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What A Jumble! '22
I don't think you need to understand the ins and outs of just intonation to feel what this music has to offer. Which is a little self-serving, because I am not be able to explain how all this works on the technical side. But I find it so compelling. I've got a long history with Greg Davis' music, his Clouds as Edges 7" was an early favorite from back when I started to become more adventurously patient with my listening. The instruments on that recording were all Brita-filtered to their essence, which I found really helpful in priming me to hear a new kind of music, and to clarify Davis' intent within it. So I was psyched to see that this album would be working with sine waves, since that's about as unadorned as it gets. The activity is all happening within one larger whole rather than a more straightforwardly narrative sequence of distinct sound objects, but if you can get into that timescale, you can find so much on the inside. The increasing collisions between sines sometimes appear to slow everything down and highlights a moment's role in the sequence, like a projector error that shows the end and the beginning of the adjacent frames. The drift from clean harmonies to a rattling clash will happen so smoothly that the linear connection will be undeniable, but it still feels like it slipped in from an unperceivable dimension. There is a phenomenal physical world within these waves.
This is like Michael Bay without the sentimental parts, converted to sound. An incredible, unrelenting spectacle. Moments will pass that you may wish had been given more time to be developed, but the speed is more important than any of their potential futures. I have no idea how this kind of practice could be sustained, but in this moment, it is perfect.
mosaictheanimated - AREASCATTERBRAIN
You won't get much longer than two and a half minutes with the beats on this album, but they all make a great impression with the time they're given. Right off the bat you have 'placeholder' opening with a fake-out blast of sound before crashing the pitch down into the underwater zone, There's a really fun moment when that opening gets brought back for a second flash, but the slower motion moments have this dizzying quality from the way it develops, like there's the primary slow loop, but the right channel has these flashes of faster drums coming in at the end within the gaps, and the left channel mirrors this but in a blurrier and less defined manner. So it's all off-kilter, but then a higher frequency drone witth a uneven granular flutter to shuffle everything further. Those types of heady experiences are all over this album, but there's also the more straightforward moments like 'shOUT', which is by no means lacking in sonic character, but mostly seems focused on painting a nice melody over the rhythm. Just as noble a goal, rendered with the same level of care. It's all a great time!
Technically, this album came out in 2021 on Takuroku. But it's been expanded in this new edition, so I'll use that as an excuse to say that this phenomenal album is one of my favorites of 2022. On my first few listens, the form would only become clear for me well after it had already begun holding its shape. It was like I was staring at a landscape and only realized a dust devil had formed after it had torn up the place. When I experience that brand of hypnotism, combined with the sonic palette featuring odd strings, detritus, and field recordings across the fidelity spectrum, I'm reminded a little of all those bands in the early 00's playing in basements with at least one member hunched down on the floor over some odd assemblage of gear. I want to mentally file this album somewhere near the early Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice stuff, but with it's back turned to the parts where they break into discernable song. Rosso Polare stay committed to keeping it in nature, but their fingerprints are all over the wind. I think the track 'quattro_pioggia' is a great one to sample if you only have time for one piece. The way it introduces a dull bass throb and literally washes it away with recordings of rain that begin distorted and end up clear, gliding the momentum into the other sounds taking the lead, it's like an optical illusion where you're just as likely to see an image nature bending to the will of a human as you are the inverse.
Carl Stone - Wat Dong Moon Lek
I will never stop being impressed by the way that Carl Stone can strip away all semantic and causal sense from his source material in his plunderphonic mélange, until all that's left is the pure pleasure. If that was all he ever wanted to do, I'd be satisfied. But on this one, there's some substantial development. He's incorporating some tiny grain lengths, generating some noisy textures and warped resonance, flipping the samples like they're kitchen sponges and he's activating the abrasive side. The start of the album finds a familiar exuberance and weirds it into some amazing new heights with this technique, but then the second half zooms all the way in on an exploration of funhouse proportions. This is one of my favorite kind of album structures, where it gives you the pop upfront, and then uses what's been introduced to take you into freakier zones. And I could not be happier to see Stone absolutely knock it out of the park with that format!
If the question is "what would it be like if music was weird and exciting", Matt Carlson always has some great answers. His 2016 album 'The View From Nowhere' is a high watermark in clinical freakouts, and recent work has seen him deliberately engage with new rules and fresh practices against stagnancy. He has often taken an approach to complex synthesis that keeps it all feeling hand-played. But there's so much more in reach now, so much more flexibility. A track like 'Apology to Satan' can wind up finding some kind of almost straightforward footing and then spend its runtime gleefully stumbling through it, but then 'Balding Dog' comes in with the utmost confidence, immediately appearing like its throwing out orbs to illuminate 4th dimensional intenstinesque hallways, discovering so many coiled paths within paths. It's quite a wonderful range!
This is electronic music that's a step outside from "loosely tied together gestures", the kind of thing that eventually fashions a grid out of the best available twigs for the job. Everything within the music feels interconnected, but it's by a kite's string going from slack to taut. It's very flexible in the way it holds together, and this allows for the depiction of a solidification process. There's an excellent demonstration in the opener 'Vie', there's an introduction of a smattering of tones establishing a vocabulary of clanks and shimmers, some with amplitude flutters dropping or shooting upwards in speed, some playing with patterns contrasting stable frequencies against the equivalent of tv static. The shapes intially present themselves together, but everything is separating off from the shared root, the connections hold little bearing on the future of where the strands land. But then the music lands on a unifying drone, and all the booms, clicks and crackles start to snap into place, affirming all the expectations they set for each other. But I think my favorite is 'À lier', which pushes solidifcation from a much sturdier starting point, landing somewhere with hits like sheets of pavement. Quite satisfying, on so many levels!
Kristen Roos - Universal Synthesizer Interface Vol II
I was a introduced to the late 80's Apple computers as a child, so the old black and white interfaces trigger a certain nostalgic quiet glee. You can be certain that I was delighted when I saw the screenshots of the software used for this album. But there are no attempts in this music to recapture some lost feelings of youth, this seems more like it's about the underexplored capabilities of the software that are long since buried under the rapid pace of technological advancement. There is still some infatuation with the sonic character of the time in these tunes, but it never strikes me as gratuitous. I've always been the type to love these types of synth sounds for everything that they are, rather than substitutes for the physical instruments they often wind up reflecting, so this is good news to me. But even if you don't share that affinity, there's still so much to get from material like the propulsive minimalist accumulation of Diablo III. It's majestic, and credit goes as much to the peak as it does to the road. I think this old software was necessary to carve out this path, and Roos deserves major accolades for seeing that it was possible.
I was having too much fun to even notice how weird this music was when I first heard it. It's not just that songs like "Lili" sound like computer-synthesized insect wing percussion with fake birds over top of it. You could put that style on some conventional music, no big deal. But what really sets it apart is the way the song moves between different bug sizes, it's a motion that could only be achieved with these specific instruments, providing the music with a depth that keeps me coming back.
Lia Kohl - Too Small to be a Plain
An absolutely stellar solo debut from Kohl here, following her genuinely psychedelic collaborations with Macie Stewart and cello appearances on albums from women like Circuit des Yeux and Claire Rousay. This album involves a lot of layered improvisations, where the individual components were recorded with an indifference to all the other material in the music, where the meaning comes together in the multitrack assemblage. I actually have some experience with this kind of practice, except when I did it, I really wasn't confident in what I was doing, and I'd allow for most of the sound to congeal into a din that could hide all the unsatisfactory details. But nothing feels hidden in Kohl's music. Sounds may combine, but their individuality remains strong, as though they are embedded with a sense of purpose that has no trouble integrating with the community of sound. Everything feels as if it was meant to exist together, without the need for cheats. Some of it has an explanation, like the audio-to-midi mixtures on 'Join Me, Everybody'. But some of the ways that this music functions goes beyond any attribution, and it is simply glorious.
Fantasma do Cerrado - Mapeamento de Terras a Noroeste de São Paulo de Piratininga
These songs straddle the corporeal and immaterial worlds. The vocals are often reverberated to feel as though they perpetually come from the next room over, always just out of sight, no matter how much area the music runs through. The rest of the instruments suggest you could reach out and grab them, but then there'll be some kind of shift to disprove the notion. Like with the second track, it warms up with a long wash of tones before landing on earth with a cascade of delayed and overdubbed guitar, which becomes a singularly unfiied instrument once the first verse begins. The atmosphere evaporates in a sizzle, leading to a passage in which clashing delay patterns pull each individual element in different directions, it's all been smoke in the shape of something solid. Tremendous experiences like this are all over this album, some truly transportive music awaits you!
There was an album from Saskia back in 2019 on QTV Selo that was firmly planted in leftfield, I'd missed it at the time, but maybe you didn't? If you did, the more explicitly pop nature of this EP might be a shock. Fortunately, I had no such expectations, and was able to just get right into the excellent songwriting with no hesitation. There's certainly some oddly engaging choices, particularly with the tuba and rapid drum breakdown on 'Quarta Obra'. But I find the greatest delights with the more straightforward aspects, like the way the tiers of vocals develop upward in concert with the guitar on 'Quarta Rainha', it makes for such a beautiful ascent. I can't get enough, it's one of the songs I've come back to the most over the year. The rest of the EP has some really clever twists that I love, but this is the tune that hits me direct, every time.
Quentin Tolimieri - Monochromes
This one will trick you a little bit at the start if you're only glancing at it, you might think this is just some regular slow piano, something pretty that you don't have to worry about. But that's a lie. The second track will immediately clarify your situation, that each track is going to lock on to a specific part of the piano with the unbroken focus of a horror movie villain, and then drive away at what's in sight for anywhere between 5 and 35 minutes. Tolimieri's target for destruction appears to be the listener's unified perception of his instrument. It feels most obvious with material like the second track, it's non-stop rapid twinkling, and so it didn't take long for my mind to pull apart the hammer impacts from the string vibrations, and witness them elevate beyond their typically supportive role and become their own thing. But even on the slower tracks that read more melodically, I still get a sense of everything I'm hearing being pulled apart from itself. I'm particularly astounded by 'Monochrome 8', which sounds like what would happen if you asked a computer to do a complex fractal zoom on a timestretched piano note. There's some truly spectacular experiences to be had with this one.
This is some very precisely tuned techno, though not the type that carries a sterile environment. It is dancing somewhere you can leave footprints. The music is full of long-drawn tones that get me leaning closer, and it pulls my ear toward the subtle melodics of all the pitched percussion, while new layers pile in and create new joints for the skeleton. I particularly love the mixture of the shimmering ascendent texture wash with the nervous mechanical rhythm on 'Redland Dunes'. And following that one with the interactions between the moody synth timbres and the bass hits on 'Grandis', it's an exquisite sequence, but the whole thing is all quite excellent!
Full disclosure, Jetski is a friend and I think he is hilarious on Twitter. So I might be a little biased here. But also, I've evangelized to many, many people on the brilliance of Wobbly - Wild Why and the twisted logic that emerges out of the onslaught of samples on that album. So this was always going to connect for me regardless of existing relationships, because Jetski is operating in a similar sphere. There's variety in the source material between each track, but it's never a jolt to jump between midwest emo, jazz, and metal. Because even when there are adjustments in the approach to best suit the material, there is a unifying sensation that I am witnessing a machine prove through its continued operation that it is not broken, in spite of how the output may come across. It simply has a new purpose. This is not a glitch, it's supposed to be happening, and it will all make sense if you let it.