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Forced Exposure New Releases for the week of 8/2/21

New music is due from Phill Niblock, Beatriz Ferreyra, and Distels (Annelies Monseré and Steve Marreyt), while old music is due from The Legendary Pink Dots, The Lords of Altamont, and Czarface.

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"La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983​-​1990"

cover imageSince the invention of cassette tapes, every country has had its own independent tape scene—whether independent musicians with limited release output via the medium or distributors sharing music under harsh conditions. Spain is particularly distinct in this time since, following the death of dictator Francisco Franco the prior decade, the country's creative class was reawakened and allowed to flourish. This tasty compilation from Swiss label Bongo Joe harnesses this movement, focusing on an array of Spanish and Spanish-related electronic music released between 1983 and 1990 that bleeds exoticism rooted in ambient investigations. The compilation succeeds at painting a picture of a lesser-known world of Balearic mysticism with Ibiza-influenced beats and treatments.

Les Disques Bongo Joe

Disc one of this two-disc compilation opens with the hypnotic ambient piece "Transparent" by Miguel A. Ruiz and ends with the fantastic "Trivandrum" by the same. It was "Trivandrum" that immediately caught my attention, sampling what appears to be video game audio over a majestic electronic loop of drums and bass. Both tracks are taken from the 1986 release Climatery but sound tremendously fresh yet today. Since the early eighties, Madrid musician Ruiz has worked under various names (Técnica Material, Orfeón Gargarín, Codachrom, Dekatron II, Michel Des Airlines, Funeral Souvenir, more) yet seems to be little known outside of his native country. Similarities to early O Yuki Conjugate exist, making use of mantric loops and tribal elements founded on a futuristic backdrop. Ruiz is a repeat name, along with Barcelona native Victor Nubla (1956-2020), the more well-known of the two. Nubla's "Chandernagor" is present, showcasing modulated clarinet for which he was known, as well as "20000 Lenguas" ("20,000 languages"), which puts his synthesizer work on display in a clangorous chorus of vocals.

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New Candys, 'Vyvyd"

Vivid cover imageThe latest from Italy's New Candys blasts immediately from the gate with an ear-candy combination of pulsating synth and massive drums, bass to match, and world-weary vocals before exploding into millions of crystalline guitar chords coated in fuzz-drenched reverb, resulting in what is quite possibly the most danceable tune the group has ever crafted. All the psyched-out power of prior releases exists, but their fourth full-length comes with the added bonus of cleaner production, allowing the powerhouse rhythm section to step forward amidst what feels to be a recharged songwriting team. Vyvyd becomes less a title and more an experience.

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Episode 529: July 25, 2021 (Peter Rehberg tribute)

Peter Rehberg In Memory of Peter Rehberg

The sudden and unexpected loss of a peerless force is still difficult to grasp and the void will be felt for years to come. Likewise, it is impossible to encapsulate in an hour podcast episode the breadth of a singular person who has had so much profound influence in independent, bold, innovative, genre-pushing music for over two decades.

Music in this episode from Pita, Fenn O' Berg, Ulver, Shampoo Boy, Fennesz, BJ Nilsen, The Transcendence Orchestra, Marcus Schmickler, and a Kara-Lis Coverdale variation on Caterina Barbieri.

Get involved: subscribe, review, rate, share with your friends, send images!

Amazon PodcastsApple PodcastsBreakerCastboxGoogle PodcastsOvercastListen on PocketCastsListen on PodbeanListen on PodchaserListen on Spotify PodcastsTuneInXML

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Peter Rehberg, 1968-2021

We are all incredibly shocked and saddened at the sudden and unexpected loss of Peter Rehberg, a peerless and powerful force in independent, forward-thinking, innovative, and original music. It is rare that someone can leave such a lasting impression as a performer and composer (solo as Pita and with ensembles such as Farmers Manual, Fenn O'Berg, and KTL) and a label director and partner (Mego, Editions Mego, Recollection GRM, and Spectrum Spools). Everything he has had a hand in bringing to our ears has been worth listening to, and it has been a pleasure to be covering his works for over two decades.

Our hearts go out to all of his friends, family, and fans.

Guardian article.

 

Midwife, "Luminol"

cover imageThis latest album from Madeline Johnston takes its title from a forensic chemical that emits a blue glow when it comes in contact with blood at a crime scene.  That macabre yet beautiful transformation provides the album's guiding metaphor, as Johnston attempts the similar feat of "turning trial and tribulation into sources of light."  That is thematically familiar Midwife territory, of course, but Luminol feels like the beginning of a new phase stylistically, as these songs are simultaneously more anthemic and more starkly minimal than the project’s previous fare.  While that is not necessarily an unstable combination, Johnston does tone down her artier tendencies to fitfully showcase a newfound love of tighter songcraft and hard rock-inspired swagger.  That approach suits her unexpectedly well, as some of the better moments of Luminol resemble a hiss-ravaged shoegaze deconstruction of a power ballad by someone like Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, or Joan Jett, which is certainly something I was not expecting to encounter here.  Luminol is definitely more of an straightforward "rock" record than I anticipated.  For the most part, however, Johnston’s hazy, slow-motion, and abstracted homages to ‘80s and ‘90s rock radio work quite well, as this album seems to have instantly become a fan favorite.  Some fans of previous albums will likely miss Midwife's sharper edges, but I suspect most will warm to this more punchy and comparatively playful side of Johnston's art.

The Flenser

The album's release was preceded by a pair of singles that beautiful illustrate two of the divergent stylistic directions in this somewhat transitional-feeling phase.  My favorable is the ultra-minimal slow burn of the opening "God is a Cop," which is based upon little more than a descending keyboard melody and a repeating, hiss-soaked refrain of "I can't kill the evil thoughts."  Eventually Johnston expands upon those lyrics, but the most impressive facet of the piece is how she creates such a perfect simmering tension that every newly added note or embellishment feels like a glimpse of a tightly restrained underlying storm.  The closing "Christina’s World" is similarly minimal, but feels unexpectedly radiant and gospel-inspired, as it builds to a repeating group refrain of "show me the way" over some simple piano chords (though it is spiced up with some winding harmonized guitar parts in the periphery).  In between those two poles of dark and light lie a curious array of emotional shades and varying degrees of greatness. 

The more accessible end of the spectrum is represented by the slowly chugging "Enemy" (akin to a shoegaze-damaged mutation of '90s grunge) and another uplifting piano-driven piece in the vein of "Christina’s World" ("Promise Ring").  The latter has some appealing twists though, as Johnston sweetly sings "love will break your heart forever" like a fatalist mantra while a cool undercurrent of trippy guitars gradually intensifies.  It also features some very "hard rock" riff flourishes that are amusingly effective.  Aside from "God is a Cop," the strongest piece is probably the sole throwback to Midwife's earlier seething intensity, "Colorado," which uses the mantric repetition of a couple of rueful phrases as a foundation for killer guitar pyrotechnics somewhere between Pink Floyd and grinding noise.  Elsewhere, "2020" is the most fascinating piece, as Johnston jacks a chorus from The Offspring to approximate Joan Jett-style pop on a sleazy, druggy bender.  It sounds like the imaginary band that would be playing at an extremely hip club in an arty, neon-soaked cult film, which is a very cool niche to land in.  It also makes me wonder if there are other layers of pop culture appropriation happening elsewhere, as Luminol may very well be a bittersweet love letter to the ambient sounds of Johnston's past (she notes at another point that she is "born to run," for example).  Than again, maybe I am projecting all of that.  In any case, Luminol is yet another solid album from Midwife.  It does not quite rank among my personal pantheon of stone-cold Midwife masterpieces, but the great moments remain as powerful as ever.

Samples can be found here.

 

Aaron Dilloway & Lucrecia Dalt, "Lucy & Aaron"

cover imageThe underground/experimental music world is full of promising-sounding collaborations that yield underwhelming or half-baked results, but Lucy & Aaron is a wonderfully refreshing exception to that recurring phenomenon.  Part of that success is likely due to the pair's long history together, as they have been fans of each other's work (and close friends) since meeting at a festival in Madeira back in 2010.  Moreover, Dalt and Dilloway have actually inspired and impacted each other's work over the years, which probably went a long way in setting the stage for such a natural-sounding and symbiotic blurring together of visions.  As Dalt puts it, "we crossed our signals, sometimes his affecting mine, or the other way around, we just wanted to make a fun, weird and inevitably emotive record that somehow captured so many things we love about music."  Naturally, Dilloway's endearingly disorienting and creepy tape loops tend to be the foundation for much of the album, as Dalt's own backdrops tend to be quite stark and minimal.  The mood of the album is quite a bit different from typical Dilloway fare, however, as Dalt's melodic influence transforms his obsessively repeating fragments of simmering psychotropic weirdness into a broken and playfully warped "pop" album like no other.

Hanson

The best summation I can come up with for this album's aesthetic is that it sounds like Lucrecia Dalt's already frayed and alien-sounding pop was fed through a nightmare machine set somewhere between "Kafkaesque" and "arty Giallo film."  There is nothing that feels outright malevolent or violent, but there is also nothing familiar and nearly all of it feels unsettling and disturbingly tactile.  The songs are roughly structured like pop songs, as there are vocal melodies, grooves, and sometimes even hook-like approximations of a chorus, yet all of it feels unrecognizably grimy, broken, and obsessive in a host of intriguing ways.  The entire album is a creepily surreal delight, as it is hard to imagine a single piece that could not be someone's favorite, but my current personal favorites are "The Blob," "Niles Baroque," and several of the weirdly beautiful psych-inspired pieces that come near the end of the album.  "The Blob" is probably the album’s most unexpected surprise, as it sounds like Pat Benatar made a dreampop album for 4AD but a deranged dub producer got his hands on it and replaced the entire rhythm section with one of those little wind-up monkeys with a drum.  "Niles Baroque" is similarly melodic (there are even dual vocal harmonies), but the groove is centered on a lurching bass throb that feels viscerally gelatinous.  Those two pieces, along with treble-ravaged and industrial-damaged single "Demands Of Ordinary Devotion," are the ones where Dalt and Dilloway's aesthetics most seamlessly combine into curdled pop pleasures, but I am also a huge fan of the outliers that feel like something I would not expect from either artist.  The best of those is probably "Tense Cuts," which sounds like a collaboration between a factory, a locked groove of church organ motif, an ASMR recording, and a broken speaker, but there are some even more unlikely moments that approximate a grim Russian ballroom dance ("Voyria") or fleetingly resemble '80s Legendary Pink Dots ("The Tunnel").  I could easily write a paragraph about every single piece here though, as each slithering tendril of this unholy pop union is memorable, unique, and unexpected in some way.  Lucy & Aaron is absolutely going to be all over "best of 2021" lists this December (my own included).

Samples can be found here.

 

Tara Jane O'Neil, "Dispatches from the Drift"

cover imageAs alluded to in its title, Dispatches from the Drift is something of an accidental album, as it is a collection of keyboard improvisations that O’Neil informally recorded during the pandemic lockdown that were never intended for release.  In fact, many were casually recorded on her phone and most "were promptly forgotten," but O'Neil happened to stumble back upon them while digging around for fragments of inspiration that could blossom into fully formed songs.  These are not the ones met that criteria. but they amount to something similarly wonderful.  As O'Neil herself puts it, these pieces are the ones that "were not looking for a form or seeking to be known," so she decided to present them as they were without further polishing or embellishment ("complete, traveling pieces that resolve or simply end").  In lesser hands, such an album would feel like a series of unfinished sketches, but O'Neil's instincts regarding this experiment are remarkably unerring.  For the most part, the "keyboard improvisations" origin ensures that the album tends to linger in pleasantly blurred "ambient" territory, but there are quite a few striking surprises lurking here too (some very "dreampop" and some considerably more outré).  The entire album is quite a leftfield delight though, as it feels every bit as strong as O'Neil's more formal work.  Her inspiration simply took a different shape this time around.

Orindal

The album unexpectedly opens with a tenderly lovely piece that feels like a great would-be single, as the watery, quavering arpeggios and hushed vocals of "A Sunday 2020" feel plucked from a great This Mortal Coil album.  No other piece on the album revisits that particular territory, which is not surprising, as O'Neil notes that it is the one exception where she embellished the original take (with some subtle guitar).  She opted to include it anyway, however, as both the vocals and the keyboard part were improvised enough to give it thematic consistency with the rest of the pieces.  It also highlights an endearing thread that runs through the album, as Dispatches from the Drift seamlessly mingles warm nostalgia for a particular era of music with contemporary flourishes and a dreamlike timelessness that make everything feel fresh and pleasantly unfamiliar.  Moreover, O'Neil is impressively freewheeling in her stylistic inspirations.  Sometimes the album sounds like a lost recording from Eno's Apollo sessions, while other times it resembles one of Warren Defever's teenage tapes, an out-of-phase accordion drone piece, a prog-minded bagpipe collective, or a traditional folk ensemble experimenting with Slowdive's gear.  In every case, the results are invariably compelling.  To my ears, the strongest piece is "Wind With Dog," which is a wonderfully woozy and bittersweetly gorgeous feast of dancing, quivering melodies and ghostly overtones.  Elsewhere, O'Neil channels squirming heavy psych drones ("It's Been A Long Time"), a tropical steel drum band trying their hand at ceremonial trance music ("Ventura Tuesday"), and something akin to a stark, tremelo-heavy cover of a lovesick torch song.  Naturally, there is an informality and unpredictably loose structure to all of these pieces given their spontaneous origins, but that intimate, imperfect, and searching feel generally suits them just fine.  And sometimes I am even ambushed by something that feels like a wonderful premeditated set piece, such as when a haze of decaying notes forms a complex swirl of oscillations.  The beauty of the album is that none of those cool textural or harmonic surprises here were planned, as O’Neil essentially tricked herself into approaching music in an entirely different and instinctual way and plenty of happy accidents ensued.  In some ways, that approach makes it hard to point to any individual piece as a fully articulated and focused glimpse of perfection, but the album's warmly beautiful soft-focus mood and unexpected twists and turns add up to an unusually inspired, lovely, and immersive whole.

Samples can be found here.

 

Rắn Cạp Đuôi Collective, "Ngủ Ngày Ngay Ngày Tận Thế"

cover imageUnraveling the discography and line-up mutations of this Ho Chi Minh City-based collective turned out to be quite an unexpected challenge, as they have been releasing full-lengths and EPs since at least 2014, yet this latest album is being billed as the project's debut.  I thought this might be the first release with "collective" appended to the group's name, but that is not the case either.  That said, the project now appears to be a trio consisting of original members Phạm Thế Vũ and Jung Buffalo, as well as relatively recent addition Zach Schreier (who ostensibly composed much of the album).  In any case, this latest release bears little stylistic resemblance to several of RCD's previous releases.  Much of that is likely due to the involvement of Berlin-based producer Ziúr, who alternately punched up the songs to Subtext's exactingly high standards, "reduced them to a cinder," or "beamed them into the fifth dimension."  Regardless of how this album took shape, it is quite a dazzling and deliriously kinetic achievement, resembling a freewheeling Carl Stone-esque plunderphonic tour de force of shapeshifting Vietnamese cultural fragments.

Subtext

The title of this album roughly translates "Sleeping Through the Apocalypse," which is a colorful yet remarkably apt description of the trio's dizzying and disorienting vision.  The "sleep" part is a bit misleading though, as this album more closely evokes the troubled, jumbled, and cacophonous dreams of an overstimulated and media-saturated mind in an increasingly unraveling world.  In more concrete terms, that means the album is a hyper-caffeinated maelstrom of surreal collisions and transformations.  I tend to loathe most releases that could be described as "aggressively genre-defying" or "like _____ in a blender," but there is a coherent overarching "sound collage" vision here that weaves all of those jarring shifts into a churning and warping near-masterpiece of mindfuckery.  Given that, trying to accurately describe even a single song is hopeless, as my notes are filled with phrases like "the most incredible Terry Riley song ever just became Vietnamese cloud rap karaoke."  The closing "Đme giựt mồng" that I just described is one of the album's stone-cold gems, but there are quite a few other highlights to be found as well.  Some other favorites are "Aztec Glue" ("dreamy pulsing synth reverie gets violently interrupted by an in-the-red Ben Frost remix") and pair of pieces that feel like they could be the work of a supernaturally possessed radio ("Eri Eri…" and "Infinite").  The former sounds like a deranged pile of overlapping stations or Carl Stone at his most kaleidoscopic and unstable, but the collective further spice things up with psychotically shifting speeds and an unexpectedly rapturous crescendo.  "Infinite," on the other hand, sounds like Vietnamese dance pop chopped and stretched into a stammering nightmare.  The stammering is especially impressive, as the piece sometimes feels like a cacophony of the world's airwaves is organically shaping into pulsing rhythms.  At other times, the album calls to mind free jazz, whale songs, or Popul Vuh and absolutely all of it is vividly fried, as this album is a gleefully shapeshifting feast of wide-ranging and inspired ideas from start to finish.  In fact, it feels favorably like channel-surfing through like a dozen different cool albums at once.  This is instantly one of my favorite albums in the Subtext canon.

Samples can be found here.

 

Alasdair Roberts and Völvur, "The Old Fabled River"

https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a0017144637_10.jpgAlasdair Roberts’ creative spirit and respect for tradition dovetail perfectly on this collaboration with Norwegian collective, Völvur. With traditional songs (in both artists’ languages) balanced by four new Roberts compositions, and the latter’s plaintive voice complemented by both Marthe Lea’s beautiful singing and the collective’s edgy, swinging and restrained playing, The Old Fabled River is joyous and mournful in equal measure.

Drag City

From the opening “Hymn of Welcome,” which concerns the passing of a flame from a dying hand to one starting life, to the the closing "Now The Sun Goes Down/Nu Solen Går Ned” it is hard to miss the various pairings and the balance which inform this album. Cradle and grave, sunrise and sunset, transformations, time passing each day and life flowing through seasons, love blooming amid the beauty and harshness of nature. In this context, Robert Burns’ poem "Song Composed in August” fits right in. Written by the sixteen year old poet as an ode to young Peggy Thomson, of Kirkoswald, and to the precious nature surrounding her, it has often been recorded as "Now Westlin Winds,” famously by Davy Graham who said it was “about everything.” Sung here in three-part a cappella it sounds appropriately young and vital.

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Julian Sartorius, "Locked Grooves"

cover imageWhen I first found out about this album, I was not quite sure how to feel about its ambitious structural premise, as the idea of a vinyl record with 112 locked grooves felt suspiciously like a willfully annoying conceptual art statement.  That said, I am unable to ever resist the allure of a killer drummer in an indulgent mood, so I was still quite eager to hear what Sartorius had planned for his unique format.  My first impression was a favorable one, as I have been on a bit of a Niagara bender and the shifting beat patterns here called to mind a slowed and deconstructed kindred spirit to the tour de force of "Sangandongo."  My next impression was mild exasperation, as I was not thrilled that every amazing beat lasted a mere minute before giving way to something new.  That revealed the appeal of the physical release though, as this album is packed full of hypnotic rhythms that would make absolutely trance-inducing infinite loops.  Naturally, that opens up a host of compelling interactive ways to experience the album, as it is a Pandora's box of multifarious percussive delights.  To some degree, I expected something in that vein (as far as gimmicks go, this is a very cool and well thought-out one), but I was still blindsided by both the sheer imagination of Sartorius's rhythms and the way the album as a whole feels like a transcendent psychedelic epic by the end.  As La Monte Young and others have decisively proven, sustained immersion in a very insistent and focused vision can feel like a remarkably profound and mind-rewiring experience.

-OUS

I listened to this album in its digital form, which doubtlessly provided a radically different experience than the vinyl.  Nevertheless, the building blocks are identical, as each numbered piece is essentially a 1.8 second loop allowed to play out for exactly one minute and one second.  Each piece segues seamlessly into the next with no space in between and all feel like they are roughly the same tempo, so the whole album has a hypnotically consistent flow.  At first, the beats seem cool but fairly straightforward, but indications that Sartorius has something more ambitious in mind begin to appear quickly, as he starts sneaking increasingly adventurous sounds, patterns, and flourishes into the insistent pulse.  I believe I was first hooked by skittering, off-kilter rhythm of the fourth piece, but that loop was soon eclipsed by even more killer beats, which themselves became eclipsed by still others as the album unfolded.  It is hard to nail down an overarching pattern to the sequencing, but there are occasional runs where Sartorius unleashes a flurry of dazzling loops in rapid succession and it all seems to cumulatively build into something wonderful.

Part of the album's brilliance is that those clusters tend to all be compelling for different reasons, as sometimes Sartorius works in a virtuosic fill, while other times he locks into an especially lurching, tumbling, or downright weird time signature without the slightest dip in the album's propulsive forward motion.  Sometimes it feels like I am being swept along by a tide, while other times it feels I am descending like an almost ritualistic rhythmic trance, which is an impressive feat for an album this ostensibly one-dimensional and purposely fragmented.  Notably, Sartorius used a "prepared" drum kit, which enables a surprisingly varied range of sounds and levels of textural complexity.  For example, "Locked Groove 084" feels like a killer hip-hop beat tape, while "Locked Groove 051" feels like it could be plucked from a Sublime Frequencies album and "Locked Groove 047" sounds like a futuristic industrial banger.  Other times, Sartorius locks into something that feels like Indian techno, a free jazz drummer going wild in a junkyard, or something absolutely alien-sounding, like the gurgling and clanging "Locked Groove 011."  Anyone looking for a great drummer showcasing a wildly imaginative array of beats will not be disappointed here, yet I was most surprised by how masterfully Sartorius overshot that mark to craft something considerably larger than the sum of its parts.  Sartorius's stated goal was that "listeners will experience these compositions like they would explore a painting," and he succeeded far beyond my expectations in that regard.  Locked Grooves is a deliciously rich vein that succeeds both as a whole and as a collection of compelling fragments that can be isolated and recontextualized into something equally fascinating.  As far as solo drummer albums go, Locked Grooves is high art that masterfully raises the bar for what is possible.

Samples can be found here.

 
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