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Dolphin Midwives, "Liminal Garden"

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cover imageThis is arguably the formal debut album from Portland harpist Sage Fisher, though she previously surfaced with a fine cassette (Orchid Fire) back in 2016.  Liminal Garden is on a completely different level than its more homespun predecessor though.  If someone had told me fifteen years ago that several of my favorite artists would be harpists in the not too distant future, I would probably have thought they were completely delusional, but the instrument has undergone quite an incredible renaissance since Joanna Newsom's early albums blew up.  While it is probably too soon to tell whether the more mysticism-minded Fisher has definitively earned a place in the same illustrious pantheon as Newsom and Mary Lattimore, her inventive use of effects and processing here frequently transcends harpistry altogether and calls to mind some of the most iconoclastic laptop composers of the early twenty-first century (if they lived in a fairy tale-like crystal palace in an enchanted forest).  This is a wonderful and unexpected gem.

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2019 22:37

Phill Niblock, "Music for Cello"

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cover imageIt recently occurred to me that Phill Niblock has a remarkably meager discography for a visionary composer with a body of work that spans five decades.  I hesitate to describe anyone's career as undocumented these days, as the experimental music world is drowning in live recordings, unfortunate one-off collaborations, vault scrapings, and unnecessary reissues.  Nevertheless, Music for Cello makes a strong case that Niblock probably has quite a backlog of unheard masterpieces wrongfully gathering dust somewhere, as the three pieces compiled here all date back roughly forty years (or more).  However, they all sound like they could have been recorded this week.  While these pieces chronologically represent quite an early stage of Niblock's lifelong fascination with sustained acoustic tones and the interplay of frequencies, his mastery of the form was already amply evident.  In fact, Music For Cello is actually superior to some albums from Niblock's classic run of Touch releases.  I am delighted that I finally got to hear it.

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2019 18:48

Richard Skelton, "Another Hand" and "A Great Body Rising and Falling"

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cover imageHot on the heels of the seismic sine-wave experimentation of Front Variations, this pair of EPs rounds out Richard Skelton's prolific winter with a welcome return to more familiar territory.  Both intended as accompaniments to his most recent book of poetry (Dark Hollow Dark), the two releases take differing themes as inspiration, but both paths ultimately lead to strong, slow-burning drone pieces.  Of the two, the darker and more primal Another Hand is the more powerful and fully realized work. Together, the releases complement each other beautifully to form an extremely satisfying and haunting diptych.

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2019 18:47

Eliane Radigue, "Geelriandre/Arthesis"

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cover imageI have mixed feelings about vinyl-only reissues, but there is no denying that they are an extremely effective way to rekindle interest in a long-neglected album that should not be languishing in obscurity.  This album is an excellent example of that phenomenon, as Geelriandre/Arthesis has been fairly easy to track down digitally for a while and few were clamoring for it.  Now that it is getting a formal physical resurrection, however, it is deservedly back in the public consciousness.  As far as Radigue albums go, it is a somewhat unique one, occupying a grey area between the more divergent Alga Marghen albums and her more universally revered drone epics.  It shares much more common ground with the latter, but it sometimes feels like an embryonic version that is still partially indebted to the avant-garde zeitgeist of the era.  Nevertheless, it is quite a fascinating album, taking an alternate and almost sci-fi-damaged path quite unlike the pure and focused vision of Radigue's later recordings.

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2019 18:48

Black to Comm, "Seven Horses For Seven Kings"

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cover imageOver the last several years, Marc Richter's Black to Comm project has swelled considerably in ambition and scope, blossoming into a shape-shifting and idiosyncratic force with a strong propensity for the epic.  With this latest album, his first for Thrill Jockey, Richter reaches a darkly hallucinatory new plateau with his art.  It is difficult to say whether Seven Horses For Seven Kings is Richter's masterpiece, as there is stiff competition from a couple of his other recent albums, but it is unquestionably his heaviest and most vividly absorbing opus to date, unfolding as a disorienting and harrowing nightmare that increasingly stretches and strains towards transcendence.

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 January 2019 18:46
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