Rebecca Foon: Waxing Moon (Constellation, 2020)

November 9, 2020 at 7:59 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Rebecca Foon: Waxing Moon

Rebecca Foon has been an integral part of Montreal’s music scene for decades. She’s been part of several notable Constellation Records acts, including A Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames, Esmerine, and Land of Kush, in addition to releasing solo electro-acoustic work as Saltland. Waxing Moon is her first album under her own name, and it’s significantly more song-driven than much of the bands she’s known for. After opening with a piano-and-strings instrumental which sounds more heavily orchestrated than it really is, most of the songs (except the last, which is a reprise of the first) are dark, dusky neo-classical folk with strings, pianos, organs, drones, double/electric bass, vocals, and usually no drums. Most of these are lyrical, but “Another Realm” is a gorgeous 3 minutes of cinematic suspense with just oooohs rather than lyrics. “Wide Open Eyes” is closer to an atmospheric ’90s alternative pop song, with just a bit of drumming keeping the pulse. The next few tracks are slower and more placid, with “Vessels” (featuring guest duet partner Patrick Watson) being the most stirring. “This Is Our Lives” starts out feeling like it’s the first part of an epic, then it ends up turning surprisingly devotional and hymn-like.

Thomas Dimuzio: Balance (Gench, 2020)

November 8, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Thomas Dimuzio: Balance

Longtime synth alchemist Thomas Dimuzio has collaborated with countless figures from throughout the world of experimental music, in concert and on record. This triple CD collects choice bits from dozens of collaborative performances from 2009 to 2019, with each disc arranged by configuration. Disc one is all duos, and fittingly enough, it’s the most minimal of the three. Much of these pieces are dark drone of some sort or another, from the haunted electro-acoustic of “Gnomon” with Blevin Blectum, full of tiny shreds of voices, to the shifting sci-fi throb of “Yesterday Died and Tomorrow Won’t Be Born” with Greg Bielski (Easy Bake Oven). “Ideal Cycle” with Xopher Davidson (Antimatter) is sort of a cosmic acid rain air raid, then the almighty Wobbly turns up on “Voluntary Limit”, which starts out with blasts of shredded Booper noise before dissipating into the cold night air. His Negativland bandmate The Weatherman pops up in the intro to the following “Directions From Hangar 23A”, giving a legal station ID for KPFA, where the session was (with Lori Varga) recorded. The track is another eerie one filled with scattered voices, wild oscillations, and some strangely comforting ding-dong audio logo tones near the end. “Collecting Particles Under a Dying Sun” with David Molina (Transient) takes things in a different direction, with gentle guitar repetitions and a distant clanging rhythm, later shuddering and whirring to a close. The second disc focuses on trio collaborations, adding an extra dimension to the pieces: mangled guitar strings, momentary bass pulsations, bird chirps, extra sizzles. Wobbly returns, this time with Alan Courtis of South American legends Reynols, and it’s one of the spaciest pieces here, with a few bursts of electricity pushing it in one way or another, and some whirling guitar loops at the end. Joseph Hammer and Rick Potts, prominent members of the highly influential Los Angeles Free Music Society, contribute trails of piercing, squidging guitar noise to “Fluorescent Brown”. Both members of Matmos go into improv mode and play around with skeletal hi-hat rhythms and glitchy oscillations. The track with Aurora Josephson and Chandra Shukla (and actually a few others) is more of an industrial doom trip, before it levels off into floating, meditative vocals. The one with Alexandra Buschman and Angela Edwards is weird because it’s filled with garbled distorted tones and then there’s these sudden loud but comforting bursts that are sort of like the very beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy” and even though they aren’t harsh or noisy, they’re still super jarring when they come at you. This is definitely not easy music to fall asleep to. With the last disc, two or three musicians accompany Dimuzio, and these edge closer to free jazz-like improv, featuring more acoustic instrumentation than the first two discs, starting with a noisy, sax-shredding piece featuring Chuck Bettis, Nick Didkovsky, and Michael Lytle. Scott Amendola and Phillip Greenlief particularly shine with the whirling drums, fluttering woodwinds, and muffled voices of “Paging Rubber Chickens”, which ends up turning into a Zorn-like rage-skronk, but with extra smoldering electronics. “We Are Water” (with Emily Hay and Motoko Honda) is one of the more joyful moments, with expressive vocal acrobatics and busy pianos underscored by electronic fuzz. A bit more startling a performance art-like is “I’m One of ‘Em” (with Shelley Hirsch, Thea Farhadian, and Gino Robair), which has a few violent interjections (“You woke me out of my nightmare!”) and crooked, creaking violin. At the end, “The Talisman of Market Street” (with Scott Amendola, Jon Evans, and Ava Mendoza) ventures into more groove-based (but also heavily spacey) electric jazz improv.

v/a: HOA012 (HAUS of ALTR, 2020)

November 5, 2020 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: HOA012

HAUS of ALTR’s latest compilation hasn’t gotten as much attention as its previous two, but it’s still packed with quality and worthy of attention. Like the others, this one has an all-star lineup of some of the best artists making club music right now. The AceMo/AceMoMA tracks at the beginning, including collaborations with Detroit’s 2Lanes and Kanyon, all go hard with jungle hybrids. The juke/deep house/hardstep fusion of “Omnipresence” (with Kanyon) is particularly innovative and amazing. Other artists dip into spacey sci-fi techno (Akua), fractured lo-fi house (AshTreJunkins), and nosebleed hardcore techno (Buzzi x Xiorro). Escaflowne turns a freestyle hit into ecstatic breakbeat hardcore, bookworms goes electro, and Kanyon’s “Stops Rust” is breakbeat with shades of “Can You Feel It”. Kush Jones does some nice minimal jungle, and North End Track Authority gets points for sampling DBX’s “Losing Control”. Loraine James, Martyn Bootyspoon, Speaker Music (with Lamin Fofana), and others also contribute highlights.

Baldi/Gerycz Duo: After Commodore Perry Service Plaza (American Dreams Records, 2020)

November 1, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Baldi/Gerycz Duo: After Commodore Perry Service Plaza

Dylan Baldi and Jayson Gerycz of Cloud Nothings make stripped-down free jazz as a form of release when they’re not writing and performing tightly wound, hook-heavy pop/punk songs with their main band. This is their second album this year, recorded in Gerycz’s basement home studio during a single day in February, and it contains three improvised pieces, with Baldi playing saxophone and Gerycz on drums. The first track takes up 18 minutes, and it’s mostly pretty sparse and arid, at one point feeling like it’s barely scraping along and nearly out of breath, but then it explodes into color and feeling right at the end. “Frog Congress” starts out minimal as well — faint whirring of cymbals, some faint tonal color lines, clacking of the keys — and doesn’t particularly heat up, but does seem to get deeper into the physical properties of the instruments, with more crunching, clanking, rubbing, stretching. “The Holy Retrievers (In Transit)” is much shorter than the other two pieces and much more drum-heavy, and Baldi’s expressive playing takes on much more of an Albert Ayler-like tone, so it’s easily the most active and engaging piece here.

Galdre Visions: s/t EP (Leaving Records, 2020)

October 29, 2020 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Galdre Visions: s/t EP

Galdre Visions is a quarantine-born remote collaboration between four Leaving Records artists: harpist Nailah Hunter (2020’s rookie of the year?), former Pocahaunted member Diva DompĂ©, sitarist Ami Dang, and Olive Adizoni (Green-House). Their first EP contains four songs of swirling, meditative new age pop to help us all get through this together. Opener “Living Space Station (Bad Dream)” is an R&B-tinged affirmation that we’re all living in a nightmare, but it doesn’t mean we can’t find something to keep us bonded. “Super Passiflora” is more of a pleasant float through a lagoon, with tiptoeing harp melodies and wordless vocals helping things along, and the sounds of rushing water flowing underneath. “Moon Ferns” is a more complex orb of sounds, giving a bit more shine to Ami Dang’s sitar, and building a web of interlocked vocals and crystal tones. “The Sun Will Rise Again” is the EP’s most upfront expression of trust in the universe and hope for the future. The quartet’s music is optimistic but still based in an understanding of real world situations, which makes it refreshing — it’s not so bright and sparkly and smiley that it’s cloying, but it does feel encouraging.

Ale Hop: The Life of Insects (Buh Records, 2020)

October 26, 2020 at 10:53 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ale Hop: The Life of Insects

The newest album from Ale Hop was inspired by the Peruvian experimental artist’s month spent living with different insects in her home studio in Berlin (incidentally I mistakenly wrote the label as Bug Records, when it’s actually Buh). She actually bought them from an insect dealer and built terrariums for them, and recorded them to use for sound design in a film. This album isn’t a collage of insect sounds, but there’s moments that might make you think it is. Instead, it’s a stunning and curious album of pieces which attempt to form aural depictions of the insects. Not that this one song is called “Grasshopper” and it sounds like a grasshopper, and this other one is like crickets humming, etc. It’s a lot more open to interpretation with the titles. But there’s definitely some buzzing drones, some sickly insectoid chirps, some high-pitched whirs and flutters. And also some fractured pop melodies here and there, and NWW-style sound design sorcery. It’s actually more accessible than you might think, at least if you’re into dark abstract industrial. So maybe it’s not really that accessible. It is pretty fascinating though.

Tristan Welch: Capitalist Teeth (self-released, 2020)

October 26, 2020 at 10:16 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tristan Welch: Capitalist Teeth

Tristan Welch’s third album of 2020 was inspired by his first trip to the dentist in years, due to ongoing financial struggles as well as mental health issues. This, of course, made him realize that taking care of one’s health requires winning the game of capitalism, when it should be a basic human right for everyone. The music itself is noisy drone which sort of feels like having a dentist work on your teeth and constantly picking and scraping, yet it’s not actually as painful as it seems, and maybe there’s some anesthetics involved. If you’ve ever been at a dentist’s office and thought the whirring machines sounded cool and would make a good album, well, this actually doesn’t sound exactly like that. If you’re into noise/drone stuff, you could easily listen to this without being aware of the concept and still just enjoy it for how it sounds; it doesn’t sound gimmicky at all. Still, it does capture that feeling pretty well; it’s kind of harsh at some points but also pretty soothing. The second track seems a bit more glacial by the end than the first, which is where most of the action is. A good head-cleaner, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have insurance.

Maximum Ernst: Hallmark of a Crisis Period 12″ EP (Ever/Never Records, 2020)

October 25, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Maximum Ernst: Hallmark of a Crisis Period 12″ EP

The latest EP from New York experimental duo contains two side-long tracks of meandering psychic explosions and ghostly transmissions/warnings. The A-side starts out with a burst of static and some barely tethered guitar notes, and it all gets swept along in a heady rush, sometimes with a few violent outbursts of haunting voices or other premonitions. It’s a bit ghastly but also kind of soothing. The second side, however, is far more nightmarish, with distorted voices simultaneously shouting at you about science from several angles. Then an organ freakout explodes and pushes it even further into the realm of panic. A sort of drilling “bassline” withers through it all as overwhelming clouds of noise drown everything else out. Towards the end it mostly shifts to one speaker, further disorienting everything before it fades out.

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.

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