Eli Keszler, "Last Signs of Speed"

cover imageEli Keszler's Cold Pin was easily one of most remarkable and inventive albums of 2011, but he has largely been working under my radar ever since, steadily releasing a flow of live recordings and small-edition vinyl-only collaborations.  Consequently, I was delighted to discover that he was finally ready to unleash another solo opus.  Last Signs of Speed, the inaugural release from Berlin's Empty Editions, is inherently a bit less radical than Cold Pin, as it is sadly not built from a motorized string installation.  It may as well have been built from a motorized percussion installation though, as Keszler's hyper-kinetic free-jazz-inspired drumming is compellingly inhuman and unpredictable.  There is also some music: the album description intriguingly references both Scientist and Iannis Xenakis as key influences, but that dub influence is a damn subtle one.  Instead, Last Signs generally sounds more like Xenakis mixed with a truckload of drumsticks being fitfully poured down a long and winding flight of stairs (in the best way possible).

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Emptyset, "Borders"

cover imageEmptyset has always been a project that I felt weirdly guilty about not appreciating more, as they seemed like a more cerebral and mercilessly deconstructed twist on the UK's industrial-damaged post-dance milieu of Raime, Haxan Cloak, and Demdike Stare.  Also, I love James Ginzburg's Subtext label.  Unfortunately, all their songs sounded vaguely the same to me and I found all the praise for their architectural inspirations a bit mystifying.  Yet still I kept optimistically buying each new album hoping for a masterpiece that never arrived.  Thankfully, this debut release for Thrill Jockey finally makes everything click for me.  The same general template as always is still in place (improbably dense, ribcage-rattling bass and a slow-motion kick drum pulse), but Ginzburg and Paul Purgas have now distilled it into a thing of truly bludgeoning elemental force: Borders absolutely explodes from my speakers.  Also, the duo now wield a bass-heavy homemade "zither" to wonderfully visceral and snarling effect, which I did not see coming at all.  I am officially now a convert.

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3096 Hits

Ghédalia Tazart√®s/Andrzej Za≈ǃôsku/Pawe≈Ç Roma≈Ñczuk, "Carp's Head"

cover imageI am not fond of tossing the term "weird" out to describe music. Not only is it a vague and somewhat stigmatizing label, I do not consider a lot of what I hear to fit that term. I mean, I have albums of car crashes (GX Jupitter-Larsen), noise made by a ballerina’s performance (The Rita), and on stage improvised masturbation (The Gerogerigegege). However, Carp’s Head is hard to describe in any other way. With painfully guttural vocals by Ghédalia Tazartès, percussion by Andrzej Załęsku, and everything else by Paweł Romańczuk, it is like an Eastern European folk album vomited on an electro-acoustic work and the two were just mashed together with purely malicious intent.

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Nakama, "Most Intimate"

cover imageGrand Line, Nakama’s last release and the project’s second overall, was a sometimes-chaotic mass of free jazz improvisations held together by a structured sense of composition that seemed to be at odds with the music itself. Most Intimate has a similarly focused conceptual foundation, but rather than the grand gestures of the last album, here they are much more personal, with the quartet members each writing parts for one another to play. The concept is admittedly complex and convoluted, but in execution it works in more ways than just being a novelty.

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3214 Hits

Esplendor Geométrico, "Fluida Mekaniko"

cover imageI can think of few bands that are as cheerfully single-minded in their aesthetic vision as Esplendor Geométrico.  In fact, I suspect I could have written a remarkably accurate (if vague) review of Fluida Mekaniko without ever having heard it: lots of visceral and hypnotic percussion loops, no melodic hooks at all, plenty of low-level radio wave and static chaos, and some occasional tuneless and rambling vocals from Saverio Evangelista.  Done.  Predictably, Fluida Mekaniko DOES provide all of that, but I keep buying Esplendor Geométrico albums because they also tend to feature at least one or two absolutely mesmerizing pieces where everything comes together perfectly and Arturo Lanz seems like a goddamn genius. Fluida Mekaniko continues that tradition beautifully and even finds room to let in a bit more light and nuance than usual.  As a result, it is probably one of EG's strongest and most listenable albums yet.

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4078 Hits

Expo Seventy, "America Here & Now Sessions"

cover imageIt occurred to me the other day that there was an incredible wave of great, experimentally minded solo guitarists several years back (Area C, Black Eagle Child, Talvihorros) that has either gone completely silent or moved into very different territory and that no one has quite risen up to replace them.  Thankfully, however, the wildly prolific Justin Wright has not gone anywhere and continues to be a tireless torchbearer, both through his Sonic Meditations label and his own Expo Seventy project.  Given the sheer volume of Expo Seventy releases, I tend to only check in on the major ones and this one fits the bill: recorded as part of a three-week art event in Kansas City (America: Here and Now), Wright was able to assemble a like-minded quartet featuring two drummers to back his slow-burning psych-rock pyrotechnics.  At its best, the results are surprisingly accessible and anthemic, like a time-stretched and deconstructed Black Sabbath jam experienced through a heady fog of drugs.

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3744 Hits

RLW, "Flurry of Delusion"

cover imageI never know what to expect when putting on a new Ralf Wehowsky album. He has never let me down, but what form of strange electronics and unconventional compositional techniques he employs is always a mystery. Flurry of Delusion is then, fittingly, another extremely abstract and unpredictable work from the legendary member of P16.D4 that is as much random improvisation as it is rigidly structured composition. Maybe. Or maybe not. The confusion is intentional, by the way.

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4059 Hits

Iugula-Thor, "Choosing Your Own Brand of Evil"

cover imageAfter a lengthy dormancy, Andrea Chiaravalli reinstated his long standing harsh electronics project Iugula-Thor in 2012 and has been active ever since, releasing some of the strongest work of his career. This is the first full fledged release since then, with the prior ones being largely splits and singles, and also features Chiaravalli partnering with Paolo Bandera (Sshe Retina Stimulants, Sigillum S) to create a bleak, but multifaceted record of diverse electronics.

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Rashad Becker, "Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. II"

cover imageRashad Becker’s 2013 debut album was a singular and radical work of art, resembling nothing less than field recordings from a sinister extra-dimensional jungle.  For this follow-up, however, he apparently opted not to try to blow my mind a second time and instead just deepened and expanded upon what he had already done previously.  Naturally, the second volume is every bit as deranged and wrong-sounding as the first, so my favorite hallucinatory and Lovecraftian aural nightmare essentially just became twice as long.  I am quite fine with that state of affairs.

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4926 Hits

William Basinski, "A Shadow in Time"

cover imageFew current artists are as consistent and reliably absorbing as William Basinski, as he has carved a wonderful career out of conjuring work of hypnotic beauty from simple, well-chosen snippets from his backlog of decaying tapes.  It is not nearly as simple a formula as it sounds, but Basinski always manages to make it look effortless anyway.  Recently, however, he seems to have become a bit restless with that aesthetic, as he transformed the more traditionally Basinski-esque The Cascade into The Deluge with the aid of some feedback loops of varying lengths.  A Shadow in Time is an even more radical leap forward, as the title piece feels like a pile-up of blurred tape loops woven into a vibrantly shifting composition.  The other piece, Basinski's gorgeous tribute to David Bowie, is admittedly a bit less adventurous in structure, but is not devoid of unexpected twists either.

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4315 Hits

Nurse With Wound, "The Great Ecstasy of the Basic Corrupt"

cover imageThis is a long-awaited CD reissue of a largely unheard 45 RPM art edition LP from 2014. Although the idea of getting a small Steven Stapleton painting with an album was certainly appealing at the time, I was understandably a bit apprehensive about buying an expensive album that could easily turn out to just be a bunch of regurgitated studio scraps or live recordings.  I passed.  As it turns out, however, The Great Ecstasy was (and is) actually a surprisingly excellent and cohesive album.  More importantly, this reissue appends another great rarity to the original release in the form of Silver Bromide's "Circles of Confusion," which is one of my favorite NWW pieces in years.  Given that copies of Silver Bromide are currently going for $1500, this humble CD holds an awful lot of appeal.

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5433 Hits

Muslimgauze, "Mohammad Ali Jinnah" and "Jerusalaam"

cover imageStaalplaat's tireless trawl through Bryn Jones's endless archive yielded yet another fine pair of releases to close out 2016.  Jerusalaam, the stronger and more traditionally Muslimgauze-esque of the two,  is not so much a new find as it is a straight-up reissue of the fourth album from 1998's Tandoori Dog boxed set.  However, that absorbing and varied release is expanded with a couple of lengthy unused pieces recorded for the Return of Black September album.  The much stranger Mohammad Ali Jinnah album has an even more perplexing and convoluted provenance, as it is basically an alternate version of 2002's Sarin Israel Nes Ziona, with significant variations in sequence and song lengths.  Staalplaat rightly describes it as "a release unlike anything else in Jones' discography," as classic Muslimgauze fare rubs elbows with some rather spirited forays into frayed breakbeats, experiments in obsessive repetition, and four-on-the-floor house thump.

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4223 Hits

Pinkcourtesyphone, "Taking Into Account Only a Portion of Your Emotions"

cover imageI think at some point in the near future Richard Chartier will be releasing new material under his own name again, but as of late his focus has been on his Pinkcourtesyphone project. There are similarities between the two monikers, but PCP tends to eschew the conceptual academics of his other work for the sake of tongue-in-cheek kitchiness, but still is an unabashed showcase for his subtle touch when it comes to performance and composition. Additionally, this new record shows him honing his craft even more, making for his most fully realized album to date.

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3893 Hits

Rambutan, "Universal Impulses"

cover imageFor Eric Hardiman’s Rambutan project, 2016 was an uncharacteristically quiet year. This new tape from the Upstate New York multi-instrumental experimentalist did not appear until November, and as best as I can tell it was the only release of the year. Perhaps that singular focus on this album was a good thing, because Universal Impulses is another fascinating release, up there with Remember Me Now and Inverted Summer as a complex, beautiful and mysterious work.

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3838 Hits

*AR, "Earth By Means of the Currents"

cover imageRichard Skelton was atypically quiet in 2016, as he and Autumn Richardson seemed to be focusing primarily upon their publishing ventures, poetry, visual art, and Skelton's esoteric and multifarious research projects.  Fortunately, however, the duo managed to release this EP in December to accompany a series of collages they completed during a month-long residency in the Orkneys.  While it only clocks in at a lean 20 minutes, Earth by Means of the Currents is one of the more focused and powerful releases in the duo’s collaborative oeuvre, featuring both a solid foray into their warmly beautiful drone comfort zone and a buzzing, gnarled plunge into its negative image.

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3809 Hits

2016 Readers Poll - The Results

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the Annual Brainwashed Readers Poll.

and now, the results:

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1029 Hits

"audio-DH"

cover imageAs a complement to 2014's Francisco Lopez curated audio-MAD, this is another work, compiling artists from his current home in the Netherlands (both permanent residents and those who were just spending time in the city) with the intent of giving lesser-known electronic artists a wider amount of exposure. However, for such a minimalist composer, Lopez has had a maximalist streak as far as presenting material as of late. The aforementioned audio-MAD (which compiled material from artists residing in Madrid) was a two data DVD compilation of 100 artists, and 12 hours of uncompressed audio. audio-DH (for Den Haag/The Hague) goes even further: issued on a custom USB card and is compilation of 190 artists and over 16 hours of audio. So a quick listen it is not, but it is a rich and unique compilation of many artists I had not been familiar with in the past, but now am most definitely interested in examining more closely.

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9559 Hits

David First, "Same Animal, Different Cage Vol.2: Solomonos for Analog Synthesizer"

cover image For the second part of the quadrilogy, the cage that composer David First decided to lock himself into is perhaps the most sonically diverse and flexible of the chosen cages: the venerable Korg MS-20 synthesizer. Compared to the previous work using an acoustic guitar, and the future two involving blues harp and sitar, the massive array of knobs and options almost seem not limiting enough, conceptually speaking. As a whole, First adheres to his staunchly ascetic approach to composition and delivers an appropriately focused meditation on the instrument.

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5840 Hits

Kinit Her, "The Blooming World", Wreathes, "The Gold Array"

cover imageBoth Kinit Her and Wreathes are projects of the Wisconsin duo of Nathanial Ritter and Troy Schafer, and while there is clearly overlap in the two, there are also some distinctly different elements. The former is more deeply rooted in folk traditions, which an emphasis on medieval moods and esoteric concepts (but none of questionable politics), while the latter is almost a post-punk, electronic take on those stylistic flourishes. Both of these new releases are excellent, and present the duo taking both projects in increasingly varied and complex directions.

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4651 Hits

Demdike Stare, "Wonderland"

cover imageIt has been an interesting couple of years for the former holy trinity of the UK’s blackened and gloom-shrouded post-industrial dance deconstructionists: Raime picked up guitars and turned into a post-hardcore band, Haxan Cloak started collaborating with Björk and composing film scores with NIN's Atticus Ross, and Demdike Stare doubled-down hard on their techno roots with a series of extremely beat-oriented 12" singles.  Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker’s latest full-length roughly picks up right where the extremely varied Testpressing series left off, leaving behind most of the duo's more indulgently bleak and bombastic tendencies for something considerably more visceral, pared-down, and propulsive.  While I almost always favor the more abstract/drone side of the spectrum to the dancefloor, Demdike Stare prove to be the rare exception to that rule, as they are a hell of lot more listenable when their darkness is more understated and spectral.  Some more melody admittedly would be nice, but Wonderland is quite a strong, striking, and beautifully focused work.

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4577 Hits