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Saariselka, "The Ground Our Sky"

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cover imageIt is quite rare for two artists with successful solo careers to team up for a genuinely strong collaborative project that offers a fresh vision, but this debut full-length from Marielle V. Jakobsons and Chuck Johnson is the elusive exception that is arguably better than the sum of its parts.  I say "arguably" only because each artist is already responsible (or at least partly responsible) for some albums that I have absolutely loved in the past.  Notably, however, both artists have undergone significant stylistic evolutions in their careers, which may very well be the secret to a truly egoless and organic confluence of visions: neither was rigidly tied to a signature style, so finding a fertile common ground was probably just a natural outcome after playing together for a while.  That said, the clear antecedent to this project is Johnson's gorgeous Balsams album (his first on pedal steel).  As someone who was thoroughly beguiled by that album, it never would have occurred to me that Johnson might have been able to reach even greater heights with the help of a sympathetic foil on Fender Rhodes, but I am delighted that it occurred to Jakobsons (and that she was completely right).

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2019 22:53

Amulets, "Between Distant and Remote"

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cover imageRandall Taylor has quietly emerged as one of the most talented and distinctive tape loop artists in the world over the last few years, steadily releasing a prolific flow of cassettes on a variety of labels.  Remarkably, however, Between Distant and Remote is his first vinyl release, which I suppose makes this an auspicious occasion career-wise.  It is also the first time I have personally delved seriously into his oeuvre despite my general predisposition towards warbly loops and obsessive repetition.  I suspect the reason Amulets has eluded me until now is that Taylor uses tapes as a compositional tool to craft warm, dreamlike reveries of processed guitar ambiance rather than making the tapes the focus.  Of course, the tapes very clearly are the focus in Taylor's process, but the finished compositions that ultimately emerge could easily be mistaken for the work of an ambient-minded guitarist with a passion for lush layering.  If Taylor were a lesser artist, that approach would disappoint me, but Between Distant and Remote scratches a similar itch to classic shoegaze-damaged drone artists like Belong (and it gets there in an impressively inventive way).

Last Updated on Monday, 28 October 2019 12:58

Brainwashed Sponsorship Now Available

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We're open for more sponsorships and can use the money for various costs of operation that go along with the territory.  Brainwashed is not a for-profit service and nobody gets paid but we are seeking non-profit status and are seeking sponsors.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 September 2005 16:23

Maria W. Horn, "Epistasis"

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This Swedish composer earned a lot of attention with last year's blackened drone opus Kontrapoetik, but Horn has been a significant figure in European underground music circles for quite a while (she co-runs the XKatedral label with Kali Malone, for example).  On her latest album, however, she seamlessly slips into somewhat different stylistic territory than I expected, as Epistasis is shaped by some very intriguing and inventive compositional techniques (one of which draws its inspiration from Arvo Pärt).  And much like Pärt (and Malone), Horn has found a unique way to use traditional classical instrumentation that does not bear much resemblance to the current classical/neo-classical milieu at all.  There are still some lingering shades of Horn's darker, heavy influences to be found as well, but the most striking creative breakthrough on the album comes in the form of the tender, twinkling, and intricately arranged two-part piano suite "Interlocked Cycles."

Last Updated on Monday, 28 October 2019 13:05

Alessandro Cortini, "Volume Massimo"

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cover imageMy ears rarely perk up at the prospect of any artist releasing a modular synth album, but Alessandro Cortini's recent career has been a wonderful exception thus far: some of the pieces on his Buchla-centric debut (2013's Forse) absolutely floored me.  Moreover, he has yet to disappoint me since, as the handful of albums that followed in Forse's wake have largely adhered to that same impressively high level of quality: Cortini almost never releases a solo full-length that does not boast at least two legitimately amazing pieces.  As such, he has definitively earned a place in my personal pantheon of great contemporary synth composers.  Great artists tend to be great, however, because they restlessly expand and reshape their vision with new tools, new influences, and new ideas.  In keeping with that tendency, Volume Massimo (Cortini's first album for Mute) marks a fairly significant stylistic departure from previous releases.  For one, there are guitars.  And on a structural level, many of these songs adhere to a very "pop" framework, which I suppose makes Mute the perfect home for this phase of Cortini's career: some songs on Volume Massimo song like they could have been deep cuts or instrumental B-sides from classic '80s synth pop albums.  Other songs, however, still sound characteristically slow-burning and majestic.  Those pieces tend to be the better ones (but not always).

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 November 2019 09:09

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