Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition

Fingernail Moon over East Anglia by BenWelcome autumn!

This week we bring you new music from Yasmin Williams (feat. Aoife O'Donovan), JJJJJerome Ellis, Silver Apples & Makoto Kawabata, Flocks, Jesus Guerrero, Infinite River, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, Skyphone, Forest Swords, Kamaal Williams, and Marta De Pascalis, plus an older gem from Benoît Pioulard.

Photo of a fingernail moon over a farm in East Anglia by Ben.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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