Review: rhizome.s – Affinités Sélectives Volume 1 (self-released, May 17)

This album, released by the internet label rhizome.s, consists of two live improvisations. The first, “Back Feeder,” was recorded by Gaudenz Badrutt, Ilia Belorukov, and Alexander Markvart; while the second, “Gezeugt,” was recorded by Quentin Conrate, Matthieu Lebrun, Laure-Anne Pudbut, and Fréderic Tentelier. Consistent with the label’s main focus, the two pieces are quite minimal, developing and unfolding with quiet creaks, reserved electroacoustics, and the careful use of instruments. The elements of “Back Feeder” are more scattered, but begin to subtly coalesce like dispersed magnets slowly attracting into a cluster. Markvart’s prepared guitars take on an almost cello-like throatiness, only joined in this register by the electronics while wispy cacophonies clash in the high end. In contrast, “Gezeugt” is a deliberate, droning piece, its hypnotic sustained tones beautifully complemented by Conrate’s textural percussion and distant, muffled tape samples. One of the album’s most sublime moments occurs when the drone retracts and reveals a field recording of what sounds like a security checkpoint at an airport. Affinités Sélectives Volume 1 was a beautiful introduction for me into the extensive catalog of rhizome.s.

Review: Jean-Luc Guionnet & Seijiro Murayama – Idiophonic (Ftarri, May 27)

Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama’s third studio record as a duo is a pretty drastic departure from their previous work. The most obvious change is that Guionnet plays a pipe organ instead of his usual alto saxophone, giving Idiophonic a much darker feel. I get the distinct impression that the two musicians were very far apart from each other while recording; the album’s three improvisations feel oddly split, even disconnected, but not in a way that hinders their impact. Guionnet’s organ playing is unlike anything else I’ve heard produced by the instrument. Instead of embracing and utilizing its natural droning, cavernous sonority, he attacks the keys in an almost percussive manner, forcing notes out of it rather than letting them escape. Murayama’s approach is similarly aggressive, his snare snarling and gnashing with disarming hostility; there’s even a point in “Idiophonic 2” where his furious rolls almost reach blast beat territory. There’s an interesting contrast present here between the artists’ vigorous improvising and the sense of separation between them; and I’d expect nothing less from these notoriously cryptic and creative musicians.

Review: Audiomat – Audiomat (Committee for Sound Research, May 26)

Audiomat is a new duo consisting of Andreas Brüning and Gerald Lindhorst, both accomplished artists in the area of adventurous electronic music. Their self-titled debut album is a joining of both musicians’ areas of expertise to form a new, unique identity. It’s dark, synthetic, and mechanical, making use of repetitive rhythms that form bases for immersive textural compositions. Opener “Ein Traum aus dunklen und beunruhigenden Dingen” is the album’s longest track and also its most ambitious. It begins with a hypnotic percussion loop that persists throughout despite subtly morphing in response to the dizzying arsenal of industrial textures and electronic drones that emerge. “Ein Traum…,” as well as the majority of the rest of the album, tempers its abstractness with rhythmic elements to keep itself grounded. It’s a balance that mirrors how each member’s contributions result in Audiomat’s singular style; Brüning’s loops and meditative monotony are a perfect foil for Lindhorst’s lush modulations and soundscaping. From the binary oscillations of “Microtonal Errata” to the harrowing, distorted chords that conclude “Kwan Jun,” Audiomat is a stubbornly neutral and rewarding album.

Review: Red Brut – Red Brut (KRAAK, May 26)

Marijn Verbiesen, also a member of Sweat Tongue and JSCA, embarks into solo territory on her new self-titled record as Red Brut. It’s a short but fruitful foray into a unique brand of do-it-yourself experimentalism, with Verbiesen stitching together haphazard compositions from fuzzy tape loops, lo-fi ambiance, and bouts of enigmatic cassette concrète. The pieces that make up Red Brut create a unique atmosphere that’s somewhere between cute and unsettling, residing in an enticing sonic uncanny valley. The sounds themselves are thin, plasticky, even novel, but when put together they make up something much more formidable. Closing track “Paracetamol” is one of the record’s strongest, built atop muffled tape loops that find harmony with out of context acoustic explorations, a murky sample of a woman softly singing (possibly Verbiesen herself), and a peaceful section of ambient synthesizer. The piece covers a lot of ground in under five minutes, but the palette used is so demure that there’s no feeling of disjointedness. And the rest of Red Brut is very much the same way; Verbiesen accomplishes so much with so little, and the record’s humility only gives it more strength.

Review: Suppression – Placebo Reality (Chaotic Noise Productions, May 16)

Suppression’s irresistible brand of breakneck, noisy powerviolence is more hectic than ever on their new LP from Chaotic Noise Productions. The long-running Roanoke project, which has been active since 1992, has been ramping up both the creativity and intensity on their recent releases (notably the Rats in the Control Room and Oblivion Riders tapes, also from CNP), and the trend continues with Placebo Reality. Running just under a half hour throughout 73 tracks, its length made me skeptical at first; Suppression seems to work best with short album durations, and maintaining such a high energy level is difficult to do. Luckily, I need not have worried. Placebo Reality is a nonstop onslaught of blown-out hardcore, comically brief noisecore blasts, animalistic growls, and surprising moments of catchiness. No, it never slows down, and no, it never gets old; when it ended I found myself asking, already? Everything is dialed up to the max, blending the perfect amount of ridiculousness with the perfect amount of brain melting heaviness to make one unforgettable LP. In my opinion, it’s the band’s best work yet.

Pick up the disarmingly fairly-priced cassette and vinyl releases here.

Review: Nathan Corder & Tom Weeks – Anaconda (Noise Pelican, Apr 5)

On Anaconda, the newest offering from Florida label Noise Pelican Records, abstract virtuosos Nathan Corder and Tom Weeks’ improvisations coil and slither just like the album’s titular serpent. The unlikely pairing of Weeks’ very harmonic, scalar saxophone playing with Corder’s bizarre electronic spasms is an interesting one. But after “Knot,” the short and schizophrenic opening track, it starts to become clear that the contributions of the two musicians do not create as much of a juxtaposition as it would originally seem. “Lean” begins with a jazzy serenade by Weeks, which is slowly joined by brief, segmented electronic bursts that begin to build in intensity. I’d describe the piece as more of a conversation than anything; it almost seems like the artists are learning from each other as it progresses, with the saxophone becoming more frenetic and atonal to match Corder’s increasing presence. And the rest of the record is no different. From the explosive, body wracking intro to “Swallowed” to the mechanical oscillations of “Cycle” (where the moments of unity between the cracking electronics and saxophone flurries are some of the album’s most mind-blowing), it all cements the alluring chemistry of these two improvisers.