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Sean McCann, "Puck"

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cover imageThis latest release from Sean McCann picks up right where 2018's excellent Saccharine Scores left off, striking a lovely balance between stretched, blurred, and fragmented orchestral music and distracted, surreal snatches of spoken word.  In the best way, McCann's recent work feels like eavesdropping on his subconconcious mind (though it is thankfully a subconscious mind with all of the boring bits edited out).  Much like its predecessor, Puck is a series of warmly beautiful reveries swirling with mental detritus that feels meaningful, yet those impressions elude any connections or context that might illuminate what that meaning possibly could be.  As a result, Puck is frequently quite moving in a profoundly ineffable way.  McCann proves himself to be remarkably adept at mimicking how memory works, as we do not get to choose what lingers and what disappears: mundane scenes, fleeting impressions, and legitimately important moments all jumble together in a weird stew and there is no predicting what will bubble up to the surface next (or why).  In lesser hands, an album in this vein would probably feel like a self-conscious attempt to blow my mind with wild surrealist juxtapositions, but McCann largely gets the tone and the execution exactly right: Puck is a beautifully casual, organic, fragile, and intimate album.  It is quite possibly McCann's best as well.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 November 2019 07:40

Contrastate, "An Exercise in Defascination"

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cover imageFunctioning as a preview for a work-in-progress record, the two songs that make up An Exercise in Defascination (which will appear as different mixes on the album proper upon its completion) herald the theme of deconstructing giallo films that will appear there.  Drawing from film soundtracks, as well as the overall themes of that specific style of horror film, Contrastate distill those very essences into a brief teaser of terror and surrealism perfectly.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 November 2019 19:36

Marcus Fjellström, "Exercises in Estrangement" and "Gebrauchsmusik"

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Like a lot of people, I am guilty of failing to properly appreciate Marcus Fjellström’s deeply unconventional and haunted vision during his lifetime, but Miasmah's Erik Skodvin has long been a tireless champion of the late Swedish composer's work, as the label was home to much of Fjellström work from the last decade.  After hearing these reissues of Fjellström’s earliest two albums, I now fully understand why Skodvin was so passionate about his work: these two albums lie somewhere between a viscerally disturbing nightmare and a macabre fairy tale.  I suppose that is not exactly surprising stylistic terrain within the Miasmah milieu, but the execution is what matters and Fjellström was on an entirely different plane than just about anybody else in that regard.  At their best, these two albums make me feel like I am plunged into an intense and hallucinatory dreamscape filled with terrifying ballets, haunted clocks, and blood-soaked puppet shows.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2019 07:26

Distance Machine

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cover image As Gog, Michael Bjella has developed a rather expansive catalog of bleak, heavy music, largely centered around guitar, noise, and extremely dark moods.  On 2015’s collaborative record with Robert Skrzyński, Black Box Recordings, he shifted his focus to more abstract, noisier fronts.  For his debut release as Distance Machine, he has mixed up the plans a bit more.  Things are still oppressively dark for the most part but in a subtler, ambient context that reference classic works of the style while still showing Bjella’s own spin on it.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 November 2019 19:32

Theodore Cale Schafer, "Patience"

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cover imageThe Students of Decay label has had an impressive run of being way ahead of the curve over the years, as Alex Cobb’s imprint was responsible for the first major US releases from artists like Sarah Davachi and Natural Snow Buildings.  The latest artist to be welcomed into that pantheon is Sante Fe-based composer Theodore Cale Schafer, making his vinyl debut after a handful of cassette releases and a very bizarre spoken word/conceptual album on Spain's Angoisse label.  Cobb describes the album as "diaristic" and prioritizing "spontaneity and ephemerality," which seems as apt a description of Schafer's fragile, hiss-soaked vignettes as any, as the aesthetic of Patience is definitely an elusive and impressionistic one.  When Schafer hits the mark just right, however, the results are strikingly beautiful, achieving a rare balance of simplicity, intimacy, and soft-focus unreality.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 November 2019 08:05

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