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Forced Exposure New Releases for 5/21/2018

New music is due from Gas, Gábor Lázár, and David Grubbs and Taku Unami, while old music is due from Taj Mahal Travellers, Cement, and The Real Kids.


Simon Crab, "Demand Full Automation"

cover imageThree years after his eclectic and excellent solo debut, Bourbonese Qualk founder Simon Crab is back, albeit in radically transformed fashion.  Crab's eclecticism certainly remains intact, yet Demand Full Automation is a bit of a tough album to wrap my head around: it kind of sounds like Crab started composing a similarly fine follow-up, then got commissioned to soundtrack some kind of neon-lit impressionist urban noir film…then took a break and time-traveled back to the '90s to do a DJ set at the Haçienda.  Unsurprisingly, those disparate threads make very strange bedfellows indeed, yet the enigmatic logic of Crab's overarching vision is countered by some sizable leaps forward in his craftsmanship.  While I admittedly miss the homespun charm of After America a lot, Demand Full Automation is quite a likable (if sometimes quizzical) album in its own right, as it is a considerably tighter, more beat-driven, and more hook-filled affair than its predecessor.


Sarah Davachi, "Let Night Come On Bells End The Day"

cover imageSarah Davachi's first album for Sean McCann's Recital Program imprint marks yet another intriguing stage in the evolution of her expanding vision, beautifully blurring the lines between drone, psychedelia, and neo-classical composition.  Composed primarily for mellotron and electric organ, Let Night Come On often resembles a time-stretched and hallucinatory re-envisioning of a timeless mass or requiem.  There are certainly some nods to Davachi's earlier drone-centered work as well, yet the most stunning pieces feel like achingly gorgeous classical works that wandered into an enchanted mist where time loses all meaning and all notes dissolve into a gently lysergic and lingering haze after being struck.


Howard Stelzer, "Dawn Songs", "Normal Bias"

cover imageHaving sat on these tapes for far too long, I felt that it was a good time to revisit them in light of Stelzer's newest works (reviewed here) to more fully recognize this legendary artist’s work.  Dawn Songs is a pleasantly succinct piece of music that covers a nice gamut of sounds while Normal Bias is a sprawling, magnificent set of six tapes that feels like an "everything plus the kitchen sink" type release where everything just happens to be golden and indispensable.


Howard Stelzer/Brendan Murray, "Connector", "A Strange Object Covered in Fur Which Breaks Your Heart"

cover imageIn his two most recent works, Howard Stelzer branches out to less aggressive, more subdued sounds, while still heavily staying faithful to his core roots as a noisy manipulator of all things cassette.  His work with long-time friend and long-time collaborator Brendan Murray shows a wide variety of approaches and styles, while A Strange Object is largely him at his most focused and meditative.  The two tapes may seem vastly different at times, but make for excellent complements to one another.


Gnod, "Chapel Perilous"

cover imageGnod’s previous full-length, 2017's Just Say No..., was a feast of gloriously thuggish and focused brutality, but it was bit of an outlier for the shape-shifting psych collective from Salford.  Consequently, I was a fool to expect Chapel Perilous to continue along the same lines, as Gnod is an entity in a constant state of explosive reinvention.  There are a couple of lingering shadows of Just Say No's aesthetic in Chapel Perilous's lengthy bookends, however, as this album partially took shape as Gnod were touring in No's wake.  For the most part, Chapel Perilous is a completely different animal though, deconstructing the band's more hostile side into something a bit more seething, sprawling, indulgent, and experimental.  That makes this release more of an uneven, fitfully inspired detour than a great album, but it still manages to kick open a few new doors in decisive fashion.


Held There, Beside the Signified

cover imageFollowing the Idle Chatter's label curated tape set Transparens by Wren Turco, the label has released another, similar project, this time by Drekka's Mkl Anderson.  Again consisting of three artists, each contributing their own tape (Drekka, Pillars and Tongues, and Skrei), there are a multitude of different experimental sounds and approaches here, blending traditional with electronic instrumentation on this trinity of albums.  Like the label’s previous collection, each artist’s work differs greatly from one another others, but the big picture is a series of works that complement one another splendidly.


Grouper, "Grid of Points"

cover imageLiz Harris's Grouper project has taken on quite an unusual and fascinating trajectory over the last several years, transforming into something that feels like a slowly unfolding series of poetic postcards from a ghost.  Grid of Points, the most recent window into Harris's soul, continues to further distill the stark and tender fragility of 2014's Ruins, unfolding as a 22-minute suite of gorgeously ephemeral piano sketches that blur together to weave a hypnotic spell.  I suppose the word "sketches" conveys a somewhat unfinished aesthetic, which is not far from the mark, as these sessions were unexpectedly curtailed by a bout with high fever.  In a deeper sense, however, that fever was providential, as these pieces are perfect in their spectral elusiveness, evoking (as Harris herself puts it) "the space left after matter has departed, a stage after the characters have gone."


DNMF, "Smelter"

cover imageI was completely blindsided by this second release from unlikely collaborators Machinefabriek and Dead Neanderthals, as Smelter transcends the sum of its parts in absolutely crushing fashion.  Anyone familiar with Dead Neanderthals' explosive blend of extreme metal and free jazz will be unsurprised by the heaviness of this album, yet this is something new and different, taking Rutger Zuyderveldt's nuanced drone aesthetic and blowing it up into a scorched and seismic force of nature.  While it admittedly derails into an occasional lull at times, such moments are short-lived and easily forgotten in the face of such a viscerally howling onslaught of blackened sludge.  At its best, Smelter feels like being bulldozed by a glacier that was shaken loose by a torrent of smoking and bubbling lava.


Mike Shiflet, "Tetracosa Volume 1-4"

cover imageOhio legend Mike Shiflet has unquestionably had a lengthy and fascinating career as an experimental guitarist and electronics specialist with a multitude of diverse, exceptional releases since the early part of the century.  This year, however, he has embarked on his most ambitious project to date.  The Tetracosa series is an eight part, 24-hour-long project being released monthly in three hour segments, with the first four currently available.  While it seems at first a daunting project, it is anything but, and so far it is an exceptional piece of work that is engaging on a multitude of levels.

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Review of the Day

John Rifle, "Fracas Nurture"
Rabbit Surgeon Musics
And from the "What the fuck is this?" file comes this CD from John Rifle. John Rifle is an enigma. He's obsessed with rabbits, as the album artwork shows, and pop culture, as the music shows. He's not happy with the way things are going in this world of ours, and he's taking action. Mostly minimal piano and drum-created music with sound samples on top, "Fracas Nurture" is a pretty strange and frightening listen, completely devoid of warnings or clearances. Most samples are taken from television source material like ABC News and VH1 Behind the Music, and the CD is assembled like one long radio broadcast from inside the mind of a lunatic. It's socially conscious, it's got its sights set on many different targets, including the music industry, fame, drug use and the media, and it's completely and totally out of its gourd. Never has sound collage music sounded this urgent, this driven, or this insane. It's like Negativland making the soundtrack for a reality TV/horror movie. Bob Weston recorded this music, and he has done an admirable job given how this material could drive anyone involved over the edge. Tom Waits once created a track like this with samples of Dan Rather, and this is like the dream that track touched upon fully realized. Occasionally the music takes on a real structure, like on 'Intercom', but not often. Mostly, it's spoken word performances, with a little music for good measure. It's a message, not exactly for the faint of heart, that has some music with it. It's a good project (can't really call it an album because it defies even that moniker), but needs to be absorbed in doses. This is too much for one sitting. Try it out, though, because it needs to be heard to be believed or understood.




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