When coming in from the cold you have instant cravings. You yearn for comfort and warmth, something familiar; something to cope with not just the physical but the emotional frost bite. It’s the time of year where the weather is unsure of what it wants to do and you’re left just hoping for double digit temps and a few glimpses of the sun.
Often enough coffee is my vice internally but I need to fill my surrounding with sounds that fill the void left by inclement weather outside. It may be something to compliment the grey wet gloom outside the window or an album to soundtrack the video unfolding out the windshield of the car, while slush disipates and low grey clouds blanket the horizon. Then there’s those choices that trickle out of the speakers that trick us into feeling spring and warmth is a blink away.
Under the current season’s umbrella, let’s listen to a few things that will replace the rain drops over head with sonic shingles. Venture into some abstract workouts in the chill damp metallic air. Maybe find ourselves scrambled with emotional temporalities in the midst of aural fisticuffs with queasy presets and complex physicality. Flip the script for beautiful simultaneity and something old timey. From behind the wheel and over top the seat warmer we’ll leave some room for drool pop confection of the confessional variety.
Italian Experimental Underground 016 Survey – Unexplained Sounds Group
Unexplained Sounds Group is run by Sonologyst to investigate the current underground experimental worldwide music scene. Not often will I drop a various artist collection here, for fear of having to pick and choose the artists I’ll write about. I’ll just say this…
For anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into leftfield sounds, look no further than the Unexplained Sounds Group. Consistently and constantly offering new collections of industrial noise ambient to free improvisation, from contemporary avant garde to new techno mutations, and always under the common denominator of unexplained sounds. Long life to experimental underground music!
Dave Harrington Group – Become Alive Other People
Known best for his work in the duo Darkside, along with Nicolas Jaar. Harrington has proven somewhat of a wizard on guitar. Sculpting an array of noises and tones through a world that exists simply at his feet. Morphing classic Bill Frisell style licks through a class act selection of effects pedals is just kind of his thing. He’s been releasing solo works over the last few years but Become Alive is the first real conceptual collection he’s offered up since the hiatus of Darkside.
The way most bands come together is an age old thing. A group a friends get together and jam. Simple as that and just as simple for Harrington. Who got together with his favourite players and closest friends to record Become Alive. Dave’s always been a self professed jazz guy and it’s apparent on the title track. His eclectic taste as an improviser paired with his love of 60’s and early 70’s jazz records comes through the mix in a heady way.
Dreamboat – Dreamboat lp Mie Music
The fusion of Golden Retriever’s fizzy post-Terry Riley modular/horn interplay and Ilyas Ahmed’s subtle, Neil Young inspired folk might sound initially befuddling, but within minutes of Dreamboat’s self-titled debut all becomes clear. Ahmed’s voice is washed into the mix like another plaintive layer of synth, and the dense fuzz conjures up memories of dream pop, drone and noise all at once. Gorgeous but never cloying, Dreamboat is the musical comfort blanket you’ve been waiting for. Imagine Tim Buckley sitting in on the first Cluster album, you’re almost there.
The Field – The Follower Kompakt
Axel Willner has the power to change the way you think about music. An engineer can point out a tiny part or switch within a larger, more complicated device, revealing a more profound truth about the process as a whole. That’s what Willner does with samples, looping them and stitching them together into hypnotic, slowly mutating slabs of techno.
There’s joy in the art of repetition, in glacial change. Even when it gets slippery and formless. The Follower covers more ground than Willner’s other releases as The Field, but that’s like saying your dog walked around the block instead of sniffing around the backyard. If you’ve been watching Willner work and grow for a decade, you’re going to see this album differently than someone who stumbles onto his discography and sees block after block of lengthy, loop-based minimal techno. This might sound like fodder for Willner’s detractors (“he’s been making the same song for 10 years, dude!”) but I’d argue it’s become his greatest strength.
Hidden Hierarchies – Hidden Hierarchies
Hidden Hierarchies is multivariate multiplication not addition. More than just a duo, Ethan Moseley and Jeye Daye are a power couple. Their debut EP consists of a handful of heavy hitting glitch hop tracks, melded with industrial drone. Relying on the fine art of repetition and loop based sampling; Moseley is able to create a stark crumbling warehouse of nocturnal doom imagery. A place where Jeye can lay her lyrics of emotional temporalities to rest in beds of queasy presets and aural fisticuffs. Lingering on spoken word territory. Each sultry uttered syllable has a life span between the crushing beats, allowing the listener to tap into the vibe and feel the muse that Jeye is writing about. Relentless and punishing but ever so genuine is the overall emotive here on the duo’s debut.
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Void Beats/Invocation Trex Duophonic
As a founder of indie outfit Stereolab, Tim Gane meshed lounge, krautrock, electronic music, and more to produce a mesmeric vision that felt like the past’s vision of the future and the future’s vision of the past. He described his Cavern of Anti-Matter methodology as “setting up tiny rhythmic cells and expanding on them in certain ways, splitting the melody and stretching out.” After moving to Berlin and bringing along Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth, the pair link up with electronics mastermind Holger Zapf. The trio get some help though from Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. Offering vocals on Liquid Gate. Also gracing the project is contributions from Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, and Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner. None the less Cavern largely stand as an instrumental trio.
Black Mountain – IV Jagajaguwar
Black Mountain return with yet another album that deserves to be taken in in it’s entirety. It’s what they do best. Like zig zags, all they claim is we smoke your weed better than any other rolling paper out there. You’ll need the zig zags for this trip.
Fronted by Stephen McBean (Pink Mountaintops), he’s always maintained the concise dynamic of the ‘album’. Like much of their influence from the late 60’s and early 70’s stoner rock, those albums were meant to be devoured whole. From to back. B.M’s IV is no exception. Album opener Mothers of the Sun stretches past eight minutes, demanding you surrender to the drone; it’s Sabbathian. This new album’s opener unfurls the band’s wings again as they soar into the weird and wondrous. What follows is probably Black Mountain’s most experimental record, a record full of sparse, moody arrangements that lean heavily on the the band’s burgeoning love of synths. Bands like Black Mountain sound purposely dated — they’re referencing music that is long gone from the world of popular culture and they’re doing so in a self-aware manner.
F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm – Tag Eins Tag Zwei Sonic Pieces
Followers of the Sonic Pieces catalog will already be familiar with both F.S.Blumm and Nils Frahm, as well as their acclaimed work as a duo. But although it finds them making use of familiar instruments, their third full-length collaboration, Tag Eins Tag Zwei, manages to add a new tone to their already unique language. By trading in the post-processed sound sculptures that made up the two preceding albums for intimate pieces of improvisation, this collaboration merges into the most soothing and life-affirming recording the two have produced so far.
Guitars and toys flow next to piano and harmonium in an organic combination, shaping nine pieces that abnegate any common categorization. Incorporating classical, jazz, and folk influences, it’s the genuine use of tricks and delays that lift these improvisations above the ordinary and make them both incredibly relaxing and exciting at the same time. The result is a perfect example of how immediacy can be the most powerful approach to creating music. Based on a remarkable understanding of each other’s phrasing, the pair of sessions that form this album shows two vivid artists at the peak of their game — unconditional spontaneity.
Glenn Jones – Fleeting Thrill Jockey
Jones retains his reservation at the top of the American primitive class of guitarists, blending a signature classic country, finger-picking style with modern elements; the use of dissonance and non-standard tunings evoke an eeriness which completes the quiver of human experience he covers from corner to corner in his songs, each a story. He’s a fearless experimenter. But, even with his experimenting, he doesn’t do anything that would turn off a listener who isn’t a guitar geek. His record is acoustic in the extreme. He doesn’t use any electronic gadgets to filter out the sounds of his surroundings. It’s as organic as anything you’ve ever heard in nature.
Recorded at his home on the banks of Rancocas Creek in Mount Holly, NJ, you can hear the frogs hollerin’ faintly in the background of some tracks. It ain’t easy listening music. Even though Jones says he often multi-tasks while playing, watching a movie with the sound track turned off while he picks to give his subconscious mind new ideas, you’ll want to pay attention to catch all the subtle nuances. It’ll take you away, but you need to be fully awake and aware to reap the full benefits of your trip.
Damien Jurado – Visions of Us on the Land Secretly Canadian
In recent years, the sound of Jurado’s records have undergone a dramatic transformation only mystical visions or alien abduction could properly explain. Working with producer Richard Swift, the songs remain rock solid – albeit occasionally dodging easy interpretation, in the most interesting manner imaginable – but the surroundings have become slippery, foggy and strange. Like a past filled with narcotic haziness hanging by a thread on a roach clip.
After creating a new fascinating place, Maraqopa and fleeing there as an unnamed protagonist, only to end up in a car wreck by the final track. Jurado’s character discovers a commune where people are named Silver Timothy, Silver Donna and Silver Katherine on Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Sun. Now to complete his dream state trilogy with Vision of Us on the Land, the protagonist leaves with Silver Katherine to embark upon the final chapter of this sic-fi surreal story. One where the two find themselves to be immortal and the only two people left on earth.
Traces of songs from the past two albums resurface here and there, like distant memories taking shape in the setting sun. The album closes with the bittersweet albeit exultant tune “Kola,” as Jurado sings poignantly, “I will remember you / The way you are right now.” It’s closure for his faceless hero’s journey: Jurado’s Visions of Us on the Land is a tragic, triumphant chronicle that pushes the boundaries of indie-folk music unlike any musician on the musical landscape right now.