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Forced Exposure New Releases for 5/2/2016

New music is due from Robin Hayward, Kane Ikin, Lithics, and Stefan Betke, while old music is due from Andrew Liles, Sly & Robbie, and Dennis Young.


Luciernaga, "Sic Transit Gloria"

cover imageThere is a distinct sense of nostalgia running through this newest Luciernaga release.  Fitting, since the entire work was inspired by Joao Da Silva's hometown of Santiago, Chile, and is even released by a hometown as a limited edition cassette.  His work has always had a sense of personal intimacy amidst the sonic abstraction, and this is no different.  Sic Transit Gloria is an emotionally rich, and extremely diverse piece of complex ambient music.


Troller, "Graphic"

cover imageFollowing their 2012 self-titled debut release, this Austin trio largely return to the sound that made that album so strong:  namely dissonant synthesizer work, slow and stiff drum programming, and unsettling, yet gripping vocal work.  That is not to say that Graphic is more of the same, but rather a development and refinement of the sound they did so well previously, culminating in an infectious, yet dour and dark piece of music.


Aranos, "Omen of Good Times"

cover imageThis latest release from Aranos is an especially unusual one (even within the context of his already singular discography), as it is a varied suite of songs exploring the twin themes of mortality and joie de vivre.  It has always been clear that Aranos knows a thing or two about living an interesting and vibrant life, but it is worth noting that he has also technically died once (and been resuscitated) as well, so he has some perspective on that side to offer as well.  While it is the subject matter than ostensibly brings all of these songs together, the most immediate and striking feature of Omen of Good Times is its prevailing mood of eccentric, cockeyed fun: there are few shades at all of Aranos's more experimental leanings here, just a one-of-a-kind raconteur/performer channeling everything from Eastern European folk music to religious spirituals to swinging Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli-style string jazz.


Kassel Jaeger/Stephen Mathieu/Akira Rabelais, "Zauberberg"

cover imageIn recent years, Shelter Press has carved out an unusual niche for itself through a series of highly conceptual and ambitiously esoteric releases that blur the boundaries between various forms of art.  One of their more intriguing projects as of late is this one, in which a trio of composers attempts to recreate the aura of Thomas Mann's 1924 masterwork The Magic Mountain (even going so far as to do some field recording in Swiss Alps where the novel was set).  The end result is quite a pleasant and subtly phantasmagoric reverie, as the composers' individual voices are subsumed by a beguiling series of crackling classical music snippets, ominous drones, and ambient outdoor sounds.


Norman Westberg, "MRI"

cover imageAs much as I love Swans, one of 2015's great mysteries for me was trying to figure out why some people liked Norman Westberg’s solo 13 album so much, as it just seemed like a very straightforward ambient-drone album in every way.  Consequently, I did not have especially high expectations for Room40’s second Westberg reissue, which compiles three even earlier pieces from his homemade, self-released CDrs.  As it turns out, however, MRI is a hell of a lot more compelling than its predecessor.  While the general aesthetic is basically the same (hazy processed-guitar soundscapes), MRI features considerably more in the way of subtle dynamic shifts and disquieting dissonances.  Aside from just being deeper, more complex, and more nuanced than what I had previously heard, this album is actually quite distinctive and unique as well.  I now completely understand why Lawrence English was so keen to unearth Westberg's largely unheard solo oeuvre.


Tim Hecker, "Love Streams"

cover imageTim Hecker’s first album for 4AD is already a major event, unexpectedly garnering praise from sources as mainstream as The New York Times and Rolling Stone.  We live in strange times indeed.  Naturally, it deserves all the accolades it gets, as Tim Hecker seems physically unable to make a disappointing album at this point in his career, but far more interesting than the quality is how Love Streams is such a conspicuous departure from many of Hecker’s usual tropes.  Also, despite its atypically high profile and widespread coverage, it may actually be the most perversely bizarre and experimental album that Hecker has yet released (My Love is Rotten to the Core excluded, of course).


Himukalt, "Conditions of Acrimony"

cover imageHimukalt seems to be more than a bit of an enigma.  Other than being the solo project of Ester Kärkkäinen from Nevada, there is very little to be found online about her work.  That ambiguity suits Conditions of Acrimony (her first release, at least in a public capacity) rather well though.  Drawing from a diverse array of abrasive, challenging styles of music, she expertly blends order and chaos, as well as rhythm and dissonance throughout these six pieces.


Jan St. Werner, "Felder (Fiepblatter Catalogue #4)"

cover imageI suspect someone could probably spend years compiling a thesis that contextualizes and explains the ideas, techniques, and inspirations behind Jan St. Werner's bizarre Fiepblatter series, but its overarching concept is apparently a simple desire to "dismantle genres."  Last year’s completely bonkers and uncategorizable Miscontinuum took care of that objective quite conclusively though, so there was not much left to prove with this follow-up.  I am not sure if St. Werner would necessarily agree with me or not, but Felder is certainly a hell of a lot more listenable than its prickly, disorienting predecessor.  That said, it is still quite an unapologetically alien and uncompromising release, gleefully taking organic, orchestral elements and mangling them into a stuttering, splintered, and kaleidoscopic mindfuck.


Mary Lattimore, "At the Dam"

cover imageHarpist Mary Lattimore’s excellent second solo album is the fruit of a grant-financed road trip across the US, inspired by various natural wonders along the way and recorded at several friends' houses.  While traveling around with a harp does not sound particularly convenient to me, it certainly seems like Lattimore knows how to put grant money to good use.  She also knows the fastest way to my heart, which happens to be naming an album after a Joan Didion essay.  Naturally, At The Dam is a beautiful album, as the harp is always an inherently pleasant instrument when in competent hands.  Lattimore goes much deeper than the expected lovely, rippling arpeggios though, crafting five pleasantly relaxed and languorous pieces enhanced with a healthy amount of experimentation and sublime laptop-tweakery.

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Voks, "Vaks Vanskab Ak"
For the second Dekorder release, Denmark's Voks delivers a 3" that lacks Un Caddie's adventurous sound-grabbing, but is no less colorful. With former releases including a spot on Goodiepal's V/VM 7" series, Voks makes intensely na?ve computer music, revealing an obsession for toy instrument sounds and dawdling, childlike rhythms. These songs are not playful in the punky, campy style of artists like DAT Politics or the oddball fringe of the Sonig label; instead, Vaks Vanskab Ak is more of a mood piece, despite its more flamboyant qualities. Tracks reject dominant melodic roles; rather, sounds scatter in loose compliment of each other, haphazardly forming recognizable motifs, like the loose Middle Eastern feel that invades songs like "Hottenslot" and "Tuuie." The disc acts like a scatterbrained attempt at scoring an absurdist's animated short, full of swift mood swings but with enough open space to imply corresponding action or visual reference. Vaks Vanskab Ak would make a perfect backdrop for the bizarre puppet show pictured on its cover in which skeletal figures ride elephants and giant chickens, though I'd warn against extending its 20-min. length. Voks shows a charming command over his arsenal of tinkering toys and popping synth sounds, but a move to larger format will require a further consolidating of ideas and perhaps some NyQuil for the manic inner child who gets carried away ad nauseam on a few of these.


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