Posts Tagged ‘Experimental Electronic’

Ami Dang

On Parted Plains Ami Dang pushes the concept of traditional sitar to new horizons, weaving South Asian and Middle Eastern folklore with electronics and voice for a record that’s less atmospheric than the instrument is usually utilized. The record works to springboard from the four tragic romances of Punjab, Sohni Mahiwal, Sassi Punnun, Heer Ranjha, and Mirza Sahiba; Flora Annie Steel’s Tales of the Punjab: Folklore of India, and selected stories from One Thousand and One Nights into a new folktale, one that’s neither East nor West, something new. There’s something of a reimagined history to Dang’s work, technology infecting the memory of the past — horse-mounted riders calling to computers in the sky, AI majordomos threaded through data clouds, forbidden love between corporate rivals. It is built on tradition, but something has grafted those traditions to a new set of circumstances.

Her record buries the notion of sitars as instruments of calm — set dressings in weekend yoga retreats to give the air of authenticity. Here the instrument is dangerous, deceptive, heartbreaking. Underneath the narrative of strings, Dang’s electronics burble with kosmiche life, delicate in one instance, dark and hungry the next. The sitar and circuits become symbiotic, feeding each other with anxiety, aloofness, humility, and pain. Though she works away from the sitar’s status as atmosphere or altarpiece, she does still find bucolic bliss between her moments of tension.

“Make Enquiry’s” middle section floats above the fray in ways that bind the burble to the ripple of strings, pulsing with cooling shudders. Similarly, “Sohni” dances along the light, buzzing with delight and delicacy. Those moments are scattered by the rest of the album’s heavier vibes, though. Even the lightly titled “Love-liesse” is streaked with trepidation (though perhaps that’s just as it should be). The final pieces leave Parted Plains in the darker recesses, but richer for it. The album, much like Elkhorn’s instrumentals from earlier in the year paint heavy aural pictures with instrumentals, soundtracking journeys into the heart of night and the most claustrophobic recesses of the soul.



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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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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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Ben Chatwin

The battle between electronic and organic has always been central to the Ben Chatwin’s compositions. While the emotional heft in his works is left to strings and brass that conjure the modern miracles brought to life by the likes of Max Richter or the late Johann Johannsson, Chatwin lets his electrics chew on the results in a way that brings to mind Ian William Craig, or Craig’s muse William Basinski. Over the course of his solo albums Chatwin is steadily evolving this approach to leaning on wind vs. wires. On 2015’s The Sleeper Awakes his infection of electronics was pervasive drawing on shoegaze in its obsession with peaks and swells. For 2016’s Heat & Entropy, Chatwin cleared out the noise floor a bit and put the focus cleanly on strings. Though, his vision of strings was still laden with soot, putting him in league with the dust bowl crumble of Evan Caminiti as often as he did those heavy hitting neo-classical types I mentioned.

On Fossils, Chatwin is using his proclivity for noise in the most effective means yet. The pieces have electronics woven throughout them, tumbling on pulse gripping beats sandblasted with static and teeming with swelling synths that aspire to the size of his orchestral ensembles. He’s roping in dub’s cavernous clatter to forests of cellos that block out hopes with a cloud of desperation and anguish. Each side of his approach is pulling its weight hard enough to make this feel like two equally adept genre studies melted together. Its either the best neo-classical album heard this year or the best e. Where his previous effort worked its way through Thrill Jockey’s post-rock to broaden the scope of classical, here Chatwin twisting his vision of modern composition through the prism of prime period Kranky output – positing the film scores that would’ve existed had Keith Fullerton Whitman and Stars of the Lid found their pockets stuffed with enough cash to outfit a full string section with their odes to sonic float and aural decay.

The record is harrowing to say the least, barely letting any room for relief flood the speakers. He grips the listener with writing that’s packed full of mournful resolve that often gives way to crushing walls of noise that feel about read to render the listener dust by the time he lets off the pedal. Not for the faint of heart, but certainly for those looking to run the emotional dial ragged for forty minutes.




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Teresa Winter

On her sophomore album, Teresa Winter calms down her rhythmic impulses to explore deep introverted caves of sublime atmospheric amble. We are at once trapped, cocooned, holed up inside an echo chamber of thought and sinew. Shut out from the world but glowing with a crystalline green pulse that’s entirely organic, yet seemingly otherworldly, the album is frothing with sounds that are wet and humid. At first blush this would seem to suggest that the metamorphosis is real and brought about by purely natural means. But wander further and there are also mechanical creaks, clicks and crackles that suggest that we’re not at all entombed of our own volition, or without the help of sinister outside forces.

As the flora on the cover might suggest, though, this is an album of self-reflection and well-inclined to the kind of psilocybic experiences that offer up deep dives into the mirror of consciousness. Winter eases us in with the opener, “Oh,” before dropping the ground out from under the listener entirely with each progressive track. It’s not until we reach “Anatomie De Lenfer” that it seems the eardrums pop and with a gasp of breath the room begins to take shape once more. She surrounds the listener with voices. Whose voices? Are they talking to us? About us? The closing track springs back to life and light. The experience behind us. No cocoon, no abrupt descent into the ground. Just, it appears, chemicals working their magic on the brain. The final track crackles with an almost sunny electricity that leaves the previous isolation as not terrifying, but maybe just the respite we listeners needed all along.




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The Focus Group

Julian House again picks up his mantle as The Focus Group, spreading Radiophonic frequencies out into the ionosphere with precision, ingenuity and a glint of madness in his eye. The crux of The Focus Group has always acted like a high pressure drill, tunneling through human consciousness and presenting the core sample of childhood fears and delights alongside the useless ephemera and practical static that gum up the works in the average human brain. There’s bits of pop magic stuck in the mix here, but its littered with the lint of noise and jumbled into an organization that would befit a Burroughs cut-up.

Still, despite the chaos, he manages to evoke the low wattage flicker of a bare bulb projecting animation through cellophane on the walls while you sleep. Stop-Motion Happening moves like dreams, drenched in half-remembered facts and saturated with colors almost too rich for human consumption. This is the magic and the terror that House evokes. He’s a mad scientist of memory, plowing past the surface scratches that the likes of The Books, Boards of Canada and his own collaborative muses, Broadcast, have made their bread and butter. His approach, fittingly, is more on the level of visual art than that of musician. The album feels like it might easily soundtrack a gallery and have a dozen or so accompanying pieces that fit all these sparking wires together.

That dreamlike quality also puts him in league with film Auteurs like Michel Gondry, another artist trying desperately to capture the moment between sleep and awake. House’s work evokes the disorientation of signals that get trapped inside our many heads. He’s filtering and processing the data but it’s hard to figure out what’s noise and what’s important. That conundrum, in fact, seems to be the root of modern anxiety. House has put his finger squarely on the flashpoint of modern madness – what goes, what stays, where to look next, who to believe in all this? He’s not offering a rubic, but he’s at least showing us that someone else is having as much trouble quashing the noise as we are.




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ToiToiToi

Ghost Box can always be counted on to deliver something that’s both uniquely situated on the sonic spectrum and impeccably dressed from a design standpoint. Sebastian Counts’ debut for the label (following an interesting entry to their Other Voices singles series) is a doozy of an electronic playground. Toying with ideas of acoustic vs electronic, modernity vs folklore and wilderness vs civilization, the album posits field recorded samples into a buzzing, ramshackle wonderland of beats and bleeps. The album isn’t so much an echo of the souring vision of ‘folktronica’ as it is a Radiophonic studio gone to seed in the afternoon sun or perhaps an erector set left to trestle weeds and moss for all eternity.

Counts throws a ton of ideas into the pot, from clattering Raster Norton minimalism, to Scientist-styled dub and noise breaks that feel very akin to labelmate The Focus Group. That his Rube Goldberg triggered Speak n’ Spell rhythms end up lodged in your brain is a testament to the overarching complexity and talent of the author here. Its not just a hodgepodge of sound, but an electro-organic beast that’s constantly trying to win human approval – a Frankenstein’s Monster with a flower to share. Of course the whole set is dressed up in the unparalleled design of Julian House, echoing the record’s themes of city vs country. It’s seldom that the Ghost Box crew will steer ya wrong, and this is no exception. Come for the high-minded concepts, but stay for the oddly charming pop melodies bubbling long after the record clicks to a stop.




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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

On his last album for Mexican Summer, veteran noise sculptor Cantu-Ledesma took a step towards accessibility. The album was still steeped in decaying waves of noise but it squinted into the sun every so often with a kind of shimmering beauty that let in a crossover of fans of shoegaze or more straightforward brands of electronic music. He doubles (maybe even triples) down on the concept for the follow-up and with On The Echoing Green he creates his most overtly pop album yet. The step towards pop is properly enabled by Green being his most collaborative work in a long time.

Chief among those collaborators is the siren call of Argentinian singer Sobrenada, whose voice fades in and out of the compositions on On The Echoing Green, blinking between the beautiful shards of Cantu-Ledesma’s sonic ruins. The album bleeds into the shoegaze world wholeheartedly this time, no half-measures. The slow, contemplative builds of the songs use noise as a trowel to shape their wall of sound, rather than seeping some shimmer in through the cracks of a house of noise, as was the case with A Year With 13 Moons. The result is a gorgeous, fragile, and tender record that occasionally lets itself be lacerated by Cantu-Ledesma’s past.

While there are some contenders, this might be the headphone record of the year. Cantu-Ledesma’s horizons of quaking bliss wash over the listener like a cocoon of lost emotions. He’s always been a master of soundcraft, but here he proves that he can let a little sun shine in without letting his carefully curated world crumble.

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Philippe Hallais

Usually sporting the name Low Jack, Hallais steps out under his own name for a new release on veteran experimental electronic imprint Modern Love. The album is an ambitious gamble at a concept album that winds thick clouds of shoegaze leaning electronics around a narrative that mirrors the rise and fall of a 30 for 30 style sports story. It arcs through triumph and betrayal, decline and salvation before settling into the kind of melancholy even keel the stores often land on. For all its ambitions, the album plays well as an arc, whether you glean the sports story or not.

Hallais sweeps the listener up in tentative hues of swelling anticipation, but tellingly its a track called “Everything (Good)” that might be the best dual image of American success. The track is driving, but distorted – a feeling of blissful invulnerability fractured into broken mirror static. It’s the kind of song that embodies the overload that’s perceived as all being well, with a rotted core ready to break. That point seems like the beginning of the decline, and he maps out the seediness morphing into neediness following that point driving through the excellent “Fantasy (4U)” which brings to mind subtler works from Darkside.

As he winds down into the fall and rebuild, the album finds a calmer veneer shot through with the kind of thick tones that Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Yves Tumor have found their niche in of late. If this is the direction that Hallais is headed in, then I’m on board 100%, but if its a one-off, then its still a great example of distorted emotions bent through the electronic veil. You’d do well to find a quiet place to let this one sink in.






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