Review: Komare – The Sense of Hearing (Penultimate Press, Jun 29)

The members of the amorphous UK-based Mosquitoes/Komare crew seem to be no strangers of the sort of existential despair and hair-raising ontology that I can never stop reading or thinking about. The first Mosquitoes 12″ features titles drawn from the work of experimental author Christine Brooke-Rose, whose Out/Such/Between/Thru tetralogy delves deep into surreal, delirious comedy and the confusion and agony of being, but Komare’s new LP—whose pre-release inclusion on my First Half of 2020 list was unconventional but still an absolute no-brainer—reminds me more of the mud-crawling malaise of Samuel Beckett’s “muh-” characters (Murphy, Molloy, Malone, the Unnameable, and finally just ‘a man’), increasingly spare and fragile consciousnesses cast into sentience from void. The sonic palette at work on The Sense of Hearing is perhaps the most minimal of either of the two related groups’ releases thus far: ghostly shades of humming electronics, lethargic delay-slogged vocalizations, shifting and snaking layers, a whole lot of empty space. To listen is to be surrounded by a palpable void, the paradoxically deafening sound of nothingness ringing in the ears as one slides, stumbles, slithers through a pitch-black and entirely unfamiliar landscape. The “drugginess” of this album is certainly an important element, but after many listens I’ve come to the conclusion that The Sense of Hearing gets you a different sort of high than any substance I’ve ever tried; its intoxication is one of blurred perspective, eroded security, creeping doom. The whispered threat of an eternity alone.

Review: E.M. Digital Spazz Unit – To Sterilize Music (Black Ring Rituals, Jun 19)

Brandon Wald’s Black Ring Rituals label has come a long way from its humble origins. Originally a DIY outlet for Fargo, North Dakota’s burgeoning pedal harsh and power electronics scene, BRR has grown into an imprint showcasing some of the most forward-thinking noise music available today. Just this year has seen excellent releases from irreverent cut-up connoisseur Appliancide, 8-bit Famicom emulation wall from Bitcrusher, and many others. What is ostensibly E.M. Digital Spazz Unit’s debut cassette is somewhere between those former two examples, making use of both frenzied hyperactivity and motherboard mayhem for its punishing presence. To Sterilize Music accomplishes its titular goal through intense sound curation; there’s not a single element on this album that is not an abrasive, deformed, caustic extract from some condemned digital underbelly, even the vocal samples that are used on “Sponsored Cell Line.” The Spazz Unit is not at all concerned with conventionality, or even with demonstrating the death of conventionality by proudly exhibiting its broken bloody remnants that have been mercilessly ripped apart. It’s simply nowhere to be found in this contorted mass of synthetic, detached, yet always viscerally affecting artificiality.

Review: Simone & Bucko – Simone & Bucko (Dismal Niche, Jun 18)

There’s something special about the religious chapel as a setting for experimental music performance, especially an improvisation. Whether your preferred example is Mural’s Rothko, Keith Rowe’s Fairchild, or Áine O’Dwyer’s iconic Music for Church Cleaners, the building and space itself is always an established presence (or absence) in the music, its cavernous corners swallowing the frayed, decayed edges of confidently-conjured sounds, the passion and purpose contained within them soaking into the ancient walls. Jennifer Simone and Bob Bucko, Jr.’s first duo collaboration immediately gives a sense of that yawning openness, both from its geometrically arranged cover photo and the droning, organ-like dirges that begin the proceedings. That classic chapel instrument is nowhere to be found on Simone & Bucko, however; the only two instruments present are saxophones, Simone’s baritone and Bucko’s tenor. Their interplay is largely tonal: interlocking serenades of slightly discordant scales, dual overtone-drones, sublime major-key resolutions, lethargic call-and-response flurries. But what becomes more noticeable over the course of the nearly-50-minute set is everything but the saxes—the muffled wails of distant police sirens, the clacking of the musicians’ valves as they form their notes, the pregnant dead air that hangs in the recording like a shroud.

Simone & Bucko was originally released on cassette in 2018. This review concerns the digital reissue.