After spending the better part of the winter digging around for new sounds, the thaw beckons a revival. I’ve spent a lot of time combing through and visiting ethereal evocations, slow motion structure, weirdly elastic space echoes and purgatorial theremins. I feel there is now a worth while selection to share … at least one I’m excited to write about.
We’ll dive in to a heady slew of experimental artists but we’ll surface a handful of times. Just for good measure, we can get ourselves wrapped up in some loop based themes. The stuff that never gets to mainstream but remains just under the radar enough, that it maintains a good topical tune for venturing back outdoors this time of year and doesn’t taste like fake indian pudding.
Inventing Masks – self titled Error Broadcast
There’s something precise about Guiseppe Ielasi’s music. From the electroacoustic drones to the exactness of triggered and chosen samples. It’s the sort of subtly agile, crooked business that reveals new fissures and half-cut motifs with each listen, and we’d imagine it sounds great when consumed in smudged, altered states. This album finds the mastering engineer and member of Bellows applying patented, grid-warping sensibilities to liquify your neck in six rough-edged but sweetly-minded cuts that bubble with a sort of semi-organic animation.
They variously range from scuffed, grubbing bass grooves offset with woodblock and squirming ‘tronics in 3’ 34” to the lop-sided camshaft lean and hollow knock of 4’ 32” up top, to take in music box melodies and whirring ambient ghosts redolent of a buckled SAW II in 4’ 18” or like some quasi-speed Burial with 6’ 48”. You wouldn’t be out of place to drop a vocalist on this and find it in the realm of Tricky’s Maxinquaye.
Matt Karmil – IDLE033 Idle Hands
Karmil’s second album marks a return to Bristol label Idle Hands. He released ‘Play It Do It Say It’ last year on the same roster. IDLE033 is intriguing. Its sound palette is expansive, and is used to create dense textures, colourful atmospheres and emotional resonance. The 13 tracks here are surprisingly cohesive, showing off a painterly approach to manipulating samples, a dodge and burn aesthetic which crumples his source material into barely unidentifiable textures. Most tracks lope uneasily on syncopated rhythms, leaning on drunken bass or stumbling into dusty barroom pianos. A few attempt to even thud across the dance floor, like addled recollections of past epiphanies. There’s a whisper of ghostly unease that animates itself on this loose dub influence that lingers about.
Mathias Delplanque – Drachen Ici D’ailleurs
Mathias Delplanque is in Burkina Faso-born, French multi-instrumentalist and composer from Nantes. He has close links with the ambient, electronic, electroacoustic, and concrète musical spheres as well as dub and field recordings. His approach is therefore intimately intertwined with the creation of sound. Sound in the physical sense of the term. Sound that goes through one’s body, modifying one’s perception. It explores every possibility that might push the artistic vision to its pinnacle.
This time, it is mainly stringed instruments, layered and live electronic processing. Mathias works with guitar, bass, the West African kora, melodica, synths, punctual field recordings join. Cell phone interference, which served as productive sources of error, which is not immediately broken down to the listener. Whether that runs through the album for the buzzing coolness of that crackling electrical voltage are responsible. These are all finely sculpted details with a beautiful melancholy, a certain tenderness to its sonic mass.
Keda – Hwal Parantheses
KEDA is the duo of E’Joung-Ju, a Korean musician based in France, and Mathias Delplanqu. E’Joung-Ju plays a geomungo, or komungo; literally, “black zither”; a Korean traditional six-stringed wooden instrument. Delplanque plays electronics. An album comprised of live improvisations, edited extensively by Delplanque, which fuse traditional, ambient and electronic music. The duo never play for effect or get bound up in process, but keep things admirably focused. Here they work on vibe, with Delplanque’s electronics prominent, layer upon layer in expertly calibrated richness and sonic detail.
E’Joung-Ju and Mathias Delplanque have pitched their collaboration just right, the sounds of bamboo on taut silk and electronics meshing beautifully. The duos’ mutual restraint points up the richness in their intertextures, both play to their combined strength. Delplanque’s post-production is fully sensitive to the geomungo’s unique timbre and attack. If ‘Dali’ and the title track are tense and epic, other pieces relax into more cheerful mode, as E’joung-Ju drapes fragmentary melodies across Delplanque’s gentle loops. From below there’s hints of dub, over head there is swooping ornaments of zither technique, a sensuous filth resides in the middle and just off in the distance is the sound of watercolour.
Andrew Pekler – Cue Kranky
It should be stated that this was originally released in 2007, however it’s getting a proper vinyl release for the first time now. Admittedly this went under my radar at the time, odd due to the fact that I adore this label.
Andrew Pekler has been making music under several names for almost a decade, first gaining notice in 2000 as Sad Rockets, releasing Transition on Matador when the label experimented frequently with electronic releases. Though he’s not prolific by the standards of electronic music, Pekler’s method reminds me a bit of Atom Heart or Burnt Friedmann: each record is meant to sound different, based on a considered set of aesthetic guidelines. Knowledge of his process here is unnecessary for enjoying Cue. Pekler’s use of such sterile material certainly contributes to the record’s unusually disjointed feel, but these tracks don’t seem tied to any particular era and certainly aren’t meant for background use.
For Cue, Pekler’s M.O. was to assemble music using “library” records as inspiration. These are those weird LPs you now sometimes find in the “Misc.” section of record stores, containing music for royalty-free “needle drop” use in commercial applications. Pekler took descriptions of the intended effect for various tracks (“slow, ominous piano motif drifting into swirling atmosphere”), and built new tracks, attempting to arrive at these moods from another angle. Each of these tracks sounds build from five or six or ten samples that are cut into pieces, set in motion, and allowed to bump into each other. It’s the sort of record that gets more interesting the deeper you get inside, as its old and strangely disembodied samples assemble into something new and occasionally even fleshy.
Luca Sigurta – Warm Glow Monotype
Italian composer Luca Sigurta has been around since the 90’s. With a penchant and being known for his work with field recordings. He’s been asked repeatedly to compose the soundtracks for short films and today, the Italian is one of the most important experimental sound artists from his country.
Warm Glow includes seven compositions. The mini album starts with Dim. An 8 minute piece composed of synthetic sounds on which you can dream away. Apprently, this has been termed ‘trip-noise-hop’. Sigurta unfolds elegant layers into pieces of spacious sequence. His downtempo’d beats blend under atmospheric experimental sound art while avoiding being to flashy or academic. Luca has offered up the sound of travelling through an ever expanding sonic tunnel, where backwards warping and fractured hisses stretch into oscillating washes of drone and white noise. A sublime auditory adventure.
Good Willsmith – Things Our Bodies Used To Have Umor Rex
Hailing from Chicago, the trio Good WillSmith ( I wonder if there’s a Good Will Hunting Matt Damon Frsh Prince inside joke here) are offering up their sophmore album to last years acclaimed ‘Snake Person Generation’. Things Our Bodies Used To Have offers contingency through chaos, or so it seems. Basically one single long track spliced into seven parts for the sake of convenience, the trio gyres between longitudinal lozenges, sine sinews and galactic gates, with salubrious warmth and mephitic toxicity always close at hand.
The personnel remains the same: Doug Kaplan and Maxwell Allison, runners of their Hausu Mountain label, bring in the oscillators, guitars, synths and percussion devices while hiding the mimicry of birdcalls and twirling the tape reels for one’s psychedelic pleasure, whereas Natalie Chami aka TALsounds has all hands on deck, all feet on the guitar pedals and all vocal chords in the troposphere. The album’s appealing constituents whirring few and far between the chlorotic reverse-agism.
Duane Pitre – Electric Bayou Important Records
At the base of Bayou Electric is a field recording that Pitre made in Louisiana back in August 2010. It’s unmistakably the sound of the night. The soundscape of wildlife filling the empty spaces where light and landscape used to be, with insects purring and chirping like water flow and electric fences. There’s a sense of rural, open space as the chorus fills up the sky. No doubt the view during the day extends for miles on all sides, spilling down the sides of lush hills and rising upward to touch the clouds. Instead of carving up this recording and dispersing it amongst other instrumentation, Pitre keeps it intact. The landscape exists as a whole, and the instruments sprout upon it like plant life. Violins and organs linger like late evening fog, spreading into eachother with unconscious movement, and with the same grace and ecological cohesion that his environment exists and interacts, Pitre embeds a music that swerves and sways as the wind and weather dictate.
En – City of Brides Students of Decay
In their five years of making music as En, Maxwell August Croy and James Devane have built a career imbuing drone music with innocence and wonder. Their latest is their most varied and compelling yet. Each song is a crystalline Russian doll, a stylistic experiment in layering sounds both comforting and caustic.
There’s a two shadow at play on City of Brides. Something almost erotic while periods of restraint take hold. Establishing a sense of momentum in drone music is always an undertaking, especially when nothing really moves. Croy and Devane produce a propulsion in juxtaposition, between organic and artificial soundscapes. The serious and the playful. Every sound is built from scratch. The duo reproduces sounds of dolphins, bats and other wildlife. While threatening them with melodramtic synth swoops. Like being smothered by a fleece blanket.
Prequel Tapes – Inner Systems R’COUP’D
Prequel Tapes evokes the overlooked spaces where cities merge into the countryside. And he accomplishes as much through a blend of pastoral, Boards Of Canada-style electronica and the industrial sounds closely associated with his Berlin home.
The excavation of memories, stream-of-consciousness and hauntological moments is the inspiration for Inner Systems. The album is apparently based on tapes the producer unearthed of goth bands he played in as a teenager, used as foundations for an audio bricolage constructed with old analogue gear. It can be difficult to tell where old and new sounds begin and end. Inner Systems is like an echo from a pre-Internet age, when distracting yourself from boredom meant daydreaming with a youthful optimism about where beauty grows from the cracks between things.
Chris Dooks – Accretion Eilean Records
Dr Chris Dooks is a prolific multimedia artist based in both Edinburgh and Ayr in Scotland. Known equally for his lens-based work, music projects and conceptual art, he can be described as an interdisciplinary artist and post-doctoral researcher specialising in practical medical humanities work and philosophical art processes.
Accretion begins with some lovely brass, augmented by trails of chiming choral voice. “Sorry I was just carrying this”, a voice explains, pointing to the possibility of auditory hallucination between ages and genders, as if either vocabulary could be stated for either subject. It can be stated by hereon in that ‘Accretion’ turns into an expansive and peacing ambient record equal parts The Caretaker in ballroom style opera samples (the third track) and the tired yawning hums throughout. They do not dull the listener into a false sense of security; neither do they disconcert in the blight of anxiety. All in accretion is for good and bad, and there’s more good here than anything else.