The first part of Corat Coret, which occupies nearly half of the diminutive nine-minute suite, unfurls its bewildering layers like a carnivorous flower revealing its gaping, hungry maw, chlorophyll-saliva splashing and gnashing as horrible botanical mandibles masticate a mixture of unlucky bugs and leftover pollen. From what I can tell, this short album was produced via a series of field recordings made by Misha Pattiradjawane which were then extensively processed by ɟɐɥɯᴉ ɯnɹsʎᴉp (Fahmi Mursyid) into their profoundly contorted final forms. The description of the work reveals an emphasis on “background noise,” which could conceivably be the source of much of the original sound material, uneventful recordings of inactive rooms or inert appliances mined for curiosities and imperfections to amplify, loop, layer, and otherwise extrapolate. The audio-physical shape this takes really reminds me of the first piece on Stallgewitter by German sound artists Daniel Löwenbrück and Marcellvs L.: a stuttering cyclone of displaced frequencies, muffled discordant clashes, flaps and strips of raw sound whipping in a vicious yet tightly controlled whirlwind. This unique little release offers more in less than ten minutes than many do in quadruple that time.
Month: August 2020
Review: Les Horribles Travailleurs – Shadow Inquiries (self-released, Aug 24)
I knew the name Max Kuiper sounded familiar, even though I’ve never encountered Les Horribles Travailleurs before; Animi Sub Volpe Latentes, a 2016 Chondritic tape made by the duo of Kuiper and Thorsten Soltau, is an obscure forgotten favorite of mine. Unsurprisingly, a similar magnetism overtook me during a cursory exploration of Shadow Inquiries, which, thankfully, entirely fulfills the expectations of bleak, apocalyptic desolation that its cover engenders. Forming the basis of the first and longest piece is various cloying hisses of white noise, spouting like geysers from some invisible imperfection—who knows if accidental or intentional, or perhaps both—in the recordings, slowly unfurling to reveal sluggish sound events of decaying machinery, hypnotic whirring, and other sounds of slow industrial collapse. If you find yourself naturally gravitating toward these sort of sounds, but aren’t as partial to the “dark ambient” side of things, instead preferring the more direct, unadulterated evocations of Morphogenesis, Ultra, or Sterile Garden (with whom LHT have released a split), you will definitely feel at home here. The oppressive darkness gradually lifts from the unhurried soundscapes of clatter and current as the album progresses, and the third track is even rather beautiful.
Review: Ana Fosca – Soma (Nazlo, Aug 23)
Imagine exploring a mysterious abandoned building and upon finally reaching the lowest basement level you see the thing that adorns the album cover of Soma, the dank, dusty air crackling with terrifying supernatural electricity as you behold its twisted form in heart-stopping horror. The piece is actually a sculpture by artist Kristoffer Moth (I am not sure if it was made physically or digitally), but that doesn’t compromise its power as an object of inexplicable malevolence, an element that only adds to the bleak darkness Ana Fosca conjures on this new album. “Catalonia” is a seething, sinister opener, its body of shadow swelling into psychedelic blasts of caustic noise and contracting into formidable low register rumbles. I was not expecting the mostly spoken vocals that first appear in the following track, “Ease,” but interestingly this ostensibly more human addition actually takes things to an even more horrifying place, the presence and intelligibility of the words steadily and hopelessly eroded by increasingly intense interference until there’s nothing left of the speaker but mangled digital gibberish and enveloping, razor-sharp noise takes control once more. Fosca definitely operates within the conventions I associate with death industrial music, but everything I normally dislike about the genre is entirely avoided: the rhythmic elements are not relied upon too heavily, instead serving as ominous, tension building pulses that don’t get in the way of the atmosphere; the vocals aren’t at all cheesy or overused; each track offers something different and unique. I mean, “Meshes of H” sounds like the grisly death of an old semi-sentient artificial intelligence. The title track features a heavily distorted tornado siren. It’s awesome.
“Silence… in search of… silence… in search of… silence…”
Review: Cities Aviv – ACCOMPANIED BY A BLAZING SOLO (self-released, Aug 16)
Memphis MC and producer Gavin Mays, known to most as his musical alias Cities Aviv, doesn’t really rap over his beats in the conventional way. Instead, he raps with them, frequently adopting a style of delivery somewhere in the messy intersection between rhythmic syllable conveyance, singing, and simple speech. Mays’ passionate, stream-of-consciousness lyrical labyrinths are well-suited to the longer forms of much of his recent work; the superb GUM, released earlier this year, closes with a continuous 45-minute suite of sorts, and this album, ACCOMPANIED BY A BLAZING SOLO, is his first document that consists entirely of a single track. Song titles are listed, and the transitions between these sections are easily perceived, but like with all of Cities Aviv’s discography it’s a much more advantageous and fulfilling course of action to just drift along with everything. The vocal presence feels more purposeful and intricate than ever before, however; Mays tightly wraps himself in a warm, symbiotic embrace with whatever instrumental he’s using, sometimes directly quoting the words of a sung sample or using those lyrics as free-associative springboards for his own personal musings. Awash in a lush stream of smooth, subtly deconstructed soul collages and sparse percussion, the listener eternally anticipates the sporadic yet deliberately choice entrances of Mays’ vocals, but not for a lack of emotional resonance—whether he is actually “rapping” or not, every second of ACCOMPANIED drips with personality and poignancy, and even when it is present it’s just another abstract element for indirect evocation, an inexorable piece of this intricately crafted, homogeneous sculpture of grief, nostalgia, confusion, reverence, and uneasy contentment.
Review: Kevin Sims – Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1 (Orb Tapes, Aug 21)
A somewhat elaborate yet still careless scribble adorns the minimal cover of Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1, immediately engendering thoughts of simplicity and gesture, things that certainly carry on, to even greater effect, in the music. Kevin Sims states that the tape is “a series of fifteen pieces for percussion and other instruments, including instructions for field recordings which can also be used as listening exercises,” and unsurprisingly the proceedings settle into a fluid series of passively captured public places, radio grabs, and environments along with reticent tactile performances on various drums and objects. There don’t seem to be explicit instructions for these “listening exercises” included with the album, so I can presume the only actual requirement for them is what their title implies location- or theme- wise, and one goes from there with the help of a recording device and percussion I suppose. I doubt anyone could perform these “compositions” as well as the composer himself, however; Sims traverses a host of detailed sonic landscapes, both abstract and physical, with the help of skins, metal, junk, his own hands and feet (for both striking and walking), and the control of the microphone’s gaze that documents it all. There’s tension here, mostly neutral but no less intense—take the jarring sequence of peaceful nature sound-walk “Wapalanewachschiechey” to the grinding, squealing metals of “Second Hymn” and the bad-vibes speech cuts of “Knowledge.” Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1 is a formidable piece of music in the most disarmingly understated way, immersive and cinematic and harrowing.
Mix: Broadcasts from… Elsewhere
Someone from elsewhere is trying to tell you something. They’re trying to reach you through any primitive sound-producing devices you may have lying around—dictaphones, radios, megaphones, old broken speakers, the vibrations of the air itself—fiddling with knobs and dials and settings to accomplish varying degrees of successful communication. It could be useful advice, or a desperate cry for help from somewhere on the other side of oblivion. Better listen and find out.
00:00. Cássio Figueiredo – “Lembrando Aspectos Mortos” No. 1 from Lembrando Aspectos Mortos (Banana, 2017)
01:53. Sammartano – excerpt from Walkman Jazz (Canti Magnetici, 2019)
05:20. Posset – “Memory Piece for Shipley Art Gallery” from Totally Corporate! (Kirigirisu, 2018)
08:37. Angélica Castelló – “Lepidóptero II” [excerpt] from Lepidóptero (Thalamos, 2018)
11:52. Modelbau – excerpt from side A of A World of Difference (Regional Bears, 2019)
15:13. Michael Barthel – “Sammlung. Musik Für Sammlung” 1 from Stapel. Efeu-Fährten (Tochnit Aleph, 2013)
22:24. Aki Onda – excerpts from side A of A Method to Its Messiness (Thalamos, 2019)
25:50. Daniel J. Gregory – “Mechanical Medicine Trap” from Heard Under Orphan Eyelid (self-released, 2020)
31:34. Alyssa Festa – “websdr_recording_2017-07-06T22-50-42Z_131725.0kHz” [excerpt] from Alyssa Festa (A R C H I V E, 2018)
37:33. Graham Lambkin – “Ghost Boxes (Dedicated to Friedrich Jürgenson)” from No Better No Worse Vol. 2 (self-released, 2018)
Review: Wounds of Recollection – Nowhere Else Feels More Like Home (self-released, Aug 14)
I don’t think it’s just my tirelessly pedantic brain to blame when I lament the ubiquity of the “one-man black metal” descriptor. It’s no secret that extreme metal in general has a history steeped in testosterone-fueled toxic masculinity, but especially as the genre matures in the time of the internet and new levels of tolerance and representation are achieved, “one-man” remains a vestigial assumptive phrase, often applied in cases in which the actual gender of the musician is not explicitly known. Its continued presence feeds into the problematic side of the hermetic mysticism that imbues black metal with so much of its “kvlt” appeal, when such extramusical aspects can be easily maintained without relying on archaic binaries. The multi-instrumentalist behind Atlanta solo project Wounds of Recollection (hereafter WoR) may or may not agree with me on this, since they specifically identify as a “one-man band,” but regardless of what the artist believes, their new album Nowhere Else Feels More Like Home embodies a promising, radiant trajectory toward a more “wholesome” (I use this word relatively) black metal tradition for the new age. Lengthy opener “Backyard Burial” is a cathartic display of impassioned vocal delivery—I also actually found myself following along with the lyrics, a rarity for me with this sort of thing—sublime harmonic resolutions, and a propulsive drum presence that allows the track to sit nicely somewhere between fiery stampede and formless drift. WoR makes sure to let the listener breathe at all the right times, pulling the intensity back for a poignant spoken word interlude or crystalline clean guitar respite before stomping the pedals once again. The entirety of “Another Year” is essentially this, but unlike many instrumental acoustic-meander tracks that halt the energy of the album in which they’re placed, it actually feels natural and earned here since even the most abrasive moments of Nowhere Else are saturated in distinctly personal emotion. It is rare that a metal album makes you feel this close to actually knowing the artist a little better, and for that reason WoR is a new favorite.
Review: Gestalt et Jive – Neowise (Al Maslakh, Aug 14)
The few fans of short-lived German avant-prog quartet Gestalt et Jive could conceivably have been anticipating a new album since their self-titled LP was released in 1986, but I think a great deal more people, including me, will discover the band for the first time with this well-retrospectively released collection of archival live recordings. Captured “during various tours in 1985,” Neowise collects ten untitled jams that perch atop the intersection of progressive rock/RIO and avant-garde jazz, distilling the four-piece’s infectious instrumental interplay of thick drum foundations, various horns, keyboard and guitar, and effects-laden bass into tightly-wound, incendiary grooves. “Movement 4” charts these seamless stylistic integrations over its duration, evolving from an almost hip-hoppy beat vamp complemented by hypnotically simple, repetitive guitar and bass parts into a full free-form freakout, riding the momentum of a spidery trumpet solo whose steady unhinging is the stabilizing thread between the track’s beginning and end. Since many, if not all of these segments comprise material that didn’t make it in onto the band’s studio LPs in named form (I haven’t yet heard either album, so I can’t confirm this 100%), they pretty much always feel like interludes, random non sequiturs, or even just moments of formless fuckery that happened to coalesce into something a bit more, but it’s not at all a weakness. Especially with the help of the warm, softening fidelity of the cassette tapes that were used to record it, this is music with all of its screws in their holes but without any of them actually tightened down, free to drift and undulate with appealing abandon.
All sales from the purchase of the digital-only album go toward victims of the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon earlier this month.
Review: Karl Fousek – Early Miniatures (self-released, Aug 12)
I have a thing for albums with a sketchbook-like structure: loosely connected fragments and half-developed ideas that create a singular atmosphere. I especially appreciate them when they take the form of demo or archival releases from artists I already know and enjoy, grateful for a look behind the curtain of sorts. I’ve slowly begun encountering the respective solo catalogs of the members of electroacoustic trio Fousek / Hansen / Tellier-Craig, and this time I have the opportunity to observe the early experimentation of synth wizard Karl Fousek, who has completed a host of solo projects since these recordings were made in 2013, including Another Use for Time, a full-length from earlier this year that I have not yet heard. Early Miniatures was originally released in 2014 as Cassette Miniatures Vol. 1, but a retrospective reworking sees them fresh and newly available in 2020, a timeless archive of abstract, effervescent electronica that bubbles with organic fervor. Like his contributions to the aforementioned trio, the textures conjured here are distinctly analog, each lethargic arpeggiator tangle or lively feedback loop full of lush, swampy wetness, helped along by classic tape-delay techniques and the complementary fidelity of the cassette onto which they were directly recorded. Fousek states that “this was the first time that I felt like I’d found my own voice playing the modular,” and it shows; I’m not 100% sure that the numbering of the pieces corresponds to the order in which they were created, but regardless, one can observe a gradual unfurling of increased diversity and agility as the release progresses, perhaps culminating with “15” and “18,” my favorites and probably the most queasily beautiful of the bunch.
Review: Zebra Mu – Tape Horn Sick (self-released, Aug 10)
With his Zebra Mu project, UK artist Michael Ridge has mastered the bite-sized harsh noise release. His comprehensive Bandcamp page additionally lists releases under his own name and Dial-Up Summer Breeze, as well as one of most stacked personal recommendation sections I’ve seen so far—AMK, Zherbin, and Duncan Harrison!—but Zebra Mu consistently remains my favorite of his work, with superbly crafted short bursts like Psychic Ditch and Repeating Metal Repeated / Flexi Tray Twitch drowning out many a quite spare moment. Tape Horn Sick is the latest offering, an extremely limited run of tapes packaged in medical-grade “sick bags” that house just under five minutes of blasting, droning, just-on-the-edge-of-tonal harsh noise chunks tempered by high-pitched circuit squall and heavily distorted yells that emerge like a horde of gibbering, mud-covered creatures climbing out of a sewer to claim our clean, above-ground world. Over the course of the short duration of “Make Me,” the limited yet muscular sonic palette rises to nigh-unbearable tension levels before cutting out quite unceremoniously, the brutal inertia sending us sailing headfirst into the burbling surreal gunk of “Sck.” Tape Horn Sick is endlessly replayable, and not just because of its digestible size—it’s like a full course meal condensed into a tiny pill capsule—but also because it’s a prime example, of how to make two-halved releases thoroughly engaging.