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Colleen, "Le jour et la nuit du réel"

Le jour et la nuit du réelAs someone who has loved Cécile Schott's work since 2003's Everyone Alive Wants Answers, I have long been fascinated by the various twists and turns that her vision has undergone over the years. While there have certainly been stretches in which she has lingered upon a vision for more than one album, Schott's creative restlessness invariably steers her into adventurous and unfamiliar territory eventually. As a result, Colleen's small discography is divided into an impressive number of distinct phases (the sample-driven collage era, the viola da gamba years, the synthesizer years, etc.). In a general sense, this latest full-length (her ninth) is a continuation her recent synthesizer phase, but it is also a significant break from her previous work in that vein: Le jour et la nuit du réel is seven-suite double album of minimalist vignettes exploring how a motif can be significantly transformed through the manipulation of synthesizer settings alone. Given the fundamental constraints of that vision, the album admittedly feels a bit less substantial than several of Colleen's previous releases, but connoisseurs of nuance and elegant simplicity will find much to love.

Thrill Jockey

The album's title translates as "The day and the night of reality," which is a nod to both the album's structure and its primary inspiration. The "reality" bit is a reference to how "subtle or radical" changes to synth settings can completely transform how the same melodic phrase is perceived by the listener, which Schott likens to how new information can transform our feelings about a person or situation (i.e. our perception of reality). In keeping with that theme of transformation, the album is divided into "day" and "night" LPs and the first LP concludes with a suite entitled ""Be without being seen," which is intended to function as a "twilight transition zone." According to Schott, the "day" pieces feature "more friction, tension, and abrasive timbres" in order to channel the "invigoration of daylight," while the "night" pieces feature "slower, more melancholy textures and longer trails of delay." Being a longtime fan of both melancholy and trails of delay, I personally prefer the album's second half, but both sides of the album share a hell of a lot more common ground than they do differences: every single piece on the album is essentially a simple melody unspooling over a shifting bed of arpeggios. Schott's gear was similarly stripped down, as the entire album was recorded analog-style with just a Moog Grandmother synth and two delays (Roland RE-201 Space Echo and "her trusted Moogerfooger Analog Delay") and "no additional digital production." Interestingly, this album is the first entirely instrumental album that Schott has recorded in well over a decade, but it began its life as an "an album of songs with lyrics in the style of her previous album," so Schott's muse definitely led her quite far from where she originally intended to go (and I suspect this new vision must have been considerably more challenging to realize than what she originally had planned).

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2618 Hits

Jonathan Canady, "Suffering and Defiance"

Suffering and DefianceWell known for his time in Dead World, as a member of synth trio Nightmares, and his deactivated power electronics project Deathpile, Jonathan Canady has long been a pillar of the American noise world. Now working under his own name, he has recently entered the world of soundtracks and participated in an extremely limited collaboration with legendary artist John Duncan. Suffering and Defiance is his latest purely solo, purely audio work, and it loses none of the harshness he is known for, yet makes it clear his work is anything but harshness for the sake of harshness.

Old Europa Café

There is no question what the album is going to be like from the opening moments of "Suffering and Defiance Part I": woozy, overdriven noise loops appear immediately, pushing the whole mix into the red. However, there is much more going on beyond just noise. The second part of the title piece appears later on the CD, a rumbling crunch with sustained, sizzling buzz that demonstrates an excellent use of layering and audio textures.

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2059 Hits

Grey Windowpane, "Barnie Bewail: A Film Soundtrack"

Barnie Bewail: A Film SoundtrackThis is a weird one. Billed as a film soundtrack—although I cannot seem to find any evidence of the film actually existing—this tape from enigmatic UK artist Grey Windowpane is all over the place as far as styles go. Free improvisation electronics, bedroom pop numbers, and random interludes are all scattered about this cassette. The lo-fi sound and production serve as a unifying factor on these 11 songs, giving an slight sense of continuity within the chaos.

Half-a-Million Records

Loose, drifting noises are a constant from piece to piece: they underscore the crusty organ of "C.E. Last Hurry CUF," the precursor to the churning loops of "Manny Soaked My Arm in There," and as part of the open space and random voices of "Jubilee." There are other, more chaotic pieces, such as the clattering thumping collage of the aforementioned "Manny" feature hints of musical tones and melody, but never quite get there.

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1759 Hits

Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf, "Internal Return"

Internal ReturnI enjoyed Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf's gnarled, doom-soaked debut Big Other (2020) quite a bit, but I enjoyed it in a casual way and failed to truly grasp the full extent of his singular and ambitious vision. While that situation has thankfully been remedied by this latest opus, the music of Internal Return is just one piece of a much larger and more complex ambition that incorporates Jewish tradition, artificial intelligence, video art, and a uniquely disturbing visual aesthetic that resembles a vivid sci-fi nightmare that blurs together several dystopian cinematic futures at once. Curiously, when taken by itself, the music of Internal Return is more elusive and ambiguous than its more crushing and epic predecessor. When combined with Rosendorf's AI-created videos, however, Internal Return transforms into a viscerally unsettling mindfuck that will probably haunt me for weeks. As Rosendorf himself puts it: "It is not a comfortable place to be in, at least not exactly; like being adrift in an imageless dream, it produces monsters of a kind that, once they are receding into memory, we get the sense they were not actually terrifying, just... strange." Hopefully, those monsters will recede into memory for me soon, as I am still very much lingering in the "terrified" stage for now.

Negative Capability Editions

As was the case with Big Other, Rosendorf enlisted an eclectic array of talented guests to help him realize his vision and Tzadik/Davka alum Daniel Hoffman kicks off the album with a fiery klezmer-informed violin solo over a roiling bed of doom-inspired drones. As Rosendorf sees it, Hoffman's violin acts as "a furious, yet frail guiding voice in a void" while "the music treads a path that you cannot follow, one that arbitrarily narrows down, twists and turns whenever you're certain you have it right." He also compares the underlying music to a series of depth charges and "an apocalypse in miniature," which sounds about right to me. Without the accompanying videos, Internal Return feels like being trapped in a crumbling and haunted fun house: it approximates a labyrinth of darkly surreal scenes that feel more like fleeting, enigmatic impressions than compositions with a deliberate dynamic arc or cathartic payoff. There is one exception, however, as the album's smoldering final drone epic ("Immer Besser") tags in Liturgy drummer Greg Fox for a ferociously volcanic crescendo of sludgy doom metal chords and machine-like blast beats. That piece is the closest thing that Internal Return has to a single, as the remaining pieces are too deconstructed to make a deep impact outside their intended context (musically, at least).

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2468 Hits

Francesco Gennari, "Frammenti"

FrammentiIt is immediately clear from the opening piece "Preludio" that this is music composed with an unusually clear sense of structure and direction. As a classically trained pianist, Francesco Gennari has a solid grounding in music theory and he applies this knowledge to modular synths, with an authentic desire for experimentation and some serious chops; he can play. What elevates this debut recording even further is his ability to develop complex pieces from simple themes, while injecting energy and a sense of aggression and dynamics into his music.

Important

Having grown up during the prog rock heyday of the early 1970s, knee deep as we were in the truly awful and the absolutely bloody magnificent, I hesitated to refer to Gennari as "classically trained." Back then, and particularly when applied to guitarists or keyboard players, this phrase became almost a code word for impressive speed and an elite technique almost inevitably leading to impressive dullness and top notch overcomplexity. No such pitfalls with Frammenti, though, and there is not a dull moment on this entire album. It smacks of a brilliant sci-fi soundtrack. In fact if I were Ridley Scott I'd redo Blade Runner, keeping the best bits of Vangelis, erasing all traces of the white dove, and liberally applying some Frammenti. (Then I'd also demand that Dennis Villeneuve recall and destroy all copies of Blade Runner 2049 but that's another story).

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2199 Hits

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt, "Play at Duke"

Play at DukeThese two singular artists have been fitfully playing together for roughly a decade now and they have released a number of albums documenting their incredible duo performances. Notably, their most recent union was for 2021's absolutely killer Made Out of Sound album, but that one was a bit of an aberration for the duo, as it was a studio creation crafted remotely. Happily, Play at Duke captures the pair back together on stage where they belong. The stage in question was unsurprisingly at Duke University, but the album's prosaic title omits a rather significant detail: the performance in question closed out Three Lobed Recording's 21st anniversary festival in appropriately riveting fashion. While both artists rank among my favorite musicians and have truly incredible chemistry as an improv unit, some performances are undeniably better than others and Play at Duke feels like an especially inspired night to me. Moreover, Orcutt and Corsano make a virtue of brevity as well, as there is not a single wasted note or even a hint of a lull in this 25-minute tour de force.

Palilalia

The performance feels like an unusually joyous one right from its first rolling toms and major chords, which makes sense given that the performance was the culmination of a three-day festival in which Orcutt and Corsano were surrounded by great music, a host of their peers, and a sizable audience of receptive fans waiting to be properly blown away. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment in which I was blown away myself upon hearing the album, but I am confident that it occurred some time during first of the performance's three sections, as the duo quickly strain toward the transcendent and ecstatic (Orcutt's wordless vocal howls tend to be a fairly reliable indicator that a particularly incendiary performance is underway). Naturally, there are plenty of killer licks and technically dazzling drum fills throughout the album, but the true beauty lies less in what Corsano and Orcutt play than it does in how they play it, how they interact with each other, and how they feed off the volatile spontaneity of live improvisation.

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2415 Hits

The Heartwood Institute, "Mist Over Pendle"

Mist Over PendleThe Heartwood Institute creates memorable hauntological radiophonic doom-synth library folk music wherein traditional instruments from autoharp to zither are warped beyond identification, and blended into a barrage of synths and samplers, with film dialogue and nature sounds sprinkled in. Witchcraft is the subject matter of Pendle, and the album has a suitably spellbinding atmosphere, albeit one with the sense to emphasize grime and poverty. That's not to say there are not layers of sound which suggest cloudy pseudo-romantic myth, misty obscurity, and even smoke billowing up from a hexastein into some corridor of eternal purgatorial uncertainty where no one can hear your appeals for help, your moans or wails.

self-released

Mist Over Pendle is music inspired by the book of that name by Robert Neill and both are depictions of the events around the Pendle witch trials of 1622; amongst the most infamous such trials in English history. The album has an appropriately eerie density. We hear crows cawing, muffled human cries, incantations, repetitive electronic thuds, the occasional eye scratching curse and air cracking screech, foreboding synths, brooks not so much babbling as blabbing confessions during a water boarding session, and snippets of dialogue in archaic dialects lifted from an obscure 1976 television drama The Witches of Pendle.

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2326 Hits

Gianni Safred "Electronic Designs"

Electronic DesignsElectronic Designs was originally released in 1977 and it retains a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic atmosphere. By turns bizarre and swinging, wild and smooth, these recordings have a depth and an edge not always achieved in so-called library music. Younger glitch merchants can only hope to get close to the swing that Italian master Gianni Safred effortlessly knocks off on "Elastic Points." Then again, he did play with Django Reinhardt. This is a killer release with calculated, almost architectural, quality oozing out of every track. The cosmic melancholy of "Spheres'' is not unlike some of Basil Kirchin's more poignant compositions, such as "I Start Counting" while the frankly stunning "Planetarium" has Safred gradually unleashing an array of textural flourishes, as if imitating meteors or shooting stars amid a galaxy of stars and planets.

Four Flies

I was attracted to this album because of Larry Manteca's "Ufo Bossa/Intergalactic Porno Scene" (released in March on the Four Flies label) from the previous recording Mutant Virgins From Pluto. That breezy ultra-lounge electro-cocktail 7" sent me scurrying through the Four Flies catalog and landed me here. The cover art of Electronic Designs - with interlocked squares, parallel lines, images from maps or pseudo-astronomy, and oblongs which resemble circuit boards - gives away some of the compositional structure and feel which Safred coaxes from his Polymoog and ARP Odyssey. It's all about functional experimentation, relaxed and catchy, hypnotic space-age swathes of melody floating over well-grounded grooves.

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1951 Hits

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept

Natural Wonder Beauty Concept While I am a fan of both DJ Python (Brian Piñeyro) and Ana Roxanne, a collaboration between the two is not something that I would have ever foreseen happening due to the substantial gulf between their styles. Unusual circumstances can lead to unexpected places, however, and the two mutual admirers found themselves both adrift and living in NYC in 2020 ("well-loved albums aside, no one was playing shows, and a general listlessness and disconnection prevailed"). As a result, the two finally met in person and soon began working on new music together ("studio experimentation was the instinctive extension of a friendship finding its feet"). Before they could finish an album, however, circumstances changed again and Piñeyro returned to the European club scene, while Roxanne toured the world and moved back to California.

Mexican Summer

Fortunately, the pair were still able to meet up occasionally and eventually had enough material to convene in Los Angeles and Brooklyn to finish an album. Given the pedigree of those involved, it is no surprise that Natural Wonder Beauty Concept is a compelling project, but it takes some unexpected directions: while Piñeyro's recent collaboration with Ela Minus resulted in a poppier strain of DJ Python's "deep reggaeton," Roxanne's influence often steers Piñeyro's beats in a more vaporous and ambient-inspired direction.

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2071 Hits

Merzbow, "CATalysis"

CATalysisOne of the reasons I had to investigate this latest album from the always prolific Masami Akita is that I was surprised it took him this long to make a cat themed album. A staunch animal rights activists and composer of many animal themed albums (Chickens! Bears! Dolphins! A whole bunch of other birds!), it took well over 40 years into his career to produce something in respect of the venerable house feline. How much this applies beyond the title and beautiful photography used as packaging is of course questionable, but musically it is Akita at his most diverse.

Elevator Bath

It has been ages since I have listened to new Merzbow material, but I found myself rather surprised at the diversity of sounds on CATalysis. My interest started to wane once he went full laptop, and I always preferred his earlier tape/loop based works, so the fact that this in many ways feels like a hybrid of the two is a wonderful thing. Right from the opening "CATalysis No. 1," this combination is notable: metallic chain rattles over an electronic windstorm as everything is swept into an intense, collapsing overdrive. Harsh loops and shrill feedback make for some multifaceted pairings, and some great stereo effects add further depth.

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2310 Hits

"When the Frog from the Well Sees the Ocean (Reports from English UFOlklore)"

When the Frog from the Well Sees the Ocean (Reports from English UFOlklore)This latest collection from Folklore Tapes borrows its title from a Japanese proverb about knowing one's limitations ("the frog in the well knows nothing of the sea"), which was itself borrowed from a Chinese fable. In the context of an album devoted to UFO lore, of course, humans are the frogs, the infinite universe is the ocean, and the usual eclectic Folklore Tapes cast of characters gleefully devote themselves to celebrating the colorful hoaxes and stories of their countrymen who claim to have experienced a visit from extraterrestrial life. While alien visitations are admittedly a bit outside the usual realm of Folklore Tapes' research, I would be hard pressed to think of a roster of artists better suited to tackle the topic, as just about everyone involved brings a freewheeling playfulness to the theme and surprises abound. This is yet another characteristically brilliant and inspired compilation from the inimitable Folklore Tapes. Hell, it might even be their best yet.

Folklore Tapes

As is the case with most major Folklore Tapes releases, this collection exists only in physical form, as music and scholarship are eternally intertwined for the label (the LP includes quite a comprehensive essay by Jez Winship, as well as artist notes about stories that inspired their individual pieces). Also as expected, the album's contributors are a welcome murderers' row of names that will likely be familiar only to those who have delved into previous Folklore Tapes collections. That said, the album does include a killer (if brief) new piece from Dean McPhee ("The Second Message") that is predictably an album highlight. Unsurprisingly, I am predisposed to enjoy just about everything he releases, but "The Second Message" is doubly enjoyable for being something of an aberration, as McPhee's usual sustain-heavy melodicism is beautifully enhanced by a gorgeous descending chord motif and an unexpectedly wild and psychotropic finale. I was also thoroughly delighted by the trio of Carl Turney, Brian Campbell & Peter Smyth, as "July Aitee" is a perfectly distilled swirl of groovy, synth-driven dreampop magic (as well as a healthy bit of howling chaos).

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2252 Hits

Matt Weston, "Embrace This Twilight"

Embrace This TwilightLike 2021's Four Lies in the Eavesdrop Business, composer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Weston's latest work is a lengthy double record. However, this time he specifically utilizes the format to create four side-long and expansive pieces that constantly develop, bringing in a multitude of different sounds and elements. The result is a series of intense, dense compositions that can be hard to keep up with at first, but eventually reveal a deep sense of complexity in their structures.

7272Music

"The Drunken Dance with the Telegrapher" is the first (and longest) of the four works. It clocks in at over 17 minutes and is always shifting and evolving through that entire duration. Opening with oddly processed, mangled sounds that resemble a pained monster, Weston adds sporadic, intense drumming and a creepy, droning ambience. He introduces high pitched noises and metallic pulses, the piece goes into shrill, harsh spaces at times, but the captivating bent tapes and layered tones keep it from being anything but an endurance test. Percussive thuds, drill-like electronic tones, and tumbling drums all appear at different times, making for a dizzying piece.

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1976 Hits

Klara Lewis and Nik Colk Void, "Full-On"

Full-On As Alter's album description insightfully observes, a collaboration between these two Editions Mego alumnae "somehow seemed inevitable," yet I was still pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly Lewis and Void were able to combine their visions into something that feels both new and wonderful. On one level, the success of this union makes perfect sense, as both artists tend to turn out some of their strongest work in collaborative situations (Carter Tutti Void and Lewis's KLMNOPQ EP with Peder Mannerfelt being prime examples of that phenomenon). However, both artists excel in extremely specific realms that have some limitations: Lewis is exceptionally good at collaging non-musical sounds, while Void seems particularly adept at crafting eccentric noise-damaged techno.

Alter

Obviously, beat-driven sound collages were a distinct possibility, but so were any number of other options, so I had no clear expectations about where this shared vision would ultimately land. Now that said shared vision has landed, however, I can confidently state that Full-On resembles a deeply unconventional beat tape and quite a good one at that. While I suspect some listeners will initially find the album's kaleidoscopic parade of brief loops and vignettes exasperatingly sketchlike (there are a lot of 1-minute songs), I personally warmed to Full-On almost immediately, as practically every piece that made it onto the album is compelling, inventive, and endearingly idiosyncratic.

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2122 Hits

Caterina Barbieri, "Myuthafoo"

MyuthafooThis latest album from Barbieri is intended as a sister album to 2019's landmark Ecstatic Computation and has been released to correspond with the imminent reissue of the latter. The central difference between the two albums is that Myuthafoo gradually and organically took shape during Barbieri's extensive touring, as the "nomadic, interactive energy" of those many live dates inspired her to play with experimental variations in her process each night. More specifically, she would program patterns into her sequencer, then feed them into her "arsenal of noise generators" to explore different combinations and the most compelling results were set aside for future expansion and/or eventual release.

light-years

In characteristically cerebral fashion, Barbieri's arcane processes have their roots in cosmogony, as she is fascinated with how a small number of limited options can "branch out into a much larger structure, eventually reaching towards an open-ended cosmos of possibility." Admittedly, comparing Myuthafoo to the birth of a universe will probably establish unreasonably high expectations for some listeners, but they can at least console themselves with yet another killer Caterina Barbieri album while they patiently wait for a new and better universe to form.

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1853 Hits

Eluvium, "(Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality"

Consensus RealityMatthew Cooper's newest Eluvium album is apparently inspired by two works of poetic literature by T.S.Eliot and Richard Brautigan. That's easier said than done, of course, and equally unclear is how Cooper has changed his compositional methodology because of a debilitating medical problem with his left shoulder and arm. It is hard to decipher exactly what is meant by, to paraphrase, blending electronic automations with traditional songwriting and using algorithms to extract from several years of notebook scribble. Perhaps this means he has worked in cyborgian harmony with machines, which would fit with the Brautigan reference point of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace.

Temporary Residence

I enjoyed the entire album, although did wonder a couple of times if I'd left the Buddha Machine on in the bathroom.

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1805 Hits

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, "Jerusalem"

JerusalemEmahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru passed on early this year, but not before this album was released to celebrate her 99th birthday. It collects pieces originally issued in 1972 as Song of Jerusalem, including the stunning title track and "Quand La Mer Furieuse" in which Gebru sings; a moment which probably should not draw parallels with "Garbo Talks!" (when the speaking voice of that star of silent films first shocked audiences to sleep) but is as startlingly beautiful as you might expect if you have heard her play her compositions for piano at all. These she does in a manner impossible to hear without feeling as if the sun has come out from behind a cloud and is gently warming the side of your face. Reach for adjectives and terms such as liturgical, classical, homemade, and heavenly, but the key word is definitely "transcendent."

Mississippi Records

No superficial label can stick to Emahoy Gebru—although some have been applied which won't be repeated here. The cornerstone of her music is her study of St Yared, the sixth century religious scholar and composer of thousands of hymns, known for devising an 8-note (and 10-note) notation system of music, capable of three different melodic categories. Yared's persistence is legendary and he is the blueprint for the traditional Ethiopian philosophy of musicians making themselves submissive in order to be open to receive musical inspiration from a higher realm. Yaredian melodies are viewed as literally heavenly, timeless or eternal, and capable of creating ecstatic out-of-body trances. Gebru's music follows this path. Her piano playing is neither icy nor flowery, but rather a calm cosmic spot somewhere between the two: like the quiet and tidy alley between rows of houses in a large town where the protagonist in Murukami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle shelters from the stresses and strains of his life (away from memories, strange phone calls, flashbacks, dreams of being pursued, urban ennui, and the obligatory missing cat.)

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1795 Hits

Big Blood, "First Aid Kit"

First Aid KitThis latest LP from Big Blood is their first for Ba Da Bing and a spiritual successor of sorts to Do You Want to Have a Skeleton Dream?, as the band are back in "full family trio retro-pop extravaganza" mode. For the most part, Quinnissa (who was apparently only 13 when this album was recorded) handles the lead vocals for a series of hooky, bass-driven garage rock nuggets, though there are also a couple of headier Colleen-sung gems for fans of the band's darker, more psychedelic side. Notably, Caleb's frayed yelp is entirely absent from the proceedings, but it probably would have felt out of place among the unabashed throwback pop fare. Moreover, First Aid Kit feels like a full-on Quinnissa showcase, which makes for a rather unique entry in the Big Blood canon, as she is one hell of a belter and also spontaneously improvised all her lyrics during recordings. As Caleb notes in the album description, being in a band with your teenage daughter is admittedly something of a messy and volatile situation ("lots of practices end with her being tossed from the band"), but I can see why they are sticking with this format, as Quinnissa increasingly feels like a pop supernova in its formative stages.

Ba Da Bing/Feeding Tube

This album's overall feel is something akin to a raucous wedding reception in which members of The Cramps and B-52's join forces for a spirited and spontaneous set of half-remembered '60s bubblegum pop covers. The opening "In My Head" represents that vein in its purest form, as it is built from little more than a meaty bass line, a simple thumping beat, and a subtly surf-damaged guitar tone. The most perfect iteration of that aesthetic comes much later on the album, as "1000 Times" feels like a raw and raucous cover of an imagined classic by someone like The Ronettes. Elsewhere, the dark paranoia of "Never Ending Nightmare" is yet another notable Quinnissa showcase, though its unsettling subject matter is nicely invigorated by a bouncy bassline, quirky percussion, and a killer chorus hook. Quinnissa also handles lead vocals on "Infinite Space," but that piece feels like a comparative anomaly more akin to Big Blood's non-Quinnissa fare. It still feels a bit unusually anthemic and driving for a Big Blood song, but reaching infinitely to space is a more traditional lyrical theme for the band and there are some very cool howling psych touches in the periphery. Admittedly, a lot of Quinnissa's lyrics sound like they were composed by a 13-year-old, but as the album's description insightfully observes, "teenage impulses fit right in with the band's intent, which is making music that's honest, inclusive and flawed." To their everlasting credit, Big Blood seem to be endlessly resourceful in their balancing of flawed spontaneity and thoughtful art, as Mulkerin harvests "the ghostly presence of past takes" as a subtly trippy background layer throughout the album.

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1755 Hits

Wolf Eyes, "Dreams In Splattered Lines"

Dreams In Splattered LinesThis latest LP from Wolf Eyes is something of a major release for the duo, as they are currently celebrating their 25th year with "their first widely-distributed non-compilation album in six years." Fittingly, Dreams In Splattered Lines is one of the project's most compelling and sophisticated albums to date, which is likely the result of some recent developments that would have seemed absolutely unimaginable when the project first began (collaborating with a Pulitzer Prize winner, a viral video for a fashion company, sharing stages with jazz titans, a residency at The New York Public Library, etc.). The library residency in particular played an especially large role in shaping this album, as the duo built a number of new instruments while they were there and also spent a lot of time absorbing the Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Of course, the truly interesting bit is how inventively Nate Young and John Olson assimilated all their new ideas, as well as the fact that their more high art/avant-garde influences amusingly collide with a newfound fascination with how "hit songs" work. While Wolf Eyes have sporadically dazzled me over the years as a cool noise band, Dreams In Splattered Lines feels like the album where they have arguably become the spiritual heirs to Throbbing Gristle in channeling the best ideas of the 20th century avant-garde into a zeitgeist-capturing mirror of the times (a post-hope world of crumbling institutions and widespread alienation).

Disciples

The album is billed as "a surreal dreamscape of disorienting sound collages, where hit songs are transformed into terrariums of sonic flora and decimated fauna," which is a considerably more elegant description than my own "a masterfully choreographed ballet of shit." The album itself is not shit, of course, but the sounds themselves are quite a cavalcade of rotten, shambling, broken, strangled, and ugly sounds conjured from inventively misused gear. The opening "Car Wash Two" is an especially illustrative example of the latter, as it "includes a Short Hands track playing on the car radio while waves of white noise and contact microphones are plunging into water buckets." That trick was then coupled with an added "meta" twist: the recording was then "played in a car while going through an actual car wash" before it was ultimately layered and mixed in the studio. Notably, that piece is singled out as an example of the duo's new "hit single" mindset, but that trait is only evident in an oblique way that involves terrariums. More immediately graspable, however, is the fact that almost every song on the album is distilled to a punchy two- or three-minute running time. On the lesser pieces, it can sometimes feel like a song is over before it gets a chance to make a deep impression, but the stronger pieces tend to regularly attain "all killer, no filler" nirvana.

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2926 Hits

Jan Jelinek, "Seascape - polyptych"

Seascape - polyptychBack in 2017 Jan Jelinek created a 43 minute radio play called Zwischen featuring Alice Schwarzer, John Cage, Hubert Fichte, Marshall McLuhan, Susan Sontag, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Joseph Beuys, Friedericke Mayröcker, Joschka Fischer, Jonathan Meese, Jean Baudrillard, Lady Gaga, Slavoj Zizek, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Marcel Duchamp, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Miranda July, Yoko Ono, Ernst Jandl, Arno Schmidt, Herbert Wehner and Max Ernst.

Faitiche

He took speech from these 22 people and edited together their pauses into sound collages of silence. Each collage was also wired or programmed to control the amplitude and frequency of a modular synthesizer. The resulting electronic sounds were then mixed with the unarticulated words and silence to form twenty-two pieces. A shorter version trimmed to twelve sound constructs was released as an album in 2018.

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1820 Hits

Dorothy Moskovitz & The United States of Alchemy, "Under an Endless Sky"

Under an Endless SkyDorothy Moskovitz was the singer in The United States of America, a short-lived group which made one legendary self-titled album. That was in December 1967 and she later became a member of Country Joe McDonald's band, sang live jazz, composed for children, commercials, theater, and became an elementary school music teacher. Her return on Under an Endless Sky, recorded with Italian electronic composer Francesco Paolo Paladino and writer Luca Ferrari is astonishing, and never more so at the moment around two and a half minutes into the opening title track when we hear Dorothy Moskovitz sing for the first time in a very long time*. If her voice once sounded cooler and more urbane than Catherine Ribeiro's, more innocent and intelligent than Grace Slick's, in 2023 it has a crumbling beauty and defiant timbre usually associated with Robert Wyatt or Nico (who apparently once tried to join TUSoA). Comparisons are entertaining but also odious; Moskovitz is a strange, distinctive treasure, perhaps unique.

Tompkins Square

The United States of America is indeed a legendary recording, and I realize that term is overused nearly to the point of being meaningless, but the record holds up more than fifty years later. The group had some fairly obvious 1960s politics at their core, but also a serious avant garde intent in their sound. They dispensed with electric guitars in favor of strings, keyboards, and primitive improvised electronics. Electrical engineer Tom Oberheim was commissioned to make a ring modulator and aerospace engineer Richard Durrett built electronic oscillators into a monophonic synthesizer. An octave divider was applied to electric violin, drums wired with contact microphones, and slinkies hung from cymbals for a musique concrète effect. Group leader Donald Byrd—previously a member of the Fluxus movement which included John Cage and La Monte Young—also threw in references to older American music such as ragtime, country blues, and—perhaps in a nod to Charles Ives—marching bands.

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1961 Hits