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.

v/a: Friends & Mentors 12″ (Steady Flight Circle, 2020)

June 12, 2021 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Friends & Mentors 12″

The third release on Thomas Xu’s Steady Flight Circle spotlights several of his close associates and inspirations. Terri Whodat starts the record off with long hallway kicks, eventually joined by a piano loop that seems to stumble its way onto the track at first, but as the beat comes back, it all makes sense together and rides smoothly. Poseidon Neptune’s “Saht Nam” has more intricate beats and bass patterns, under a canopy of synth pads which cool everything down, instead of making it more tense. Meftah’s “Ur Utility” has both analog ambiance and a low-slung, gritty push, having sort of a similar cratedigger feel as his hip-hop productions but in a house mindstate. Finally, “9th Creation (Short Mix)” by John Silas has soothing keyboard melodies and a sneaky John Barera bassline, which all seem to dance gleefully with each other, and it does seem to end abruptly before everything feels worn out.

T. Griffin: The Proposal Original Soundtrack (Constellation, 2021)

June 11, 2021 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

T. Griffin: The Proposal Original Soundtrack

T. Griffin’s score to Jill Magid’s documentary about the protected legacy of Mexican architect Luis Barragán is a raw set of evocative pieces mainly recorded in a living room in Long Island. Its players include alto saxophonist Matana Roberts (composer of the Constellation-issued Coin Coin series), drummer Jim White (of Dirty Three), and Godspeed You! Black Emperor members Sophie Trudeau and Timothy Herzog. Griffin plays banjo, guitars, keyboards, percussion, and other instruments, as well as field recordings. The music often seems more like a haunting performance by a chamber music group or a dark jazz ensemble than a typical soundtrack. “Manufacture” is a delicate, floating synth-driven piece, and “Copyright Implications” is a more sinister scene with voices spilling over from a distant room. Banjo and violin give “Void Room and Reliquary” a much less alienated and more direct feeling. Several other tracks are similarly both spacious and intimate, and most of them are brief moments that slip away just as quickly as they appear. “The Nun With a Chipped Tooth” is allowed to play out as a slightly longer scene, and nothing interrupts the simply gorgeous “As Ever” as it gracefully glides.

Tim Walters: Stricture (VauxFlores Industrial, 2021)

June 10, 2021 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tim Walters: Stricture

Tim Walters has released a few stellar albums of deep-fried noise using analog synths and SuperCollider coding. His newest one doesn’t come with too much info, but I’m assuming it’s along the same lines. The 7 tracks unpredictably dart between various scenes and settings, from construction-like industriousness to weird bongwater splattering. “Expired! Perfect.” isn’t as explosive as the first track, but the strained, spy-like voices keep it on edge. “Taking the Skins for a Spin” is by turns rubbery, static-riddled, and bitcrushed, with a few moments where it seems like a code is cracked and everything abruptly bursts open. “Flusterville” is both swampy and electrically charged, and “Patience Practice” has a similar mood but feels like it’s aiming skyward.

The North Sea & hyacinth.: Poppies (The Jewel Garden, 2021)

June 3, 2021 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The North Sea & hyacinth.: Poppies

I haven’t caught up with all the releases on Brad Rose’s The Jewel Garden label yet, but this split between their long-running The North Sea project and Portland’s hyacinth. is a marvel of polar opposites. The North Sea’s “The Stationer’s Shop” is 22 minutes of COVID-induced doom, violently shaking and squirming in place like it’s glued to the floor, with heavier, more prowling synths gradually piling on more and more layers of dread. You feel like you’ve been in a sort of reverse car wash afterwards, hosing you down and scrubbing you with dirt and grime, yet it feels just as cleansing afterwards. And then the hyacinth. tracks are basically a beat tape of relaxed, slow-moving chill grooves, with airy sequences levitating over thumping, skipping beats. Each track sounds it would perfectly soundtrack a brief, slightly offbeat scene that basically involves some strange objects swaying or whirling around. A few tracks like “casper.” sound especially off-spool and doused with narcotics, but a fair amount of it could fit in pretty much any poolside beats playlist.

Iran: Aemilia (Aagoo, 2020)

June 2, 2021 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Iran: Aemilia

Not to be confused with the noise-rock band led by the late Aaron Aites, this Iran is an Italian trio who make sprawling but structured improvised instrumentals, using analog keyboards, guitar, and drums. There’s also self-described “crappy drum machines”, toy keyboards, field recordings, and other sounds and instruments in the mix. The opening track “Qom” is a very ragtag piece with noisy analog keyboards and metallic percussion, and while it twists in a couple different directions, it’s very groove-forward, which keeps it from getting completely chaotic. “Magnitogorsk” has a more consistent mood, with hypnotic patterns played on well-worn keyboards over skittering, echoing drum machines. The nearly 10-minute “Xenopolis” is a sort of junkyard battle that ends in a desert hallucination. “Regium Lepidi” starts out soft and slow, but its rusty saxophone helps blow it out of balance, and the whirring keyboards warm up and the drums whisk it off the ground. After another dusty epic (“Cuma”), “Aral” is easily the album’s most upbeat, joyous track, but also one that bubbles, boils, and haunts. Finally, “Bam” mostly drifts rather than scorches, although there is a spicy part in the middle.

Melissa Grey & David Morneau: Symbolic Gesture (Flower Cat, 2020)

June 1, 2021 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Melissa Grey & David Morneau: Symbolic Gesture

A sonic response to an exhibition, Symbolic Gesture is a short 5-track release filled with interconnected patterns and an inventive mixture of chiptune textures, refracted effects, trombones, and field recordings. Matching the album’s intricate cover art, a throbbing beat frames the prismatic patterns, which are twisted at irregular intervals, while voices interject the words which make up the titles of the pieces. String duo Miolina add delicate plucks to the somewhat awkward breaths and airy pulsations of “Kirlian”. After the minimalist RPG score of “[again]”, “Shekinah” comes alive with hordes of chirping insects, then eases into a slowly chiming drone which oozes back and forth.

møziz: E​-​møtion: Time Machine + Cycles (Collection Disques Durs, 2021)

May 30, 2021 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

møziz: E​-​møtion: Time Machine + Cycles

The debut album from møziz, a producer from the Ivory Coast who’s now based in Montreal, is a 19-track set of warm-but-wintry, expressive techno and IDM tracks which clearly aim to capture a wide range of feelings. The tracks are spacious yet busy and highly considered yet filled with spontaneous energy. “Time Machine (The Night of My Life)” switches from skittering electro to a steadier but still swift BPM tempo, beautifully incorporating vocal phrases and delicate melodies, as well as dubby percussion attacks. “When I Can’t Stand I Float” is a great title for a song that slowly rises rather than walks upright, and still seems like it just started when it fades away after 5 minutes. The haunting atmospheric trap of “Oosx” takes a darkly realistic turn with the addition of the words “We don’t want to do anything to scare your children” and police sirens near the end. The braindance-dubstep highlight “War” is immediately reprised by its “emo edit”, and while the original was emotive enough, this version fleshes it out and makes it trippier without losing its affectionate core. “Butterflyeffects” was the first track released in advance of the album, and it hooked me immediately with its abrasive beats at the beginning, then surprised me with how it progressed into faster and more slowly drifting parts, with rippling textures and nostalgic melodies all appearing and resurfacing later. It feels like a sort of audio community rather than a properly structured song, if that makes sense. møziz truly has a skill for making electronic compositions that feel like living, breathing entities.

CAMÍNA: Te Quiero Mucho (self-released, 2020)

May 28, 2021 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

CAMÍNA: Te Quiero Mucho

Dallas resident Ariel Saldivar, known pseudonymously as CAMÍNA, produces vivid songs of love and resistance. Her strong, expressive vocals are backed up by heavy bass, slightly cracked trip-hop beats, and worn, faded samples drawn from her Mexican heritage. The samples on “Cinnamon” do a delicate dance with the blown-out head-nod beats, while Saldivar’s multi-tracked, bilingual vocals sing of rising above, even though the damage is already done. “Forever and Always” is kind of a ghostly R&B slow jam, as she pours her heart out over starry organs and booming beats. “Burn for Eternity” continues with the bittersweet trip-hop vibes, this time a bit more upbeat and ready to dance like nothing matters. “Maleguena” is the most sonically dizzying track, with Saldivar wailing like young Liz Fraser in Spanish over curdled samples and monstrous beats. On “Se Puede”, she creatively duets with sampled lyrics about desire and perseverance.

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