What do we have here? In fact, more than a handful of strange gems that glisten in their own particular light. These selections are all out this month, and some are quite outstanding, a few others are sonically charged, still the remainder may offer a double-take….
Bella‘s Hadron (Pan Y Rosas Discos) leads this list as it is the most complex and hard to pin down by any measure. You can hear the track prei-prei featured on the latest episode of our brand-new Mixcloud Podcast (just above). This is a roller-coaster of sleek and undefinable effects that are superbly stimulating to the senses, and will delight most ears – especially those who want a good strong dose of non-rhythmic electronic hijinx. Whoosing synths and dappled percussion lead way to variable frequencies, especially microsounds from the underground. Hadron is constantly breaking silences and may be describes by some as being industrially adjacent – I hear these more as free-form sound sculptures. A definite find in the haystack of lost sounds.
The self-titled Soft Thoughts (Arachnidiscs) comes to us from trio Matt Nish-Lapidus, Timothy Condon and Michael Peter Olsen. It’s an elusive record that seems to want to break out into the field of metal, but only teases by way of a flanging riff that repeats on Perils. There are many moments where the gents create this starry-eyed sense of void that is mesmerizing, stunting. They also offer generous stringed reverb that blends shoegaze and ambient techno somehow flawlessly (Stemen). The work is emotive even at its most peculiar, and you can expect plenty in the light of conceptually driven experimental electronics. There are beats, but they are quite wayward, following their own wry trajectory. And when you least expect it incoming are field recording samples and U.F.O. monitors at full-tilt (Garden Party).
The Norwegian duo Pål Kåres Elektroshop (Pål Hausken, Kåre Christoffer Vestrheim) offers something clearly out of the ordinary via the latest, Wooden Glory. At first you may think this will be ultra-minimal, but give it time to warm to your room’s temp – and this takes off with rich percussion and synths that will send the listener into lost oasis. The rhythm is at center stage, sharing it with enigmatic creaks and bold electronics. An animated array with stray effects that squeal, bloop and otherwise steer you in one direction only to surprise from a unsuspecting angle. There are embedded ambient passages that are a bit like a mirage amid the dynamic playing – and the title track may transport you into a momentary, hallucinatory lapse of reason. So be it!
Out on Room40 is one of Tokyo’s most prolific ambient practioners, Chihei Hatakeyama. Forgotten Hill was inspired to a visit he made tot he Asuka region, and it’s the aural equivalent of watching the first leaves of Autumn fall in slow-motion — in fact two of the titles here mention the word fall/ing). It’s simply illuminated. The work is gentle yet heavy, and in its soft light the observer will most definitely daydream unless otherwise multitasking. My guess is this work will offer respite from the grind. Hatakeyama incorporates some drone here (Falling Star) though over and above most of this simply drifts like the ‘heavy snow‘ of obfuscation – a mask atop nature. And though all of the nine tracks here are fairly short in length, they offer a prolonged slowness for a virtual world.
Based in France, Argentinian composer Elsa Justel has been developing new sound work since the 1980’s. Her latest on the reputable empreintes DIGITALes imprint is Yegl (listen here), which focuses on her projects between 2002-2017. Her work included are electro-acoustic journeys, radiophonic work and fixed medium. And her medium offers little to no tedium, instead these wonderous pieces feel to be tactile storytelling of sorts. Pockets of silences, vocal cut-ups, funky breaks, dripping waters, cling-clang, symphonic interruptions, radio narration and remote instrumentation – all make for dizzying works of grandeur. Yes make sure you are sitting down, may I recommend undulating on a settee or chaise, sprawl out and stretch – as does what you are hearing. Sounds for sore ears.
Nicola Fornasari known as Xu has just released Embodying Formlessness (Whitelabelrecs). This record takes shape via the deployment of his young daughter’s toy ukulele crafted through non-synchronised loops that come off curiously bright. The tiny melodies are engaging, if a bit twee at points, though where there’s risk there’s catharsis. Fornasari’s blend of cadences is quite mellow, and a bit reminiscent of outtakes from some lost Joni Mitchell recording. Still there’s a resilience, even if it teeters on capturing that child-like spirit in us. And for all the toy jewelry box harmony herein you’ll enjoy the balance found in the roughly hewn mix. While this may not be for all ears (is anything?) don’t put this down without listening to the incredibly perplexing no mud no lotus, by far the standout here, yet an anomaly in the course of the whole listen. Fans of Japanese folk music and shoegaze need apply.