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The Holy Circle, "Sick With Love"

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cover image On their most recent release, it would seem that The Holy Circle—Erica Burgner-Hannum (vocals, synths), Terence Hannum (also in Locrian, synths), and new member Rob Savillo (guitar) taking the place of drummer Nathan Jurgenson—are refining their sound into something more unique.  The gauzy, lush synth production and vocals are still prominent, with a sound rooted in the traditions of early dark synth pop, but Sick With Love sees the band drawing from a wider variety of influences, making for their most accomplished work to date.

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2019 20:29 Read more...
 

Umberto, "Helpless Spectator"

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cover imageMuch like Brian Pyle’s Ensemble Economique project, Matt Hill’s Umberto guise often falls into a stylistic territory that I have a hard time connecting with.  In Umberto's case, that territory is a sort of "retro soundtrack" vision informed by both '80s horror films and spaced-out '70s synth music.  Both artists are equally capable of flooring me though and this latest release happily falls into the latter category at several points, as Hill took a more song-based and live instrumentation-driven approach this time around.  Admittedly, the resultant stylistic transformation was exactly not an extreme one (or a consistent one), but it is sometimes just enough to push Helpless Spectator out of the Goblin/John Carpenter realm and into something closer to a killer space rock band wielding unconventional instrumentation.  That is an extremely cool niche when it works, yet this album shines most brilliantly on the shadowy, synth-driven psychedelia of "Leafless Tree," which is an absolute goddamn masterpiece.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 July 2019 07:45 Read more...
 

Félicia Atkinson, "The Flower And The Vessel"

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cover imageThis latest album was composed and recorded in "impersonal hotel rooms in foreign cities" as Atkinson ambitiously toured the world while pregnant, making plenty of field recordings in far-flung locales like Tasmania and the Mojave Desert along the way.  I am not surprised that those conditions were particularly amenable for her hushed, dreamlike, and ASMR-inspired vocal work, but I did not expect the underlying music to be quite as fleshed-out and hauntingly lovely as this.  While Atkinson cites both Japanese flower arrangement and childhood memories of French impressionist composers as significant influences, her elegantly fragmented and floating reveries are uniquely and distinctively her own.  I do wonder if the Ikebana influence was the final missing puzzle piece for Atkinson's artistic vision though, as The Flower And The Vessel strikes me as her strongest release to date.  Her aesthetic has not changed all that much (nor would I want it to), but her intuitions for focus, clarity, and balance have definitely become stronger and more unerring.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 July 2019 07:32 Read more...
 

øjeRum, "Alting Falder I Samme Rum" and "Forgotten Works"

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cover imageEvery now and then, I plan to have a productive evening, get sucked into a Bandcamp rabbit hole, then wonder where the hell my night went.  I first encountered Paw Grabowski's øjeRum project during one such plunge last year and quickly fell in love with 2018's Selected Organ Works tape.  Notably, Grabowski does not seem to share my time-management issues, as he has released roughly ten more albums since then (three of them in the last month).  Needless to say, he is a difficult man to keep up with and tracking down which releases are especially inspired is a legitimate challenge.  These two recent ones are quite good ones, though they take very different directions.  The stronger one is arguably the newer Alting Falder I Samme Rum, which intermittently contains some of the most beautiful examples of Grabowski's blurred, slow-motion vision.  Forgotten Works, on the other hand, is exactly what the title implies: a collection of unreleased songs spanning nearly a decade.  It is quite a well-curated one though, as the Vaknar label unearthed some surprising gems that had miraculously eluded release up until now.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 August 2019 17:56 Read more...
 

Black to Comm, "Before After"

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cover imageI definitely did not expect any more Black to Comm releases this year (or even next year), as composing and mixing the massive and wildly ambitious Seven Horses for Seven Kings likely kept Marc Richter very busy for a very long time.  I woefully underestimated the volume of material birthed from that transcendent bout of inspiration though, as another album is already here and it is another great one.  While the two albums originate from the same sessions, Before After is billed as a deliberately composed companion album rather than a collection of orphaned tracks.  To my ears, however, it actually sounds like both (in a good way): given the exacting sequencing and arc of Seven Horses, it would make sense if a lot of great songs did not quite fit that particular vision.  Most of these eclectic, stand-alone pieces are certainly strong enough to have made the cut for Seven Horses, but I am glad they ultimately wound up on Before After instead, as this album is closer to my preferred aesthetic of playfully experimental and hallucinatory collage.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 July 2019 07:40 Read more...
 


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