“What do you think of music? Did it help?”
Durham-based Surrey transplant Dan Melchior has been making music for more than two decades now, which makes it all the more significant of a statement when I say I Bet You’ve Got Some Good Stories may be his crowning achievement. Though tightly (in the loosest sense of the word) anchored by a distinct, developed sound and Melchior’s deadpan spoken vocals, this fourth LP from the inimitable project—that also features Anthony Allman of El Jesus de Magico, Russell Walker of Charcoal Owls and the False Face Society, and Primitive Radio Gods member Johnny Brewton—plays like a retrospective love letter to lo-fi music as a tradition, evoking in turn everything from Beta Band and Sebadoh to Half Japanese and Strapping Fieldhands. A Shadow Ring comparison is almost impossible to avoid due to Melchior’s still-intact accent telling circular tales of tedium and the repetitive, simplistic instrumentals, but I bring it up as more of an endorsement than an analysis, because the Lloyd Pack’s brand of irreverent anti-rock is entirely its own, fresh and fecund and, above all, fun.
While “Sue Ryder” is a relatively conventional opener, complete with headbob-worthy acoustic strumming and idle musings on middle age, the ensuing tracks on the A side bring the weirdness hot ‘n ready: basement-cabaret singalongs on “Australia,” stereo-spanning percussion skitters beneath hypnotic harmonies on “Water Biography Babies,” plucky toy electronics on “Swaddling Jokes.” Each piece is its own stumbling, surreal experience, peddling bristles and beauty in equal measure, so it’s impossible to pick a favorite; maybe “I Have a Client Waiting” with its dirgelike xylophone plod or the atmospheric, Ivor Cutler–esque “I Won’t Hit Easter,” but why bother? There’s plenty else to think about, like what the fuck “swaddling jokes” are. In conclusion, the stories are indeed good! Listen in! You won’t be forgetting these songs anytime soon.
It’s been a while since I heard anything new from Rose Sobchak, the flagship alias of Moscow’s Aleksandr Cheskidov; a few years, in fact. It seems the project has taken a new direction during that time, leaving behind the straightforward, loud analog churn of the 2019 untitled CD-R on Heart Shaped Box in favor of a more stifled, sleazy atmosphere in the vein of Legless, Sissisters, or many of Chris Conroy’s various aliases. (In other words, to quote the release page of love shy clown, “Smart harsh noise […] decided to be a little sad.”) Though audibly recorded straight to tape—if it’s not a four track I’ll eat my Rat—Intangible Asset somehow feels remarkably well-suited for a digital-only netlabel release, especially one made freely available on archive.org. It’s all over the place and yet still quite focused, the disparate anemic assaults of feedback squeal, chunky pedal-chain bursts, radio grabs, and home-glued junk electronics threaded together by the fuzzy, limiting fidelity in which all is swathed. The first untitled piece is a bit odd on initial listen, broken up by several lengthy pauses that at first seem more like dead air between tracks than suspenseful stop/starts, but in no time at all I came to greatly appreciate it for how it obfuscates and loosens everything, especially in conjunction with the following track, the misdirect-opening of which is probably the release’s finest moment. The ten-minute closer is the most traditionally harsh of the four, and it is excellent, the final damning piece of evidence that Intangible Assert is really something special.
It was sad news last month when London deconstructed rock trio Mosquitoes announced they’re closing up shop, issuing the Outlines / Infinity Fault 7″ on Digital Regress as their final recording. How good those two tracks are alone makes a non-negligible dent in the gaping vacuum the legendary project left, and less than month later there’s an even more expansive step forward in this resolutely singular realm of avant-garde music, one that, at least for now, isn’t an endpoint. But, much like Peter Blundell and Dominic Goodman’s previous material as Komare, there is plenty of “end” throughout Grace to Breathe That Void—and, in fact, “end” is even more apropos, because the tape’s title is taken from Ill Seen Ill Said, one of The End author Samuel Beckett’s later prose works. This connection isn’t necessarily new, either; I brought up Beckett in my review of the duo’s LP The Sense of Hearing, not due to any explicit link but because there are very few, if any, other comparisons to make when artists venture this far into the nothingness.
Ill Seen Ill Said is full (empty?) of the near-subjectless ontological meditations for which the late author is renowned, but it tellingly begins with humanity, however removed, a “she” that both exists and observes: “All this in the present as had she the misfortune to be still of this world” (7). Similarly, Grace to Breathe That Void never leaves the human nor the human-adjacent completely behind, even as it burrows deeper and deeper into total abstraction. Blundell’s vocals are the most purely textural they’ve ever been, curling in from the corners of the left and right channels like creeping shadows, conversing with and fending off queasy timbral twinges and errant ambience. Birdsong also plays a curiously prominent role, its trembling presence emphasizing the wrongness with which these disparate pieces of familiarity are sewn together. The third unnamed track, though the briefest, is also one of the most succinctly atmospheric, smearing something that was once concrete into ephemeral rays of sickly light, now evoking the scraping shovels of metaphysical graverobbers or the desperate rattling of a cosmic cage. And in a (perhaps unsurprising) final twist, the arguably optimistic closing of Ill Seen Ill Said, from which the titular phrase comes—“No. One moment more. One last. Grace to breathe that void. Know happiness” (59)—is subverted in favor of harrowing, delirious monotony… Grace to Breathe That Void. No happiness.
Ducks are slippery creatures (and not just because our lakes and rivers are at least 50% oil by now). As lowly humans it’s difficult for us to fathom such power, so most make the rookie mistake of underestimating our webfooted planetmates, tossing them stale chunks of bread and other food that’s terrible for them in a last ditch effort to maintain authority. And it works, for a bit, until you come home and find the remains of everyone you’ve ever loved broken and twisted together into a gruesome, gory throne, your true overlord quacking atop it; and as he cocks his head to the side and opens his bill, this is what you hear: wing-activated pedal gnash cranked high in the red, squawking sheets of feedback, the end of everything.
Despite being a remote process/remix project like some of Mallard Theory’s other recent collaborations—e.g., the the B-side track with NJ9842 (RIP) on April’s Muscovy Supremacy and [redacted] with Audible XXY in this very Detachment batch—A Duck’s Building Constructed Out of the Bones of Its Enemies somehow sounds significantly more visceral and direct-action. Both sides are stuffed full with densely packed howl and crunch, but “No Regrets When the Mallard Reaper Cuts,” comprising a Mallard mix of Lackthrow source material, is segmented and hyperactive, operating in the most turgid territory of the cut-up spectrum. “Duck’s Weapons of Destruction,” on the other hand, is no-holds-barred wallish harsh onslaught, Lackthrow whipping up whatever Mallard sent over into a maelstrom of delay chop, contact mic squall, and tectonic rumble. C16s almost always have high replayability, but this one is on a new level. Definitely not just Flockholm syndrome either. I swear.
There are a few reasons why I’m catching up on these mid-May releases so late; the most relevant to me at the moment is that I’ve been out sick the past week, but even beyond that a lot of material just takes longer to reach me now. Whether you’re an artist, label, or distro, please send me stuff (can be digital or physical). I want to build and grow a mutually beneficial network now more than ever.
Based in New York since 2013, sound researcher and performer Devin DiSanto has sporadically but deliberately crafted a select body of work focusing on objects, space, timing, and choice. Earlier projects like his duo CDs on Erstwhile with Nick Hoffmann and Taku Unami sketch preliminary formulations of a distinct style, but nothing I’ve heard has been as fully realized as Waiting and Counting: Domestic Ritual for the Stereo Field, DiSanto’s first full-length solo effort in nearly a decade. Released as a handsome CD run by South Korea’s newly minted Rope Editions, Waiting and Counting, in the artist’s own words, “is based around a performance determined by a partial system of cues (max patch) that occur ‘randomly’ and are intended to be listened for and responded to by a performer or small group. This activity is occasionally juxtaposed with brief sections of recordings from different waiting areas I’ve made over the years.”
The allure of DiSanto’s music has always been its algorithmic nature, sound with a core of simple mechanisms that radiates much more complex consequences, and these 15 short pieces are humbly illustrative examples. “A” and the other letter-titled segments are granular exhumations of the original sessions, their plasticine texture-stretch and spatial inversions adding further dimensions to the unmanipulated numbered extracts, which range from supermarket and sine-tone ambience (“1”) to sparse shuffle and clutter (“8”). With the simultaneous preoccupation by what’s happening inside and outside of the performance, I’m reminded of comparably radical documents like Eric Laska’s Presets & Studies or Jean-Luc Guionnet and Thomas Tilly’s Stones, Air, Axioms / Delme: down-to earth, democratic sound art with one ear to the ground and the other to the sky.