Review: Hardworking Families – Eight Knots Bathing (Chocolate Monk, Feb 12)

If they maintain the schedule that’s been steadily expanding since the turn of the century, the Monk will reach choc.600 by the end of 2023, and be well on the way to 1000 at the decade’s close. The beloved label’s endlessly circulating potpourri of new music is always more buffet than multi-course sitdown, offering up oodles of options for those whose honkers are drawn to the smell of must and spittle (but of course no champion chomper will be left unsatisfied should they devour it all). Some artists’ work is on the whole more at home here—Cody Brant, Bob Desaulniers, and Shareholder are some personal favorites of the usual suspects—but with a CM rag any and all roads seem to lead to the same nexus of oddness. Eight Knots Bathing is Hardworking Families’ first tack on the Chocolate board and also a fresh next step, migrating from the humming micro-electronics of the past few releases to an anything-goes collage approach that revives the raucousness of stuff like BA / LS / BN. It’s more lackadaisical than that one, though, lethargic almost, as stumbling and sluggish as it is spry and spacious. Opening cut “Last Day” is the longest of the titular eight knots and also perhaps the most memorable, dual-functioning as a sampler for the countless textures and locales we’ll visit in the ensuing seven. While loose, the sound-stitching isn’t particularly careless or overtly surreal, nor are any of the recordings themselves processed beyond recognition, and yet there is a sort of dream-logic that prevails over the proceedings, a frail fugue that ends in beautiful, warm quietude with “Firle Harmonics.” Many thanks to Constance/Nyoukis and their confessed “pestering” that made this disc happen—it was worth it.


Been wondering why I haven’t posted a mix (or anything, really) in a while? It’s because I was working on this. In the unlikely event I’m ever hired for a DJ gig this is a good approximation of what I would play. I’m no virtuoso by any means—no seamless beatmatching or spot mashups here—but each and every one of these tracks does the work for me by being irresistibly danceable. To me, that is; I hope you agree.

Note: I use “trance” to reference a vibe or atmosphere rather than the actual genre. No Shpongle or Hallucinogen, don’t worry. 

00:00. The Lift Boys – “Kazoo of Zero” from Tide Y Edit (self-released, 2012)

02:20. Food Pyramid – “I Know What I Saw” from Mango Sunrise (Moon Glyph, 2012)

07:32. Aqatuki – “Pop” from Aqatuki II (IQAS / 5bit, 2019)

11:07. Dachambo – “Picadelia” from Aphrodelic Ngoma (Pleasure-Crux, 2004)

20:08. Soft – “Singing Mirror Ball” from Sun Box (Comma, 1999)

33:01. Juzu a.k.a. Moochy – “Oneness” from Re​:Momentos Movements ‎(Crosspoint, 2010)

38:57. Polmo Polpo – “Riva” from The Science of Breath (Substractif, 2002)

48:12. Nisennenmondai – “B-1” [You Ishihara Mix] from self-titled 12″ (Zelone, 2013)

56:51. Buffalo Daughter – “Cyclic” from Pshychic (V2, 2003)

64:53. Kinocosmo – “Caveman Rebirth” from Caveman (Hypnodisk, 2005)

71:08. Guitoo – “Ruby” from Cyclotron (A.K.A. / WEA, 1999)

76:29. Boredoms – “Ω” [excerpt] from Vision Creation Newsun (A.K.A. / WEA, 1999)

78:36. Ukiashi – “Forestom” from The Ground Swell compilation CD (Anoyo, 2000)

85:22. EYE – “777” from Experience: Psy-Harmonics Volume V compilation CD (2001)

87:20. AOA – “New Bravo” from Domegapeace (Comma / Music Mine, 1999)

95:01. Fuck Buttons – “Olympians” from Tarot Sport (ATP, 2009)

Review: Matthias Urban – Intermission (Ultraviolet Light, Jan 30)

With still-memorable past releases such as SiAl and Half-Silvered Mirror, Austria’s Matthias Urban has established himself as a maestro of immersive, meticulously detailed sound of all sorts, from the more direct phonographic approach of the former to the lush concrète assemblage of the latter. The artist’s most recent tape was just released at the end of last month by Ultraviolet Light, and though the new material unsurprisingly clears the high bars set by its predecessors, it is also very fittingly UVL (i.e., ambitious, posthuman, utterly unlike anything you’ve heard before). With a straightforward enough mission statement—“Collages of algorithmic compositions, saxophone / voice / prepared piano improvisations and AI human-machine interactions. Realized and processed with MaxMSP, various other DSP, ASC tape recorders and chemical tape treatment”—Intermission is indeed once again concerned with space and scale, an almost gleeful dismantling of the boundaries between the smallness of individual objects/instruments and the staggering size of the dissonant Katamaris they’re rolled into. Even when the more conventional harmonics of the sax and key fragments come into focus, Urban’s ear is always for the tactile, sending percussive textures askitter whether he’s performing or processing.

Review: Witches Bitches – Witches Bitches (self-released, Feb 2)

Witches Bitches. Witches Bitches Witches Bitches. Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches Witches Bitches. WITCHES B

Had to get that out of my system first. But there is something thematically relevant about a phrase or sound invoked ad nauseam to the point that its once-intact meaning starts to slough away. The anonymous Polish newcomers’ approach isn’t strictly repetitive or nonconversational a la early AMM, though they do generate austere rackets as intense and insurmountable as the Gare-heavy bonus tracks on the 1966 CD release; nor do they seem to concern themselves with conventional improvisation tropes, rejecting tried and true structural stencils for obtuse, uncooperative cacophony. In this debut set the unknown number of participants (sax? electric guitar? ritual sacrifice???) seem to at once extricate and embrace beauty in their individual contributions, in all appearances actively trying not to build toward anything yet also not shying away if it happens on its own. Ravaged by constant artifacting and distortion, the lo-bit recording is unruly in a truly essential way, filled with countless contradictions of which I’ve only acknowledged a few. This is the music we were always warned about.

Review: Chad M. Clark – Vast Mass (Distant Taxa, Feb 3)

Vast Mass, perhaps even more so than its equally catchily named and colorfully covered predecessor Cashmere Spheres, is consistent with a wider trend in post-Bailey “total guitar” improvisation of engaging not only with the full extent of the instrument’s physical soundmaking potential, but also with external sounds and textures that align with the central action—Ash Cooke/Chow Mwng dubbed his own particular approach “Gwrth-gitâr,” drawing in chunks of inspiration and serendipity from outdoor environments and nonmusical objects. Chicago’s Chad M. Clark shapes even more complexity through the use of multitracking, overlaying, and collaging, stuffing each track full of countless layers that nonetheless seem to have sprung from the same place. Even when brief flurries of sax skronk or frantic arco surface in the stew, even when the spiderleg bridge taps and rattling plectrum scrapes feel so alien they couldn’t possibly have been produced with a guitar, every audible sound embodies and emphasizes the central, irresistible tension that keeps ear after ear returning to records like Aida more than forty years later (and who knows, probably this one forty years on): the strain and wrack of strings stretched taut, the aching gasp of a half-formed harmonic, the creaking breath of the wood itself.

Review: Vid Edda – T.O. (Sensorisk Verden, Jan 27)

Vid Edda’s tenure has largely unfolded alongside the operation of small-batch specialty imprint Sensorisk Verden, run by Alexander Holm, one half of the Copenhagen duo with Chris Shields (Ro). Fittingly, the restrained eclecticism of their approach to electroacoustic music is almost a comprehensive synthesis of everything SV is concerned with, represented more specifically by other artists and projects: vocal abstraction and text-sound (Claus Haxholm/Soft Items), acoustic drone (Tabloid), spectral soundscaping (Vincent Yuen Ruiz), etc. It’s been more than four years since the sleeper hit Geneves Mi Sansi on Anathema Archive, and T.O. is accordingly novel and fresh-sounding, without the sketchbook scatter of its predecessor; the immersive texture collages, still always toeing the line between analog and digital concrète, reveal a new interest in sound design and spatiality, to the point where I could see many of these pieces (especially “Skygge Flakser”) being just as mesmerizing as multichannel acousmatic installations as they are through regular speakers or headphones. I suppose that’s always sort of been the appeal of Vid Edda, the unique double dose of warm-blooded human input and austere computer-based processing, but T.O. climbs to new levels of singularity. What is voice, and what is just sound? Is that even a meaningful distinction to make?