For the last three months we have truly been inundated with diverse new releases, and because of volume and curation many of them miss hitting the pixels we produce here at Toneshift.net. We are so lucky to be able to have access to such a wide breadth of innovative sounds. Out of these numerous works I have decided there are a small batch that I cannot just allow to pass into the ether. So I am taking on those holdouts here in a series of quickie session of shotgun reviews (don’t let my brevity dissuade you from listening longingly), consider them as recommendations for this holiday season. Oh, no, these are not the latest country variations on White Christmas, you’ll have to go elsewhere for those. The following represent sixteen of the most unusual genre-defying works from all over the globe, in alpha-order.
Ashtoreth + No One | Redemption
Consouling Sounds (CD/DL)
This record is one continuous work of icy drones and gradual harmonic layers, with building resonances and dramatic atmosphere. This is incredibly contemplative until it emerges at its midpoint to take flight. A mysterious long-form series of ambient passages that will slowly creep into your psyche.
Michel Banabila | VoizNoiz
Steamin’ Soundworks (2xLP/DL)
Hard to do a quick summation on this one as it has some distinct personalities, all quite wonderful and odd. Banabila brightens the room with abstract effects, crackle and hiss and playful genre-bending – from blues to pop to world musics to county fair to folk and back again – all brought together in a clever electronic production. It’s got a soul and a wry sensibility. Oh, and there’s a notable, bright mix collaboration with Oene Van Geel.
Corazón De Robota | Infinitud Oceánica
Zona Watusa (CS/DL)
This trio of tracks opens with the bent din of industrial corruption and ends with cyclical voice samples churning away endlessly. In between there’s a tempered bounciness in this atonal montage. A peculiar and sometimes coarse look at minimal electronic sound waves.
Emilía | Spring Through a Window
Rottenman Editions (CD/DL)
Built on soft stringed vibrations and ambience this dips into forlorn orchestration that is as silky as it is moody. There are some incredibly beautiful moments here, and the production is pristine. The listener will be at complete ease as these short vignettes float through their brain, effortlessly.
experiMENTALien | TeTraTulpa
Focused Silence (CD/DL)
A lengthy 40-minute work filled with unexpected samples, field recordings and effects. The brevity of percussive aspects and minimal fringe elements make this a very active record. The layers grow and as a whole starts to sound like some kind of decomposed transmission between foreign entities. It literally exhales with a deconstructed breathing pattern. And then just takes off….
Benjamin Finger | Into Light
A quartet of tracks (two short, two long) that are intensely understated by a unique fusion of drone and harmony. The cello holds a thousand mysteries, and sounds so sweet yet desolate. A series or warbling effects and soft percussion flank this distinctive record. It sounds like something that might be on 4AD if the label were born in 2018. Stick around for the startling conclusion on Paradox Route, with lulling vocal treatments, stunning!
Hypnodrone Ensemble | Plays Orchestral Favourites
Wolves and Vibrancy Records (DL)
A project of Aidan Baker and Thisquietarmy this polyrhythmic ensemble showcases drummers Felipe Salazar (Caudal, Muerte En Pereira), Jérémie Mortier (Alice in the Cities, Nearest Gas Station), and Dave Dunnett (Man Meets Bear). At first you think you have put on one of the most hippy-like records of the late 60s, only to discover a whole new world. It’s this angular collage of experiments and time-released amalgam of progressive electronica and psychedelic synaesthesia, with a heaping side of hipsway rock n’ roll. If Godspeed You! Black Emperor and SUNN O))) had a love child….
INRA | The Content Consuming Its Form
Pinkbox Teleport (CS/DL)
This is one of those rarest of tapes, in the farthest reaches of leftfield and I just love it! Dark corners, funky rhythms, abstract beats, voices from beyond. Not to mention one of the most intriguing cover artwork paintings I’ve seen this year, along with funny titles like: I Don’t Have Feet, The Last Summer Before Web 2.0 and Free Powersnacks In The Co-Working Space. This is no joke. Rather, one of those sleepers you might miss if you weren’t paying attention. Do not let this strange attraction pass you by. Out today.
Jan Nemeček | Recurrences
Speaking of cover art, this one sports a beauty, but what’s inside will surprise your eardrums. Deep bass drone formations in an melodic ambient housing this is one of those records that helps define a new wave in granular synthesis. It finds this niche between design and breakdown, in a mix that is filled with moments of clarity and murkiness – as well as countless complex effects that weave, rise and fall throughout.
Lorenzo Gomez Oviedo & Valentina Spina | para, sin, contra
Pan Y Rosas Discos (DL)
The duo perform a very live sound, stylish improv that sounds like they are playing stringed and percussive instruments while dropping, slamming and finding open pockets of breath in-between. They incorporate field recordings of soft voices and bird calls along the way. The incidental informs the radical play, and vice versa. In some ways the guitar noodling crossed with industrial electronics make this a hypothetical avant jazz, just add playful staccato series of noises and you’ve got a real jam on your hands.
Muqata’a | Inkanakuntu
This was the double-take of the month. The sizzle of static that opens this is just the spark that lights a delightful flame. Is this contemporary Middle Eastern or African music? Is it appropriation of various cultures? The question about what you are experiencing is the tension that keeps your ears listening to this incredible blend of sci-fi, jazz, and other quaking abstract corridors. It’s most definitely one of those ‘kitchen-sink’ records that gets it right. Syncopated, challenging, and ultimately seductive for anyone who loves to rightly get lost. A game changer.
SARRAM | Four Movements of a Shade
Midira Records (CD/DL)
A chilling mindbender that can get quite loud. A layered set of drones finds various points of separation, and runs with it. These ‘movements’ from Sardinia-based Valerio Marras have an eerie edge, a melodic center and its vision set towards the cosmos. At times it sounds like a dark spoof on cinéma vérité, and then the palette of elongated tones winds and disperses broadly. And there are quiet moments amidst the acoustic grandeur. As a whole, this is a real trip to listen to from end to end. Headphones recommended.
Sour Gout | Rotary Blade
Hellscape Records (CD Laser Device/DL)
This is some earnest hybrid rocking between the world of tribal beats and experimental rumination. The EP has a sassy set of five fairly ordinary length tracks that are anything but. Like others in this survey, this one breaks the glass ceiling in its ability to deter where we place our thumb on it. For a hot minute there are funky broken beats, but this is constantly interrupted by the circumvention of invention. It flutters between patterns and pace, becoming a quasi post-IDM with slicing percussive effects tossed throughout. The cello studies sound like someone is gaming behind the virtual curtain, and when an open air fielf recording is added, all the more curious and blissful.
The Vegetable Orchestra | Green Album
Transacoustic Research (LP/CD/DL)
For two decades this act had been creating the most obscure acoustic treatments based on, you guessed it, the sound made from vegetables! OK, I have to admit, this is my first introduction, and I am simply astonished by the plant kingdom and how these folks wield ’em. If you’ve not experienced someone blowing into pepper, twisting the skins of the simple tomato or using a pumpkin for percussion – you will experience something quite euphoric here. In fact, as my favorite sounds in the world emanate from traditional Gamelan I was pleasantly indulged here. They are inspired by Reich and Riley, but I’m inspired as a seasoned set of ears hearing something new for the first time. You need this natural anomaly in your library, in your life.
Franck Vigroux | Désastre
The latest EP from Vigroux is fiery electronics set aflame. The only reference I can site in terms of austerity is Depeche Mode’s best, Black Celebration. Described as it “depicts the fragility of human experience when compared to space” its arrant exterior, with fused synthetic beats seems like the ultimate alarm call. There are soft spots on here like Cap, otherwise this edgy affair will kick drop yer cahones for a loop. Searing.
Keir Vine | Instance
Trestle Records (LP/DL)
Probably most ambiguous of this entire overview is this eye-opener from Keir Vine. Drenched in breathy effects, shoegazer-adjacent electronics and random street sounds this record stokes the cerebral cortex for spare change. Distant voices rise and ghostly drones remain shapeless. And for good measure Vine adds theremin-like reverb in the mix, as well as the dreamy piano/vocalese on the wavy Under Water. If you like a record that digs deep and continuously shapeshifts by way of camouflage, this one will drive you wild.