Pursuit Grooves: Felt Armour (What Rules, 2018)

March 11, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pursuit Grooves: Felt Armour

Long before “deconstructed club” and “weightless” became buzzwords in the electronic music press, Vanese Smith was making music which greatly reconsidered how beats can be put together, what sounds can be looped into rhythms, what can be rhymed or sung over, and also what can be absent. She’s spent much of the last three years working more on graphic design than music, but her latest album as Pursuit Grooves has surfaced, and it’s another reminder of how brilliant she is. The title Felt Armour suggests a duality between toughness and sensitivity, and the tracks feature rhythms built from blunt, concrete noises, sometimes sounding like firing bullets, opening doors, or hard crashes. But instead of beating you over the head with abrasion, the sounds are smoothed out with contemplative synth pads and soothing bass tones. There’s similarities between these tracks and the ones she produced as 91 Fellows, but these aren’t quite as suspenseful or dubby. All of these tracks are instrumental, and they’re generally midtempo; they’re not conventional dance music, but not entirely removed from it, either. The sounds are shaped into abstract rhythms, without heavy kick drums or basslines that explicitly invite dancing. There’s movement and progression, but also zero-gravity floating. It might take several listens to adjust, but if it clicks, there’s little else that can approximate how it feels. Also, it probably goes without saying that you need to listen to this at high volume, with speakers equipped for handling heavy bass. Available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp.


Seth Graham: Gasp LP (Orange Milk, 2018)

March 10, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Seth Graham: Gasp LP

Seth Graham’s first vinyl LP (following a grip of cassettes, both solo and with Keith Rankin as Cream Juice) continues in the hyperrealist mode as the majority of Orange Milk’s recent output, acting as a more classical-influenced counterpoint to the latest Giant Claw album, and also complementing the label’s recent Noah Creshevsky album/anthology. This one certainly doesn’t sound as squishy and slurpy as 2014 tape Goop. Instead, it’s more focused on brief pieces consisting of heavily glitched shreds of stringed instruments and voices, flickering across a backdrop of silence. Some tracks like “Binary Tapioca” head into a bit more of a rhythm, and are more heavily populated with sounds, but I don’t want to say they’re overstuffed or dense because it still feels like there’s so much space to them. There’s so many moments where everything seems still for a while, then several sounds crash through at once, and it rapidly switches between being ecstatic, silly, frightening, regal, and somewhat melancholy. “Mas Que Fin” basically sounds like someone circuit bent or hacked into an episode of Teletubbies. The brief final track “Talk” seems to mangle, stretch, and condense an epic string crescendo into a minute and a half, leaving out any anticipation-building tension and just delivering a grating rush, then slapping it down and ending suddenly as if nothing happened. Gasp is such a perfect title for an album so breathtaking, yet also concise.

Ray Kandinski & Karl Lumont: Project Chicago EP 12″ (complet., 2018)

March 10, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ray Kandinski & Karl Lumont: Project Chicago EP

The title and Kandinski’s past releases on labels like E-Beamz make this appear to be house, but it’s actually lush, atmospheric jungle filled with birdsong and vintage reggae samples, like the familiar Mikey Dread drop that appears throughout “Make Me Feel So Good”. “Project Chicago” has choppier beats, getting busier but not more aggressive. “Feel It” is more goodtime vibesy with splashing Amens, and “Heal Yourself” is a bit more lo-fi, and with more twisted breaks and spiraling synth pads. There’s also more of a bassline to this track than the others. Next time you’re playing a rave at a botanical garden or conservatory, drop something from this record.

Lead: s/t LP (Radical Documents, 2017)

March 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Lead: s/t LP

Minimal name, minimal artwork, and two sidelong, untitled tracks. This album isn’t overwhelming, and it was created with just a few small instruments in an office building, but even though it sounds sparse and airy, the duo get locked into some entrancing patterns and it catches your attention. The first part of side A sounds like a musical recreation of water dripping into a pail as well as a faintly but deeply hissing radiator. Then the second part has minimalist keyboards which seem to get out of sync. Trying to follow where it’s going ends up tricking your mind a bit, even though it doesn’t seem like all that much is happening, and it’s so quiet you have to turn it up and really concentrate. After a period of puttering drum machines, dubbed-out connection noises, and rhythmic scraping, Amy Howden-Chapman’s vocals, alternating between higher fluttering and lower, lonelier reflections, float over a limited but expressive array of synth beams. The side ends with a percussive bit which oddly sounds like an electronic horseback ride. While the first side seems like a suite of several short tracks, the second side is one continuous piece. It begins with slowly dripping keyboard tones and gentle waves, and there’s some low humming which nevertheless seems to cut through the sounds a little bit. A light, metallic clicking develops, and eventually the vocals go into a higher register. For some reason, this is categorized as noise on Discogs, but it’s almost the inverse of a noise record. It seems simple and basic, maybe even “lowercase”, and it captures the essence of a small, intimate space rather than loudly projecting outwards in attempt to repel or express disgust or anger.

Crazy Doberman: Free LSD LP (Radical Documents, 2018)

March 4, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Crazy Doberman: Free LSD LP

Crazy Doberman, formerly known as just Doberman, is an experimental collective from LaFayette, Indiana which includes Wolf Eyes member John Olson. They’re described as “psycho jazz” rather than “trip metal”. They’ve played at several local events such as the monthly Psy Jazz Nights at Trixie’s in Hamtramck as well as various afternoon basement sessions in Ypsilanti, and their participants have included underground noise/improv mainstays like Dan Dlugosielski and Sick Llama. The group’s first LP appears on LA-based Radical Documents, and there isn’t much info provided, but it’s two side-long dreadscapes filled with fogged-out voices, distant, squealing woodwinds, and a looming sensation of overwhelming queasiness. I’d say it reminds me of Robedoor more than Wolf Eyes, to be honest. Side A has a slow, booming drum machine grounding everything, but the blown-out chaos surrounding the rhythm pushes everything to the brink of sheer panic. Side B is a bit more freeform, with loose, pounding drums, and more ominous layers of strings, reeds, and angry elephant brass. The instruments are easier to discern this time around, and somehow it ends up being darker, trippier, and more doomified than the first side. There’s a brief pause in the middle before blasted-out electronics and cranky, zombified woodwinds creep in. There’s no proper end to it really, it just keeps going through different phases of intensity then stops cold at the end of the side. Nauseous and horrifying, but nearly impossible to turn away from. It’s incredible.

Florian Kupfer: untitled 12″ EP (L.I.E.S., 2017)

February 25, 2018 at 1:52 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Florian Kupfer: untitled 12″ EP

I hadn’t even realized that Florian Kupfer released a new record on L.I.E.S. until I was recently searching through Reckless Records’ website a few days before the last time I visited Chicago. I heard some clips and had to buy it. In some ways, it seems like perhaps the least lo-fi thing he’s released so far. There’s still fat, thumping kicks on opening track “Contact”, but there’s a drifting sensation underneath that’s hard to explain, with scattered pianos aiding in the song’s progression. “TY” is a shorter track with a more complex beat pattern and a thin layer of white noise, but it doesn’t sound “hissy” the way his other stuff did. “Random Chaos” seems to have a more club-friendly beat, and it seems to progress that way, but the percussion seems to imitate the banging hammers of construction workers, and then it just gets wavier and trippier. “Z” begins with several interlocked percussive patterns, none of which are a standard club rhythm, before a soft but vengeful layer of swarming synths hovers over everything. If it were more distorted and there were several more layers to it, it would be close to Somatic Responses territory. Really stunning and surprising, not at all what I was expecting.

Schnellertollermeier: Rights (Cuneiform, 2017)

February 24, 2018 at 10:21 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Schnellertollermeier: Rights

Cuneiform has announced that they’re no longer going to be releasing new music after being one of the very best sources of experimental music (especially avant-prog and jazz) for over three decades. Part of their final batch of releases is this fourth album from instrumental trio Schnellertollermeier, which is a smushed-together amalgamation of the band members’ last names (one of which is actually Troller, probably no relation to the Austin band of the same name). Their music is very precise and considered, building up from locked-in patterns and seeing how far out they can stretch. It all seems to be played on a standard guitar-bass-drums trio configuration, but there’s some effects added, making the guitars flange and stutter. Of the four tracks, the first and last are over 10 minutes each, and the longer this band plays, the more convoluted and off-the-rails they get. The whole album sounds fresh and exciting, and the band consistently defy expectations at every turn.

William Price: Rush Hour (Ablaze Records, 2017)

February 19, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

William Price: Rush Hour

Mind-altering electro-acoustic works from Birmingham composer William Price, inspired by abstract art, literature, and everyday scenarios. Lots of granular processing and manipulation of voices and instruments, transforming the sounds entirely; dipping them in acid, making them sharper and jagged, making them wet and bubbly. His usage of voices, particularly in “2 Days in the Tank” (which has a particularly liquid-like feel, and is based on manipulations of the title of Charles Bukowski’s The Drunk Tank Judge) and the especially otherworldly “Spline”, are incredibly haunting, blurring and distorting the lines between the familiar and unfamiliar. Brief pieces are alternated with longer, more ambitious ones, and two of them focus on non-electronic instruments. “Sans Titre V” is a lengthy piece for amplified cello, which constnatly shifts between more graceful, melodic sections, abrasive interjections, and silence, with a chilly glow of reverb over everything. “Rush Hour” is a three-movement piece featuring tenor saxophone, which interacts with Price’s electro-acoustics. At times they alter the saxophone, and at one point (during the first movement) they end up forming a fast, jazzy rhythm perfect for zipping along the highways. The short piece “WOOSH” is apparently based on notes originally played by a toy saxophone, recorded using ProTools and manipulated using granular synthesis software. Price’s sound design is consistently impressive, and the compositions are all entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

Ω▽ (Ohmslice): Conduit LP (Imaginator Records, 2017)

February 19, 2018 at 11:51 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ω▽ (Ohmslice): Conduit LP

This NY-based improv ensemble utilizes two drummers, one of which is fed through a modular synthesizer, courtesy of Bradford Reed (who was in King Missile!!!), inventor of what he calls the pencilina. On several tracks, Jane LeCroy delivers stream-of-consciousness poetry over all of this, reminding me of Lydia Tomkiw (Algebra Suicide) but with more of an acerbic edge, and with a freer sense of dynamics. She sing-songs about wanting to get away by any means necessary on opening track “Crying on a Train”, and “Get Matter” is more free-associative and ponders the infinite complexities of the universe, but ultimately determines that “you don’t matter” in a cold, punishing, matter-of-fact way. “Gravity” sounds like it has a didgeridoo but it doesn’t, it must be the magical, sound-transforming powers of the pencilina. After the dark ambient rumblings of “Rusty Ground” is the ominous yet free, unforced doom-jazz of “Paint by Numbered Days”. Closing instrumental “Ohm’s Awe” is like some strange complex structure come to life and lifting off the ground, rotating and emitting wonderful music.

Tatira: The Light Will Disappear CDr (Inam Records, 2018)

February 18, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tatira: The Light Will Disappear CDr

The latest Inam Records release may be the first one that I’ve seen arrive in a standard CD jewel case. The artwork is bright white with clear lettering, and much of the music is also surprisingly accessible. It combines drone and techno the way other recent Inam releases have, but the majority of the tracks here are punchy and somewhat shiny and polished. There’s even something approaching chords to some of them, and bits of new wave and progressive house elements. At least compared to some of the more dour Inam releases, this is a lot sunnier and brighter-sounding. “All Is Seen” goes on for nine minutes, and it gradually picks up a growling bass lump which sneaks up on you, and can be quite terrifying if you’re driving. Like a lot of these tracks, this one stops suddenly and dovetails into the next one. Some tracks are fully ambient (“The Absentee”, “Son of Machines”), but then there’s other lengthy beat-driven ones, like “Merciful Tyrant”. “Tunnels” is a bit darker and lonelier than most of the other tracks, and it could easily keep going and building for a lot longer than the 3 minutes it gets here. The album ends with the sparse, shimmering drone “The Light Will Disappear”, suggesting that maybe the next release will return to murk, fuzziness, and malaise. Free DL at Bandcamp.

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