GRST ‘container+=object EP’’s pleasingly adjunct description states only that it relies upon ‘a variety of electro-acoustic techniques and physical modelling’, eschewing any form of wild conceptual structure in favour of a more detailed sonic study. Connoisseurs of physical modelling synthesis will no doubt recognise its presence – we’re not dealing with bold new territories here, but rather some extremely pensive, rhythmically free wanderings that travel from additive washes to organic plucks and rattles. The absence of any measurable pulse is perhaps ‘Maracaibo’s’ strongest feature – its textures are allowed to ebb and flow between various synthetic states without ever feeling pressured to reveal a defined compositional logic.
In contrast, the second track, ‘aruba’, invokes a distinctly modular tact, tying bursts of reverb to the gestating clangs and urgent bounces across glass and metal. We get some nieve stabs at melody, too, meandering repetitions that dance back and forth like the song of a sinister, cartoon music-box. Theres no development proper, nor does there need to be – ‘container+=object’ works precisely because it sets up a limited palette and then proceeds to meekly explore its affordance, the listener invited to observe as GRST tests the sonic properties of each corner in turn.
– Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully
Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully is a composer, video and performance artist from the UK. He produces work under the Distant Animals moniker (www.distantanimals.com), and runs both the production company 7000 Trees (www.7000trees.com) and the Difficult Art and Music label (difficultartandmusic.bandcamp.com). He holds an actual proper grown-up PhD in contemporary music, and currently lectures at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Every year at Decaycast we like to invite some guest contributors to contribute end of the year thoughts, threats etc, titled “Essential ListEning”. Excited to share the second of many to drop over the next few weeks. Next up is artist, label owner and composer Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully
Congratulations – against all the odds, you have survived 2021, and arrive now, somewhat fully-formed, at that pinnacle of human cultural achievement, the ‘end of year list’. A season of musical folly in which utterly vain people with nothing better to do tell you all about the records you missed, enticing your already beleaguered ears with a whole new batch of releases to add to your eternally expanding Bandcamp wishlist. In the spirit of such things, welcome to my list – a smorgasbord of objectively awesome music in no particular order, drawn from across the globe. Some albums, some singles, all wonderful, check out the provided links to listen in full.
Thomas Ankersmit: Perceptual Geography
If I was to make a list entitled ‘greatest living composers’, or something equally facile, Thomas Ankersmit would be one of about four names on it. Existing in a liminal space beyond the confines of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste, Perpetual Geography instead toys with the very fabric of composition, an arch deconstruction of sonic possibility. Ankersmit’s work is challenging – in a very literal sense – pulling and pushing the ear and the body into new contexts, reshaping the listening environment. Every second exists to further interrogate a core concept – the psychoacoustic properties of the sonic fragments on offer – and as such, this isn’t music but sound art, in a definitive sense. Following on from his previous album, Homage to Dick Raaijmakers, Ankersmit has once again demonstrated a profound capacity for sonic research, weaving the already complex ideas of his muse (in this instance, Maryanne Amacher) into a rich, uncompromising album.
A score for Yanira Castro’s dance performance of the same name, Stage relies upon a series of different metallic sound-makers and resonators to create a droning, creaking, euphoric wash. Utilizing sheet metal, gongs, prayer bowls, brass rods, and cymbals, it’s the sort of thing that is, on paper at least, painfully dime a dozen. And yet, Moore conducts his metal orchestra with an audible reverence, teasing gentle, restrained tones from instruments that though ever on the edge of the expected clang and screech, never quite fall into such an obvious voicing. Reminiscent of both Harry Bertoia and Yoshi Wada, Stage succeeds in occupying a well-trodden sonic territory without seeming trite or unnecessary. Rather, it is an album that expertly supports and advances the tradition of which it is a part.
Falling together is a work seemingly determined to explore the entire dynamic range of the orchestra. Taking more than eight minutes to arrive at anything approaching ‘music’ proper – the preceding section consisting of the light hub-bub of instruments warming up, before glacially emerging into perceivable rhythm – Hennies manages to both draw upon the atonal stutters and high pitched glissandi of the contemporary orchestral palette, and to frame them within a far more static, laborious aesthetic. If it all sounds (at times) a little like a group of factory workers manhandling The Shining, that’s no doubt deliberate. The composer forcefully articulates the rigor and effort of creation, resulting in a hypnotic and repetitious work that nonetheless evolves from musty silence to a bombastic temperament without ever losing sight of its carefully crafted internal logic.
Not previously familiar with Goncharova’s work, I can only assume this constitutes the collated scraps of a fairly healthy career, for Recordings 1987-1991 manages to be both marvellously refined and sonically diverse in equal measure. Whilst nestling up to the realm of free-jazz, there is a distinct academic approach at play, with the tracks seemingly representing extended studies of a given technique. Whilst the first inhabits a minimal, wandering, folksy brass workout (not unlike the oeuvre of Matana Roberts, who I can only imagine is a fan), the later tracks divulge into the more screechy world of Avant-jazz, then on to a vaguely prog-psych aesthetic, complete with snazzy organ solos. We even get some rhythmic drone stuff that sounds like a mix of the early kosmische scene and the (extremely underrated) score to Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Not that Goncharova’s style is in any way derivative – rather, the composer seems to deftly weave together numerous narratives from the broader experimental palette, producing an alluring and challenging body of work in the process.
Artists generally don’t like it when their work is described as ‘a bit silly’, but I’m going to go out on a limb and presume someone called Sound Effects of Death and Horror won’t mind. Blusterous name aside, Mota Rolla is a pretty silly work, riding the current trend of 80’s nostalgia to weave Junoesque synths with GM piano’s, the odd dial-tone and public service announcement thrown in for good measure. The album succeeds, however, by invoking a surprisingly melancholic tone, its elements managing to be at once quite cheesy and genuinely moving. As albums go, it might not be breaking the analogical mold – but by god is that mold shiny, ready to produce perfect little retro space robots to dolefully play out the final act of a lost sci-fi movie that never was, each with just a glint of sadness in their mechanical eyes.
Whilst simultaneously being a sensible adult who likes austere academic music, I also enjoy the sort of pop-punk that would make your Nan-blush, and no-one makes your Nan-blush better than Pup. Having constructed a successful career adjoining Big Hooks to Big Riffs, their latest single continues this tradition, with a slightly-too-cheesy A-side giving way to the frankly astonishing B-side, Kill Something. Presumably recorded under lockdown conditions (and as such lacking the sheen of their prior work), the song ooohs and aaahs its way through roughly fifteen verses and choruses, the whole affair conducted at a stumbling, off-kilter tempo. Throw in some way-too-happy horn synths and an unashamedly melodramatic vocal refrain (‘I just wanna kill something I love’), and the result is a wonderfully fun – and structurally complex – prog-pop-punk ditty.
If you’re not yet familiar with the Greyfade label, I strongly suggest you delve immediately into their modest catalog, all of which is excellent. Here, Christopher Otto – who with his Jack Quartet has performed the works of Lachenmann, Adams, and Zorn, among others – offers up a methodical, mathematical study of Just Intonation. Such is the precision of his mathematically-infused building blocks, that Rag’sma sounds not unlike a great work of additive synthesis – yet where we might expect the colliding voices of computationally derived sine tones, we are offered instead the pulsing, organic drawl of a violin. Otto manages to combine laden precision with the sort of physical expression normally reserved for far free-er forms of composition – as such, the result is a seductively involute album as compelling as it is studious.
Without doubt the most intense album on the list, Rampokan is no easy listen, actively courting many musical elements that I innately struggle with. Indeed, the artists’ clear love of the more hardcore end of jungle/gabba/techno music scene adds to the overall sense of madness at play, an often unpleasant assault upon my tender senses that is brilliant as much as it is abrasive. Once you push past the ‘hard-dance’ aesthetic, the album reveals itself to be quite unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, employing ‘world-music’ extended techniques alongside metallic drones and industrial bleeps, Javanese traditions and glitching distortion framing virtuosic Gamelan bells.
Thirty Pounds of Bone (I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t mention he also released work this year under the J.Lynch moniker for my Difficult Art and Music label), has yet again created a lovely, solemn addition to the contemporary British folk scene. Built around voice, guitar, drum machine, and electric harmonium, the album conjures up a visceral sense of longing, almost perfectly replicating the sensation of sitting on a Cornish fishing dock on your own in the rain. There is a certain gothic sensibility to the proceedings, with the reliance on simple repetitive refrains and perfectly articulated lyrical prowess forging a powerful listening experience. It’s a proper album too – more than a collection of songs, there exists a real cohesion and journey through the material, a work that benefits from being approached in a single, undisturbed sitting.
Cheesy, slightly glam-infused punk might not seem a likely contender for best of the year, but Bad Waitress are channelling some top-shelf Lunachicks, and it’s nothing short of awesome. Sure, the lyrics are hardly ground-breaking but that’s never been punk’s strong point. Instead, we get a rumbustious throwdown of feminist sloganeering, with just the right mix of faux-sultry passive aggression and proper foot-on-monitor riffs. Whilst sounding for all the world like the sort of thing you would find being played at 2 am on MTV in the mid-nineties, No Taste is peppered with some tremendous pop choruses – I defy anyone to dislike the ludicrously catchy ‘Live in Reverse’, which deserves to be a standard in every dimly lit, pound-a-pint snakebite rock club from this day forward.
A gloomy, caustic orchestral work from Christophe Guiraud, who seems to have assembled an astonishingly broad number of performers to bring his compositional prowess to life. It’s all very melodramatic, employing operatic vocals, sputtering electronics, and minimalist, heavy-handed piano, alongside textural, sweeping microtonal strings. Whilst making its bed in the wreckage of atonal music – and occasionally sounding like it’s been torn directly from the 1970s avant-garde scene in doing so – Unfinished Altar manages nonetheless to achieve a certain timelessness, looking both forward and backward with equal vigor. The dense, modern, droning production frames a rich instrumental palette, every sound merging into the next, with distinct vocal parts emerging from an enveloping, atonal soup.
Given that wider culture seems entirely indifferent to everything I love, I am always faintly baffled that Siavash Amini has any fans at all – such is his remarkable talent as a composer. A Trail of Laughter continues his tradition of creating dense, rewarding albums, albeit by eschewing some of the more recognizable elements of the noise/ambient spectrum that he has historically employed. This is an album very much about tonal relationships, with the timbre of the electronic sounds being tied to their frequency and density. It is a glacial endeavour, a barren cliff face with almost nothing to grip onto – and all the better for it. As would be expected from Amini, the sounds are handled perfectly, framed by an absorbing mist, with no room for latent, extraneous bass build-ups or high-frequency screeches. The real success in the album, however, is in its muted intensity. Nothing ever gets remotely near its breaking point – despite operating in a sound-world that suggests it inevitably will. Instead, the listener is left with a slow and lethargic tension, an ever-present sense of dread that invokes palpable fear by never revealing the creature beneath the bed.
Yes, yes, this is incredibly, painfully hipster. A song about having a haircut as a metaphor for social alienation, with about as much twee as any three minutes could possibly handle, and sung by a viral Tik-Tok star. And yet, this also has Miya Folick on it, so it is automatically brilliant in every conceivable way – and it really is, a lovely, twee song that somehow seems to cut right to the heart of our lonely, fucked up 2021. It’s not high-art, and you might not want to tell your chin-stroking friends about it, but it’s a cuddly, enigmatic, solemn piece of bubblegum pop nonetheless, and that’s a-ok with me.
A beautifully strange affair from Hans Castrup, Constant Imbalances III marries the sort of protracted pseudo-jazz favored by post avant-garde classical composers, with oddly sinister electronics, resulting in a work as disjointed as it is humorous. Spread over 15 short tracks, the album favors shrill, high-pitched orchestral arrangements, with synthesizers standing in for strings and winds. This is hardly ‘switched on Bach’, however. Castrup is exploring a far more interesting era of classical composition and using his electronic timbres to emulate the overall feeling of acoustic parts, rather than simply replacing acoustic instruments with their electronic counterparts. It’s the sort of thing that would fit nicely on one of those Deutsche Grammophon compilations of early electronic music, the loose experimentation of a boffin in some European radio studio. For this reason, the result is a somewhat more serious effort than some other electronic orchestral music, despite the Kagelian sense of humor that runs throughout.
The perfect riposte to the anti-woke brigade, Gender Studies is the sort of lo-fi, critical post-punk that seems likely to genuinely annoy the sort of dickheads we all wish we had evolved beyond. Juxtaposing striking vocals that hover ever on the point of boredom (a state that charges the lyrics with another level of sardonic wit) with angular guitars and marching, drifting drums, Gender Studies feels almost euphoric. The E.P. inhabits a bracing, artistically rendered naivety that acts as one big ‘fuck you’ to the glossy precision of mainstream rock music. With blunt, timely lyrics – ‘no one ever talks to us unless they want to fuck’ – M(h)aol are the required soundtrack to a culture ham-fistedly navigating the path to diversity, a strong reminder that we’ve got an awful long way to go yet.
Another release that falls into the ‘not really my thing but really quite good’ category, Fall is stuffed full of ethereal vocals and young-person beats – exactly the sort of thing I might otherwise avoid. And yet, despite doing its best to alienate me entirely by including an actual drum n’ bass tune (theoretically unforgivable, but we’ll look past it just this once), Fall is a pretty excellent journey through the hazier end of electronic pop. Bubbling, synthetic rhythms serve as the foundation for Mücha’s drawn-out vocals, with sharp, disjunct percussion breaking through the layers of heavy, cavernous reverb.
With the world literally falling apart theres got to be something said for still find some semblance of beauty in the wreckage, and Adrian Lanes finds it in spades. Though occasionally sounding like the background music to a particularly somber episode of Downton Abbey, The Fleet balances its romantic sensibilities with a glacial pace, its soaring strings never quite arriving at their expected cadence. It is all very, very pretty, but so wonderfully rendered that it can be entirely forgiven for not being a tad more adventurous, and stands instead as a near-perfect example of its genre.
The first ‘best’ album of the year, this was released way back in January and comprises 30 minutes of the sort of electro-acoustic concrete stuff you will no doubt recognise – a familiar sound-world weaved together with astonishing care. Warbling, high-pitched drones sweep and cut into obtuse field recordings, with no small focus given over to the mechanics of the recording medium itself, the wear and hic-up of tape or hiss enlivening the process. Contrary to some concrete music, it’s a very limited, well-defined palette, with the mildly distorted spools of reel-to-reel tape humming seamlessly between the close held pitches of several sine tones, throbbing synthetics framed by the muted shouts and bangs of some indeterminable street scene.
2021 has been quite the year for drone music, a fact that no doubt reflects the endless suspension of the pandemic, a global population waiting for a return to normalcy we know will never come. To Grieve One Another seems topical in name and tone – matching fizzing, gentle distortions with organic tones drawn from a harmonium or some similar instrument. It’s over 30 minutes long, and whilst there is some development, there’s not a lot – instead, we are exposed to the subtle rise and fall of chords of differing lengths, a listless wave framed by the emergence of a formless low drone at its foundation. It’s all pleasingly underplayed, eschewing any great barrage of noise in favor of a more restrained aesthetic, though thankfully without the ‘sea of reverb’ ornaments that has plagued similar efforts. Indeed, there is an inherent liveness to the proceedings, as if we could be listening to a live performance of a single instrument conjuring a loose repetition, whilst the machinery of the world splutters and breaks somewhere outside the window.
If there’s one thing better than an obscure pop-punk band, it’s a Scottish obscure pop-punk band. Wrong life – the new band from the singer of The Murderburgers – continues the grand tradition of self-deflating Scottish melodrama, discussing loneliness, addiction, and poverty in a surprisingly lucid manner, all without compromising catchy power-chord choruses and the half-assed vocal delivery upon which the genre relies. The extremely short EP succeeds by not overstaying its welcome, and its habit of engaging with relatable, everyday subjects through a mixture of broad analogies and abstract descriptions maintains an aura of sing-a-long surprise that’s incredibly endearing.
Whilst wielding a ‘just jamming on a bunch of homemade instruments we found in the shed’ vibe, Reverie offers some really quite unusual arrangements buoyed by an incongruously chirpy tone. Cheesy saxophone soars over jazz-inflected guitar, carried by quiet field recordings and indistinguishable vocals. Moments later it’s all reed instruments and handclaps, a vaguely hip-hop beat, flute solos and fiddles, then on to rattles, shakes, and droning harmoniums. The whole affair is conducted in a distinctly lo-fi, wandering manner, as if the pieces have been produced spontaneously – yet with none of the unnecessary fat you might expect from a seemingly improvised work. I don’t know whether Hunki Dori are familiar with the Finnish folk collective Paavoharju, but they’re treading a lot of the same ground – which given the latter group are one of the better examples within the broad ‘music produced by humans’ genre, is certainly no bad thing.
Demonstrating an astonishing capacity for economy, Light Colours documents a small number of ‘eee’s’, ‘aahh’s’ and ‘ooo’h’s’ overlayed upon one another in different combinations. There really is nothing more going on than that, and yet, it’s a transcendent experience, carrying the listener into an entirely new auditory space as the mind slowly embraces the limited, superbly articulated sound-world with which it has been presented. Small overlaps in the vocal phrasing, the nuance of each tail and attack, chords formed by several voices coalescing at once… the composite effect is not unlike listening to the sea crashing against rocks, with the whole suggesting a complexity absent in the simplicity of its parts. Roughly halfway through the piece changes tact entirely – still acapella, the voice is now drenched in reverb and focussed on long-held harmonies, the introduction of new layers pushing and pulling at the central harmonic content so as to tease out further modes of listening.
Quiet Clapping (aka Johnathan Deasy) has had quite a year, offering up (by my count) no less than 10 releases in twelve months. With all that to choose from, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but Air perhaps wins for its superbly-paced dedication to the ambient-drone cause. 40 minutes of gently pulsing synthetic tones, never too harsh or too muted, this is music that benefits from some deep listening, its charms easy to overlook with the wrong mindset. Given the proper attention, however, Air is a rewarding and hypnotic piece, with the initial middle-frequency wash giving way to near-reverent higher-pitched harmonies as the work progresses. It’s all fairly bleak stuff, and whilst it falls comfortably into the well-stuffed category of ambient works, there is a sense of methodic intellectualism here that helps lift things into a far more interesting, far more complex arena.
A wonderfully abstract foray into the synthetic domain, Вселенная Гасто paints a rich alien landscape of sweeping noise and reverberant pulses, an electronic tableau of emergent rhythms and nuanced sound design. Rather than courting structure in any traditional sense, the album allows transient gurgles of electrical static to evolve over time, with the line between source and processing, sound and scene constantly merging. Directionless, static arps and distant, malleable vocals come and go, dull, mechanical thumps articulating an otherwise impenetrable mist of synthesis. It’s ghostly, claustrophobic stuff, but wonderfully rendered, its gritty, shapeshifting sonics contributing to a surprisingly emotive mis-en-scene.
After the year we’ve all had, I’m fairly certain new years eve should be spent sitting alone in our pants knocking back shots of expensive whiskey, wondering forlornly about the limited prospects of the year ahead. While you’re there, I would suggest sticking on this new track by Integrity – a cover of Nothings The Rites of Love and Death. In true Integrity style, its bleak stuff, yet fittingly preposterous, with a whispered fiendish drawl colouring slow downbeat guitars, and a structure so lethargic it seems to constantly tetter on the edge of boredom. Four minutes in, however, and we’re presented with the world cheesiest guitar solo before a screaming voice starts lamenting, in a particularly ugly voice, ‘I’ve fallen in love with darkness and fear, and I wish the world would disappear’. An extremely 2021 sentiment to which we can no doubt all heartily relate.
So there you have it – 25 of the best releases of the last 12 months, according to me and my indefatigably awesome ears. Sit back, relax, take a listen, and raise a chipped glass of cheap prosecco to the awful year to come.
Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully is a composer, video and performance artist from the UK. He produces work under the Distant Animals moniker (www.distantanimals.com), and runs both the production company 7000 Trees (www.7000trees.com) and the Difficult Art and Music label (difficultartandmusic.bandcamp.com). He holds an actual proper grown-up PhD in contemporary music, and currently lectures at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Every year at Decaycast we like to invite some guest contributors to contribute end of the year thoughts, threats etc, titled “Essential ListEning”. Excited to share the first of many to drop over the next few weeks. First up is DJ/community enabler Dan Kletter.
This year was extremely fucked up for me, so I really leaned hard into music to help soothe the pain. In no particular order, here’s some of my favorites:
This Darc Rama was recommended by [Robert Smith](https://twitter.com/robertsmith) and it’s the perfect balm for when you need cheering up. Really captures a certain essence of mid-80’s new wave music. All of his songs are fantastic. This one is my favorite.
Been listening to versions of the new R.K. Faulhaber from Helen Scarsdale for months. Really wanted to say something sooner about this masterpiece. Everything is constructed entirely from digital synthesizers without any external effects or processing.
For the past few years irr. app. (ext.) has been producing a monthly digital single. His Legends of Frogtown series is the most varied and complex. They’re all amazing. This one is my favorite.
Once again Headboggle has topped himself applying a constraint and working his whimsical style within that framework. Everything is composed with MIDI, digital synthesizers, and a Steinway grand piano, hence the title.
I found these shimmering improvisations for prepared 12-string guitar by Jef Mertens by peeking someone’s Bandcamp collection. Helps me get in the zone with my data science schoolwork.
I don’t know anything about Imperial Valley from Other Forms Of Consecrated Life except it’s meant to be a kind of evocative soundscape to accompany Dorothea Lange’s depression-era photography.
I think Claire Rousay recommended this LP by Skirts and, man oh man, it’s some really wonderful summer vibes music that just makes everything feel warm and delightful.
This LP by MARV from the enmeshed label is a real journey of wistful sounds that will carry you on a bed of fluffy clouds. It’s all about how you spend your time instead of the destination.
Can I say Spiritual Exit is Aaron Davis aka Acre? First met at a Noise Pancakes show and was transfixed by the immense drone conjured from a few guitar pedals. Slip into this trancendental bath and relax.
This debut LP by Sweeping Promises is an immense powerhouse duo of driving no wave inflected post-punk meets gliding new wave. Instantly hooked and played on repeat endlessly.
This incredible piece by Shanna Sordahl reflecting on the transformation from hurting to healing after a physical injury must have been as cathartic to make as it is to listen to.
This Yasmin Williams LP is transformative and rejuvenating. There’s depth and layers demanding attention. Or you can also just be vicariously present.
This LP made with hand-built stringed instruments by Ashley Bellouin & Ben Bracken from Debacle Records is a profoundly immersive experience.
This Byron Westbrook LP is thoroughly engrossing. Feels like a reflection of the emotionally heavy times we’re going through without any of the aftertaste.
This compilation from Camp Cryptid Records feels so hopeful in the face of all the crushing despair and overwhelming tragedy. Also, there’s something deviously, beautifully playful about inviting your cryptids to join you round a campfire.
Another random Bandcamp find. I just feel more people should experience this mysterious LP and let its viscous transmission flow and envelope you like a gentle cocoon.
This LP by Raub Roy aka Horaflora weaves a tapestry of resonances from motorized objects and other acoustic instruments, accented by a delightful tour of everyday neighborhood life.
Third installment of John Wiese’s keenly improvisational conversations with various collaborators from overlapping scenes. Because the lineup keeps changing, the result is different yet unpredictably familiar.
Anecdotally, I’ve purchased more accordion music this year than previously. For example… This LP by Walt McClements is a truly exceptional companion soundtrack for real or imaginary travel through the fleeting slices of everyday life.
This LP by Sofie Birch & Johan Carøe from STROOM.tv fills the void with delicate, dreamy sonic prose.
Extremely attracted to this Vanessa Amara LP from Posh Isolation of random microphone feedback (by intentionally placing them wrong) taunting tender, plaintive arrangements with acoustic instruments.
First heard of Guanaco± via [microphones in the trees](http://calmintrees.blogspot.com) about their tape from Sweat Lodge Guru. This LP is like picking up a conversation with an old friend. Beautiful 6 and 12-string guitar arrangements.
Ever since Love of Diagrams broke up I’ve been searching for a band with that driving angular sound and this debut LP by Chimers (also from Australia) is everything you could ask for and more.
This LP of hallucinatory synths and reverb drenched beats by Kristen Gallerneaux from Shadow World is infectious listening. Techno isn’t really my bag but this is simply exquisite.
Below are things released late this year which I haven’t had enough time to really dig into but are currently getting play:
This Ava Mendoza LP of guitar might from Astral Spirits (cassette) and Relative Pitch (CD).
This tranquil EP by Sunken Cathedral from Full Spectrum.
This incomparable LP of bagpipe drone duo by David Watson and Matthew Welch from Room40.
This uncategorizable LP of trumpet playing by the mighty Liz Allbee.
Dan Kletter loves music, classic movies, fonts, and YOU. Ask him about rabbits! He’s an erstwhile freeform radio DJ and great community enabler at [KFJC](http://kfjc.org) where he booked, produced, and hosted countless live, on-air performances. He also ran 24 Hour Drone with [Norman Teale](http://www.thenormanconquest.net). His acclaimed radio show, [Psychoacoustic Soundclash](http://kletter.us/soundclash) ran from 2000 to 2008.
Basement Tapes has released a collection from noise/sound artist Jacob DeRaadt’s STERILE GARDEN project titled “Winter Rituals” celebrating the fifteen year birth of the project- four cold alienating and low meditations on the ripping cold and isolation of the darkened winter. STERILE GARDEN has always carved out a sonic style all their own and although this release spans many years of rituals, the tones and vibe are unified in their chilling barren presentation. Harsh, creasing walls of crumbling icebergs create cavernous of Shining like chase scene slow motion decay.
White noise gusts envelop hidden textures as glacial distortion melts out of the earths crust. Dark, haunting, and meditative, “Winter Rituals” is isolationist sounding noise/drone for an endless season of frigid messages drying up frozen on an archaic stone. Hauntingly meditative and warmly rewarding for such a dark and sinister meditation. Highly appropriate for the season, now is the perfect time to order “Winter Rituals”. Beautiful cold music.
“Pulsing Place” is the brand new single and video, which you can watch here for the first time, from Trippers & Askers ahead of their new full length album, “Acorn” . The song begins with distant acoustic guitar and voice which tells a complicated tale with deep underpinnings. The track, much like the video feels very very close; morose and present, laying it all on the line, earnestly connecting with the listener in a very up front and personal style lyrically and recording wise which really serves to draw us in to this soon to be modern folk/jazz classic. I often felt like I was in the room with Trippers & Askers, being sung directly to, almost as if in question form, and the video is a beautiful, cinematic representation of this closeness and humanness that seems to be such an important part of the music of “Acorn” and this track specifically. Pulling equally from Modern Americana Folk traditions as well as modern jazz and literary worlds, “Pulsing Place” is a complex and meaningful investigation through song.
The video itself is a visually arresting story of a fluttering gold being navigating uncertainly throughout the world as the band plays on. The churning of a tide, the gentle flutter of a gust of wind from an undefined direction, the gentle crinkling of dried leaves as we search for meaning and a way out, a way forward all paint a picture of the hope of discovery of something better, of something to take us forward.
“Inspired by the world building, Afrofuturist radicalism of the novel “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler, the latest Trippers & Askers LP “Acorn” blends spiritual jazz and traditional styles in ways that pose fundamental questions about the nature of “American” music…..
“Parable of the Sower was written in the 1990’s and set in 2020’s U.S. when society has collapsed for everyone but the super wealthy due to climate change, wealth inequality, religious fundamentalism, and corporate greed. The protagonist – a woman named Lauren Olamina – embodies a kind of radical hope that has nothing to do with denial. In fact, it’s a kind of hope that can only spring from the fact that she understands the severity of her and her community’s situation better than anyone else.”
Make sure to pre oder“Acorn” from Sleepy Cat Records ahead of it’s July 16th release date! And we leave you with these parting lyrics from the single/video here:
“Grab the car and pull around the side
We’ll peel and steal away
All the time we’ve been afraid to take” – Trippers & Askers
Pay Dirt“Error Theft Disco” is a collaboration between Victoria Shen and Bryan Day released on Shanghai based imprint Bluescreen. The sounds on “Error Theft Disco” escape rigid classification by all traditional methods. These are new and futuristic sounds stemming from what has obviously manifested as a highly effective collaborative process between these two prolific and renowned solo artists exploring a wide range within harsh / noise and experimental compositions. The pieces on “Error Theft Disco” hold a unique tension and create plenty of space for the listener to enter, but enter at their own risk, as their. sounds move and shake like a gauntlet made of swords the listener must navigate to a safe completion. Pregnant pauses of 60hz hum give way to explosions of feedback and chaos, but there’s also smaller and more delicate sounds to boot as well.
B L A C K I E: Face the Darkness reviewed by mynameisblueskye
“What is freedom to the average person?”
How ever you answer that question, the one thing you should know is that it probably doesn’t mean the same thing as does to art-punk auteur Michael LaCoeur aka B L A C K I E. To those who have ever listened to B L A C K I E, you will release that his album represents a natural freedom. The freedom to just be the man he was made to be without the world seeking to destroy him or cage him in. Nomadic by nature, nonconformist by choice and perhaps even by nature and unafraid to encourage it for others in his position. The opening lines of “While They Try to Kill Each Other” outlines one of his overall thesis of being B L A C K I E over electric drums better than any of us could ever try.
“Children laugh while they try to kill each other/at least the blood returns to the earth where it belongs, and out of the hands of in power”, bellows Michael in his dry and world-weary town crier scream. With danger everywhere in his wake, it would make sense that he finds silver linings here…if that is what you want to call it. On “There Is No Light”, he reports the history of laid waste in front of and committed towards the people. “There was no food, there were fists/there were no light, there were fists” all to come back to the devastating line. “We use to eat each other!” Entrails wrapped in crimson blood line the periphery of wherever B L A C K I E looks, even amongst those who towards those who call themselves allies and heroes. His second overall thesis “I am not you’r nigger!” is delivered in an angry tone only punctuated by a deep sense of pain and sorrow.
B L A C K I E’s mind may be a mass of continuously spinning wheels, but he will be damned if it ever spins for you. Even as he tackles topics such as suffering from a crippling addiction (“How to Let It Control You”), toxic “patriotism” (“Wave Your Flag”) and fascism/fake empathy (“Uncounted”), Michael knows that even HE is not above occupying the hot seat. Painting a picture of anxiety through a descriptive lens, “Meet the Demons” is claustrophobic in its description of not being able to think and feel freely.
Not being able to just be without judgment. So, after all of this, hearing him emerge free and ready to escape on “It Can’t Define Me” feels not only heartening, but like an anthem written to those looking for their own escape. B L A C K I E’s Face the Darkness may start off as B L A C K I E in the slaughter line witnessing victims meeting their end in HD and plotting his escape from such slaughter, but it sees to it that he isn’t his own cause of danger to himself. In the midst of this, B L A C K I E emerges with one last message (clue, rather) that overall defines not only the entire album, but the world and the philosophy of B L A C K I E: “Look around/Don’t look down”.
Mynameisblueskye is a singer, songwriter, poet, and occasional blogger. An American-born Renaissance man who loves music so much, he has too many videos in his Watch Look after list. His bandcamp can be found here:
Decaycast is back from the catacombs just before halloween to share this special release day review of the newest release from one of our favorite labels, Grimalkin Records who are always bringing important, under-represented artists into the forefront. One of their newest releases is “Profess” from GR-artist Woven In, which continues the strong presence of GR releases that bridge genres in really interesting and innovative ways in 2020, and since they have started really, and Woven In is no exception.
Woven In“Profess” is the 9th album from Woven In, the moniker of multi-instrumentalist Mariah Fortune-Johnson (she/her). Twenty-nine year old Mariah has been releasing music under the name Woven In since 2013.
On her newest offering, Woven In builds a sonic bridge across multiple styles to create a cloak of warmth, discovery, humanity and information through minimal electronics, voice, and movement. Fortune’s voice glides across the honest, minimal , rhythmic glassy synthesizers which create a perfect back bone for her to enrich the meaning of these relatable, warm compositions through the speakers and into our waiting consciousness. Pulling from early Kraftwerk with the intimacy of Wizard Apprentice or Arca, Fortune has created both a sound a a space all her own, while referencing a relatable and inviting composition style.
Tracks such as “Spoken From The Heart” offer an honest and intimate look into the album’s mantra perhaps “No it’s not very nice, but it’s spoken from the heart”. The phrase repeats as a dark heavy buzzing synth backed with looping synth arpeggios create a beautiful and heartfelt nod to 90’s Euro dance and late 80’s minimal electronics, all while accented through her lush, in the pocket, hauntingly elegant vocals; absolutely my favorite track on the record.
This record isn’t just for feeling good at the club or inside you perfect personal space however, this is a record connecting her own struggle as a Black Women in America as a central theme throughout the record;
“It’s social commentary on being a Black woman in America,” says Fortune. There are other themes within the album, including love, kink, and a couple of contemplative instrumentals. Digital only proceeds will be split evenly between Black Land Ownership and the Black Creatives Redistribution Fund founded by Mariah Fortune. The Black Creatives Redistribution Fund’s website is here
Through a powerful combination of voice electronics and percussion, Fortune has created a minimal pop masterpiece which will grow on the listener as it did me, beginning as a minimal pop record and blossoming into a contemporary minimalist electronic masterpiece. This record is honest in that it keeps on giving, it keeps letting you in with each listen, opening up new portals of meaning and new orientations to sound and meaning, and that is not an easy thing to do. “Profess” is out today and you can buy it here
Experimental music stalwart Graham Dunning‘s newest release via the Every Contact Leaves a Traceimprint Panopticon is conceptually interesting as it is sonically, and this is a tough crosshairs to hit, but once again, Dunning does this effortlessly. Dunning reverse engineered and then replaced video game sounds with his own sounds and used the gameplay triggers as a compositional tool as we understand it, with some really interesting and rhythmic results. Panopticon starts off with mid to mid-fast tempo jarring, hammering beats, ala Pan Sonic reel to reel demos 300% sped up and progresses into more delightful sonic madness from there. Dunning’s beats and rhythmic structures are complex; alienating, cold, and yet delicate and nuanced. Oscillating between glitched out, hammering beats, to more distorted, churning, slower-moving sections, the sound and structure of Panopticon is always changing, and always refreshing and building upon it’s previous iterations.
“The research consists of four main phases: The first phase involves extraction of the silhouette of an individual. Calculating the gait period or gait cycle of the individual follows this. Finding the sum of silhouettes is the next step. Finally, similarity score computation and matching process is performed for recognition. Any two images when compared using root mean square value are said to be similar if the value falls under the given threshold.”
Like the eye in the sky it can see you but it can also control you from all sides, slowly reeling you into a violent, repetitive system that slowly encapsulates you and rapidly shoots your flailing body down the robotic assembly line into the center of sound itself. Complicated and dense, Panopticon is one for the sonic adventurer delving into the sonics of cybernetics cast across a futuristic, barren, wasteland.
On his newest EP, “Asset / Defect”Tristan Welch explores a timeless dichotomy of positive and negative expansions and contractions through space, silence, time and sound. Through glassy, shifting drones and tone poem movements ringing present, like a warm blanket after a cold night adrift on the nights moon last beam. The album opens up with beautifully articulated mid tempo oscillating synth pulses, a faint buzzing underscored with a warm bath of tones; a calm yet slightly unnerving respite; a rest for the restless, for the anxious, and for the forgotten. This is slow patient, music, for one in a process of uncertainty, as well as one of discovery knows that things can change, and every once in a great while, for the better, and maybe this time they will, that is the question this music asks, what is change, and when will it be cast upon us?
‘Given the inherently political nature of most of his music, “Asset / Defect” is a rare turn inward for Welch. As a person in recovery, “Asset / Defect” is an audio/visual accounting of sorts, a result from tallying up the ledger of negative character defects and positive assets. An accounting feat that is musically reflected in the clear balance between beautiful, ebullient tones and grainy distortion held at tension within the work.”
The A side “Asset / Defect” seems a bit brighter in sound presentation overall but across the twenty minute EP, Welsh offers two movements which compliment each other in a dichotomy of undulation. Wet delays and thick intertwined braids of reverberated strings cast doubt to those casting doubt, give hope to those giving hope, and push us all to look inward to a change of fresh air and relief. The B side offers a similar, more contemplative, introspective place where the listener can identify with these living breathing wave manipulations, like a warm bath, tingling the skin, but never fully encapsulating the full dynamic of touch and pressure. Beautiful music for complicated times.