Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Etelin - Hui Terra (Soda Gong, 2018)

Reaching back into my memory banks, the details are fuzzy as to the first Taiga Remains music that I experienced, and I’m lost as to the first Students of Decay artifact that I acquired.  But it’s safe to say that Alex Cobb’s music and curation have carved out a great deal of my attention and appreciation over the past ten-plus years.  It was probably around the time that I started writing for Foxy Digitalis (RIP) that Cobb’s dronescapes first penetrated my cerebral cortex, the thick tendrils of tone wrapping themselves around my fragile consciousness.  Over time Cobb’s sound has evolved and the Students of Decay catalog has evolved with it.  The format of the releases has matured: from CD-Rs through to cassettes and LPs; the curation has also become more varied stylistically, with artists as diverse as Caroline No, Anne Guthrie, Kyle Bobby Dunn, and Ekin Fil being represented.  Cobb’s sensibilities are finely-tuned toward music that is both intriguing and engaging.

Hui Terra marks a few new beginnings for Cobb.  It’s his debut LP as Etelin, a project that sees his focus veer away from straight drone work.  It’s the first release on his new Soda Gong label, which aims to transcend genre and explore a sense of playfulness and naiveté in modern experimental music.  It was also recorded in the months after Cobb became a new father, in fits and starts as opportunities presented themselves – often at all hours.  Crafted using a pared down setup of digital synths and a sampler, the album sits squarely at the crossroads of musique concrète and effervescent ambience.

“Vixen and Kits” presents Cobb’s new modus operandi in its nearly eight minutes of drawn out bell tones, spatters of ringing chimes, and thunderous rain drop roaring.  The series of sonic vignettes plays like a slide show of percussive elements that veers from the delicate to the outright vigorous.  “Hour Here Hour There” is named after the intermittent snatches of time in which Cobb could record – in between tending to a new infant’s needs – and picks up where its predecessor left off, adding digital filigree and a healthy coating of ambient sound dust.  The processed coos of a newborn baby morph into alien synth tones on “Little Rig” before a melodic pattern appears and gracefully concludes the piece.  Closing track “Been Really Good Today” features subtly warped bells played over a muffled sample of what could be the goings on in Cobb’s domicile in a subtle, perhaps unintentional, nod to folks such as Graham Lambkin or Luc Ferrari.

Hui Terra is not to be missed, both for long-tenured fans of Cobb’s work and for those who appreciate early electronic music and/or modern electroacoustic composition.  Dive headfirst into its dreamlike, cascading narratives by pointing your browser to the Soda Gong Bandcamp.  For a physical manifestation of Cobb’s transcendent imagery, visit Forced Exposure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dachsund - Dachsund (Fall Break Records, 2018)

The Atlanta underground is burgeoning, a buried treasure ready to leap out and shout “Surprise!”  Case in point is label Fall Break Records, a label that traffics in “pop, experimental and psychedelic music.”  The imprint’s latest release is a self-titled cassette from Dachsund, the out-jazz duo of Peter Webb (sax, synth) and John Gregg (drums).  These two are part of a wider outsider world, both participating in the post-genre nonet Faun and a Pan Flute (check out the double LP on Feeding Tube, why dontchya?!).  Having been piloting their craft within similar orbits since 2010, Webb and Gregg are tuned into each other as master improvisers are apt to be, and this pair of live sets – imprinted onto a spool of magnetic tape nestled within the confines of a yellow cassette shell – epitomizes this phenomenon.

The A side is ushered in on a synth chord that rises above the din of the audience, around which a languorous saxophone slithers.  Melodies unfurl, timidly at first, until a floor tom gallops into earshot.  At this point, the pair lock horns and begin to telepathically release a collective energy that bobs and weaves, spins and twirls, and flat out leaps around the room.  That such a sparse arrangement can contain such fiery intensity is mystifying.  The set closes as it opened, fading into single synthetic chord.

On the flip, the opening synth passage unfurls melodically, a smoky mist that wafts about with an increasing thickness.  Gregg’s drumming kicks in furiously before Webb picks up his sax and gingerly begins laying down droning notes.  The almost spiritual way that the pair change modes – from extremely vigorous to outright melodic and sweet – is captivating.  It begs mention that both of these sets were recorded direct to iPhone, and this fact is just baffling!  The live-in-the-room essence, the spontaneity and the puissance have been faithfully captured for the universe to enjoy.

Only 30 physical copies of this bomb tape exist, so direct your own energy toward the Fall Break Records Bandcamp and prepare to be shell-shocked!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Prana Crafter - Enter the Stream (Cardinal Fuzz / Sunrise Ocean Bender / Eggs in Aspic, 2018)

Seattle-based Will Sol is Prana Crafter, a musician and songwriter who straddles the blurry line between psychedelic folk and kosmische drone a la Six Organs of Admittance, and who channels Neil Young & Matt Valentine with his unique vocalizations and six-stringed deftness.  Sol’s been active in the psychedelic sub-underground for a few years now, with efforts for esteemed labels such as Eiderdown, Deep Water Acres and Beyond Beyond is Beyond, but it took three labels to harness the hallucinatory energy of Enter the Stream.  This psychotropic slice of modern folk arrives courtesy of the Cardinal Fuzz, Sunrise OceanBender and Eggs in Aspic imprints.

Sol employs multiple elements to weave his gravity-defying sound worlds.  In addition to a high register croon and multiple layers of fluid guitar, there are synths, singing bowls, field recordings, drums and other percussion threaded into the eight pieces presented here.  Thematically, nature and the spirit are intertwined.  Lush energies are kindled immediately as the eponymous opening track unfurls.

Introduced with a gong hit and book-ended by field recordings of rushing water, a simple strummed guitar and repeated lyric belie the cerebellum-shattering trip that comprises the two succeeding tracks.  “Moon Through Fern Lattice” and “Mycorhizzal Brainstorm” occupy the more trance-inducing edge of the Prana Crafter spectrum.  Thick contrails of juicy synthesizer waft overhead like curlicues of colored smoke as Sol’s guitar writhes melodically.  A miasma of drone prevails until “The Spell” introduces a more grounded sort of reverie.

The Crazy Horse-inspired “Old North Wind” shifts the proceedings homeward with its loping rhythm section and sparsely ornamented arrangement.  It fades into a pair of shamanic drone pieces, which provide a feverish dreamlike drift.  “At the Dawn” closes out the proceedings with an air of melancholia, and the album ends as it began, the rushing water this time fading into echoed whispers of ‘nothing’.

Dream with the mountains in a kingdom outside of time with Prana Crafter; Enter the Stream is available in all three physical formats from the labels involved, and digitally via Bandcamp.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Rhucle - More Beautiful Than Silence (Constellation Tatsu, 2018)

Rhucle is a Tokyo-based musician and artist who began making music under this name five years ago in 2013.  Since then, he’s amassed quite a discography (Discogs lists 53 separate items, to be exact).  He co-runs the relatively young Alien Garage label alongside the Wisconsin-based ambient artist NO DEATH, and the pair also record together as The Rubies.  So to say that Rhucle is no slouch is certainly an understatement; this guy is one hard sonic laborer. 

Dude’s also a prolific and talented artist and photographer – his website showcases a vast array of beautiful images to behold.  As his bio dictates, Rhucle “continues to create new works, new ways of expression, and will continue into the future”.  His latest piece of new expression is this gorgeous cassette for the Constellation Tatsu label, his second to be issued by the Oakland-based ambient crew.  On More Beautiful Than Silence, the artist fuses synthesizer drones and field recordings of nature to craft a series of vivaria, each track a tiny microcosm of the world outside of our bustling urban spaces.  Water flows, birds chirp, and synth pads stretch out toward infinity, undulating lackadaisically as if time itself ceases to flow with its usual mechanical precision.

While there are plenty of folks that exist in this sort of modern new age realm of nature-meets-synthetic bliss, Rhucle’s output is particularly beautiful.  Evocative of gorgeous summer days spent outdoors, More Beautiful Than Silence is a healthy respite from the icy cold of winter, a trip to dreamland on clouds of gorgeous drone.   

Navigate to the Constellation Tatsu Bandcamp to wind back time and dip your brainstem in Rhucle’s summery shine; while you’re there you might as well grab the entire Fall 2018 batch.  It’s a doozy!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Energy ☆ - Energy ☆ (Galtta Media, 2018)

This is the third cassette from the bedroom house/techno duo Energy ☆, and it’s their second eponymous edition.  Comprising ethereal dream weaver Camilla Padgitt-Coles (Ivy Meadows, Future Shuttle) and experimental producer/composer Bryce Hackford, the on-going collaborative project drifts in the liminal spaces that exist outside of genre, place and time.  The music lives in between, the electronic constructions hovering not quite within the bounds of either composition or improvisation.  The beauty of the music subsists in and for itself, with each of the five pieces residing in its own singular microcosm.  Yet a conceptual thread ties the entire cassette together.

Calling this music ‘house’ and/or ‘techno’ is actually slightly misleading, as really only the opening track “~” really exists within such narrow realms with its juicy bass line and hi-hat shuffle.  An arcane ooze infects the oblique rhythm of “~~”, but a pair of sprightly, disjointed melodies dance across its slippery foundation.  The relatively brief “~~~” is an improvisational percussive romp that carries its own uncanny sense of time.

Wrapping all these conceptual notions together is the gorgeous “~~~~”, which sways effortlessly across its 16-minute run time.  Its blissful blanket of drone will surely bring lidded eyes and a lackadaisical smile to those who partake.  Wrapping up the proceedings is “~~~~~” with a brittle rhythm that is the most alien of the bunch.  Delicate chimes and a series of organ drones serve to lighten the mood as the piece drifts toward a peaceful conclusion.

Arriving in an edition of 100 pro-dubbed cassettes, this enigmatic song cycle is certainly worth exploring, so head to the Galtta Media Bandcamp to snap up a copy for yourself.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

PJS - Hermes (Aural Canyon, 2018)

I was first introduced to the music of PJS through another project that Jordan Christoff – half of the duo alongside Patrick Dique – is involved with, Saturn’s Daughter.  In that project, Christoff and Michelle Mostacci sling nature-influenced drone works that are recorded live to tape with no overdubs or computers involved.  With PJS, Christoff and Dique offer more crystalline patterns, with deep shimmering textures that at times stray toward the uncanny.  The pair have been playing together for over twelve years, and this extensive tenure is evinced by how cohesive their music unfolds; its structures are built by seasoned collaborators.

Hermes is the duo’s 2nd official cassette, but it’s their first for the Texas-based Aural Canyon imprint.  Christoff commemorates special dates such as equinoxes and solstices with musical offerings, and as such this tape arrived on All Souls’ Day, the closing of Allhallowtide.  Far from being a haunted affair – which would align with the season – the music that lies herein is flavored by the cosmos.  Along with synths, samplers, field recordings and magic boxes, the liner notes list air, rainbows, melody, water, portals, and texture among the elements used to fabricate the pair’s twilit drones.

Each of the six tracks expresses a unique mood, but the entire song cycle maintains a consistent sense of ebb and flow throughout.  This allows for the lengthier tracks such as “111” and “Ethereal” to travel through various landscapes without straying too far afield from their intended paths.  It also offers room for the duo to experiment with oblique and unnatural tones, such as the ghostly howls at the mid-way point of “Ethereal” or the alien gurgles of “Liquid”.  The sheer immensity of the material itself is reminiscent of some of the more epic moments from New Zealand’s Campbell Kneale and his Birchville Cat Motel project, which I’ve been meaning to dig into my archived boxes of CDs to re-investigate.  PJS have slaked my monolithic drone thirst with this stunning release.

Dive into the ocean of drone by directing your mouse pointer to this link to the Aural Canyon Bandcamp; physical copies are still available.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lafidki - Derichan (Chinabot / Bezirk, 2018)

The Chinabot label/collective was founded in 2017 with the release of the Phantom Force compilation, which collected 21 tracks from artists who hail from across the East Asian music scene.  Aimed at rewriting the story surrounding Asian music, the label’s mission statement is to “show a slice of what we like, the cultures we come from and our own ideas”.  Chinabot progenitor Saphy Vong, himself a Cambodian-born artist who has lived in various locations across Asia and Europe but currently resides in London, contributed his own output to the compilation as Lafidki.  His music is situated at both a stylistic and temporal crossroads, in which classic Cambodian pop music, traditional music from his homeland’s highland and mountain peoples, and glitchy electronic rhythms coalesce into a colorful cosmic ambrosia.

Chinabot has co-released the Derichan cassette with the Bezirk imprint, also a relatively young label helmed by UK artists Daryl Worthington (Beachers) and Tristan Bath (Spool’s Out podcast).  The cassette is dedicated to the over twenty ethnic groups that call the Cambodian countryside home.  Derichan translates as “bestial”, and these groups are often derided in their own homeland, often called “ethnic minorities, hill tribes, and other, more dehumanizing terms associated with wildness, primitivity, savagery.”  Vong has woven field recordings made with the help of ethnomusicologist Julien Hairon into his noise-infused electronic sound fields, folding the histories of multiple cultures into a singular clarion call, revealing tragedies that are occurring in present day.

Deforestation, human-influenced drought, and the murder of environmental activists are just some of the themes that Vong touches upon with his transcendental rhythms.  Field recordings bookend the noise-infused rhythms of “The Ceremony of the Drowned,” a paean to a cultural rite threatened by dam construction.  The sinister electronic arpeggios of “Poan Pasda” give way to oblique tones that could be the cries of the banana tree ghost, now homeless (Cambodia currently has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world).  “The Death of Chut Wutty” finds Vong exploring the atrocities of the modern era, ruminating on the murder of the eponymous environmental activist, who was allegedly shot by the Cambodian military.

Only 50 copies of this highly enrapturing cassette are available, so point your browser to either the Chinabot or the Bezirk Bandcamps to score one for yourself.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Colin Fisher - The Garden of Unknowing (Tombed Visions, 2018)

I’ve been following the music of Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Colin Fisher for over ten years, including his output with the I Have Eaten the City trio alongside Nick Storring and Brandon Valdivia (Mas Aya) and with Not the Wind Not the Flag (a duo with Valdivia).  It goes without saying that when new Fisher tunes arrive on the scene, that I’m going to do my best to sniff them out.  UK-based Tombed Visions is a new label to me, but upon peeking at their back catalogue I realize that I’ve been hiding under a rock.  The aesthetics of the imprint’s releases are fantastic – each is a miniature work of art.  I have some investigating to do…

Fisher’s oeuvre is massive and boundary-stretching, as far as creative music is concerned.  Whether he’s going solo or teaming up with like-minded heads, there are no laurels rested upon.  Yet there’s a cohesive thread running through it all, a signature that is undeniably present in each release.  Perhaps epitomizing this phenomenon, The Garden of Unknowing finds the musician pushing compositional and improvisational boundaries yet again.  Fisher wields guitar, saxophone, synth, drums and bass all on his own to weave together a series of free jazz pieces that contain the energy of a complete outfit – a collection of masterful players folded into a single entity.

Musically, these pieces are incredibly melodic and appealing.  Each of the seven tracks is a mini-universe, complete with interwoven narratives – both though-provoking dialectics and late-night carousals.  Each element unfolds expertly as Fisher improvises with himself, the music ebbing and flowing with an inconceivable unison that only a master craftsman of sound could achieve.  Particularly engaging is “Unveiling,” which unfolds with an energetic abandon over a searing wail of synthesizer.  Its ember sheds tongues of flame that twist and leap freely, cascading upward as bursts of orange sparks, until finally waning at track’s end.

Join Fisher in The Garden of Unknowing; head over to the Tombed Visions Bandcamp.  Physical copies are still available.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Isness - Isness (Crash Symbols, 2018)

The West Virginian cassette tape gurus over at Crash Symbols continue their unrelenting cadence of adventurous releases, showing no signs of slowing down.  The label’s been offering up about a tape every month since around April of this year, and each one is a pleasure to behold in both the visual and the aural realms.  Even cooler, some of their tapes are accompanied by an artwork-matching button that you can proudly wear on your favourite jacket now that Autumn is here and the icy weather is brewing.

The latest spool of goodness to hail from the Crash Symbols camp is a delicious slice of harmonious improvisation from Isness, the duo project of Montreal’s Catherine Debard (YlangYlang) and Oakland-based composer Matt Robidoux (Curse Purse with Ted Lee of Feeding Tube Records, ex-Speedy Ortiz).  Robidoux is actually a west coast transplant, originally hailing from Massachusetts, inhabiting the zany orbit that folks like Sunburned Hand of the Man also abide.  He and Debard crossed paths via a web of touring and other opportune moments of translocation, synergistically creating the isness of… …well, Isness.

A third member graces the A side of this delicious tape, violinist Jenifer Gelineau of Sunburned Hand of the Man.  This material was recorded in summer 2017 when the three musicians convened in Ontario, Canada, and is very much dream-like in execution.  A soft drone permeates the proceedings over which violin, percussion, flute, what sounds like banjo, and the ocean’s roar are all interwoven across the first three tracks.  The side closes with “Beach Pizza”, its clangorous strings and feedback serving as the jarring wake up call that abruptly terminates the mesmerizing hallucination it succeeds.

On the flip, we have the pair of Debard and Robidoux on their own, sprouting a growing delusion of amorphous room tones, string scrapes, samples, percussion, and other less discernable sounds.  Their poetry grows ever musical as the side unfolds, abstract aural phenomena coalescing into crystalline patterns which then splinter apart such that the resulting sonics are at times mellifluous and at others certifiably strange.

You can peer into the spellbinding mindshare that is Isness by pointing your browser to the Crash Symbols Bandcamp; there are still physical copies available.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Welcome to Nine Chains to the Moon!

Hello!  This new little blog was thought of as an extension to the music writing that I am involved with for other publications (Exclaim!, Decoder, ex-Foxy Digitalis), and is aimed at focusing on little-known sonic entities from the global sub-underground.  Submissions are always welcome and encouraged.  Physical is preferred but digital is accepted as well.  Reach out to ninechainstothemoon [at] gmail [dot] com to inquire!  Thanks and much love!