Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition

Cactuses by Gabriel

Midweek special.

We held off a couple days from the weekend to bring you brand new music from A Place To Bury Strangers, Alan Sparhawk, SAULT, Clinic Stars, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Midwife, Lilacs & Champagne, Kim Deal, and Andrew Chalk, plus some vault releases from Galaxie 500, Aerial M, and Diamanda Galás.

Cactuses by Gabriel.

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Organum Electronics, "Noughwhere"; David Jackman "A Cloud of Light"

NoughwhereDavid Jackman proceeds through the latest two entries in Die Stadt's current subscription series of his new work with some sense of continuity with recent works as well as the first two installments of the series (Darcknes and Quietude, both as Organum Electronics). However, and perhaps most clearly indicated by the different moniker he is using, the two discs emphasize different facets of Jackman's art, while still representing linked parts of a long-form project.

Die Stadt

As Organum Electronics, Noughwhere is the more forceful of the pair. Obviously utilizing electronic instrumentation throughout, Jackman begins with an organ-like sustained tone, but soon incorporates more abrasive electronic sounds. Throughout the 56-minute-long piece, the tones are often overshadowed by his use of the resonating electronic noise, which makes this the more challenging of the two albums. He does use one clearly non-electronic element throughout: the massive tolling bell that has been featured in much of his recent work. Even that, however, receives some level of sonic manipulation, with him intensifying the sound into something even heavier than its natural qualities.

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John Cage/Aaron Dilloway, "Rozart Mix"

Rozart MixIn 1965, John Cage "composed" a piece for Alvin Lucier that debuted at Brandeis University's then-new Rose Art Museum (Lucier was employed as Brandeis's chorus director at the time). The score for the piece was characteristically Cage-ian, as it was essentially just "correspondence and notes regarding the preparation of magnetic tape" and left plenty of room for chance and spontaneity to play significant roles. While Cage settled upon a total of 88 loops to mirror the number of keys on a piano, the contents and length of those loops were left very open-ended (as was the duration of the piece itself, as its beginning and ending were determined by the arrival and departure of the audience). There was also an element of mischief to the piece as well, as Cage's original vision included loops as long as 45 feet that stretched over a fountain and also included instructions for what to do when some of the loops inevitably broke mid-performance. Unsurprisingly, performances of "Rozart Mix" are quite rare for those reasons, but Aaron Dilloway was recently lucky enough to land the time and resources necessary to perform his own personalized interpretation and there is literally no one on earth who could be better suited for such an endeavor.

Hanson

This album's origins date back to 2020, as Dilloway was contacted by the John Cage Trust and Acra, NY's Wave Farm about staging a fresh performance of the piece. The following year, Dilloway spent "a wonderful and intense week" at Bard College researching Cage's notes and materials, then performed a 6-hour version at the Trust with the assistance of Rose Actor-Engel, Twig Harper, C. Lavender, Quintron, Robert Turman, and John Wiese. According to Dilloway, the performance involved "12 individually amplified reel to reel tape machines, placed around multiple floors of a house, playing 88 tape loops spliced together by 5 to 175 splices" and "created an overwhelming and joyous environment of cacophonous sound." Amusingly, that performance just leapt to the top of my ever-expanding list of "missed concert" regrets, as I used to live a mere 10 minutes from Bard College. Alas. On the bright side, the durational constraints of vinyl have distilled that performance to a mere 16 minutes of surrealist magic that I can now experience at home. It is certainly less immersive and hypnotic than a 6-hour dose would be, but the new brevity imbues the piece with the "all killer, no filler" feel of a great noise set, so I am definitely not complaining.

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Frédéric D. Oberland / Grégory Dargent / Tony Elieh / Wassim Halal, "SIHR"

SIHRThis unique quartet unusually originated as a collaboration between two French photographers, as Frédéric D. Oberland and Grégory Dargent performed some improvised duo concerts a few years back to accompany screenings and exhibits in Cairo, Beirut, and elsewhere. The duo was then expanded into a quartet to include Lebanese bassist Tony Elieh and darbuka player Wassim Halal and a three-day "improvised sound bacchanalia" ensued. The foursome describe themselves as a "post-anything quartet featuring multi-instrumentalists from the Mediterranean inland Sea" and share an ambitious vision of "new folklore for a devastated planet" and "tangos danced on the glowing ashes of our days." In less colorfully poetic terms, SIHR is a visceral and freewheeling collision of Arabic percussion, snatches of Middle Eastern melodies, timeless folk instrumentation, and ambitiously weird/mangled/abused synth sounds. In fact, literally everyone other than Halal plays a synth of some kind, which makes for a deeply strange collision of traditional music and outré electronics. While SIHR only fully transcends its improvisatory roots on the more melodic and sax-driven "YouGotALight," the album as a whole is an oft-fascinating outlier and this quartet truly never resembles any other improv ensemble that I have encountered.

Sub Rosa

The opening "Oui-Ja'aa" is a fairly representative plunge into this foursome's bizarre collision of disparate aesthetics, as Halal's clattering percussion builds into a hypnotic groove while a maniacally insistent synth figure wanders and trills all over the place. It eventually becomes a bit more melodic in the second half, but the endlessly propulsive and shapeshifting groove is the highlight by a landslide, as it sounds like it could be a live recording of Can on a particular great and adventurous night. Aside from that, "Oui-Ja'aa" also sounds at times like Catherine Christer Hennix has just ridden a war elephant into a Middle Eastern street fair. The following "Enuma Ellis" cools things down a bit, however, resembling something between a strain of droning oud-driven desert rock and a ritualistic street procession gnawed by pulsing swells of howling distorted electric guitar (Oberland's handiwork, I imagine). "YouGotALight" then further reduces the intensity to a sublime simmer, as Oberland's alto sax sensuously weaves a melody across a subdued landscape of quivering and rippling minor key arpeggios, dubwise percussion, melodic bass, and spasms of electric guitar. The final minute is especially wonderful, as a melodic crescendo unexpectedly drifts in. Frankly, it sounds like the best song that Barn Owl never recorded.

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Alex Keller, "Sleep room"

Sleep RoomAlex Keller's newest album's title, as well as many of the individual song names, are direct references to the CIA's notorious mind control MKUltra project, with thematic linkage due to Keller's use of electromagnetic sounds and interference, which was also part of those experiments. While this would almost be indicative of a harsh noise endurance test, Sleep room is quite the opposite. It may be a bit raw at times, but Keller's singular approach has a massively impressive depth and complexity to it, both stimulating curiosity as to what the sounds actually are and aesthetically engaging at the same time.

Elevator Bath

Keller's employment of electromagnetic transducers takes the form of pieces extracted from other technological sources, such as old modems, network servers, LED lightbulbs, and even a bug zapper and stun gun. Manipulated in real time, rather than just processing existing recordings, means that Keller is able to truly treat these as instruments, rather than just sound sources that act as fodder for effects pedals and plug-ins.

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Diamanda Galás, "In Concert"

In ConcertAs far as I can tell, this is probably Diamanda Galás's tenth live album to date and it documents a pair of 2017 performances in Chicago and Seattle (Galás's previous live album, At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem, dates from the previous year). For the uninitiated, that probably sounds like an excessive number of live albums, but the improvisatory nature of Diamanda's art ensures that every single live performance is a truly singular event. Of course, actually experiencing Diamanda Galás live (an essential experience) is not quite the same as hearing a recording of the performance, much like watching a professionally shot video of a burning house is not quite the same as actually being inside one. That said, it is still a wild and compelling experience nonetheless and the lines between studio albums and live albums are increasingly academic given her volcanic spontaneity and preference for single-take recordings. The similarities to jazz do not end there, however, as Diamanda Galás in Concert is devoted to radical piano-and-voice interpretations of an eclectic and fascinating array of unconventional standards.

Intravenal Sound Operations

I recently saw someone suggest that Diamanda Galás "has felt the pain and suffering of the entire world her whole life" and it unexpectedly stuck with me. Regardless of whether that statement is actually true, it occurred to me that Galás is somewhat akin to a cross between a sin-eater and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but instead of allowing guilty souls to finally rest in peace, she just screams humanity's ugly sins right back in our collective faces with harrowing intensity. The most obvious illustration of that dynamic is Galás's undiminished rage and sadness over the cruelty of how the world handled the AIDS epidemic, but she has plenty of similarly strong feelings about oppression and genocide too and that comes through even in her choice of cover songs (though "cover" is a hopelessly inadequate term for any song reshaped by Diamanda Galás). In keeping with that theme, Diamanda describes four of the songs included here as being "for and by the forsaken, outcast and debased," while the remaining three tackle yet another familiar theme: the dark side of love. That said, the stylistic breadth of her source material covers an impressively wide swath of both time and space, as she gamely finds and celebrates the connective tissue that runs through "rembetika, soul, ranchera, country and free jazz" (and even that is hardly a comprehensive list of all of the various cultural threads that Diamanda Galás In Concert touches upon).

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People Like Us, "COPIA"

CopiaThis latest album from Vicki Bennett, her first since 2018, is a characteristically dizzying and multilayered collage fantasia drawn from her currently touring AV performance "The Library of Babel." Fittingly, the album title has a dual meaning (either "abundance" or "copy"), but the deeper conceptual vein lies in the AV performance's title nod to a Jorge Luis Borges short story. In that story, "isolated librarians" struggle to "find meaningful texts amidst an overwhelming number of nonsensical or irrelevant books." Naturally, that nicely mirrors our own existential struggle to make sense of life while drowning in vast amounts of information, which Bennett colorfully portrays as "a journey through cinema and sound where the actors are set adrift from their story, left with pure experience." Fans of Bennett's previous work will find a lot of familiar samples, melodies, and themes set adrift from previous songs as well, as COPIA feels like a fever dream tour of the project's discography distilled into one memorably unhinged plunge down the psychedelic rabbit hole. Such self-cannibalism is very much in character for the project, of course, but a few of COPIA's fresh variations on a theme rank among Bennett's most mesmerizing work.

Cutting Hedge

The album is billed as a plunge into "profound realms of existential collage and sampling" in which Bennett and her many collaborators (Ergo Phizmiz, Matmos, etc.) celebrate the gleeful appropriation and recontextualization of our shared pop culture "as expressions of timeless connectivity." I mention that last part because the project can seem fun and kitschy on its surface, but Bennett rightly sees herself more like a folk artist, collecting meaningful fragments of culture and recombining them in alternately amusing, insightful, and poignant ways. In particular, Bennett has always seemed especially drawn towards American and British pop culture moments from the mid-20th century that portray society in romanticized, innocent, or utopian ways and that remains true here, as COPIA is teeming with kaleidoscopic fragments of iconic Disney moments, easy listening crooners, Motown, snatches of The Wizard of Oz, and the wide-eyed optimism of songs like Percy Faith's "A Summer Place" and Jackie DeShannon's "What The World Needs Now." It is hard to say how much of COPIA's source material has previously surfaced (somewhere between "most of it" and "all of it," I think), but the context is definitely a new one, as this album feels like a delirious longform hallucination rather than a collection of discrete songs.

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Taylor Deupree, "Sti​.​ll"

Sti​.​llI had a roommate back in the '90s who was deeply into the ambient side of techno, which was something that I intensely loathed at the time. Unbeknownst to me, however, that was my first exposure to the seemingly ubiquitous and eternal Taylor Deupree (via his Human Mesh Dance and Prototype 909 projects). I have since grown to genuinely love his work, of course, but I am sufficiently guilty of taking him for granted that I slept on his landmark 2002 album Stil. The same is not true of Joseph Branciforte (who runs the greyfade label), as he was so taken with the album that he embarked upon a multi-year project to "bring Deupree's explorations of extreme repetition and stillness into the world of notated chamber music." That initially seemed like quite a quixotic endeavor to me, but the resultant album is an absolute revelation, as breaking Deupree's elegantly skipping and sublime ambient magic up into individual acoustic components reveals an incredible degree of harmonic and dynamic sophistication that would have been otherwise lost on me. To paraphrase a scene from Mad Men, hearing Sti.ll after listening to Stil. feels like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when everything unexpectedly bursts into vivid color.

12k/Nettwerk

According to Deupree, the original album was inspired by the seascapes of Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and led to a significant change in the direction of his own vision (the idea of "stillness" became a guiding theme, as alluded to by the album's title). Compositionally, that change manifested itself in the four longform pieces of Stil. being devoted entirely to the "complex repetition of looping passages," as Deupree found that sustained immersion in repeating patterns could reveal "hidden pulses and movements not initially apparent," which is a vision that historically resonates quite deeply with me. In nuts-and-bolts terms, the original album was assembled from "melodic and granular passages juxtaposed in variable-length loops." Naturally, the "variable length" bit is what triggers the subtle, slow-motion transformations in these pieces, but Deupree illustrated the process more dramatically by noting that Stil.'s title piece was "based entirely on oscillating variations in a single 0.33 second tonal fragment." In short, small changes eventually bring fascinating and unexpected results.

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Nový Svět, "DeGenerazione"

DeGenerazioneThe enigmatic, inscrutable, and defunct Austrian duo of Jürgen Weber and Lili Novy/Frl. Tost has long been a subject of fascination for me, as I have had a bunch of their albums for years and enjoyed them, yet knew virtually nothing about them at all. In fact, I still would find it incredibly challenging to even answer a simple question like "what does Nový Svět sound like?" as their elusive discography continually blurs the lines between industrial, folk, cabaret, improv, collage, and whatever other esoteric influences they decided to assimilate for a given album. Amusingly, they also had a quixotic tendency to record albums in languages other than their native German, as evidenced by this newly released album from the vaults, which was originally intended to complete a "Spanish trilogy" back in 2007. In characteristically contrarian and mystifying fashion, it was shelved for being "too Spanish" and a synth album (Todas Las Últimas Cosas) was released instead. If this were any other band, I would drive myself crazy wondering why they would allow such an mesmerizing and wonderfully weird album to languish unheard, but baffling choices were basically the norm for Nový Svět. In any case, this album rules and I am thrilled to finally get to hear it.

Quindi

Aside from rudimentary and potentially dubious details like "Nový Svět were originally Vienna-based and formed in 1997," most of my knowledge of the band's history amusingly comes from a 1999 Russian interview in which the hapless interviewer kept asking an obviously disinterested Weber about how Futurism shaped the project's vision. Given that Weber glibly dismissed a few prominent Futurists as embarrassing weirdos and dandies in the interview, it is probably safe to say that they were not a terribly big influence, but he did seem to know a hell of a lot about the European avant-garde despite attributing the band's origins largely to alcohol and having a bunch of instruments lying around. Based on what little I know, it seems that the project's shapeshifting vision was more likely shaped by an interest in traditional music and instrumentation colliding with a fondness for tape loops and samplers, but Nový Svět also seemed to be shaped quite a bit by their immediate surroundings and a host of non-musical influences (theater, Buddhism, hedonism, folklore, Cage, Pasolini, Esperanto, Art Brut, etc.)..

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Hollywood Dream Trip, "Second Album"

First issued in 2013 as a limited-to-50 CDr, the, um, second album by the duo of Christoph Heemann and Will Long (Celer) was initially released in conjunction with a tour and has been only digitally available since. For its tenth anniversary, Black Rose Recordings have reissued this second (of three) recordings from the project on a wider available physical edition, ensuring that its lush, yet sparse collection of electronics are available once again for those longing for a tangible copy.

Black Rose Recordings

Consisting of a single 42-ish minute piece that was created using only two synths, a reverb unit, a tone generator, and tapes Second Album's overall sound reflects this intentionally stripped-down setup, but the duo cover a lot of different territories throughout its lengthy duration. Opening with a basic, resonating synth pulsation, the two delicately add in some low frequency elements and subtle melodic tones to flesh everything out.

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Sewer Election/Incipientium, "Sorceress"

SorceressA pairing of two Swedish artists, the veteran Dan Johansson (Sewer Election) and the relative newcomer Gustav Danielsbacka (Incipientium), Sorceress makes for an unsettling collaboration at various points throughout its four compositions. With their heavy use of manipulated tapes, they add an uncomfortably organic sense to the sputtering electronics and junk noise that sound anything but human throughout. It may be unsettling, but it is also delightfully enchanting throughout.

Throne Heap

The album is essentially split into two halves, with Johansson handling mixing duties on the first three shorter pieces, and Danielsbacka tackling the 20 minute fourth and final work. The two different approaches clearly reflect that mixing was handled by each individual, but the overall product complements each other quite well.

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