Thursday, November 5, 2020

Ezio Piermattei - If a Fencer Now Learns to Row (My Dance the Skull, 2020)

The London-based (or Rome-based, depending on which website you’re peeping at) tape label My Dance the Skull has been around for over ten years, a forum for the imprint’s founder Marco Cazzella to showcase his fondness for sound art and surrealism.  Cazzella has featured artists as diverse as Thurston Moore, Alan Sondheim, Maurizio Bianchi, and Bananafish founder Seymour Glass (under his This is Yvonne Lovejoy alias) on the label’s Voice Studies series.  The label is a slow-burning affair that appears to have experienced a burst of activity this year, with a handful of issuances appearing.

One of the newer artifacts that has shown up recently is this thirty-plus minute electroacoustic epic from Ezio Piermattei.  Hailing from the Abruzzo region of Italy, Piermattei runs the Tutore Burlato label, which appears to have paused operations in the last few years.  If a Fencer Now Learns to Row has been described by the artist as being composed of voices, places, objects, and instruments.  One can discern various dialogues – both sensical and otherwise – taking place, as well as field recordings of the seaside, church choirs, and other locations.

All of these sonic elements are woven into a semi-conscious narrative that is graced by a hallucinatory score.  The proceedings are evocative and tug at various emotional centers as the music unfolds.  At times incredibly intimate, and at others enigmatically oblique, If a Fencer Now Learns to Row is a powerful piece to take in.  Every millisecond is full of audible wonders to behold.

This affecting work of sound art is available in digital form via the My Dance the Skull Bandcamp, for those of you who need some respite from the real world.  Dive in and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Tristan Magnetique - 2 (Cosmic Winnetou, 2020)

Digital synths don’t get a lot of love these days, but the Casio CZ-101 – the electronics manufacturer’s first professional-grade synth – should conjure a lot of nostalgia for those of us who grew up in the 1980s.  I’m pretty sure I banged out a few mediocre melodies on one when I was a kid.  But this dinosaur is aging himself.  True synth wizards, such as Günter Schlienz (a.k.a., Tristan Magnetique and the head of the Cosmic Winnetou enterprise), have unlocked god-mode on the instrument.  An ambient music maestro who has achieved mastery over the instrument keyboard’s eight voices is someone to be respected, and so is the instrument itself. 

Schleinz is certainly no slouch; his catalogue is lengthy.  But his work as Tristan Magnetique, in which he has limited his arsenal to only the CZ-101, is quite beefy in and of itself.  His first outing bearing this particular brand was spread across a whopping three cassettes, while this bad boy spans two spools.  This is an auteur who understands what the ambient music aficionado wants: a lot of music in lengthy passages to support inner exploration and nocturnal meandering.  And this is what we have been given.

The pieces on 2 are nameless, but they each span a side of a cassette.  There are distinct movements, and these seem to be bookmarked by interjections of field recordings.  For example, the A side begins with at least three or four interwoven voices that take their time to lock onto each other before what sounds like a skittering violin shatters the mystique at around the five-minute mark.  This then leads into the next passage of dreamlike drift, peppered with chiming resonances.

If I were to be forced to describe this body of music in a single word, that word would be “tranquil”.  There is a decidedly calm vibe present throughout, and it’s definitely refreshing.  One feels at ease, even when the sounds stray toward the alien and synthetic.  And while the emotional tone is placid, the music is also nuanced and full of interesting ideas.  2 is the ambient genre at its most effective.

There are still copies left of this relaxed masterpiece over at the Cosmic Winnetou Bandcamp, so stray in that direction to fulfill your mind’s need for solace.  And we all could use a little bit of solace these days, am I right? 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

David Cordero & Pepo Galán - As a Silent Tongue Shadow (Muzan Editions, 2020)

Ambient wizards David Cordero and Pepo Galán capture the beauty of southern Spain with this collaborative effort for the always fabulous Muzan Editions imprint.  Hailing from opposite sides of the Strait of Gibraltar – Cordero from Cádiz and Galán from Málaga – the two have whipped together a series of haunting meditations from fluid and evaporating tones.

Sound-making objects seem to be whisked away like grains of sand in the wind, their remnants only fleetingly discernible behind layers of drone and obfuscated melody.  On “After the Pains”, piano notes resonate outward, only to return as obliterated husks of melancholy.  What might be processed birdcalls is manipulated such that the warbles become a lonely, alien cacophony.  Dreamy tones weave these elements into a blanket of nostalgia and warmth.  What should be frightening becomes beautiful.

With “Deva”, the duo begins with a swirling fog of glittering drones.  The amorphous cloud eventually crystallizes into a delicate polyrhythm.  Patterns of vibraphone-like tone dance about in a sprightly display of vigor.  The hypnotizing piece slowly dissolves into silence.  “When the Light Disappears” is ironically a gleaming ball of dreamlike tone that slowly unfurls into a gaseous nebula of colorful, intermingling textures.  This, the lengthiest piece on offer, is a perfect capstone to this fine collection of ethereal soundscapes.

The artists themselves have a few copies of this dreamy cassette left on their respective Bandcamp sites.  Digital drift can be acquired via the label’s Bandcamp.  Either way, this is a must-have for lovers of the drone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wizard Of - Devour EP (Bedroomer, 2020)

Toronto-based musician Bob McCully has been active in various forms for 15 years.  He began as Women in Tragedy, taking on a significant role in his city’s noise underground.  He pumped out an endless stream of CD-Rs and cassettes, through which he matured his sound from lengthy noise-drone explorations to song forms that were tinged with elements of metal and shoegaze.  He dabbled in electronic dance forms, but it wasn’t until adopting the Wizard Of moniker that McCully truly embraced the beat.

As Wizard Of, McCully has dialed back his prolific nature, taking a more measured approach to his output.  Quantity has been overshadowed by quality.  The one constant in McCully’s music is a darkness, a sinister vein that continues to run through each track.  Devour, his latest, isn’t blatantly rooted in horror, but there’s a chilling subtext that lurks just beneath the surface of every track.

The EP opens up with the title track, which transmogrifies from a hypnotic pulse train into a seriously overdriven banger of a piece.  A syncopated snare shuffle leads to a piano outro that jump cuts into “Knife”.  Here’s a piece that mirrors horror-esque themes against hardcore beats, to great effect.  McCully heads to UK garage territory with “Demon Life”, which seems to pick up where “Knife” left off, albeit in a more energetic mode.  “Fingers Through Light” seems to bring out the producer’s jazzier side, being riddled with what sounds like trombone stabs that pull together into a melody.  McCully once again brings on the darkness to close out the proceedings with “Gold Blur”, an enigmatic piece that is worthy of repeat listens.

Devour is available digitally via his Bandcamp, so shuffle your way over there and lay down a few bucks for this stellar collection of shadowy beats.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sol Rezza - POOL (Self-Released, 2020)

It’s been awhile.  Forgive me.  It’s been a little crazy around these parts.

These days, we’ve been listening to an incredibly evocative piece of music.  This particular composition is imbued with the essence of water.  Entitled POOL, it was crafted from many smaller loops of water sounds, assembled into a series of 7 stories, which then coalesced into the ultimate 25-minute long piece.  It was born in the midst of waves and droplets, mists and torrents.  It is fluid yet crystalline.  Malleable yet structured.

The product of Argentinian composer, radio producer, and sound artist Sol Rezza, POOL was commissioned by the Chile-based Tsonami Festival.  There, it was presented as a radio piece that was “based on the notion of the power of transformation of the element of water, as a continuum that balances one of the life cycles of our planet, and the one that is being radically affected by climate change.”

Not coincidentally, the 7 narrative elements that comprise the piece seamlessly waft into each other, the liquid-sourced field recordings melding with more abstract electronic sonic elements.  Icy rhythms and glacial drones exist alongside each other, creating an emotional churn.  Peaceful, then excited, harmonious, then vigorous; the cycle repeats across a titanic 25 minutes.

For the digital release, which is accompanied by a 5-part graphical score, Rezza has included each of the 7 segments as unique tracks to investigate on their own.  It’s here, where each idea is encapsulated within its own small space, that one can really investigate the essence of POOL itself.  A listener can interrupt the flow, perhaps to focus on the heightened boiling of “Loop III”, or maybe to ruminate on the melancholy piano of “Loop IV”.  Each section can be interrogated and enjoyed apart from the others.

You too can absorb the fluidity of POOL, both as a mammoth composition, and as a series of vignettes.  Head over to Sol Rezza’s Bandcamp and choose your entry point into this aquatic adventure in sound.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Matt Robidoux - Brief Candles (\\NULL|ZØNE//, 2020)

When this little blog first took flight, the first ink spilled was for a self-titled cassette by a project named Isness.  Half of the Isness duo is Oakland-based musician Matt Robidoux, a coastal transplant who ran with Sunburned Hand of the Man when he was located nearer to the Atlantic Ocean.  He is a purveyor of fine songcraft, and Brief Candles – his latest tape – totally spills the beans with respect to his deftness in musical ideation.

There are 17 performers other than Robidoux who are credited as being involved in these compositions, which were realized over a 2-year period beginning in 2017.  Each individual lends their distinct musical signature, playing loosely within the framework that Robidoux has assembled.  “Rose Room” leads the proceedings, as the composer croons atop a scrappily strummed guitar and wobbly wind instrument melodies.  The piece swoons, staggers a little bit and tumbles around before collapsing entirely.  Taking a completely contrarian position to the preceding piece, the instrumental “Little Wall” is a tightly wound composition, complete with a staccato section in which each instrument pierces the silence with its voice.  I sense the influence of Gastr Del Sol here, but I could be wrong.

Robidoux sways between weirdness and complete control across the length of this tape, and it’s actually quite refreshing.  Veering between precision and looseness allows for subtle shifts in tone as each piece reveals itself, piquing our interest over and over again.  One particular piece that exemplifies the complete array of sensibilities is the epic “Reflection Space”, which begins with an understated synth warble before morphing into something almost completely motorik in nature a la Neu!  Then the horns enter, stumbling over each other in an attempt to freak everyone out.  Robidoux attempts to calm things down with his soothing voice, which only heightens the intensity even more.  This track alone is worth the price of admission.

Robidoux still has copies of this imaginative and attention-grabbing cassette, so steer your ship over to yonder Bandcamp and slap a few bucks down for this one.  You’ll thank me later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

With Great Care - With Great Care (Aural Canyon, 2020)

The Aural Canyon label is no stranger to this little blog of ours, mainly because we have much love for their delicious brand of audio bliss.  Our orbits are very aligned with theirs, and we eagerly anticipate each new release from the imprint.  This particular cassette has been rattling our ear drums for awhile, and it is a shame that we haven’t had the bandwidth to spill any ink about it in months past, because it’s so damn good!

Modular synth wizard Grainger Weston is behind the moniker With Great Care, and this is his debut.  It’s a pretty epic release, though – so well-tuned as a matter of fact that it’s hard to believe this guy hasn’t been cranking out synth-scapes for eternity.  Or maybe he has, and this is the first time that he’s dared to attach his incorporeal emanations to a physical form.  One can never be sure…

This is the kind of modular jamming we love around here: the music carefully balances a mix of ambient hues behind a melodic foreground and fractured loops that coalesce into tide pools of undifferentiated sound.  Such weirdness can create a kaleidoscopic effect, as can be heard on “Swim”, in which oblique patterns emerge and recede almost constantly as the lengthy piece unfolds.  At other times there is an unnerving, extraterrestrial vibe that takes hold.  The alien atmospheres of “Horizon” with its glitchy lexicon is exemplary of such an unearthly mode.

Unique in its execution is “Blue”, in which a sprightly – almost pachinko-esque – melody is sparsely peppered over a barely present hum.  It’s like Weston is jamming freely on his modular, really exploring the outer reaches of melody, tone and timbre.  The whole thing is thrilling.  As a matter of fact, the entire tape is a stunner from beginning to end – definitely one that we will be jamming while under quarantine, and beyond.

Aural Canyon have copies of this expansive and entrancing cassette over at their Bandcamp, so grab yourself a copy, hunker down, and drift away on clouds of synth.