Review: Hundreds of AU – Mission Priorities on Launch (Middle-Man, Jul 15)

The avalanche of emotional hardcore assaults that comprises Mission Priorities on Launch brings a new meaning to the phrase “wall of sound.” The album’s production places all elements of the New Jersey quartet’s music on equal footing, wrapping the gorgeous guitar harmonies, pained screams, and propulsive drumming in a single, perfectly muddy package. There’s no way Hundreds of AU’s masterful balance of eviscerating emoviolence and impassioned, melodic crescendos could be better communicated; transitions that may have been jarring otherwise, like the progression from the ecstatic anthem climax of “Thruway” into the much harsher “No Sweet Home,” are made to sound natural and cohesive. Mission Priorities on Launch is a short album, clocking in at around 23 minutes, but the extended stretches of third wave post-rock-esque dynamic build-ups don’t feel like they slow anything down—mostly because the things they build to are absolutely stunning. “The End Result” is a very fitting title for a song with one of the most exhilarating payoffs I’ve heard in this sort of music in a long time.

Review: Mordan Jaikel – Dress for Success (Mascarpone Discos, Jul 19)

I know absolutely nothing about Mordan Jaikel other than their name and that they make some of the most creative, eclectic collage music out there right now. After three fantastic cassettes on Mascarpone—True HistorySoul Confusionand Open Your Lie—we have the arrival of the enigmatic artist’s longest and most ambitious release yet. Dress for Success, a wonderfully sprawling tape that packs 39 short vignettes into less than a half hour, brings together the best of Mordan Jaikel’s endless stylistic plunderings. It’s probably their most Residents-indebted album so far, a facet of the music that remains faithful to the legendary art collective’s paradigms rather than simply aping their singular sound, manifesting as self-aware, synthetic pop secretions with all the loveable and slightly disturbing artificiality of Commercial Album. The sporadic forays into much more abstract sonic realms are also expanded upon, with tracks like “Post-Industrial Camouflage” feeling just as developed as the bite-sized songlets they’re sandwiched between. Dress for Success is delightful and dizzying throughout its entire duration, and you’ll constantly be finding yourself trying to keep up with the frenetic changes in pace, atmosphere, and energy as each of the 39 tracks mesmerize in their own special way.

Mix: With the Flow

I actually originally made this as a mixtape for a friend of mine, but for some reason I was thinking about it today and wanted to post it. Still one of my best mixes I’ve put together, in my opinion. It collects my favorite tracks that would be best classified under the umbrella of abstract or experimental hip-hop. Enjoy.

cLOUDDEAD (who hail from my hometown of Cincinnati, OH!)

00:00. cLOUDDEAD – “Pop Song” from Ten (Big Dada Recordings, 2003)

05:27. E L U C I D – “Hyssop” from Shit Don’t Rhyme No More (self-released, 2018)

08:26. Deep Puddle Dynamics – “June 26th, 1999 (Purpose)” from The Taste of Rain… Why Kneel (Anticon, 1999)

11:48. Coin Locker Kid – “Inquisitor.” from The Ghost Sonata (self-released, 2012)

15:26. Aceyalone – “The Catch” from A Book of Human Language (Project Blowed, 1998)

16:50. P.O.S – “Purexed” from Never Better (Doomtree, 2009)

20:05. Dr. Yen Lo – “Day 777” from Days With Dr. Yen Lo (Pavlov Institute, 2015)

23:14. Spirit Agent – “Bioluminescence” from Depth Perception (Navigators Inc., 1999)

26:17. Subtle – “She” from A New White (Lex, 2004)

30:38. lojii & Swarvy – “do u (feat. Nikko Gray)” from Due Rent (Fresh Selects, 2017)

33:50. Atoms Family – “Adversity Strikes” from The Prequel (Centrifugal Phorce, 2000)

37:52. Eyedea & Abilities – “Burn Fetish” from By the Throat (Rhymesayers, 2009)

Review: Nieves Mingueza, The Humble Bee & Offthesky – All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains (IIKKI, Jul 15)

I love reviewing IIKKI releases because it gives me a chance to not only discuss both auditory and visual art, but also to process the similarities and differences between how I experience each medium. Each of the label’s releases document a dialogue between a visual artist and a musician or band—in this case, multimedia photographer Nieves Mingueza and a musical collaboration between Craig Tattersall and Jason Corder, who perform and record as The Humble Bee and Offthesky, respectively. Much like the last album from IIKKI I wrote about (Federico Durand, Anna P. Cabrera, and Angel Albarrán’s Pequeñas Melodías), the dual facets of All Other Voices Gone, Only Yours Remains unfold with amazing unity. Tattersall and Corder construct impossibly lush, gorgeous sculptures of drifting ambience, dusty crackles, and delicate string laments provided by an auxiliary group of musicians that includes saxophonist Cody Yantis and flautist Esther Hernandez. The aching fragility of the music perfectly complements Mingueza’s meticulous collages of aged photographs, masking tape, and old parchment, further evoking an atmosphere steeped in fading memory (a video of the art can be viewed on Mingueza’s website). This impermanence is recognized by my favorite two-page spread of the art book, where Mingueza obscures significant portions of poignant photographs with deliberate partitions of paper. Even absent of their other half, both the art and the music that comprise All Other Voices Gone… are among the most sublime media I’ve encountered this year, and together they accomplish something tremendous.

Review: Giovanni Lami – Raw (Cloudchamber Recordings, Jul 15)

With his uniquely total approach to reel-to-reel manipulation—the sounds of the manual actions themselves are presented alongside the dark, spectral sonic manifestations of his tape abstractions—sound artist Giovanni Lami has accomplished something very special: he has created an entirely singular musical language. I first saw this on 2016’s Bias, an all-time personal favorite that I’m pretty sure I bring up every time I review Lami’s work, where decayed tape extracts form the basis for a series of indescribable sound environments shrouded in shadow. The opening track of Raw, the Italian artist’s most recent release, recalls this distinctive palette used to create Bias; “XXXXXX,” and later “180807,” outline a fragile structure of distant, cavernous yawns surrounded by muffled clatter and stifled scratching. But though this is the longest track on the album, the remaining pieces aren’t constrained by that nocturnal atmosphere. “180824” is a much more neutral fragment and brings the disorienting sounds of reel speed finagling to the forefront of the mix, introducing an invasive tactility that carries over into “160506.” With In Chiaro / In Guardia last year, Sinalefe in February, and now this (not to mention the Hysteresis series) it boggles my mind how well Lami makes use of compact album durations. Raw is an unexpectedly colorful release despite its short length, spanning the staggering range of sonorities and headspaces that Lami is able to hop in and out of with aplomb.

Review: Шумоизоляция – Побочный Эффект (Ominous Recordings, Jul 11)

“Must be listened to at maximum volume” is such a tired request—some of us like having undamaged hearing!—I couldn’t imagine listening to Побочный Эффект (which translates to “side effect”) any other way. Over each half of the C40, Шумоизоляция crafts a mercilessly loud and abrasive wall, almost painful in their concentrated assaults, like high powered drills boring through your head. But throughout both pieces, the compact columns of abrasive, crunching noise seems to expand from its initial constraints, becoming more and more oppressive—and immersive—as they progress. The first side is relentless and infernal, and its mangled frequencies unfurl into a fiery soundscape of roiling, crackling distortion. In this first piece and the one that follows, the densely packed layers slowly reveal buried signs of instability beneath the forceful wall, restless clatters and shudders that underlie a seemingly unyielding explosion of sound. As the second track unfolds, it’s this facet that I can’t help but direct my attention too, and by the end I’m convinced that the entire thing is going to collapse under its massive weight. High,  volume gives the cathartic blasts of Побочный Эффект the thick, deafening, overwhelming presence they deserve.

Review: Lifes – Treading Water (Here and Now!, Jun 28)

Fans of the aptly named subgenre “powerviolence” will be familiar with the fact that even this more specific area of hardcore can be further parsed into various styles and scenes, whether it’s the classic thrash-infused West Coast sound (faithfully documented by the wonderful Power Violence Project), the thunderous, throaty crust punk of bands like Dead in the Dirt, or the adventurous psychedelia infusions of Gasp and Stapled Shut. Ultimately, though, the unifying factor is that feeling of suffocating, crushing weight, something that Lifes absolutely nail with their debut LP Treading Water. The band whips up an astounding racket considering that it only consists of two members, and the absence of guitar allows the crunching bass to bathe the breakneck punk explosions in oppressive, all-consuming low end. I started off by identifying some of the commonly recognized sects of powerviolence because Lifes seem to draw from them all. There’s fast-paced d-beat gallops, spazzy grind blasts, sludge breakdowns, brief moments of anthemic melody, and it’s often embellished with harsh electronic inflections that add even more layers to the already dense cacophony of anger. At around 23 minutes total, Treading Water is a furious and concise statement from a promising band.