Mark Kirschenmann: Cybersonic Outreach (New Focus Recordings/Panoramic Recordings, 2021)

May 17, 2022 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Mark Kirschenmann: Cybersonic Outreach

Longtime University of Michigan educator and experimental musician Mark Kirschenmann has a truly distinctive approach to improvisation, outfitting his electric trumpet with a multitude of pedals and plug-ins, blasting the instrument far beyond its usual capabilities. His new album contains eight pieces that each tap into their own unique space and explore them at length. “The Cascades” has a buzzing, reedy tone that flitters from the edges, while swampy electronics burble underneath. “Turning Time Tables” has more EWI-like textures, applied to sparse, alien vibrations. “Duet for Vocaloid Trumbots” is a beamed-out space lament sung by two robotic near-voices, both individually and then layered together. “Out of Bounds” is frigid yet vibrant, an extended glimpse at a supernatural happening. “Color Wheel” seems similar at first but gets razzier, and also more twinkly. “Lamentation for My Mother” rips a whole lot of emotion from that atomic trumpet, set to another nervous, eerie drone.

Willis Anne: I’m the same distance as you 12″ EP (LAN, 2022)

May 16, 2022 at 7:11 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Willis Anne: I’m the same distance as you 12″ EP

The title makes it seem like coming up with radically different rhythms is so easy. Maybe it isn’t as hard as it seems, but Willis Anne is far removed from your average producer. “da = db” seems placid at first, then abrupt percussive hits start dropping from the sky out of nowhere. Highly detailed without being dense and weighty, it’s a precise arrangement of something crumbling apart. “a/b = d/d” would be a smoothed-out deep house cut if not for the jittery, panned percussive loops that simply do not budge for most of the song. “a/b = 1” is almost more straightforward in how it sets busy drum machine programming (with unusually splashy cymbals) over glowing synth pads. “a = b” is similar, and has a sort of mellow Squarepusher feel.

Sir Tad: You’re Home tape (Tynan Tapes Temporal, 2022)

May 15, 2022 at 11:13 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Sir Tad: You’re Home tape

The other project of Tynan Krakoff is just as fixated on hazy memories as Meadow Argus, but instead of long, disintegrating loop-based pieces, this one works in more digestible pop song-length snippets. Using autoharp, melodica, Stylophone, lots of cheap keyboards, and various tape loops, answering machine messages, and home recordings dating back to the 1960s, he makes avant-pop dream scenes which reenact moments shared with family members. “You’re Home” is a supremely comforting opener, with melodica waves stretched out into accordion-like drones, and a rolling, dubby rhythm. “Quinn” is splashed with an array of scattered keyboard melodies, adding a sharp playfulness to Odd Nosdam-like zoned-out beats. “Bird of Paradise” is gleeful autoharp psychedelia, and “Break a Leg” is much more sorrowful than you might expect for a song based around a recording of a kid singing the KitKat jingle (the voice in question is Tynan’s brother, who died unexpectedly earlier this year). “Potential” pulls samples from a radio talk show discussing misunderstandings of communism and the rise of fascism. While this is one of the album’s more serious moments, it’s immediately followed by the malfunctioning tape whimsy of “Slitherin’ Slop”. “Tumbled Down” is a minimal synth comedown with more of that luscious melodica.

Brainwaltzera: ITSAME (Film, 2022)

May 14, 2022 at 7:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Brainwaltzera: ITSAME

In which the anonymous IDM sensation reveals himself to be an iconic video game character. No, actually, this is a sprawling set of synth tracks with non-serious song titles and loads of personality. This comes a little closer to Ilian Tape finely tuned club propulsion than the Rephlex braindance it clearly models itself after, with parts that dip into slo-mo synthwave dizziness (“re: laps (roll with iD)”) and rainy day guitar introspection (“PROVE UR NOT A ROWBOAT [SKIPPER]”). The skittery, sad IDM (“a star is bored”) and glitched-out breakbeat (“tracing Rays [reality glo]”, “ad interim”, “medal headz [G.B.D.F]”) tracks especially deliver the goods, but there’s no lack of quality here.

Tommaso Moretti: Inside Out (Bace Records, 2022)

May 13, 2022 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tommaso Moretti: Inside Out

Percussionist, guitarist, composer, and vocalist Tommaso Moretti‘s music alternates between several different perspectives and influences, incorporating Afrobeat and samba rhythms as well as bits of surf rock into its fluid, polyrhythmic jazz base. Yet he never feels like he’s trying to smash a bunch of random, unrelated sounds together, so his transitions never sound jarring. Opener “Italiano in America” bops, swings, and jitters, but never loses its cool. “Redefine the Purpose”, a vocal number with flute and xylophone, is a bit loungey, but still anxious and winding. “Edge of a Decade”, one of a handful of songs with cornetist Ben Lamar Gay, is a more celebratory outer-limits samba jam. “Going Home / Flying Away From Home” is a dazzling 9-minute suite featuring inventive viol√£o playing by Edinho Gerber. “Era De Maggio” is a more nostalgic, swaying tune with earnest vocals, sounding much more traditional than some of the album’s more ambitious tracks, which at times feel like calmer Zappa compositions.

Winged Wheel: No Island LP (12XU, 2022)

April 29, 2022 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Winged Wheel: No Island LP

Winged Wheel is a remote collaboration between four musicians whose various projects are always a must-listen: Whitney Johnson (Matchess), Cory Plump (Spray Paint), Matthew Rolin (Powers/Rolin Duo), and Fred Thomas (no intro necessary). Fred sent drum loops over to Cory, who added guitar and bass parts, Matthew added further guitars, and Whitney sang in her familiar submerged style, although her voice is a little clearer in the mix here. While clearly a studio creation, there’s such a distinctive chemistry to this album that it’s obvious that all four musicians’ spirits are in one place, even if their bodies aren’t. The drums hold it all in place, and the guitars and effects are just vast canopies of sound, with the vocals driving it all home. “Blue Pigeon” is just some next level dream pop. All of the artists involved bring their own personalities to this group, from Spray Paint’s blown-axis distortion to City Center’s basement punk dreaminess and Hydropark’s motorik pop to Matchess’s out-of-body mysticism, but here they coalesce into something else entirely. Wonderful.

Ambassador Hazy: The Traveler LP (Hazy House/Cardinal Fuzz, 2022)

April 27, 2022 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ambassador Hazy: The Traveler LP

The second album in as many years from this lo-fi project delivers more ramshackle psych-pop that goes on impulses rather than fine-tuning ideas and perfecting the performances and recordings. It delivers the hazy feel the artist name promises, but it’s not overly indulgent or meandering, and it’s energetic and sometimes quite memorable. “Simple Thing” is a drum machine-based winner with some tasty fuzz guitar and nice trippy fx. “Gone to My Head” is more of a ’90s indie pop gem, with a wail-along chorus. “Don’t Smash It To Pieces” gets by with its knocking drums and insistent refrain. Even when the songs aren’t so catchy, they’re still delivered with feeling, and the album is brimming with homespun creativity.

Ryan Huber: Duopoly + Subterrane (self-released, 2022)

April 23, 2022 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ryan Huber: Duopoly

The elusive Ryan Huber has recently resurfaced on Bandcamp with some new releases, as well as a couple from the vaults. I haven’t listened to the latest one yet, but the two earlier ones from this year showcase two vastly different sides of his work. Duopoly is sort of a minimal techno release, but one that doesn’t follow the linear path of most minimal techno. “Bucket Collector” is eight minutes of ticking beats, but at different volumes and intensities, making it feel like it’s ducking down different paths and coming back into view. “Details Matter” is more rapid and racing, but the beat is tunneling away from you. “Commercial Soul” is like grappling at the side of a cliff while dust and pebbles are trickling down on you, but you’re still able to keep balance and climb without falling. “Skytaker” has the energy of an acid trance track in the making, but instead of taking off, it burrows inside itself. The title track also has a nervous pulse that feels like it could blast off, but it seems to fade into the shadows, and the pulse that threatens to incite damage is what takes over.

Ryan Huber: Subterrane

While Duopoly has some propulsion, even if it ends up ends up being an illusion and never actually progresses, Subterrane is a drone release that is absolutely steadfast about remaining in one place, or trying not to exist at all. That said, it does gradually shift into different spaces, and there are moments when it swells up into something resembling light rather than ever-present darkness. When he titles a track “Dearth”, though, he’s not pulling any punches. “The Pulse” comes close to the distant reverberations of a slowly tolling bell, and the last three tracks are dramatic enough to feel like they have cinematic undertones, forming some doom-filled mini-suite.

Meadow Argus: Peristera tape (self-released, 2022)

April 22, 2022 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Meadow Argus: Peristera tape

The latest Meadow Argus tape is the longest one yet, letting each side stretch out for over 20 minutes. “Archytas”, the first half, sounds like a giant grotesque sculpture made of music box innards, churning away and creating dislocated rhythms tripping over themselves in multiple directions. Whining tape hiss and the last shred of operatic vocals from a mostly dubbed-over cassette lurk way down in the bottom of the mix, and there’s many moments where something tilts way off its axis, but there’s still several other gears spinning. “Peristera” has a similar makeup, except the music box melody at the front seems much more cheerful, yet it’s contrasted by dissonant droning. The effect is much like a sweet dream and a strange, insistent nightmare (not an especially violent one, but definitely a haunting one that lingers for a while) both jostling for space in your head at the same time. And the brief moments when the music box tips off-balance edge closer to the more disturbed state, but it still remains afloat until the tape’s abrupt end.

Conflict at Serenity Pools: Type A/Type B (self-released, 2022)

April 20, 2022 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Conflict at Serenity Pools: Type A/Type B

California’s Conflict at Serenity Pools debut with two albums that roll post-punk, chillwave, shoegaze, and the psychedelic end of ’90s ambient techno into one hazy, washed-out sound. “Eat Salad” is a highlight of their ravey side, bringing to mind acts like Opus III and Ultramarine. Others like “Titanic Daddy” have funky basslines and handclap-heavy beats. “Seabird” sets swarming shoegaze guitars and multiple voices over racing new wave drums, constantly running towards the sun while high and trying not to topple over. “Bloomin'” is a steady dance instrumental that revs up and is constantly on the verge of blastoff. “Voices” is a Balearic house jam that bubbles ever upward, yet stays suspended in a perfect moment. “Through the Waves” is a flashback to the 2009 summer of chillwave, but trippier, and a reminder of how silly hipsters are for moving on from that style so quickly. The cosmic disco of “Not Dreams” slows down and gives way to the progressive electronic reflection “Inside”. “Silence Mantles” is more of an Underworld-like progressive house track that has some tantalizing vibraphone-like percussion. “Faraway” would seem like the perfect note for this to fade away on, but there’s another bubbly disco jam, “Underwater”, tucked away at the end.

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