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Het Interstedelijk Harmoniumverbond

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cover imageThis quartet is the culmination of Glen Steenkiste’s long fascination with the harmonium, expanding beautifully upon the themes laid out by Helvette's sprawling Droomharmonium (2018).  That said, this album feels like a bit of a different animal altogether, as this league of Belgian drone artists takes the kernel of Steenkiste's vision to a considerably transformed place.  In fact, Het Interstedelijk Harmoniumverbond feels like an inspired continuation of the grand tradition of La Monte Young-style minimalism, weaving complexly harmonic and gorgeously undulating dronescapes that favorably call to mind masterpieces like The Electric Harpsichord.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 April 2019 12:44

David First, "Same Animal, Different Cages Vol. 4: Sitar Music of North Brooklyn"

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cover imageAs the conclusion to his Same Animal, Different Cages project, Brooklyn composer David First has again chosen to use an instrument with more limited applications than the first installments two (guitar and synth).  The sitar has a very distinctive sound and specific cultural associations (which First discusses his struggle with in the liner notes).  Aware of this, he pushes the boundaries of what a single instrument can represent, and also showcases his exceptional skills as both a composer and performer.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2019 10:06

Matmos, "Plastic Anniversary"

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cover imageAs fitfully brilliant as they can be, the Matmos of recent years has been more of a project that I respect and occasionally find fascinating than a project that I genuinely love.  At the risk of torpedoing whatever experimental music cred I might have, I fear they might genuinely be a bit too far out for me…or at least too constrained by their passion for focused conceptual themes and unusual materials.  Nevertheless, I am always quite happy to investigate whatever kitschy and perverse lunacy they have cooked up with each fresh album, as the results are never boring.  In the case of Plastic Anniversary, Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt gleefully embark upon a morbidly funny celebration of all things plastic, assembling an arsenal of toilet brushes, breast implants, police shields, synthetic human tissue, and some hapless Bread records to make a host of bizarre and colorfully cartoonish sounds.  As usual, Matmos' sheer ingenuity and resourcefulness is second to none, but the most compelling innovation of all was the duo’s decision to enlist Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier and a high school drumline from Montana.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 March 2019 20:19

Nocturnal Emissions, "Spiritflesh"

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cover imageThere is an ancient Indian parable about a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant–predictably, they all wind up with very different impressions of what an elephant is like, as they are each only experiencing one small part of something very large (tusk, a snout, a foot, etc.).  I mention this because I feel like I am in a very similar situation whenever I try to wrap my head around Nigel Ayers' idiosyncratic and sometimes visionary career: I have roughly ten Nocturnal Emissions albums and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of his many curious and fascinating activities over the years (both musical and otherwise).  Despite that intimidatingly vast ouevre, there are a handful of universally acknowledged landmark albums within his sprawling discography and Spiritflesh (recently reissued) is one of them.  In fact, it is arguably the best of lot (depending on who you ask, of course).  For better or worse, it is well-known for its influential role in shaping the dark ambient genre, but it is far more earthy, vibrant, and willfully experimental than any of the gloomy drones that followed in its wake and too unique to have many true kindred spirits.  More than thirty years after its release, Spiritflesh's visionary collage of traditional instrumentation and field recording still sounds remarkably fresh and timeless.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2019 07:09

Pass/Ages, "Taken Underneath"

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cover image Consisting of two thirds of the band Ars Phoenix, namely Jonn Gauntletier and Caitlin Grimalkin, it is not overly surprising that there are a lot of similarities between the bands.  Both are equally synth heavy and rife with memorable hooks.  However, the two are distinct projects, with Pass/Ages mining somewhat darker, distorted territories in comparison to the slightly more up beat Ars Phoenix work.  Never are the moments of catchiness far off, however, resulting in a tape that is rough and experimental, yet as memorable as any pop record out there.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 March 2019 20:04

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