Review: Cold Electric Fire – The Mule (No Rent, Sep 1)

After an agonizingly long hiatus from new releases—by their standards that is; for a prolific label with near-inhuman efficiency, that put out over 30 tapes in 2018, nearly 40 in 2019, and 17 just in the first four month of this year, five months is an agonizingly long time—the beloved No Rent Records is starting over from catalog number one with a reimagined logo. And what better pair of artists to start things off than Darksmith, who’s never released anything on No Rent and makes for a captivating aesthetic collision, and Cold Electric Fire, whose long-forgotten work was revived in 2018 by the reverently crafted The Alchemist discography double cassette. The Mule is Gary Tedder’s first recorded work since 2002’s In Nights Dream We Are Ghosts, and falls somewhere further along the more abstract, processed trajectory hinted at by the last three tracks on The Alchemist, yet retains everything on that album’s slightly alien but no less comforting warmth. Cold Electric Fire has always been about detail and layers—his work is often, if not all produced by meticulously tracking hundreds and even thousands of separate elements to conjure shifting, lush, kaleidoscopic phantasmagorias of fluid sound—but there seems to be more versatility here, from the dense spacial concrète of “Ferrier” to the seismic, subterranean siren songs of the title track. The Mule, especially at those aforementioned times, can be cold, removed and abstract even, but beauty is never far away from drifting in and hovering naturally like it’s always been there. Tedder conceivably could have made this album at any time, but I like to think of it as a product of the conditions in which we find ourselves now; there’s a peculiar loneliness to this music, not at all unwelcome or discomfiting, but instead the solitary, knowing solace of knowing you’re both alone and not alone.

Mix: Motivational Motorik

A collection of my favorite propulsive, driving motorik(ish) grooves. There’s more of a unifying vibe than that, but you’ll see what I mean. For the most part, the intensity ramps up as it progresses. Use it for a cleaning day or maybe a nice drive.

Klaus Dinger (photo by Wolfgang V. Groote)

00:00. Broken Social Scene – “Pacific Theme” from We Forgot It in People (Arts & Crafts, 2002)

04:52. Caudal – “Well, I Suppose” from Fight Cry Fight (Katuktu Collective, 2018)

09:01. Salaryman – “The Companion” from Karoshi (City Slang, 1999)

12:54. Blue Man Group – “3 to 1” from Three (Rhino, 2016)

16:51. Public Service Broadcasting – “Spitfire” from Inform-Educate-Entertain (Test Card, 2013)

20:40. Maserati – “Synchronicity IV” [excerpt] from Inventions for the New Season (Temporary Residence, 2007)

24:35. Pell Mell – “Vegetable Kingdom” from Interstate (DGC, 1995)

30:34. Holy Fuck – “Silva & Grimes” from Latin (Young Turks, 2010)

35:42. Oneida – “The Adversary” from Happy New Year (Jagjaguwar, 2006)

Review: Feghoots – Loiter Adjourned (Beartown, Aug 22)

Until today, I had no knowledge of Feghoots, the solo project of Leeds artist Pete Cann, but I’m happy that’s changed. His most recent release, Loiter Adjourned, is a masterwork of sleazy, slurred synthesis, dense phantasmagorias of the patches, frequencies, and samples that no one else wanted. The atmosphere is captured well by Paul Tone’s artwork; the seven tracks are extracts from a surreal Videodrome television purgatory, filled with the ghosts of mass media long forgotten, the electrical humming and crackling of digital entities beyond our perception, garbled voices of unwitting human prisoners who accidentally got sucked in through the screen of their home set. There is… some semblance of space here but it doesn’t work the same way; Cann’s arrangements and layerings sit naturally, but think too hard about the actual geometry of what is happening and the brain immediately goes kaput. Erroneous signal chatter, the buzzing whine of a cable half plugged in, dead air possessed by dismal spirits, some sublimely inaccurate manual channel surfing—it’s all amplified via the mysterious magnifier/manufacturer/manipulator that is the modular synthesizer and glued together with peculiar panache.

Loiter Adjourned is also available for streaming and name-your-price download here.

Review: brb>voicecoil – Alms of Guilt (Opal Tapes, Aug 28)

Newcastle Upon Tyne artist Kevin Wilkinson has been making music for a long time—nearly three decades, in fact. He established himself in the 90’s with rock band Drill as well as his more abstract solo work as BigRoadBreaker (BRB), the latter presumably evolving, after a decade-or-so hiatus, into his current project brb>voicecoil (many of Wilkinson’s past releases are available on the muza muza Bandcamp for download). Freed from the free-form studio industrial of its namesake, the discography of brb>voicecoil charts Wilkinson’s descent into engrossing, heavily processed modern musique concrète, evoking just as dark of an atmosphere as he always has with a more contemporary approach. The recent Alms of Guilt, is an exemplary exploration of this; despite the provocative, emotionally charged track titles, only the most unfamiliar and evasive sounds are present, whether through intensive manipulation, unusual/obscure capture, or a mixture of both. The six-track album, dual-released as a 12″ lathe by Wilkinson himself and a CD by fellow Newcastle residents Opal Tapes, finds its backbone in the consistently dark, seething waves of dissected sonics, flitting and eddying like hive-mind insect swarms or sewer water currents amidst interjections of reverberating spacial echo and queasy digital glitches. There’s always a lot going on, but at the same time there really isn’t. Wilkinson’s creations are dense but not overwhelming or disorienting; instead, he forcefully condenses countless elements into single entities, conjurations somewhere in the unsettling valley between organic and artificial that flop and writhe like semi-sentient masses of living tissue and industrial machinery. If, like me, you’ve found yourself falling in love with this sort of compositionally “total” acousmatic approach—for other examples, see Corat CoretStallgewitter, Staubitz and WaterhouseTo Be Brave—you will definitely enjoy Alms of Guilt.

Review: Enterfant – Publick Restroom Performances (self-released, Aug 26)

The “music” that comprises Publick Restroom Performances is, essentially, exactly what one would expect. Departing from artist Arek Orosz’s predilections for harsh noise and power electronics on much of his Enterfant material, the short digital-only release collects two recordings captured in February of 2017 that feature Orosz performing solo as an environmental instigator. The sparse clatters of paper towel and toilet tissue dispensers being used or struck, the hissing rushes of commercial sink faucets, the distinctive canned echo that one immediately recognizes—with his reticent contributions and interactions, Orosz pays humble homage to the innocuous yet mysterious energy that lurks in empty public bathrooms, something I’m sure most, if not all of us have observed during various moments of temporary, inexplicably poignant isolation in these ubiquitous facilities. The first piece, recorded on February 18th, builds itself on the fullness of the spacial spread of reverberating musical segments that sound like something between empty elevator music and alien-abduction electronica, sparse guitar noodling and piano notes filling every inch of the linoleum corners as other familiar sounds—such as brief conversations, flushing toilets, what is probably something clanging against those assistive metal bars in wheelchair-accessible stalls—flesh things out. There are even more curiosities in the February 20th piece, which concludes with the playback of several jarringly out-of-place musical loops (culminating with the Mortal Kombat theme) before the biggest surprise of them all: there’s actually an audience in this bathroom! And they were quiet and appreciative the whole time!

Review: Misha Pattiradjawane & ɟɐɥɯᴉ ɯnɹsʎᴉp – Corat Coret (self-released, Aug 27)

The first part of Corat Coret, which occupies nearly half of the diminutive nine-minute suite, unfurls its bewildering layers like a carnivorous flower revealing its gaping, hungry maw, chlorophyll-saliva splashing and gnashing as horrible botanical mandibles masticate a mixture of unlucky bugs and leftover pollen. From what I can tell, this short album was produced via a series of field recordings made by Misha Pattiradjawane which were then extensively processed by ɟɐɥɯᴉ ɯnɹsʎᴉp (Fahmi Mursyid) into their profoundly contorted final forms. The description of the work reveals an emphasis on “background noise,” which could conceivably be the source of much of the original sound material, uneventful recordings of inactive rooms or inert appliances mined for curiosities and imperfections to amplify, loop, layer, and otherwise extrapolate. The audio-physical shape this takes really reminds me of the first piece on Stallgewitter by German sound artists Daniel Löwenbrück and Marcellvs L.: a stuttering cyclone of displaced frequencies, muffled discordant clashes, flaps and strips of raw sound whipping in a vicious yet tightly controlled whirlwind. This unique little release offers more in less than ten minutes than many do in quadruple that time.

Review: Les Horribles Travailleurs – Shadow Inquiries (self-released, Aug 24)

I knew the name Max Kuiper sounded familiar, even though I’ve never encountered Les Horribles Travailleurs before; Animi Sub Volpe Latentes, a 2016 Chondritic tape made by the duo of Kuiper and Thorsten Soltau, is an obscure forgotten favorite of mine. Unsurprisingly, a similar magnetism overtook me during a cursory exploration of Shadow Inquiries, which, thankfully, entirely fulfills the expectations of bleak, apocalyptic desolation that its cover engenders. Forming the basis of the first and longest piece is various cloying hisses of white noise, spouting like geysers from some invisible imperfection—who knows if accidental or intentional, or perhaps both—in the recordings, slowly unfurling to reveal sluggish sound events of decaying machinery, hypnotic whirring, and other sounds of slow industrial collapse. If you find yourself naturally gravitating toward these sort of sounds, but aren’t as partial to the “dark ambient” side of things, instead preferring the more direct, unadulterated evocations of Morphogenesis, Ultra, or Sterile Garden (with whom LHT have released a split), you will definitely feel at home here. The oppressive darkness gradually lifts from the unhurried soundscapes of clatter and current as the album progresses, and the third track is even rather beautiful.

Review: Ana Fosca – Soma (Nazlo, Aug 23)

Imagine exploring a mysterious abandoned building and upon finally reaching the lowest basement level you see the thing that adorns the album cover of Soma, the dank, dusty air crackling with terrifying supernatural electricity as you behold its twisted form in heart-stopping horror. The piece is actually a sculpture by artist Kristoffer Moth (I am not sure if it was made physically or digitally), but that doesn’t compromise its power as an object of inexplicable malevolence, an element that only adds to the bleak darkness Ana Fosca conjures on this new album. “Catalonia” is a seething, sinister opener, its body of shadow swelling into psychedelic blasts of caustic noise and contracting into formidable low register rumbles. I was not expecting the mostly spoken vocals that first appear in the following track, “Ease,” but interestingly this ostensibly more human addition actually takes things to an even more horrifying place, the presence and intelligibility of the words steadily and hopelessly eroded by increasingly intense interference until there’s nothing left of the speaker but mangled digital gibberish and enveloping, razor-sharp noise takes control once more. Fosca definitely operates within the conventions I associate with death industrial music, but everything I normally dislike about the genre is entirely avoided: the rhythmic elements are not relied upon too heavily, instead serving as ominous, tension building pulses that don’t get in the way of the atmosphere; the vocals aren’t at all cheesy or overused; each track offers something different and unique. I mean, “Meshes of H” sounds like the grisly death of an old semi-sentient artificial intelligence. The title track features a heavily distorted tornado siren. It’s awesome.

“Silence… in search of… silence… in search of… silence…”

Review: Cities Aviv – ACCOMPANIED BY A BLAZING SOLO (self-released, Aug 16)

Memphis MC and producer Gavin Mays, known to most as his musical alias Cities Aviv, doesn’t really rap over his beats in the conventional way. Instead, he raps with them, frequently adopting a style of delivery somewhere in the messy intersection between rhythmic syllable conveyance, singing, and simple speech. Mays’ passionate, stream-of-consciousness lyrical labyrinths are well-suited to the longer forms of much of his recent work; the superb GUM, released earlier this year, closes with a continuous 45-minute suite of sorts, and this album, ACCOMPANIED BY A BLAZING SOLO, is his first document that consists entirely of a single track. Song titles are listed, and the transitions between these sections are easily perceived, but like with all of Cities Aviv’s discography it’s a much more advantageous and fulfilling course of action to just drift along with everything. The vocal presence feels more purposeful and intricate than ever before, however; Mays tightly wraps himself in a warm, symbiotic embrace with whatever instrumental he’s using, sometimes directly quoting the words of a sung sample or using those lyrics as free-associative springboards for his own personal musings. Awash in a lush stream of smooth, subtly deconstructed soul collages and sparse percussion, the listener eternally anticipates the sporadic yet deliberately choice entrances of Mays’ vocals, but not for a lack of emotional resonance—whether he is actually “rapping” or not, every second of ACCOMPANIED drips with personality and poignancy, and even when it is present it’s just another abstract element for indirect evocation, an inexorable piece of this intricately crafted, homogeneous sculpture of grief, nostalgia, confusion, reverence, and uneasy contentment.

Review: Kevin Sims – Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1 (Orb Tapes, Aug 21)

A somewhat elaborate yet still careless scribble adorns the minimal cover of Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1, immediately engendering thoughts of simplicity and gesture, things that certainly carry on, to even greater effect, in the music. Kevin Sims states that the tape is “a series of fifteen pieces for percussion and other instruments, including instructions for field recordings which can also be used as listening exercises,” and unsurprisingly the proceedings settle into a fluid series of passively captured public places, radio grabs, and environments along with reticent tactile performances on various drums and objects. There don’t seem to be explicit instructions for these “listening exercises” included with the album, so I can presume the only actual requirement for them is what their title implies location- or theme- wise, and one goes from there with the help of a recording device and percussion I suppose. I doubt anyone could perform these “compositions” as well as the composer himself, however; Sims traverses a host of detailed sonic landscapes, both abstract and physical, with the help of skins, metal, junk, his own hands and feet (for both striking and walking), and the control of the microphone’s gaze that documents it all. There’s tension here, mostly neutral but no less intense—take the jarring sequence of peaceful nature sound-walk “Wapalanewachschiechey” to the grinding, squealing metals of “Second Hymn” and the bad-vibes speech cuts of “Knowledge.” Battle Hymn of the Public, Part 1 is a formidable piece of music in the most disarmingly understated way, immersive and cinematic and harrowing.