Review: twAt klAxon – twAt klAxon (Dret Skivor, Oct 1)

It’s hard to imagine that any release that shows up on this site will ever surpass (or subvert?) the next-to-null musical value of Emergency in Six Movements (see review here). A quick cursory scrub through twAt klAxon, however, might give the impression that the curious little tape from the shadowy hideaways of Finland is the aesthetics-annihilating chosen one; over two sides of a C43, each one titled with the corresponding half of the anonymous artist’s enigmatic alias, the sole sonic feature is a single strand of crude, thick, pure-electronic output wave, most likely generated using basic no-input feedback loops based on information given in the tags (which also contain such gems as “weirdo” and “even weirder than that”). But after even just a few minutes into “twAt,” once the nearly silent ghost-sparks within the innards of the mixer (or whatever other source is being used) exponentially coalesce into a solid yet easily unseated drone that warbles and vacillates in the less conspicuous undergirds of the audible range, it becomes clear that there is something more than obstinate incessance at work here. Perhaps nudging the nobs and dials with an even sparer touch than any no-input disciple must utilize, twAt klAxon wrangles the solitary pulse with the sporadic, imprecise lasso-yanks of a disinterested rancher, pulling and rearing the sputtering hum in ways that force it to clumsily reshape itself—this sometimes creates fleeting oscillations that, depending on where you’re listening, can spar with blaring car alarms, intermittent bird chirps, or other auxiliary metronomes in bizarre rhythmic interplay. “klAxon” unfolds with much less variation, and it’s not so much a test of patience as it is a meditation: similar to the uncompromising dynamic stasis of wall noise, one gradually sees more parts of the same whole as it occupies a certain duration. Though I personally don’t have the option at the moment, I’d recommend playing this through a good speaker system if you can; deceptively simple releases like this one often reveal unexpected complexities when provided with a proper space.

Review: Recovery Center, Yantra & Astro – Orchestrations to Paradise (Korobushka, Sep 28)

There’s no doubt that Astro, the venerable solo-turned-duo project of Hiroshi and Hiroko Hasegawa, will be a familiar name to many of you; Recovery Center and Yantra, however, probably not so much. After a bit of search bar detective work a wildly cross-continental image of the creation of Orchestrations to Paradise emerges: with one musical unit in Japan, the second in the Philippines, the third in Philadelphia(?), and then the record label in the Czech Republic, this ocean-hopping collaboration is quite a feat. Blending the lush, scalding psychedelia of the Hasegawas, the haphazard junkyard industrial of Chester Masangya and Pow Martinez (RC), and the versatile custom-built electronics (I think?) of whoever the hell Yantra is, the sweeping five-part suite shudders, soars, and screeches through waves of dense, organic noise and the fragile calmness between them; each of the sections, with the conspicuous exception of Part V, begins with reserved electroacoustic murk before swelling to much larger proportions, a consistent pattern that’s more appealingly cyclical than it is boring or predictable. The brutishly maximalist affair comes to a close with the aforementioned structural reversal in the final part, a loud, lumbering disintegration on an appropriately cosmic scale.

Review: Rusz – Hell (Golden Doom, Sep 26)

Other than a dense burst of digital-only releases in May–July 2020, this tape, and Golden Doom’s introduction of them as a “four headed girl band,” information about Leipzig quartet Rusz is virtually nonexistent. This obscurity somewhat works in their favor, however; the freeform outsider punk meditations that grace both sides of Hell are even more fascinating and enigmatic when there is almost no background knowledge with which to contextualize them. Rusz instead elects to introduce themselves modestly and implicitly—i.e., via the music itself—and yet the elusive unsayables found in the friction between scrambling instrumental excursions, improvised babble and banter, messy jams that are at once rhythmic and formless, etc. probably tell us more about these musicians than words ever could. Though the band’s particular style of artful, angular rock ‘n roll sloppiness is entirely their own, there are flavors and spices from all over: the rehearsal room intimacy and fourth-wall breaks common in the Quemada roster, the anxious motorik and strained yelps of Dog Faced Hermans, no wave jitter and skronk, even the smeared dub darkness of Mosquitoes. From its murky primordial beginnings to its invigorating, almost ecstatic final moments, Hell is a ramshackle masterpiece that both harangues and hypnotizes.

Review: Libramar – Parts of Caves (self-released…?, Sep 25)

I first started getting into the No-Neck Blues Band during my last few years of high school, a time when I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and acquaintances who were as passionate about music listening and discussion as I was . . . which meant that, occasionally, I was faced with the challenge of answering an always-difficult classic question—”What do you like about this?” It’s often hard to elucidate what it actually is you enjoy about something, especially when you’re new to it and don’t know nearly as much as you think you do (I definitely was, and still am, one of the distinct species of “that kid”), but I eventually found an explanation for the appeal of No-Neck’s loose, idiosyncratic musical messes in a sort of spatial analogy: many of their recordings begin in disconnected, disparate disorder and gradually, fluidly progress into something more coherent, an approach mined by many, granted, but few to the cathartic heights of the Band. I deploy this (characteristically) long-winded introduction to give me the tools I need to express my appreciation for something newer and less familiar: Austrian duo Libramar’s second tape in a pair of debut documents, volume one of Parts of Caves (the other, released on September 23, is volume one of Dronau Canal). To record this ramshackle sheaf of tracks, Roy Culbertson III and Lucas Henao melded minds in a Vienna “dungeon” with a collaborative arsenal of synths and other electronics, percussion, and field recordings, drawing from both abstract textural sensibilities and metered tribal/ritualistic sonics to sculpt invocations of psychedelic occultism. The No-Neck comparison is probably most earned by opener “The Cage Holds It All Together,” a lengthy sprawl in which my “picking up the pieces” image is also found; though Culbertson and Henao remain eternally reticent in their use of rhythm, dynamic progression, and harmonic resolution, the tiny fragments that are present work miracles. They even somehow manage to keep me spellbound through the last second of the ultra-minimal “Beat Leftover,” and its effectiveness as a closer is a testament to the singular accomplishments made here.

Review: Joanna Mattrey – Dirge (Dear Life, Sep 24)

In addition to being a significant presence in the vast network of artists, creatives, writers, and appreciators I’ve joined in Brooklyn, violist Joanna Mattrey is one of a select but talented few musicians staking out their lot in the valley between legends Polly Bradfield and Henry Flynt, each of them combining a unique ratio of subversive extended techniques and earthen fiddle-folk simplicity to form their own approach. Unlike many of the tenants of this valley I’m fond of (Alex Cunningham, Tijana Stanković, Gabby Fluke-Mogul), Mattrey’s primary instrument is not the violin, but that doesn’t stop her from drawing all kinds of influence inside and out of the ongoing tradition of shouldered string instrument abstraction. For Dirge, however, she picks up the rare but distinctive Stroh violin (a violin primitively amplified by a flared metal trumpet bell; some real steampunk shit) to weave this delicate septet of tracks, its unusual sonic properties surrounding even the more conventional stretches with an ephemeral, almost ghostly tincture. Mattrey’s poignant, amorphous laments might resemble an actual solo dirge one might hear at a funeral at one moment and a harrowing musicalization of the raw sound of grief itself at another, but as a whole they are fundamentally indebted to the basic rhythms of human existence—inhale/exhale, heartbeat, movement both pragmatic and expressive—and reliably proceed as such, making Dirge a record that, for all of its shrieking abrasion, feels very much like home. I’m not sure anything better sums this up than “Bellows,” the brief yet memorable closer that reaches out with a welcoming embrace of distance, warmth, and light.

Review: Princesse Isabelle d’Évreux – Cogito Ergo Sum Paradox (self-released, Sep 24)

The Finns strike again, this time with the digital-only Cogito Ergo Sum Paradox via a new alias from prolific Helsinki artist Paju Talvilintu (a.k.a. Static Noise Bird)—perhaps a historically dubious portmanteau of French royalty is the only kind of linguistic conduit that won’t crumple or shatter when these vicious sounds are forced through it. Under their primary moniker as well as many others, Talvilintu has explored all shapes, sizes, and shades of abstract music, but as Princesse Isabelle d’Évreux they scorch the barren earth with violent, radiating shockwaves of shrieking electronics, thick seismic churns, and crisply mixed pedal-chain blasts that wax and wane between hyperactive structural splintering and hypnotic stagnancy. Besides the obviously appealing image the title evokes, “Scythe Wielding Girlfriend” offers an elastic sonic storm of the meticulously spaced, eviscerating psychedelic crackle arrays that they and their countrymen always seem to pull off so perfectly, while “Tortured = Pleasured” falls into deep, confining grooves of static between moments of wrack and wrath. The bleak “Erase Me, I Don’t Wanna Be Perceived” is perhaps the most summative demonstration of Talvilintu’s virtuosic noise wrangling, with detailed concrete-scrape cross-sections quickly but carefully exploding into unrelenting chaos, complete with strangely rhythmic blares of some dying machine.

Review: Edward Sol – Go and Get Dressed (Quasi Pop, Sep 23)

The fungal-growth patches of this classic smudged, squelching brand of tape collage can be found all over the world (some locations have much higher concentrations than others; best to stay away if you don’t have your own hazmat suit yet), but this short slice comes all the way from Kyiv, Ukraine—somewhat of a rarity in this esoteric subdiscipline of mycology. But Edward Sol is no obscure name, at least not relatively; in addition to founding and operating Quasi Pop, Sentimental Productions, and Village Tapes, he’s released material on everything from Beartown and Sangoplasmo to Banned Production and Chocolate Monk. For it’s brief length, Go and Get Dressed, a C20 produced via Sol’s primary imprint, is a quite dense and complex piece of gritty acousmatics, and seems a great entry point for myself and other uninitiated mold-sniffers. Sol’s sources and techniques feel like more of the homemade variety, low-fidelity domestic recordings and dusty tape delay and contact mic shuffle, but the way they’re layered and stitched together is careful, deliberate, intricate, despite all the rough edges—it’s not surgical, or anything, but definitely eschews the artful naïvety that often drives this sort of thing. And it couldn’t be a better choice, because even though the sounds here aren’t anything you’ve never heard before, the interplay and progression and dynamism between all of them is enthralling.

Mix: Maxi-Improv

I’ll probably come up with a better name for this “genre” at some point, but for now “maxi-improv” works: both solo and collective electroacoustic improvisations with moving parts much too large for, or even in a completely different dimension of reality than, their containers (you’ll see what I mean).

00:00. Jean-Marc Foussat – “Le moment est passé” [excerpt] from Cet inapaisable hurlement des heures (self-released, 2014)

04:47. The Incidental Crack – “Waterfalls per Capita” from Detail (Anticipating Nowhere, 2021)

10:31. Concrete Gazebo – “Tangled Eggs” from Peacock Juice Box (Speak & Spell, 2021)

12:26. Kamon Kardamom – “Chronic Euphoria” [excerpt] from Chronic Euphoria (self-released, 2021)

19:03. Paed Conca, Stéphane Rives & Fadi Tabbal – “There’s No Picture of the Band” from Under the Carpet (Ruptured, 2012)

22:22. Miguel A. García & Ilia Belorukov – “Hands Off” from Wolkokrot (Inexhaustible Editions, 2015)

27:51. Leverton Fox – “Megascopz (Pellet Collector)” [excerpt] from Megascopz (Not Applicable, 2019)

33:16. Olivier di Placido & SEC_ – “es” from Rainbow Grotesque (Bocian, 2013)

36:10. MKM – “Don’t Eat” [excerpt] from Bangalore (TON, 2021)

Review: Season of Upheaval – Season of Upheaval (Makade Star, Sep 17)

As is the case for the beloved band that this tape is undeniably reminiscent of—New Zealand legends Surface of the Earth—the modest instrumental credit that simply reads “guitars” does not at all reflect the cavernous immensity of the music found within. To my knowledge this self-titled entry in the growing Makade Star catalog is the first release from the Winnipeg duo of Doreen Girard and Marie-France Hollier, but they’ve been performing live together since as early as 2017, and that casual familiarity that can only accrue in a long-term, lived-in creative collaboration is folded into the essence of the drones themselves. To play the guitar in this way is as much a spatial and even sculptural act as it is a musical one; we not only hear, but feel the humming waves of feedback as they hover between shuddering strings and speaker-screen, the exquisite dance of churning dissonance and cathartic overtone resolution, the massive waves of sunlight-infused distortion cresting but never curling. It would probably be a transcendent experience to stand between twin subwoofer stacks and feel the full,  crushing weight of this stuff, but I’ll settle for the more delicate beauty it takes on recorded form, at times rivaling that of the magnificent “Voyager.” There’s nothing better on an autumn afternoon.

Review: Manja Ristić – The Desire of My Heart (sirr-ecords, Sep 17)

You’ve probably noticed I try to keep things diverse in terms of what I cover for the site, so my having reviewed four releases by Serbian sound artist Manja Ristić is a testament to her consistent talents. Four is a lot, but it’s been almost two and a half years since the last one, and The Desire of My Heart marks her first collaboration with the fabulous Portugal-based sirr-ecords netlabel, so this is a no-brainer. Ristić does both short sketches and extended soundscapes well, and though this 27-minute piece feels quite episodic and is even contextualized as a “meta narrative in three stages” by the artist herself, it mostly belongs to the latter category in terms of its presence and pacing. It begins with a distinctive sound that should be familiar to anyone who’s checked out any of her past work: the close, tactile effervescence of hydrophone recordings, the tools “buried in the stranded sediments of a dry Posidonia Oceanica algae” on Silba Island to capture the elusive textures. The aquatic void often hinted toward by these minuscule cross-sections is supported sonically by the unbroken hum of a restaurant ventilation system, building tension with subtle twinges of darkness until it’s broken by what I would wager is the wheel Ristić “salvaged from shallow waters in the Adriatic” and interacted with using “wooden sea debris, electrical coffee mixer, soft xylophone stick, and a pine cone” (the extreme care and detail she puts into performances or observations that end up only occupying a few minutes of the final product is part of what makes her work so rewarding to listen to). A hesitant saxophone blares apathetic elegies, the circuits of a plastic megaphone seize and sputter, massive clanging bells are rendered small and soft by distance. The shape of humanity—personhood—is here, but it is merely traced, outlined, an “empty” socket one must fill themselves; thankfully, here one size fits all.