brin: Homescreen Glow (Leaving Records, 2020)

January 5, 2021 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

brin: Homescreen Glow

Formerly known as Ant’lrd, brin (Colin Blanton) physically and virtually collaborated with several artists on his latest release for Leaving Records, Homescreen Glow. Matthewdavid, Dustin Wong, and Brian James Griffith are among the musicians who contributed beats, loops, and samples, and while there’s enough variation to make this seem like a long-distance collage project, it’s consistent enough with its own singular form of sound-warping. Sweet melodies mix with extremely jumbled rhythms and serrated glitches, but aside from an upfront anti-cop sample at the end of “Monarch”, much of this is quite friendly and fantasy-like. Tracks like “Guava” and “Glidewear” definitely have some Orange Milk-like hyperrealist vibes, mixing vaporwave textures with whirlwind beats that are basically like juke repeatedly tripping over its own feet. “Elastic Garden” is like that but a bit more spaced out and coherent. While much of it is frenetic, it blisses out a bit with the 9-minute sparkle-space journey “Another Portal” and the much bluer and more serene “Lost in the Glow”. Just an amazingly original and refreshing album.

Max Nordile: Building a Better Void LP (Gilgongo, 2020)

January 2, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Max Nordile: Building a Better Void LP

Max Nordile’s latest LP is part junkshop collage and part untethered, unrestrained songwriting. His voice nervously creaks out from under porch floorboards as traffic whirrs by, and a gang of mutant ducks peck at some broken instruments for the first time. Compared to other pieces here, “Site Traffic Prolonged” is like a poignant, heartfelt ballad sung by a groundhog. Others like “Milk mtn” are discordant chaos emitted by beings struggling to break free from their captured, restrictive states. The second side is mainly taken up by the longer, more freeform “Diligent Pores”, which is sort of an EAI/free jazz party scene. Finally, “Wispy” is a brief, abstract folk ballad which seems to barely hold together yet sounds too deliberate to have just been bashed out incoherently.

Sonic: The Eye of Jupiter (Sneaker Social Club, 2020)

December 29, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Sonic: The Eye of Jupiter

Drum ‘n’ bass veteran Sonic (Metalheadz, Reinforced, V, RAM, etc.) follows his debut album on Western Lore with a set for the currently unstoppable Sneaker Social Club. Most of the tracks are subdued and mystical rather than ecstatic, and they progress in ways that don’t always make obvious transitional leaps. Sometimes you’ll notice some detailed breaks pop up, but there’s also tracks like “Eastside Break” where a bassline you didn’t even realize was missing will show up halfway through and take the track to another level, even if the general atmosphere of the track hasn’t really changed. Some tracks feel a lot closer to breakbeat-driven techno than d’n’b, if that makes sense; the kick drums punch like techno kicks, it doesn’t have the same flow as d’n’b. It seems like club music yet it doesn’t. At least it’s not the most escapist kind of club music. “357” is every bit as much jungle as it is techno, and “No Rest (Stealing Voice)” is a sort of galloping dark new wave techno. “Aila” is a departure into Burial-esque future garage, but more stripped down, with pitch-shifted ethereal vocals lurking beneath a tense bassline.

Desensitized: Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years) (Spotted Peccary, 2020)

December 29, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Desensitized: Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years)

This album marks the first collaboration between Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis, two artists who have been releasing music on Portland new age label Spotted Peccary for decades. The tracks are slow-moving but spontaneous, and they mix digital textures with fragmented melodies played on flutes or synthesizers, sometimes bringing to mind Emerald Web updated with current technology. “Formulata Oblivonos (A Complicated Tale)” has a slow, echo-dripping drum machine and crystalline chimes, and no destination in sight. “Ecumenicus Orato (The Umbilical Center)” seems to have some subliminal voices (or maybe whale calls) whooping in the background, with some wavy, almost turntable scratch-like delay effects coming closer to the foreground, as well as other crushed, glacial textures. “Saltis Nominus (Floating Seabeds)” is a deep trek through an unidentified environment, or maybe multiple ones at the same time — it’s hard to tell what creatures are calling throughout the track. “Terminus Equitos (Redemption Seeker)” is a busier, more clustered swirl of clicking beats and sparkling arpeggios. “Amphibinatum (Myths and Legends)” is a striking closer, with harp-like melodies plucked over rattling percussion and a panoply of layered sounds, some in reverse.

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 2 (Big Ego, 2020)

December 28, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 2

Wichita guitarist David Lord connects with Chicago jazz/post-rock luminaries Jeff Parker and Chad Taylor on this charming set. The tracks are mostly pretty short, usually around 2 minutes, and they manage to seem both casual and highly focused. The musicians have a way of playing around with melodies so that they don’t quite stick, but it still feels like there’s a guiding structure to them, even though the playing all feels fluid and not headed towards a particular destination. Tracks like “Cloud Ear” and “Tubifera” are busy but not overstuffed, while others like “Epiphyte” and “Mossy Maze Polypore” are more relaxed yet not lazy. There’s a lot to take in if you concentrate on all the individual parts and how the musicians interact with each other, but it’s also easy to just sit back and enjoy it all.

Etch: Strange Days (Seagrave, 2020)

December 27, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Etch: Strange Days

Etch’s new album seems like a departure from the hardcore revivalism of many of his earlier records. The influences for this one include iconic horror movies as well as the ghost town scenario of his home town of Brighton — not just due to COVID, but he says the music scene deteriorated into nothing even before that. Far from a typical escapist dance album, this has a few cuts that sound like grime tracks knocked over and struggling to get up, with heavy bass eruptions and panicking beats (especially on “The Man with the Other Face”). “Distrust” has a lengthy sample from The Thing set to a garage beat which gets more vicious and break-heavy as it progresses. “Naitsri Complex” is closer to the minimalist, deeply focused drum’n’bass of Photek and Source Direct. “No Sided Shape” is appropriately hard to identify as any particular style, as it has a sort of oddly measured tempo and then choppier breakbeats on top of that. “Mokujin Ballet” is another puzzler with slow, trippy beats and a graceful but ominous melody, and dubstep-ish bass whirring outwards. Perhaps is best of all is “Strange”, which starts heartbeat still and then elevates when the “Radio Babylon” breakbeat crashes in and gets twisted around.

AceMoMA: EP3 (HAUS of ALTR, 2020)

December 26, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

AceMoMA: EP3

AceMo and MoMA Ready put out 3 releases together this year, and several more by themselves, and all of it was among the absolute best dance music of the year. I still haven’t actually caught up to their most recent solo EPs yet. I did catch all the AceMoMa stuff, though, and it’s all worth praising. The first two tracks on their third EP are pretty similar rough-edged house tracks, the main differences being the Black Panther Party-referencing speech sample in “Revolutionary”, and the melodies of “Sun Through Rain” which dead-on match the track’s title. “Harp Machine” is similarly lo-fi but has a more uptempo electro beat, and retains the previous track’s happy-sad feeling. “Rave Cache” is simple and stompy, not really the most eventful track here. But then they switch to jungle for the last two tracks, and I’m always down for that. Their breakbeat-driven material is refreshingly closer to the roughness of vintage hardcore rather than the more hi-def d’n’b of today, but there’s also something a little spacey and exploratory about “The Truth Is Out There”. “Sky Trax” is more of a hardstepper with choppy stop-start breaks so it has more punch to it.

All Energy Must Continue Upward: s/t tape (Good Glass Records, 2020)

December 25, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

All Energy Must Continue Upward: s/t

After releasing a synth LP this year, Fred Thomas debuted a very different electronic project with this tape, under the name All Energy Must Continue Upward. Most of the nearly 20 tracks are short pieces with airy synths, but the melodies are much more chipper, even approaching Mike Paradinas levels of jolliness, and there’s also a surprising amount of drill’n’bass-style breakbeats here. It’s definitely along the lines of more Rephlex-adjacent IDM, very homespun and filled with personality, and also several moments of chaos thrown in. There’s some floating, effects-laden ambient pieces (like “What They Said”, which is barely three minutes and the longest track here), but nothing stays calm for long here. There’s tracks like “Midmorning” that are a bit pleasant and mellow but with slightly glitchy beats, and then there’s others like the brief, chaotic “Dumbest Possible” that absolutely rip. “Neve” has the album’s best balance of upfront, heartfelt melodies (and actually sounds like a cousin of City Center’s “Zen Kids”, sorta) and complex, progressive beats. “Child of Forever” goes even harder, piling breaks on top of each other so that the rhythm nearly unravels, but the hopeful, fizzling synth melodies keep everything balanced. Remarkably beautiful music, can’t recommend this enough.

Pub: Summer (ampoule records, 2000/2020)

December 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pub: Summer

Glasgow-based producer Pub’s back catalog came to Bandcamp this year, and live album Do You Ever Regret Pantomime? was given a limited reissue. Additionally, the 16-minute epic “Summer” resurfaced, and now seems to be getting its due from audiences who missed out on it the first time around. Inhabiting the mellower, more hypnotic side of IDM, the track gently skims along without getting too deep, essentially sounding like a slow train ride through a simple but breathtaking landscape. Gradually some white noise washes and dub chords ripple in, stirring things up a little, but never distracting from the lovely mood. When the track originally came out, it was accompanied by a bunch of remixes (I have the 12″ with one of Arovane’s mixes on the A-side). Curiously, the new reissue omits the remixes and instead contains a brand new Pub track called “Fragile Root”. This one is closer to spacey IDM-electro, with some more whirling effects and a slightly playful acid bassline. It has a bit of a fuller, more melodic sound as well, but still keeps it a bit dreamy and minimal. And it goes on for 12 minutes, so it also has a similar sort of endless journey feel to it, but this one progresses a bit more. Truly lovely all around.

Group Rhoda: Passing Shades (Dark Entries, 2020)

December 21, 2020 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Group Rhoda: Passing Shades

Remaining with Dark Entries for her fourth album as Group Rhoda, Mara Barenbaum inhabits several different sound worlds. The tracks are minimal, yet they’re anything but simplistic, twisting into different movements and switching into different rhythms. The opening interstellar waltz “Float” nearly gets caught in a spiral and slows to a crawl before regaining balance. “The Beauty’s in the Waste” is more upbeat and racing, and while you usually expect to hear stiff android-like vocals with this brand of minimal wave, Barenbaum’s voice is more varied, conversational, and expressive, and it sounds more operatic or phantomlike on other tracks. “Alibi” is a major treat, with a skittering footwork-y rhythm and a super suspenseful breakdown. “Twin Studies” is dreamy cosmic disco, and “This Flame” is a bit slower, more sensual (that bassline!), and more mystical. The invocation-like “Earthly Ark” takes its lyrics from a Margaret Atwood poem, and “Nevermore” bids farewell to a cat who has departed, yet it’s less somber than it might seem.

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