It’s that time of the year when everything seems at a snail’s pace, in slow-motion, allowance for the Sun to nourish and ravage the Earth. While this phenomenon continues to baffle scientists the world over, I intend on making my way through a handful of releases worthy of some cross-examination, and your ear. Though we must be brief, you can take your own sweet time engaging with these unusual gems that sparkle in the harsh light (and those made in the shade).
Los Angeles-based composer Adrianna Krikl‘s new tape is a combo of two short EP singles in one: Celestial/Endless. It’s a sublime slice of electronics that is flavored with sly beats and ambient disguise. The lead cut features the angelic soprano of Caroline Joy Clarke cooing to the universe, with some production by Dan Konopka of OK Go. Catch some of her experiments on Insta, and Bandcamp – but these six tracks are emotionally impactful, with a sleek production of percussion, strings and synths. The dynamic geo-flip of the cover art made this photog look twice with its clever inversion. This will appeal to a cross section of those who love melodic electronica to soundtrack enthusiasts.
Tara’s Room (1987) is one of composer Pauline Oliveros‘ (1932-2016) most powerful works and listeners should consider this super high quality reissue by Important Records (LP/DL). Two compositions that run just over fifty minutes are as powerfully fragile as anything ever written in my lifetime, this piece is as serene as it is bafflingly complex – especially The Beauty of Sorrow. The piece bends over in pain, yet has a melodic resilience that keeps it going. The title work is far more haunting, at times you can hear a pin drop in Oliveros’ sphere of on-all-fours quietude. Repetitive voices recite hushed words in a hypnotic recurring pattern. It’s a dichotomy of a whisper and a scream in one, paced by the utmost minimalist tendencies.
The latest from Birds of Prey is Vanishing Point, it’s recently out on the NYC-based Mysteries of the Deep imprint, and well worth multiple spins (especially if you get the clear blue vinyl). This was our introduction and one of the best deep listening records this season. Available in multiple (limited) formats I urge you to consider the power of drone as the Sun sets, that and the improvisational quartet’s large sound (Grant Aaron, Clay Wilson, Eric Holmes, and Camille Altay). Embedded vocals, beats, ambient washes, and incidental industrial sets this record apart from others floating in space. If My Bloody Valentine were reborn without a past whatsoever, this would be what you might imagine. Contemporary sleeper hit.
Phantoms by Sonologyst (Raffaele Pezzella) is an intense minimalist journey over the course of ten tracks. Jagged actions, dizzying in their deployment bring an enigmatic edge to the sound effects made up from turntables, trumpet, azzax and voice. There is something queasy nested within this work, radio voices from another time, partially obscured jungle drumming, combustion/tension – and the occasional pause and drift from consciousness. Though each piece is different, like a mini chapter, they all fold into each other like a great storyline. He captured it perfectly: “Dreamlike mental landscape of nonsensical memories, a metamorphic passage from the blackness, the shadows of a lost beauty.” Standout track for me is Memorex, which defies description, but is somewhere between wild cosmic dogs, banshees, punk rock and a murky warehouse emitting the history of a peculiar past.
The latest from German minimal techno composer Frank Bretschneider is a thirty-three minute singular work put out by Sydney’s Longform Editions. Sweet Water Pools is notable as one of those extremely sparse recordings where headphones are in order (especially if you are in an area where there is a lot of random noise). For an artist who normally gives you colorful kinetic beats, this is scaled to the barest multi-channel performance. It’s glistens and beams with electronic chatter and purring pitch. He used a ton of speakers in an empty room to create a work that reverberates like a scanner analyzing every inch of the bones of its architectural containment. Don’t let the ‘sweet’ title fool you, this stirs things up. A micro masterpiece that settles like fine dust.
Avia is out this month, and Derek Piotr uses a gentle approach to offer a subversive anthem to the outer space of daily life. By incorporating vocal with field recordings and wavy synths with glossy effects this gives off a high concept of family, loss, and of the human spirit as interpreted in third person, once removed. Piotr (w/many collaborators) create a world that is as harmonic as it is dissonant, and these shades of moodiness play like futuristic folk music that’s incredibly accessible, yet from an experimental sensibility. Highly nuanced percussive elements play into an ongoing conversation with his nonagenarian grandparent in the final decade of her life, with a heartwarming, and forlorn set of tempos and elusive passages. Having grown up in New England myself, this has a fascinating ring to it. Gorgeous.
Hobart’s Hemisphäreの空 releases several shorter works by artists, and the latest from Matthew Adkins caught my ear. Spectral Terrace consists of two pieces (each over ten mins) of minimalist, close contact cymbals, singing bowl, snare drum, software + more. The live amplified microsounds are fortified with mystical organicism. His clean, crisp sound puts you right there in the room alongside him. It sounds, at times, like a miniaturized, slowed version of Miles Davis’ players circa ’72 – yet in the other ear I’m experiencing some weird lab experiment on a hybrid chrysalis. Take this one for a test drive.
And while you are at it you may also want to check out their concurrent iconoclastic release from Marie Rose Sarri & Philippe Lamy titled Acte de Foi. It’s a Lilliputian concoction blending computer and field recordings that harkens to the days of labels like Plate Lunch and Trente Oiseaux. Static meets open frequencies meets blank space, with more than a few surprises. They keep it micro, but this, in effect, has a colossal impact. I promise, you’ll be glad I mentioned it.
Mira Martin-Gray creates extremely unexpected work, and her latest Out of Body Out of Work: Solos for Mixing Boards (pan y rosas discos) is as quirky as it gets. This Toronto-based original is in her own world, and for good reason, it’s a place to develop wildly original ideas. This falls somewhere between balloon animal play, tweaked-out digital frequencies and some kind of twisted old skool haunted house. Hers is a physical sound sculpture that finds an intermediary set of patterns from an unlikely sound source. Martin-Gray finds tonal ambuiguity in the annals of the inverse. It’s as though she is spitting rhythm. Beguiling.
The latest on Past Inside The Present comes from the duo of Wayne Robert Thomas and Isaac Helsen. The trio of works on RÁS (a Faroese word, which roughly translates to “a strong current in a narrow passage which links two seas.” These ambient works of light are elongated, understated, elegant. The fluid and forlorn elegy to the loss of English notable (and underrated) musician Mark David Hollis floats towards the heavens. Their isolated harmonies meander, so ebullient and gentle. This is one melodic dronescape that seems unending, particularly on the eighteen minute stand-alone In Which We Hold Our Breath to Gather Light, a haunting closer that situates the listener somewhere in the woods at night, fire crackling, and much to contemplate in the surrounding wild. Perplexing + mystical.
Home Windows (on Arachnidiscs) is the most recent release from a new multi-instrumental artist popping up on the scene in the last year, storyinsoil. A deep chamber of darkness greets you on Peristyle. This is one of those spacey, hard-to-define recordings that slips and slides gracefully between ambient to visionary soundtrack-scapes to hiatuses of dreamy, melodic production. It’s a sleek earful that has a sleepy warmth that one might need after watching the evening news. My standout track doesn’t ‘stand out’ at all necessarily, but is the elusive Vicia Faba that soothes and withers – folding right into the equally dramatic atmosphere of Cape Horn. If you are looking for a sonic experience to stave off everyday psychic wear-n-tear you have found it.
Xanbient Works (Volume 1) by DJ Bando is a bit of an anomaly, just out on Opal Tapes. Synthetic industrial beats with flailing effects give even the experienced listener pause. Its starry-eyed crank shift is in full swing, delivering by way of a churning, blurry, gutteral bass in husky dusky tones. If this were a dream, it’s this wildly interesting conveyor smear factory flanked by a propensity for its mechanical leanings. The bloated atonal din of Romulus Pitch sounds right out of the kitchen of Throbbing Gristle – a gentle reminder that there is still an underground afterall. The deeper you listen the more subliminal the experience. When computers and corrosion collide this becomes both alienating and indoctrinating, depending on the assimilating set of ears on the other side.
Australian interdisciplinary artist Erkki Eeltheim (b. Finland) has just released his first solo composition on record, and the Ganzfeld Experiment is an a/v work for electric violin, video and signal processing via Room40. At once this serrated set of shaded frequencies that seem to be sawing to and fro, Eeltheim incorporates low-grade, sonic hiss to, as he says, open the door to “the mystical, the magical, the shamanistic”. At the centerpoint of this experiment is a warped harmonic transition that is by far the ultimate showcase his stringed derangement. It’s fascinating as the wiggly chords fester, buzz and protrude as they stream forth. The last quarter of this lengthy forty-four minute piece strains his melodies through a filtered, processed scrim of electronic detritus. The sprained tension is quite physical, like taking a classical work and putting it though a grinder of variables and collateral results.
LA’s Orenda Records offers me entré to the experimental jazzy sphere of California composer Alexander Noice that is like a strange post-rock cabaret. He’s gathered a group of six singers and musicians to expertly interpret his ideas that are more like Meredith Monk than Mouse on Mars yet falls somewhere between. Syllabic lyrics consummately folded into and alongside strings, sax and synth. This breaks out into repetitive loopy passages ala Glass/Wilson’s operatic collabs, but this is adrift with a far more contemporary snappiness. Even fans of Devo (or Morphine) will get this – though that may not make any sense in black and white. The voices are pure instruments here, and at times the predilection towards jazz is as poker-faced as Sesame Street and fingered like some wild Steely Day riff – Noice takes you on a memorable multicolored trip. Insanely unique.