Spiral Wave Nomads, "Magnetic Sky"

Magnetic SkyProlific artists on their own, the duo of Eric Hardiman (guitar/bass/electronics) and Michael Kiefer (drums/keyboards) have still managed to put out their third album in four years as Spiral Wave Nomads. The spacey, psychedelic tinged guitar/bass/drum excursions are of course expected by now, but the inclusion of additional electronic instrumentation makes Magnetic Sky even greater.

Twin Lakes/Feeding Tube

With six songs spread across two sides of vinyl, the duo keeps their performances somewhat succinct, given the improvisational approach. Dynamic drumming and long guitar passages tend to be the focus, but there is so much more going on in the layers beneath. Both Kiefer and Hardiman contribute electronics/synths this time around, and the watery sounds that open “Dissolving into Shape” nicely flesh out the restrained drumming and commanding lead guitar. “Under a Magnetic Sky” is also bathed in soft electronics, covering the outstretched guitar, prominent bass, and taut drumming like a warm, fuzzy blanket. “Carrier Signals” features them leaning a bit more into jazz territory, punctuated with pseudo-Eastern melodies, unconventional drumming, and sitar-like drones.

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721 Hits

Asmus Tietchens, "Schatten Ohne Licht" and "Parallelen"

On two distinct new albums, legendary composer Asmus Tietchens approaches different subject material with his current technique of recycling sounds beyond the point of any recognition. Schatten Ohne Licht (Shadow Without Light) is grounded in post-anthropological concepts influenced by scholar/writer Ulrich Horstmann's conceptualization of a planet devoid of biological life. Comparatively, Parallelen would seem focused on more theoretical mathematics and a greater sense of the abstract.

Schatten Ohne LichtThe opening title piece of Schatten Ohne Licht features Tietchens blending quiet tones with distant, low-end rumbles, with both the higher and lower frequencies layering and building throughout. Towards the half-way point he switches things around, using the same components but swapping around the arrangements, becoming a different sounding piece entirely. "Anthroporsaurus" follows a similar approach, pairing floating hints of melody with deep space pulsations and a machinery like chug, although the sum total of the parts is more delicate than anything else.

Black Rose

Later, "Es ist Endlich Still" (It's Finally Quiet) is a perfect example of the post-organic life themes of the album. High register crystalline sounds are joined with liquid, wet noise. Combining strange outbursts, flattened frequencies, and some occasional crackling, it sounds as empty and devoid of life as the title would insinuate. Closer "Kolosse" is an appropriately dramatic ending, all shimmering and looming space with chiming swells peppered throughout. As a whole it is more forceful and heavy compared to the other pieces on the disc, and results in a fitting climax for the album.

Parallelen

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585 Hits

More Klementines, "Who Remembers Light"

Who Remembers LightOn their second album this trio continues the sound of their 2018's self-titled debut, expanding the dense, continually flowing sound showcased there even further. Across three instrumentals (and one shorter vocal based song), More Klementines effortlessly jump between expansive improvised passages with taut, motorik rhythmic sections, resulting in a perfect junction of two very different styles.

Feeding Tube / Twin Lakes

Dynamic shifts are something More Klementines accomplishes effortlessly. Right from the opening of "Hot Peace," Michael Kiefer propels the lengthy session with subtle, understated drumming and delicate chimes, while guitarist Jon Schlesinger and multiple instrumentalist Steubs weave in layered guitar and bass. Occasionally drifting towards jam band territory (but keeping things tastefully psychedelic and dissonant), the trio drift into an expansive, open passage about two thirds of the way through, eventually building back to a wall of guitar scrapes and scatter-shot drumming.

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684 Hits

Steve Fors, "It's Nothing, but Still"

It's Nothing, But Still Previously based in Chicago, Steve Fors has build a small, but strong discography first as half of the duo the Golden Sores, and then on his own as Aeronaut. Now based in Switzerland, It's Nothing, but Still is his first full length solo work under his own name. It certainly feels like a new album, but traces of his previous projects can be heard, which is for the best. Lush with both beauty and darkness, it is nuanced and fascinating.

Hallow Ground

The six distinct pieces that comprise It's Nothing, but Still follow similar structures:  mostly leading off with field recordings, Fors then weaves in dense layers of electronic and acoustic sound that build in intensity and complexity. Even though there may be structural similarity, each piece stands out as unique. A piece such as the opener, "(Good Enough) For Now," begins with wet crunching amidst rain and insects before a swelling passage of cello gives the piece an uneasy sense of inertia. To this, he blends in fragments of conversations and the occasional harsher, wobbling bit of noise, all the while continuing to expand upon the droning tonal elements.

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1198 Hits

Locrian, “New Catastrophism”

On the trio's first album in seven years (the largest period of dormancy ever for them), Locrian simultaneously return to their origins while evolving and refining their sound forward. Stripped back to the barest essence of their sound but with some 17 years of evolution, New Catastrophism feels both like a reset but also a culmination of everything they have accomplished thus far.

Profound Lore

Much has happened for the band since 2015's Infinite Dissolution. Guitarist André Foisy and vocalist/synth player Terence Hannum relocated from their previous home base of Chicago to the east coast, leaving drummer Steven Hess as the only member in Illinois. Both Hannum and Hess have been extremely prolific with other projects, with the former starting Axebreaker, The Holy Circle, and Brutalism. Hess has continued with Haptic, Cleared, and RLYR. Foisy, on the other hand, has mainly pursued non-musical endeavors.

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1341 Hits

Jon Mueller, "The Future is Unlimited, Always"

The Future is Unlimited, AlwaysSimilar to his recent works Family Secret and House Blessing, the newest work from drummer/percussionist Jon Mueller features little in the way of overt rhythms or obvious instrumentation. Instead, The Future is Unlimited, Always captures Mueller at his most spacious: layers of frequencies and tones that are as engaging as they are mysterious, and capturing more than just audio, but a deeper sense of existence.

Virtues

Consisting of a single 33-minute piece, The Future is Unlimited, Always features Mueller working with sustained tones, ghostly frequencies, and shimmering, low-end rumbles. The abstraction of sound takes on an almost spiritual quality that is palpable through the tones and textures that never fade into the background, but also never become too aggressive or oppressive. Instead they sit just at the right level to be mesmerizing while still allowing breathing room.

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1360 Hits

Andrew Anderson, "Vagrancies"

VagranciesFollowing a multitude of self-released tapes and digital releases, Vagrancies is Austin, Texas's Andrew Anderson's first CD based work. Ostensibly created by the instrumentation and sources listed in the disc's liner notes, Anderson's treatment renders them largely unidentifiable, instead using them to construct something else entirely. Consisting of four long-form pieces connected with shorter interludes, Vagrancies covers a lot of ground, with an impressive amount of variety from piece to piece, but still a strong sense of continuity from one piece to the next.

Elevator Bath

Anderson sets the tone for the disc with the opening "Dressed in No Light." It's a massive, tumbling avalanche of reverberated clicks, with a foghorn-like sound giving a ghostly approximation of a melody. The entirety is bleak and dour, with a fascinating density peppered with spinning and sputtering passages of sound. "Shadows Are Roots" differs in what almost sounds like an indistinct twang of an instrument expanding through a bassy hum. The metallic twang stands out and cuts through, but not in a jarring manner. With Anderson throwing in some percussive knocks, scrapes, and a few wet thuds, there is a lot going on, but never does it come across as unfocused. 

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1121 Hits

Novi_sad, "ΚΕΡΑΥΝΟΣ"

cover image The title of the latest Novi_sad work roughly translates to lightning or thunder as related to Zeus and is a wonderfully fitting title for this album. Based on environmental sounds recorded on five different continents, Thanasis Kaproulias’s latest album is neither pure field recordings, nor is it the product of laborious processing and treatments. Instead it sits nestled somewhere between the two: some segments are clearly recordings of rainstorms or birds, but others are shaped into blasts of noise or melody, sometimes within the span of a few minutes, conjuring beauty and fear much in the way a thunderstorm does.

Raster

Right from the opening piece, "Oceania," this dynamic is apparent. Based on recordings taken at the Tarkine Rainforest, Kaproulias leads off with an electronic-tinged swarming sound, resembling processed migrating birds, and a passing rainstorm. Without warning it blasts into a wall of harsh noise, yet there is still the depth and complexity of sounds amidst the harshness. Slowly he transitions from the noise to focus on a melody that slowly drifts in, ending on quite a beautiful note. The harshest moments of ΚΕΡΑΥΝΟΣ lie in "Oceania," while both "Asia" and "Europe" are built from similar components: bass heavy rumbles, water sounds, and far off droning melody. The former features a bit more melodicism overall, wobbling and lying under strange textures, while the latter allows more of the unprocessed natural recordings to shine through.

Throughout "Africa," Kaproulias opts for an almost more traditionally musical dynamic. Insect recordings are reassembled into something resembling bowed strings, and whole thing has an almost rhythmic structure due to his use of looping. The ending is a bit more pure melody and chiming tones, but there is a path of overdriven, harsher sounds on the way there. "America," based on Amazon Rainforest and recordings of Niagara Falls is overall more dense and oppressive in its dynamic. The combination of rain and waterfall recordings is heavy and enveloping, and the aggressive water sounds only relent at the very end, leaving a foundation of dark, muted tones.

Kaproulias may work with a similar approach and dynamic on the five pieces that make up ΚΕΡΑΥΝΟΣ, but each clearly has its own overall feel and identity. His subtle approach to processing and production is a significant asset here, as it so effortlessly blurs the line between source material and processed results, making for a work that is as much field recording as it is musical. Beautiful, harsh, and jarring from beginning to end, the title fits the work perfectly.

Samples can be found here.

2156 Hits

srmeixner, "A Silent War"

cover image Initially intended to be a lockdown project based around recycling (and re-recycling) of sound sources, Stephen Meixner (Contrastate) ended up shifting the theme of A Silent War to a very specific one. Based on the worldwide ripples of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer gave a specific theme to an otherwise conceptually defined record. Featuring contributions by the other members of Contrastate, Ralf Wehowsky, Steve Pittis (Band of Pain) and more, the final product is as enthralling as it is bleak and depressing.

Black Rose Recordings/Oxidation

The opening title piece, featuring sound sources from Rob Fairweather, has a bent music box quality to it, over which the names of victims of unjustified police shootings (Walter Scott, Tamir Rice) are read. With a strange percussion loop anchoring the song, what almost resembles 1970s cop TV show soundtracks are weaved in and out. The gurgling electronics of "Breathe" take on a disturbing color as George Floyd’s last words are spoken, with bits of rhythm popping up throughout. The lush, beautiful electronics are a stark contrast to the otherwise bleakness of the recording.

Both "Virtue Signaling" and "Unfinished Business" are a bit less depressive, with the former having a more traditional synth-based sound within a mass of piano hits and sampled music, with both featuring percussion by Simon Wray and raw materials by Ralf Wehowsky. The latter is overall more spacious, driving by a bassy electronic pulse, although the far off police sirens are appropriately disturbing even at low volumes. "We Demand Tomorrow (Or Business as Usual)" casts droning electronics alongside Wray's unconventional percussion, with buzzing, dense blasts of sound symbolically interrupting the status quo. Closer "Singing About Revolution" features Contrastate member Jonathan Grieve using the words of Nina Simone lyrics, bent and processed within a mix of swirling electronics, feedback, and fragmented sampling. The sum of the parts make for a disturbing, unsettling sound throughout.

As captivating as it is, A Silent War is an ugly, unpleasant record, which was surely Meixner's intent. A strange mélange of existing sounds, absurd attempts at traditional musicality, and heavy subject matter, it certainly is not the type of album that screams for casual listening. This prevailing sense of unease though leads to a thematically unified album that captures the ugliness of 2020 and 2021 very well, and sadly 2022 is not looking to be too different. At least it might result in another fascinating work from Meixner, however.

Samples can be found here.

2460 Hits

Pay Dirt, "Error Theft Disco"

cover image A duo between California artists Victoria Shen and Bryan Day (by way of Nebraska), Error Theft Disco is noise in its purist sense. A disorienting blend of electronics, distortion, and found sounds that never settles down from the first few seconds, the constant flow gives the tape a captivating sense of inertia that functions well in the loud harsh noise vein as well as it does the nuanced, complex sound art one.

Bluescreen

This is one of those tapes where there is no sense in trying to deconstruct instrumentation or sound design techniques, because there is simply too much going on. Which is made all the more difficult given that both Shen and Day build many of their own instruments as well. Right from the squeaky, waxy noises that begin “Ala Modem in Modernity” the duo throw a bit of everything out there. Crunchy, almost rhythms collide with shrill outbursts, and modular electronics all propel the piece along.  This kinematic approach barrels into "Brutal Hygene," which is all chirpy sounds, found voices, and heavy bass thumps.

The third piece on the first side, "Harrier Spray," is just as active, but does feature the duo allowing some of the passages to breath a bit. Comparably more loop-ish in nature, there is a somewhat more noteworthy sense of structure amidst the distorted pulsations. "Mouthsh" covers the entire second half of the tape, and also features a bit more restraint from the two. There are still large amounts of subsonic bass and shrill electronic beeps and tones, but overall there is a slower creep that nudges along the overdriven electronics. There are a healthy proportion of extreme frequencies to be found, but never does it feel oppressive or painful.

Pay Dirt’s Error Theft Disco is a noise tape in its most distilled form. There is little that is identifiable and there does not seem to be any specific theme running through the four pieces. However, a great noise tape never needs any of these things, and that is certainly the case here. It is a hyperactive burst that never relents, and with so much activity happening from second to second, the depth is just as engaging as the chaos.

Samples can be found here.

2570 Hits

Bob Bellerue, "Radioactive Desire"

cover image Described as "free chamber music in feedback environments," this massive double CD from New York based artist Bob Bellerue is a perfect blend of structure, improvisation, and chance. Based around rough compositional structures, but left wide open to improvisation, the five instrumentalists, along with Bellerue helming electronics and production, create a massive noise that distinctly reflects the time, place, and conditions in which this material was recorded.

Elevator Bath

Recording in two sessions on July 29 and 30 of 2020 at the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, the physical space in which the performance occurred works like another piece of the ensemble. The players, including saxophonist Ed Bear, double bassists Brandon Lopez and Luke Stewart, violinist Gabby Fluke-ogul, and viola/organist Jessica Pavone all appear together on three of the six pieces (two of them are Bellerue solo, and one features just him and Pavone on organ), but even in these three works, it is often hard to discern specific players.

The expansive, bleak "The Longest Year" does have some identifiable buzzing strings from Fluke-Mogul and Pavone, but the space and production give it an unnatural, otherworldly color to the sound. The scraping and grinding sounds build into dense clusters not unlike some of Hermann Nitsch's early scores. "Bass Feedback" is, unsurprisingly, bass heavy, but also has some painfully shrill sections as well. Instrumentation is obvious at times, but the focus is on the abstract tones. The title piece shifts from harsh, distorted sax to scraped strings and a nasal insect buzz, later bouncing between horror film strings and dense noise walls.

“Organ Feedback,” featuring just Bellerue and Pavone, is the closest to melody that Radioactive Desire gets. At times almost synth-like, the layered tones blend together beautifully through the rather steady overall dynamic. On the other hand, Bellerue's two solo pieces are far closer to harsh noise than anything else. “Empty Feedback,” which is just room noise and unattended instruments, builds from hissy buzzes to machinery like hums to painfully shrill feedback. Everything from stabbing high frequencies to dense steady walls of sound appear. The near 40-minute conclusion "Metal Gambuh" is just that: a suling gambuh flute, metal, and feedback. Bathed in heavy natural reverb, it is a violent outburst of frustration, with oppressive sub bass underscoring the fuzzy crackles and droning noise.

Radioactive Desire is by its very nature an intense work. Recorded in a massive space, in oppressive summer temperatures after a long stretch of lockdown, and spreading out over two hours, there is a lot to absorb. With Bellerue leading the five performers in their improvisation, the intensity of this work is not just in the composition, but in the performance, as well as the space in which it was recorded. Everything is huge, but with such nuance that it never becomes too much to take in, with Bellerue's guiding hand beautifully guiding the material through all its disparate facets.

Samples can be found here.

2749 Hits

Limbs Bin, "Burnt White Elephant"

cover image Western Massachusetts' loudest deadhead Josh Landes has followed up his live set Unrelenting Barrage of Flowers and Amethyst Energy from last year with a new studio album (well, at 18 minutes, it counts as an album in the noisecore world) that furthers his legacy of intensity and absurdity. Balancing electronic blowouts with creative field recordings, it is another disc of explosive fun.

Damien Records

Admittedly, these 23 songs (that are only around 30 seconds each in length) sound like broken up segments of three longer pieces rather than individual pieces. They flow consistently into one another, with each track marker opening with a vocal outburst and what sounds like Landes restarting the max BPM drum machine. Beyond that, the sizzling electronics and sputtering noises continue uninterrupted from one short burst to the next. Burnt White Elephant makes for the most chaotic of his albums that I have heard thus far, with the erratic electronics blasting from beginning to end, but never in the form of loops or anything sequenced. It is more like Landes set his gear up and just rolls it down a hill, and I mean that as a compliment.

Around these short blasts, he includes a series of field recordings captured around the Berkshires region, something like "Wormholes and Megaliths" featuring what sounds like rain and passing by a jazz band, while "Van Deusenville Railroad Blues" is exactly what it sounds like: the sound of trains passing through. The album closes on “Harry Bids You Goodnight” which is just shy of one minute of a snoring cat. Intentional or not, Burnt White Elephant seems like a day in the life of a noise artist: harsh, distorted art outbursts punctuated with the quiet mundane nature of life.

Like every Limbs Bin release I have heard, Josh Landes again blends the intense with the absurd. His work is as aggressive or violent sounding as any great harsh noise/power electronics/whatever genre release should, but devoid of the macho posturing or juvenile provocation. Instead it is just the right amount of silliness that makes the chaos and hostility fun, without dulling its impact in the slightest.

Samples can be found here.

2651 Hits

Band of Pain/SRMeixner, "Priti Deceit"

cover image Taking a cue from the politicization of the COVID pandemic, Band of Pain (Steve Pittis) and Contrastate's Stephen Meixner teamed up for this collaborative single, with each taking the lead on a solo piece, and then a balanced collaboration to conclude. Heavily based on samples of speeches and news reports, it is certainly a politically charged work, but one that remains heavily rooted in both artists’ post-industrial and absurdist sensibilities.

Dirter Promotions

Band of Pain's "Priti Vacunt" is pretty overt in the target of their ire: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. A self-described right wing hardliner, Patel was involved in a lobbying scandal around COVID-19 contracts, which is where most of this disgust comes from. The piece itself is a myriad of echoed speech samples and bent electronic tones. The droning, open spaces are unrelentingly bleak, with an insincere sounding sample of “sorry” punctuating the less identifiable moments. In the closing minutes Pittis brings in a thin, distorted rhythmic thump that is all too short.

On the other side of this 10", the Meixner helmed "Deceit" opens up with some pummeling drum programming, but soon the focus is shifted to some American evangelical preacher’s ranting about the disease and vaccination as a noisy, somewhat melodic passage is paraded through. What sounds like even further treated voice samples become an additional element, and Meixner utilizes an intentionally jerky stop/start dynamic throughout. The concluding collaboration "End Result" features less in the way of obvious voice samples but instead fragments of speech or other sounds, pulled apart and reconstructed into something entirely different. The layering is complex and the ambiguity is unsettling, bordering on creepy.

Contemporary political and social criticism aside, the two Steves have created a compelling single that certainly falls in line with their other works as Band of Pain and Contrastate. Idiosyncratic processing, heavily treated samples, noisy outbursts and even the occasional hint of rhythm feature heavily here.  Tempered with just the right amount of black humor (fitting the topic at hand perfectly), the final product reminded me of the unconventional and challenging sample heavy music that was coming out of the UK industrial scene during the mid 1990s (which makes sense given the inception of these projects), but still sounding completely contemporary, nicely hinting at nostalgia while staying modern and fresh.

2560 Hits

Matt Weston, "Four Lies in the Eavesdrop Business"

cover imageThe latest run of releases from Albany NY’s Matt Weston have been growing consistently in scope and length. After a slew of 7" releases, there was the 2019 12" EP A New Form of Crime, the LP Tell Us About Your Stupor from last year, and now this double record. Four Lies is an excellent progression, as Weston has filled the expanding formats with even more creative and unique sounds. On Four Lies his use of varied electronic treatments continues, but the integration of more of his percussive expertise makes it all the better.

7272 Music

Weston comes out heavy with "We Are Armed," with laser bagpipe electronics and erratic cut up drum recordings rushing to the forefront. It is extremely kinetic, full of cut and paste sound layers and clattering incidental noises throughout, but there is clear order to the chaos, as Weston shifts from tumbling drums to layered non-traditional rhythms and haunted house moods. "Celluloid Caller" has a recurring, oddly bouncy melody throughout, as processed voices and harsher noise explosions cut through a massive wall of reverb, mixing heavier moods with almost jaunty melodies.

"You Tried to Fix the Paranoia," the opening of the second disc, is a bizarre mix of gurgling electronics and sharp, chirpy outbursts. Weston presents grinding string sounds and insectoid passages with bent voices and heavy reverbs once again, resulting in an extremely alien, unnatural sounding work. The following "Solitary Vulture" is the opposite: a wide expanse punctuated by a far off pleasant tone, then watery passages of calmness. Things are all well and good until Weston decides to add in some jarring feedback stabs, however.

All of the final side is taken up by "Fear of Insomnia," which is fitting given the dramatic nature of the piece. Dramatic drums and what sounds like horns (or an approximation thereof) appear immediately within the expansive, spacious mix. Grinding low end and shimmering passages nicely blend the dark and the light elements of Weston’s sound. Eventually an untreated drum passage becomes the focus, anchoring everything in a perfect krautrock complex rhythm. Drifting, droning electronics supplement the driving beat, culminating in an intense beauty. Later on he adds just a bit of delay that throws everything off kilter, turning up the intensity and making for even more chaos as the set concludes.

I would hesitate to use the term "sprawling" to describe Four Lies, but Weston covers a lot of bases across all four sides of the album. Historically, his work covers so much ground, from jazz influenced structures to heavy electronics to rhythmic experimentation, and all of that can be found within this one release. Defying categorization, Weston channels a bit of everything: playfulness, malevolence, tone, texture, noise, melody and so much more, and manages to distill it all into one album with a virtuoso’s touch.

Samples can be found here.

2498 Hits

Haptic, "Weird Undying Annihilation"

cover imageRecordings of sound art installations are always a bit troublesome, since it is an attempt to distill a spatial experience into a (usually) two channel stereo recording, meaning something is lost in translation. The latest work from the trio of Steven Hess, Joseph Clayton Mills, and Adam Sonderberg combines the intent and structure of an installation, but in the form of a live performance where each performer performed within their own specific space, and specifically intended for an external listening experience. While that may sound convoluted, it results in a tape that features an amazing sense of space and movement, even if it is just a recording.

Notice

The spatial element of this material is undeniable from the opening moments of "Some Gravity." The trio cover subtle electronic tones with churning static and deep blasts of three-dimensional sound. It is extremely active, complex, and challenging without being harsh or oppressive. The use of droning tonal elements on "BTWN 65, 52" beautifully contrasts the reversed stutters and fragments that are all covered by what sounds like the deep rumble of a passing train.

The trio leans heavier into rhythmic elements on the other side of the cassette, albeit in the most abstracted form possible. "Lost My Shape" is a multilayered noise experience that is distinctly anchored by clicks, thumps, and dull thuds that certainly sound percussive in nature, but hardly resemble anything close to a drum. The final piece, "Surrogates" has the ambience of being within a large idling machine, complete with external banging and clattering, but a subtle piano motif stays prominent throughout, providing an excellent contrast.

Pandemic recordings are a concept that is already becoming cliché, but Haptic (intentionally or not) have created a perfect one with Weird Undying Annihilation. By so deftly capturing the experience of both live recordings and dynamic sound installations into a format that can be fully appreciated in complete isolation. It is an excellent substitute while standing completely on its own strengths, and never just seeming like a "best approximation" of the live, spatial context. The depth and complexity of these recordings is astounding, and the trio do an unbelievable job of capturing both place and motion in only two channels of sound.

Samples can be found here.

2837 Hits

Naturaliste, "Temporary Presence"

cover image Founded as a band in Omaha, Nebraska in 1998, Naturaliste's first release in over 15 years is certainly a drastic departure from the local, improvised shows the group was responsible for. Rather than those frequent, though often dubiously captured recordings, Temporary Presence is not only a highly quality document of fully realized artistry, but also a document of where the band is so many years later.

Almost Halloween Time/Gertrude Tapes/Public Eyesore/Unread Records

The band, consisting of Bryan Day, Christopher Fischer, Charles LaReau, and L. Eugene Methe have mostly departed the Midwest, with recordings captured in Omaha, Beijing, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Shanghai brought in by all four artists comprising a significant portion of Temporary Presence. The record's title not only references the nature of these often found/incidental recordings, but also that the remainder of the album was recorded by the quartet within a rented musical instrument shop in Shanghai.

The result is six pieces of music that encompass a bit of everything sonically, from identifiable, played instruments, to abnormal processing, and a bit of unidentifiable field recordings and ambiguous chaos. The piano and oddly pitched bells/chimes on "The Swallows Have Returned" contrast the rattling vibrations and hard to define noises here and there. Combining expansive spaces to chaotic electronics and slightly rhythmic knocking it is certainly dense, but never feels formless or unstructured. "At the Worst of It" is similar in its piano paired with noise, but the voices (and the monstrous treatments to them) makes it a different matter altogether.

The group turns up the creepy factor on "It's Just the Air Conditioner," which minimizes the howling expansive sound and treated guitar that appear. Compared to other pieces on the record the sound is more streamlined overall, and perhaps that focus is what makes it eerie overall. The mood is similar on "Vitals," which is heavily reverberated pulsing electronics. Mixing in a heavily treated guitar (or bass), knocking objects, and what could be an electronic piano here and there, and the sense of mystery borders on malignancy.

One of the characteristics I found most captivating about Temporary Presence is the way Naturaliste combines the use of instruments that were obviously recorded in a group/combo setting with the far more ambiguous processing and recordings done independently. It is an excellent balance of identifiable layers with the mysterious that at times might seem like pure chaos on the surface, but a deeper listen indicates a clearer sense of unity from all four performers.

Samples Available Here

2882 Hits

Parashi, "Against Eugenic Massacre"

cover image Mike Griffin, as Parashi, is one of the most prolific noise artists in the upstate New York region, both on his own and in collaborations with others, such as John Olson (as Spykes) and Noise Nomads. Against Eugenic Massacre features him doing what he does best: a murky combination of psychedelic electronics, incidental rhythms, and mysterious ambiences that perfectly balances between harsh experimentation and complex environments.

Half-A-Million Records

Right from the first moments of "(No Consequence for) Glacier Burner," Griffin's artistry is obvious. Opening from a mass of ray gun pulses and crunchy fragments that vaguely imitate a rhythm, that blend of sci-fi electronics and organic textures are clearly on display. Shifting the mix to the occasional open, haunted space, erratic outbursts o what sounds like helicopters and off-kilter pitched tones add to the cavernous mystery of sound. With "Glacier Burner" covering the bulk of the A side of the tape, the brief "Klangermann" almost resembles a coda with its brevity and subtle mix of unidentifiable sounds and manipulated cassette tapes.

On the other side, "Rats in Paradise" is at first a blend of echoing loops and stuttering clicks that could almost be a woodpecker adding the foundation to which Griffin builds. Layer by layer he constructs a denser mix, adding layers over a ghostly, drifting backdrop. Fuzzy squalls and squeaks appear, but the obscurity of sounds and processing give a bit of menace to the work. With some weird buzzing and less distorted tones appearing towards the end, the mood lightens near the conclusion. For the concluding "Ingress" though, Griffin brings things back into the haunted house via random knocking and clattering sounds bathed in reverb and filtering. Static waves and swells in sound, and what almost could be a horn of some sort end the tape perfectly.

Parashi has always exceeded my expectations with every new release, and Against Eugenic Massacre is yet another example of this. Abstraction and weirdness always abounds, but there is a complexity and nuance to his work that sets it apart from being just "noise." Another great Parashi tape, and an excellent release from the newly established Half-a-Million Records, (the house label for Belltower Records in North Adams, Massachusetts and one of the top record stores in the region).

2789 Hits

Contrastate, "Recorded Evidence II"

cover imageActive for over 30 years, with a 10 year break in the middle, Contrastate’s idiosyncratic take on challenging, industrial tinged music has certainly changed and evolved through the years, as this compilation indicates. What has not changed though, is a dark sarcasm that injects just the right amount of absurdity into their otherwise dour works. Collecting various singles, compilation pieces, and unreleased material onto one CD, it makes for an excellent career overview.

Black Rose Recordings

The opening "Taste the Waste for the Human Race," a b-side from 1993, sets the tone for this set of songs pretty well: gently malignant loops meshed with treated guitar and down pitched vocals. There is certainly a conventional music undercurrent here, but bent and twisted into something else entirely. There’s that same broken music feel to "The People Who Control the Information" from 2017's Your Reality is Broken tribute album, which is an odd combination of erratic synths, protest chant like vocals, and eventually an almost hip-hop rhythm loop constructed from noisy fragments. "The Silent Fish," released in 2018 as part of a Troum tribute/compilation continues the dramatic spoken word and sweeping synthesizers, but with a great bass guitar like distorted passage and subtle percussion beneath it all, it makes for a particular standout.

The droning electronics, spoken word, and crying baby recordings on 1994's "English Embers" captures their more challenging style. Similarly abstract is "True Believer," which is all grandiose piano, voices, and a chaotic low-bit rate sheen to it all. "Revolution Sera la Nom de la Civilisation" almost resembles Contrastate's take on traditional power electronics: pulsating electronics, low end rumble, and guttural vocals (albeit in French). All the elements of that genre are there, but there’s a cleanliness to the proceedings that make it sound utterly unique. There is a RLW/Ralf Wehowsky treated unreleased piece from 1999, "From the Opened Red Lips," that represents perhaps the most out there piece: a short burst of sputtering vocal treatments and insect buzzing.

I know Recorded Evidence II is a singles/compilation/unreleased material compilation, but it melds together like a traditional album, while still giving an overview of nearly 30 years worth of content. At times difficult, and at times almost catchy, Contrastate covers a bit of everything in their sound, and that black humor component (which is also well reflected in the liner notes, and I cannot find any indication there was ever a Recorded Evidence I) makes for a project that I can never predict what they will sound like next, but I know it will be fascinating no matter what.

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RLW, "Agnostic Diaries"

cover imageConsisting of raw materials from 2005, but heavily reworked and processed between 2016 and 2017, Ralf Wehowsky's latest work is actually a compilation of unfinished and aborted projects. Mostly centered around voice recordings, the six pieces on Agnostic Diaries represent collaborations that, for one reason or another, fell through or never saw the light of day. That is anything but apparent though; since there is a clear consistency from start to finish, and one that is in line with the style of Wehowsky's recent works.

Black Rose Recordings/Dirter Promotions

The sounds of the human voice are one specific thing that links these pieces together, from the fragmented communications on "Le Ballet" (from George Antheil's Ballet Mecanique) to the processed speeches and deep breathing of "For Gerald," to the less treated dialogues of "Caute!" As intended though, Wehowsky uses these voices, processed or otherwise, as he would any other sound source, so they would not constitute vocal pieces per se.

Another RLW trademark throughout many of these is a use of digital sounds processed into low fidelity bitrates. On the aforementioned "Le Ballet" they form the framework that computer blips and shrill, painful electronics are then grafted on to. There is a ghostly sense to the piece overall and, with a mix of swells, jump cuts, and heavy bass frequencies; the whole piece is rather strange and disorienting. "July 2006" feels like a continuation, albeit one with erratic reverbs, cricket-like chirps and what could even be a Geiger counter.

On "For Gerald," what sounds like collaborator Anla Courtis's contribution of squalling electric guitar shines through clearly alongside spacy electronics and what almost resembles a spate of kick drums, or perhaps someone transitioning from walking into running on a hard surface. Either way, it makes for the piece with the most traditionally musical sounding elements, but chopped up and processed into something else entirely. Concluding piece "Monotype #6" is another notable standout with its multi-layered fragmented voice (courtesy of Dylan Nyoukis) and stabbing horror strings, creating a complex, yet menacing end to the record.

Even though these pieces were all created for different purposes, Wehowsky did an excellent job in the reworking process to bring them all together into a consistent album. It is not that far removed from its predecessor on Black Rose/Dirter, Flurry of Delusion, but the emphasis on vocal elements makes it stand out on its own. Like any RLW album, Agnostic Diaries is disorienting, confusing, and at times painful, but never fails to fascinate.

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Spiral Wave Nomads, "First Encounters"

cover imageIn an unexpected flip for their second record, the duo of Eric Hardiman (Rambutan, Century Plants, Burnt Hills) and Michael Kiefer (More Klementines) improvised live. With the self-titled debut being the result of asynchronous file sharing and collaboration, First Encounters was exactly that: the first time the two had actually met in person in any context. That’s anything but apparent from the sound though, as the duo play off of each other perfectly, making for a free form trip through psychedelic spaces with the verve of long time collaborators, even though that is not the case.

Twin Lakes Records/Feeding Tube

Lengthy opener "Evidence of New Gravitation" is immediately indicative of the album: rich guitar, nuanced drumming, and an overall complex sound considering it is only two instruments in play. The sound is clearly loose and free flowing, but it is also deliberate, as if the duo know exactly what they are planning to do next while simultaneously playing off of each other. There is an excellent sense of propulsion via Kiefer's punchy drums and Hardiman's noisy pre-grunge 80s noise rock guitar, with wildly varying dynamics. The same feel runs throughout "Radiant Drifter," where shimmering, chiming guitar is cast out over low rumbling drums that swell up to some excellent freak-outs, which then calm down again. The other two songs on First Encounters feature the duo in a more understated synergy. The less structured "Fitful Embers" is all far away rattling percussion and erratic guitar drills, never coalescing into a solidified rock piece, but never coming off as directionless, either. Lengthy album closer "Of a Similar Mind" is a slower burn, evolving from open spaces, subtle melodies, and sparse cymbals. The growth is slow, but eventually erupts into rapid fire drumming, loud wah-heavy guitar outbursts, and a brilliant heavy psychedelic sensibility.

It is hard to not appreciate the backwards way that Michael Kiefer and Eric Hardiman have approached Spiral Wave Nomads. Waiting until the second record to actually meet in person is certainly not a strategy most artists would attempt, but they manage it perfectly here. Given how different its inception was from the first album, First Encounters has a rawer feel, but there is still a strong sense of consistency, and it is certainly the work of the same duo. With two LPs that complement each other so well, I am curious what collaborative approach a third will bring.

Samples can be found here.

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