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Episode 453: February 23, 2019

In the air with JacobBrainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition is live with episode 453

Your regular dose of uneasy listening features music by Diamanda Galás, Campbell Kneale, Botany, Throbbing Gristle, Racine, Sam Cox, Cindy Lee, 2kilos &More, CS + Kreme, and He Said Omala.

Jacob sent the photo taken from the air.

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Forced Exposure New Releases for the week of 2/24/2020

New music is due from Guided By Voices, Crys Cole, and Collocutor, while old music is due from Sleep, Organisation, and Henry Cow.

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Big Blood, "Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Dream?"

cover imageIf someone had told me twenty years ago that Cerberus Shoal would someday evolve into a '60s girl group-style family band, I probably would have thought that I had fallen asleep and was having an extremely weird and perplexing dream.  Nevertheless, that improbable future has now come to pass with Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Dream?, which is Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin's first album to feature their daughter Quinnisa as a full member of the band.  As befits such an auspicious occasion, Skeleton Dream is an especially fun and ambitious anomaly within the already unpredictable Big Blood discography.  While I am hesitant to describe any release by this long-running Portland, Maine project as a "party album," such a classification would not be terribly wide of the mark here, as this release is comprised almost entirety of hooky, retro-minded pop songs.  Characteristically, however, Skeleton Dream's appeal runs quite a bit deeper than a mere collection of entertaining classic pop pastiches, occasionally catching me off-guard with some wonderfully haunting and darkly hallucinatory moments.

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Jan St. Werner, "Molocular Meditation"

cover imageI cannot say that I love every one of Jan St. Werner's bizarre solo albums, but his unwavering passion for pure experimentation and escalating unfamiliarity is certainly admirable and endearing.  On this latest release, however, he takes a break from his extremely outré Fiepblatter Catalogue project to celebrate the incomparable ramblings of his former Von Südenfed bandmate: the late Mark E. Smith.  The heart of the album is an edit of a "bespoke light and sound environment" that first premiered in Manchester back in 2014, while the remainder is (for the most part) fleshed out with some orphaned, Smith-centric work that was composed for other reasons.  Unsurprisingly, it is Smith's near-constant presence as a cranky, surrealist raconteur that provides most of Molocular Meditation's charm, but St. Werner's noisy, blurting and scattershot electronics do a effective job of creating a disorienting "sci-fi dystopia" backdrop for those musings.  At its best, Molocular Meditation feels like Smith's voice erupting through the noisy squall of a bank of malfunctioning computers, but the album has a whole is a prickly, challenging, and elusive affair (which, I suppose, is exactly what I expect from St. Werner at this stage in his career).

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Pauline Oliveros-Stuart Dempster-Panaiotis, "Deep Listening"

cover imageOriginally released back in 1989 on the New Albion label, this landmark celebration of extreme natural reverb has finally received a long-deserved reissue in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.  Obviously, production technology has evolved quite a lot since the '80s and site-specific performances have since become a somewhat common occurrence in the experimental music world, so Deep Listening does not feel quite as radical now as it did when it was first released.  Nevertheless, it is still quite a strange and magical album, as I cannot think of any other accordionists who have descended into a two million gallon cistern to explore the incredible acoustic possibilities inherent in a 45-second reverb decay.  As someone without a deep technical understanding of how reverb works, I found the new liner notes from recording engineer Al Swanson and Peter Ward quite helpful in explaining exactly why these recordings feel so unreal, but such knowledge is not necessary to appreciate this album: I have been able to enjoy the epic and eerie slow-motion beauty of Deep Listening for years without knowing a single goddamn thing about phase integrity or slap-back.  While I cannot say I was exactly clamoring to see this album released in the vinyl format, I am absolutely delighted to see it resurrected and back in the public consciousness.

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Ryoko Akama/Anne-F Jacques, "Evaporation"

cover image Both Ryoko Akama and Anne-F Jacques have large discographies focusing on the creation of music with improvised and constructed devices based on everyday objects, so working together makes perfect sense.  The two live collaborations Evaporation is comprised of feature the duo blending the methodologies of live performance and art installation, with the self-guiding objects manipulated in real time as the two move about the performance space while adjusting the objects and mixing the sound.  The resulting recordings are two unique, yet complementary long-form works that, while difficult at times, are captivating throughout.

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Oval, "Scis"

cover imageI am hardly unique in this regard, but Markus Popp's classic run of mid-'90s albums made a huge impression on me, acting as a Rosetta Stone that led me to a world of radical (and also not-so-radical) electronic music far more compelling than the punk and industrial music that I was into at the time.  Sadly, I cannot say that I have been a particularly loyal fan over the ensuing two decades, so I did not stick with Popp through his various bold attempts to reinvent his aesthetic.  However, his work has never stopped interesting me–it is just that the allure of his earlier work was its perfect balance of bold concept and skilled execution.  And, of course, an artist only gets to make a mind-blowing first impression once.  As a result, later Oval albums simply did not leave a deep impression on me anything like that left by 94 Diskont.  That said, there is definitely something to be said for masterful execution on its own and Scis fitfully captures Popp at the absolute height of his powers in that regard (particularly on the second half of the album).  While my nostalgia—and expectation—clouded vision makes it impossible to rank this album within Oval's discography with any degree of objectivity, I feel quite confident in stating that some of the individual songs on Scis easily stand among the finest of Popp's long career (especially "Mikk").

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Ana Roxanne, "~​~​~"

cover imageI always love scavenging the internet for interesting end-of-year lists every December, as I invariably find a handful of great albums and films that I slept on like a fool.  In fact, a lot of those belated finds wind up being among my favorites, as the albums I miss tend to be inspired and refreshing departures from the labels and scenes that I usually follow.  This unusual debut album from LA’s Ana Roxanne was one such find from last year, as it surfaced back in March and I probably dismissed it instantly as a vinyl reissue of some private press New Age obscurity (if I noticed it at all).  Given both the look of the album and Roxanne's aesthetic, that is not a terribly outlandish conclusion to make, but a closer listen reveals that ~​~​~ is considerably more compelling and distinctive than it first appears.  For example, Roxanne checks two boxes that have historically been strong indicators of a radical compositional approach: she both studied Hindustani singing in India and attended the fabled Mills College.  As a result, Roxanne has an unusually sophisticated understanding of harmony and avant-garde compositional techniques for this stylistic milieu.  Such a path would normally steer an artist towards an Eastern drone/La Monte Young vein, yet Roxanne deftly sidesteps anything resembling a predictable path, as ~​~​~ can best be described as what might result if a mermaid studied with Eliane Radigue: drone-based minimalism that evokes a soft-focus idyll of lapping waves and floating, angelic voices.

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"Mogadisco - Dancing Mogadishu - Somalia 1972​-​1991"

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It is difficult for me to imagine Analog Africa ever releasing a predictable or uninspired compilation, as Samy Ben Redjeb seems fundamentally incapable of ever focusing his attention on a scene or place that has already been anthologized by his crate-digging peers.  Mogadisco is predictable in one regard though, as Redjeb makes his return to the African continent after Jambú e Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia's surprise detour into Brazil.  Characteristically, however, Redjeb swims against the tide, as he decided to go digging in one of the world's most dangerous and tourist-unfriendly places after seeing a video about the Radio Mogadishu archives.  A less driven person would have been immediately put off by the need to have an armed escort every single time he went outside, but that is the difference between Redjeb and everyone else: if he heard that there was a killer record hidden at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, he would either find a way to get to it or die trying.  As usual, Redjeb's efforts yielded some genuinely wonderful finds, though this latest batch of long-forgotten and obscure gems is not quite as rhythmically unique as those on other Analog Africa collections.  Fortunately, most of these artists managed to achieve a distinctive character in other ways.  Analog Africa's hot streak remains unbroken.

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Big Blood, "Deep Maine"

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I was starting to get a little worried about Big Blood, as they went almost all of 2019 without releasing any new music.  Thankfully, however, they were just quietly amassing material for not one but TWO new albums to be released in rapid succession.  The first of the pair is this one, a self-released duo recording that surfaced digitally at the end of December.  Obviously, they chose to give the more rocking family affair Do You Want to Have A Skeleton Dream? the more high-profile release, but that does not necessarily mean that that album got all the best songs.  In fact, there are a couple of absolutely beautiful pieces on this more modest, stripped-down and fitfully ballad-centered release.  Consequently, I have no doubt that there will someday be a deluxe reissue in Deep Maine's future, as it certainly deserves it.  Until then, however, "A Message Sent" is an instant classic no matter which format it appears in.

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