that the distorted synth at the heart of the final track makes a brief appearance a few tracks back in "Keep Your Eyes Open". This album has quickly turned into one of my favorites from Mukqs, I feel like there's still so much more at work in making this music great that I haven't gotten into yet, and I look forward to it all being revealed to me over the years.
August 6th, 2021
Bass Clef - Magnetic Chapters (Wrong Speed)
My way in with Bass Clef's music was through his releases on Slip, "111 Angelic MIDI Cascade" and "Orezero". I've heard some of the other stuff, but most of my experience is with those two albums, and they are central to how I understand what I hear from him. On the Slip albums, it's like he's hooking the synths up directly from the box and into my mental perception, like the air of reality has never touched these sounds. Which isn't a problem, since it would just get in the way of hearing the weird production details and how they heighten the expressive qualities of the already-lovely melodies. On this new album, it feels more like the synths are being documented in a space rather than piped into my skull, except the space is actually totally constructed, as synthetic as anything else. But the expression-heightening detail work is as strong as ever, like in the way the emulated string sounds on the 3rd track jump into a higher register for the ending, but in the process their timbre gets warped, as though the virtual strings became tangled in themselves. This is music as well equipped at triggering fascination as it is at bringing a smile, wonderful stuff.
Liars - The Apple Drop (Mute)
So I have a bad habit of taking long-running bands for granted, and I really shouldn't. With Liars, it's like that initial run of the first three albums (and the Oneida split and two 7 inches that came out in 02) was all so huge for me, every step delivered some dramatic shift in their rulebook. But starting with their self-titled album in '07, it felt like the rules were settled. The results were still great! But even when there were some big moves in style, like with the different approaches to synths in the first half of the '10s, it just didn't feel the same as before. I had lost the ability to feel as though a song from Liars could challenge their established history. The truth is probably that I'm just not recognizing something, but I don't think it actually matters. I mean, as a person writing about the music, it would probably be good for me to be able to talk about what this new one brings to the table. Something about the way that this is the first time the band has ever grown in size after shrinking to the point of being an Angus Andrew solo project, perhaps. But as a person listening to the music, I'm just happy to have some great songs, and Liars are still doing some great songs, and I want to just sit with that before contemplating anything else about it.
NTsKi - Orca (Orange Milk)
The Giant Claw album from earlier this year was my introduction to NTsKi, but it turns out she's been doing some very cool electronic pop for a few years now, just not on albums. One of the tracks has even had a cool video and a wild Foodman remix out and available since 2018. But I only really became aware with this full collection of tunes, and honestly I'm glad I wasn't on the cutting edge, because getting to hear these songs bouncing off each other is such a great experience. She'll hit you with a track like "Kung-Fu", where she plays as a slow and steady foil to these staccato cartoonish voices on the beat, and then on the next track, the production is all-in on amplifying the comfort. But then you also have tracks like "On Divination in Sleep", where the softer voice is just one tool she deploys alongside a more direct approach to claiming the foreground. It's just really great to get this full of a picture of where she's coming from musically, I'm not sure if I'd find the picture so clear if I wasn't encountering it all so close together. This is an excellent debut album that suggests a promising road ahead!
Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Dissent (Modern Recordings)
I'm not on the same level as the people who really love Basic Channel, the classic dub techno duo that Oswald was a part of. I've enjoyed a lot of what I've heard, but the experiences have always been driven by the passion of the existing fans, like I was more catching the secondhand smoke of their party. I still need to have my moment with the music, but I'm sure I'll get there. This does mean that I'm probably not in the best position to speak about his music. I haven't even heard any of the other trios that he's done (they do have some good looking lineups), but this one features Laurel Halo on keyboards, so there was no way I was going to miss it. Heinrich Köbberling fills things out on percussion, and Oswald's role is as this unifying force with one hand on some additional synths, and another on some electronic percussion. It's a really cool format, sometimes Köbberling has the percussion side all to himself with his kit, but Oswald can easily just step over and put some mechanical rhythms in the foreground, and then back away and focus his energies into joining Halo on the keys. So the tracks can vary pretty heavily in their fluidity, but they all feel like the work of the same band, there's always a sense of the music capturing the same sort of beauty as the deep colors of an overcast day.
Sunk Heaven - THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG (American Dreams)
This feels like something I would see performed in some kind of underground concrete bunker, like even when the music is relatively open, it still feels like the sound is being crammed into a space that's too small for it. Which is perfect for the vibe, slow beats and oscillators coated in grit, vocal intensities that correlate with the weight of the distortion. When I see myself in my mind's eye while listening, I'm sweating by the end. If you want something reasonably heavy, this one is a great way to put some pressure on.
Saadet Türköz & Beat Keller - We are Strong (CHINABOT)
This one's just a short trip with Türköz's voice and Keller's guitar, but it really packs a punch. I'm not familiar with the musical influences of Türköz's Uyghur culture that she is bringing to this music, but I love the way that both of these musicians are so receptive to what the other is putting out there. Like at the end of "Kashgar", in the last 90 seconds the guitar is processed to put out these high pitched beeps, while the voice is giving some popping plosives, and in the last minute Türköz lets the full voice out and goes beyond percussive breaths, she falls into this rhythm at a lower pitch and it feels like the guitar is trying to fit into the timing. But the momentum pushes it into letting more noise through, which leads to the voice going into a higher pitch at a rapid fire rate, with the guitar quickly reaching up to catch it, and then in an instant the voice returns to the pops and the guitar climbs back down. I'm sure that the additional context will help me appreciate it more, but honestly I think it's enough for the start to just hear these two musicians hearing each other.
And here's what's coming out right now and in the immediate future:
September 10th, 2021
---__--___ - The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid (Mondoj / Orange Milk)
Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter - Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel (577 Records)
Sarah Davachi - Antiphonals (Late Music)
Lee Gamble - A Million Pieces Of You (Hyperdub)
Lexagon - Feminine Care (Ratskin Records)
Annea Lockwood - Becoming Air / Into The Vanishing Point (Black Truffle)
Low - HEY WHAT (Sub Pop)
Norman W. Long - BLACK BROWN GRAY GREEN (Hausu Mountain)
Skeeter Shelton & Hamid Drake - Sclupperbep (Two Rooms Records)
Smylex Attack / ardor. - Aether / Flux (Strategic Tape Reserve)
Synalegg - Computer Series (OOH-sounds)
September 11th, 2021
WRS - Bruh Matrix (Self Released)
September 13th, 2021
Wobbly - Instant Monitress (Self Released)
I'll have more to say about all these soon, but in the meantime, you can turn to Foxy Digitalis for some thoughts on the wonderful new releases from Lexagon and Ackerley/Carter. They also had something about a track off the ---__--___ album, I'm not sure if there's any other in-depth writing on this one yet, but the duo of more eaze and Seth Graham have cooked up something beautiful on this album, and I look forward to going into more detail about it later. Boomkat has some information about many of these other ones. I really wish I wasn't behind schedule so that I could share more, like the details on this latest chapter of the Monitress saga from Wobbly. It strikes a great contrast with last month's overtly human entry, and it is going to be a lot of fun to explore with words. But you don't need to wait for me, just dive in when it shows up. So much great stuff this week, I'll have more to say soon!
For more blurbs about recent releases and listings for future ones, check out the anticipation list.
I've been writing on this site since February of last year with plans to expand beyond the blurbs about upcoming music and the single essay that loads in the index, but I have not been able to find time to do that. In fact, I've even found it difficult to keep up with the pace I was setting, and now there's a month's worth of music that I want to write about. So it seems like the right time to try to do more. I have this CMS that I built in Google Sheets, it's probably more trouble than it's worth but I feel like the investment will pay off eventually. I've linked it in case any of it could be useful for something you want to do (and feel free to reach out if you need assistance), but I'll start using this to share updates to the anticipation list, but also new features, like some thoughts on the large volume of music that I don't notice until after it comes out. I try to stay on top of it all, but there's so much! I only just recently found out about a Leila Bordreuil and Zach Rowden collaboration that came out in July. I was very glad to get the heads up on this from Keith Prosk's harmonic series newsletter, I love their collaboration from 2017, this is absolutely something I want to dig into. I'll also have some longer posts, like something that looks at six years of my listening data to consider how my relationship with music has changed, and what that means for the relationships I'm building with music I've heard this year.
Since I'm behind on the blurbs, I'll be making posts on Fridays that cover a batch of semi-recent music while also doing a very brief overview of the new stuff, but I hope I can eventually catch up and get back to blurbs as music is coming out. Not because I care about being current or anything, it's solely because it is so much easier to write about being interested in something where I don't have the full picture. I know that I could still write about this stuff entirely before I listen but that feels like a cheat when the music is available. But for the time being, I will have a one month delay with sharing any substantial thoughts about specific music.
Since this post is just a bunch of boring procedural stuff, I'll leave you with a suggestion if you're looking for some fun: go to YouTube and find something that's one of their autogenerated "topic" videos, but one with the category of various artists. You could just search "various artists topic" and one of the accounts will come up. Go into the videos tab, and you'll find thousands of songs that are likely miscategorized, and it's all stuff that you probably would never have any other chance to encounter. You can find ambient music made for puppies, noisy rock from Russia, and who knows what else. There's multiple Various Artists accounts, each one with new songs getting miscategorized every minute, so the grab bag potential is pretty great.
Thanks for reading, more soon!