Tapan, "Europa (Abul Mogard Reworks)"

Watching Abul Mogard’s Live performance in Atonal Festival 2017 and his releases on Not Waving’s Ecstatic record label were somewhat of a milestone in Malka Tuti's sonic aesthetics. His ability to touch us with those pulsating sonic textures coming out of his modular machine inspired us in MTHQ for years to come.

We were more then happy that Mogard chose to contact Tapan about their album and eventually deciding to remix not one but two tracks from the Belgrade duo…it was like a circle coming to a close.

On the A-side, Mogard take the original 17-minute sax-infused piece that is "Europa" and drenches it with drones and low frequency pulses and atmosphere, creating a some sort of a post-apocalyptic intense atmospheric soundtrack. The effect of drowning the horns from the original track in a sea of drones and pads, contributes to the over all impression of listening to a distant memory of music… fitting for days like these....

On the B-side, Mogard takes it to the next level, capturing a line from Tapan's original collaboration with Jerusalem In My Heart's Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, and passes it through his modular system, amalgamating an epic piece of tense build-ups and repetitive movements...

The original artwork was made by artist Marja de Sanctis and adapted, as always, to the sleeve by Morey Talmor.

More information can be found here.

2513 Hits

Mainliner, "Dual Myths"

"This new album is the second chapter of this present Mainliner. finally we could open to the next stage to break old customs since 1995"

The follow up to 2013's Revelation Space has been rumored for many years. I've even heard tales of several recordings being finished and scrapped over the last five years. That's how hard it is to run a band when members are based on different continents and in other very busy bands themselves.

But it's finally done. And it's being pressed as I type.

The killer trio from the original reformation is all intact, we have Kawabata Makoto (motorpsycho guitar), Koji Shimura (drums) and Kawabe Taigen (bass/vocals) and we're back to calling them just Mainliner once again.

Q. What does Dual Myths sound like ?
A. Mainliner, it's nasty!

More information can be found here.

2513 Hits

Neutral, "Grå Våg Gamlestaden" reissue

Neutral's seminal LP, Grå Våg Gamlestaden, is widely considered ground zero for the explosion of creativity that has transpired in the Swedish Underground ever since. It is the noisy experimental rock album that opened the door and welcomed in so many artists working behind the scenes. Gothenburgers Dan Johansson (Sewer Election) and Sofie Herner had previously made music together in the band Källarbarnen when they started discussing a new methodology and a fresh sound for recordings in 2013 under a new name as a duo.

After witnessing Sofie and Dan's live performance in an artist’s studio in the spring 2014, Gustaf Dicksson, who was running the Omlott record label at the time as well as performing under his own moniker, Blod, offered to release an album by Neutral on the spot.

Sofie recorded most of the instruments and voice, Dan worked on manipulating the recordings, experimenting with reel-to-reel techniques. The title of the LP translates as "Grey Wave Gamlestaden" and was chosen as an inside joke about the neighborhood Gamlestaden where Dan and Sofie lived. A major theme on the recording is a certain kind of bleakness but with a wry smile closely identified with the spirit of the neighborhood.

In the fall of 2014, Grå Våg Gamlestaden was released, limited to 200 copies, and sold out quickly without many copies making it outside of Sweden. Around the same time, Dan & Sofie joined forces with other underground artists in their widening circle to form a sort of Gothenburg supergroup making music together as Enhet för Fri Musik.

Grapefruit's reissue of Grå Våg Gamlestaden is the first time Neutral's masterpiece has seen the light of day since it sold out quickly in 2014. Our vinyl-only gatefold reissue is limited to 300 copies. 

More information can be found here.

13827 Hits

Caterina Barbieri, "Fantas Variations"

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"Fantas" is the epic opening track on Caterina Barbieri’s acclaimed 2019 release Ecstatic Computation. The original "Fantas" laid out a magical path of patterns leading the listener on a journey into the sound itself. Fantas Variations maps out eight new potentials sprung from this initial path as constructed by a diverse mix of artists lending to a wide spectrum of new works extrapolated from the original work. For this project Barbieri invited friends and long time collaborators from a variety of musical backgrounds to create a more sustainable and inclusive landscape in terms of stylistic, geographical, gender and generational balance.  The results are a diverse array of approaches and instrumentation which blur the boundaries between the acoustic and electronic.

Fantas Variations embraces a platform for mutual exchange and support between like-minded artists, where active and collective re-imagination is prioritized over the traditional model of remixes, which is often strategic, functional and more passive.

Longtime friend and collaborator Kali Malone rearranged "Fantas" to a slowed-down, austere and eerie version for two organs. Evelyn Saylor created a piece for a vocal ensemble consisting of her, Lyra Pramuk, Stine Janvin and Annie Garlid, joining forces to express the choral, psychedelic and vitalistic nature of the piece.  Barbieri's former guitar professor at the Conservatory in Bologna, Walter Zanetti, composes "Fantas" for electric guitar, by translating every single gesture of the original electronic piece into a personal, nuanced and detailed interpretation. Bendik Giske's reinterpretation for saxophone and voice captures the atmospheric essence of "Fantas" and its psychic meteorology. Longtime collaborator and along with Barbieri the other half of the outfit Punctum, Carlo Maria, resynthesizes "Fantas" for TR808 and MC202, bringing a more club-oriented dimension of the piece to life whilst unveiling the sonic continuum between rhythm and pitch through a sensitive timbral approach. Jay Mitta's Singeli reinterpretation of "Fantas" transpires with pitched-up percussion and turbo-fast poly-rhythmic patterns unleashing the frenetic, shifting, transformative matter within the piece to a higher plain of euphoric dance. Baseck's variation is a rave fantasia, where the prismatic trance of the original is channeled into fierce, uncompromising hardcore, whilst Kara-Lis Coverdale's take is a phantasmagoria for piano that gently, yet inexorably, captures the relentlessness chimerical qualities of the original, unveiling its spectral backbone.

More information can be found here.

2333 Hits

Kelly Moran/Prurient, "Chain Reaction at Dusk"

Originally initiated for the Merzbow, Kelly Moran, Prurient USA tour (representing three generations of heavy electronics), this archival recording is finally released as Chain Reaction At Dusk.

Moran and Prurient first met in 2018 and the two bonded over an unlikely composite of piano, drone and noise synthesis (Moran from John Cage, while early Prurient tapes cut-up Erik Satie).

A leader in the realm of prepared piano, Kelly Moran quickly drew attention for her massive and seamlessly complex juxtapositions of plucked icy melodic sequences and deep sub bass compositions, culminating in a stunning 2018 LP, Ultraviolet.

With 3-tracks of continuous intertwining melodic tension, Moran continues her juxtaposition of crystalline single note attacks upon a bed of massive low end prepared drones.

Shattering genre, Moran culls from a broad palate of classical, post-minimalism, ambient and other forms to free the piano from convention pushing high and low frequencies through electronic pairing and coupling. Recorded at her home in fall 2018, Moran’s split side showcases the composer’s prepared piano treated with delays and granular synthesis over a heavy wash of droning, arpeggiating synthesizers.

Similarly, Prurient returns with a side parallax-view vocal barrage complimentary to Moran’s fractal modes. Composed at Guy Brewer's (Shifted) former Berlin studio, Fernow accessed a cache of pristine analog synthesizers and sequencers while finishing the process with Kris Lapke in New York with layers of crude telephone dictation manipulation, resulting in surrealist vocal cut-ups - and "exquisite corpse" static.

Kelly Moran speaks of her music and as movement on the psychedelic path and the interior, while Prurient's noise derives nearly exclusively from dissociative and nightmarish imaginations.

This is the meeting of psychedelia and anxiety disorder, but the opposing morphosis is ultimately one creation of "classical doom electronics."

More information can be found here.

2302 Hits

Chuck Johnson, "The Cinder Grove"

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I can think of few other artists in the midst of a hot streak quite as wonderful as the one Chuck Johnson is currently enjoying, as nearly everything he has released since 2017’s Balsams has been downright revelatory. In keeping with that theme, his return to solo work is yet another sublime stunner and a strong contender for his finest album to date.  While Johnson wisely does not depart much from his winning Balsams aesthetic, he does subtly expand his palette with some help from Sarah Davachi, a small string ensemble, and an endearingly exacting approach to reverb.  For the most part, however, everything beyond his swooningly gorgeous pedal steel playing is merely icing on an already perfect cake: virtually no one crafts warm, achingly beautiful soundscapes better than Chuck Johnson and he seems to only get better at it with each new release.

VDSQ

The album opens with an absolute masterpiece in the form of "Raz-de-Marée," which poignantly combines a lovely descending organ theme with a lazily shimmering haze of pedal steel heaven. Everything about it is damn near perfect, from the melodies to the textures right down to the bittersweetly beautiful mood. It is frankly an impossible act to follow, which makes the more vaporous "Serotiny" pale a bit by comparison, though its floating dreamscape is still a very pleasant place to linger. The strongest pieces tend to be the ones that anchor the sliding, liquid bliss of the pedal steel with something more solid though, as the instrument can start to feel a bit weightless on its own. On "Constellation," that solidity is initially provided by a repeating pattern of warm bass tones, but the structure eventually gets fleshed out further by some reverberant piano chords courtesy of Davachi. The following "Red Branch Bell" is the album's most adventurous and unexpected delight, as Johnson fades into the background while a churning string theme steadily builds in visceral intensity, then reappears to finish the piece with a languorously psychedelic coda. The closing "The Laurel" feels similarly epic, marrying an elegiac string motif with some achingly beautiful pedal steel that evokes vivid steaks of color in a slow-motion sunset—a fittingly great end to a near-perfect album. Johnson hits the mark on nearly every possible detail with The Cinder Grove, but my favorite facet (aside from the songs themselves) is just how incredibly wonderful it all sounds, especially the way the sharper textures of the strings tear through the soft-focus swirl of dreamily sliding melodies. This album is going to be in heavy rotation here for a long time.

Samples can be found here.

2602 Hits

Andrew Chalk, "Incidental Music"

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In characteristic fashion, Andrew Chalk quietly released this cassette last fall and it is damn near impossible to find out anything about it other than the fact that it compiles pieces recorded between 2008 and 2016 and features regular collaborators Timo von Luijk and Tom James Scott on one piece. All outward signs suggest that Incidental Music was intended as a modest and minor release, so it was quite a pleasant surprise to find that it is actually one of the stronger Chalk releases from the last few years, roughly approximating the slippery, shivering, and floating bliss of 2015's A Light at the Edge of the World in more bite-sized form. While there is enough variety to periodically remind me that this is indeed a collection of orphaned songs rather than a focused and complete new statement, the quality of these treasures from the vault is high enough to make such a distinction feel quite irrelevant.

Faraway Press

The album immediately dissolves into sublime impressionist heaven with the opening "Fallen Angel," which captures Chalk at the height of his textural and harmonic powers. It is the sort of piece that people tend to describe with terms like "ambient drift," but it makes me think of water droplets quivering on a gently swaying spiderweb: there is an underlying structure, but the true beauty lies primarily on how the individual notes linger, shiver, and bleed together. It also highlights Chalk's singular talent for making extremely nuanced and sophisticated music feel organic and effortless, as "Fallen Angel" feels loose and spontaneous, yet delicately shifts moods while deftly avoiding any straightforward melodies or chords at all. While several of the following pieces return to roughly the same aesthetic with varying degrees of success (perfectly fine by me), the second half of the album is a bit more diverse and offers some more unexpected and rare pleasures. While I am still not entirely won over by the warm synth reverie of "Solas," I absolutely love "Sparkled in My Eyes," which sounds like a fever dream organ soundtrack to some masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema a la The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Elsewhere, "From Mountain Tops The Dusky Clouds" crafts a languorously undulating fog with gentle drones and subtle wah-wah effects, while "To Many A Harp" conjures a wonderfully haunted and tender scene with a slow-motion melody of wobbly sustained tones.  At least two or three of those pieces are stone-cold gems, but the entire album sustains a wonderfully immersive and absorbing spell.

Samples can be found here.

2442 Hits

Abul Mogard, "In Immobile Air"

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The latest album from this enigmatic Serbian composer is a significant departure from his previous work, as these five pieces were primarily composed on an old upright piano during lockdown. While the usual synthesizers are conspicuously relegated to a background role, In Immobile Air is nevertheless still very "Mogard" in both its central theme (memory) and its meditative and melancholy mood. It admittedly took me a bit longer to warm to this side of Mogard's artistry than usual (the piano is not my favorite instrument), but a few pieces capture him in especially inspired form and feel like significant breakthroughs in the manipulation of harmony and overtones. The other pieces are intriguingly adventurous as well, inhabiting a murky shadow realm somewhere between Harold Budd and blackened, desolate dronescapes.

Ecstatic

Partially inspired by an unnamed Italo Calvino story, both the song titles and the general mood of In Immobile Air evoke the bleak grandeur of a rocky beach on an overcast day. For the most part, Mogard paints the album's various somber scenes with a balance of gently rippling minor key piano melodies and deep, brooding drones, but that balance can shift quite a lot between songs. The darkly beautiful title piece is probably the most equal balance of the two elements, as a sad, tumbling piano motif lazily repeats over a gnarled and heaving backdrop of synth swells. The following "Clouds," on the other hand, abandons any recognizable piano in favor of dense, blown-out, and downright seismic waves of drone. Nevertheless, it is an unexpectedly melodic piece, as the roiling miasma cyclically resolves into a repeating bass tone. As befits the title, "Clouds" calls to mind a sky full of dense black clouds that periodically breaks to reveal faint rays of warming light. It is quite a mesmerizing piece, but it is later eclipsed by the album's centerpiece "Sand." Like "In Immobile Air," it is centered upon a tender, minor key piano melody, but the brilliant bit slowly emerges from the background, as massive, buzzing oscillations swell from the murky swirl of lingering decay to steal the spotlight. The album's two more drone-based pieces are a bit less memorable, but In Immobile Air's highlights are impressive and unique enough to make it a strong album.

Samples can be found here.

2589 Hits

Colleen, "The Tunnel and the Clearing"

Colleen is an aboundingly inventive composer and artist. For two decades, Cécile Schott as Colleen has crafted welcoming, enchanting, and bewildering music. The multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s timeless compositions make use of carefully selected tools to mold memories into transcendent splendor. The Tunnel and the Clearing finds Schott at her most vulnerable and confident, invoking contemplative and swirling organ processed through analog electronics, steady drum machine syncopations and her distinctive voice to embody breaking through the nexus of compounding transitions. On an album centered on processing the complicated washes of emotion through tribulations and revelations Colleen presents a vision of breathless clarity.

The Tunnel and the Clearing was developed over a period of transformative change. Colleen began work on the album in 2018 only to be met with extreme fatigue from a previously undiagnosed illness that all but halted her work. The following months and years of treatment and adjustment eventually led to relocating to a new home and studio in Barcelona, which was soon followed by lockdowns and ultimately the dissolution of her longtime partnership. The impact of deep reflecting on these cumulative experiences found Schott completely reimagining her compositional practices through her enduring gift for reinvention. Schott spent months in near complete silence apart from composing and ruminating on her newfound perspective through her music. Says Schott, "Never before had I felt so profoundly the power that music has, through harmony, melody, rhythm and sound itself, to express the whole range of human emotions." The resulting seven pieces investigate the complex, at times contradictory relationship between excitement and fear, anger and understanding, struggle and triumph, all focused on a reconstruction of the self.

Colleen's albums are unified by their employment of distinct and personal instrumentation to tell their story. From albums built around music boxes or viola da gamba to albums built around electronics, her music remarkably shares a dreamlike modern quality. From the early stages of working on The Tunnel and the Clearing, Schott restricted herself to using analog electronic instruments like the Elka Drummer One, the Roland RE-201 Space Echo and Moog Grandmother synth, coupled with Yamaha organ keyboard and select Moog effects. This limited instrument selection was inspired by years of listening to Jamaican and African recordings where musicians were pushed to maximize their creativity with minimal tools. A magnitude of atmospheres are summoned from deceptively simple combinations, from the meditative pulse of "The Crossing" to the frothy cascades of title track "The Tunnel and the Clearing." Pieces like "Revelation," or the brisk-paced "Implosion-Explosion" respectively showcase the most diverse use of harmony and the most incisive application of production technique in all of Colleen's catalog. Stunningly, Colleen achieves the rich emotional intricacy and the lush density of textures on The Tunnel and the Clearing through almost entirely live performance and processing.

The detailed and affecting compositions of The Tunnel and the Clearing mirror Colleen's grappling with her own psyche. Schott elaborates "I found direct correspondences between my internal discourse, its obsessive, frantic attempts at making sense of what I could not understand, and the music I was making, with motifs functioning as questions and answers, doubts and assertions." Clicks, hums, warbles and throbs emulating our evolving internal worlds, an "emotional noise." A musical journey through the tunnel toward the clearing at its end. An ending which is also a beginning. "The clearing is what is always out there: a vast expanse of space, light and possibilities," says Schott. The Tunnel and the Clearing is a work of lucid reverence, a constellation of marvels suspended in air.

More information can be found here.

2335 Hits

Alina Kalancea, "Impedance"

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This Romanian composer’s second album is quite a wonderful surprise, easily ranking among Important's finest non-reissue releases in recent memory. Far less surprising is the fact that Impedance is Buchla-driven (given the label’s well-documented fondness for modular synthesizers), but this is happily one of those times in which the tools are secondary to the focused and compelling vision that they help bring to life. While the album's best moments tend to be those that resemble a throbbing and seething strain of minimalist, industrial-inspired "noise" akin to recent Puce Mary work, Impedance as a whole is an ambitiously shapeshifting, deep, and legitimately heavy listening experience that grows more expansive and varied as it unfolds.

Important

The opening "Introspection" very effectively foreshadows what is to come, as it slowly builds from beeps and a bass throb into a seismic slab of deconstructed techno that burrows through a barely-there haze of twinkling, smearing, and looping psychedelia. The more haunted-sounding elements evoke the feeling of descending into a nightmare, but it is at least a propulsive and darkly libidinal one (those bass pulses just do not stop). The piece then arguably segues into a more concise, focused, and hallucinatory version of itself with "Walking Through Storm" (mechanized dread with a side helping of "weirdly viscous-sounding"). Delineations between pieces quickly cease to matter though, as the album feels like an extended DJ mix of heavy bass, subterranean woodpeckers, futuristic Kubrickian menace, and plenty of subtle mindfuckery (smearing tones, field recordings, etc.). And it seems to only get better as it goes on, culminating in the stellar one-two punch of "Horizons (After a Silent Walk)" and "Concrete Floor." In fact, "Horizons" damn near steals the show when its seesawing bass thrum blossoms into a darkly surreal finale of echoing voices, densely buzzing oscillations, sinister animal howls, and slow, insistent beeps. While a few pieces feel a bit long (I wish this was not a double vinyl release), Kalancea clearly had more than one LP worth of killer material and it would have been a shame to pare it down to only that (especially since it all flows together so well in its current format). In any case, this album is an absolute monster, as Kalancea repeatedly strikes the perfect balance between raw physicality, simmering violence, and exacting execution (like an Eliane Radigue album that is about to smash a bottle over my head).

Samples can be found here.

4489 Hits

Carmen Villain, "Sketch for Winter IX: Perlita"

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This latest installment of Geographic North's frequently wonderful Sketches for Winter series is a new album from Oslo's restlessly evolving Carmen Villain and it is a fitfully (and strikingly) brilliant one. While the general aesthetic of Perlita is roughly akin to the more psych-minded side of private press new age, it is inventively mingled with an evocative and enigmatic array of field recordings, submerged beats, and hallucinatory flourishes to achieve something truly vivid, distinctive, and absorbing. In fact, the closing "Agua Azul" completely blindsided me, approximating an unexpectedly sensual, dubwise, and almost tropical-sounding update of Apollo-era Brian Eno.

Geographic North

This album joins the pantheon of releases that I would have described as "pretty good, I guess" before I threw on some headphones and belatedly experienced its full depth and clarity. In my defense, the first two pieces could easily be mistaken for deconstructed Enya on their face, but there are hints of greater emotional depth and mystery in even Perlita's most overtly tranquil pieces. In the opening "Everything Without Shadow," that side quietly manifests in drones that lazily hiss, fray, and bleed as a corroded vocal sample repeats below the surface. In the following "Two Halves Touching," however, the full extent of Villain's vision starts to become apparent, as a lurching "outsider dub" groove emerges from a miasma of deep bass, rhythmically sloshing waves, and a repeating, hallucinatory vocal loop. From that point onward, the album only descends into increasingly poignant and pleasantly phantasmagoric territory. Listening to Perlita feels like entering a blissful and dreamlike floating world where someone else's flickering, non-linear childhood memories are being projected. That experience is further enhanced by the intrusion of enigmatically meaningful outside sounds that drift in and lazily reverberate around until they fade away. Successfully casting and sustaining such a reality-dissolving spell is achievement enough, yet Perlita culminates in a final piece ("Agua Azul") that takes the album to a transcendent new level with a smoky flute melody and a slow, sensual groove…then tops it all off with a rain of slowly falling synth tones that feels like a sky full of slow-motion fireworks. Is that what heaven is like? I sure hope so. While it is currently only January, I am certain "Agua Azul" will absolutely be one of the most gorgeous pieces that anyone releases this year, as envisioning what could surpass it strains the limits of my imagination.

Samples can be found here.

2657 Hits

Kara-Lis Coverdale, "A 480"

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Newly reissued on vinyl on her own Gate imprint, A 480 was Coverdale's formal debut (originally issued on Constellation Tatsu back in 2014). When I first heard it a few years back, I believed it was not nearly as strong as her breakthrough 2017 EP Grafts, but I have since revised and reversed that opinion as A 480 has its own (very different) flashes of brilliance—they just require a bit more focused listening to reveal themselves. This is both a unique album within Coverdale's discography and a unique album in general, approximating a slow-burning strain of loop-driven kosmische-style psychedelia assembled from ingeniously manipulated vocal loops.

Constellation Tatsu/Gate

The album's brief opener amusingly feels like a targeted assault on my personal sensibility, but the cheerily artificial textures and manic repetition of "A 480 are admittedly quite an effective illustration of the album's overarching vision. In essence, A 480 was crafted entirely from vocal pieces that have been "unpersonally sourced, downloaded, then disembodied, disfigured, and displaced over forty times." At various points throughout the album, those vocal loops approximate a human choir, but they far more often sound like a synth album from the '70s that has been chopped up by an Oval-esque mad genius. While both the album's conceptual basis and its source material are certainly intriguing, what truly matters is that the three pieces at the heart of the album all belong in the headphone album hall of fame (sadly still imaginary at this point). That incredible hot streak begins with the half-heavenly/half-futuristic epic "A 479," which sounds like it could have been a lost Tangerine Dream or Popul Vuh soundtrack for Solaris. That feat is then followed by the darkly hallucinatory "A 478" and the alternately playful and poignant otherworldliness of "A 477." Each piece offers its own bit of fiendishly clever compositional sleight of hand, but the thread uniting them all is Coverdale's virtuosic skill at maintaining a consistent sense of forward motion and structure in an endlessly evolving and oft-gorgeous sea of phase-shifting loops. In the passages where everything clicks fully into place, A 480 feels like an almost supernaturally rich and immersive tour de force of subtle rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic mastery. I cannot believe that this was a debut album.

Samples can be found here.

2560 Hits

Chuck Johnson, "The Cinder Grove"

The follow-up to Johnson’s acclaimed Balsams LP, The Cinder Grove delves further into the compositional possibilities of the pedal steel guitar. This halcyon collection of tracks draws on a wider pallette of sounds, adding strings and piano, to dive deeper into the sound bath of Johnson’s meditative music.

The Cinder Grove is a profound, affecting statement on the nature of loss and irreplaceability as well as a major addition to the canon of Johnson’s work. It's a suite of requiems for lost places. Many of the spaces that once fostered affordable living and creative work now only exist in sonic memory, like the echoes of ghosts. Like much of the California landscape in recent years, some of these spaces having succumbed to fire. Others, to the equally inexorable forces of gentrification. While his 2017 LP Balsams was intended to provide the listener with a space for respite and calm—even healing—The Cinder Grove seeks to remember what has been lost while celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and the natural world.

In making The Cinder Grove, Johnson dug through archival recordings from Oakland DIY performance spaces to digitally extract their reverb and echo qualities. He then applied these effects—as well as the digitally modeled reverberation of a redwood forest—to the tracks on The Cinder Grove, allowing the pieces to bask in the lush virtual spaces, and in the process realized that these sonic re-constructions can only ever be approximations. We try to make spaces what we want them to be, whether in memory or in the material present.

More information can be found here.

2372 Hits

Nilotika Drum Ensemble, "Ejokawulida"

Massive 2-tracker debut EP by hard-hitting Nilotika Drum Ensemble on their ancestral Bugandan percussion. Formed 11 year ago in Kampala, Nilotika have been a staple of Nyege Nyege parties since day one as well as forming the core of the more recent Nihiloxica project. Consisting of seven drummers under the leadership of Jajja Kalanda, Nilotika lure us into a mesmeric sonic kingdom dominated by furious beats against dense and complex polyphonic textures. Played with unrelenting energy and innate power over a repetitive trance-inducing structure both tracks are an urgent exploration of different rhythmic territories through intricate patterns, rapid undulations and haunting build-ups that command you to groove and dance. The first track, "Ejokawulida," is based on rhythms of Iteso traditional music from the eastern part of Uganda, whilst "Kekusimbe" is inspired by a variant of Bugandan traditional music called Bakisiimba.

More information can be found here.

2310 Hits

Abul Mogard, "In Immobile Air"

In Immobile Air is Abul Mogard’s new solo album since 2019's Kimberlin OST, an epochal assembly of widescreen ambient works made during lockdown in Spring 2020.

Master of harmonic empathy Abul Mogard makes an ever welcome return to Ecstatic with a suite of patented pathos for testing times, mostly generated from an old Bechstein upright piano built in 1891.

Inspired as much by the instrument's rich harmonic textures as the Italo Calvino short story that lends the album's track titles, In Immobile Air collects five works written by Mogard during the ill-fated Spring of 2020.

Thematically, the album dwells on Mogard's typical concerns with memory and states of mind, and comes to feel like the musical rendering of a soul preoccupied by their mortality.

As such, it can be read as a suite of instrumental hymns for a world coming to terms with its current condition and state of static unrest, evoking a stillness of air in its glacial movements while reflecting a gnawing sense of something impending. Yet, it's simultaneously and quite profoundly soothing in its widescreen harmonic shifts along the knife-edge between bliss and dread.

The album arrives after a pause in Mogard's prized oeuvre since 2019's And We Are Passing Through Silently with a humbly arresting presence that perfuses all of his best work and keeps his listeners rapt for more.

The handful of pieces speak to both the artist’s rich inner life, and the inner voice of his instrument. Using analog and digital equipment, he transforms the melancholic simplicity of his melodies into a quietly dreamlike space.

The title track lays out this bare aesthetic with wilting, elegiac notes that vaporize into a timbral thizz, before its brooding course takes in the oblique beauty of "Clouds" and tarry drones recalling recent Deathprod moves in "Black Dust." He finally emerges from the murk most poignantly with the clearer keys of "Sand," only to shore up somewhere more contemplative, abstract, in the low key magisterial expanse of "On a Shattered Shell Beach."

The drawings featured in the cover artwork were made by Marco de Sanctis at the same time as the music.

"I think of these drawings as images from his memory, snippets from his past, like Calvino's collection of sand," Mogard offers. "But perhaps they were just drawings."

More information can be found here.

2272 Hits

Tomaga, "Intimate Intensity"

The last, outstanding release of the London based experimental duo (Tom Relleen and Valentina Magaletti), accomplished just before Tom’s passing in August 2020, is the distillate of two years of new creative enhancement.

Mostly recorded at Tom's "Bunker" – as he called his house in London – during the days off from live performances and challenging collaborations throughout the world, Intimate Immensity collects ten intense tracks that outline a breath-taking epiphanic journey revisiting the multifaceted worlds explored by the band in seven years of non-stop and mostly live activity.
The wonderful blue artwork especially created by the acclaimed artists Icinori is a perfect match with the gist of Tomaga's aesthetics of intimacy that is well expressed by a few lines in the gatefold:

"I just found an interesting book by Gaston Bachelard called The Poetics of Space, with chapters on 'house as universe,' nests, shells, 'intimate immensity,' 'the phenomenology of roundness'... I think it ties in with our feelings about bunkers and the urge to partition the universe to create our own spaces, vs cleansing or colonizing the everyday to make it empty of anyone else's taste.  I think Tomaga tracks with their individual micro worlds are a bit like that…" – in this way Relleen introduces us into Tomaga's pulsing universe where space and meaning, articulated by sound, acquire breath and character as an expressive place where you can feel at home.

It is a quite similar aesthetics that could be perceived through Derek Jarman's quotation from Blue (1993) used in the video of "Intimate Immensity" realized by Noriko Okaku together with some of Tom's favourite stones collected from different places throughout his life.

Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible
Blue protects white from innocence
Blue drags black with it
Blue is darkness made visible.

The dialogical richness of musical influences, that has always been a peculiarity of all Tomaga's performances, finds its peak here. The sonic spectrum is really wide, ranging from modern composers such as Laurie Spiegel and Pauline Anna Strom who has recently passed away, to the British refined dance aesthetics of Muslimgauze and Ossia.

The somewhat deceitful approachability of the ten tracks, their crystal clear and elegant surface, is in fact the outcome of the deep process of transformation that has personally and musically involved the duo during the last two years. 

Out March 26. 2021 on Hands in the Dark.

2359 Hits

Perc, "Bitter Music - Complete Edition"

Perc's career defining Bitter Music album from 2017 is re-released for 2021 including all the remixes from the album gathered together for the first time.

First up is the original ten track album including "Look What Your Love Has Done To Me," then come the remixes including reworks from I Hate Models, Dax J, Amelie Lens, Matrixxman, Lucy, Pessimist, Hodge, Perc himself and many more.

More information can be found here.

2447 Hits

Madlib/Kieran Hebden, "Sound Ancestors"

Kieren Hebden: "I was listening to some of his new beats and studio sessions when I had the idea that it would be great to hear some of these ideas made into a Madlib solo album ... arranged into tracks that could all flow together in an album designed to be listened to start to finish ... we decided to work on this together with him sending me tracks, loops, ideas and experiments that I would arrange, edit, manipulate and combine. I was sent hundreds of pieces of music over a couple of years."

Out January 29th, 2021.  More information can be found here.

2330 Hits

Meitei, "Kof≈´"

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Over the last few years, Daisuke Fujita's Meitei project has carved out an intriguing and hard-to-describe niche that brings together several seemingly disparate threads I never expected to see intertwined. The vision at the heart of the project is an attempt to recreate what Fujita calls the Lost Japanese Mood, which makes his work a conceptual kindred spirit to The Caretaker. Meitei can be considerably more eclectic and inventive than that comparison would suggest, however, as there is a subtle sense of playfulness that approximates chopped, screwed, and deconstructed exotica even when the ostensible subject matter is something creepy like Japanese ghost stories.

KITCHEN

Before now, Meitei's work has primarily lingered in fairly "ambient" territory, crafting surreal soundscapes of hazy, crackling loops and enigmatic snatches of dialogue. This latest release, on the other hand, captures Meitei in unexpectedly rhythmic and melodic form and marks a truly revelatory leap forward. It is tempting to describe Kofu as Meitei’s “party album,” as the best moments call to mind the delirious fun of Carl Stone’s recent pop music collages, but there are a lot of haunted, phantasmagoric, and mysterious interludes that would make it one very unsettling party. Both sides of Meitei’s vision have their share of highlights though, as the warbling, hiss-soaked beauty of "Manyo" is every bit as compelling as the propulsive, rapturous left-field beat tape fare of the two-part "Oiran." A handful of pieces feel a bit too incidental to leave a deep impression of their own, but I certainly have no qualms with the eerie, dreamlike spell that they help conjure. If Kofu offered only that, it would still be an appealingly immersive and unusual album, but the most inspired pieces elevate it into something truly sublime and memorable.

Samples can be found here.

3446 Hits

William Basinski, "Lamentations"

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I suppose I am predisposed to enjoy any major new statement from William Basinski, given my undying love of both hypnotic repetition and tape loops, but I was still a bit blindsided by the dazzling heights he sometimes reaches with this latest opus. That said, the heart of Basinski's vision remains mostly unchanged, as Lamentations is yet another album lovingly assembled from his seemingly bottomless archive of distressed tapes ("over forty years of mournful sighs meticulously crafted into songs"). The mood and structure this time around are fairly far from Basinski's usual comfort zone, however, as these twelve eerie miniatures feel like a hallucinatory stroll through a haunted and rotting opera house.

Temporary Residence

Such an aesthetic is generally just fine by me (though not my favorite of Basinski's album-length visions), yet Lamentations feels legitimately brilliant when it transcends mere mystery- and sadness-soaked ambiance, as it does on the swooningly operatic centerpiece "Please, This Shit Has Got To Stop." With that piece, Basinski attains a level of heavenly melodicism and emotional intensity that I have not encountered in any of his previous work. The rest of the album, on the other hand, generally feels like an atypically murky, brooding, and subtly nightmarish twist on his usual loops of ravaged tape. However, there are also a few second-tier highlights like the swooningly angelic "All These Too, I, I Love" or "O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow," which approximates the strains of a great This Mortal Coil song drifting through a supernatural fog. As such, Lamentations lies somewhere between a somewhat uneven album and a significant creative breakthrough. For now, Basinski has not fully mastered how to craft short loop-driven compositions as consistently mesmerizing as his classic longform work, but I suspect he will get there soon: adding chopped classical vocalists to his arsenal was definitely a welcome and wonderful flash of inspiration. More importantly, "Please, This Shit Has Got To Stop" may very well be the finest piece that he has ever released. While I suspect I could happily listen to variations of El Camino Real or 92982 forever, I am absolutely delighted that there are still some fresh ideas lurking in all those decaying tapes.

Samples can be found here.

2721 Hits