Review: Territorial Gobbing – Stud Mechanism (Cadmus Tape, Apr 11)

“Gob” has to be the grossest word in the English language. Just ask John Updike—it features prominently in a particularly revolting passage from In the Beauty of the Lilies that I never, ever want to read again. I think it’s so powerfully disgusting a word because it sounds so much like the thing to which it refers, some viscous, bulbous drop of a gelatinous substance. On Stud Mechanism, Leeds-based musician Territorial Gobbing (also a member of Thank, whose 2017 EP Sexghost Hellscape is one of the great modern no wave releases) crafts irreverent tape collages that are fittingly mud-soaked and sticky, the artist wrangling blasts of screeching feedback, pop radio excerpts, and uncomfortably amplified mouth sounds into intense, schizophrenic amalgams. No sound ever sticks around long enough to build a consistent atmosphere, but there’s a disorienting, visceral presence to these hodgepodges that is much more patient than the artist themselves, and when the contortions cut off into silence on “Hey Judas Priest” you find yourself begging them to come back. I think it’s more than appropriate that Territorial Gobbing, instead of the conventional “music,” to refer to their work as “wiggly pleasure air.”

“You can lead a horse to water, you can make it drink, you can do anything you want, I’m so proud of you.”

Review: Manja Ristić – Alice & the Smoke Castles of Paris (self-released, Apr 23)

Alice & the Smoke Castles of Paris is Manja Ristić’s heartfelt tribute to fellow Serbian artist Alisa Simonović, an oil painter whose work has been lost to time, though it played a significant role in Ristić’s life. She grew up with a few of Simonović’s paintings, and was especially partial to a mural that hung in the home of the artist’s mother that has since been lost. This work takes the form of one of the most personal and impactful ventures an artist can take on: that of a homage to a respected fellow artist, especially one who has been underappreciated. On Alice & the Smoke Castles of Paris, Ristić structures her expectedly astute use of field recordings and abstract textures around the somber notes of an old piano in Simonović’s family home, an element than even absent of context instills an ineffable sense of emotion and reverence. According to Ristić, the compositions feature “spontaneous interventions or unresolved movements,” a statement that might imply that the album feels disjointed or difficult, but that couldn’t be further from the truth; instead, the way the sounds are placed, anchored by the plinks of the piano yet creating an immersive and spacious environment, makes for music that flows seamlessly from the creator’s thoughts. The final piece, “Lament for Alisa,” features unaccompanied piano with sublime use of the instrument’s broken foot pedal, a fulfilling end to a work steeped in feeling. Another masterpiece from one of the most talented sound artists out there right now: surprise, surprise.

Review: Diurnal Burdens – Cancelled Tangents (Falt, Apr 15)

The A side of Cancelled Tangents, “Cessation,” made it onto the Insubstantial Magnetics mix I posted a week or so ago, and since then I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it. Ross Scott-Buccleuch, who performs with Craig Johnson as Liminal Haze and solo as Diurnal Burdens, makes absence the loudest it’s ever been as he molds blank tape playback, no-input mixing board manipulation, empty Walkmans, and low fidelity field recordings into stretches of beautifully marred ambience. “Cessation” is an intimate odyssey through hisses and clicks, slowly building a singular atmosphere despite its segmented structure. To me, there are few sounds more meditative than the amplified silence of a room, which seems to be what concludes the first side: all slightly tonal hum and distant rumbles, together with the soothing texture of boosted tape hiss creating something truly gorgeous and hypnotic. “Slight Tyranny,” in contrast to the previous half, unfolds its equally contemplative sonic palette in a more restrained, reticent manner, slowly but deliberately progressing through episodes of buzzing feedback loops and dictaphone recordings.

In the words of a beloved TV character, sometimes you need to “make quiet things heard.”

Review: Isambard Khroustaliov – This Is My Private Beach, This Is My Jetsam (Not Applicable, Apr 19)

Sam Britton, who makes music under the alias Isambard Khroustaliov, commands electronics the way a painter wields their brush. Regardless of whether This Is My Private Beach, This Is My Jetsam is meticulously composed, skillfully improvised, or some equally masterful combination of both, it transposes textures and sounds one might associate with cold artificiality to something wonderfully organic. “Psychic Zero,” the longest track on the disc, is based around an experimental synthesis engine Britton constructed with colleague Patrick Bergel, and forms an endless stream of digital buzzes, granular drones, and restless glitches into fluid, flowing currents. The final moments are nothing short of enrapturing, as the crackling electric clouds that have spent the last twenty-odd minutes shifting into various shapes almost completely break down into a sparse pitter-patter of tactile clicks. The next two pieces expand on the lifelike quality of Britton’s sonic sculptures in a more direct way, utilizing processed samples of his son Kip’s voice to engage in very abstract conversation with quirky synth cells and plasticky electronic contortions. Much like its cover, This Is My Private Beach becomes a beautifully scattered display of color despite its abiotic origins, like the spilling consciousness of a dying android.

Mix: Outside the Outside

When AMM brought the subversive practice of freely improvised music to the public eye, it wasn’t exactly accompanied by a championing of accessibility. With their extensive backgrounds in jazz, arcane philosophies, and overall air of impenetrable mystique, they embodied the truly unlimited potential of improvisation on the end of the perceivers, but not so much the other wondrous aspect: the fact that this form of music all but eliminated the need for any formal training or experience whatsoever. This is not to say that the performers of this curious “outsider improv” lack musical talent, but instead that the only thing of importance is the textures, sounds, and the harmonies between them that are created. This mix collects my favorite instances of the amazing results that can come from these elusive, mysterious, singular collectives and artists.

It also acts as an homage to Davey Williams, who died earlier this month. Williams performs on the first track as part of Trans-Idio.

The No-Neck Blues Band

00:00. Trans-Idio – “Cretaceous Insect Festival” from Alchemical Rowdies (Trans Museq, 1981)

05:31. The No-Neck Blues Band – “Seven Spaces of Empty Place” from Letter from the Earth (SER, 1996)

10:40. Horaflora – excerpt of “Live on KALX Berkeley” from split LP with Secret Boyfriend (Hot Releases, 2010)

15:21. Fossils – “Four” from A Common Confusion (Bug Incision, 2009)

20:02. Dog Lady – Part 1 of A Desperate Bath (Boudoir, 2018)

22:27. The Sperm – “Jazz Jazz” from Shh! Heinäsirkat (O, 1970)

31:08. Morphogenesis – “Improvisation 1.9.88” from Prochronisms (Pogus Productions, 1989)

36:26. Parlours – “Estragon Rows the Viscous Night” from Who Will Listen to Aches That Everyone Has (Penultimate Press, 2018)

Review: Vito Lucente – Udgitha of the Dogs (Perfect Aesthetics, Apr 19)

Here, on Udgitha of the Dogs, the concrete and the incorporeal run endless circles around each other to form each sublime composition. Vito Lucente is a Toronto musician whose work I hadn’t encountered until now, which was clearly an egregious oversight; he’s making exactly the kind of ambient the world needs more of right now, using subtle rhythms and tactile textures as anchors for the immersive waves of noise that swirl and unfurl over the course of each track. The title track, which opens the tape, is probably the shortest, most digestible fourteen-minute piece I’ve heard in recent memory, despite its lack of significant dynamic change or evolution. Lucente’s lush dreamscapes of chromatic, fuzz-drenched drones remain largely stagnant in the context of the entire piece but never cease their gorgeous, whirlpool-like currents, all the while kept in focus by a quiet but tangible crackle that occupies the center of the stereo space. “One in the Many” and “Lifting Metric Structure” both expand on that element of grounding physicality, with the former’s clatters melting into the pool of reverb that surrounds them and the latter almost seeming to be torn apart by amplified tape manipulations. The final tracks are as beautiful as the mysterious chunk of prose written about them on the Bandcamp page (which I have reprinted below) would imply, a fitting end to a journey that feels spiritual even to me, probably the least spiritual person out there.

Mass of hexagonal prismatic cells, Honeycomb Laden with a Glowing Light of Honey. Laborious works of a fellowship hive, the Queen bee buzzing intoxicating nectars. And blanched to divinity from process of scald, the White Dog Udgitha blocks her noise. Essence of harmonies in balance, uniting creatures white, black, and yellow. Connection evolved from a circle of virtue, devotion, and praise—One love. One ecosystem, that is all. The Origin and End of Everything. 

Review: Claire Rousay – Several Erasures (Already Dead Tapes, Apr 19)

Sometimes, the distance at which an artistic approach is separated from the emotions or issues it attempts to an examine is just as significant of a contributor to the art’s impact as the art itself. For Claire Rousay, who explores complex, personal ideas about queerness and relationships through her abstract percussion improvisation, this distance is often present. When you first encounter her work, it may be difficult to imagine how the rattles, taps, bounces, and scrapes of the multitude of objects she uses are able to communicate anything intimately emotional. But close attention paid to works such as Several Erasures reveals the poignant intricacies of Rousay’s music and the things she injects into it. These well-recorded improvisations progress with an ever-present sense of purpose, as Rousay utilizes recurring motifs and gradually transforming cells of sound to evolve sparse, tactile worlds into something much more. “Clocked” presents a sublime use of space and silence, with organic rustles and soft clicks surrounding a centralized, rotating sweep, the placement introducing unexpected feelings of isolation; here, a new dimension of separation is layered atop the aforementioned. “Shadow” and “For Jacob” use repeating bell-like resonances to ground their expanding presence, teasingly treading on the verge of cacophony but never actually abandoning their tight control. Rousay’s unflinching command of her materials is awe-inspiring; I doubt she’d be able to evoke these things so clearly otherwise.

Review: Vermute – Vermute (Mascarpone Discos, Apr 18)

Spanish rock trio Vermute is an archetypal example of fleeting glory. The band only played three live shows and recorded seven songs, all of which appear on this comprehensive cassette release by Mascarpone Discos, a scant fifteen minute burst of raw creativity. But I can assure you that those fifteen minutes will be some of the most intense and punishing you’ll encounter this year. Vermute brings new dimensions to the recognizable brand of punk-inflected, raving, irreverent noise rock exemplified by bands like Arab on Radar and Ex Models, injecting a sense of breathless urgency and blunt-force hypnosis into their cacophonies of squealing guitars and punching drums. The songs are all pretty short—the longest, “Mig,” doesn’t even quite reach the three minute mark—but the band demonstrates an exquisite penchant for repetition, looping their most schizophrenic, punishing riffs ad nauseam until the listener is lulled (well, more like crushed) into a delirious trance which they may or may not be relieved from by the end. This effect is particularly profound on the aforementioned “Mig” as well as the closer “Falocarpo,” where the incessant recurrences introduce an almost unbearable tension, a sense that the already disjointed music is about to explode into a million tiny pieces.

Review: Kate Carr – City of Bridges (Longform Editions, Apr 17)

Among many other things about the fascinating pursuit of phonography, I’m especially interested in the argument that there is more to the identity of a particular recording than simply the sound it captures. As Salomé Voegelin’s Wire article “Collateral Damage” puts so succinctly, artists who abide by this philosophy are “challenging the myth of the invisible figure with a microphone in work that celebrates presence rather than absence.” None would support this more than Kate Carr, whose various experiments in the areas of intersection between sound, place, and people deal heavily with the role of an individual in the auditory profile of their environment. “City of Bridges,” her newest piece, brings together sound documents gathered in the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with live manipulations of materials such as magnetic tape, zither, and wires. Not only does Carr make her recordings of cafes, vibrating structures, and various other vignettes entirely her own with her unique ear for incidental harmony, but the live mixing method used to construct “City of Bridges” gives it a whole new dimension of organic individuality. Soft, brooding drones expand and contract amidst quiet rattles and whispers, tension is eased with soothing sounds of muffled conversation and brief musical samples… despite the undeniable distance introduced via the deconstruction of the recordings, the city feels like it’s just outside the window, rivaling even the urban intimacy of I Ended Out Moving to Brixton.

Review: Will Guthrie – Some Nasty (Hasana Editions, Apr 11)

On 2017’s People Pleaser, abstract percussionist and improviser Will Guthrie combined the intricate drum patterns of releases like Sticks, Stones and Breaking Bones with the irreverent electroacoustics of experiments such as Spear to create a unique hybrid of styles, a colorful and unpredictable collage of clashing sounds that easily became one of my favorite albums not just that year, but ever. After some forays into collective improvisation on 2017’s Cheval Rétréci with the titular duo and Junko Hiroshige and last year’s spectacular Mosquitoes and Crabs with Hong Chulki, as well as the Dream Spink cassette that delved back into his pure-percussion roots, Guthrie re-examines his arsenal of tactile clangs, fractured electronics, and other instruments on Some Nasty. While this tape is still a mishmash of a wide variety of elements, its combinations are much less schizophrenic than on People Pleaser, instead adopting a more meditative ambience that presides over the clatter. This is especially apparent on the B side, where some particularly hypnotic sounds similar to that of steel drum frame Guthrie’s steadily accelerating drum attacks, into which fleeting bits of distorted feedback are also woven. I’d love to know what exactly his recording process is, because there’s no way he’s playing all of these things at the same time, but it sure as hell sounds like he is. Despite the newfound reticence of Some Nasty, it fortunately doesn’t abandon the entertaining surrealism that made People Pleaser so great; especially on side A, with its ambling rhythmic interplay and bizarre voice samples, the fun is still here.