Akira Rabelais, "Spellewauerynsherde"

cover imageThis singular album was originally released back in 2004 on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label, but Boomkat has just issued it on vinyl for the first time (along with quite a lot of accompanying praise about its status as an absolute masterpiece).  As curmudgeonly as I am, I have to agree–while the epic centerpiece of Spellewauerynsherde could probably benefit from somewhat sharper execution, these seven pieces cumulatively amount to quite a quietly staggering whole.  Rapturous beauty aside, Spellewauerynsherde is also quite a radical and inventive bit of sound art, as it was crafted entirely from feeding medieval choral music in Rabelais' self-designed Argeïphontes Lyre software, which seems to work by mutating, disintegrating, and recombining the source material.  Naturally, the sublime and unusual source material itself deserves a healthy amount of the credit for this album's timeless beauty, but Rabelais' transformative magic has unquestionably elevated it into something considerably more otherworldly and mysterious.

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6104 Hits

Wolf Eyes, "Strange Days II"

cover imageI am very much enjoying this new chapter of Wolf Eyes' career, as this second release on their Lower Floor imprint is every bit as deliciously wrong-sounding as Undertow, yet breaks some intriguing new ground.  The world is littered with iconic noise artists who flogged their one great idea to death and it is refreshing to see that John Olson, Nate Young, and James Baljo seem quite hellbent on avoiding that fate these days.  Granted, Strange Days II is only a lean 20-minute EP, but it is enough of a compelling detour to justify its existence despite that: it may be brief, but it is a complete and coherent statement.  As with most recent Wolf Eyes fare, it would be quite a stretch to call Strange Days II "noise," yet the trio definitely apply the genre’s tactics to unleash a corroded, thudding, and dystopian caricature of jazz (or at least a pleasingly gnarled twist on Zoviet France-style sci-fi tribalism).

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4693 Hits

Ora, "Time Out of Mind"

cover imageOra was always a rather curious and enigmatic project, as the collective formed by Andrew Chalk and Darren Tate in the '80s has been historically characterized by extremely limited releases and shifting membership.  Time Out of Mind adds yet another strange chapter to the Ora tale, as it is a reworking of unreleased material that largely pre-dates Ora's debut release (1992's DAAC cassette).  Chalk and Tate make it clear that this is not a "lost album" though–it is more of an alternate history, suggesting a path that the project might have explored without the intervention of line-up changes and new working methods.  Naturally, Chalk fans will probably swoop down on this album en masse, as material from this project is so maddeningly rare, but this collection is a modest and understated affair content-wise, consisting primarily of brief sketches and vignettes of mysterious field recordings and bleary drones.

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4796 Hits

Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie, "Essential Anatomies"

cover imageCompiling recent small-run cassette works into a luxurious double record set, Essential Anatomies represents a reunion for the duo of Colin Andrew Sheffield and James Eck Rippie.  Collaborators since 2000 and friends for even longer, the four lengthy recordings here capture their Texas reunion in 2015, and with its undeniable sense of complexity and cohesion, makes it clear that they have not missed a step from their time apart.

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9384 Hits

Elodie, "Odyssee"

cover imageThis collaboration between Andrew Chalk and Timo Van Luijk (Af Ursin) has been active since 2011, yet this is the first of their albums that I have actually heard, as Van Luijk shares Chalk's love of limited, small press-style releases.  As a result, Elodie's output has mostly been a series of vinyl-only releases from Belgium and Japan, though Stephen O'Malley’s Ideologic Organ has thankfully stepped up to get their next album to a wider audience.  On paper, Odyssee seems like a very poor choice for my first Elodie experience, as it has two traits that generally make me steer clear of an album: it is both a live recording and the soundtrack to a film.  In reality, however, this album is quietly stunning, taking Debussy-style Impressionism into gorgeously smoky, twilit, and eerily hallucinatory territory.

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4729 Hits

Edward Ka-Spel, "High On Station Yellow Moon"

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Edward Ka-Spel is certainly having quite an amazing year, already releasing two great albums in the form of I Can Spin A Rainbow and The Brown Acid Caveat.  This deeply strange and proggy solo effort is kind of a bizarre bridge between those two peaks, featuring occasional contributions from Amanda Palmer and seemingly expanding upon the thematic premise of The Tear Garden's "Lola’s Rock."  High On Station Yellow Moon also feels like a repository for all of Ka-Spel's recent ideas that were too abstract and unstructured for his "proper" albums–like a pressure-release valve for an overactive mind.  In that sense, there is a definite resemblance to the collaged, free-form aesthetic of The Legendary Pink Dots' Chemical Playschool series, albeit with a fairly consistent and intriguing thematic thread weaving through it all.  Another similarity to the Chemical Playschool series is that Yellow Moon can be a meandering and frustrating listen at times, but patient listeners will be rewarded by an occasional sustained passage that captures Ka-Spel at the absolute peak of his powers.

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4350 Hits

The Tear Garden, "The Brown Acid Caveat"

cover imageI had absolutely no idea what to expect from a new Tear Garden album, as it has been nearly a decade since the last one and The Brown Acid Caveat slowly came together while cEvin Key was dealing with cancer and Edward Ka-Spel was deeply immersed in I Can Spin A Rainbow.  Despite that, the impending release bizarrely took on a near-mythic significance for me, as this project has inspired several of Ka-Spel most enduring moments of genius ("Romulus and Venus," "Hyperform," etc.) and he has been riding quite a (fitful) hot streak over the last few years.  Also, the time simply felt right for The Tear Garden to return.  Happily, Caveat largely lives up to my unreasonably high expectations even while it subverts them, as the duo largely eschew deep psychedelia in favor of propulsive, tightly structured electronic pop (albeit with some inspired detours along the way).  Naturally, the album’s hookiness is mingled with Ka-Spel and Key's deeply skewed and oft-hallucinatory aesthetic, but I was still completely unprepared for the throbbing disco groove of the opening "Strange Land."

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4940 Hits

Kate Carr, "The Story Surrounds Us"

cover imageA rather fast follow-up to her last tape (It Was a Time of Laboured Metaphors, also on Helen Scarsdale), Australian sound artist Kate Carr's latest work is another entry in a rapidly growing discography that blends elements of both traditional composition and the unpredictable nature of field recordings. She does this and merges them together seamlessly, coming together as a beautiful set of sounds and moods from across the globe, yet still unified as a part of the human experience.

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4258 Hits

Scratched Glass, "Two"

cover imageAs a follow-up to 2015's debut EP, the duo of multimedia artists Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf and Jonathan Lukens expand on the ambiguity and sparseness on Two, while still showing marked development and innovation in their work. With their sonic palates expanded and a determined focus, the final product is an album that conveys a significant amount within its somewhat minimalistic framework.

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4427 Hits

Andrew Chalk, "Everyone Goes Home When The Sun Sets"

cover imageThis is kind of a companion piece to 2015's absolutely sublime A Light At The Edge of The World, embracing a similarly fragile and dreamy mood, but taking a very different structural approach:  while its processor took the shape of an extended and gorgeously floating stasis, Everyone Goes Home When The Sun Sets consists of nearly twenty discrete and ephemeral miniatures.  That is not entirely new territory for Chalk, as that approach previously reached its apotheosis with 2012’s fine Forty-Nine Views In Rhapsodies' Wave Serene, but it is still a curious step away from his strengths and his longform comfort zone.  As such, Everyone Goes Home is not quite as immersive and hypnotic as Edge Of The World, but it is still a fairly unique release within Chalk's canon, as its gently hallucinatory drift of glimmering vignettes offers its share of nuanced and distinctively Chalk-ian pleasures.

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4255 Hits

Psychic TV, "Pagan Day" and "Allegory and Self"

cover imageI have always viewed Psychic TV with a mixture of fascination and annoyance, as the project managed to assemble some of the most talented and idiosyncratic artists in underground music, but were far too erratic, scattershot, and over-prolific to ever turn their genuine flashes of brilliance into a great career.  That said, the founding duo of Genesis P-Orridge and Alternative TV's Alex Fergusson definitely started off strong and these two reissues roughly bookend that golden age.  Pagan Day, which first surfaced as an extremely limited release in 1984 (it was released December 24 and deleted on Christmas), is a collection of early 4-track sketches, several of which were later released in different form. The strange and uneven Allegory and Self from 1998, on the other hand, was perversely the band's pop breakthrough, featuring the half-annoying/half-subversive underground hit "Godstar" and whole lot that could never be chart-worthy.  Admittedly, there are a few moments of magic amidst that stylistic jumble, but the more polished ensemble work unexpectedly feels a bit less substantial than Pagan Day's rough-hewn creative outpouring (for good reason).

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5688 Hits

Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson, "Negative Chambers"

cover imageYair Elazar Glotman's monster Études album lamentably slipped by me when it surfaced in 2015, but I immediately became quite a fan once I finally heard it.  As a result, I was thrilled to discover that he was returning once more to wood and strings after last year's Blessed Initiative album.  His collaborator, Mats Erlandsson, is a part of the primarily noise-based Posh Isolation milieu, which makes this an intriguing pairing for the task at hand: creating "imaginary, dislocated 'folk' music for the current dark ages" (exactly the sort of endeavor that seems tailor-made for Miasmah).  Given that the two artists are primarily known for experimental/electronic fare, it is a bit eyebrow-raising to find them exclusively wielding an eclectic array of zithers, singing bowls, Moroccan lutes, and other traditional instruments here, but their production talents prove to be quite useful for shaping their acoustic ethno-appropriations into a shadowy suite of appealingly seething and grinding neo-classical brooding.

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4150 Hits

Janek Schaefer, "Glitter In My Tears"

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This is apparently Janek Schaefer's 30th album in 20 years, a milestone which surprised me a bit, as there is a considerable portion of his oeuvre that I have not heard.  That said, the handful of albums that I have heard have been kind of hit or miss, as Schaefer often errs a bit too much on the side of high-concept, cerebral sound art for my liking.  Glitter In My Tears, however, is right up my alley: a sustained and hallucinatory fever dream of brief and frequently beautiful vignettes (or "microcosms of haunted memory," as Schaefer himself describes them).  The inevitable downside to such an ambitious endeavor, of course, is that Glitter is exasperatingly populated with wonderfully promising themes that appear and vanish again in a minute or less.  In most hands, that would be quite a big problem, but Glitter is so uniformly strong and flows along so fluidly that I am left with little time to lament the more substantial pieces that might have been.  This is a wonderfully shifting, evocative, and immersive album from start to finish.

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4321 Hits

Träd, Gräs Och Stenar, "Tack F√∂r Kaffet / So Long"

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Fifty years ago, one of the greatest (and most short-lived) psych-rock bands of all-time (Pärson Sound) was formed in Sweden, though it was not until 2001 that their amazing collected recordings were finally released.  Despite only recording one album, the core of Pärson Sound never actually went away and the band has evolved and taken on new guises over the ensuing decades (International Harvester and Träd, Gräs och Stenar), erratically surfacing every now and then and sometimes flirting with greatness anew.  This latest release is a somewhat bittersweet affair, as two founding members (the whole rhythm section, actually) passed away during the recordings, albeit not before leaving an intermittently stellar and incandescent swansong in their wake.  Tack För Kaffet / So Long is easily the best Träd, Gräs och Stenar album in ages.

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4444 Hits

Fovea Hex, "The Salt Garden II"

cover imageClodagh Simonds and her impressive coterie of collaborators have returned for the much-anticipated second installment of the planned Salt Garden trilogy.  In a broad sense, this latest EP is a clear continuation of its predecessor, consisting of three timeless and drone-informed pieces of sublime and Siren-esque choral beauty and an instrumental coda.  However, this release also marks an intriguing evolution upon the aesthetic of the first Salt Garden, opting for a more understated and unadorned approach.  As such, there is not much here that offers quite the intensity and immediacy of "The Golden Sun" or "The Undone Mother," but the compensation is that Simonds has further distilled her vision into something more naked and pure, eschewing ornamentation and orchestration to shift more of the heavy lifting to her voice and her words.  They can certainly handle it.

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4184 Hits

Tor Lundvall, "Nature Laughs as Time Slips By"

cover imageFor his third boxed set on the label since 2011, prolific ambient artist Tor Lundvall collects another four previously released (but limited) albums and a rarities compilation into a diverse sounding, yet thematically unified collection. Essentially the soundtrack for virtual environments, such as rainy days or visiting a park, Nature Laughs as Time Slips By is another suite of beautiful, if often melancholy instrumental music that covers the vast spectrum of Lundvall’s beautiful work.

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33928 Hits

Can, "The Singles"

cover imageI must admit to still being a bit perplexed by this release. Can, for all their greatness, were never really a singles band. Most of those that were issued were edits of album material, so there is little exclusive material to be had here, barring said edits, which usually just remove material rather than presenting it in an appreciably different way, and a handful of non-album material. However, when viewed as a career overview or sampler (something essentially replacing those Cannibalism compilations), it is a different matter, and the set provides a good opportunity to revisit the latter, often maligned recordings.

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3564 Hits

Richard H. Kirk, "Dasein"

cover imageThe usually prolific Richard H. Kirk has been unsurprisingly quiet as of late. Playing shows as Cabaret Voltaire again (which I have conflicted feelings about) and a small reissue campaign via Mute and Die Stadt has been about the extent of his recent activity. Which, admittedly, is odd from a man who used to make up projects just to fill out his own solo compilation albums. So when first hearing about the new material that makes up Dasein being released, I was eager but unsure what to expect. Thankfully, the hiatus has done nothing to deter Kirk, who has put together yet another exceptional work of his own take on electronic music, and one that channels moments from his entire career.

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19810 Hits

Keiji Haino, "Watashi Dake?"

cover imageThis is the debut release from Peter Kolovos's Black Editions, an imprint embarking upon the ambitious and necessary task of reissuing classic albums from Japan’s legendary and defunct P.S.F. label.  Naturally, Kolovos wanted to start with a bang, making Watashi Dake? an obvious choice: originally released back in 1981, it is the first solo release from the mercurial and iconic Keiji Haino.  Spontaneously composed at night in a completely dark studio (presumably while wearing sunglasses), these hermetic, haunted, and idiosyncratic songs make for quite a challenging and uncomfortable listen, but that is precisely the point: for better or worse, there is nothing else on earth quite like Watashi Dake?

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4826 Hits

The Inward Circles, "Scaleby"

cover imageThis digital-only sister release to And Right Lines Limit and Close All Bodies is a suite of comparatively simple, warm, and straightforward drone pieces, which presumably explains why its companion warranted a physical release while Scaleby did not.  That lack of fanfare makes sense, as Right Lines Limit is a far more complex and ambitious work that expands the limits of Skelton's vision while this release is merely nine variations on a theme firmly within his comfort zone.  I happen to be quite fond of that comfort zone though, as these bleary, churning reveries play much more to Skelton's strengths than some of his more cosmic, universe-chewing excursions of late.  While the recurring Inward Circles' theme of obfuscation is still in full effect (there are no recognizable stringed instruments to be found), Scaleby nonetheless carves out its own lovely niche of languorously vaporous, dreamlike beauty beneath a patina of shifting crackle, grit, and hiss.

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3705 Hits