Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE, 2017)

April 28, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds

Chicago flautist Nicole Mitchell’s latest album (recorded live at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2015) is based on a concept of combining dualities, considering the idea of smashing utopia and dystopia together. Acoustic and electric instruments are juxtaposed in order to explore an advanced society in harmony with nature. The album seems to be primarily acoustic, with strings, percussion, and Japanese instruments such as shamisen and shakuhachi credited along with electric guitar, theremin, and electronics. At times it’s dissonant in an avant-rock way. In other moments, it’s trippy, evocative, and otherworldly. During the album’s second half, vocalist avery r young gives a voice to Mitchell’s lyrics about earthly struggles. He seems to creep up to the stage from the back of the room during the gospel-inflected “Staircase Struggle”. “Shiny Divider” is a bit more bluesy, speaking frankly of bloodshed and demanding that humanity finds a solution. After the lengthy instrumental “Mandorla Island”, young returns on “TineWrap”, referencing heavy labor in fields and on railroads, and explaining how determination is crucial to the survival of humanity. A powerful album which (unfortunately) is even more relevant now than when it was composed and recorded.

Between Interval: Legacy (Spotted Peccary, 2017)

April 20, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Between Interval: Legacy

Pretty good deep space ambient/downtempo with a slight sci-fi theme. This artist remixed Sally Shapiro almost a decade ago, but I’d say this is closer to Johan Agebj√∂rn’s solo stuff. Pulsating ambient with touches of sad synth-pop melodies and some dub echoes. There’s light arpeggios, but there’s lots of room for space and reflection. “The Hour Appointed” has rushing water, bird chirps, and bell-like tones. “Fields of Neptune” has a nice synth sequence which drifts in along with nocturnal mist and fog. “Gravity Core” is dub techno with the beats suspended so all that’s left is the echoes into the void (plus some suspenseful pads creeping in during key moments). “Inner Guidance” is the only track to feature voices, and they’re heavily shrouded in echo, resembling the advice of spirits. Between Interval’s style is somewhat minimalist, but the intention is for the imagination to color in the empty space.

Ron Zakrin: One In A Million LP (Equal Recordings, 2017)

April 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ron Zakrin: One In A Million LP

Detroit-based painter and musician Ron Zakrin used to record electro-punk as Goudron, with releases on ADULT.’s Ersatz Audio and Ectomorph’s Interdimentional Transmissions. This is his first LP under his own name, and it’s closer to stripped-down electro-techno, with brittle, paranoid melodies in the Dopplereffekt/Aux 88 mode, but there’s still new wave/synth-pop elements to it. “Hells Androids” is bouncy and playful, but “Guilty Pleasures” is more of an even tempo and has some guitar-like distortion and a swooping bassline. “Streetwise” injects some 8-bit textures into its suspenseful electro-funk. “Haste to Hastings” and “Midnight Hustle (D Major)” are cosmic disco homages, and “One in a Million” is a chipper new wave tune with a playful Casio-sounding outro. Available from Bandcamp.

Ian Ginsing: Cosmetic Blemish 12″ EP (Equal Recordings, 2016)

April 19, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ian Ginsing: Cosmetic Blemish 12″ EP

Solid, steady tech-house from a former Detroiter now living in Portland, and also known as Jerry Abstract. Solid, playful tracks with a snap and a crunch to them. Pretty minimal and groove-based, for the most part. “Wet Yeti” is as slyly cheeky as its title; “Womance” is a bit darker and more pensive, and has lots of cool snips and glitches. “Pattaya Shuffle” is a bit of a nervous rattler, with stammering beats and some weird cartoonish samples poking through near the end. “Seeping Into Film” has an almost dubstep/garage-ish bounce to it, and a filtered vocal sample that reminds me of Hardrive’s “Deep Inside” for some reason (but buried way deep inside). Available on Bandcamp, but “Wet Yeti” only appears on the 12″.

Uton/The Gonk with a Luminous Nose/Roped Off/Sheaf & Froggatt: split tape (Shack in the Barley Productions, 2016)

April 8, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Uton/The Gonk with a Luminous Nose/Roped Off/Sheaf & Froggatt: split tape

Yet another tape from a while ago that I’m just catching up on. This one starts off with a 20-minute suite from Digitalis alumni Uton. It evokes a lot of the same haunted forest qualities as many of the other Finnish experimental underground artists. It feels like it’s being played by animals under the light of neon stars, then it takes the form of psychoactive bubbles in a luminous pool, then it’s a shortwave radio transmission. The Gonk with a Luminous Nose (more commonly known as The Golden Gonk) follows suit with overdriven hypnotic fuzz. Less prone to shapeshifting or changing form than Uton, he’s more likely to venture hard down one direction, until the location itself morphs into something else. On the tape’s second side, Hausu Mountaineers Roped Off start with throbbing minimalist synths, but then their second track is a noisier and more expansive (but still hypnotic and minimalist in some way) journey through an asteroid belt. Sheaf & Froggatt are the most mysterious act on this tape, and their contributions are titled “Noises Made by Cacti Growing Inside an Alien Hothouse” and “A Ram Sang Under Water”. Those only sound like part of what’s going on, though, but it’s really hard to describe what else is happening. The pieces are much more collage-y and dream-like than the rest of the tape, filled with distant voices and telekinesis and transparency and sudden, alarming shifts. The whole tape is a really good mix of brain-marinating confusion.

Exael: Miche tape (Lillerne Tapes, 2016)

April 2, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Exael: Miche tape

It starts deep, then it gets deeper. The type of techno that belongs on a tape, not a record. But much of it doesn’t have beats. The drone pieces sound like swimming in three or four rivers at once. Very disorienting, but something still seems to be consistently pulling you along. Evil robot cats purring. Creaking droids spying me from the ceiling. Disappearing into a mirror. Then there’s deconstructed beats flittering away, and bass grinding away in circles. I have a headache right now and I don’t feel like forcing more thoughts out of my head but this is a seriously incredible tape. Still available at Bandcamp.

Fletcher Pratt: Dub Sessions Vol. 3 tape (Crash Symbols, 2016)

April 2, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Fletcher Pratt: Dub Sessions Vol. 3 tape

With a loose framework of dub reggae, Fletcher Pratt dives deep into cosmic mind soup with this tape. Much of it is more like electro-acoustic music with a beat, filled with chattering voices and seismic tonal shifts. Even though there’s palm trees on the cover, it’s not relaxed tropical chill-out music. It’s actually a lot colder and more barren than you might expect. The second side is a slow drizzle of melted tapes and downcast vibrations. Dub rarely sounds this sad or despondent.
maybe it isn’t really dub? It’s an other. Not for anyone who wants their spirits lifted, but otherwise, tune in on Bandcamp.

Cop Funeral: 2 Stressed 2B Blessed tape (Already Dead Tapes, 2016)

April 1, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Cop Funeral: 2 Stressed 2B Blessed tape

So here’s an example of a tape I’ve had sitting on my desk for months and just never got around to listening to it, and then somehow the day I finally decide to put it on, it’s what I need to hear most. I’m in the middle of a 3-day weekend where I just don’t feel like leaving the house or talking to anyone, not feeling any love from anyone, not feeling like my life is going anywhere, definitely not happy about society in any way. This tape alternates between field recordings, harsh noise, and lonely synth meanderings. Titles include “Everything Will Be Okay” and “Try”, making it seem like it’s attempting to push forward even though everything’s hopeless. “5/11/16” sounds like a sort of cop funeral, with a mournful trumpet playing taps while cars pass by on the street, and it sounds like there might be a faint, distant police siren in there. “Sick of Dreams” has a flickering drum machine beat under blown-out ghostly whirring. Most astonishing of all is “Blood Tummy”, a psychedelic noise nightmare on the second side. This album was made by the guy who runs Already Dead Tapes, and it’s easily my favorite thing on the label. Highly recommended, and still available at Bandcamp.

Abdul Sherzai: I Tried To Make Something Pretty tape (HEC, 2016)

April 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Abdul Sherzai: I Tried To Make Something Pretty tape

Very short tape of homemade synth and drum machine sounds. Waves floating around, bending, changing colors, and then having sudden seizures and crashing to the ground. “Family Shame Stain” is a loner sludge jam with supremely crushed, distortion-pumped beats and mumbled thoughts leaking out of his head and into broken pitchshifters. “Song of My Dream” is an outer space synth exploration, and then the prettiest melody (or hint of a melody) on the album ends up being the song where he mutters “You’re Fucking Dead” over a wobbly, trippy beat. He did try to make something pretty, and it still turned out ugly and corrupted and sinister, but it’s fine that way, really. Available at Bandcamp.

Horoscope: Misogyny Stone (Wharf Cat, 2017)

March 31, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Horoscope: Misogyny Stone

Horoscope’s second LP for Wharf Cat consists of swarming post-Throbbing Gristle noise-drone and unsettling spoken lyrics intended to dismantle the patriarchy. “Drone Gold” is filled with buzzing and helicopter-like whirring, with some frayed, frazzled pulses and some suddent, hazy blasts. The title track features Kathryn Undorfer’s echo-covered speaking voice surrounded by thumping beats and chilling, nearly melodic synths, plus squealing feedback. “Azabache Necklace Bought to Protect My Daughter” also features slow, snapping beats and cold but stirring synths, edging towards darkwave but without vocals, and then ending in shifting, rushing waves. “New Piece (for Christian Mirande)”, at the end of the album, starts out ominously, and then gets flooded with distorted vocals, ending up the album’s most volatile, threatening piece (but still not quite harsh noise). A seriously gripping album, definitely recommended.

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