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Mark Solotroff, "Symmetrical Spaces of Communication", "Social Objectives"

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cover image Mark Solotroff’s contributions to harsh electronic music cannot be overstated.  Beginning with the adult bookstore sleaze of the 1980s power electronics project Intrinsic Action into the present day psychologically disturbing noise of Bloodyminded (which, in a live context, becomes the perfect deconstruction of rock performance) and the doom metal tinged Anatomy of Habit, he has been an influential force for the past 35 years.  This does not even take into account his multitude of solo and side projects, such as these two recent cassettes.  All of his work is joined together by a single, distinct thread:  a love of analog synthesizers that borders on the obsessive.  Here those synths are used to create the perfect soundtrack to city isolation.

Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2019 13:07

JH1.FS3, "Trials and Tribulations"

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cover imageWhile Frederikke Hoffmeier is justifiably best-known for her solo Puce Mary project, she has had a hand in quite a few collaborative projects over the years as well (a common trait within the Post Isolation milieu).  Most have been one-off events, but this duo with Jesse Sanes (Liebestod/Hoax) has held together long enough to make a second album (or arguably a third, if their earlier Fejhed project counts).  I am delighted that it did, as JH1.FS3 have evolved from a solid noise act into something considerably more distinctive and wonderful.  In fact, Trials and Tribulations shares a hell of a lot of common ground with last year's brilliant The Drought, though the focus is shifted away from Hoffmeier's confessional-sounding spoken word and more towards an inventive and vibrant onslaught of mangled and haunting textures.  It sounds like two dueling noise artists at top of their games, except they are trading imaginative, sharply realized textures rather than escalating ferocity.  And it also feels like Hoffmeier has brought the same incredible level of compositional and editing rigor to this album that she brought to her most recent solo work.  The Drought was one of my favorite albums of 2018 and Trials and Tribulations will likely be one of my favorite albums of 2019: it is a bit more seething and understated, but it is every bit as masterfully crafted.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2019 07:44

INRA, "The Content Consuming Its Form"

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cover imageThis unusual and fitfully fascinating album was quietly released near the end of 2018 on the small New Orleans-based Pinkbox Teleport label.  INRA are themselves based in Berlin, yet The Content Consuming Its Form sounds very much like it was partially birthed in a bleak and blighted late-'70s industrial area, favorably recalling the UK’s finest art-damaged dystopian experimentalists of the period.  While I probably would (guiltily) enjoy an album that was essentially straight-up Throbbing Gristle worship, INRA merely recapture the intelligence, low-budget futurism, and deep sense of post-modern alienation that defined the milieu of the era.  Stylistically, they reanimate the formula with fresh blood in the form of kinetic drumming and nods to the heavier side of the dance music underground.  While not every song gets the balance of murky mood and skittering, propulsive rhythms exactly right, the ones that do are a deliciously inventive feast of post-industrial collage done beautifully.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2019 07:26

Ellen Fullman and Okkyung Lee, "The Air Around Her"

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cover imageAs Ellen Fullman can likely attest, one of the downsides to inventing your own instrument with 100-foot-long strings is that it definitely limits the number of possible venues for your performances.  Another is that Fullman's Long String Instrument takes roughly five days to install and tune, adding yet another level of amusing inconvenience to the endeavor.  Fortunately, an optimal situation surfaced in 2016, as John Chantler's First Edition Festival was given access to Stockholm’s Performing Arts Museum while it was being renovated.  Given the limited "pure drone" nature of her instrument, the success of Fullman’s work can be heavily dependent on finding an appropriately sympathetic foil who can add vivid splashes of color and new layers of emotional depth to that rich harmonic backdrop.  In that regard, Fullman could not possibly have hoped for a more talented and amenable collaborator than avant garde cello virtuoso Okkyung Lee.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2019 07:38

Robert Ashley, "Private Parts"

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cover imageI am hesitant to state that Private Parts is one of the most unique and weirdly beautiful albums of the 20th century, as that will likely sound like overheated hyperbole to anyone who has not heard it.  Nevertheless, it is exactly that.  Originally released back in 1978 and newly reissued, Ashley's hushed and intimate second album was unlike anything that came before it and no one else has since come anywhere close to replicating its precarious magic.  That includes Ashley himself, as he revisited and expanded upon this album's themes with his ambitious television opera Perfect Lives, an ‘80s avant-garde landmark that has comparatively aged quite poorly.  The elegantly simple piano-and-voice palette goes a long way towards making Private Parts feel timeless, but not nearly as much as the fact that it does not even sound like it was recorded on earth.  Rather, it evokes the feeling of sitting next to an incredibly interesting, enigmatic, and gregarious man in heaven's waiting room.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2019 09:05

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