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Colin Andrew Sheffield, "Don't Ever Let Me Know," "Images"

Don't Ever Let Me KnowReleasing two full length albums mere months from each other, Colin Andrew Sheffield has been especially active in 2023. Considering his previous Repair Me Now dates back to 2018, it is a veritable flurry of activity. However, this is not a case where Don't Ever Let Me Know and Images seem like a double album split into two separate works, but both are thematically and structurally different from one another, even if both clearly showcase his approach of mangling samples and recordings into entirely different creations.

Aufabwegen / Elevator Bath

Simply looking at the song lists, the difference between these two records is clear: Don't Ever Let Me Know is two side-long pieces, while Images is a suite of eight more conventionally timed songs. The underlying models are different, also, with the former specifically drawing from recordings from or about his (and his father's) hometown of El Paso, Texas, and the latter exclusively sourced from jazz records. As expected, none of these recordings are at all apparent, but there seems to be a sense of nostalgia imbued into the album conveyed abstractly.

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1811 Hits

Zizia, "Genera"

The latest cassette from the enigmatic duo Zizia (astrologer Amber Wolfe and natural scientist Jarrod Fowler) is intentionally ambiguous just from its presentation. No information presented within the tape itself, its neon green case covers a blurry photo of the Zizia flower and an intricately printed abstract image on the cassette shell, without a single bit of text included on either. A quick search online finds a website that offers details, listings of insects, plants, and artists that serve only to confound more than clarify. The self-identified concept of anti-musicology is apparent, however, and results in a complex and diverse suite of two lengthy noise works.

self-released

Split into two 18-minute segments, each covering half of the tape, the first immediately explodes with an intense blast of noise that quickly recedes to allow sustained tones and metallic rattling to fade in. Wolfe and Fowler utilize consistent sonic building blocks throughout, but layer them in what seems to be superficially sounds like chaotic and erratic structures, but extremely complex. Digital stuttering and metallic pinging noises appear throughout, the use of cymbals being the only easily identifiable element from the list provided via the release's website. Noise surges and drops, with insect and field recordings cast atop murky textures.

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1788 Hits

Seah, "Conduits of the Hydrosphere," "Clouds and Spectres"

Conduits of the HydrosphereThese two albums from Seah, also known as multimedia artist and philosopher Chelsea Heikes, seemingly draw from different elemental categories, which ends up setting the foundation for the sounds contained within. The first, Conduits of the Hydrosphere, clearly draws from water while Clouds and Spectres is appropriately expansive, vapor-like, and ghostly at times. Released separately, they feel like complementary works that act as variations on sonic exploration.

Somnimage

All five pieces that make up Conduits feature either direct or indirect references to water, which is unsurprising given the title. Seah makes this immediately apparent from the opening "Asteroidal Origin of Water," with multiple layers of water recordings, filtered differently and stacked atop one another to create a wall of liquid sound. She utilizes space well, as echoing, warped noises and rattling shrieks all vie for the focus. Aquatic field recordings also obscure a subtle tone beneath on "Songs Stones Sing to the Sea," which remains understated amidst scraping noises and a deep, lo-fi digital rumble.

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2073 Hits

Benoit Pioulard,"Eidetic"

EideticBack in 2019 Benoit Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) issued Sylva—an album full of abstract hyper-saturated lo-fi drone-pop sonic textures, which came with an 84 page collection of nature photographs in a linen book. Two pieces with vocals stood out: the brilliantly Bibioesque "Keep" and the less jangly but equally catchy "Meristem." These songs could not have been more appealing to me if Meluch had somehow used a machine to extract my personal dream essence as I slept. Naturally, I promptly forgot to write anything about Sylva, but Eidetic is a leap forward, with more vocals, so I'm glad I kept my powder dry.

Morr

Distraction is embedded into modern life and that is why I did not write about Sylva, rather than a consequence of memory. I know this because the record left an impression and I've listened to it several times since 2019. It was stored in at least my short term, if not long term, memory. Eidetic memory, controlled primarily by the posterior parietal cortex of the parietal lobe of the brain, is a temporary form of short-term memory. Everyone has eidetic memory to a degree; it is the ability to see something soon after you look away. For most people, the image lasts from a fraction of a second to maybe a couple of seconds. Visual images in eidetic memory are either discarded or passed to short-term memory where they may be recalled for days, weeks, or months, then discarded or relayed to long-term memory. Of course since both Sylva and Eidetic are audio information this may not be literally pertinent but it is a way to begin to approach Eidetic and to paraphrase Basil Fawlty with his German guests "you (Thomas Meluch) started it."

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2089 Hits

CV Vision,"In The Valley of The Dandies"

In The Valley of The DandiesEvery so often a beautifully flawed pseudo-concept album gets released which it is almost a sin to try to describe. So it is with this absolutely mesmerizing record, a taste-smashing, fabulously old-fashioned, wobbly blitzkrieg of slippery, retro-futuristic, prog rock precision. As a rule I try to avoid describing music by talking about other music the reader may or may not have heard, but the gloves are coming off for this one. Imagine if modern psych groups weren't so one-paced, if Barclay James Harvest had a wah wah pedal and enjoyed fiddling with tape speeds, if Yes were fronted by Serge Gainsbourg or had a sense of humor, if The Opium Warlords and Bo Hansen joined The Mike Sammes Singers; and it all sounded perfectly natural. Juxtaposition and incongruity are at the heart of The Valley of The Dandies: a wonderfully unpredictable recording which manages to sound deliberately dated, and also touches on mythical themes ("explored" would be an exaggeration) but not in a po-faced or over-referential manner. The music is sometimes grandiose but CV Vision does not portray by resorting to a dull slow burn plodding pace. These tunes are amusing, bright, clever, and dynamic, the lyrics intriguingly clumsy but yet light and unobtrusive. There is an unknowable quality to this album, though; and a certain confidence in its completeness. It can not be reduced to a few neat genres, has a rich complexity but never sounds cluttered or gets bogged down. This is a real gem: clean, clear and valuable. It may become a cult classic or merely prove to be a refreshing oddity. Either way I played this thing through five times without a break!

Bureau-B

As such, it is weird to speak of individual tracks but here we go. The opener "Welcome" sounds like a cryogenic time reversal accident has resulted in Wendy Carlos waking up in medieval times and getting right to work with mysterious bleeps and ominous thuds. There then follows a bout of funky bass driven prog rock jousting called "The Pious Wanderer." Drums seem to shatter and splat, and the German lyrics waft on a flute like breeze as the track races onward and then clicks into "The Messenger Faster Than The Wind" which includes a child talking of swords pulled from stones followed by the waking from death of a rightful King, returning to save the land at time of great need—presumably during a hideous outbreak of repressive good taste. It brings to mind a futurist motorik-lite version of an ancient prediction woven into tapestry. In one of several brilliantly incongruous moves, CV Vision sings the word "messenger" with a decidedly un-folky edge, more as if he were trying to impress a crowd of bikini clad beauties on Copacabana beach. "Ride My Seesaw" was never this odd.

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2026 Hits

My Cat Is An Alien, "Spiritual Noise — RINASCIMENTO"

Spiritual Noise — RINASCIMENTOThe latest ambitious durational epic from the Opalio brothers is thankfully not nearly as daunting as its 15-disc physical form suggests, as RINASCIMENTO ("Renaissance") is composed of 15 movements of varying lengths ranging from 5 to 40 minutes. The reasoning behind the unusual format is arguably twofold, as the Opalios' belief that "each sound claims its own space" is extended to dedicate a full disc to each movement and listeners are invited to "subvert the order" to make use of "random/chance operation à la Cage." There is an additional piece to the puzzle as well, however, as the handcrafted box and CD-R format were deliberately chosen as a return to MCIAA's "radical DIY" origins and as a pointed commentary on underground music's current maddening dependence on vinyl pressing plants and predatory corporations. Unsurprisingly, the primary appeal of RINASCIMENTO is the same as that of every other multi-hour MCIAA tour de force: it is a sustained and mind-altering plunge into otherworldly psychedelia that abandons nearly all earthbound notions of harmony, melody, structure, and instrumentation (and that is not an exaggeration). While the brothers' sonic palette will be a familiar one for longtime MCIAA fans (being a two-person real-time "spontaneous composition" project has some limitations), RINASCIMENTO is nevertheless one hell of a statement, as it collects the duo's most revelatory flashes of inspiration from an entire year of recordings (several of which capture the duo in peak longform form).

Elliptical Noise

The first movement of this 5 ½ hour epic is a deceptively brief and harsh one, as a miasma of tape hiss, whines, and jangling metal sounds call to mind someone slowly dragging a mass of metal cans ("just married!") around a burst pipe in a queasy swirl of alien harmonies and gibbering electronics. In theory, the fifteenth and final movement (smoldering feedback slowly streaking over thumping ritualistic percussion amidst a fog of cooing voices) is not radically different from that opening piece, but it certainly FEELS very different when it eventually comes because it is impossible to listen to 5+ hours of MCIAA without feeling like one's mind has been fundamentally transformed in some way by the sustained plunge into the Opalio's smeared, unnerving, and otherworldly vision. That said, some of the longer movements can achieve a similar effect in drastically reduced time on their own.

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1799 Hits

UCC Harlo, "Topos"

ToposThis is the second solo album from NYC-based violist/composer/musicologist Annie Garlid and it borrows its name from the Greek word for "place." Notably, Garlid moved back to the US in 2018 after spending a decade in Europe (playing viola in a German opera orchestra, among other things) and that return to her home country unsurprisingly stirred up some deep and unfamiliar thoughts and feelings. Those ruminations directly inspired Topos conceptually, as the album is a meditation on the "simultaneous familiarity and foreignness" of Garlid's surroundings and her entanglement "with a place that was both in her memory and in front of her eyes." Regardless of its inspirations, Topos is a very different (and stronger) album than its predecessor United, as Garlid's medieval and baroque influences are newly downplayed in favor of a more sensuous, hallucinatory, and vocal-centric vision. While that transformation makes a lot of sense given Garlid's work with artists like Caterina Barbieri, Holly Herndon, Emptyset, and ASMR artist Claire Tolan, her assimilation of those disparate influences is impressively seamless and inventive, as Topos feels like the blossoming of a compelling and distinctive new vision.

Subtext Recordings

The five pieces that compose Topos cover an unexpectedly expansive stylistic territory, as each individual piece takes a very different path than the other four. For example, the opening "Riverbeds" is not a far cry from Laura Cannell's sublime art-folk, as string drones sensuously rub up against one another beneath hushed, spoken vocals. It is a fine piece, but the two that follow are the ones where Garlid's vision truly catches fire.

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1894 Hits

Turner Williams Jr. "Briars on A Dewdrop"

Briars On A DewdropJust about anything which bucks stereotypes, and the more effortlessly the better, is usually fine and dandy with me. The notion of a sustained outbreak of surrealism down in Alabama is therefore beyond delicious. I say this because there's a definite sense in which Turner Williams Jr. is following in the rambling loose limbed footsteps of such musicians as Ron Pate, Fred Lane, LaDonna Smith, and particularly Davey Williams, who studied with Johnny Shines and was part of the whole Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue scene - playing alto and guitar on such pieces as "The Lonely Astronaut" and "Concerto For Active Frogs''. Let me say here that the origin of pataphysics is perhaps best left to another time, since Alfred Jarry's absurdity and all that merde (absinthe-fueled and otherwise) simply cannot be skimmed over.

Feeding Tube

On the three tracks here, at least, Williams Jr. manages to play a variety of strings with a truly wild yet intensely focused style. I have not heard much like it. In a humdrum world of scissor kicking guitarists he's a real Fosbury Flop. The resulting waves of jangled and strangled sounds at times resemble a bottleneck jam of notes being squeezed and released; like traffic buzzing along, slowing, and then oozing through a toll gate to speed along or crash and explode. Eastern-tinged vibrations dominate throughout, as if electricity were throbbing along desert telegraph wires, setting fire to antique receiving equipment in some remote Embassy with a boom, crackle and pop, and dispatching fierce hums and whines of distorted feedback, throbbing backwards and squealing up through hot air rising and howling like out-of-control robot space-wolves bouncing off an old knackered rusted satellite on their way to oblivion. Or maybe to Oblivion, Alabama.

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1532 Hits

Alasdair Roberts, "Grief in the Kitchen and Mirth in The Hall"

Grief in the Kitchen and Mirth in The HallThis is the fifth album of traditional folk tunes which Alasdair Roberts has issued. He has also released several albums of his own compositions and it is a mark of his skill that it is pretty much impossible to tell the difference, and to know whether songs are his own imaginings or not. All share an erudite sensibility, often mixing his plaintive ghostly wailing voice (sometimes mournful, often joyous) with fine, spidery, guitar accompaniment. This new record is a deep collection, full of sweet spots, rich in detail, crystal clear in execution, and teeming with life. As usual, he reveals the multilayered meanings and nuances in even the most apparently straightforward songs, as with "The Bonny Moorhen" of Celtic folklore, and "Drimindown," a simple tale of a lost cow but also a devastating loss of a family's livelihood.

Drag City

I probably first heard and liked the music of Alasdair Roberts in August 1997 when on an English summer holiday at Woodspring Priory—or Worspring as it was known in the Middle Ages. It was founded in 1210 by William de Courtenay, grandson of Reginald Fitz-Urse, one of the assassins of St Thomas Becket. Providing an income for the locals was likely a way for de Courtenay to purge his family's ongoing guilt, and indeed St Thomas is patron saint of the priory and his martyrdom depicted on its seal.

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1445 Hits

Oval, "Romantiq"

RomantiqThis latest album from Markus Popp marks yet another intriguing stylistic detour for his endlessly shapeshifting Oval project, as he delves into "an omnipresent and yet oft ill-defined, even maligned area of music and art–the romantic." The idea for this album first began as a multimedia collaboration with digital artist Robert Seidel intended for the grand opening of Frankfurt's German Romantic Museum, but the endeavor soon evolved and expanded beyond the original purpose, as the two artists "sought a more expansive definition of 'romantic,' extending outward from the museum's comprehensive survey of the 19th-century epoch in art." That said, I suspect only Popp knows how influences from literature, architecture, and visual art helped shape the album, as my ears can only process the final destination and not the journey. In the case of Romantiq, that destination feels like a series of brief vignettes/miniatures assembled from period instrumentation and filtered through Popp's fragmented and idiosyncratic vision. Given that this is an Oval album, of course, very few of the 19th-century sounds are instantly recognizable as such (aside from some occasional piano), but Popp's kaleidoscopic and deconstructed homage to the past is a characteristically compelling and intriguingly unique outlier in the Oval canon (and it is often a textural marvel as well).

Thrill Jockey

The album's description promises a perfume-like experience ("rich scents flooding the senses before evaporating on the breeze"), which feels weirdly apt, as most of the pieces feel like a fleeting impression of something beautiful rather than an intentionally substantial experience (though the album itself is a substantial whole). That approach makes sense given the album's origins as just one part of a larger installation, yet these pieces do not feel like they are missing anything—they simply feel purposely ephemeral, elusive, and impressionistic. In more concrete terms, many of the pieces sound like a music box made of crystal that has been modified to make its simple melodies unpredictably stammer, smear, and flicker. While that is an admittedly cool baseline aesthetic, the stronger pieces on the album tend to be the ones that enhance that foundation with some kind of inspired addition. For example, the opening "Zauberwort" features both a trombone and a recording of an opera singer unrecognizably "atomized into smoke trails."

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2095 Hits

Tujiko Noriko, "Crepuscule I & II"

I am obsessed with circles, but you don't need to share that obsession to notice and appreciate the gesture of respect here from Tujiko Noriko to Peter Rehberg with the insistence that Crepuscule I & II be issued in various formats, including cassette. Many years ago she dropped a cassette tape into the hands of the MEGO and Editions MEGO label founder. The tape contained her first album and, despite it being a big departure from the typically more brash and raw fare he was normally releasing, Rehberg liked what he heard and gave it a proper push. Universal acclaim did not follow.

Editions Mego

Just before Peter Rehnerg's death he was apparently digging a pre-release of this new album. The opening track "Prayer" may have gripped him; it certainly floored me, with Tujiko instantly wringing great emotional heft from machine templates. Sadly it is as short as it is sweet. I cannot, and will never, understand why this simple but dazzling piece is issued as a mere 2.22 minute duration, rather than 22 minutes, or even 2 hours 22 minutes. Baffling. The album title refers to twilight, and much of the music is reflective and meditative—without being sluggish or over-sentimental. To paraphrase a philosopher or poet whose name I forget, in terms of our lifespans "everyone imagines that it is late morning, but it actually is midafternoon." Part of the human condition, perhaps. At any rate, Crepuscule seems to be a musing about time passing, about ends, beginnings, and transitions, as much as a reference to the twilight realm as a quality of light, with atmospheres of melancholy or nostalgia, of uncertainty and mystery.

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1836 Hits

Lucy Liyou, "Dog Dreams (​개​꿈​)"

Dog DreamsThis latest full-length from Lucy Liyou is described as a "rumination on the double-sidedness of trauma and love." The title is a Korean idiom with multiple meanings ("could mean anything from fanciful daydreams to nightmarish terrors") and was chosen very deliberately, as Liyou is fascinated by what our dream lives say about us and our subconscious desires. Interestingly, Dog Dreams is billed as only Liyou's second album (she is quite a prolific artist), but apparently everything other than 2020's Welfare is considered either an EP or a collaboration. In some ways, Dog Dreams feels like a logical evolution from that debut, but I was surprised to find that Liyou moved away from her text-to-speech narratives, as I previously thought that element was absolutely central to her aesthetic. In their place, however, are elusive Robert Ashley-esque dialogues of murmuring voices hovering at the edge of intelligibility. While I expected to miss the playfully dark humor of those robotic voices quite a lot (I found them very endearing), the newly tender and human voices fit the dreamlike beauty of Dog Dreams' three sound collages quite nicely.

American Dreams

Unsurprisingly, Dog Dreams has its roots in Liyou's own recurring dreams, but it is also a dialogue of sorts with co-producer Nick Zanca, as the two artists first worked on the album separately before convening in Zanca's studio to shape the final version. The opening title piece provides a fairly representative introduction to the album, as a melange of faint pops, hisses, and crackles slowly blossoms into a pleasantly flickering and psychotropic collage of tender piano melodies, water sounds, and sensuously hushed vocals. Interestingly, the aforementioned melange of strange sounds came from recordings of saliva (albeit "dilated and rendered unfamiliar through Zanca's adroit mixing"), which is definitely not something that I would have guessed on my own. Characteristically, the vocals are the best part of the piece, as Liyou and Zanca's voices enigmatically mingle, overlap, and harmonize in a fractured, shapeshifting dialogue. Uncharacteristically, however, "Dog Dreams" transforms into something resembling Xiu Xiu's Jaime Stewart interpreting a tender R&B-tinged ballad from a Disney soundtrack. While I certainly did not see that curveball coming, it is very on-brand for Liyou, as she has always been an inventive magpie keen to assimilate any and all compelling sounds and ideas that bleed into her life.

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1728 Hits

Kalia Vandever, "We Fell In Turn"

We Fell In TurnVandever's first solo album was recorded in three days and features her improvising on (mainly) trombone, effects, and voice. The improvised approach never shoves this music even an inch away from clarity, deftness, and emotional depth. Every piece feels fresh, abstract and dreamlike—as if she's channeling spirit voices from elsewhere—but all are restrained by the beguiling warmth, subtle tension, and comforting understatement of her sonorous playing. It's marvelous to hear the trombone burst, or maybe a more accurate descriptor would be slide, free of all genre association.

AKP

From the opening tune, entitled "Recollections From Shore," the album riffs off echoes and memories from Vandever's childhood in Hawaii, although this knowledge did not stop my imagination from going wherever it wished. During "Stillness In Hand" I was soon picturing steam trains huffing and puffing through a damper, gently undulating, European landscape. Then, while enjoying "Temper the Wound" I began seeing myself flying a box kite high in the sky one 1960s summer day on the East coast of England. That latter piece and also the even slower track "Held In" both give the feeling of having been created by harnessing pain or past scars to produce sounds that balance sadness with strength and survival. I have read of her mentioning waking from dreams in tears, or being comforted by visits from past memories and spirits—some when asleep and others when awake. At any rate, the softness and subtlety of this music lingers in the brain like the sound of hard-earned and humble wisdom. In Vandever's hands the trombone leaves behind any single genre or any other limitation. Effects are not overdone, and technique is hidden in plain sight as simple unhurried phrases loop, fold, or crumble slightly into themselves in a barely decipherable but extremely melodic manner.

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1753 Hits

David Christian, "Letters From A Forest"

Letters From A ForestLetters From A Forest uses snippets of conversation, sung and spoken lyrics, simple guitar and piano lines, and (as Christian puts it) fake strings, to create what we can call collage atmospherics. The sum of these parts is a tender sounding album, crammed full of romanticized lyrics with a tough, honest, edge and a wondrous stream of consciousness style. When hearing tracks like the "The Ballad of Martin and Caroline,"—a tale of fates deeply entwined in a doomed love spiral—I felt like I was half napping or jet lagged in a spare room, overhearing friends babbling to one another about deceased acquaintances,musical heroes, old records,chance meetings, and the places where it all happened. As such, Letters is an ode to an array of magnificent and magnificently flawed people (some well known, others characters from local legend). It is a sketchbook of notes, more poetic than pathetic, with a palpably emotional tug, celebrating the contradictory nature of life.

Comet Gain

David Christian has been issuing records for a couple of decades or more, mostly as the group Comet Gain (which seems to have existed in an alternate reality close and concurrent to mine, but totally invisible to me), yet much of his music feels like bumping into an old friend and picking up exactly with whatever you were talking about years ago. This release hits with a wave of happy/sad reflection, full of understated emotion and unflinching humor. A highlight among many is "The Ballad of Terry Hall," a heartbreaking ode to the fallen deadpan Specials frontman—also appreciating Martin Duffy from Felt (and one or two others) along the way. Here is an unabashedly enthusiastic appreciation of music and also of being oneself however strange, shy, or weird that may be. Christian illuminates the flip side, too: the undertone of serious melancholy which no one escapes in this life. He clearly has the life experience to sound off the cuff while reeling off detailed evocations of people in a style both nostalgic and unflinchingly frank, and he grasps the minor yet essential paradox of how certain dead end jobs are a fertile breeding ground for sparks of creativity, dreams of stardom, addiction, delusion, theft, and humor.

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1607 Hits

Jean-Noël Rebilly and Andrew Chalk, "Tsilla"

TsillaThis is the second duo collaboration between Chalk and Rebilly, as the pair previously surfaced with L'état Intermédiaire back in 2018. Their shared history goes back to at least 2012 though, as they teamed up with Vikki Jackman for A Paper Doll's Whisper Of Spring. While details about Tsilla are less scarce than usual due to its release on An'archives rather than Chalk's famously terse Faraway Press imprint, I still know very little about Rebilly other than the fact that he plays the clarinet. Beyond that, I am unwilling to hazard any guesses about who is playing what here, as both artists' contributions are largely blurred into a painterly haze (not entirely unfamiliar territory for Chalk). Far more relevant than the instrumentation is the album's inspiration: engraver Cécile Reims, whose "denuded landscapes," "spiraling abstractions," and "unearthly radiance" may have inspired Chalk's visual art as well. If not, Reims is at least a kindred spirit and her collaborations with Hans Bellmer, Leonor Fini, and Salvador Dali probably make a decent enough consolation prize. Reims's deepest impact on Tsilla may have been upon the process rather than the outcome, however, as the pair set out to honor her "tender weaving of emotional complexity carved with the hand-held and simple tools of artisans" in their own way ("a similar transfiguration of base materials"). Regardless of how it was made, Tsilla is quite a unique album in the Chalk canon, as the best pieces evoke a beautifully nightmarish strain of impressionism.

An'archives

The album opens in unexpectedly tense and disturbing fashion with "Pliskiné," as shivering strings quiver in dissonant harmonies over a bed of subtle, slowly shifting drones like a swarm of hallucinatory bees with bad intentions. For better or worse, that particular descent into horror is not a representative one, though Tsilla is quite a dark and uncharacteristically heavy album for Chalk (and presumably for Rebilly as well). "Pliskiné" aside, the album's other deep plunge into nightmare territory is "Hauteville," which feels like a groaning, slow-motion descent into squirming, buzzing cosmic horror at its most exquisite. In general, the longer pieces tend to be the strongest while the shorter pieces feel more like bridges or interludes, though "Visages d'Espagne" is a notable exception that resembles a seasick duet between a koto and a vibrato pedal.

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2001 Hits

Bill Orcutt, "Jump On It"

Jump On ItThis latest LP from San Francisco-based guitar visionary Bill Orcutt is a spiritual successor of sorts to 2013's A History of Every One, as that was apparently his last solo acoustic guitar album. The resemblance between the two albums largely ends there, however, as Jump On It is as different from the deconstructed standards of History as it is from last week's Chatham-esque guitar quartet performance for NPR. While I do enjoy Orcutt's Editions Mego solo era quite a bit, there is no denying that his artistry has evolved dramatically over the last decade and his recent work definitely connects with me on a deeper level. In more concrete terms, Orcutt's work no longer resembles the choppy, convulsive, and possessed-sounding fare of History, as he has since reined in his more fiery, passionate impulses enough to leave more room for passages of tender, simple beauty. In fact, Jump On It might be the farthest that the balance has swung towards the latter, as the characteristic Orcutt violence is a rare presence in the collection of quietly lovely and spontaneous-sounding guitar miniatures.

Palilalia

The album opens in appropriately gorgeous fashion, as the first minute of "What Do You Do With Memory" is devoted to a tender, halting and bittersweet arpeggio motif, though the piece then takes a detour before reprising that wonderful theme for the finale. The detour is admittedly brief, but so is the song itself, which illustrates a central feature of this album: these pieces generally feel like a series of spontaneous snapshots/3-minute vignettes rather than fully formed compositions that build into something more. That is not meant as a critique, but it does mean that Jump On It is something other than Orcutt's next major artistic statement. I am tempted to say that most of this album feels akin to a pleasant but loose improvisation around a campfire, but there are also some pieces that evoke an usually meditative Django Reinhardt playing alone in a late-night hotel room.

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2023 Hits

Illusion of Safety & Z'EV

Illusion of Safety & Z'EVFinally seeing the light of day after two years of production related delays, with the recordings dating back even longer than that, this collaboration between Daniel Burke (IOS) and the late Stefan Weisser (Z'EV) could almost be a time capsule, except the sound of it is entirely timeless. Recorded and mixed between 2008 and 2012, the two lengthy pieces that make up this self-titled album clearly bear the mark of both individuals, but mesh together beautifully in the very different sounding sides of the record.

Feast of Hate and Fear / Cipher Productions / Oxidation / Korm Plastics / Drone / Personal Archives / Public Eyesore / Tribe Tapes / Liquid Death / No Part of It

Although a mail-based collaboration, Z'EV and IOS's work complement each other perfectly, with the acoustic percussion from the former weaved into the electronics and field recordings of the latter, and both artists having a hand in further mixing and processing afterwards. These elements are clear on both side-long pieces that make up the album, but structurally the two halves differ rather notably.

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2096 Hits

Contrastate, "35 Project"

35 ProjectA 10" record rigidly divided into four different pieces (each mostly around four minutes in length), this new work from the enigmatic sounding, long-standing UK project is mostly centered around the same authoritarian lyrical elements, but each differs significantly in their compositional approach. A complex mix of styles define each piece, neither of which are too similar to another, but are unquestionably Contrastate, and showcases all of the unique sounds they are known for.

Black Rose Records

The aforementioned lyrical elements are quite dystopian "You do not have the right to be free/ you do not have the right to shelter and food/You do not have the right to love/You do not have the right to work" are just a few examples and appear in various stages of processing throughout. The first of the four untitled pieces is classic Contrastate: bursts of noise, sustained digital sounds, fragments of voice, and a significant number of loops layered atop one another. Lush synth passages and bits of conversation are consistent with the trio's previous works. For the second, the use of loops continues, but with hints of melody and cut up percussion pervade, making for a more spacious and restrained feel in comparison.

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1903 Hits

Kammerflimmer Kollektief, "Schemen"

SchemenThis eleventh album from Germany's Kammerflimmer Kollektief is not my first exposure to the project, but it did succeed in making me wonder why I have not been a passionate fan of their work before now. Admittedly, the idea of harmonium-driven free-form jazz/psychedelia is not quite my cup of tea on paper, which goes a long way towards explaining why I was so slow to embrace this project, yet the right execution can transform just about anything into gold and this foursome are extremely good at what they do. It also does not hurt that the Kammerflimmer gang have some intriguing and unusual inspirations, as they namecheck both Franz Mesmer and underheard German psychonauts The Cocoon in addition to the requisite nod to Can. Kammerflimmer Kollektief certainly assimilate those influences in a unique way though, as the best songs on Schemen sound like a killer post-rock/psych band blessed with an unusually great rhythm section and real talents for roiling guitar noise, simmering tension, and volcanic catharsis.

Karlrecords

This unique and eclectic project was founded by guitarist Thomas Weber back in the late '90s and has had a somewhat fluid membership since, but it is safe to say Heike Aumüller significantly transformed its trajectory when she joined the fold in 2002, as she is responsible for both the band's unusual cover art and the even more unusual use of harmonium. Unsurprisingly, I encounter the harmonium a lot with drone music, as it lends itself to that aesthetic perfectly, but Aumüller generally uses it for more melodic purposes and clearly has no aversion to dissonance, as it sounds like she is beating her bandmates to death with an accordion in "Zweites Kapitel [ruckartig]" and "Fünftes Kapitel [kreuzweis]." While "Zweites Kapitel" is an endearingly explosive feast of scrabbling guitar noise, clattering free-form drumming, and tormented bow scrapes, the album's stronger pieces tend to be those which take a more simmering and sensuous approach.

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David Colohan, "A Lunar Standstill"

A Lunar StandstillIn the village of Stanton Drew, and dating from around 4,500 years ago, is the third largest complex of standing stone circles in England. David Colohan visited the site one rainy morning in early 2020 and was inspired by the mix of winter sunshine and eerie ancient atmosphere to create a record of his impressions. Fair enough, since people rarely send postcards from their travels anymore. Actually, the postcard analogy only works if it allows for someone designing a postcard when they get home, since Colohan's use of field recordings is minimal and he doesn't really create music in situ. He's done this before with other locations but A Lunar Standstill is easily his most consistent recording.

Woodford Halse

Colohan uses alto saxophone, clarinet, electric guitar, field recordings, harmonium, mellotron, modular synthesizer, trombone, and voice. Maybe I am triggered in a good way by the harmonium but much of this music gives off such a warm and pleasant hum that I started dreaming about Ivor Cutler as a Druid—although I hope that does not sound trite, as Cutler's music has a spiritual grace and trusty home grown solemnity which bestows upon it a uniquely absurd sense of substance and sincerity. The more bizarre it gets the more serious it becomes. On the subject of bizarre, Colohan's "A Static Field" is strange—as if it were composed for divining sticks, ley lines, and glow worms.

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