Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Happy Holidaze!

Hey all!  We just wanted to extend our gratitude to those folks who read our humble little blog.  Also, a great big thank you to all the labels and artists who sent in stuff for us to listen to and enjoy.  The stacks are still piled high, so for those of you whose records we haven't yet gotten to, fret not: we'll be slowly digesting those lovelies into 2020.

Below, I've shared a couple of Mixcloud episodes from one of my close friends who's been running this amazingly curated Internet radio show for a long time now... ...enjoy!

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy season!


Hazy and the Nine Chainz Crew

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Velf - In a Sense (Orange Milk, 2019)

The press release from Orange Milk for Velf’s debut EP Pernicious Serenity called it “the kind of electronic album that cleverly interacts with various musical disciplines without settling for one overarching sound.”  This could be an encapsulation of the curation for Orange Milk itself: a clever interaction with a variety of musical disciplines that never rests upon a single overarching oeuvre.  Of course, this is high praise.  We wouldn’t have it any other way – both for Orange Milk and for the music of Velf (a.k.a., Valeria Zaklinskaya).

In a Sense also arrives via the Orange Milk messenger service, complete with stunning visuals from label co-boss Keith Rankin.  It picks up where its predecessor left off, expanding on themes hinted at previously while also heading in new directions.  In an interview with the Echoes and Dust site, the artist listed the influences that most affected her while creating this minor masterpiece.  She cites the powerful electronic song-craft of Daughter, Nicolas Jaar’s unconventional sound design, and the organic electro-acoustic compositions of Francis Dhomont as being prime motivators for the expansive mutant electronics that pervade the album.  While seemingly disparate, in Velf’s hands, these influential elements are transformed into something entirely whole and beautiful.

There are abundant vaporous melodies to be found, weaving in and out of synapse-straining explosions, the frazzled sizzling of electricity arcing, and elegiac pads that whirl in cyclones of orchestral maneuvering.  Digital fauna rubs up against electric guitar chords.  Crystalline shards assemble themselves into gorgeous constructions while other, darker figures dissolve into a primordial ooze.  Velf has created a world – no, a universe – of her own, into which she invites us to revel and relax.  It is a wonderful place to be.

In a Sense can be experienced both physically and digitally via the Orange Milk Bandcamp, so point your browser in the correct orientation and click away!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Michael Vincent Waller - Moments (Unseen Worlds, 2019)

I’ve not got the education nor the vocabulary to write eloquently about serious modern classical music, but with Moments, the third album from American composer Michael Vincent Waller, I feel like I at least want to try to spill some ink.  Waller’s compositions for piano (played by R. Andrew Lee) and vibraphone (performed by William Winant) are incredibly lyrical and accessible for neophytes such as me.  Furthermore, the incredibly evocative resonance that emanates from every note and chord conjures the feeling of floating among a sea of melodies and harmonies, drifting in a dreamlike trance.

The names of many of the pieces (e.g., “For Papa”, “Return From L.A.”, “For Pauline”, “Love”) give off a hint of the autobiographical or some sort of story arc that serves to heighten the almost familiar feeling of the music.  Whether the tone is upbeat and jaunty or morose and subdued, one gets the sense of walking alongside Waller as we are enveloped in warm clouds of tone.  It’s this serenity and emotional connectedness that really set these compositions apart as something truly special and unique.

The title Moments itself drives home the feeling that we’re peering into snapshots of Waller’s own life, while the prettiness of the music reveals an accessibility that feels far too uncommon in this particular subgenre of music.  I would be comfortable putting this record on in many different settings and among mixed company; I’ve actually done so, and it’s been well-received by everyone who’s heard it.

I highly recommend heading over to the Unseen Worlds Bandcamp to experience the glittering melodies of Moments yourself.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Natalie Rose LeBrecht - Mandarava Rose (Galtta Media, 2019)

Oh man, the Galtta crew is on a roll this year.  First came the Ron Tomas & John Swana cassette and now we are treated to this delightful reel of magnetic bliss.  Natalie Rose LeBrecht is a songwriter who has spent much of the last decade away from releasing music, instead focusing on the exploration of meditation and hypnosis.  She turned her focus inward.  We are blessed to be able to experience her music again.

Mandarava Rose is an introspective exercise, one that is lush and flourishing with an intrinsic life force.  LeBrecht unfurls piano and organ, and croons with a voice that is equally diaphanous and dynamic.  For this collection of compositions, she brought Galtta label head David Lackner on board to add flute and sax adornments.  These embellishments serve the compositions well, without overtaking LeBrecht’s incredibly hypnotic piano lines and incredibly fascinating vocal incantations.

LeBrecht draws inspiration from Alice Coltrane, even going so far as to dedicate lead off track “Rishi Stars” to the legendary composer under her Sanskrit name, Turiyasangitananda.  The piece is a whirlwind of piano, synth and voice – one that swirls, swoops and swerves like plumes of smoke around a room.  “Rosebud & Lotus” is a more melody-forward piece, with subtle accompaniment from Lackner’s saxophone and an incredibly powerful vocal performance.  The relatively short “Lost” is almost sprightly, with a delightful piano passage and intertwining sax/voice melodies.

Realistically, it’s better to hear Mandarava Rose rather than listen to me faun all over these incredibly moving compositions.  Thankfully there are still copies left at the Galtta Bandcamp, so let your fingers do the walking and allow yourself to float away on these delicious clouds of harmony.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Nick Storring - Qualms (Never Anything, 2019)

The Toronto-based composer Nick Storring is a favorite around these parts.  He’s active in keeping the Canadian modern exploratory music scene alive and thriving, but his musical interests and activities hover within a great many genres and modes.  Yet his compositional chops and one-man-orchestra instrumental prowess (which we’ve heard dubbed ‘solorchestral’) are truly where he triggers the most pleasurable of pressure points.

Qualms finds Storring continuing to work in the ‘solorchestral’ sphere, in which he composes a work and then plays every instrument involved in the composition.  There have been times in the past – such as on Gardens – where Storring has deployed over sixty distinct instruments in the realization of a work.  With this release, the arsenal is a little more stripped down (you’ve got cello, bass, voice, mandola, violin, guitar, sarangi, piano, percussion, duck/goose calls, and a bunch more) but the atmosphere is tremendously more sinister.  Composed to accompany a choreographic work by Yvonne Ng, the piece – which spans two sides of a cassette – is a slow-burning but heightened exercise in building tension.

The moodiness of the piece works incredibly well.  Although on the surface it appears very environmental – almost like a backdrop to a series of emotional vignettes – when one dives into the music, there are many incredibly intricate elements that slowly take shape and burst forth from their surroundings.  Mid-way through the first half of the piece, a veil of violin and cello barely allow what appear to be flutes and plucked strings to dance around melodically, until it all tumbles into a multitude of rubbed sticks and percussive clangs.  Similarly, at the mid-point of the second half, an almost military-style percussion, melodica and kazoo marching band (I’m sure there are dozens more instruments in this part) meanders down a blind alley, only to collide into a brick wall without missing a beat.

There are many evocative moments to be found on Qualms, and it’s the joy-filled task of the listener to unfold the intricate layers and dive right into it.  It’s this act of beckoning for the listener to explore that makes Storring’s music both fun and adventurous.  I urge you to head over to the Never Anything Bandcamp and experience it for yourselves.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Daniel Klag - True Neutral (Muzan Editions, 2019)

Around here, we’re big fans of Canadian ex-pat Josh Stefane and his Endurance project.  So we were happy when he dropped a line and filled us in about the latest batch of tapes from his Muzan Editions imprint.  There appears to be a common theme across the trio of cassettes, enhanced by the mighty layout skills of one Joe Bastardo.  The stark black-and-white background and snugly-fit text paint a bleak picture, which belies the warm drones that permeate the magnetic tape itself.

Of particular note is True Neutral, the latest from Daniel Klag, who hosts “Dense Liquid”, a bi-weekly radio show hosted by the Brooklyn-based Newtown Radio station.  Klag is new to us, but has released music for labels we love, including Patient Sounds and Constellation Tatsu.  Here, he offers up a pentalogy of tracks that incorporate drones and subtle rhythms in an ever-so-slightly sinister concoction that nevertheless goes down incredibly smoothly.  “Hard Pass” starts things off with a mild shuffling thump over which Klag lays luscious clouds of pseudo-orchestral brilliance.  There is a duel of timbres on “Divine Horsemen”, in which a sawtooth swoon parries the subtle attacks of a synthetic string section.  The effect is rather entrancing, particularly as the two sides commingle near track’s end, when a barely audible pulse appears.

The title track leads off with a repeated snippet of melody that is joined by an ever-evolving tapestry woven of lush drones.  Klag allows this track to set its own direction as the melody drifts away, leaving a rhythmic pattern behind to anchor the tonal soup and provide a sense of locomotion.  With “Mutagen”, he lays down an incredibly emotional drone piece, with a noisy crescendo that will pierce the coldest of hearts with its warmth.  This fundamental limbic-triggering drone wizardry continues into “Ancestor”, which closes out the proceedings.  If you’re not in tears by the time these last two tracks have stormed your hypothalamus, then you must be a sociopath.

To sample these tempestuous drones, all you need to do is visit the Muzan Editions Bandcamp.  Be forewarned: have some tissues at the ready… …you know, in case you get something in your eye… …or whatever.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ron Thomas & John Swana - Serenity (Galtta Media, 2019)

The folks over at Galtta fly in some interesting airspace.  They play with bizarre-yet-smooth pop, and then they’ll throw a curveball at you with a record like Serenity.  This beast is a kosmische maelstrom courtesy of two jazz types who moonlight as electronic conjurers.  Swana is a trumpeter who also wields the EVI (electronic valve instrument) and Thomas is a pianist and composer whose ivory-tickling strays into the electronic keyboard and synth realm.  Together they romp around the house built by Tangerine Dream and it’s to great effect.

A blizzard of sound washes over a thick, rubbery bass line as “Message” comes into focus.  A series of synthetic murmurs morphs into a siren call that really draws you in and wraps you in the duo’s web of intimate sonics.  And yes, these sonics are intimate: like a warm embrace by firelight while you’re looking out the window to watch the snowflakes fly.  This comforting resonance continues through to “Rainforest”, with its amalgamation of birdsong and synthetic clouds of bliss.  The tones wash over you as you explore ever deeper into the piece, uncovering unclassified species of sound.

With “Foundation”, the duo take the proceedings in an extraterrestrial direction.  This is the longest piece on the cassette, which gives Thomas and Swana plenty of space to explore other realms of sound.  Stars collide and nebulae transform before our eyes as the ambient drift goes ever onward.  The title track brings these dreamlike events to a close.  The elastic bass from earlier reappears, anchoring the experience to our home planet, even as the uncanny resonance leads us toward the heavens.  Eventually, one by one, each tone evaporates, leaving us wiping our brow in exalted exhaustion.

You too can find serenity by heading over to the Galtta Bandcamp.  Buckle up and prepare for liftoff!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

1127 - Tqaseem Mqamat El Haram (Nashazphone, 2019)

I’ve been loving the Egyptian label Nashazphone for ages now, and really try to digest what I can from this leading light in experimental sounds.  Those not schooled in the ways of this expertly-curated imprint should know that they pretty much release vinyl records only, and they’ve got albums by Sun City Girls, Ashtray Navigations, Sunroof!/Skullflower, Smegma and Blood Stereo and many, many more purveyors of zonked tones in their catalog.  These folks are the real deal when it comes to the wonderful and the strange.

The latest batch of LPs includes this doozy of a release, the debut from Cairo-based electronics wizard 1127 (Discogs says the person behind this project is named Amr El-Alamy).  There isn’t all that much biographical info around the mysterious producer, but there are a few digital releases and tracks on Bandcamp, and there appears to be some affiliation with the Nkisi/Angel-Ho/Chino Amobi-helmed NON Worldwide crew.  At any rate, this artist spits some seriously skillful electronic sparks from their fingertips, crafting a unique concoction of abstract sonics that stands completely on its own.

There are drills and jackhammers feeding back onto themselves as “White Lie” brings Tqaseem Mqamat El Haram into focus.  This is a frightening yet beatific pummeling that strays into the obliquely shattered “Fragmented. Thought Train”.  Here, a glitchy series of sonic shards are blended into a slurry and spilled across a piece of sheet metal.  There’s a pseudo-melodic interlude before the proceedings get extrapolated into the fourth dimension.  “Renaissance” takes a subdued approach, its thunderstorm bass sliding beneath angelic pads that would be dreamy if not for the stabbing happening over in the corner of the sound field.

On “Colander”, the producer fuses the preceding approaches, adds a little melodic/rhythmic magic, and then borrows some techniques from the early electronics maestros for good measure.  It’s a whirlwind of a piece that stands out as one of the most evocative tracks I’ve heard this year.  It’s definitely worth the price of admission here.

There are far too many moments of blown out bliss to mention in a short blog post, so I suggest that you take a spin over to the 1127 Bandcamp, where you can digest this album digitally, or be directed to a distributor for a taste of the physical.  Either way, Tqaseem Mqamat El Haram is an indescribably stunning debut from someone to keep thine eyes on for more greatness that is sure to come.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Talugung / Family Ravine - 1/2s (Power Moves Library, 2019)

The Toronto-based Power Moves Library imprint is back; I believe the last release to feature “original” material was the split CD-R/zine between label head Kevin Cahill (Downer Canada, East of the Valley Blues, et al) and British weirdo Posset from 2017, but I could be mistaken.  The label hasn’t exactly been quiet, however, as there have been about five or so editions released since then of the “Excavation Series”.  These are digital mix tapes that feature a variety of global moods and environments, available for free from the Power Moves Bandcamp.

This edition splits a reel of cassette tape between Ryan Waldron’s Talugung project and Cahill’s newest moniker, Family Ravine.  Waldron’s side is a series of what appear to be ethereal gamelan ruminations, ghostly percussive emanations that stretch endlessly toward the heavens.  Listening to these evocative pieces is akin to invading the privacy of a stalwart percussionist who has been experimenting with psychedelics and exploring the outer reaches of their various instruments and implements.  I feel like I should be stepping away from these gorgeous tones in fear of intruding, but I just can’t do it.  On the flip, Cahill offers a series of what he calls “no frills, just plug and play” electric guitar meditations.  Numerous lines and motifs run in parallel, intersecting and interweaving.  There’s a dizzying effect present as the melodies and harmonies unfold kaleidoscopically in bursts of tone.  The feeling becomes almost visceral as my brain seeks to unwrap and explore each note and chord as they pass by my ears.  This is true mastery of craft, right here.

Alas the cassette edition of this glorious song cycle has long since vaporized, but astute heads already know that Cahill makes all of the Power Move Library editions available digitally at no cost via the Bandcamp.  Do yourself a favor and lap up these delicious sounds.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Daniel Guillén - Inner Vision (Muzan Editions, 2019)

Back in April, we wrote about a cassette by Lunaria, the alter ego of Spanish ambient musician Daniel Guillén.  That tape focused on somnambulist meanderings and luscious drones; it was the perfect soundtrack to inward exploration.  Now Guillén has dropped a new offering under his given name, the lovely Inner Vision, for the Japan-based Muzan Editions label.  This release expands on the overall Lunaria template, adding plucked string accompaniment and a melodic sensibility to the thick drone tapestries that one might be used to.

“Celestial Friend” is a storm cloud of thick organ chords and alien synth pads that commingle to become a dangerously powerful sonic brew.  The music slowly builds into a frothy madness before petering out almost imperceptibly.  There’s a new age sensibility prevalent on “Rainbow”, which features plucked strings that are granularized into tracer-laden echoes ad infinitum.  These improvisational meanderings are laid atop a gelatinous fog of drone that is nearly opaque in nature.  The two elements are fused together in a beautiful marriage of disparate elements.  Synergy, it’s called.

Melodic and celestial.  That’s “Shooting Star”.  A pretty synth line laced with stardust to become a shimmering beam of light.  Loveliness incarnate.  And then the angels start singing and my heart stops and 8 minutes later I wake up to the nocturnal beckoning of “Inner Space” in all its synthetic glory.  The doppelganger of that piece is “Angel in Nebula”, during which we escape from Earth’s orbit and travel ever outward past glorious clouds of brightly lit dust and gas.

“Afterlife” comes on with drone in full-throttle mode, closing out this cassette with just as much beauty as it was entered into, albeit softer and with an unusually active sense of mystique.  Such a delicate orbit is meant to be explored, so I implore our readers to drift over to the Muzan Editions Bandcamp and experience Inner Vision for themselves.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Sea Moss - Bidet Dreaming (Crash Symbols / Feeding Tube, 2019)

Oh, it’s been too long, people.  Our apologies, but the summer plays tricks with all its sun and heat and fun and such.  But we’re back over here at Nine Chainz HQ, albeit briefly before another adventure looms when we head to Lake Erie to wrestle with water flora and sand and flotsam.  But we’re here now, so let’s dive into this beast of a record by Portland duo Sea Moss.  These cats are wonky in a post-punk meets post-cyborg meets post-noise meets post-shriek meets post-electrons sort of way.  And it’s a delightful wonk that they purvey, a crafty zaniness that is nearly indescribable.

Snazzy drumming reigns supreme, courtesy of skin pounder Zach D’Agostino, who also lays down some ‘tronics.  Noa Ver is they of the Kazu Makino meets Deerhoof meets Caroliner vocals-as-telephony trip and this individual also won’t let us forget that they are wrangling electrons too.  Describing the sound that this pair emanates is particularly difficult, as they defy comparison and stretch beyond genre boundaries.  There are definitely songs here, but they’re wrapped in modem squeals, fuzzy time signatures, ray gun gurgles, and the hypnotically high-pitched voice of Noa Ver.  I smell Lightning Bolt at times, but there’s way more funk involved.  The aforementioned Deerhoof or Caroliner?  Maybe a dollop.

Forget it.  Just sit back and listen up, kiddos.  Bidet Dreaming is where it’s at.  There are no duds here, as all songs are rocketry incarnate, incendiary in execution and energy.  Take “Knock Knock Joke” for example.  It starts off all coy and sparse but ends up coming to a boil in no time – a screaming across the sky, as Thomas Pynchon might put it.  This track is the decoder ring from which all remaining songs can be deciphered – it contains all of Sea Moss’ many moods in one tight package.  And there’s a lot to love: the thunderous drums paired sommelier-style with Noa Ver’s shrill siren call; a DIY electronics aesthetic that takes its time sliding into top gear; a cantankerous rhythm that hangs together precariously.

It’s not enough for us to describe the mayhem of Sea Moss, you must experience it.  So sidle over to either the Crash Symbols Bandcamp or the Feeding Tube Records website and become wrapped in the warped sensibility of this dynamic duo.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Various - Quilt of the Universe (SPINSTER, 2019)

The three proprietors of the SPINSTER imprint began the endeavor in the Winter of 2018 in an effort to support a diverse range of musicians who move in orbits both traditional and radical.  Steeped in music, folklore, and art, the founding mothers of SPINSTER – Sarah Henson, Emily Hilliard, and Sally Anne Morgan – have created something magical: a place for adventurous sounds to call home.

Quilt of the Universe aims to evoke the earthly and the extraterrestrial.  Key touchpoints are NASA’s Voyager Golden Record and a “Solar System Quilt” stitched in rural Iowa by science teacher Ellen Harding Baker in the 1800s.  This juxtaposition of the heavenly and the terrestrial is immediately apparent in the evocative throbs emanating from Baltimore musician Ami Dang’s “Unstruck Sound (Santu Man Pavnai Sukh Baniaa)”.  The singer’s mellifluous vocal stands out amidst a constellation of percussion and clouds of synth.  The multiple layers of Emmalee Hunnicutt’s plucked and bowed cello similarly rise and sway skyward in wafting clouds of tone.  Guitarist Ilyas Ahmed offers a skeletal acoustic guitar piece that is as nimble as it is inwardly focused.

There are also some raucous and quite experimental tracks featured on Quilt of the Universe.  The spaced-out version of 90s club grinder “Return of the Mack” features vocals that are almost percussive in their rapid-fire delivery, laid down over a wash of synth.  The noisy poetry reading “I Saw God” sounds like it was lifted from Glands of External Secretions’ Reverse Atheism.  The track is supplied by Michelle Dove and Brian Howe, who describe their work as “an electropoetic séance”, which is an apt description for this uncanny piece.  Fitness Womxn’s “Creatures” is a new wave raver, while Slut Pill’s “Catcall” features a Dinosaur Jr.-esque guitar intro and a message that damns (rightfully so) moronic displays of toxic masculinity.

Each of the fifteen tracks on offer is threaded into the overarching theme of Quilt of the Universe, and the intersectional feminist ethos of the SPINSTER label itself.  The cassette is part of a larger in-house crowdfunding campaign by the imprint, with a trio of original t-shirts also on offer with designs by Durham artist Julienne Alexander (Elizabeth Cotten), D.C. illustrator Elizabeth Graeber (Pauline Oliveros), and the Portland-based Ilyas Ahmed (Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou).  Head over to the SPINSTER Bandcamp and snatch up some of their wares.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Livingdog & Mike Johnson - CRO$$ (Constellation Tatsu, 2019)

The lovely Oakland-based Constellation Tatsu label is back with their Summer of 2019 batch.  I always have a hard time selecting which release to write about when a new CT batch arrives, and it’s no different with this one.  So I dug in deep to see which cassette resonated the most with me on a visceral level, and this doozy from Asheville magicians Livingdog (Corey Parlamento) and Mike Johnson seemed to vibrate my inner monochord the deepest.

CRO$$ is the collaborative debut from these seasoned players; Parlamento has a few solo releases under his belt already and Johnson is well-known on the Asheville scene, both as a musician and as a producer.  This collection of recordings is a dream-like dance through landscapes strewn with guitars, synths and field recordings.  It’s not a hushed affair, but there is an unhurried air about the music: the pair let tones and melodies unfold and stray along paths both well-traveled and overgrown.

The deliberate pacing has a calming effect, as do the gorgeous acoustic guitar melodies which adorn tracks such as “For Martin”, “Contemplate the Life of a Fencepost”, and “Duet for Strings”.  The remaining tracks are no less mellifluous, yet there’s an uncanniness present in the way the synths and other elements seem to distort the aural landscape of the tunes.  The surreal nature of the music is somewhat disorienting but still incredibly pleasant, probably how having synaesthesia might cause an enjoyable sense of delirium.

Capture this mystifying sensation by gripping a copy of the cassette – there are still copies available over at the CT Bandcamp.  If you’re feeling extra frisky, you might want to snatch the whole batch, and have an extended drift session.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ayankoko - Kia Sao ກ້ຽວສາວ (Chinabot, 2019)

The Chinabot label is quickly becoming a favorite over here at Nine Chains to the Moon, as they continue to release exhilarating electronic music hailing from the Asian diaspora.  This particular cassette is the work of French-Laotian composer David Somphrachanh Vilayleck, a classically trained musician/composer with decades of work under his belt.  His output as Ayankoko straddles jazz, electronic composition, traditional music, and dub.

Kia Sao ກ້ຽວສາວ is steeped in the horrors that befell 20th Century Laos, which left an innumerable quantity of unexploded ordinance buried across the country.  These bombs and landmines are still being uncovered to this day, causing horrific injury and death decades after the Americans pulled out of Vietnam.  The music shifts between peaceful melodies and chaotic noise, a reflection of the ongoing trauma of the Laotian people.

The tape kicks off with the brief “Kia Sao,” in which slippery electronics are wound around field recordings from Ayankoko’s homeland.  “South East II” is then introduced, a hybrid of junglist breakbeats and what appears to be sped up traditional sounds.  This feeds into the lovely “Molam 9”, a traditional Laotian molam augmented with guitar and sampled strings.  The remainder of the side is equally captivating, culminating in the hyperactive “Trytones”, in which three instruments compete in a daring race, almost exploding with melodic abandon.

“Jette” is a noisy interlude that segues into “Downsides”, the longest track on offer.  This piece is a dubby affair, with a sliding sub-bass throb and broken transmissions that phase in and out in time with the rhythm.  The traditional meets the modern on “Pi Pasan Khap I”, as Ayankoko pairs alien electronics with Laotian field recordings.  The proceedings close with “Tebu Sauyun”, in which a peaceful yet melancholy set of melodies gradually become darker and increasingly foreboding.  The sombre tone on which the cassette closes is reflective of a diaspora coming to grips the destruction and despair experienced by its homeland.

One can experience this indescribably gorgeous cassette in digital form from the Chinabot Bandcamp.  Physical copies are sold out at source but may be available from choice distros worldwide.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ernstalbrecht Stiebler - Zwischen den Tönen (Edition Telemark, 2019)

Over here at Nine Chains to the Moon, we’ve yet to dive deeply into the world of modern composition.  What better time than now?  And so we begin...

German composer Ernstalbrecht Stiebler (born in 1934) works with drawn-out tones that slowly evolve and change, in what is referred to as a reductionist style.  His compositions are minimalist, but not in the sense of the American minimalist musical movement.  Stiebler is influenced by minimalism in the visual arts.  As his pieces are assembled with elongated sororities, they pulsate almost organically – they’re living, breathing beings that writhe soothingly.

Zwischen den Tönen is composed of four live recordings spanning from 1997 to 2018.  Each piece comprises a side of vinyl, the first slab containing “Intervall 19” and “Slow Motion”.  The first composition was recorded in 1997 and was performed by the Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Cristian Brâncuşi.  Amsterdam-based The Barton Workshop performed “Slow Motion”, which was recorded in 2003 at Zaal 100.  Both of these recordings feature multiple instruments moving as one in producing a series of long, drawn-out tones, which are woven intricately into a reverberating mass.  “Slow Motion” appears to be a more intimate affair, as the sounds of the room seep into the space surrounding the music, providing a comforting sense of humanness.

The second LP features the titular piece (translated into English as “between the notes”), which was recorded in 2002 by the choral ensemble Schola Heidelberg.  It is a beautifully wrought recording of intertwining female voices that requires deep listening to fully appreciate.  “Ortung” is the newest of the pieces on offer, having been recorded in February of 2018.  It was performed by the Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop chamber orchestra and features only strings: violin, viola, cello and contrabass.  It is a thick, cloudy mist of extended string tones that is incredibly mesmerizing.

Zwischen den Tönen can be acquired by scouting out your nearest distributor.  In North America, head over to Forced Exposure to get your modern composition fix.

An audio preview of Zwischen den Tönen can be found at this link.  For a sneak peak from Reworks, on which a number of contemporary artists remix Stiebler, see the Bandcamp widget below...

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Koeosaeme - Obanikeshi (Orange Milk, 2019)

Flipping the coin from the astral voyages of PJS, we find ourselves in the hyperreal digital landscapes crafted by Koeosaeme, aka Japanese sound artist Ryu Yoshizawa.  With Obanikeshi, he has fused bizarre instrumental passages to an ornate miscellany of digital flotsam.  The aural equivalent of a cybernetic Frankenstein with incongruous appendages splayed in multiple directions simultaneously, Koeosaeme’s debut vinyl outing – following a pair of cassettes for the Orange Milk and Angoisse imprints – is rapturous.  It’s an attention-grabbing slab of digitalia that’s not to be missed.

The album starts off with the incredibly brief “Polyhedra”, which doesn’t even begin to set the stage for the entertainment that follows.  Things really get tasty when “Azimuth” appears, and piercing violins are launched toward an unnatural chorus of voices and crumbling detritus.  On “m-face”, a sped-up flute melody surfaces from beneath an ocean of quacking, snapping, and squelching electronics while disembodied speech attempts to pierce the chaos with a hint of humanity.  Each of the tracks – there are thirteen in total on offer – is in itself a pleasurable microcosm of man-machine ecstasy.  All hail our cyborg overlords!

Obanikeshi also arrives via Orange Milk, and the entrancing audio is accompanied by the equally arresting visual art of label co-founder Keith Rankin.  The entire proceedings are mind-bending and worth deep exploration, perfect fodder for the most adventurous musical spelunkers out there – those with an ear for the extraordinary.

Delve deep and obtain your copy of this post-futurist fusion of the human and the digital; prepare to be absorbed into the hive mind.  Your first step is to jack into the Orange Milk Bandcamp – let Koeosaeme take it from there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PJS - Solstice Birth Magic (No Problema Tapes, 2019)

Hey people, are you thirsty for spiritualized dream-drift?  Well the duo of Jordan Christoff and Patrick Dique are here to slake your appetite.  As PJS, the pair offer up relaxing drone poems that spill over the horizon and mingle with cosmic bodies as they unfold toward eternity.  Their music is recorded live in environments suitable for harnessing the energies of our universe, and there are no computers involved at all.  The situations and their outcomes are as peaceful as possible.

PJS are no stranger to these pages, as we spilled a few words about their Hermes cassette last year.  Solstice Birth Magic is equally entrancing, yet its sonic constructs are lengthier and flow with what seem to be more ornate eddies.  They’re sprinkled more liberally with field recordings as well, which adds to the gravitas of the synthesizer drones.

The title track is divided in two, and the first half contains relatively smoother timbres than the latter half, which features buzzier synths and evokes a windswept feeling.  The polish that is characteristic of the introductory piece is only worn away when the field recordings rise in the mix, as a slight hint of static or crackling appears.  As an entity, the entire proceeding shines with a warm, comforting glow.  “Auspicious” encompasses the entire other side of the tape and is slightly more austere than what came before.  A variety of moods is presented across the track’s 26-minute running time: from incredibly dreamy to slightly foreboding to intensely uplifting.  It’s the perfect soundtrack to whatever scenarios are unfolding across your mind’s eye.

Join PJS as they explore both outer and inner space.  Head over to the No Problema Bandcamp and capture some of the exhilarating energy this pair of cosmic voyagers has to offer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Beachers - Language Shapes the View (FRM-AT, 2019)

And we’re back… …and this time, we’re diving into the murky waters of minimal/maximal electronics.  Awhile back, we took a listen to that Lafidki tape, which was co-released by the Bezirk and Chinabot imprints.  Well, the Bezirk label is co-run by Tristan Bath (Spools Out) and Daryl Worthington, who slings electrons as Beachers.  Worthington’s no slouch, and he’s got a new tape out, courtesy of the FRM-AT label.  The London-based artist recorded the contents of Language Shapes the View over the course of a week.  During the Winter.  In Latvia.  Just prior to moving back to the UK.  So it goes without saying that there’s a slightly chilly air to the proceedings.

Worthington was inspired by the breakdown of speech and communication.  Words misheard or misunderstood, conversations briefly overheard and unable to be processed.  He has carefully inserted brief and disorienting snippets of modulated voice recordings into his electronic sound matrices.  The alien glossolalia creates the unsettling feeling of being lost in a foreign place, where echoes of unintelligible speech reverberate through the air.

“Sapir Whorf” actually begins – as far as I can discern – speechless, emerging as a complex whirlwind of textured drone.  This track dissolves into “Screaming Into the Echo Chamber”, in which a dubbed out bass pulse is ridden by a ghostly syllable that echoes into infinity.  “Direct the Meaning” features a writhing mass of electronic squiggles, which may or may not actually be sped up and smeared renditions of the warped vocal that closes out the piece.  A lone female repeatedly chants out the title of “What You Did” against a piano throb and an electronic hi-hat, while undulating waves of drone persist beneath.

With “Language Kills the Sentiment”, Worthington pits a deranged vocal against sparse electronic chords and tones, which eventually overtake and devour all empty space.  A lone chord repeatedly plays out to infinity as the piece concludes.  The title track, which closes out the tape, is phenomenal.  A murky dub techno piece, it’s the most resolute of the tunes on offer.  That being said, each of the pieces presented carries its own form of genius, and as a whole Language Shapes the View is a compelling survey of oblique electronic music at its finest.

You’ll want a crack at deciphering Worthington’s oblique lexicon yourself, so head on over to the FRM-AT Bandcamp and make your best attempt.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back

Hey folks, apologies on the lack of post last week.  I spent Tuesday night at the Burdock in Toronto having my socks blown off by the inimitable Seymour Glass of Glands of External Secretion and Bananafish fame.  So needless to say, my week was a write-off - literally.  Stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming later this week, but in the meantime, check out this vid of Mr. Glass shaking cerebellums in the best way possible, courtesy of my bud Ayal Senior over at the Youtube channel dreamweaponfilm.  Cheers,  Hazy

Monday, April 15, 2019

Nate Wooley - Columbia Icefield (Northern Spy, 2019)

Improvisational trumpeter Nate Wooley is joined by a cabal of similarly adventurous musicians on this ode to the largest field of glaciers in the Rockies.  Electric guitarist Mary Halvorson, pedal steel player Susan Alcorn, and drummer Ryan Sawyer – along with Wooley – endeavor to employ their instruments in honor of the mammoth feat of Mother Nature known as the Columbia Icefield.  Producing three gigantic pieces of intertwined chords, sidelong melodies, and skittering percussion, the quartet have juxtaposed their innate humanness against the spiritual nature of this chilling and chilly monument.  What they’ve created cannot compare with something so immense, but they’ve done their damnedest to try.  And what an effort Columbia Icefield is.

Opening with the twenty-minute-long epic “Lionel Trilling”, which at times feels like the efforts of a trio in the mode of the minimalists due to the sparse employment of Wooley’s trumpet, the quartet wind an invisible coil spring to near breaking point.  About a third of the way through the piece, the group releases the pent-up tension that has been brewing but then move to turn the screws ever tighter until track’s end.  “Seven in the Woods” is another slowly brewing piece of music, but this time the quartet are in a languid mode.  Sawyer’s drums churn and bubble, while the other three players waft in and out in a smoky haze.  The piece closes out with a few searing moments of guitar/steel interplay that really stand out.  On “With Condolences”, Wooley and company take a few minutes to usher in a dirge that gives way to all-out sprays of notes, chords, and noise.  This heady brew is quite fiery, complete with both untreated and completely distorted vocal passages that are definitely unnerving.

With Columbia Icefield, Wooley and his bandmates have done a fantastic job attempting to replicate the outright chaos, the unnerving bleakness, and the sheer monolithic nature of one of our planet’s most expansive locales.  In order to even begin to fathom these glacial forms, you’ll need to head over to Wooley’s Bandcamp or the Northern Spy imprint’s website.  Tune in, turn on and chill out.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Peter Evans and Sam Pluta - Two Live Sets (Carrier, 2019)

These two gentlemen are heavy hitters in the exploratory improv scene, both in the US and abroad.  Sam Pluta is actually both an improviser and a composer and focuses on using his laptop as a performance instrument, having written software specifically for the unique interactivity of playing live.  The Chicago-based sound artist is heavily credentialed, and among the activities in which he participates, he is often found working alongside trumpeter Peter Evans.  Evans is focused primarily on improvisation as a means to engage in both solo sonic exploration and collaborative composition.  He is a member of many co-operative ensembles, and as a leader fronts the Peter Evans Ensemble (of which Pluta is a member) and Being & Becoming.  As you can probably imagine, together these two are dangerously good.

Released on Carrier Records (which Pluta co-runs with synthesist Jeff Snyder), Two Live Sets exemplifies the hydra-headed set of modes with which these two top players tackle improvisation.  Evans’ trumpet playing is stretched to the limits of human possibility, matched perfectly by the super-human abilities of Pluta’s software.  When Evans brays in the unholiest of timbres, Pluta meets him with sinister modem tones; when Pluta unleashes ropes of disfigured sound, Evans sprays forth colorful threads of rapidly weaving melody.  The two players wind around each other, sparring jauntily, and then separate into opposite corners before meeting up again in a delicious collision of explosive potential.

Comprising two extended performances (the CD only contains the set recorded at the De Singer club in Belgium) that stretch out to a lengthy forty-five minutes each, Two Live Sets is sure to please those looking for boundary-pushing sound art.  There is enough variety in tone, timbre and energy – although the proceedings stray mostly within fiery territory – that a hungry listener is sure to find something delicious to chew on.  Take a spin over to the Carrier Records Bandcamp and explore for yourself.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lunaria - Mist and Light (Aural Canyon, 2019)

Here we have our second investigation into the mystical world of the Texas-based Aural Canyon label.  This time around, we are probing the nocturnal wanderings of Spanish sound weaver Daniel Guillén, who records as Lunaria.  With Mist and Light, Guillén expresses a thoughtful nod to the space our mind inhabits when it is hovering between wakefulness and sleep.  The four pieces he offers were realized over the course of three years as he explored what he refers to as the “harmonious relationship between darkness and clarity, mist and light, unconsciousness and lucidity”.  Each is a unique take on this inward journey toward nocturnal rest, an encapsulation of deep introspection into how our consciousness drifts toward unconsciousness.

The tape leads off with “Lullaby for the Clouds”, a drifting piece of ambient bliss, complete with lilting melodies, lush synths, and a deep heartbeat of a bass line.  Layers of sound roll in like a welcome fog over a pristine body of water, the sense of tranquility being enhanced by each element.  This track is love incarnate.  “Numinous” takes on somewhat of a darker tone, with uncanny melodies that feel suspenseful.  The thick synths are woven together with a cinematic sensibility that is quite intense.

On the flip is the eponymous track, a slightly alien but ultimately angelic piece of music.  A sprightly rhythmic element is played against elegiac chords and a delicate melodic lead.  Choral pads emphasize the heavenly nature of this gorgeous track.  “Secret Path” is also quite beautiful, but in a somewhat mysterious, almost playful way.  Droplets of melody are sprinkled gingerly across cascading waves of synthetic chords, which emanate like contrails from Guillén’s delicate fingertips.  This wave-like undulation seemed to sync up with my own brainwaves, lulling me into an almost hypnagogic state – but I guess that’s ultimately the intent here.

You too can explore inner space with Lunaria; head on over to the Aural Canyon Bandcamp and prepare to be entranced.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Curved Light - Flow and Return (Constellation Tatsu, 2019)

Another perennial favorite label of mine is Constellation Tatsu, the Oakland-based purveyors of finely-hewn monolithic soundscapes.  The label’s paradigm of batch-based release schedules leads to periodic doses of gorgeous textures in both the aural and visual orbits.  The Winter 2019 batch is a quartet of goodness, peaked by this lovely salvo of sound from Austin’s Curved Light (a.k.a. Peter Tran).

Flow and Return exists on many spheres: Tangerine Dream-esque oceans of sound, expertly-sequenced synth dramas, and ornately decorated dronescapes.  Most of the pieces clock in at under two minutes in length, but there is a tremendous amount of content packed into each minuscule capsule.  “Brightlea” wanders in with a warped yet lush sensibility, before morphing into the shimmering ocean of “Sea Change”.  A crackling glitch carries “Glacial Float” along into the melodic sunset of “Crescent / Visions in Eclipse”, which is a five-minute mini-masterpiece.

The endless beams of energy continue to pour from Tran’s synth-infused limbs over the course of a total of fourteen different pieces of music.  Present are shades of the previously mentioned Tangerine Dream, as well as the gurgling textures of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and the arpeggiated melodies that seem to weave their way into the oeuvres of many of the Austin electronic wizards with which he rubs elbows.  Yet Tran throws a whole lot of himself into his music, such that it ends up becoming a synergistic brew that transcends his influences and bears his unique stamp.

Bathe in the cascading sonic textures by warping over to the Constellation Tatsu Bandcamp, and snap up the entire Winter 2019 batch, why don’t you?  You’ll thank me later…

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Cosmic Range - The Gratitude Principle (Idée Fixe, 2019)

There has been a slowly brewing storm hovering over Toronto for over a decade.  The storm has many fronts, tendrils of cloud that roll outward and then collapse inward again.  The maelstrom comprises talent, musicianship, songcraft, camaraderie, gratitude, and love.  This is The Cosmic Range.  The members of this crew share a deep sense of mutual respect; they have maneuvered individually and in many collaborative configurations over the years but convene to conjure sweet sonic love together as a unit.  Now they’ve unveiled The Gratitude Principle for our fortunate ears to salivate over.

If one must name a leader of The Cosmic Range, then Matthew “Doc” Dunn comes to mind, yet there is serious groupthink present in the execution of this music.  Kieran Adams, Jonathan Adjemian, Isla Craig, Andy Haas, Mike “Muskox” Smith, Maximilian “Slim Twig” Turnbull, Brandon Valdivia and Dunn are true collaborators.  They are a unit, espousing a love for the music that unfurls naturally from their bodies.  Together they unleash a cosmic, fiery, jazz-inspired groove that bobs and weaves to avoid pigeonholing.  Demolishing genre, and instead choosing to birth new forms of composition and improvisation, the group bash their way through six evocative and entrancing pieces of music.

Leading off with “Palms to Heaven”, the Range immediately set in motion a flurry of dark, free jazz-inspired shadows.  Craig’s wordless vocalizing invokes the presence of sinister beings, as the group improvises a throbbing rumble beneath her.  A hint of respite arrives with “Breathing Water”, in which a delicate flute melody leads into a percussive groove that calls forth dub forms filtered through the clear lens of consonance.  “Eyes for Rivers” is transformative to those unprepared.  Stabbing deep to the core of our lizard brains, the warped sax and damaged electronics trigger a deep emotional response.  It’s unrestrained imagination at its finest, a Lynchian nightmare come to life.

Easily my favorite piece, “The Observers” shines brightly with a jazz-funk glow.  The unstoppable rhythm and ripping solos are mind-bending, to say the least.  It’s an unrelenting blast of incendiary bliss.  “Rivers for Eyes” is a snake-like trip to another dimension, a collective improvisation that sails toward mysterious shores.  The Gratitude Principle closes with an eponymous piece, one that unfurls with a swinging pace.  The patient cadence builds toward a grand climactic statement that finds The Cosmic Range tearing a hole in space-time, with just enough momentum to throw us off our orbit.  It’s the perfect ending to a stellar collection of music.

Snap up this swinging collection of cosmic tunesmithery while it’s hot.  Hit up the Idée Fixe website or the Cosmic Range Bandcamp and choose your poison.  It’s tasty!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

FRAME - The Journey (Glacial Movements, 2019)

The Rome-based duo of Eugenio Vatta and Andrea Benedetti began the FRAME project in 1992 as an effort to re-create the atmosphere of a silent movie theater, except that instead of an orchestra playing in real time, they would use electronics specifically assembled to accompany the film.  They improvised in real time in order to give the proceedings a sense of humanness, an organic vibe that provided a feeling of richness and warmth.  A quadraphonic setup, samples, spoken word, electro-acoustic sound, and noises served to immerse the audience in the experience, which became a cross between a live concert and a cinematic performance.  Each event was unique, and the duo prepared loads of recordings, which they’ve assembled, edited and compiled for The Journey.

These soundscapes are intended to be focused around the absence of sound: the silent nature of outer space and of “glacial environments”.  The ten pieces presented radiate outward from the center of our solar system, starting at planet Mercury and flowing toward Pluto and its satellites.  This interplanetary locomotion is tectonically-paced – this is ambient music, after all.  Yet there are micro-events within the undulating drones: a wispy clatter that rises and falls in soft focus in “Venus Frame”, a cavernous gurgle in “Jupiter Frame”, and a shuffling pattern of static in “Pluto and Charon” all serve to disrupt the mesmerizing waves of blissful tonality.

Listening to The Journey is akin to enjoying the comforts of the familiar.  Even as the underlying themes are of silence and alienation, the warm tones send the audience to a positive emotional space.  There is light here, and beauty.

Digital and physical copies of this delightful orbit can be obtained from the Glacial Movements Bandcamp.  Capture one, and drift onward and outward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Aghnie & Seqta - House of Spleen (Crash Symbols, 2019)

Hey, it’s March and I’ve finally cleared out the pile of 2018 releases that I had on my desk.  Hooray for me!  What better way to dive into 2019 than with a perennial favorite of mine, the Crash Symbols label??  I’m a huge fan of the imprint’s split tapes, and this one’s a real jammer for sure.  Both of the artists featured hail from the Eurasian country of Georgia: Aghnie (real name Ika Jojua) is based in Tbilisi, while Seqta (aka Beska Kapchelashvili) now lives in Berlin.

Each of these producers approaches electronic music on a unique trajectory.  Aghnie embraces a sort of electro-techno hybrid, which finds him relishing synths and loops.  There’s a lo-fi edge to the music – a dusting of tape hiss, a slight fuzziness to the beats – but this lends a sense of warmth and familiarity to the proceedings.  “Stitches,” the lengthiest of the tracks offered here features gorgeously interwoven female vocals that hang in the air like languidly wafting trails of smoke.  On the other hand, we have “Wounds,” a beat-driven piece with a quirky yet highly engaging rhythm.  It’s got laser chirps and an infectious ringing sound that will invade your dreams if – like me – you listen to it frequently.  Near the end, it shifts gears and a series of eerie moans leads us toward the dance floor.

Seqta rolls in on a jungle tip, with a breakbeat-heavy sound that’s snappy and sample-ridden.  With track titles like “Gnostic Riddim” and “Ashanti in K-Hole”, you know what he’s all about.  There’s a ghostly murk and some violent imagery at play, which evokes a sense of danger that isn’t present on Aghnie’s tracks.  There might even be a sample from Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score hidden in “Hood iz 4ever”, but I can’t be completely sure that I’m not merely imagining it.  I do know that Ashanti’s hook from “Always on Time” is there on “Ashanti in K-Hole”, and it’s blown out among haunting synth pads that make it sound downright sinister.  These are some ace tracks right here!

There are still a handful of these tapes left over at the Crash Symbols Bandcamp, so don’t hesitate – snap one up pronto!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Adrian Knight - Vacation Man (Galtta Media, 2018)

This gentleman is a Swedish ex-pat who lives in New York and is a mainstay of the Galtta Media empire, which is helmed by one David LacknerAdrian Knight may call NYC home, but he truly resides in a universe where corporate training videos, Club Med advertising, and a sort of post-nostalgic, morose funk all collide into a broken-down version of the American Dream.  On the surface, everyone is all smiles, with perfectly coiffed hair, the right clothes, a great car, and a bronze body.  Dig deeper and wage slavery is the rule, and we are all pining for some time away, all-inclusive, where we can plow down cocktails and gorge ourselves at the buffet trough.  Enter Vacation Man.

The artwork accompanying this cassette is a painting of either a waiting room at a travel agency or the antechamber of a timeshare sales enclave.  Fluorescent lights are dispersed in a T-bar drop ceiling, and the flat screen TV is probably displaying thinly-veiled advertising on a loop.  The magazines on the coffee table most likely offer maximum relaxation and all-you-can-eat.  Perfection, at a price.

Sonically, Adrian Knight and friends (Lackner on woodwinds, Michael Advensky mans drums and percussion, Alice Cohen provides backing vocals, and Nick Stevens plays the trombone) echo the illusion of unlimited pleasure masking a woozy collective sadness.  The music is almost polished, but cracks in the façade pop out frequently: an off-beat rhythmic element here, an out of tune synth there, a hint of melancholy in the lyrics.

But as much as Knight acknowledges the gloom, he’s sanguine and asks us for a similar perseverance.  Be positive!  Revel in the illusion!  And his music leads us to succumb.  We close our eyes, a wan smile on our faces, as we dream of our next escape.  Thank you, Mr. Knight.  Vacation Man – with its smooth rhythms and luscious woodwinds – might just get me through the rest of this brutal winter.

Released in an edition of 125, Vacation Man is still available from the Galtta Media Bandcamp, so head on over and drift into an alternate plane of existence.  Don’t worry, be happy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Me, Claudius - Good Diz, Bad Bird (Bezirk, 2018)

First thing’s first: I love the name Me, Claudius for a musical project.  I actually went to YouTube to find the Sesame Street skit from which the enigmatic English tape sorceress pinched the moniker, and it brought back a wave of nostalgia.  Now take the name of this tape: Good Diz, Bad Bird.  As far as I can tell, this isn’t bebop, and there aren’t any horns or saxes to be found.  There’s certainly a sense of virtuosity at play, as the artist is a wiz with the ferrous loops – slicing, dicing, and mangling her samples until they fold in on themselves in a repetitive haze of maximalist minimalism.  There is genius here, and it becomes apparent when one navigates deep into the crevices of this evocative cassette.

The first side of the tape is one lengthy beast of a piece, eponymous and difficult to pin down.  Piano chords stagger, stutter, and turn on themselves until they become a pool of undifferentiated timbre and tone.  Disembodied voices and a percussive rhythm eventually overtake the piano maelstrom, along with shards of white noise that are smeared into the sonic equivalent of extracellular fluid.  This is musical DNA being replicated, mutated, carved up and manipulated by an expert pair of hands.

On the flip is the diptych called “Lifestyle”.  Both pieces feature damaged drum machine loops in some regard, and both travel in an orbit where dubbed out Foley effects and an ever-present beeping noise are commonplace.  The second half is where strange becomes bizarre: the beats become subterranean and barely existent while the noises (including what sounds like a pneumatic nail gun being discharged repeatedly) are at the forefront and ring clearly.  Imagine going clubbing in a busy construction site and you get the picture.

Physical copies of this sample-delic array of tape loops are still to be had, and they’re beautiful (hand-printed on a printing press from the 1960s by Me, Claudius herself) so pin your eyeballs to your browser and navigate to the Bezirk Bandcamp to obtain one of these delightful artifacts for yourself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ross Birdwise - Stumble (New Motion, 2018)

Vancouver-based artist Ross Birdwise tugs at and tears the rigid grid that bolsters most electronic music, warping space-time in the process.  His mutant rhythms are both intoxicating and mind-boggling.  He has also been on a tear lately, releasing four cassettes in 2018: Drunk Formalism(s) for Orange Milk, Nine Variations for Hotham Sound, Eschatology for Collapsed Structures, and finally this luscious set of uncanny electronics for the New Motion imprint.

The music on Stumble is in a sense the connective tissue between Birdwise’s Frame Drag tape from 2013 and the more recent Drunk Formalism(s) and was conceived in the interstitial period between those releases.  The gradual maturing of the compositions reveals a producer whose confidence has grown immensely, with an oeuvre that has expanded in complexity over the years.  Interestingly, both the artist and label refer to these sounds as being more minimal in nature than those of his other work, but a minimal Ross Birdwise record is still fairly maximalist in execution.  Oblique beats, shattered fragments of noise, dense melodic content, and jarring samples are all stirred together into a heady concoction of sound.  Sure, there is more breathing room here, but the air is vaporous and thick.  This is humid music.

There are twenty-four distinct compositions on offer here, at a running time that exceeds an hour.  The track titles evoke places, dates, and emotions (e.g., “No-Wave Suspense Thriller, Mid-1980s”) and the music calls back to the creative core that birthed Frame Drag.  It becomes evident as soon as “Bells Corners, 1981” kicks into gear that Birdwise is still messing with the structures of the club.  With its variable speed, broken tape deck rhythms and suspense-filled cinematic pads, the track is instantly gripping.  A salvo of randomly applied gut punches is applied again and again, until we’re left reeling like a glass-jawed boxer down for the count.  It’s the attention-grabbing samples and suspenseful melodic elements that keep us from completely losing consciousness.  Birdwise applies this method across most of the tape without the proceedings ever veering toward the formulaic.  His limitless imagination and unwavering creativity are sustained across the entirety of Stumble, which is a mind-blowing feat if there ever was one.

Stumble is available in both physical and digital forms, direct from the New Motion Bandcamp, so you too can navigate space-time with Ross Birdwise if you dare.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Lime Eyelid - Week of Wonders (Self-Released, 2018)

Through the feverish haze of an influenza-turned-bronchitis epidemic that ravaged three quarters of my family, Week of Wonders was there.  Its ramshackle, ultra-lo-fi, sludge fed my disease and – along with a hefty dose of antibiotics – pushed me through to the other side, the healthy side (or at least I hope so).

The product of one Lime Eyelid (a.k.a. Josh Schultz), a drummer turned multi-instrumentalist who plays in the Brooklyn-based psych band Travelling Circle, this album takes the concept of private press to the extreme, right down to the sparsely decorated album sleeve.  Adorned only with text and what appears to be some sort of found family photo, the artwork is almost as bare bones as it can be.  The music, however, is pretty thick; codeine-based cough syrup thick; the contents of my infected sinuses thick; brain fog thick.  Its heft is what ultimately keeps it afloat in the mind, with little earworms of melody invading the grey matter, usurping traditional thought.

Only one of the songs has a title (the only one with words), the most straightforward of the bunch, “I Saw Waves”.  Its sparse electric guitar chords (drenched in space echo), falsetto vocals, and ghostly theremin unfurl like an LSD-lased rockabilly classic played in ultra-slow-motion.  The remaining tracks are pretty intense, and range from loping psych rock creepers to sludge-drone feasts.  Schultz plays everything: drums, synths, guitars, theremins, tapes, and ghostly vocalizing.  Each of these elements is wielded like a brick-layer’s trowel as he constructs each song, piece by piece.  The resulting miasma, although alien, is highly engaging, the perfect antidote for the evil sickness that invaded my body last week.

Lime Eyelid is as enigmatic as his music.  Those interested can try to reach out via SoundCloud for a dose of his psychedelic medicine.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I Got the Influenza Blues

Sorry folks, but I haven't been feeling up to writing much over the past few days, due to a rampant sickness that has overtaken my house!  I thought I was going to avoid the flu this year, but alas, no luck!

Stay healthy out there, folks!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Dire Wolves - Paradisiacal Mind (Feeding Tube / Cardinal Fuzz / Pome Pome Tones, 2018)

Continuing along the lysergic snail trail that was birthed last week with the Wilder Gonzales Agreda release, here we’ve landed in an American neo-psych boogie spiritualist mode with this new beast from DireWolves – who refer to themselves on this release as Dire Wolves (Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band).  The roots of this crew stretch way back into the 1990s.  Their subterranean tendrils originate both in the Darla Records sunshine pop-psych-tronica zone – Brian Lucas was a member of the should-be-legendary Mirza – and the equally ancient strange folk ways of The Iditarod, whose Jeffrey Alexander has gone on to play with Black Forest/Black Sea, Jackie-O Motherfucker and these Dire Wolves we’re speaking about.  Their tunes sail within all of these influential orbits as well as the various Kosmische rock and astral jazz landmarks that have woven their way into the contemporary psychedelic streams of thought.  It’s a sonic brew that’ll put you out, in the best way possible!

Paradisiacal Mind is a five-track epic from this San Francisco outfit, hitting all the high notes mentioned previously, and leads off with a flavorful rock-n-roll creeper called “Unfettered and Alive”.  This relatively short jam incorporates delicious stabs of violin and mysterious ghost vocals, which fog up the already misty windows and leave us hungry for what’s next.  “Just Live Your Life Behind Your Eyes” is a hazy vision, one which evades being recognized at the outset, but which eventually achieves clarity over its lengthy running time.  It’s a woven droner that takes off toward the heavens with a maddening energy.

“We Are Stardust” is a stream of proggy jazz that disappears into a cavern of acoustic guitar and bizarre field recordings.  The lysergic energy of 1970s Kosmische out-rock is smeared all over “In and Out of Den Garten He Goes”, which is a swirling, bleary-eyed maelstrom of madness that sets us up for the monumental psych rock blast of the title track.  Coming in at just over seventeen minutes, this piece is the motherlode.  It’s a folding together of all of Dire Wolves’ influences into a single, soaring epic that alone is worth the price of admission.

I highly encourage sourcing out a copy of this maddening slab of free-rock mania.  You can score yourselves the wax over at Cardinal Fuzz in the EU or at Feeding Tube in North America.  However, if your preferred flavor is digital, head on over to Bandcamp to reel in these cosmic sounds.