Brendon Randall-Myers/Dither: Dynamics of Vanishing Bodies (New Focus Recordings, 2020)

October 17, 2020 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Brendon Randall-Myers/Dither: Dynamics of Vanishing Bodies

Brendon Randall-Myers’ first composition for electric guitar quartet is performed by Dither, which includes Terry Riley’s son, Gyan Riley. The five movements are both intimate and distant, sharp and soothing. The striking “Missing Fundamentals” mainly consists of crests of controlled feedback, and will likely crush your speakers if you play it too loud. “Auras” is less startling, more a dreamlike ring of several close-miked guitars plucking away in intricate circles. After the brief waking winkling of “Phantom Rhythms (With Singing)”, “Trem Chorale/Harmonic Melody” is more forceful, barreling straight into the heart of the unknown with with a tough but adventurous spirit, and easily the most exciting section of the piece. Randall-Myers has been conducting the Glenn Branca Ensemble since the composer’s 2018 passing, and this track is where the album matches the force of Branca’s best work. The concluding “Vanishing Bodies (Lines and Loops)” is mostly calm levitation and floating, although there’s a few flashes where tones jump out a bit more, and it plays off of patterns like this for the final minutes.

Mike Khoury/Dominic Cramp/Gino Robair/Phillip Greenlief: Compassion & Evidence (Creative Sources, 2020)

October 16, 2020 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Mike Khoury/Dominic Cramp/Gino Robair/Phillip Greenlief: Compassion & Evidence

Detroit-area improv musician Mike Khoury recorded this 2018 session at the Temescal Art Center in Oakland with three West Coast musicians. Khoury plays viola, while Dominic Cramp (of Evangelista) plucks on a lyra and Gino Robair makes a soup of bubbling, spluttering electronics, which Phillip Greenlief threads in and out of with his tenor sax and Bb clarinet. It can get pretty messy (mostly in a fun way), but Khoury’s viola playing seems to elevate the mood into something more enlightened in the middle of the 13-minute “Nature Is the Objective Reality”. This is interrupted with bursts of radio dial-spinning, with waves of static eventually incorporated into the mix as an instrument before they float away. “The Universe Was Not Created” is a nearly half-hour vortex which features a greater presence of choppy, crunchy radio transmissions, which get blasted and stretched out at one point. It zones out deeper as it continues, ending up with terse scrapes and wind-squeaks against a tense drone. “Nothing, By Definition, Does Not Exist” finds a weird sort of rhythm between the musicians, with electronic distortion nearly sounding like a didgeridoo and having a sort of conversation with the radioactive reed spluttering.

Masma Dream World: Play At Night (Northern Spy, 2020)

October 15, 2020 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Masma Dream World: Play At Night

Masma Dream World is Devi Mambouka, a Gabonese-Singaporean artist who moved from Africa to the Bronx when she was 12, and trains as both a reiki practitioner and a butoh dancer. Her Northern Spy debut is a singular blend of pretty much everything that’s ever made an impact on her, as complex polyrhythms share space with R&B harmonies and backwards chanting. “Knight Wolf” is mesmerizing, with seismic bass and a warped airhorn introing several layers of phantasmic vocals and a slow, throbbing thump. “Theta” similarly feels like an invocation, with its reversed lyrics and ultra-low frequencies. Other tracks incorporate recordings of butoh performances and shamanic chants, while Mambouka’s own vocals are equally transporting. And the album just gets more hypnotic as it progresses, with “Becoming the Magician” being a completely levitating four minutes of slooooooow dub beats and tunneling vocals which nearly morph into throat singing by the end. “RIP” has a similar beat but more of a singular focus on Mambouka’s vocals, rather than echoed-out chants. Really stunning, otherworldly work that a lot of practitioners of otherness could learn a lot from.

Dev/Null: Pocket Selector (Modern Urban Jazz, 2020)

October 13, 2020 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dev/Null: Pocket Selector

Once known for brain-splattering breakcore which threw grindcore, oldschool rave, wanky jazz fusion, chiptune, and horror soundtracks into a blender, Dev/Null has dedicated much of the last decade-plus to breakbeat hardcore and jungle, a scene which is stronger than it’s been since its ’90s heyday. Any regular listen to his Blog to the Oldskool DJ sets has heard him slip in some jungle tracks he made on a Teenage Engineering PO-33 Pocket Operator, and earlier this year he released an entire album of these tracks. They’re clearly lo-fi and not as dynamic as they would be if they were recorded in a proper studio, but other than that, plenty of these tunes could’ve been produced and released back in the day. Some of them are a bit more over the edge than ’90s hardcore and a bit closer to the hyper-fractured intensity of Dev/Null’s breakcore work, particularly “Ahhh”, “Stop”, “Busy”, and “Hyper”. “Eazy” is definitely more on a darkside tip, and “Baby” starts out a bit smoother and more ecstatic before going haywire. “Stomp” does have some distorted stomping beats, but changes up into some more detailed rhythms as well. Seriously amazing work that seems too advanced to have been made on such a tiny hand-held device.

Eki Shola: Essential (self-released, 2020)

October 11, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Eki Shola: Essential

Eki Shola’s fourth album Essential, the final third of a trilogy that began with 2019’s Possible, is much more vocal-driven than her earlier releases. While continuing with her earlier album’s themes of hope, healing, and comforting, this one has more direct, specific lyrics, drawing from her own life experiences as well as commenting on relevant social issues. The beginning of the album, however, is more of a series of healing exercises, with wordless vocals building in waves over slowly unfolding rhythms for the first two tracks. Subsequent songs are about freedom of thought and expression, with “Shattered Boundaries” giving a reminder that there’s no wrongs when it comes to creativity. “Ignorance Veil” is a huge rush of thoughts regarding global warming, reducing carbon footprints, loving nature but feeling like a hypocrite for contributing to its polluted state, restriction of women’s rights, and other issues which are certainly important to discuss, but can also put a toll on one’s mental health if dwelled on too much without any form of productive release or pause for decompression. “Eco-anxiety” touches on similar themes while also mentioning her desire to have a career breakthrough and make it as a musician. “Gift of Grief” (included in two versions) goes deeper into this autobiographical train of thought, mentioning her Tiny Desk appearance and other highlights that keep her going as an artist. Then “Change the System” more specifically relates to the coronavirus outbreak and our currently changing world, calling for universal health care and stressing the need for all of us to band together and make it happen. “Pause” wraps it all up with a reminder to step back from everything and relax from time to time; don’t overlook the importance of self-care. Musically, the album has some more jazzy, sophisticated, or experimental moments, with touches of drum’n’bass or trap rhythms or dubby effects on some tracks, but it never gets aggressive, and never distracts from the lyrics when they’re present.

Neil Cicierega: Mouth Dreams (self-released, 2020)

October 10, 2020 at 5:22 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Neil Cicierega: Mouth Dreams

I’ll be honest, I tend to avoid the majority of things that become hugely popular on the internet. I really can’t stand memes or most things that end up being described as viral hits, especially anything that’s supposed to be humorous. I’m not sure if it’s because I just don’t have a sense of humor anymore, or I chose to remain sober, or I don’t care for celebrities or pop culture or anything of the sort. I don’t understand why I’m like this, I don’t claim to be smarter than anyone or high brow or anything like that. Why should I act like I’m above watching cartoons or loving pop music? But with all that in mind, 20 years ago I was a high school student and I loved watching all of the weird Flash animations that ended up being staples of the pre-YouTube internet. All Your Base Are Belong to Us was a big one, of course, that dumb one with the squirrel that I still actually think about all the time, and the entire genre of Animutations that Neil Cicierega single-handedly invented with this masterpiece of culture-jamming absurdity. After a year or two I completely tuned out of this sort of thing, but my sister kept in touch with Neil and I’d occasionally hear about some of the things he did which ended up becoming huge online. For whatever reason, though, he didn’t cross my radar again until his mashup albums started doing the rounds, and getting WFMU airplay and all that. Since 2014’s Mouth Sounds, the arrival of each of these mixtapes has been a major event, and while a lot of the individual tracks on them can be hit-or-miss for me, I just find it jaw-dropping the way he draws connections between certain pop culture artifacts, and how elaborate his concepts and arrangements are. Mouth Dreams starts out by finding nuances in the Yahoo jingle that its creators likely never had considered. An early highlight is “Just a Baby”, which dices Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” lyrics over a freaking Hoobastank song, adds some Justin Bieber in the chorus, and strangely makes it sounds vaguely shoegazy. The lyrics gradually get more and more ridiculous (“stuck in baby prison”, “I shot a train, but that train was just a car” “Just a baby drinking coffee”, etc). It’s dumb, it’s blasphemy, it shouldn’t work, and it’s laugh out loud hysterical. “Psycho Killer” over “Superfreak” sounds like something that was probably done at least once during the Boom Selection blog era, but most mashup artists probably would’ve just done a simple A + B blend with maybe a few DSP tweaks here and there. This one has a lot of fun cutting up Byrne’s paranoid lyrics, especially the ones about his bed being on fire. And obviously it’s incredibly funky and would actually work at a party, and people might not even notice something’s fishy unless they were really paying attention. “Ribs” is almost painfully meta, seamlessly blending that Chili’s jingle with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and throwing Marilyn Manson in there because, well, do the math. Tracks like “Sleepin'” display Neil’s gift for making a dumb song sound even dumber through the power of repetition, as well as cutting in an awkward lyric as many times as possible (not Neil, but see also this classic for a similar example). “Cannibals” and “The Outsiders” demonstrate his deep fascination with production bumpers, stock sound effects, and voice-overs, and then “Whitehouse” grafts Jack White onto Raymond Scott’s perennial cartoon soundtrack favorite “Powerhouse” and scores a ton of Detroit-area music dork points. The classical mashups at the end are a bit of a stretch, but the modem squeal at the end is a nice touch, and ties in with the cover art… look closely. And WAKE UP.

Aaron Spectre: Create the Future (Morning Under Leaves, 2020)

October 9, 2020 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Aaron Spectre: Create the Future

Aaron Spectre has been on a roll with all of his recent releases, but this one hit me so hard that I think it might just be my favorite thing he’s ever done. He describes it as “🍄 80% chiptune, 20% noise 🍄”, and it’s a whirlwind of LSDJ-processed breaks, Chuck D samples, robot speech, 8-bit bleeps, and screeching noise. It’s hyperactive, rage-filled, funky, convoluted, and just straight-up fun. “Impeach the Prez” might be the craziest one, but really they’re all explosive and mind-blowing. Well, “Take It Back” is shorter and not quite as hectic. The other tracks, though, too much. A definite flashback to the early Amiga days of breakcore, and one of my favorite recent releases of the genre.

ESP Summer: Here + 天国の王国 (Onkonomiyaki, 2020)

October 8, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

ESP Summer: Here

ESP Summer (or E.S.P. Neighborhood, or ESP Continent) is Pale Saints’ Ian Masters and His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defever. The two released a 1995 album which remains well-regarded among dream pop aficionados, a more abstract 10″ EP (which I prefer to the album), and a 1997 7″ EP, and eventually a digital complete discography in 2009. They’ve continued to collaborate remotely (Masters lives in Japan, Defever is a Detroit-area native), and they’ve entirely unexpectedly released two recordings on Bandcamp so far this year. Here is a 4-track EP which is far more dream than pop. Gentle acoustic guitar melodies are threaded throughout, but the tracks make heavy usage of field recordings and strange textures. “Guitar & Mirage” is a bit closer to the noisier moments of HNIA’s Return to Never, but blasted wide open. “Water & Piano & Birds” has all of those things, but there’s also a barely audible phone message which may or may not date from HNIA’s 4AD days.

ESP Summer: 天国の王国

天国の王国 (or Kingdom of Heaven) is more song-based, starting out with Masters drowsily sighing “the kingdom of heaven is within you” while being serenaded by a Cocteau-school drum machine waltz and blankets of guitar effects. “熊虫” alternates between fuzzy dripping, ethereal piano vapor, and (for a brief moment) more of an aggressive stomp, with Defever’s guitars having the same type of raw bite that they did back on Livonia. “宇宙” revisits the lyrical theme of the first track, but surrounds it with a panorama of flutes, knocky percussion, and spindling guitars, then douses it with some frosty feedback. Then it turns into a nostalgic ballroom dream montage, and eventually the windswept guitar comes drifting back in, elevating it all into something dramatic and mournful. Masters delivers his mystic message one final time on the last track, starting out with clear vocals and trippy guitars before drifting to a reserved coda.

Jordana megapost

October 7, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jordana: Full Colour

Jordana LeSesne is a legitimate pioneer of American drum’n’bass. She was highly active as 1.8.7 throughout the mid-to-late ’90s, played at countless clubs and raves, and received a huge amount of college radio airplay, as well as exposure on MTV’s AMP, which is how I discovered her music when I was in high school. If you aren’t familiar with her back story, her Wikipedia page and this recent-ish interview posted on LGBTQ site them. are essential reads. Also, her old albums and most of her 12″s on Jungle Sky are all available on Discogs for dirt cheap; I noticed I didn’t have The Cities Collection so I just bought a sealed copy for $3. She’s posted tracks on Soundcloud for the past decade, and a couple months ago she launched a Bandcamp page filled with newer work and rarely heard older material. Full Colour is an unreleased fourth album dating from around the same time as The Cities Collection, and like that album, it all has an intense, live-sounding feel, as it was all made using hardware and samplers recorded to DAT. The tracks are complex, elaborate, and HARD. Each track almost sounds like a DJ set condensed into 7 minutes; there’s just so many elements moving in and out of the mix, from jazzy guitars to twisted breaks to phone message samples to filtered vocals to rave riffs. There’s some calmer parts here and there but this is definitely not the type of drum’n’bass that would’ve wound up in car commercials or trendy cocktail bars around Y2K. This is strictly a relic of the underground scene, like her first 3 albums, and it all sounds just as vital today. Favorite tracks include “Strange Bird”, “Tidal Surge”, and “Annihilate”, a bonus track originally released under the name murder0ne on a rare 12″ in 1998. I totally would’ve lost my mind if I’d heard these back then.

Jordana: Numerology

The second release on her Bandcamp is Numerology, a collection of tracks from 2003, when she was living in England and spinning garage as Lady J. She explains that she was descending into poverty and had limited equipment to record these tracks, but there’s no sacrifice in quality. The title track is a lush roller, perhaps with a bit more space to breathe than some of her earlier work, but still swift and exciting. “Chemistry” (with vocalist Gabriella Hardy) and “Finalé” are glimpses into Jordana’s pop side, while “Without a Trace” is a turbo-charge darkside rave nightmare, and the two tracks surrounding it are breathless future-ragga blasters. “Dirty Basses (aka Boo’s Tune)” indeed has some vicious, filthy bass, hard as anything she’d done prior.

Jordana: Resistencia E.P.

Finally, Resistencia E.P. is a preview of Jordana’s upcoming album, consisting of tracks mostly written a few years ago. These are all strong, intensely detailed tracks in the newer, more hi-definition d’n’b style, filled with even sharper details and a grander, more epic feel. “Rainbows Not Enough (It All Goes Dark)” is a particular tour de force, especially during the middle where it flicks between metal guitars, softer guitars, dubstep roars, electro breaks, and then of course there’s her lyrics directed at the source of her misery. “OVNI (Ever Present)” is a 9-minute epic revisiting the UFO-related themes of her first album, When Worlds Collide, filled with levitating trance synths and loads of samples of military and airline communications. All of these releases are quality and well worth supporting. Black Trans Lives Matter.

KTL: VII (Editions Mego, 2020)

October 6, 2020 at 7:25 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

KTL: VII

The seventh studio album from Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg’s KTL project is a completely stand-alone work unrelated to theatre, film, or installations. It consists of five disorienting pieces which merge sickly strings with hazy feedback and electrifying noise, sliding and swirling like a sort of gigantic radioactive lava lamp. “Lee’s Garlic” is the only short track, and it’s one of the more busy, destructive ones, but the others stretch out for extended mind alterations. The first side is much more caustic, trippy, and frankly quite head-spinning at times, particularly “Silver Lining”. The second side calms down for a while with the 14-minute “Tea With Kali”, but then “Frostless” edges back into the brain-frying zone again, applying a heady layer of fuzz to warm, oscillating drones, with the results being more pleasant than frightening.

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