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Silvia Kastel, "Air Lows"

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cover imageRemarkably, this is Silvia Kastel's first solo full-length album, which is an improbably late milestone given that she has been prolifically releasing a steady flow of unusual and inventive tapes and collaborations for almost a decade.  Her aesthetic over the years has been quite a chameleonic and unpredictably evolving one, blithely delving into noise, no wave, sound art, modular synthesizer experiments, and a genre-blurring array of other excursions.  Characteristically, Air Lows is similarly hard to categorize, but its shadowy, deconstructionist vignettes are certainly a good fit for Blackest Ever Black, evoking the feel of a sleepwalker slowly making their way through an abandoned landscape of urban decay.  Some of these pieces are admittedly more fully formed than others, making for a bit of an exasperating whole at times, but the stronger moments definitely have a darkly languorous allure.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 08:31

Abul Mogard, "Works"

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cover imageAccording to legend, this enigmatic Serbian composer became deeply interested in music as a means of trying to recapture the sounds of the metal factory that he had worked at in Belgrade.  If this 2016 collection of his early cassette releases succeeded in that aesthetic objective, that factory must have quite a terrifying edifice, as the best pieces evoke a relentless and pummeling mechanized horror akin to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.  More importantly, some of these songs are absolutely mesmerizing and Mogard intersperses his lengthy industrial trance spells with some unexpectedly tender and melancholy glimpses of light.  Bittersweetly, Mogard has since left this revelatory phase behind to devote himself to more overtly beautiful and transcendent fare, yet every time I put this album on, I am sucked deeper and deeper into its complex evocation of mercilessly inhuman machinery poignantly mingled with soul and bleak radiance.  To some degree, I wish I had covered Works back when it came out, but I suspect it needed some time to grow on me before I could fully appreciate it for what it is: one of the true masterpieces of the last decade.

Last Updated on Monday, 12 February 2018 19:56

Dean McPhee, "Four Stones"

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cover imageOver the course of the last decade, Dean McPhee has quietly and unhurriedly established himself as one of most compelling and unique solo guitar artists around, weaving gorgeously meditative reveries with a masterful use of ghostly delay effects.  This latest album, his first since 2015, compiles remastered versions of three pieces that have surfaced on several elusive Folklore Tapes collections, as well as a pair of new pieces.  All are characteristically fine, but both "The Devil’s Knell" and the epic "Four Stones" rank among the most mesmerizingly sublime work that McPhee has yet recorded, making this his most essential album to date.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 February 2018 09:25

Elizabeth Cottern, "Heschl's Gyrus"

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cover imageI recently stumbled upon this bizarre debut during an especially deep Bandcamp plunge and it is deliciously unlike anything else that I have ever heard.  Both the artist and the label are shrouded in a decent amount of mystery, but Heschl's Gyrus draws its inspiration from Cottern's fascination with "psychical auditory phenomena."  Stylistically, she builds her harrowing auditory hallucinations from heavy, earthy drones akin to Richard Skelton's recent work, but builds them to crescendos that often feel like a swirling and feverish psychotic break from reality.  Sometimes it can be beautiful, but the true genius of this album lies in the profoundly disturbing, alien, and intensely uncomfortable heights reached by pieces of "Akoasm II."

Last Updated on Monday, 12 February 2018 20:09

Benjamin Finger, "For Those About to Love"

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cover imageIn recent years, Benjamin Finger has become quite a prolific and amusingly elusive artist to try to keep up with, releasing a steady stream of handmade limited editions or small vinyl runs on various European labels.  He has also expanded his palette considerably from the gorgeous psych-collages of his debut (Woods of Broccoli), alternately exploring piano miniatures, off-kilter pop experiments, and an occasional stab at gleefully garbled dance music (and sometimes ingeniously blurring the lines that separate those various facets).  My favorite side of Finger’s art remains his collage side, however, so I was delighted to find that For Those About To Love was a substantial plunge back down that particular rabbit hole.  No one else does sound collage like Finger, as his unshakeable pop sensibility remains intact no matter how deconstructed and lysergic things get, resulting in a lovely snow-globe dream-world swirling with glimpses of warmth, tenderness, and sublime melody.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 February 2018 09:15

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