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Forced Exposure New Releases for the Week of 12/2/2019

New music is due from Amelie Lens, Afuma, and Oto Hiax (Mark Clifford and Scott Gordon), while old music is due from Robert Ashley, Dome, and Avi Matos.

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Robert Ashley, "Automatic Writing"

cover imageEarlier this year, Lovely Music reissued Robert Ashley’s 1978 landmark Private Parts album and now along comes its follow-up: 1979's similarly groundbreaking and idiosyncratic Automatic Writing.  On its surface, this album remains a haunting and uneasily dreamlike affair, as it anticipated both ASMR and the evolution of ambient music by several decades and still sounds improbably contemporary today (or perhaps just too singular to feel like it belongs to any era at all).  Beneath the surface, however, lies something far more fascinating and deeply conceptual than mere ambient music (or most late 20th century modern composition, for that matter): Automatic Writing is the culmination of Ashley's experiments in using his mild form of Tourette's Syndrome as a compositional tool.  Unsurprisingly, making such a quixotic endeavor work proved to be quite a challenging and oft-exasperating undertaking, but Ashley's five years of trial and error ultimately resulted in one hell of a strange and memorable album.

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Episode 443: November 24, 2019

Charlotte by Michael in Salt Lake City, UtahEpisode 442 of Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition is live

Curl up with an all new episode that's delicately assembled to warm your soul. This one features new and old music from Fovea Hex, Pita, Bill Fay, Throbbing Gristle, Dome, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, OOIOO, Cam Deas, Colleen, and Grouper.

photo of Charlotte by Michael in Salt Lake City, Utah

NOW AVAILABLE through SPOTIFY and AMAZON (links below) in addition to the other platforms.

Review, share, rate, tell your friends, send images!

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Sean McCann, "Puck"

cover imageThis latest release from Sean McCann picks up right where 2018's excellent Saccharine Scores left off, striking a lovely balance between stretched, blurred, and fragmented orchestral music and distracted, surreal snatches of spoken word.  In the best way, McCann's recent work feels like eavesdropping on his subconconcious mind (though it is thankfully a subconscious mind with all of the boring bits edited out).  Much like its predecessor, Puck is a series of warmly beautiful reveries swirling with mental detritus that feels meaningful, yet those impressions elude any connections or context that might illuminate what that meaning possibly could be.  As a result, Puck is frequently quite moving in a profoundly ineffable way.  McCann proves himself to be remarkably adept at mimicking how memory works, as we do not get to choose what lingers and what disappears: mundane scenes, fleeting impressions, and legitimately important moments all jumble together in a weird stew and there is no predicting what will bubble up to the surface next (or why).  In lesser hands, an album in this vein would probably feel like a self-conscious attempt to blow my mind with wild surrealist juxtapositions, but McCann largely gets the tone and the execution exactly right: Puck is a beautifully casual, organic, fragile, and intimate album.  It is quite possibly McCann's best as well.

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Michael Vincent Waller, "Moments"

cover imageThis NYC-based composer has long been a bit of a curious enigma to me, as he seems to travel primarily in experimental music circles, yet seems unwaveringly devoted to making very traditional and melodic classical music.  In a quietly subversive way, however, composing simple, elegantly lovely piano pieces in 2019 is a radical act in its own right.  That is where Waller (mostly) arrives on Moments, his third album and most minimal, distilled statement to date.  That approach suits him well, though I am not necessarily sure he needed go more minimal than he did with 2017’s excellent cello/piano album Trajectories (released on Sean McCann’s always interesting Recital Program imprint).  To some degree, Moments feels less like complete statement than its predecessor, resembling instead a kind of expertly curated mixtape of different piano composers unified by a knack for lyrical melodies and a sort of warm, wistful Romanticism.  Some are among the most beautiful pieces that Waller has composed to date though, which makes Moments akin to a strong (if improbable) "singles album" of sorts.  At times, it also feels like the beginnings of a major creative leap forward.

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Ilyas Ahmed, "Behold Killers"

cover imageI have always found Portland’s Ilyas Ahmed to be an elusive and enigmatically unusual artist, though I have recently realized that I am basing much of that opinion on his 2005 debut (Between Two Skies).  That album remains a cult favorite in some circles, as it exists in murkily melancholy and ghostly shadow realm between free folk and drone.  The varied work that Ahmed has released in between that minor classic and this latest cassette has only made it more difficult to pin down his strange and shifting aesthetic, but it also feels as if no time has passed at all: Behold Killers returns once more to the blurry, diffuse gray area where structure, improvisation, drone, and experimentalism precariously coexist and bleed together.  However, while the fluid approach to structure on this release is not a far cry from Ahmed's early days, the execution has improved considerably, as Behold Killers explore far warmer and more nuanced emotional territory than much of his previous work.  I still find some elements of the album perplexing, of course, but it is anchored by a couple of excellent longform pieces.

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Contrastate, "An Exercise in Defascination"

cover imageFunctioning as a preview for a work-in-progress record, the two songs that make up An Exercise in Defascination (which will appear as different mixes on the album proper upon its completion) herald the theme of deconstructing giallo films that will appear there.  Drawing from film soundtracks, as well as the overall themes of that specific style of horror film, Contrastate distill those very essences into a brief teaser of terror and surrealism perfectly.

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Theodore Cale Schafer, "Patience"

cover imageThe Students of Decay label has had an impressive run of being way ahead of the curve over the years, as Alex Cobb’s imprint was responsible for the first major US releases from artists like Sarah Davachi and Natural Snow Buildings.  The latest artist to be welcomed into that pantheon is Sante Fe-based composer Theodore Cale Schafer, making his vinyl debut after a handful of cassette releases and a very bizarre spoken word/conceptual album on Spain's Angoisse label.  Cobb describes the album as "diaristic" and prioritizing "spontaneity and ephemerality," which seems as apt a description of Schafer's fragile, hiss-soaked vignettes as any, as the aesthetic of Patience is definitely an elusive and impressionistic one.  When Schafer hits the mark just right, however, the results are strikingly beautiful, achieving a rare balance of simplicity, intimacy, and soft-focus unreality.

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Distance Machine

cover image As Gog, Michael Bjella has developed a rather expansive catalog of bleak, heavy music, largely centered around guitar, noise, and extremely dark moods.  On 2015’s collaborative record with Robert Skrzyński, Black Box Recordings, he shifted his focus to more abstract, noisier fronts.  For his debut release as Distance Machine, he has mixed up the plans a bit more.  Things are still oppressively dark for the most part but in a subtler, ambient context that reference classic works of the style while still showing Bjella’s own spin on it.

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Deathprod, "Occulting Disk"

cover imageIt has been 15 years since Helge Sten's iconic Deathprod project last surfaced with proper new material (aside from a teasing collaboration with Biosphere back in 2015) and he has been missed.  Unsurprisingly, that long hiatus did not result in Sten's characteristically grim vision brightening at all.  In fact, it has only grown darker, as the bulk of Occulting Disk is bleak void of seismic drones and nerve-jangling insectoid dissonance that Sten describes as an "anti-fascist ritual."  I am not particularly optimistic about this album's chances in eradicating fascism any time soon, but the album definitely delivers on the ritualistic part, as this seems like a hell of a great soundtrack for summoning demons.  While I am still on the fence about whether I love the stark, crushing blackness of Occulting Disk quite as much as the slightly wider emotional palette of earlier Deathprod, this album is undeniably an impressively visceral and monolithic artistic statement.  That is more than enough to reaffirm Sten's status as one of the reigning kings of heavy drone, but the album builds towards an explosive climax that ensures that Occulting Disk feels like an exciting new chapter as well.

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The Eye: Video of the Day

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Ms John Soda, "Drop Scene EP"
Ms John Soda is the duo of Stefanie Böhm (Couch) and Micha Acher (The Notwist, Tied + Tickled Trio) in a most agreeable and expansive pop environment. The diversity of the four songs on this EP (featuring Böhm's vocals on three of them) makes for an interesting yet all too brief listen, especially when there's a full length release just around the corner.
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