Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Spiral Joy Bad

Spun off from the din of Pelt, Spiral Joy Band has served over a decade as a parallel universe in which Mikel Dimmick, Patrick Best, and Troy Schafer can experiment further with the drones and zones that capture their attention. Originally envisioned as an acoustic counterpart, the band’s embraced the electric impulse over time and with their latest for MIE, they continue to open a portal to a haunted hollow beneath the earth’s crust. As with Pelt proper, SJB have a patient creep to them – embracing drones that float like fog a la Heldon or Ashra, while scraping some high plains guitar moan from the stones in the manner of Barn Owl and Charalambides.

On Summoning the similarities with the latter are cemented even further, with vocalist Dani Schafer’s incantations thrumming on the same cosmic wavelength that’s long driven Christina Carter. On centerpiece, “Starlings in Deerwood,” her vocals crack the cosmos and give the band’s guitar clash a run for its money in terms of holding the listener rapt. Then the band shakes the world tree with a clattering, mossy menagerie of drone, dirge, rattle and hum on the 20 min closer “Down the Lane the Park is Still and the Water Chill.” Fans of any of the aforementioned touchstones or Pelt for that matter have plenty to unpack on this limited press platter, perfect for the hibernation months ahead.



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Rattle

Nottingham duo Rattle throw out the pop formulas in favor of a percussive ping pong between members. The pair, Katharine Brown and Theresa Wrigley, weave a tapestry of hypnotic dance and percussive patter, both picking up the sticks to spar rhythmically with each other with only occasional forays into vocal volley. Sequence drops the listener into a trance, playing off of subtle shifts in ever evolving patterns, with each of the four songs on the record stretching towards the ten-minute mark. The songs have the effect of stripping away the surroundings of the listener, like a sonic suspension in sensory isolation, or in this case suspension in the rarefied air of rhythmic thrum. The record is best listened to in dim surroundings or with eyes closed altogether. Let the rhythms play over the mind, pushing accompanying brainwave patterns to the beat that the two women pluck out of thin air. In that environment Sequence begins to toggle the tumblers of the mind into new positions.

When vocals do arise in the mix, they’re often wordless – cooing, humming and moaning entwined with the insistent, ecstatic beats. They finally break into discernible phrasing on “Signal” but even then, the pair are all about repetition, turning their words into mantras that eventually push meanings to the background in favor higher states of consciousness. While the record is propulsive and even at times frantic, the overall effect is absolutely soothing. There’s a sense of natural evolution to each song, each player anticipating the other completely, and that ingrained trust is passed through the speakers to the listener. Brown and Wrigley are spirit guides, sonic Sherpas, clatter-packed chiropractors come to align your vibrations to their natural thump.

It’s a shift from the usual dose of post-punk and that drops from the bucket at Upset The Rhythm, but the DIY spirit is just as punk as anything else on the roster. Brown and Wrigley are working the crease between jazz, post-punk and drone and it works as a feast for the ears. Highly recommended as a background beat to get your own weird Birdman-esque mania working for you, or just to drop out in the negative zone for forty-odd minutes of float. Either way Sequence is a damn delight.


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Charalambides – “Proper”

There are no real applicable labels for the medium in which Charalambides operate in. Like fellow Northeast luminaries Tower Recordings they’re rooted in psych and folk if you want to simplify, but you probably shouldn’t. They’re rooted in traditions of experimental songform and quite often delving into drone, but they typically tap into something ‘other’ and intangible. There’s a primal nature to their music that’s always felt like rites, spirituals without the burden of carved beliefs. This side of their songwriting is on full display on “Proper,” the latest peek into their upcoming eponymous LP. Over spectral tones the band’s Christina Carter intones high and holy, vibrating on a sympathetic tone with heavy metals in the surrounding soil. She cries for the Earth’s scars as if she can feel its pain.

The band’s Tom Carter expands on their process, confessing that the band “considers songs not as layers, but as stark utterances of elemental figures, the voids those figures define, and the unnamable emotions with which our minds fill the emptiness. Notes emphasize the silences between, loops pry apart tonal intervals, ghost-filled spaces open and slowly freeze shut as they fade to distant crackles. ‘Proper’ embodies all of these elements.” The new album is such a heavy, meditative piece that its hard to pry it apart into pieces, but “Proper” is a good entry point for the cosmic traveler. For the true Charalambides experience, the band is also taking this record on the road. Prepare to be ground into dust listeners East Coasters / Midwest settlers.

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Maher Shalal Hash Baz – “Switch Back”

Not long ago I was comparing Yuzo Iwata’s spare and bracing record to the works of Maher Shalal Hash Baz and at the same time wondering what’d become of that group, quiet for so long. Well as fate would have it Tori is back with MSHB and splitting time with the equally missed Little Wings on a new 12”. Got a first listen here of “Switch Back” from the upcoming EP and it’s as haunting a piece of folk as he’s put together in the past. The track tumbles over itself, strips bare any sentimentality and plays folk for the parched husks of crops picked apart by crows. Then he twists the psych staff and rolls it backwards skipping through time and space. The split is out August 21st on Moone Records and the fist 100 copies come with a hand-drawn postcard from Little Wings’ Kyle Field.



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Daniel Bachman

For his latest album Daniel Bachman has embraced space – space between notes with runs that amble rather than ramble, outdoor space via field recordings and headspace through some of his most challenging and experimental sides yet. His last album embraced an Appalachian folksiness, pock-marked by some clangorous diversions that kept it from becoming an exercise in gazing through the wrinkles of the past. While Bachman’s always been reverent of the past, he’s never been tied down by it. As he lays into The Morning Star, though, he’s torn tradition apart and glued it back together in his own vision.

For an album created by one of the great technical talents of our age, there’s a surprising shift from flashy fingerwork here to a much larger emphasis on environment and tone. Through a series of longform drones, flickering and sinister vocal samples and meditative plucks, Bachman drives the album with an air of contemplation. The Morning Star absorbs and ingests the chaos of modern matters and slows them down, picks them over with the eye of a patient woodcarver and sends out the artist’s interpretation – his rough edges and jagged hand adding a craggy character in purposeful acts of degradation.

The album is not eclipsed in total darkness, the nervously hopeful “Song for the Setting Sun III” gives a slight break in Bachman’s cloudbank compositions, but overall, it’s one of Bachman’s darkest works to date. It’s also probably one of his most accomplished. From Fahey to Richard Bishop, there are those who have infused fingerpicked folk with an experimentation that’s palpable and potent. In fact, this might just be Bachman’s America, its just that his own America has slipped its axis quite a bit from where Fahey found it. If you’re looking for lush technicality that’s born to sooth, sway towards the excellent album from Nathan Salsburg, also out this month. If you’re ready to pull the strings until they break the skin and burn the bone, Bachman’s your man.




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Chaines

Blending orchestral scrapes with back alley ambience and an alternate dimension lounge approach that slaloms through dirge infested seascapes, The King is, needless to say, a singular record. The work of Cee Haines alongside regular contributors Oliver Coates and Mary Stark, the record also makes use of the London Contemporary Orchestra to flesh out Haines’ stark vision to new heights. The record jellyfishes its way through genres, floating in an incandescent hue with menace and creeping calm. Haines pins anxious strings to the quiet creep of jazz winds then litters the path with scraps of noise that blow with ominous portent. The record is haunted and cinematic, though the kind of film that could accompany Haines’ vision feels like it might occupy the chasm between David Lynch and Jodorowsky – a rotting corpse rendered beautiful in shades of cyan slow motion.

As The King rolls on the elements of electronic influence become more pronounced, not merely content to play a background part in the proceedings. The beats creak out of the shadows and thump like frightened hearts underneath the mechanical clank and scrape of Chaines’ strange heat. Then out of the humid wreckage of the first six tracks a human shape rears its head – bound by static at first (“Mary”) and then soaring in embryonic ebullience, ambiguous and pained as the album comes to a close (“Eraserhead”). The evolution towards this torch song ending feels organic but jumping from the first to last track seems like a world has been traversed and a world that you’re quite sure you might not be able to find your way home from.



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Tuusanuuskat

More great work out of the universe of Jan Anderzén, following on a great new Tomutonttu record earlier this year. Tuusanuuskat is a collaboration between Anderzén and Es member/Fonal honcho Sami Sänpäkkilä and the two artists’ worlds meld together into a skittering, experimental electronic wonderland. The name, Tuusanuuskat is a play on words in Finnish, meaning essentially “total shambles” and if that’s not a phrase that hits home these days, I’m not entirely sure what is. The duo picks apart melodies into a kind of glitching, thrumming sanctuary from the world at large – a respite for reflection and preparation. Not coincidentally the album name Toiminnan aattona means “On The Eve of Action”.

Then consider this album a loading zone for a week of shit that’s too complex and saddening to comprehend. Let the gentle lap of delicate cacophony wash over you before emerging into the hot sun of reality. Who can be blamed for wanting to hide in headphones while the world rots? And while that certainly can’t be a constant state of being, Tuusanuuskat have created an oddly meditative space that’s found a way to organize chaos into readiness. They muster noise into a centering force that leaves the listener ready for, if not action, at least a semblance of organization and calm. This is the album that we all need now, and probably in the months to come.



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Circuit des Yeux – “Paper Bag”

Haley Fohr’s Circuit des Yeux has been bubbling under for a while now, but with her Drag City debut she (with help from Bitchin’ Bajas’ Cooper Crain) knocks the production up to the next level and puts this track into the bin of delightful experimental pop tracks finding their way out this year. The song starts with a swirling bit of cosmic psych that has Crain’s fingerprints all over it, but when Fohr’s knockout voice comes in, the track grows into another animal entirely. Rolling on a bed of guitar and a chugging beat, the track gathers darkness and strength around her booming delivery. The visuals from U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy suit the track amiably, giving the surroundings an offbeat weirdness that feels just the right kind of disorienting. Gonna have to look out for the rest of this one as it unfolds towards the October release.

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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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Bill Orcutt

Traditionally Orcutt has sunk his teeth into acoustic guitar, expressing pain and the purgatory of the soul through the tangled strings of a trusty Kay filled with ghosts. It seems time, though, that he gives his caustic reverberations life through electricity and on his eponymous LP, he does just that. The album approaches and rejects accessibility, throwing interpretations of Ornette Coleman into the same bucket as traditional chum like “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Over The Rainbow,” and “Ol Man River.” The latter tropes are rendered fairly unrecognizable through Orcutt’s lens, however, and it’s freeing to have him set a few classics on fire with the soul of Loren Connors.

Some of these songs have appeared in one form or another on Orcutt’s acoustic albums, but each is given a new life and new teeth for this record. The tumble of notes that spring from Orcutt’s explosive tangles are only tempered by the ringing spaces that he leaves hanging on the air. Anger and confusion lead to calm exhaustion, like a child all cried out and forgetting what the fight was about. The dissonance, and resonance of this album pushes through the platitudes of the source material to find a new resolve that strips pretty much any care from your body like a full salt scrub performed with power sanders.

It’s tempting to blanch at the chaos and din that Orcutt makes, but the trick is letting go. It’s a Magic Eye of an album, once your consciousness is relaxed and not fighting to find a thread, only then does it untether your lizard brain from the shackles of reasoning and resistance to let the picture form. Then the true magic happens and this chaos lifts to the heavens. Meditation through barrage, perhaps there’s a new movement brewing.




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