Posts Tagged ‘drone’

Ulaan Khol

Stephen R. Smith checks in with his third LP of 2019 under a third alias. This time up he’s landing blows under the Ulaan Khol name, following March’s release under his own Steven R. Smith banner and February’s Ulaan Passerine release. Much like the latter, the Khol arm of his Ulaan empire is fraught with tension, anxiety, and charcoal scraped doom. His collected works have taken on an extraordinarily cinematic quality lately, soundtracking the imagined panoramic sounds of squalid earth and desperate civilizations sifting through the remains of our indulgences gone sour. Perhaps more than any other artist, Smith seems like the one to truly soundtrack the dire crumble of our natural environments. His soundscapes scar the skies and dampen hope, but as fraught as they are with the grit-toothed moments of overwhelming darkness, there’s a strident beauty to Smith’s world.

The driving crescendo that breaks through the smoke on “Above the Arbor” is triumphant, even in the face of such tension. The bilious clouds of smoke that rise from his sonic ruins form ashen monoliths against the reddened skies. The songs are harrowing, but the imprint they leave finds beauty in atrocity. As each arm of the Ulaan (Markhor, Passerine, Khol) universe seems interconnected, its hard not to see this as a continuation of the ravages laid down since at least 2012 within the scope of Smith’s works. Seven years later, the stakes seem just as high as they always were and the consequences are documented on Collapsing Hymns with little room for relent. Naturally, this one comes highly recommended. Smith’s done up the packaging nice as well, the limited cassettes come housed in a stamped wooden box, making this a nice curio of the collapse for you collecting needs.



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Ash & Herb

Flower Room, the resident home of Matt LaJoie and Ash Brooks’ musical musings, often boasts a treasure trove of small press releases that are of the blink and you’ll miss ‘em variety. In between larger statements the pair populate the label’s Bandcamp with live documents and offshoots in every direction under the Ash & Herb, Starbirthed, ML Wah monikers, among many. One of the latest gems arrives via live recordings from Ash & Herb’s Spring 2018 tour, and makes up the third installment of their live “In Now Time” series. While it’s not a full-on psych-folk boogie breaker in the mold of their outstanding “Salt Lick” single from February, it does capture the band’s narcotic float quite nicely. The set was recorded in a living room in Columbus, OH, but the sounds feel like they could have filled up a void twice that size.

Apparently, their set for the tour was using a cassette backing track that they tossed for the night and untethering from the percussive yoke lets the band wander all over the inky night, swirling like smoke signals into the wanting sky above. Ash’s vocals zone out into wounded, wooded rites of passage, giving the set a heavier, darker turn for a spell, before they bloom into a two-part psilocybin sojourn. “Fruiting Bodies” sparkles to the point of shimmer and closer “Cap & Stem” settles the whole set into a steamed calm as it pits a bit of twang against the dominant drones. Ash & Herb have a huge catalog to contend with but its been great to keep track of the current modes with this live series and it’s highly recommended digging through vols. 1 and 2 as well. Pair this one up with a recent Starbirthed tape and the night’s set to transcend expectations.



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Pelt – Pearls From The River

VHF records has a wealth of greatness in their roster, but quite a few have never been under the needle due to timing. They’re kicking out a couple of new reissues this year and one of the best up is Pearls From The River by Pelt. Featuring the classic lineup of Jack Rose, Mike Gangloff, and Patrick Best, the record is a sister album of sorts to their LP . The record never made it onto LP at the time of its release in 2003. It’s a proper Pelt drone-out, exploring Indian ragas, drones and clangourous fingerpicked guitar. Around the same time the members began to splinter in various directions, with Jack beginning to work solo more often, The Black Twig Pickers emerging, Gangloff and Best both working with Dredd Foole, etc. Still the band gives this record their all, haunting the strings with a spiritual sobriety that’s meditative, engulfing the listener in a womb of sound. Its a record that’s not quite gotten its due, but deserves a second look.

The band would take a year off before issuing another album, but this would more than holdover fans. The new issue is a deluxe gatefold by VHF, with an expansive run of liner notes from Byron Coley (who else?). Any later term fans of Rose that haven’t spun through the Pelt catalog would be wise to take a listen to this and work their way backwards. Lots of greats in that discography to be sure.



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Föllakzoid

Seemingly going backwards, sideways, or completely untethering from this reality, Chile’s Föllakzoid follow up their 2015 album III with I. I suppose the reset makes sense, though. This is not Föllakzoid as it operated in the past. There’s still a kosmiche touch and a sense of reverberating dread that devours wonder on their latest, but rather than constructing these in the linear sense, the band shifted strategies. Recorded in bits, the band left the assemblage of the album to Uwe Schmidt, more commonly known as the producer Atom™. The band recorded the album as 60 separate stems and Schmidt organized them into four coherent movements. The tracks push the clock, even for Föllakzoid’s typically lengthy impulses, but where they were once creating nebulous galaxies, now they’re creating dense black holes of sound that seek to absorb the listener and disorient the journey.

The Atom™ stamp seems to push their sound further towards the trance end of the spectrum. There’s no more rhythm than the band usually employs, but the rhythms he’s arranged are less likely to scrape through German progressions left from the ‘70s than they are to riffle the Raster Norton and Editions Mego fallout bins. While this is likely the furthest from Terra Nova that the band has traveled, I have to admit I was a fan of their particular niche of Krautrock. This still scratches the same itch in a way, but the darkness has devoured the gauze and I miss it. Still, if you’re looking to lose yourself in the veil of rhythm, this is your best bet.



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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

After two albums that scratched the itch of pop (albeit buried beneath a wash of shoegaze acoustics) Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is heading to a more serene perch for his latest release. Along with a litany of collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, Chuck Johnson, Gregg Kowalsky, David Moore and Meara O’Reilly, Cantu-Ledesma has crafted a statement of glittering stillness. There’s no foam or froth, no static this time around. Instead he’s focused on finding the spaces that form between the sparkles off of the waves, the peace that’s found between the ripple of leaves. There’s an inherit lonesomeness to Tracing Back the Radiance, but its hardly ever somber, rather JCL revels in the temple of solitude, dragging his fingers along the stones to feel every fine edge.

At first blush the record is awash in glistening tones, a wave of muted energy that brings everything to a hush around the listener. It seems simple, but the layers unfold the further the listener lets themselves recede into the wave. The overlapping tones gently push away trouble, without seeking to solve the roots. Tracing Back The Radiance is a respite even within the crush of city life. Head further to the hills and it acts as nature nodding back in rippling harmonics. Jefre’s been cooking up some great records over the last few years, and this marks among his best, if only for its attention to finely tuned details and his dedication to quietude as an all encompassing aesthetic. Coupled with his contributions to MexSum’s Surf Comp from the first half of 2019, I’d say that he’s having quite the year. If you need to let the nagging bite of this year’s constant noise cycle die down a touch, its recommended you let this one seep into every pore.



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75 Dollar Bill

On their previous album, Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock 75 Dollar Bill scratched out a new high water mark, taking their austere setup (guitar and wooden crate) to new heights via repetition dropout zones of buzzing bliss. It’s four tracks packed more experimental rhythm riot than pretty much any other LP that year. It seemed a hard bar to hurdle, but the band’s not only bested that slab, they’ve soared far over its ambitions to create one of 2019’s most vital shakers. At double the length, and spanning four sides, the LP isn’t holding anything back. Rick Brown and Che Chen lead their troupe further down the wormhole of rhytmic wrangle than ever before with tracks stretching in excess of sixteen minutes, beset by locklimbed tangles of strings, stomps, skronk, and saw. It’s hypnotic in its execution and brilliant in its scope.

As with the previous album, whittling this just down to Brown and Chen is only half the equation. I Was Real owes just as much to its gathered ensemble as its predecessor, with a cadre of collaborators adding sax, viola, synth, contrabass, and additional guitars to the mix. The players summon a primeval boogie that resonates deep from the earth’s core and smelt it into audible heat. The band has made it adamant that they don’t consider this blues, but it’s a close cousin. When not doused in drones, the record is bursting with boogie – a kind of shaggy, euphoric, sweat sequined strain of boogie that’s more akin to the brokedown soulshake of someone like the name-checked Tetuzi Akiyama (see: track #3).

Like Akiyama’s Don’t Forget To Boogie the band deconstructs the heartbeat hum of ionic vibrations broadcasting from every environ and contorts them into shards of guitar that slice at the listener with a satisfying scratch. The band hammers on phrases, digging through Middle Eastern fuzztone and African Tuareg desert blues with equal hunger. The record is a sun ritual for a new age, dancing out the technological marvels of our time and crushing them into clatter matter, shaking their shambles along to the insistent beat and loosing all tethers in the process. As the title asserts, this is real – a tactile, turbulent, throttle that shakes up the last reluctant bones in one’s system and frees the listener from a life of stagnation. Get this on the turntable as soon as humanly possible.



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43 Odes

Eiderdown revives the spirit of the long languished Jewelled Antler, if only for a moment with a new cassette from 43 Odes. Comprised of Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Ivytree) and Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Passerine, Hala Strana) the band brings the pair back together for the first time since they ground out noise rituals in Thuja. While 43 Odes is certainly landing softer blows than Thuja, there’s a communal spirit. Steeped in the moss n’ fog feelings that led the compass point of Jewelled Antler, the record builds an atmosphere of trepidatious wonder. From the outset the pair summons the ceremonial atmosphere – dub-struck drums patter in the background, Donaldson’s bass slithers with controlled menace, and sawed strings chase smoke rings into a trance.

There’s a clear-cut vision of sound here, no dabbling or cross-pollinating pet genres. This is psychedelic infinite, dripping with sweat and blood, rolled in linen and soil. The two players have spent years building their catalogs and the practice is palpable. The songs on their eponymous tape don’t sound so much studied, though, as uncovered, unearthed on sonic digs through the remains of crumbled cultures. There’s beauty in the stately, breath-baited “Majha” or the soft glow of “Veema” and “Myr Vehrt.” There’s celebration and relief in the cool climes of “Braspt” and there’s danger in between the bars of “Gryvk.” The whole album laps at the listener with a freeform flow – folk that’s free from song, left to explore the incontrovertible truths that lie between the drops in an unending cycle of storm and solace.



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Kandodo – “King Vulture”

Bristol trio Kandodo, which features Simon Price (The Heads) and John McBain (Monster Magnet, Desert Sessions), return to the fold this week with the announcement of their latest album, K3. The first cut is a floating bit of drone shimmer that’s buoyed by a serene video by Sanae Yamada (Moon Duo, Viva La Void). “King Vulture” builds on a slow creep of quasar-crusted euphoria that crushes itself slowly over the course of six and a half minutes of bliss. Check the video above and keep an eye out for the band’s latest on Rooster Rock June 21st.

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Tengger – “See”

Today there’s another dip into the languid pools of Tengger’s upcoming album for Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The drone-prone family band’s sound is build on synths, harmonium and toy instruments but its all works out to some serious bliss bath excursions to another temporal plane. The band’s music is intertwined with their travel and “See” is no exception, taking its name from a particularly affecting morning hike.

The band explains that “the title “See” is from German language, “der see”, which means lake. (so it’s a bit of a play on words, see der see… ^-^;) When we were doing the Shikoku Pilgrimage (ed note: a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai on the island of Shikoku, Japan), one day we visited one shrine and one temple in the morning, near from one huge lake called Mannoike Manno Lake. We were watching the sunrise on the lake for quite a long time. The music of “See” is from that moment. We set the title of the track to “Mannoike” at first but changed it to “See”… seeing nature’s variations, when we did the Shikoku pilgrimage.”    

Pretty much the entirety of the band’s upcoming LP, Spiritual 2 evokes this kind of commune with nature and it should appeal to fans of Cluster, Emeralds, or Tangerine Dream. Dip in and take a listen below.



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Craig Leon – “The Gates Made Plain”

Craig Leon continues his exploration of imagined extraterrestrial information left behind in early African civilizations and spread across the globe. Volume 2 of “The Canon” expands on his 2014 collection of interplanetary folk tales that coupled his groundbreaking work Nommos with its follow-up Visiting. The new collection is vibrating on the same brainwaves of resplendent bliss and shimmering meditative psych and new cut “The Gates Made Plain” captures the essence of what Leon’s been building over the years. The track is draped in drones, pulsating with a ripple of percussion, and hung high with a sense of inching anticipation. The new volume is out May 24th from RVNG, Intl. Check out the video for the track below, which features visuals from Leon’s touring show directd by Milton Melvin Croissant III.



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