Review: Max Nordile – Copper in the Arts (Gilgongo, Apr 14)

Though I don’t own many myself, I have to say a 12″ lathe is a fitting format for what might be Max Nordile’s best release to date, music and medium sharing a crude, homespun charisma. The famed Oakland-based junk-sound purveyor is usually working on multiple collaborative projects at any given time, but his most memorable work is often solo under Hair Clinic, his own name, or both, and in many ways Copper in the Arts is the culmination of all of it. All the usual suspects—wailing, broken sax ditties; dingy drones; tape-muffled clatter of knickknacks and doodads; fleeting environs—show up in spades across both distinct yet complementary sides of the slightly oversized slab, and while I’m not 100% sure which side is A (“Rats Are the Souls of Dead Landlords”) and which is B (title track) I can still say both are wonderful. The choppy lo-fi recordings seem specifically designed to blur and blend with the churning distortion of the lathe cut, often to the point of sounding like it’s stuck on a locked groove before some subtle new element starts to creep in. It’s both a tragedy and a blessing that this edition of fifty hasn’t sold out yet—go forth and support one of the best artists and one of the best labels doing it at the moment!

Review: Pentode – Ambiens (Djezmusic, Apr 4)

The most recent—and my favorite—of the four downloadable albums Pentode has already released in 2023, Ambiens is in many ways the opposite of my surroundings today. The air is warm and the people moving through it even warmer, yet these eight exactly-four-minute tracks are cool and crystalline. But their stochastically generated, near-static presence is distilled (and nonintrusive) enough to be either undercurrent or contrast for the heat they don’t possess themselves: a rare breeze in the scorching dryness or the freezer you recline against when the AC isn’t cutting it. Though there is some amount of artistic input with regard to the quantity of recordings and their uniform length, mostly the automatic output is left to its own devices, the start of each section marking a subtle shift in atmosphere, temperature, or tonality. In one of the best examples of this, the final bit ditches the digital crackle for smooth, soothing tones tied in a loop of lulling rhythm, fit to either put one to sleep or the exact opposite. A great option for anyone looking for stasis that doesn’t demand patience.

Mix: Weaving, Woven

This is a multimedia mix, in several senses. Attempts at documenting, dissecting, or preserving a practice that can be both art and artifice, empowering and oppressive, individual and industrial. 

00:00. Audio from opening sequence of La Libertad (dir. Laura Huertas Millán, 2017)

01:36. Sound Diaries – “Cumbrian Loom” / “Estonian Loom” (2012)

02:39. Agente Costura – “Maskerade Brigade” from re:flections 04 07 20 compilation (Attenuation Circuit, 2020)

05:51. Andrea Borghi – Tistre #3 (Dinzu Artefacts, 2019)

11:42. Shirts – seventh untitled track from Shirt Noise (Moon Myst Music, 2020)

17:53. Leo Correia de Verdier – “Stygn” [excerpt]

22:21. Kelly Ruth – “Nascent” from Forms (Pseudo Laboratories, 2019)

26:28. Natalia Beylis – Variations on a Sewing Machine no. 3 (Beartown, 2022)

30:41. James Wyness – “Textility” from Dead Sound Ethnographics (self-released, 2016)

36:50. Michal Fojcik – “Weaving Workshop” (2014)

37:30. Audio from opening sequence of The Woven Sounds demo (dir. Mehdi Aminian, 2019)

Further Reading/Viewing

Woman Interwoven documentary series

Mika Tajima, Negative Entropy

Paola Torres Núñez del Prado, Cross-Cultural Tangible Interfaces as Phenomenological Artifacts

Jodie Mack, The Grand Bizarre

Rajee Samarasinghe, Foreign Quarters

Review: Adriano Cava – Lineology (Mahorka, Mar 25)

Though Italy is home to a seemingly endless list of pioneering sound artists, any stylistic homogeneity among them is practically nonexistent. The work of Turin’s Adriano Cava illustrates well the general emotional and cathartic approach to concrete music that makes the country’s role in the global scene impossible to overlook; leading up to Lineology, the artist has been steadily refining a simple palette of muffled tape recordings, melody, and subtle processing, and perhaps here more than anywhere else they coalesce into a haunting, delicate sort of ambient electronica whose layered beauty sacrifices neither ease nor edge. Though both “Digital Lines” and “Magnetic Lines”—each a four-part, 25ish-minute suite—tend more toward a synthetic atmosphere than an organic one, there’s a profound human element present, a deep but nonspecific nostalgia that lets the soundscapes resonate far beyond just their dynamic movements and textural intricacies. The final section of “Magnetic Lines” is a fantastic conclusion, somehow delivering the album’s most conventionally pretty moments through spectral shimmer and bit-rotted digital loops. As if anyone needed yet another reason to support Mahorka—one of several labels that puts out music as both quality physical copies and free Creative Commons downloads—but here’s one anyway.