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Forced Exposure New Releases for the Week of 08/13/2018

New music is due from Caterina Barbieri, David Holmes, and Crypt Trip, while old music is due from Coil, Belong, and Keith Hudson.

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Ian William Craig, "A Turn of Breath"

cover imageRecently reissued in expanded form, A Turn of Breath was Ian William Craig's 2014 formal debut, though it was predated by a handful of digital-only and cassette releases.  In fact, I am quite fond of his first two Recital Program albums, even if they betray a strong Tim Hecker influence.  With A Turn of Breath, however, Craig made a major creative leap forward, casting aside any lingering derivative touches to establish himself as one of the most talented and distinctive sound artists in recent memory.  Using just his voice as his primary instrument, Craig employs an arsenal of tape players to transform his simple, naked melodies into swooning and warbling dream-like bliss.  He later expanded considerably on that aesthetic with the more song-based and shoegaze-inspired Centres, but that vision was already quite lovely and fully formed here–A Turn of Breath just happens to be a more fragmented, flickering, and hallucinatory incarnation of it.

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Neutral, "När"

cover imageThis duo of Sofie Herner and Sewer Election's Dan Johannsson is probably my favorite project to emerge from Sweden's flourishing underground in recent years.  När, their third album, was originally released on vinyl back in 2017, but I believe it only became widely available in digital form this spring.  While Neutral's aesthetic has certainly evolved over the years, Herner's idiosyncratic and oft-creepy lo-fi pop experiments and Johannsson's noisy textures always combine to form something stranger and more compelling than the sum of their  parts.  I suppose Neutral's closest kindred spirits are probably The Shadow Ring, but the best moments on När sound more like an surreal and intimate answering machine message or a ransom note delivered in the form of a blurry and distorted VHS tape.

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Caterina Barbieri, "Born Again in the Voltage"

cover imageLast year's Patterns of Consciousness was a massive, ambitious, and occasionally dazzling psychotropic opus that sought to reshape consciousness through pattern manipulation, instantly establishing Caterina Barbieri as one of the most compelling contemporary synthesizer composers.  Naturally, it will be a damn tough act to follow, but Born Again in the Voltage is not its highly anticipated successor, as its four pieces were recorded back in 2014 and 2015.  On this more drone-based affair composed for the Buchla 200, Barbieri is joined by cellist Antonello Mostacci for a more modest and understated batch of songs.  As such, Voltage is not quite as striking or distinctive as Barbieri's debut, but it is still quite good and "How to Decode an Illusion" is an absolutely gorgeous work.

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Birchville Cat Motel, "With Maples Ablaze"

cover imageFor years, I have rightly hailed Campbell Kneale as one of the true dark wizards of gnarled guitar noise, but I did not fully appreciate the depth and breadth of his vision until only recently: pre-Bandcamp, it was quite a difficult, expensive, and overwhelming endeavor to keep up with his sprawling body of work.  As a result, several landmark albums fell through the cracks and remain woefully underappreciated to this day.  One such example is this 2004 release on the now-defunct Scarcelight label, a hallucinatory suite of musique concrète, deep drones, and innovative collage that drew in a murderers' row of talented collaborators like John Wiese, Bruce Russell, Jonathan Coleclough, Peter Wright, and Neil Campbell.  As with many Kneale releases, With Maples Ablaze occasionally dips into some nerve-jangling and dissonant territory, but the high points are legitimately amazing to behold.

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break_fold, "27_05_17-21_01_18"

cover image Following up last year’s equally difficult titled tape release, the mysterious break_fold project’s newest work, 27_05_17-21_01_18 continues the stripped-down techno style that the artist cultivated on that previous release, but in a way that demonstrates a sense of growth and complexity in comparison.  With a unified sound across each of the seven songs—but different arrangements for each—the final product is a varied, satisfying one that draws from a wide variety of rhythm oriented electronic music.

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Liberez, "The Letter"

cover imageNewly reissued, 2011's The Letter was Liberez's formal debut, but it is new to me and confirms that John Hannon's gnarled post-industrial vision was great right from the beginning.  In some ways, I suppose The Letter is a bit more primitive than the shifting ensemble's more recent releases, but that is more of an asset than a shortcoming with this project–it simply means that Hannon and his collaborators sound even more like a bunch of early '80s experimentalists bashing on oil drums and chopping up tape loops in a freezing squat or abandoned warehouse.  I suppose Hannon's more recent work is a bit more distinctive in some ways, often resembling some kind of Eastern European folk music played with rusted junkyard instruments and blown-out amps, but The Letter has enough visceral power, freewheeling experimentation, and unconventional percussion to stand out in its own right.  It might actually be my favorite of Liberez's three albums, though Sane Men Surround is damn hard to top.

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Midwife, "Prayer Hands" EP

cover imageRecorded during the turbulent period following the closure of beloved Denver DIY space Rhinoceropolis, Prayer Hands takes the hazy, melancholy dream-pop beauty of Like Author, Like Daughter and distills it into a gut-punch of simmering and seething emotion.  While the swooning, elegantly blurred pop of "Angel" is probably the release's biggest hook, Madeline Johnston and collaborator Tucker Theodore gamely expand the Midwife aesthetic in some more visceral and experimental directions as well.  The result is a near-perfect release that features three gorgeously haunting gems of hissing and hypnagogic shoegaze heaven in a row.

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Fosil Sangiran, "Khayal Kuno", "Pasar Fosil"

cover imageFosil Sangiran is a previously unused pseudonym for the late Matt Shoemaker, who passed away in August 2017.  Although he had a lengthy body of work under his own name, these works were to be issued under a different name as to reflect the differing intent he took during these recordings.  Both of these cassettes consist of material that was recorded between 2012 and 2013 during Shoemaker's time living in Java, Indonesia, which is evident in the music itself.  There are parallels to be heard to the work under his own name, but both Pasar Fosil and Khayal Kuno have distinctly different qualities, both in comparison to his other work and even between one another, but both represent differing facets to an artist that left us far too soon.

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Louise Landes Levi, "IKIRU or The Wanderer"

cover imageThis unique album quietly surfaced back in April, but it is one of 2018's most wonderfully unexpected releases, as it is the first of Landes Levi's recordings to ever be made widely available.  Although she has amassed a small cult following through her releases on Belgium's Sloow Tapes, Landes Levi has largely remained an obscure figure in music circles, rarely recording and jokingly describing herself in a recent Wire interview as a "street musician made good."  It would be more apt to describe her as reluctant drone royalty, however, as she co-founded The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company in the '60s, an ensemble that also included folks like Terry Riley and Angus MacLise.  She also studied with La Monte Young and an improbable host of legendary Indian musicians over the years.  On IKIRU, Landes Levi is joined by luminaries of a different sort, as her haunting sarangi melodies are backed by Belgian underground veterans Bart de Paepe and Timo von Luijk.  IKIRU would have certainly been a mournfully lovely album with just Landes Levi's unadorned sarangi playing, but her sympathetic collaborators take her viscerally elegiac vision into wonderfully ritualistic and hallucinatory deep-psych territory.

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The Eye: Video of the Day

Paws Across America 2003

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Review of the Day

23 SKIDOO, "URBAN GAMELAN"
One of the most consistently innovative and influential of Britain's early 80's experimental/industrial scene, 23 Skidoo always seem to me to have one foot planted firmly in the ancient feudal Orient. The songs on the long-overdue reissue of the band's 1984 masterpiece Urban Gamelan are obsessed with the cold, calculated perfection of the industrial-funk fusion they pioneered. This record is part of a comprehensive re-release of all of the band's early work by Ronin Records. 23 Skidoo's interest in improvised Indonesian percussion, found instruments, afro-beat and funk has always placed them in their own cage, quite apart from contemporaries Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, to whom they are often compared. The first side builds a giant tower of funk exploration, the highlight being Fire, in which a wandering bass melody, pounding beat, random echo and zealously screamed vocals meld to form an uneasy dub track which is a lot more creepy than it is rocksteady. This uneasy vibe on all of the tracks is enhanced by the remastering job, which exposes background whispers and electrical drones, lending an air of British esotericism to the ecstatic Zen proceedings. The second side opens with the tense, pressure-cooker trippiness of Urban Gamelan Pt. 1, an exploratory work for traditional Indo-Pacific chimes and drums. The album's apex is the masterful Language Dub, which utilizes traditional percussion, wall-of-sound reverb and samples from martial arts films to build a drama that is literally overwhelming. This track fades away into a crystal pool, and we are left with a hauntingly rhythmic swansong. This album is a breathtaking work of head-cracked-open inspiration and manic joy.

 


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