Ben Miller: Ben Miller’s Room (Living Records, 2020)

June 30, 2021 at 7:25 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ben Miller: Ben Miller’s Room

Last year, avant-rock legend Ben Miller (Destroy All Monsters, Sproton Layer) recorded a monthly podcast series, with each episode being around 10 minutes of stream-of-consciousness prose, narration, foley, sound design, and music, mostly excerpted from recordings of Miller’s various projects in the past. Basically, they seem like brief one-man radio plays. Miller introduces many of them by informally welcoming you into his room, then he proceeds to talk your ear off about mysteries and mysterious people, ending many of them with a reminder of when the next episode was scheduled to premiere. The first part is about a government worker named Cody, and after hearing four pieces about him, I can’t quite tell if I’m closer to understanding who he is, but maybe that’s not the point. Miller’s enthusiasm for storytelling is what drives these mini-dramas, and his homemade way of processing voices and adding sound effects (typing keyboards, squealing modems) adds lots of charm and keeps the pieces busy and constantly moving. The title to the second part, Mystery of the Useless Clues, tips you off that its contents are filled with lots of dead ends and non-sequiturs, but there’s some intriguing descriptions of bar scenes accompanied by passages of dusky jazz pieces on part 1. The second part incorporates music a bit more into the narrative, from Miller’s own lopsided singing to bebop playing on the radio. From there, it just keeps getting trippier and more mysterious. Finally, On the Brink, a saga about a character named Hoss, might have the most hallucinatory, Firesign-ish sound design — Miller even goes “whew, that was topsy-turvy” at the end of part 2. At the end of part 4, Miller says “One day, Hoss remembered something… but that was another story”, which feels like the jump off for even more escapades.

Show #588 – 6/26/21

June 26, 2021 at 1:53 am | Posted in The Answer Is In The Beat | Leave a comment

6-26-21
Little Snake ~ hang in there..
RXK Nephew ~ Early Age Death
Jana Rush ~ Mynd Fuc
Casper Mcfadden ~ ppp… parasites.eve
Prolaps ~ Static Barrier
Sonny Rollins featuring Jim Hall ~ The Bridge
Ground-Zero ~ Null & Void: TV-Q Missile
Aaron Dilloway ~ Possession Audition Tape
Manslaughter 777 ~ What Is Joke To You Is Dead To Me
Craig Padilla & Marvin Allen ~ The Revelation

MJ Linderman: Ghost of Your Guitar Solo (Dear Life Records, 2021)

June 25, 2021 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

MJ Linderman: Ghost of Your Guitar Solo

MJ Lenderman’s second solo album is a glorious bum-out session, filled with both minor gripes and major life ponderings, all of which add up to a serious questioning of what any of this even means and does it even matter. Constructed from a series of daily writing exercises, the songs are mostly pretty short, expressing simple yet significant statements of regret through blown-out lo-fi wattage. The opening title track is by far the longest, and it actually is mostly a guitar solo until the end. Among the brief, sour slowcore laments like “Someone Get the Grill Out of the Rain”, there’s comparatively upbeat ones like “Inappropriate”, or “Infinity Pool”, which I guess only sounds less bummed out because of its thumping drum machine and watery guitar effects. Songs without distortion, like the stark, arid “Catholic Priest”, are almost too uneasy to bear. A shorter, spacier “Ghost of Your Guitar Solo II” provides a short break to reflect and ease the pain. Of the two versions of the song “Jack”, which puts in perspective our individual places on this planet, the album-ending “Live Jack” is angstier, rougher, and more electrified.

Evolfo: Site Out of Mind (Royal Potato Family, 2021)

June 24, 2021 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Evolfo: Site Out of Mind

I haven’t listened to much Tame Impala, but they’re still the first thing I thought of when I put this on. Opening track “Give Me Time” is filled with trippy vocals and heavy, thwacky drums that could easily be sampled as hip-hop breakbeats. As the track goes on, however, the vocals disappear, and it gets stranger, more acid-fried, and more mystical, with melodies that might be inspired by Ethio-jazz. “Strange Lights” is a more revved-up Osees-type garage rocker, but feels a little more restrained. “Zuma Loop” seems more calmed down at first, but it slowly simmers, pondering “what a dream life can be”. “Drying Out Your Eyes” is another psych-pop gem with a tight rhythm and echo-scattered vocal hooks, ending up with a brief spaced-out exploration that nearly sounds like a theremin. The 3-part “In Time” and a few other tracks have their proggy moments, yet there’s also time to unwind and reflect with tracks like “Let Go”. There’s some decent songs here, but the production and the array of directions they explore are what make the album interesting.

Bart Hawkins: Vision of Eden (Spotted Peccary Music, 2021)

June 23, 2021 at 7:55 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Bart Hawkins: Vision of Eden

I just mistyped this guy’s name as Nart Jawkins, and I really like that, I need to remember it and use it for something. Anyway, this is extremely starry ambient drone mainly created on a modular synth, but with a much warmer, more immersive feel than most modular recordings. “Garden of Grace” is overlaid with the sounds of children on a playground, and it sounds like there’s a cello being bowed, but I guess somehow it’s a modular synth? “Orbital Eccentricity” also has thick layers of wind-through-trees drifting textures, as well as some sharper buzzing, and some detached pulsations underneath. “Sidewinder” has the only additional instrumentation, which comes in the form of guitar prepared with forks and spoons between the strings, causing jittery vibrations which resonate among the breathing, serpentine synth layers. “Descent Into the Forbidden Fruit” is a mesmerizing, unexpectedly dark drone which gets more revved up and noisy than the other pieces. “Dragonfly Speaks” seems to fizz and smolder like deeply burnt embers, but otherwise it’s one of the brightest and most tranquil pieces here.

Tim Reynolds & Michael Sokolowski: Soul Pilgrimage (Breezeway Records, 2021)

June 22, 2021 at 7:55 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tim Reynolds & Michael Sokolowski: Soul Pilgrimage

Yes, that is the same Tim Reynolds who plays lead guitar in Dave Matthews Band. Regardless of how that sentence (or this video) makes you feel, this is a decent album of spacey electronic pieces recorded with collaborator Michael Sokolowski via filesharing rather than together in a studio. Reynolds plays guitar and effects, and Sokolowski helms an extensive arsenal of hardware and software synths. It starts off in a space ambient vein, but soon adds different elements and textures. The three-part “Soul Pilgrimage” suite takes up a huge chunk of the running time, and first part “The Itinerant Mind” has a few unexpected beat drops and synth diversions, as well as some cavernous vocals. Nothing here moves at a fast pace, but it doesn’t follow any predictable structure, and it’s full of surprising moments. “Freighter Hop” has a babbling-brook synth rhythm and super plush guitars, and a delicate melody that could’ve easily come from a 2000-era Morr Music record briefly pops up. Reynolds generally plays cosmic, exploratory tones, but there’s some more melodic flashes as well. The last four tracks are shorter pieces, with the brief “Aerotrain” coming close to the indie electronic vibe again, but with more twisted guitars, and “Homunculus” hinting at synth-funk. I’m not sure how different the album would’ve sounded if the two musicians were recording everything together in the same room, but there’s a sort of disconnect that also contributes to the spaciousness of the album. It sounds like spontaneous jams, yet there’s also parts that seem to cut in suddenly that might not have been there during real-time performances. Even as background music, it kept me guessing.

x.nte: HYPER BEAM (Kitty On Fire, 2021)

June 20, 2021 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

x.nte: HYPER BEAM

Atlanta’s x.nte has released material on Never Normal, Sonicterror, Cock Rock Disco, and several other labels, and his newest is on Kitty On Fire, easily one of the better sources for new school ravey breakcore these days. HYPER BEAM is scattered and manic, yet there’s a strange sense of grace to it, with layers of atmospheric pianos or harps underneath the compressed, static-scorched noises and combusting breaks. The sample at the beginning of “keepyourmouthshut” about teaching kids not to trust cops is both playful and serious, and “sweet memories” is like a deep drill at the dentist’s office that’s somehow made soothing through lots of drugs and relaxing background music. “vendetta3” is a plunge into slower tempos and more gaseous textures, providing a more pillowy comedown. “radio warped” stretches out into a sort of erratic electro cruncher with junglist interjections. “rollout70s” is similar to the type of hyper-scattered, rambunctious, off-the-grid breakcore people like Duran Duran Duran were starting to make 20 years ago (jeeeeeez) but with a vaguely atmospheric footwork bent at the end. “backpacking” starts out sounding like hard, rolling drum’n’bass, then it quickly devolves into chaos. “deep dark sleep” seems like one of the more structured tracks here, building up to smashing breaks and gabber kicks but also leaving room for a sort of mystical breakdown. Really outstanding productions that play well with contrasts, but also have a raw, DIY feel to them.

Show #587 – 6/19/21

June 19, 2021 at 1:57 am | Posted in The Answer Is In The Beat | Leave a comment

6-19-21
Mdou Moctar ~ Taliat
Material Girl feat. NAPPYNAPPA & Lord Glacier ~ Material Girl Meets the Devil Pt. 3
Jonathan Snipes, TALsounds & Fire-Toolz ~ Red Dwarf Flower Bed
Tim Walters ~ Arcadia
Otomo Yoshihide ~ Anode (Part 1)
Wolff Parkinson White and Hayden Chisholm ~ Leaving Her Presence
God Pussy ~ Hoje Notícia-Amanhã Estatística
The Hal Galper Quintet ~ This Is the Thing
The Marcia Blaine School for Girls ~ Sometimes My Arms Bend Back
Syd Barrett ~ Waving My Arms in the Air

Anna Webber: Idiom (Pi Recordings, 2021)

June 14, 2021 at 7:59 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Anna Webber: Idiom

Anna Webber’s jaw-dropping double CD Idiom showcases her different approaches to improvisation and composition, in an attempt to bring the two together. The first disc, recorded at New Haven’s infamously intimate Firehouse 12, is performed by a “simple trio” consisting of Webber on tenor saxophone and flure, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer John Hollenbeck, while the Brooklyn-recorded second disc contains “large ensemble” pieces by a different group of musicians, conducted by Eric Wubbels. Most of the album consists of numerically titled “Idiom” pieces, which focus on a specific woodwind extended technique, which Webber explains are based on natural sounds the instruments make rather than anything out of its league. I listened to the entire album without reading the notes first, and for all of its hour and 45 minutes, I just kept wondering how these musicians were keeping everything in sync. “Idiom I” is filled with lots of short, repetitive phrases that gradually twist in a minimalist way, later building up to more of a chaotic climax at the end. “Idiom IV” begins with sparse pianos, but an ultra-precise drum solo appears midway, and then the trio launches into an ultra-knotty rhythm which still somehow kind of grooves. “Forgotten Best”, the album’s one non-“Idiom” piece, seems more melodic and I guess jazzier than the others, with Webber playing saxophone rather than flute, although the rhythms are still a bit tricky. “Idiom V” seems to flail around and repeatedly run into a wall, never really taking off or hitting a stride, but “Idiom III” is a much more engaging exploration of stop-start rhythms and bewildering saxophone patterns. The “large ensemble” disc is taken up by the hour-long “Idiom VI”, which consists of six movements and four interludes, with over a dozen solos total. The interludes are generally slow-motion glacial drones, but the movements are wild, multi-limbed creatures moving in several directions. The full arrangements feature multiple horns, woodwinds, strings, drums, and synthesizer, and the sound is monstrous when it needs to be, coming alive when the volume is turned up, but also miniscule and honed-in at times (mostly the interludes). “Movement IV” is a bit eerie due to its screeching violins and horror effects synth. The final “Movement VI” ends with a giant pile-up which basically sounds like a musical food fight involving the entire ensemble.

Moiré: Good Times (Hypercolour, 2021)

June 13, 2021 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Moiré: Good Times

Between 2013 and 2017, Moiré released an exceptional run of records for labels like Werkdiscs, Ghostly, Rush Hour, and R&S which were among the best of that healthy era for scuffed-up house. He’s returned after a 4-year absence, not largely altering his sound, but continuing to do what he does best. The title Good Times seems partially in jest — it’s not as tense and paranoid as 2017’s No Future, which was partially a reaction to the closure of several prominent London clubs (certainly something still relevant now), but there’s still some venting here. Guest vocalist Demigosh plays a similar role to DRS on the last album, especially on the opener “Know Me”, although his lyrics are more soul searching. Moiré’s productions are still vivid and slightly cracked, with soothing but not too slick pads and a comforting aura of tape hiss. Sometimes he treats the human voice as an instrument, as on “Low Works”, or “R1” where he turns vocals into arpeggiated waves. “Ghana” feels like it’s heading towards being an ecstatic jungle track, but it ends up with fast, grubby kick drums rather than breaks. “Vertigo” is a slower, more reflective cut bathed in a thick wash of static. “Lost in Pacific” is a stirring conclusion, expressing a deep, joyous feeling of anticipation, while also feeling like it’s basking in an amazing sunset.

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