Unsurprisingly, the music on Bad Memory Pillow is just as, if not more, cryptic than its enigmatic title and cover art. I don’t know much about Yrii Samoilove—other than that as an artist he is quite prolific, having put out over 19 releases in just the last two years—so I can’t speak to how Bad Memory Pillow fits in with the rest of his discography, but on its own it is a bewildering journey through a very singular method of sound processing. Samoilove’s abstract constructions hover just on the edge of familiarity, but anything organic is coated by a layer of artificiality that causes the music to reside in a sort of sonic uncanny valley. Alien electronic transmissions, distorted low frequency rumbles, and uncanny, organ-like synth patches (or maybe it’s an actual organ that’s been manipulated, I really can’t tell) trace out a space with a distinct structure but barely a semblance of anything recognizable. Also threaded throughout these stuttering, simmering pieces are what sound like field recordings that have been plasticized, stripped of their evocative properties and enclosed in an ersatz shell. I’m still unsure of what Samoilove is referring to with the phrase “bad memory pillow,” but after wading through this bizarre release that’s the least of my concerns.
On Soundtracks, sound artist Patrick Gallagher once again demonstrates the virtuosic control he exerts over an array of abstract sound objects. This new release feels much more moist and earthy than last year’s Eye Teeth LP, and though I’m never certain just how much of Gallagher’s music is composed or improvised, it also seems less instantaneous. Something that both releases share, though, is a palpable physicality, and on Soundtracks, as the label’s description states, a variety of “liminal psychic spaces” are explored. On “There Is No Set Process,” a battle between pleasantness and discomfort rages, as soothing, slightly wavering organ drones, footsteps on old wood floors, and clanging bells temper an otherwise uneasy mixture of closely recorded mouth sounds, distant rattles, and dissonant string plucks. Within the dense, dark sound-world of “Clearing” the discomfort definitely wins out, and the result is a shifting piece that moves like a series of languorous inhales and exhales. Something else that returns from Eye Teeth, especially in the case of “Clearing,” is Gallagher’s deliberate, sublime use of silence, which allows for the music to unfold into an even more expansive space.
Woven throughout the unrelenting onslaughts of nightmarish, fire-blackened dread that comprise Hrůza Zvítězí are moments of hope, small glimmers of light amidst the consuming darkness. But the futile fleetingness of these moments ends up making the profound anxiety that coils itself around Czech solo project Kostnatění’s debut full-length even more oppressive; the complex, labyrinthine dissonance that lies within the heart of each of these tracks claws and drags at any attempt for conventional harmonic beauty, plaguing major-key lead guitar lines with queasy accidentals and falters that prevent them from climbing too far above the murk. According to D.L., the sole member of Kostnatění, Hrůza Zvítězí was a cathartic outlet for uncontrollable feelings of panic and fear of death that caused them to live within “a constant suffocating dread,” an emotional state that is evoked remarkably well by every carefully placed occult chant, droning guitar riff, or driving blast beat. From the infernal amalgam of textures achieved with the addition of trumpet in the title track to the brutally angular introduction of “Jedna generace” to the climbing bass lines and scalding noise augmentations of “Donekonečna v přítomném čase,” Hrůza Zvítězí displays both stellar musicianship and stunning emotional clarity.
The practice of desconstruction is something that’s quite prevalent in the contemporary experimental music arena, with artists contorting genres into increasingly abstract formations to find new, exciting possibilities. It’s something I’ve made an attempt to document here on this site, from Faxada’s EDM meat grinder Paraa (which occupies a level of removal even further from artists described as “deconstructed club”) to Mosquitoes’ shattering of rock music on Drip Water Hollow Out Stone to Cavatus & PKWST’s terrifying gore sculpture Ruins of Bronzemaw to even the fragmented American traditions strewn beneath the music of Buck Young. The next step is the pop vivisection of sneeze awfull, something I came across on Bandcamp completely randomly. The page has little extra-musical information other than a handful of acknowledgments and a sparse cover collage that’s both cute and unsettling—a disparate pair of adjectives which, it turns out, also describe the music itself. The mysterious group (I assume it’s more than one person due to the use of “us” in the description) smashes together an endless variety of melodies, sounds, and textures across the six tracks on their self-titled cassette, imbuing what might once have been somewhat accessible synthpop tunes with acrobatic found sound mishmashes and synthetic concrète processing. Each song flits from catchiness to complete mayhem in its own way, whether its a field recording sandwiched between stunning glitch-pop sections on “don’t evaporate” or the stabbing strings and distorted anguish that leads into the soothing coda of “learning how to cry,” demonstrating the incredible results when music so clearly defined by convention is completely dissected and rearranged.
I’m really not at all sure what is going on in Obra Abstracta Académica (which translates to “abstract academic work”). The short release appears to be a compilation of both live and studio performances, though it’s difficult to discern where and how each was recorded because this uncultured loser is unable to read absolutely any Spanish. The enigmatic moniker Curxs seems to be the creative alias of Camilo C. Cárdenas, who on Obra Abstracta Académica employs the talents of several other artists to perform an eclectic variety of liminal electronic music. Most of the tracks are quite short, which leads to the album becoming a sort of delirious collage of ideas, from the slightly occult folkisms of “Intento comunicacional nº1” (“communication attempt”) to the futuristic mechanical bubblings of “Almóh Addháa” (the latter of which blurs the line between audience and performer as the applause seems to becomes assimilated into the piece). As we progress through the studio tracks the elevated level of fidelity allows Curxs’ ambitious compositions to adopt an even more formidable and confusing presence, uncoiling strands of synthetic electronica, quirky vocal abstractions, field recording intervention, and dizzying percussion. It’s a short but almost overwhelmingly varied collection, but presiding over it all is a strangely comforting spectral atmosphere (undoubtedly helped along by the cover art).
Pressing vinyl is not cheap. For small independent labels like Jason Crumer and Zoe Burke’s No Rent Records (and John Gardner’s Wonderland Media, with whom the physical release of Buck II is split), a vinyl release is often an infrequent luxury, a special occasion to celebrate something important, something worthy of a larger physical presence. Of the three LPs that No Rent has put out so far, Crumer and Burke’s eclectic project Buck Young is behind two, spreading their sprawling collages of Americana and country-folk, scrabbling tape manipulation, blasting noise, and a host of other styles across 2017’s Proud Trash Sound (reviewed here) and now Buck II: Where Do You Want It? This two-record set expands upon and outdoes its predecessor in virtually every facet, boasting a longer list of collaborators, forty more minutes of material, and an even more insane cover design. But despite its ambitious expansion, the project’s sophomore release in no way abandons the attention to detail, elusive warmth, and well-placed moments of beauty that made Proud Trash Sound so special (the heartbreaking elegy “Murdoch” still never fails to make me tear up).
The slide guitar ambience that’s peppered throughout offers a basis for both steady pacing and an overall more reserved atmosphere—which, based on the aggressively colorful, hallucinatory cover art, I was definitely not expecting. And each artist that lends their talents to the album shines in their own way. As soon as the first outburst of piercing feedback hit on “Woke Up in Reno,” I smiled to myself knowing this is so undeniably a Crumer project; Joseph Hammer’s stuttering tape yanks are a constant source of both humor and affecting fragility; Zoe Burke’s sardonic country stomp is back with force on “Ballad of Bruce McCain,” and she brings some amazing Western vocal grit on “Long Distance Phone Call”; and I believe Alan Jones contributes much of the guitar work, clatters and twangs and noodlings that stitch everything together. Making the album even more of a team effort are the other musicians—Vanessa Rossetto, Rose Rae, Richard Dunn, Wyatt Howland, Waylon Riffs—that spike the already diverse stylistic cocktail with their own flavors. Even at 72 minutes, Buck II never overstays its welcome—though time does seem to stop within the arresting confines of “Scorpion”—and the fantastically strong set of four tracks that closes it out simultaneously wrap everything up and remind you how much there is to love about this truly unique sound that Crumer, Burke, and company have achieved.
“No Rent stocks the black vinyl, tapes and CDs. For wholesale and color vinyl inquiries please visit Wonderland Media.”
Convergence Zone is certainly less noisy and abrasive than Nima Aghiani’s previous release, his 2018 solo debut REMS on Purple Tape Pedigree, but it is by no means any less disconcerting. Though Aghiani seeks a more meditative and even calmer atmosphere with the approach he takes on this new EP—this time around, the sounds extracted from conventional instruments are often at the forefront, giving Convergence Zone a sort of deconstructed band feel at times as string drones wail and percussion samples are split open and spread out like a citrus peel—those feelings of massiveness, claustrophobia, and threatening tension are still present beneath the densely constructed compositions. “Humachine” is a (relatively, of course) accessible opener, stringing taut cables of electronic noise and violin over a complex rhythm loop that, despite that complexity, provides a concrete handhold for the listener. Further in the vein of accessibility, there are some truly beautiful moments on this EP, from the drifting melodies of “In the Flesh” to the simmering, nocturnal majesty of “Attract/Repulse,” but true to form Aghiani is always ready to dismantle any comfort, this time with the harrowing dissonance and punishing drone of “Submit, Defy.” The conclusion of this final track is probably my favorite thing in all of Convergence Zone, falling somewhere in between the unforgiving darkness and bright sublimity that are explored throughout.