Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition

Mountain in Japan photo by Chris

Three new episodes for your listening enjoyment.

After two weeks off, we are back with three brand new episodes: three hours / 36 tunes.

Episode 697 features music from Beak>, Brothertiger, Kate Carr, Gnod, Taylor Deupree, FIN, Church Andrews & Matt Davies, Ortrotasce, Bill MacKay, Celer, Kaboom Karavan, and Ida.

Episode 698 boasts a lineup of tracks from Susanna, Nonpareils, KMRU, A Place To Bury Strangers, final, Coti K., Dalton Alexander, Akio Suzuki, The Shadow Ring, Filther, Aaron Dilloway, and Ghost Dubs.

Episode 699 is bursting at the seams with jams from Crash Course In Science, Chrystabell and David Lynch, Machinedrum, Ekin Fil, Finlay Shakespeare, Actress, Mercury Rev, Dave Brown / Jason Kahn, øjeRum, d'Eon, Jeremy Gignoux, and Shellac.

Mountain photo taken in Japan by Chris.

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Choke Chain, "Mortality"

MortalityAs evident from many of my reviews at the time, I was (and remain) a big fan of the noise to EBM pipeline of genre overlap that was popular a few years back. Representing my two most momentous musical preferences during high school, hearing the two alongside each other was a perfect paring. Choke Chain, the solo project of Milwaukee's Mark Trueman is keeping this tradition alive, with a new album that leans more towards the rhythmic, rather than harsh end of this spectrum. Synth heavy, yet with aggressive vocals and production, it makes for an appropriate, fully realized album.

Phage Tapes

Mortality is the first full length from Trueman's project, following a handful of EPs and stray songs. Fittingly, it is the most definitive refinement of his approach to date. The components are consistent from what came before: pummeling drum machines; grimy/aggressive FM bass synths; and simultaneously angry/pained screaming vocals. The aforementioned noise influence is more notable on the unconventional production and the aggressive vocals that could almost be lifted from a power electronics record. The overall feel/aesthetic leans more in to the black and white austerity of the noise world, as opposed to the more cliché goth industrial world.

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Rick Reed, "The Symmetry of Telemetry"

The Symmetry of TelemetryAustin's Rick Reed has been an active composer and performer of electronic music for over 30 years, but The Symmetry of Telemetry represents his first release since 2018. Using synthesizers, organs, vocoders, and found radio noises, Reed's compositional approach of developing smaller, disparate segments that are then later strung together in a collage is perfect for this material, juxtaposing different sounds and moods across the album's three lengthy compositions in a way that is dynamic, yet still coherent and cohesive as a whole.

Sedimental / Elevator Bath

The 20-plus minute "Dysania" is immediately a work of weird, wet electronics. Coded transmissions beep and bleep through what sounds like synth bass and stuttering machinery. At times the more modular qualities of the synthesizers pierce through constantly evolving idiosyncratic bursts. Reed eventually steers the work into old school sci-fi soundtrack territories, but just as quickly introduced luxurious, glossy tones. The dynamic nature of the piece is what makes it most captivating, as Reed jumps from different sounds, moods, and dynamics effortlessly, while still retaining the cohesion of a composed work. Symphonic loops, humming machinery, and crunchy wobbles all appear at some point, making for an almost disorienting pace and development.

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Radian, "Distorted Rooms"

Distorted RoomsIt has somehow been seven years since this long-running Vienna trio last surfaced with 2016's stellar On Dark Silent Off, but they seem to have spent that time diligently dreaming up innovative new ways to be amazing. In a general sense, Radian's vision is not a far cry from the austere, jazz-adjacent post-rock of their celebrated labelmates Tortoise. The magic of Radian, however, lies in the band's singular attention to detail and their quixotic compulsion to continually turn sounds upside-down in imaginative feats of dynamic sorcery. The overall effect is akin to that of dub techno being made by an incredibly tight live band, but the live aspect is quite illusory, as Distorted Rooms presumably sounds almost nothing like what the band originally recorded (in fact, the band themself note that one piece "eliminates nearly all traces of the original performance"). While many of the sounds do remain present in one form or another, Radian revels in celebrating and amplifying the barely audible and non-musical bits while also eliminating or burying the louder, more traditional "rock" tropes like chords and melodies. Obviously, The Dead C have made a fine career out of similarly deconstructing and inverting rock music, but Radian are the gleaming, precision-engineered opposite of Dead C's own shambling, spontaneous, and blown-out vision.

Thrill Jockey

The opening "Cold Suns" was also the album's first single, but it is unclear if it was chosen because the band believed it to be one of the most perfect distillations of their vision or if they merely thought it was one of the album's more immediately gratifying pieces. I suspect the reason may be the latter, as the album's second single "Skyskryp12" features a similar level of comparatively heightened drama. For the most part, however, "Cold Suns" offers a fairly representative first impression of Radian's current direction: gently stuttering loops, killer drumming, and a remarkably minimalist palette of guitar sounds. Unlike many other songs on the album, however, it eventually coheres into a brooding and tense chord progression, which lands the piece in somewhere near the post-punk revivalism of Moin (at least until the bottom drops out for a lengthy outro of distorted vocals, smoldering distortion, whimpering synth quivers, and broken, skeletal drums). "Skyskryp12" has a roughly similar aesthetic, but with one key difference: after it collapses upon itself, it kicks back into gear and builds towards a darkly cinematic crescendo. While both pieces are admittedly enjoyable and satisfying, however, the album's strongest pieces tend to be the ones with a bit of a lighter touch.

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Colleen, "Le jour et la nuit du réel"

Le jour et la nuit du réelAs someone who has loved Cécile Schott's work since 2003's Everyone Alive Wants Answers, I have long been fascinated by the various twists and turns that her vision has undergone over the years. While there have certainly been stretches in which she has lingered upon a vision for more than one album, Schott's creative restlessness invariably steers her into adventurous and unfamiliar territory eventually. As a result, Colleen's small discography is divided into an impressive number of distinct phases (the sample-driven collage era, the viola da gamba years, the synthesizer years, etc.). In a general sense, this latest full-length (her ninth) is a continuation her recent synthesizer phase, but it is also a significant break from her previous work in that vein: Le jour et la nuit du réel is seven-suite double album of minimalist vignettes exploring how a motif can be significantly transformed through the manipulation of synthesizer settings alone. Given the fundamental constraints of that vision, the album admittedly feels a bit less substantial than several of Colleen's previous releases, but connoisseurs of nuance and elegant simplicity will find much to love.

Thrill Jockey

The album's title translates as "The day and the night of reality," which is a nod to both the album's structure and its primary inspiration. The "reality" bit is a reference to how "subtle or radical" changes to synth settings can completely transform how the same melodic phrase is perceived by the listener, which Schott likens to how new information can transform our feelings about a person or situation (i.e. our perception of reality). In keeping with that theme of transformation, the album is divided into "day" and "night" LPs and the first LP concludes with a suite entitled ""Be without being seen," which is intended to function as a "twilight transition zone." According to Schott, the "day" pieces feature "more friction, tension, and abrasive timbres" in order to channel the "invigoration of daylight," while the "night" pieces feature "slower, more melancholy textures and longer trails of delay." Being a longtime fan of both melancholy and trails of delay, I personally prefer the album's second half, but both sides of the album share a hell of a lot more common ground than they do differences: every single piece on the album is essentially a simple melody unspooling over a shifting bed of arpeggios. Schott's gear was similarly stripped down, as the entire album was recorded analog-style with just a Moog Grandmother synth and two delays (Roland RE-201 Space Echo and "her trusted Moogerfooger Analog Delay") and "no additional digital production." Interestingly, this album is the first entirely instrumental album that Schott has recorded in well over a decade, but it began its life as an "an album of songs with lyrics in the style of her previous album," so Schott's muse definitely led her quite far from where she originally intended to go (and I suspect this new vision must have been considerably more challenging to realize than what she originally had planned).

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Jonathan Canady, "Suffering and Defiance"

Suffering and DefianceWell known for his time in Dead World, as a member of synth trio Nightmares, and his deactivated power electronics project Deathpile, Jonathan Canady has long been a pillar of the American noise world. Now working under his own name, he has recently entered the world of soundtracks and participated in an extremely limited collaboration with legendary artist John Duncan. Suffering and Defiance is his latest purely solo, purely audio work, and it loses none of the harshness he is known for, yet makes it clear his work is anything but harshness for the sake of harshness.

Old Europa Café

There is no question what the album is going to be like from the opening moments of "Suffering and Defiance Part I": woozy, overdriven noise loops appear immediately, pushing the whole mix into the red. However, there is much more going on beyond just noise. The second part of the title piece appears later on the CD, a rumbling crunch with sustained, sizzling buzz that demonstrates an excellent use of layering and audio textures.

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Grey Windowpane, "Barnie Bewail: A Film Soundtrack"

Barnie Bewail: A Film SoundtrackThis is a weird one. Billed as a film soundtrack—although I cannot seem to find any evidence of the film actually existing—this tape from enigmatic UK artist Grey Windowpane is all over the place as far as styles go. Free improvisation electronics, bedroom pop numbers, and random interludes are all scattered about this cassette. The lo-fi sound and production serve as a unifying factor on these 11 songs, giving an slight sense of continuity within the chaos.

Half-a-Million Records

Loose, drifting noises are a constant from piece to piece: they underscore the crusty organ of "C.E. Last Hurry CUF," the precursor to the churning loops of "Manny Soaked My Arm in There," and as part of the open space and random voices of "Jubilee." There are other, more chaotic pieces, such as the clattering thumping collage of the aforementioned "Manny" feature hints of musical tones and melody, but never quite get there.

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Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf, "Internal Return"

Internal ReturnI enjoyed Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf's gnarled, doom-soaked debut Big Other (2020) quite a bit, but I enjoyed it in a casual way and failed to truly grasp the full extent of his singular and ambitious vision. While that situation has thankfully been remedied by this latest opus, the music of Internal Return is just one piece of a much larger and more complex ambition that incorporates Jewish tradition, artificial intelligence, video art, and a uniquely disturbing visual aesthetic that resembles a vivid sci-fi nightmare that blurs together several dystopian cinematic futures at once. Curiously, when taken by itself, the music of Internal Return is more elusive and ambiguous than its more crushing and epic predecessor. When combined with Rosendorf's AI-created videos, however, Internal Return transforms into a viscerally unsettling mindfuck that will probably haunt me for weeks. As Rosendorf himself puts it: "It is not a comfortable place to be in, at least not exactly; like being adrift in an imageless dream, it produces monsters of a kind that, once they are receding into memory, we get the sense they were not actually terrifying, just... strange." Hopefully, those monsters will recede into memory for me soon, as I am still very much lingering in the "terrified" stage for now.

Negative Capability Editions

As was the case with Big Other, Rosendorf enlisted an eclectic array of talented guests to help him realize his vision and Tzadik/Davka alum Daniel Hoffman kicks off the album with a fiery klezmer-informed violin solo over a roiling bed of doom-inspired drones. As Rosendorf sees it, Hoffman's violin acts as "a furious, yet frail guiding voice in a void" while "the music treads a path that you cannot follow, one that arbitrarily narrows down, twists and turns whenever you're certain you have it right." He also compares the underlying music to a series of depth charges and "an apocalypse in miniature," which sounds about right to me. Without the accompanying videos, Internal Return feels like being trapped in a crumbling and haunted fun house: it approximates a labyrinth of darkly surreal scenes that feel more like fleeting, enigmatic impressions than compositions with a deliberate dynamic arc or cathartic payoff. There is one exception, however, as the album's smoldering final drone epic ("Immer Besser") tags in Liturgy drummer Greg Fox for a ferociously volcanic crescendo of sludgy doom metal chords and machine-like blast beats. That piece is the closest thing that Internal Return has to a single, as the remaining pieces are too deconstructed to make a deep impact outside their intended context (musically, at least).

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Francesco Gennari, "Frammenti"

FrammentiIt is immediately clear from the opening piece "Preludio" that this is music composed with an unusually clear sense of structure and direction. As a classically trained pianist, Francesco Gennari has a solid grounding in music theory and he applies this knowledge to modular synths, with an authentic desire for experimentation and some serious chops; he can play. What elevates this debut recording even further is his ability to develop complex pieces from simple themes, while injecting energy and a sense of aggression and dynamics into his music.

Important

Having grown up during the prog rock heyday of the early 1970s, knee deep as we were in the truly awful and the absolutely bloody magnificent, I hesitated to refer to Gennari as "classically trained." Back then, and particularly when applied to guitarists or keyboard players, this phrase became almost a code word for impressive speed and an elite technique almost inevitably leading to impressive dullness and top notch overcomplexity. No such pitfalls with Frammenti, though, and there is not a dull moment on this entire album. It smacks of a brilliant sci-fi soundtrack. In fact if I were Ridley Scott I'd redo Blade Runner, keeping the best bits of Vangelis, erasing all traces of the white dove, and liberally applying some Frammenti. (Then I'd also demand that Dennis Villeneuve recall and destroy all copies of Blade Runner 2049 but that's another story).

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Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt, "Play at Duke"

Play at DukeThese two singular artists have been fitfully playing together for roughly a decade now and they have released a number of albums documenting their incredible duo performances. Notably, their most recent union was for 2021's absolutely killer Made Out of Sound album, but that one was a bit of an aberration for the duo, as it was a studio creation crafted remotely. Happily, Play at Duke captures the pair back together on stage where they belong. The stage in question was unsurprisingly at Duke University, but the album's prosaic title omits a rather significant detail: the performance in question closed out Three Lobed Recording's 21st anniversary festival in appropriately riveting fashion. While both artists rank among my favorite musicians and have truly incredible chemistry as an improv unit, some performances are undeniably better than others and Play at Duke feels like an especially inspired night to me. Moreover, Orcutt and Corsano make a virtue of brevity as well, as there is not a single wasted note or even a hint of a lull in this 25-minute tour de force.

Palilalia

The performance feels like an unusually joyous one right from its first rolling toms and major chords, which makes sense given that the performance was the culmination of a three-day festival in which Orcutt and Corsano were surrounded by great music, a host of their peers, and a sizable audience of receptive fans waiting to be properly blown away. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment in which I was blown away myself upon hearing the album, but I am confident that it occurred some time during first of the performance's three sections, as the duo quickly strain toward the transcendent and ecstatic (Orcutt's wordless vocal howls tend to be a fairly reliable indicator that a particularly incendiary performance is underway). Naturally, there are plenty of killer licks and technically dazzling drum fills throughout the album, but the true beauty lies less in what Corsano and Orcutt play than it does in how they play it, how they interact with each other, and how they feed off the volatile spontaneity of live improvisation.

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The Heartwood Institute, "Mist Over Pendle"

Mist Over PendleThe Heartwood Institute creates memorable hauntological radiophonic doom-synth library folk music wherein traditional instruments from autoharp to zither are warped beyond identification, and blended into a barrage of synths and samplers, with film dialogue and nature sounds sprinkled in. Witchcraft is the subject matter of Pendle, and the album has a suitably spellbinding atmosphere, albeit one with the sense to emphasize grime and poverty. That's not to say there are not layers of sound which suggest cloudy pseudo-romantic myth, misty obscurity, and even smoke billowing up from a hexastein into some corridor of eternal purgatorial uncertainty where no one can hear your appeals for help, your moans or wails.

self-released

Mist Over Pendle is music inspired by the book of that name by Robert Neill and both are depictions of the events around the Pendle witch trials of 1622; amongst the most infamous such trials in English history. The album has an appropriately eerie density. We hear crows cawing, muffled human cries, incantations, repetitive electronic thuds, the occasional eye scratching curse and air cracking screech, foreboding synths, brooks not so much babbling as blabbing confessions during a water boarding session, and snippets of dialogue in archaic dialects lifted from an obscure 1976 television drama The Witches of Pendle.

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