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Illusion of Safety & Z'EV

Illusion of Safety & Z'EVFinally seeing the light of day after two years of production related delays, with the recordings dating back even longer than that, this collaboration between Daniel Burke (IOS) and the late Stefan Weisser (Z'EV) could almost be a time capsule, except the sound of it is entirely timeless. Recorded and mixed between 2008 and 2012, the two lengthy pieces that make up this self-titled album clearly bear the mark of both individuals, but mesh together beautifully in the very different sounding sides of the record.

Feast of Hate and Fear / Cipher Productions / Oxidation / Korm Plastics / Drone / Personal Archives / Public Eyesore / Tribe Tapes / Liquid Death / No Part of It

Although a mail-based collaboration, Z'EV and IOS's work complement each other perfectly, with the acoustic percussion from the former weaved into the electronics and field recordings of the latter, and both artists having a hand in further mixing and processing afterwards. These elements are clear on both side-long pieces that make up the album, but structurally the two halves differ rather notably.

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4509 Hits

Contrastate, "35 Project"

35 ProjectA 10" record rigidly divided into four different pieces (each mostly around four minutes in length), this new work from the enigmatic sounding, long-standing UK project is mostly centered around the same authoritarian lyrical elements, but each differs significantly in their compositional approach. A complex mix of styles define each piece, neither of which are too similar to another, but are unquestionably Contrastate, and showcases all of the unique sounds they are known for.

Black Rose Records

The aforementioned lyrical elements are quite dystopian "You do not have the right to be free/ you do not have the right to shelter and food/You do not have the right to love/You do not have the right to work" are just a few examples and appear in various stages of processing throughout. The first of the four untitled pieces is classic Contrastate: bursts of noise, sustained digital sounds, fragments of voice, and a significant number of loops layered atop one another. Lush synth passages and bits of conversation are consistent with the trio's previous works. For the second, the use of loops continues, but with hints of melody and cut up percussion pervade, making for a more spacious and restrained feel in comparison.

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1955 Hits

Kammerflimmer Kollektief, "Schemen"

SchemenThis eleventh album from Germany's Kammerflimmer Kollektief is not my first exposure to the project, but it did succeed in making me wonder why I have not been a passionate fan of their work before now. Admittedly, the idea of harmonium-driven free-form jazz/psychedelia is not quite my cup of tea on paper, which goes a long way towards explaining why I was so slow to embrace this project, yet the right execution can transform just about anything into gold and this foursome are extremely good at what they do. It also does not hurt that the Kammerflimmer gang have some intriguing and unusual inspirations, as they namecheck both Franz Mesmer and underheard German psychonauts The Cocoon in addition to the requisite nod to Can. Kammerflimmer Kollektief certainly assimilate those influences in a unique way though, as the best songs on Schemen sound like a killer post-rock/psych band blessed with an unusually great rhythm section and real talents for roiling guitar noise, simmering tension, and volcanic catharsis.

Karlrecords

This unique and eclectic project was founded by guitarist Thomas Weber back in the late '90s and has had a somewhat fluid membership since, but it is safe to say Heike Aumüller significantly transformed its trajectory when she joined the fold in 2002, as she is responsible for both the band's unusual cover art and the even more unusual use of harmonium. Unsurprisingly, I encounter the harmonium a lot with drone music, as it lends itself to that aesthetic perfectly, but Aumüller generally uses it for more melodic purposes and clearly has no aversion to dissonance, as it sounds like she is beating her bandmates to death with an accordion in "Zweites Kapitel [ruckartig]" and "Fünftes Kapitel [kreuzweis]." While "Zweites Kapitel" is an endearingly explosive feast of scrabbling guitar noise, clattering free-form drumming, and tormented bow scrapes, the album's stronger pieces tend to be those which take a more simmering and sensuous approach.

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2382 Hits

David Colohan, "A Lunar Standstill"

A Lunar StandstillIn the village of Stanton Drew, and dating from around 4,500 years ago, is the third largest complex of standing stone circles in England. David Colohan visited the site one rainy morning in early 2020 and was inspired by the mix of winter sunshine and eerie ancient atmosphere to create a record of his impressions. Fair enough, since people rarely send postcards from their travels anymore. Actually, the postcard analogy only works if it allows for someone designing a postcard when they get home, since Colohan's use of field recordings is minimal and he doesn't really create music in situ. He's done this before with other locations but A Lunar Standstill is easily his most consistent recording.

Woodford Halse

Colohan uses alto saxophone, clarinet, electric guitar, field recordings, harmonium, mellotron, modular synthesizer, trombone, and voice. Maybe I am triggered in a good way by the harmonium but much of this music gives off such a warm and pleasant hum that I started dreaming about Ivor Cutler as a Druid—although I hope that does not sound trite, as Cutler's music has a spiritual grace and trusty home grown solemnity which bestows upon it a uniquely absurd sense of substance and sincerity. The more bizarre it gets the more serious it becomes. On the subject of bizarre, Colohan's "A Static Field" is strange—as if it were composed for divining sticks, ley lines, and glow worms.

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2213 Hits

Nonconnah, "Unicorn Family"

Unicorn FamilyThis latest release from husband and wife duo Zach & Denny Corsa appears to be their fifth full-length under the Nonconnah name (the duo were previously known as Lost Trail) and it is characteristically wonderful. As is the norm for Nonconnah, Unicorn Family was culled from several years of recordings featuring a host of eclectic collaborators (folks from Lilys, Half Japanese, Fire-Toolz, etc.) and those recordings have been expertly stitched together into beautifully layered and evocative soundscapes teeming with cool tape effects, thought-provoking samples, and killer shoegaze-inspired guitar work. In short, business as usual, but Nonconnah's business is consistently being one of the greatest drone projects on earth, so this is already a lock for one of my favorite albums of the year. Aside from the presence of a lovely lo-fi folk gem with actual singing, the only other notable departures from Nonconnah's existing run of gorgeous albums are shorter song durations than usual and the fact that the duo's samples have more of an eschatological bent. I suppose this album is an unusually focused and distilled statement as well, but that feels like a lateral move given how much I loved the sprawling immensity of Don't Go Down To Lonesome Holler.

Was Ist Das?

The album opens on an unusually simple and intimate note with "It's Eschatology! The Musical," which approximates a melancholy Microphones-esque strain of indie folk recorded directly to boombox. Despite its amusing title and throwaway final line of "that's how the album starts," it is a legitimately lovely, soulful, and direct way to kick off an album that is otherwise composed entirely of complexly layered soundscapes of tape loops and shimmering guitar noise. I have been an enthusiastic fan of those soundscapes for a while, of course, as well as an equally huge fan of the way the pair transform sped-up tape loops into rapturously dizzying and swirling mini-symphonies at the heart of their drone pieces. Given that, I do not have anything particularly fresh to say on those topics other than that I was newly struck by how the combination of slow drones and sped up tapes evokes the hypnotic streaking of car lights in time-lapse footage of a busy highway at night.

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2092 Hits

Tim Hecker, "No Highs"

No HighsThis latest opus from Tim Hecker is amusingly billed as "a beacon of unease against the deluge of false positive corporate ambient." Given the weighty themes of his previous albums, Hecker's actual inspiration presumably runs much deeper than that, yet the "beacon of unease" part of that claim may be more literal than it sounds, as one of the album's central features is described as "Morse code pulse programming." While I am not well-versed enough in Morse code to determine if Hecker's oddly timed rhythms are covertly incorporating text or a narrative into these warped and nightmarish soundscapes, the gnarled and harrowing melodies that accompany those erratic pulses are more than enough to make the album thoroughly compelling listening regardless. Aside from that, No Highs marks yet another significant creative breakthrough for a formidable artist hellbent on continual reinvention and bold evolution. While it is hard to predict whether or not No Highs will someday be considered one of Hecker's defining masterpieces or merely an admirable and unique detour, its handful of set pieces feel quite brilliant to me and I do not expect my feelings to change on that point..

Kranky

The general tone of No Highs feels like a continuation of the smeared, howling anguish of Konoyo and Anoyo, approximating lonely distress signals emitted from the smoldering ruins of Konoyo's planetary death spasms. Compositionally, however, No Highs feels like an entirely different animal altogether, as Hecker has swapped out roiling maximalism for simmering minimalism and distilled his palette to little more than insistently telegraph-like synth pings punctuated with occasional plunges into swirling and howling cosmic horror. In fact, the album makes me feel like I am stationed at a desolate outpost in a blackened wasteland nervously watching apocalyptic storms mass on the distant horizon. Unsurprisingly, the strongest pieces tend to be the ones where those storms reach their full fury, such as the opening "Monotony."

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2605 Hits

Ale Hop & Laura Robles, "Agua dulce"

Agua dulceThis is the debut collaboration between two Berlin-based Peruvian musicians and also marks my first exposure to percussionist Laura Robles. I am, however, reasonably familiar with the alien soundscapes of Ale Hop (Alejandra Cárdenas) and this union seems to have inspired some of her finest work to date. Notably, Robles is "reputed to be one of the best cajón players in Peru," which is useful context given how radically (yet lovingly) the pair deconstruct and reinvigorate the instrument ("a symbol of resistance, experimentation and transformation" in Peru). In more practical terms, that means that Cárdenas and Robles dramatically disrupt, distort, and repurpose traditional dance rhythms into a wild psychotropic mindfuck. In fact, it sometimes sounds like Robles recorded her parts alone as a freeform performance at an Ayahuasca ceremony or something, but the seemingly roving and divergent threads always come together in impressive fashion in the end. Amusingly, I would have thought that the enigmatically and erratically shifting rhythms of Agua dolce would be damn near impossible to dance to, yet these pieces apparently made quite a splash when the duo coupled with dancer/choreographer Liza Alpiźar Aguilar for the Heroines Of Sound festival. Whether or not that means that I would be a terrible choreographer is hard to say, however, as the finished album may have ultimately landed in far more lysergic territory due to Cárdenas' additional edits and production wizardry.

Buh

The album borrows its title from "the most popular beach in Lima," which is near where "both artists lived during their childhood, houses apart, without ever meeting one another." Improbably, they eventually met as expats on the other side of the world and happily found themselves to be kindred spirits tuned into the same outré wavelength. I suppose Robles is arguably the more conventional of the two despite playing Peruvian music in Germany on a self-built electric cajón, but that is only because Ale Hop often sounds like she is from a completely different planet or dimension altogether. The most impressive example of that otherworldliness comes at the midpoint of "Lamento," as the hissing, blatting electronics and sleepy Latin rhythms seem like they are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of ghost UFO that propels the proceedings into dazzling new heights of haunting, spacialized phantasmagoria. That said, the entire first half of the album is one mesmerizing psychotropic jungle freakout after another, as Cárdenas unleashes her inner tropical Lovecraft to conjure a host of squirming, gelatinous, seething, buzzing, and jabbering electronic sounds over Robles' clattering percussion workouts.

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2167 Hits

Marta Mist, "Eyes Like Pools"

Eyes Like PoolsThis is my first exposure to this UK-based collective centered around Gavin Miller (worriedaboutsatan) and Sophie Green (formerly of Her Name is Calla), but they have been fitfully releasing albums for more than a decade now. Their last major release, Scavengers, was back in 2016 on Time-Released Sound, so Eyes Like Pools both ends a lengthy hiatus and marks the collective’s first appearance on Athens’ sound in silence label. Much like Miller’s worriedaboutsatan project, this latest statement from Marta Mist occupies a vaguely cinematic stylistic niche where ambient and post-rock blur together, but Eyes Like Pools parts ways from worriedaboutsatan by swapping out electronic beats for Green’s achingly lovely violin melodies. While the more ambient side of Marta Mist’s current vision is appropriately warm and immersive, those pieces tend to be quite brief and the more substantial string-driven pieces are the true heart of the album (and it is a fiery heart indeed).

sound in silence

The album opens with a pleasant yet deceptive intro of gently rolling piano arpeggios before unveiling the first of its three major highlights: the 14-minute “Alway On.” The piece begins modestly enough with some lovely violin drones, but tendrils of melody soon start to appear and a low industrial hum gradually blossoms into a slow-moving chord progression driven by deep, warm bass tones. There are admittedly a couple of moments where it starts to err a bit too far towards soft-focus prettiness for my taste, but Green’s sliding, smearing, and occasionally snarling violin carves through the bliss haze enough to keep me transfixed regardless. More importantly, “Always On” delighted me with a very cool and unexpected ending in which echoey guitar chords slowly emerge from the ambient haze like a vengeful rockabilly ghost.

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2618 Hits

William Basinski,"The Clocktower at the Beach (1979)"

Clocktower BeachWilliam Basinski recorded this music during his time living in San Francisco, when he presumably visited Clocktower Beach. Considering that Basinski once created On Time Out Of Time—music in tribute to quantum entanglement and the theories of Einstein and Rosen, and Einstein, Rosen, and Podolsky, using source recordings of the 1.3 billion year old sounds of two distant massive black holes—undoubtedly the subject matter of The Clocktower at the Beach is one of his more straightforward creations. Fair enough, it is one of his earliest drone pieces, yet his methodology is as intriguing as anything he's done, and (most important of all) the music is a memorable journey into the sadness of things. Back to "mono no aware," then.

Line

About that methodology: it seems that Basinski recorded the night shift at a sausage factory on a battery operated portable cassette player, then made this music from that source material chiefly using a Norelco Continental four speed reel to reel tape recorder. Looping and speed tampering is all very well on paper, but thankfully Basinski's ear is such that there is not the slightest trace of anything horrible, gimmicky, nonsensical, or even dull. Broken 1950s televisions, scavenged from the streets by James Elaine, were also used, I'm unsure exactly how but presumably as another sound source.

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3433 Hits

Mike Majkowski, "Coast"

CoastThis is apparently the twelfth solo album from Berlin-based double bassist Mike Majknowski, but—far more significantly—it is also the follow up to 2021's killer Four Pieces and is very much in the same vein. That vein lies somewhere between loscil-style dubwise soundscapes and the austere sophistication of classic Tortoise or early Oren Ambarchi, which is certainly a fine place to set up shop, but that is merely the backdrop for some truly fascinating forays into sustained, simmering tension and exquisitely slow-burning heaviness. Unsurprisingly, I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to longform smoldering minimalism and I can think of few artists who can match Majknowski's execution, as he consistently weaves magic from little more than a few moving parts and a healthy appreciation for coiled, seething intensity.

Fragments Editions

The album consists of two side-long pieces ("Spiral" and "Later") that feel like divergent variations on a similar theme. "Spiral" opens with little more than a simple bass pattern, the pulse of a lonely high hat, and semi-rhythmic washes of bleary feedback or ravaged synth. There is also something resembling a minor key vibraphone melody languorously weaving through the mix, but it feels more like impressionistic coloring rather than a focal point. Gradually, a pulsing synth motif fades in that feels out-of-sync with the rest of the rhythm, giving the piece an organically shapeshifting feel that propels it into increasingly frayed and subtly unpredictable terrain: reliable rhythms start to falter, textures become more distorted, and the relationship between the various parts is increasingly in flux. It calls to mind a spider patiently spinning an incredibly intricate web while also resembling a state of suspended animation that is increasingly gnawed by an unsettling outside darkness.

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2068 Hits

Lol Coxhill & Morgan Fisher, "Slow Music"

Slow MusicI can hardly think of anything better for Aguirre to have reissued on vinyl than Morgan Fisher's collaboration with Lol Coxhill, originally released in1980 on Fisher's short-lived Pipe label. More than four decades later Slow Music is a rare phenomenon: a masterpiece which truly sounds like one. It remains an ambient landmark, an elemental work of art and imagination, and a painstaking labor of love.

Aguirre

Coxhill started out in standard jazz, Fisher in popular music, but from these fairly conventional points, both set about making creative leaps to develop their talents, and vice versa. Fisher quickly went into and out of such disparate groups as Third Ear Band and Mott the Hoople before his penchant for experimentation led—via Miniatures (his 1980 collection of 51 one minute tracks by everyone from Gavin Bryars, XTC, and Penguin Cafe Orchestra, to Ivor Cutler, Robert Wyatt, and The Damned)—to his own radically experimental music. Coxhill accelerated into his distinctly wild yet restrained style of saxophone playing, bringing him into contact with future members of the legendary Hatfield & The North, Kevin Ayers, Shirley Collins, Derek Bailey, and many others, in addition to acting roles on stage and screen. The pair worked together for the first time one year before Slow Music when Coxhill came into the studio for Fisher's Hybrid Kids, ostensibly a collection of various mutant art-punk groups, all of whom were in fact Morgan Fisher in disguise.

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2295 Hits

The Notwist, "Vertigo Days: Live from Alien Research Center"

Vertigo DaysThe Notwist tend to regard their live shows as launchpads where they can blast off from their studio albums on voyages of discovery. Live from Alien Research Center is a terrific document of that process, as the group re-explore the contents of Vertigo Days; their 2021 release which featured an array of guests from Angel Bat Dawid to Juana Molina. 2021-23 might seem a speedy recycling of the same material, but there is valuable quality of freedom and looseness in these live versions; stretched out and stitched together in the kosmische style.

Morr Music

As enjoyable as it has been to spend the past week on an accelerated hypnostroll through The Notwist discography, that probably cannot compensate for the inattention I've paid to it for around two decades. Over that 20 year period, there has been encouragement from reliable sources, which caused the opposite effect… since nothing provokes the contrarian quite like another person imagining they've discovered something which aligns with our own taste. At any rate, and not only in my imagination, The Notwist has been something of an invisible or taken-for-granted phenomenon, at once both subterranean and ubiquitous, not being there while always being there. With no evidence whatsoever, I feel they are content with this position. After all, without being a pastiche, their music and methodology mirrors the long revered German and European music revolution which sparked Tangerine Dream, Faust, Popol Vuh and others into a Year Zero rejection of both the shackles of military history and the occupying force of US music.

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2060 Hits

Valentina Goncharova, "Recordings 1987-1991, Vol1"

Recordings 1987-1991, Vol 1This first volume of Valentina Goncharova's home studio recordings is devoted to her remarkable solo work over a four year period from 1987. The first six tracks in particular illustrate her genius for balancing written composition with spontaneity, and for manipulating sources (such as her voice and cello) into beautifully hypnotic maelstroms of melodic dissonance.

Shukai

I have read about the breadth and artistic vision of Valentina Goncharova, her classical studies, her quest for experimentation, her embrace of musique concrete and drone, free jazz and underground rock, her interests in Boulez, Riley, Stockhausen and others, and her wildly inventive home studio shenanigans. None of which fully prepared me for the mind-melting allure of her best music, with it's hypnotic frequencies, and mastery of space and spirit.

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2341 Hits

Cisser Mæhl, "Innemuseum"

InnemuseumThis debut album from Danish artist/multi-instrumentalist Cecilie "Cisser" Mæhl is easily one of the strongest releases from Berlin's Sonic Pieces in recent memory. Mæhl has already carved out an impressively distinctive niche. Innemuseum first began taking shape in the summer of 2019 when Mæhl made a bunch of field recordings while working at a mountain lodge in Norway (though those recordings would ultimately become a very small part of the puzzle). After moving to Oslo, she rented a studio space and eventually met some inspiring people who helped guide her towards realizing her unconventional vision (Jenny Hval, Stephan Mathieu, and the increasingly ubiquitous and versatile Lasse Marhaug). The involvement of the latter was especially surprising for me, as this album has the intimate feel of a bedroom chamber pop masterpiece conjured from little more than a violin, a drum machine, and an ancient piano, which is generally not where I expect someone from Testicle Hazard to turn up. That said, the homespun, elegantly minimal feel of these pieces is presented in beautifully detailed, crystalline clarity, which is presumably where the Marhaug magic came into play. I suspect this album would still be quite good even if submerged in tape hiss and murk, as Mæhl has a lovely voice and plenty of great ideas, but the fact that these otherwise hushed songs explode in vivid color beautifully elevates Innemuseum to another level altogether.

Sonic Pieces

The opening "Menneskeaftryk" kicks off the album in strikingly lovely fashion, as Mæhl sensuously sings in Dutch over a backdrop of muted arpeggios that fitfully blossoms into swooningly romantic orchestral swells. The following "Små Ting" is similarly stellar, as a shuffling drum machine groove propels Mæhl's playfully dancing melody into a realm somewhere between a seductive cabaret performance and the "haunted fairytale" aesthetic of Brannten Schnüre. While both pieces succeed primarily due to the strength of Mæhl's melodies and the charisma and soul of her vocal performance, there are a number of interesting compositional and production nuances that make them stand out even further. The big one is that Mæhl's vocals (and presumably several of the instruments as well) are close-mic'd, which gives every piece a sense of intimacy and physical presence, but there is an organic fluidity to the vocal melodies that feels wonderfully spontaneous and alive as well.

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2754 Hits

John Bence, "Archangels"

ArchangelsArchangels has an unhurried pace which I find deeply satisfying. John Bence shapes electronics, voice, piano, percussion and orchestration into dense and haunting forms, and although he creates some dynamic and challenging sounds, he never forgets that human ears need melodies and tunes. The spiritual concerns underpinning this creation also make it a good stepping off point to investigate and learn about a variety of concepts which have occupied people throughout human history.

Thrill Jockey

It is no accident that the album begins with a piece entitled "Psalm 34.4," a simple form of which states "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, And delivered me from all my fears." Quite what Bence is getting at here matters more for him than me, because my main concern is that Archangels is a genuinely intriguing and enjoyable album to listen to. Although given his victory over addiction, perhaps the album documents Bence's interest in his spiritual health, or even his gratitude for divine help. In an increasingly secular world, where such matters as diet, finances, physical fitness, and relationships blare incessantly for our attention, Archangels sounds like one man listening to himself and searching for faith.

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2585 Hits

Myriad Valley, "Otherworld"

OtherworldThis latest enigmatic find from Arizona's eternally far out and fascinating Was Ist Das? label will be an absolute revelation for anyone who misses Natural Snow Buildings as much as I do. Otherworld is apparently the debut release for this project, but any further details beyond that are non-existent other than the fact that these four pieces were recorded by someone named "Joe" in 2022. While the label's description name-checks a few '70s psych heavy-hitters as reference points in addition to Natural Snow Buildings (Third Ear Band and Popul Vuh), those elements manifest themselves much more subtly, as Otherworld is an oft-transcendent plunge into folk horror-inspired cosmic drone sorcery. That all-encompassing devotion to heavyweight drone majesty is also where Myriad Valley departs from Mehdi and Solange's path, as Joe does not let himself get distracted by any songcraft aspirations, opting instead to focus entirely on crafting massive, sustained psychotropic drones that feel like ancient field recordings from some remote mountain cult hellbent on opening an extra-dimensional portal through sheer vibrational magic.

Was ist Das?

The opening "Hanging Crystal Garden" makes for quite a mesmerizing introduction to Myriad Valley, as slow waves of buzzing tanpura lap at the shores of an occult nightmare. The buzzing tanpura drones are a ubiquitous feature throughout the album, as is ritualistic hand percussion (in this case, something like rattling bells), but this particular piece has an especially otherworldly and sinister vibe due to the strangled dissonance of the pipes and the way the notes increasingly bleed together and dissolve into sharp feedback. Notably, "Hanging Crystal Garden" is the album's shortest piece (at eight minutes) despite being the most inspired, but that makes sense given its nerve-jangling intensity. The much longer second piece is considerably calmer and more radiant (at first, anyway), almost calling to mind a restorative early morning yogic meditation to clear the mind of the previous night's cosmic horror, human sacrifice, and demon summoning.

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2163 Hits

Laraaji, "Segue To Infinity"

Segue to InfinityThis quadruple LP boxed set is likely to be an absolute revelation for Laraaji fans, as Numero Group has combined his landmark 1978 debut (Celestial Vibration) with the equivalent of three lost albums recorded around the same time. The albums in question surfaced in 2021 when some acetates from an abandoned storage locker were auctioned off and passed through a flea market and Ebay before being spotted by eagle-eyed college student Jake Fischer, who snapped them up for $114 after recognizing Laraaji's given name (Edward Larry Gordon, the name he was still using at the time of Celestial Vibration's release). Amusingly, even Laraaji himself is a bit mystified by the provenance of these recordings, as the documentation states that they were recorded at a studio in Long Island 200 miles from where the Celestial Vibration sessions took place (ZBS in Fort Edward). While it remains unclear whether the Fort Edward tapes were merely transferred in Long Island or whether these recordings actually originate from a different session altogether in Queens, they are unmistakably Laraaji and they are frequently as good or better than the album that actually got released. Finds like this are exactly why there are Discogs fiends hunting for lost private press New Age music, as the late '70s and early '80s were a golden age for bedroom visionaries who thanklessly explored the cosmos with little hope of ever reaching an audience. Laraaji deserves a particularly special place in that pantheon, as he may have been the most forward-thinking visionary of them all and also took his autoharp to the goddamn streets to expand the consciousness of unwitting strangers.

Numero Group

The story of how former Baptist/Apollo Theater comedian/cult film actor/Marvin Gaye collaborator/street musician/West Village folk scenester Ed "Flash" Gordon eventually transformed into Laraaji is far too lengthy for me to do it any justice here, but one especially significant event was that Gordon became very interested in Eastern spirituality after his role in Putney Swope stirred up doubts about the righteousness of the path he was on. A "paranormal sound-hearing experience" and a fateful decision to trade his guitar in for an autoharp at a pawnshop soon followed, as well as the similarly fateful purchase of a contact pickup and some effects pedals. While the autoharp was an entirely new instrument for Gordon, he dove wholeheartedly into exploring open tunings and effects and quickly arrived at a new sound he dubbed "Celestial Vibration." Having reached that point, I suspect Laraaji would have been totally content to play in parks, dance/yoga studios, and holistic centers around his community forever, as getting a record deal probably does not seem all that important once you have already figured out how to channel celestial vibrations. Exterior forces intervened, however, and Gordon met a lawyer named Stuart White who was absolutely enthralled with his music and eager to start up an independent record label (SWN). That resulted in the release of Celestial Vibration (now regarded as a classic), but not many people noticed and the label soon folded. Thankfully, Laraaji met another motivated fan soon after (Brian Eno) and the two eventually collaborated on 1980's Ambient 3 (Day Of Radiance). I am tempted to say that the rest is history, but Laraaji's work only started getting regularly anthologized and reissued in the last decade.

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2334 Hits

Kassel Jaeger, "Shifted in Dreams"

Shifted in DreamsThis latest opus from INA GRM's François J. Bonnet is loosely inspired by René Daumal's unfinished philosophical novel Mount Analogue (1952), which recounts an imagined expedition in which explorers hunt for a mountain that can "only be perceived by the application of obscure knowledge." It has been a few decades since I last read Mount Analogue or watched the film it partially inspired (Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain) so my memory of both is blurry at best, yet that did not impair my appreciation for the album, as Bonnet characteristically channeled the theme in his own inventive and compelling way. The gist is that familiar sounds and structures become increasingly rare as the album unfolds, but Bonnet had a deeper philosophical agenda as well, as Shifted in Dreams is a meditation on how our current world is in a "blurred and uncertain state where the reality of signs loses its consistency while, paradoxically, the reality of senses and impressions becomes imperative, obvious." Bonnet is clearly not a fan of that situation, unsurprisingly, and refers to it as "the reality of demons." Putting aside the death of meaning and general existential horror of our times, however, the dissolving of the familiar is wonderfully fertile creative ground for a Kassel Jaeger album, as Bonnet is exceptionally good at layered and evocative sound design. This is a beautifully crafted headphone album (but probably only for those armed with the obscure knowledge of how to listen deeply).

Shelter Press

In keeping with the central theme of dissolving familiarity, the opening title piece is the most conventionally musical stretch of the album, resembling a warm but melancholy organ mass. There is admittedly a lot of tape hiss and murk obscuring the sound of the organ, but that is probably as close to the recognizable physical world as this album ever gets and that situation does not last long at all (the piece plunges down a rabbit hole of mindfuckery after a few minutes). The general vibe is best described as "I am in a numbing fog of painkillers in a cathedral during an air raid, but everything is in slow motion and also made of crystal." While those crystalline sounds remain a regular occurrence for the duration of the album (Bonnet got his hands on a Cristal Baschet), just about everything else is an elusive and shape-shifting fog of field recordings, asynchronous loops, analog synth, processed guitar, and studio wizardry.

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2358 Hits

Anatomy of Habit, "Black Openings"

Black OpeningsWritten and recorded immediately following 2021's Even if it Takes a Lifetime, Chicago's Anatomy of Habit's newest album is sonically similar, however it does not sound like the second half of a double album. Instead, Black Openings is a stand-alone work that features the same sense of consistency but overall sees the band further refining and expanding their sound, and in this case returning to the bleakness that pervaded their earlier works so brilliantly.

self-released

Listening to Black Openings, I realized that the closest band similar to Anatomy of Habit was the short-lived God, helmed by Kevin Martin.  Both are "supergroups" (in the sense that they featured members from various bands from different, yet complimentary genres) and both balanced intensity and complexity perfectly.  The most significant distinction here is that while both bands draw heavily from various shades of rock, avant garde, electronic, and noise music, AoH forego the jazz component and delve more into electronic music.  The driving force behind AoH's sound is defacto band leader and vocalist Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded, Intrinsic Action, and a multitude of other projects): his commanding voice is always identifiable and makes for a commanding presence in all three of the album's songs.

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2152 Hits

"The Verbal Matter: An Anthology of Peruvian Sound Poetry"

La Materia Verbal - Antología de la Poesía Sonora PeruanaHere is a stunning history of Peruvian sound poems from 1972-2021. The album concentrates on material which has been recorded and edited, and yet showcases the compositional technique and sound organization across the spectrum of the discipline. It's an important and refreshing collection of 22 inherently absurd musical pieces, accompanied by seriously good liner notes.

Buh

Sound poetry can arguably be traced to oral poetry traditions, but I'm more inclined to believe it emerged from the Dadaist reaction to the horrific carnage of World War One, specifically through Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara. Certainly it progressed through the 20th century parallel with the evolution of recording and editing technology. As mentioned, The Verbal Matter covers all the evolving styles, including montage, verbal dexterity, algorithms and computational parameters, and the use of AI.

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2241 Hits