William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (FPE, 2019)

March 24, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration

Recorded last year at Trinosophes in Detroit, legendary drummer William Hooker was joined by U of M professor Mark Kirschenmann and bassist Joel Peterson on this hour-long improvisation. The CD is divided into 8 tracks, but this is really one continuous, immersive experience. For much of the piece, the drums don’t seem to be the focal point; the cymbals shimmer and the bass drum is kicked at sporadic moments, but the warped, mutated sounds of Kirschenmann’s trumpet are what seem to take center stage in the beginning. It’s only around the middle of the fourth track (“Magnets”) that a storm begins to brew up. By the first parts of “Panchromatics”, a sweeping rhythm has taken control and Hooker is audibly heart shouting and gasping. Kirschenmann’s horn seems to drift between metallic guitar-like riffs, rough textural drones, and full-throttle blazing. By its conclusion, the album is chaotic, righteous, transcendent.


Thomas Xu: Different Wisdoms 12″ EP (Steady Flight Circle, 2019)

March 22, 2019 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Thomas Xu: Different Wisdoms 12″ EP

Previously appearing on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature label, both as a producer and a visual artist, Michigan’s Thomas Xu launches his own Steady Flight Circle with this EP. These 3 tracks are related to house but far more delicate, with very carefully chosen patterns of drums, keys, and plucked strings. He goes for intimacy and personal expression rather than obvious club heat, and the result is a remarkably accomplished, original, and heartfelt EP. The B-side (“Create Hope”) is perhaps the most mixable track here, but even it sounds far more fragile and homemade than you typically expect of house music. Outstanding.

Eleven Eleven: s/t tape (FPE, 2019)

March 20, 2019 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Eleven Eleven: s/t tape

This tape of four long improvisations matches its artwork, depicting a starry desert sky. The lineup on the first side plays guitar, cello, drums, trombone, and electronics. It often sounds warped and heat-baked, but there’s moments where it flares up or starts to flop along wildly. The addition of brief, jarring tape effects does the most messing with your head, although the cello is pretty brain-bending as well. On the second side, “Angh Oya Tung” is an entirely different mindset. Ascending, floating synth and chanted vocals are joined by gorgeous bassoon and much more rhythmic drums, and it’s divine and uplifting. “Prayer for an Infinite Skein” has another lineup change, and this piece focuses on grinding distortion and rhapsodic cello. Far more tense than the previous pieces on the album, it’s absolutely monstrous for the first ten minutes, before ending in a long, slow decay. While the first side of the tape seems meandering and formless, but still driven by a creative force, the second is far more inspired and enlightening.

Nephew Lagoon: Sendy Q CDr (self-released, 2019)

March 19, 2019 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Nephew Lagoon: Sendy Q CD-r

Just a few months after surfacing with the beguiling Windowood, the mysterious Nephew Lagoon returns with Sendy Q. Like the first one, there is nothing linear about this album. It’s all a seamless melange of false starts, could’ve beens, what ifs, and unconnected strands. Melodies start to warm up but then sprawl and collapse, beats flutter out of nowhere, plastic horns blurt out from a distant corner. If you’re expecting to hear something catchy, rhythmic, or in any way conventional, you’ll probably be disappointed, and playing this in front of most people will probably be a really awkward experience. If you’re listening alone and play this at a high volume, or really any volume, it’ll help guide your mind to some strange and fascinating places. Later on, it gets closer to early electronic composers like Morton Subotnick, but perhaps refracted through a digital lens. There really is no way to indicate exactly how this music was made. I’m guessing it was improvised, but it’s hard to tell what’s being used, and how everything sounds so dissolved and disassociated. The cover art is a good fit, but don’t expect this to be as buzzy and sine-wavey as your standard post-Ae glitch act, there aren’t any solid lines or filled-in spaces here, it’s all very amorphous and gaseous.

Dr. Pete Larson: Omieri tape + Snakes and Nyatitis tape (Dagoretti Records, 2018)

March 17, 2019 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dr. Pete Larson and the Seething Snakes: Omieri tape

Omieri documents a one-off performance in New Orleans featuring Dr. Pete Larson (who co-founded the legendary Bulb Records in the early ’90s) playing a nyatiti (a Kenyan plucked lyre, as seen on the cover of the tape) along with Quintron playing a Mellotron and a trio of other friends on bass, guitar, and drums. Named after a giant magical snake which gives fortune to all around her, Omieri contains four lengthy jams which veer between spiritual jazz and psych-rock, with the Mellotron adding spacey effects beneath the winding rhythms. It all has a very natural-sounding flow to it; even when it has slightly oblong time signatures, the playing doesn’t sound forced, and the instrumentation sets it apart without sounding outlandish. Extremely positive and uplifting, and absolutely worth preserving.

Dr. Pete Larson: Snakes and Nyatitis tape

Also appearing concurrently is Snakes and Nyatitis, a solo performance by Larson recorded at the wonderful Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti. Occasionally stomping and clanging some bells along with his plucking, he plays a trance-inducing set of fast, complex note patterns, gradually hitting some lower frequencies. The final half gets particularly riveting, but Larson sounds genuinely inspired throughout.

Disaster Passport: Score tape (Dagoretti Records, 2019)

March 17, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Disaster Passport: Score tape

Madison, Wisconsin quartet Disaster Passport composed an alternate score for a filming of Koyaanisqatsi last year. This recording presents the performance of the score, and it’s a warm, slowly unfolding piece of cosmic Americana. The band’s lineup consists of two banjo players, a baritone guitar player, and a percussionist. After a slow warmup, it moves into a series of rustic, hypnotic movements which seem to fuse bluegrass with desert blues (and probably other styles I’m not picking up on). It’s unhurried, with lots of vibrant soloing, but the music doesn’t stay in one place for too long. It never resembles the iconic Philip Glass score of the original, but its influence is unmistakable, particularly in the pacing of the score’s second half, which features soft hums/chants followed by rhythmic clapping. The full score can be downloaded from Bandcamp.

Dead Man’s Chest & Posse: SNKR018 12″ EP (Sneaker Social Club, 2019)

March 16, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dead Man’s Chest & Posse: SNRK018 12″ EP

Dead Man’s Chest is one of the absolute best artists making oldskool jungle right now, and Sneaker Social Club has similarly been issuing top-notch breakbeat hardcore and neo-rave music. This EP isn’t quite as heavy and junglistic as other DMC releases. Most of the tracks are collaborations and they’re a bit more spacious and club-friendly. “We All Got a Little Mad Sometimes” (with Response) is straight up alien-channeling music; I can’t tell where that droney synth bed is from but it sounds like some sort of horrifying sci-fi thriller. “The Dead Will Dance” (with Coco Bryce) has fun with zombie movie samples and an evil bassline. Solo track “Exorcisms” is all storming breaks and horror movie samples (at least one is from Poltergeist), and it’s equally fun and terrorizing.

Meat Beat Manifesto: Pin Drop 12″ (Flexidisc, 2019)

March 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Meat Beat Manifesto: Pin Drop 12″

I drove to Chicago to see MBM at the Coldwaves festival last year, and it was probably the best set I’ve ever seen them play. Granted, the first two times, I was seated and at a distance; this time I was right up front in the crowd, and it was exhilarating. Super hard, funky, and manic, with amazing visuals. They played a lot of old classics too, which was great, but the new stuff they announced as being from their next album was spectacular. “Pin Drop” was a particular highlight. Very choppy and breaky but not quite jungle by numbers. It’s more proto-jungle, which makes sense seeing that MBM arguably invented jungle with tracks like “Radio Babylon” back in the ’80s. B-side “No Design” is pretty much the same track except it’s actually a bit faster and crazier. MBM are one of my favorite bands ever and their new album is going to be astonishing.

Joni Void: Mise En Abyme (Constellation, 2019)

March 10, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Joni Void: Mise En Abyme

Joni Void’s second album is a reconstructive snapshot of various aspects of the Montreal-based artist’s life, built from sounds captured from daily occurrences, recordings of family events such as weddings and birthday parties, and even samples from throughout the album itself. The first half is based on performances by guest vocalists, and combined with airy textures and clicky beats, it’s not too far off from Mira Calix’s older albums and EPs for Warp. The album seems to be about communication and recording; “No Reply” is made from phone sounds and some modem noises, and “Cinetrauma” has a beat constructed from camera clicks and whirrs. The second half is definitely more claustrophobic than the first, peaking in the text-to-speech exorcism of “Deep Impression”, although “Persistence” is a more reflective denouement. “Resolve” is a whirlwind of moments from throughout the album set to an early Boards of Canada track.

Light Conductor: Sequence One (Constellation, 2019)

March 9, 2019 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Light Conductor: Sequence One (Constellation, 2019)

Departing from the dreamy indie rock of their respective main bands, Young Galaxy and the Besnard Lakes, Stephen Ramsay and Jace Lasek venture through several different shades of space rock on their first album as Light Conductor. The lengthy opener “A Bright Resemblance” does the standard “set the controls for the heart of the sun” mode of droning, with several layers of modular synth pulsations phasing and dancing around each other. This extends into “Chapel of the Snows”, which develops an overwhelming, all-consuming cloud of guitar noise. “Far from the Warming Sun” is a 10-minute skim of the surface of Mars not unlike early Cluster/Kluster, but with a broken, humming static pulse. “When the Robot Hits the Water” is a slowly shifting, ticking beat with a rapid arpeggio threading through it, building up anticipation for “Light Conductor” (the song). Following the previous track’s pulse, it explodes into color after nearly two minutes, turning into futuristic psych-rock which really does sound like Spacemen 3 being beamed into a distant galaxy.

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