Posts Tagged ‘Leaving Records’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Cool Maritime – “Sharing Waves”

Cool Maritime blends the rippling strains of Kosmiche with the mossy, woodsy intimacy of field recordings. In the video for the title track off his upcoming LP, Sharing Waves, Sean Hellfritsch builds the perfect scene, utilizing his “lunchbox” modular synth in the hazy morning woods far from the concerns of the rest of humanity. The track, like the bulk of Cool Maritime’s work, is reflective and peaceful – a virtual volume knob for the screaming world outside clamoring for attention. The LP, his second for Leaving Records, promises a full-time dropout from the din, but in the meantim this is a nice little respite from mounting angst.

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Kemialliset Ystävät

Finnish collective Kemialliset Ystävät has beaten the path through the weedy wilds of the psych-folk revival that sprung up in the early aughts and passed through to far more experimental trails than most of those who joined them on that journey. The collective, always and forever a rotating lineup centered around the direction of Jan Anderzén, is now cultivating a uniquely kaleidoscopic brand of experimental electronic pop that bubbles with color and chaos – albeit contained chaos, like a dayglo hurricane captured in a soda bottle. The record is nothing if not delightful, mostly because it seems to still see the world through eyes glazed with a wonder that’s long since been closed off in other outlets and facets of life.

This is children’s music if it weren’t processed into shiny bits of positivity and machine-fed through advertising algorithms. There are no didactic lessons here, just a willingness to free the spirit. This is just a shimmering sonic encapsulation of the quick-cut attention span, color-saturated visions of how children can’t help but see the world. There’s awe and fear and beauty and light all bumping each other in line one minute, then rising slow and steady like globules in a lava lamp the next. This effect might have something to do with Anderzén’s process of building aural skeletons and sending them out to his collaborators to dress and color in as they choose, allowing for some planned results and some very surprising ones.

The songs on Slippi Empii swirl through the headphones with sounds chirping like frogs, buzzing like sonic gnats and burbling like a CGI brook in the confines of the listener’s headspace. It’s both very real and somehow hyperreal, an uncanny valley of sound that feels as if it might come alive into rubbery reality at any moment. Anderzén’s band of aural tinkerers have cracked open the cosmic bridge between our world and the animated wonderland across the pale – think Rodger Rabbit (or Cool World if you must) – only the prevailing artists are Robert Beatty and Jamie Zuverza. Siipi Empii is the band at their best, bursting with life, pulsating with color and crackling with a positivity that’s elusive in most catalogs these days.



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Kemialliset Ystävät – Hengitä Sisään Ulos

I can never think of a reason not to be excited by a new single from Finnish psych collective Kemialliset Ystävät, but this dizzying and visually stunning video from fellow Finns Nabb + Teeri only sweetens the pot on their beguiling new track. The collective, led by songwriter Jan Anderzén has been pumping out works since the early aughts, finding their way from psych-folk clatter to a current incarnation that’s wriggling its way through experimental electronic gardens filled with distended vocals and glittering synths. The track is from the band’s upcoming LP Siipi Empii which breaks with the band’s traditional homeground at Fonal, coming out through experimental hub Leaving Records. It feels like this track is just the tip of something sprawling and spectacular, but even on its own, this is a complimentary symbiosis of sound and video.

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Tomutonttu

Those with a hook into the early aughts psych-folk explosion (or freak folk if you’re nasty) will recognize the name Jan Anderzén, he being at the epicenter of Finnish noise folk and the main propulsion keeping Kemialliset Ystävät aloft all these years. Anderzén has also been one to wander from that main project along several tributaries, including Avarus, The Puke Eaters (with Chris Corsano), Tuusanuuskat and noise super(ish) group Way of The Cross. His new solo excursion as Tomutonttu finds him locked into solo groove territory; jagged and stumbling, writhing and chugging through clatter-syth lines that feel broken and nervy. The music here was commissioned by a festival based out of Anderzén’s hometown of Tampere and the results have an elemental dance to them, but divorced from the concept by eons and a barrier of cultural dissonance. The album has a feeling of alienness about it, but not so much that its not of this world, just that it feels like the dance of a culture that’s future leaning, tribal and not locked into a concept of pop.

Anderzén’s writing isn’t as chaotic as his work with Kemialliset Ystävät, there’s a direction here and each track feels like its not quite as apt to fall apart at the seams. The works are blinking in sequence and finding their way along in neon plots through a murk that’s palpable and as the record wears on it seems that the focus comes clearer into view. By the close of Tarat there’s a clear propulsion of synth work that wouldn’t feel out of place on Tri Angle or Holodeck. The synth looks good on Anderzén and I hope that this commission isn’t just a lark. There’s more territory to be mined here for sure.

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