You probably don’t have to worry when you walk out your door. Will you be judged? Will you get comments? Will you get stares? Will you feel helpless? Will you be followed? You’ve got to walk in pairs. Don’t we have anything else to offer? You only see the surface. Your unwanted opinion is worthless, but not harmless. Our looks, our bodies, are none of your fucking business. We don’t exist for you to appraise, not a compliment, no fucking thanks.
Divergent and even contradictory adjectives bounce around in my head when I think of how to describe Iniciação: comforting, monotonous, withdrawn, familiar, lonely, minimal. It’s the stubborn yet personal neutrality of the music that gives rise to this descriptive blockage, something I’ve experienced with only a few other artists whose work occupies a similarly elusive milieu (Darksmith, Alyssa Festa, Bob Desaulniers). Not much happens over the course of the album’s eighteen-or-so minutes; the unmistakable sonorities of hissing tape and feedback are present, but the level of subtlety in the composition makes it so that this could just as easily be a distant, low fidelity recording of some sort of slow industrial process. However, works like Iniciação don’t lend themselves to endless hypothetical sound identifications. What matters is the confusingly warm atmosphere that unfolds from the music like an abstract embrace, pulling you into its slightly scratchy blanket of fuzz and steam and muck. Even the unexpected outburst of spoken word at the end of the second piece doesn’t feel out of place, because whether it came from the artist during conception or the listener trapped beneath the surface—or both—there is plenty of humanity to be found in Iniciação.
Though the album cover appears to be designed with j-card formatting in mind, I can’t find any information about a physical release anywhere, so I’ve included the full image.
Much of the beauty of The Dust Tradecomes from its evocation of ennui, whether it’s the stitched-together old film samples on “Another War,” tactile domestic recordings on “Japanese Love Affair,” or the soothing sounds of (probably) water flowing over gravel on “Liquid Glass Half Empty.” I’m not at all familiar with Brent Gutzeit’s work, but as can be seen from his Bandcamp page there’s a hell of a lot of it, and if the same level of patience and attention to detail as in The Dust Trade is present in any of his other releases I’m sure to enjoy them. I was immediately drawn to this album because of its languid, relaxing pace. Though Gutzeit’s sources are intimate and familiar, the worlds he creates with them are anything but, and what is conjured by the extended pieces is most often something quite alien, but ultimately the motion is comfortingly meditative, as steady as that current washing over the rocks. The music’s uncanniness isn’t achieved through artifice, and each collage’s slow progression allows the listener to see the fragments of reality still present, to spend time picking out the sounds that resonate most with them, to find a personal anchor amidst the abstractness.
Each CDr copy of The Dust Trade has a unique cover photograph by the artist.
Fals.ch was a small mp3 label formed by Florian Hecker and Oswald Berthold (who released music together as cd_slopper) that focused on extreme computer music. With no concern for conventional album length or structure, the label’s output is quite diverse, from extended single pieces to releases with over a hundred minuscule tracks. Their last release came out in 2002, but recently the entire catalog has been uploaded to Bandcamp for name-your-price download. I’ve slowly been working my way through all of it, but here, in no particular order, are some favorites:
I was already into Hecker’s music when I discovered cd_slopper through their 2000 CD SaskieWoxi, but something about the pureness of the source material, how it truly sounded like they were sculpting (and slopping) bursts of unadulterated data. eating aluminium is quite short (it barely reaches four minutes) but contains some of the most mind-blowing digital creations I’ve ever heard. The duo’s other release on fals.ch, 1999’s ismurgTeNN4, is also excellent.
Though the work of Andy Guhl and Norbert Möslang often sounds like it was wrested from the depths of some complex computing device, but in fact the duo uses “cracked everyday electronics,” a large array of prepared objects and appliances that they often controlled via physical gestures. Some of the albums that Voice Crack has recorded with this approach are loud and raucous, like 1990’s Earflash, but Taken and Changed is some of their most pleasantly reserved material.
This single 25-minute piece is definitely one of the harshest fals.ch releases I’ve heard yet. Sound artist Shunichiro Okada’s nightmarish glitch tornadoes are disorienting and hyperactive, but he also relies on stretches of punishing repetition to further overwhelm the listener, drills and jackhammers of grating noise. d4ta corruption is loud, exhausting, and—despite its cold and lifeless origins—quite cathartic. Holding on for dear life while everything else is torn apart by a digital vortex.
Poire_Z was composed of percussionist Günter Müller, abstract turntable virtuoso eRikm, and both members of the previously discussed Voice Crack duo. The group explored the meditative but alien worlds their unique sound-making palette made possible, and documented some of the most amazing electronic improvisations ever on their 1999 self titled CD. c’est juste is what seems to be a single 30-min live recording, and sees the quartet at their most muffled and withdrawn.
A very short release, but no less exhausting than any of the others about which I’ve written; Ken Shoticker injects so many bizarre samples and sound effects that it’s as if you’re listening to ten albums at once. This is the sound of the friendly and familiar being stretched, twisted, mashed, and ground into oblivion. Horrifying and anxiety inducing but I at least couldn’t tear my ears away.
The title of Širom’s newest album, A Universe That Roasts Blossoms for a Horse, manages to out-weird that of their previous, 2017’s I Can Be a Clay Snapper, but the music itself adopts the opposite trajectory. The elements of chaotic jazz and freely improvised music that lurked beneath the meditative folk compositions of Clay Snapper are largely abandoned here, making room for intricate, minimalism-indebted repetitions that unfold beautifully. I don’t know anything about Slovenian folk music, but although it’s clear that the creations that comprise A Universe… are anything but traditional, that feeling of community and wordless conversation that is so inherent to folk is present here in spades. Despite the stylistic evolution from its predecessor, the two records are inexorably linked by the vocalizations that conclude …Clay Snapper on “Ten Words” and begin A Universe… on “A Washed Out Boy Taking Fossils from a Frog Sack.” Listening to the two back to back is something I haven’t yet done, but may give rise to some interesting connections, though as the unparalleled magic of “Sleight of Hand with a Melting Key” begins I’m hard pressed to turn my attention to anything else. Each of the lengthy pieces were carefully planned and recorded without overdubs, something that’s not hard to discern from how organic and immediate the album sounds, but it’s staggeringly impressive when you hear how detailed the arrangements are. “Sleight of Hand with a Melting Key” progresses through several movements throughout its 15-plus minutes, evolving from sublime, In C-esque melodic cells to stretches of unaccompanied percussion, meditative drones, and propulsive guitar strumming. The complexity escalates even further with the dense drum polyrhythms and string interplay of “A Pulse Expels Its Brothers and Sisters,” the involved vocal arrangements that slither throughout “Low Probability of a Hug,” and the almost unbearably tense bowed drones of “Same as the One She Hardly Remembered.” A Universe That Roasts Blossoms for a Horse is a truly awe-inspiring work of art, one that showcases both the amazing skill of each member and the result when they all come together.
There’s a sequence in Memoryscapes, a lovely short film, in which Širom set about fashioning music from a pile of pots, pans, saucepan lids and empty cans of supermarket lager on the kitchen table. It’s the band in microcosm: cracked, insistent beats, rhythm chasing rhythm, a deadly serious playfulness, and the intimacy of close friendship undercut by the sense of emergency of a flashing torch. Širom are all about the head and the hand, and the dark that always pushes against the light.
Even though witches never seem to be far from mind, Sun of Serpent, Moone ofCipher, it seems as though Them Teeth’s long awaited followup to 2016’s Auditory Witchcraftis less about rituals or black magic and more concerned with the mysterious energies of the forest itself. The reclusive duo hailing from Sweden have a palpably deep appreciation for nature and the formidable forces it contains that are so far beyond human reach, and their music reflects that. Rich, throaty, buzzing acoustic guitar arpeggios form a rhythmic backbone along with sparse tribal percussion, otherworldly vocals and string augmentations drift above, and behind it all lurk snakelike tendrils of rumbling noise, sometimes unseating the melodic elements, other times melding with them. While the reliable constant throughout the album is the unsettling nocturnality, Sun of Serpent, Moone of Cipher explores the multitude of areas their singular style opens up, from dark but almost catchy folk on “Hægtes, Burn the Trees” to harrowing inhuman chaos on “The Serpent Did Verily Speake” to both in “Cræft, Suspiria,” but everything flows so naturally, and you never feel like you leave the shadow-soaked forest that swallowed you as soon as “Dæl, She Plucks Downe Moone and Starres From Skie” rises from the earth. Among (many) other things, Sun of Serpent, Moone of Cipher is another reminder that Them Teeth is one of my absolute favorite bands right now.
I have this old faded yellow Ege Bamyasi shirt that I still wear around a lot, and it’s always a pleasant surprise to see the amount of people who recognize it. I think Can is a very universal band, something that connects a variety of demographics of music enthusiasts, from 70’s psych heads to skillful musicianship appreciators to weirdos like myself, and personally I’d attribute that to Jaki Liebezeit’s iconic drumming. Tracks like “Halleluhwah,” “Up the Bakerloo Line With Anne,” and “Bel Air” demonstrate his uncanny ability to create an enrapturingly meditative atmosphere through repetition and jazz-indebted rhythmic looseness, a quality shared—and finally a segue out of this tangent—by Valentina Magaletti and Julian Sartorius’s new collaborative LP. Though the two musicians’ backgrounds in the contemporary avant-garde scene manifest with plenty of abstractions and eccentricities, rhythm is at the heart of Sulla Pelle, and the four pieces evolve via head-bobbing cascades of hypnotic percussion jams and airy cymbal work. I began with the Can comparison not only for Sartorius’s solo shows with Liebezeit on the bill, or that the fluid snare triplets on “Sobaka” could be yanked straight from “Pinch,” but because the almost celestial drum presence on Sulla Pelle is also one of fruitfulness and vitality. On more extended cuts like the title track and “Micro Tormento” the garden of groove gives birth to a host of other atmospheric subtleties and sonic decor, as bubbling electronics most likely supplied by Magaletti are bounced off drum skins to the surface and make the already meticulously detailed improvisations even more lush. Despite its undeniable strangeness, Sulla Pelle is just as universal.