Review: Joanna Mattrey – Dirge (Dear Life, Sep 24)

In addition to being a significant presence in the vast network of artists, creatives, writers, and appreciators I’ve joined in Brooklyn, violist Joanna Mattrey is one of a select but talented few musicians staking out their lot in the valley between legends Polly Bradfield and Henry Flynt, each of them combining a unique ratio of subversive extended techniques and earthen fiddle-folk simplicity to form their own approach. Unlike many of the tenants of this valley I’m fond of (Alex Cunningham, Tijana Stanković, Gabby Fluke-Mogul), Mattrey’s primary instrument is not the violin, but that doesn’t stop her from drawing all kinds of influence inside and out of the ongoing tradition of shouldered string instrument abstraction. For Dirge, however, she picks up the rare but distinctive Stroh violin (a violin primitively amplified by a flared metal trumpet bell; some real steampunk shit) to weave this delicate septet of tracks, its unusual sonic properties surrounding even the more conventional stretches with an ephemeral, almost ghostly tincture. Mattrey’s poignant, amorphous laments might resemble an actual solo dirge one might hear at a funeral at one moment and a harrowing musicalization of the raw sound of grief itself at another, but as a whole they are fundamentally indebted to the basic rhythms of human existence—inhale/exhale, heartbeat, movement both pragmatic and expressive—and reliably proceed as such, making Dirge a record that, for all of its shrieking abrasion, feels very much like home. I’m not sure anything better sums this up than “Bellows,” the brief yet memorable closer that reaches out with a welcoming embrace of distance, warmth, and light.

Review: Princesse Isabelle d’Évreux – Cogito Ergo Sum Paradox (self-released, Sep 24)

The Finns strike again, this time with the digital-only Cogito Ergo Sum Paradox via a new alias from prolific Helsinki artist Paju Talvilintu (a.k.a. Static Noise Bird)—perhaps a historically dubious portmanteau of French royalty is the only kind of linguistic conduit that won’t crumple or shatter when these vicious sounds are forced through it. Under their primary moniker as well as many others, Talvilintu has explored all shapes, sizes, and shades of abstract music, but as Princesse Isabelle d’Évreux they scorch the barren earth with violent, radiating shockwaves of shrieking electronics, thick seismic churns, and crisply mixed pedal-chain blasts that wax and wane between hyperactive structural splintering and hypnotic stagnancy. Besides the obviously appealing image the title evokes, “Scythe Wielding Girlfriend” offers an elastic sonic storm of the meticulously spaced, eviscerating psychedelic crackle arrays that they and their countrymen always seem to pull off so perfectly, while “Tortured = Pleasured” falls into deep, confining grooves of static between moments of wrack and wrath. The bleak “Erase Me, I Don’t Wanna Be Perceived” is perhaps the most summative demonstration of Talvilintu’s virtuosic noise wrangling, with detailed concrete-scrape cross-sections quickly but carefully exploding into unrelenting chaos, complete with strangely rhythmic blares of some dying machine.

Review: Edward Sol – Go and Get Dressed (Quasi Pop, Sep 23)

The fungal-growth patches of this classic smudged, squelching brand of tape collage can be found all over the world (some locations have much higher concentrations than others; best to stay away if you don’t have your own hazmat suit yet), but this short slice comes all the way from Kyiv, Ukraine—somewhat of a rarity in this esoteric subdiscipline of mycology. But Edward Sol is no obscure name, at least not relatively; in addition to founding and operating Quasi Pop, Sentimental Productions, and Village Tapes, he’s released material on everything from Beartown and Sangoplasmo to Banned Production and Chocolate Monk. For it’s brief length, Go and Get Dressed, a C20 produced via Sol’s primary imprint, is a quite dense and complex piece of gritty acousmatics, and seems a great entry point for myself and other uninitiated mold-sniffers. Sol’s sources and techniques feel like more of the homemade variety, low-fidelity domestic recordings and dusty tape delay and contact mic shuffle, but the way they’re layered and stitched together is careful, deliberate, intricate, despite all the rough edges—it’s not surgical, or anything, but definitely eschews the artful naïvety that often drives this sort of thing. And it couldn’t be a better choice, because even though the sounds here aren’t anything you’ve never heard before, the interplay and progression and dynamism between all of them is enthralling.

Mix: Maxi-Improv

I’ll probably come up with a better name for this “genre” at some point, but for now “maxi-improv” works: both solo and collective electroacoustic improvisations with moving parts much too large for, or even in a completely different dimension of reality than, their containers (you’ll see what I mean).

00:00. Jean-Marc Foussat – “Le moment est passé” [excerpt] from Cet inapaisable hurlement des heures (self-released, 2014)

04:47. The Incidental Crack – “Waterfalls per Capita” from Detail (Anticipating Nowhere, 2021)

10:31. Concrete Gazebo – “Tangled Eggs” from Peacock Juice Box (Speak & Spell, 2021)

12:26. Kamon Kardamom – “Chronic Euphoria” [excerpt] from Chronic Euphoria (self-released, 2021)

19:03. Paed Conca, Stéphane Rives & Fadi Tabbal – “There’s No Picture of the Band” from Under the Carpet (Ruptured, 2012)

22:22. Miguel A. García & Ilia Belorukov – “Hands Off” from Wolkokrot (Inexhaustible Editions, 2015)

27:51. Leverton Fox – “Megascopz (Pellet Collector)” [excerpt] from Megascopz (Not Applicable, 2019)

33:16. Olivier di Placido & SEC_ – “es” from Rainbow Grotesque (Bocian, 2013)

36:10. MKM – “Don’t Eat” [excerpt] from Bangalore (TON, 2021)

Review: Season of Upheaval – Season of Upheaval (Makade Star, Sep 17)

As is the case for the beloved band that this tape is undeniably reminiscent of—New Zealand legends Surface of the Earth—the modest instrumental credit that simply reads “guitars” does not at all reflect the cavernous immensity of the music found within. To my knowledge this self-titled entry in the growing Makade Star catalog is the first release from the Winnipeg duo of Doreen Girard and Marie-France Hollier, but they’ve been performing live together since as early as 2017, and that casual familiarity that can only accrue in a long-term, lived-in creative collaboration is folded into the essence of the drones themselves. To play the guitar in this way is as much a spatial and even sculptural act as it is a musical one; we not only hear, but feel the humming waves of feedback as they hover between shuddering strings and speaker-screen, the exquisite dance of churning dissonance and cathartic overtone resolution, the massive waves of sunlight-infused distortion cresting but never curling. It would probably be a transcendent experience to stand between twin subwoofer stacks and feel the full,  crushing weight of this stuff, but I’ll settle for the more delicate beauty it takes on recorded form, at times rivaling that of the magnificent “Voyager.” There’s nothing better on an autumn afternoon.

Review: Manja Ristić – The Desire of My Heart (sirr-ecords, Sep 17)

You’ve probably noticed I try to keep things diverse in terms of what I cover for the site, so my having reviewed four releases by Serbian sound artist Manja Ristić is a testament to her consistent talents. Four is a lot, but it’s been almost two and a half years since the last one, and The Desire of My Heart marks her first collaboration with the fabulous Portugal-based sirr-ecords netlabel, so this is a no-brainer. Ristić does both short sketches and extended soundscapes well, and though this 27-minute piece feels quite episodic and is even contextualized as a “meta narrative in three stages” by the artist herself, it mostly belongs to the latter category in terms of its presence and pacing. It begins with a distinctive sound that should be familiar to anyone who’s checked out any of her past work: the close, tactile effervescence of hydrophone recordings, the tools “buried in the stranded sediments of a dry Posidonia Oceanica algae” on Silba Island to capture the elusive textures. The aquatic void often hinted toward by these minuscule cross-sections is supported sonically by the unbroken hum of a restaurant ventilation system, building tension with subtle twinges of darkness until it’s broken by what I would wager is the wheel Ristić “salvaged from shallow waters in the Adriatic” and interacted with using “wooden sea debris, electrical coffee mixer, soft xylophone stick, and a pine cone” (the extreme care and detail she puts into performances or observations that end up only occupying a few minutes of the final product is part of what makes her work so rewarding to listen to). A hesitant saxophone blares apathetic elegies, the circuits of a plastic megaphone seize and sputter, massive clanging bells are rendered small and soft by distance. The shape of humanity—personhood—is here, but it is merely traced, outlined, an “empty” socket one must fill themselves; thankfully, here one size fits all.

Review: Azoikum – Aural Purgatory (Oxidation, Sep 15)

In addition to me always being a sucker for Bosch or Bosch-inspired paintings repurposed as album covers (and regardless of my bias, Christ’s Descent Into Hell is indisputably a good choice for this music both visually and thematically), the opening track on Stefan Widmann’s newest tape as Azoikum gives name to a sensation I’ve described here many times before, but never summarized quite so succinctly: “Love at First Stab.” Not all harsh noise “stabs,” per se, but a great deal of it thrashes into existence with the auditory equivalent of one, and so I’ll definitely be using that phrase from now on. Aural Purgatory—the physical cassette edition for which is “[p]ackaged in old fence parts and hardware cloth. Not safe for children”—doesn’t do much stabbing either; if anything it resides more in the potential consequences of such an action, death and decomposition and damnation. Widmann wields both trickles and torrents of diseased noise distended with the sickly gastric gases of decay, coaxing them into scalding scrap-metal screech in “Hammered Into Your Tympanum” then allowing it all to bloat and swell into enveloping sludge for “HN Frenzy.” I originally expected “Phrenesis Descends” and its sluggish smolder like the sound of mass soul-incineration to be a clear favorite, but as soon as the title track hit it was love at first stab (☺). Plenty loud and lush enough to drown out one’s surroundings without putting the eardrums through too much torture.

Review: Velo Misere – Monomanía del Inexorable Vacío (Nebular Carcoma, Sep 15)

Spanish quintet Velo Misere’s first two releases—Compendio de Trágicos Presagios (2017) and Genealogía del Eterno Desasosiego (2018), collected on Retrospectiva de la Fatalidad in 2019 by (now seemingly defunct?) Death Kvlt Productions—immediately cemented them as eminent figureheads with regard to both of contemporary black metal’s often paradoxical primary objectives: paying tribute to past classics and breaking new ground. Especially on their spectacular new LP Monomanía del Inexorable Vacío, the band has finetuned an infectious combination of murky lo-fi production and stylistic dexterity that firmly plants feet (hooves) in both new and old; the blurring blasts and painterly tremolo riff washes echo widely (and criminally) neglected Madrid forebears Primigenium, while rawer, more desperate shrieks and the dark, swollen undercurrent of the void point toward much more recent work put out by labels like Amor Fati and Debemur Morti. The backbone of this record is the masterful tension-and-release movements harnessed by drummer “G.”—hypnotic hi-hats on “Ente de Muerte,” organic oscillations between propulsive double-bass gallop and exhilarating halftime sludge on “Quietud,” cascading tom fills that sound like majestic cosmic-staircase descents on “El Devenir”—all of it unifying an unhinged nocturnal chaos that pitches, pirouettes, and pummels with equal measure. To me this feels somewhat more accessible than the Retrospectiva, but no less gloriously enshrouding. See you in the shadows.

Review: Filter Body – Filter Body 2 (218, Sep 13)

What is a podcast? It doesn’t seem like too elusive of a classification, but even if hard pressed I’m not sure what definition I would give; for me, at least, it seems easier to simply determine what is or isn’t a podcast. And, despite it being tagged as such on Bandcamp—even offering the playback-speed change option exclusive to “non-musical” content—I imagine most podcast listeners would deny Filter Body’s claim. Though the spoken elements (conveyed close to the microphone with breathy, mouth sound–filled intimacy) are certainly among its most conspicuous ingredients, the majority of “Cactus Hotel,” the sole track that comprises the duo of Patrick Totally and Agate Flow’s sophomore release, is entirely without words and speech. There are warbling synthesizers, snatches of quotidian field recordings, agile glitch contortions, endorsements, broken beats, and many other abstractions framing the central narrative of the speaker’s specific memory, so much so to the point that they surpass being a “frame” and instead have clawed their way onto equal footing with actual intelligible language: and so, sure, “podcast” it is. Another salient feature is the squeaking dog toy that occupies much of the piece’s duration, ironically one of the most stable currents threaded throughout, as many of the others are constantly marred by jarring cuts and comminglings. Narratively, it makes little sense as a whole, but if you know me at all you can probably guess that’s what I love about it, because that “little” bit is impossibly fulfilling and addictive.

Review: Chuy – Chuy (PresserNoise, Sep 13)

From the San Gabriel Valley in California flows this sludgy, sprawling mess of slipshod tabletop noise that, for all of its sluggish loop orchestras and mucked-up exhumed melodies and sleazy static, makes me feel alive. Though Jesus Gomez is far from the first Jesus to go by the more concise nickname Chuy, this seems to be the first release from him under the moniker; since the material included on this self-titled cassette was recorded back in May 2020, the pandemic may have been a hindrance to getting the project off the ground. Regardless of where or how the artist is now, this is an exhilarating an ambitious inaugural statement, and throughout its nearly 80 minutes I consistently feel the familiar regret of not being able to witness it being tracked live. Each of the half-slabs are in turn roughly hewn into two parts of 17-19 minutes each, but the divisions feel pretty arbitrary—and I like that they do, because it feeds even more into the entertaining sense of deliberation and fluidity with which Gomez performed this set. Despite the length, his (presumably) spontaneous compositions don’t fall into episodic territory—i.e., the artist simply working through all of their soundmaking tools in a dull, linear way, which I’ve unfortunately witnessed more than a few times—but instead organically swell and swarm from stew to stew, each one a dense, steaming jumble of a little bit of everything amplified to the max. A spectacularly swampy adventure well worth your precious time.