Posts Tagged ‘Minimal’

J. Zunz

I’ve long had a soft spot for the warm blast of shoegaze pulsing off of Lorelle Meets the Obsolete. The Mexican band has been warping pop through the fuzz-fitted filter for the past few years and have only solidified their place in the evolving canon of the genre. Though this album is connected by membership, this is quite a different animal from the confines of The Obsolete. Out on her own for a second solo LP the band’s Lorena Quintanilla has pushed aside the gauzy caverns of her usual sound for something darker and full of danger. On Hibiscus she lets her voice free of its playground of effects and loose from the haze. Underneath her vocals, however, the record is seething with anxious synths and repetitive elements that are doused in a chemical burn. The LP bears a stark minimalism that speaks directly to her renewed interest in John Cage’s ethos of stripping sound to its basics.

Like her previous works, there’s still psychedelia here, but it’s a more internal expression, working psychological angles rather than explicit auditory gymnastics. There’s a feeling on the record of constantly waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, surroundings that feel like they’re tipped with poison intent. Quintanilla’s voice comes racing from all angles, panicked at times, soothing at others, but always like a whisper in the back of your head trying to make sense of the quasi-industrial prison you’ve found yourself trapped within. That the album is an extension of personal and political strife for Quintanilla, makes sense the more it rotates around the speakers (though this is a headphone record, if there ever was one). The ghosts in her songs aren’t able to be defeated hand to hand, but rather neuron to neuron, trapped in the inner confines of the mind and looking for a hatch. The record is bracing, vulnerable, disorienting, and daring. Not for the timid, but worth diving into again and again.





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Laraaji

This one’s been easing me in and out of the days in perfect meditation and I’d have to say it’s highly recommended you do the same. New Age legend Laraaji has had quite a moment of late, moving away from his self-released tape niche in the past few years to be heralded by experimental outposts (Leaving Records, W. 25th) and archival houses (Numero) alike. On his latest for perpetual harbor All Saints, he leaves the drones and quavering harmonics of the zither behind to focus on rippling piano movements that wash the soul in the golden light of a half mast sun. While he grew up on the piano, the artist hasn’t really returned to it during his recording tenure. Instead he’s become known for the kind of body buzz harmonics and a New Age thrum that emanates from his echo-swathed instrument of choice. The lack of effects offers a marked difference here. With the help of Jeff Ziegler (The War on Drugs, Mary Lattimore) he captures the piano in a Brooklyn church, letting it feel out the space around it with a natural harmony.

The pieces are simple, but far from minimal. Approaching the instrument with the same bubbling glee, tinged with a slight whiff of sadness that has come through in his zither work over the years, Sun Piano is as centered as any of his works. Cascades of notes sluice through the spirit of the listener, unlocking lost memories, deep tensions, and well-up worries and dispersing them with a sonic acupressure. The joy that Laraaji brings to music is imbued in every fluttering note, and its clear that in his second stage the piano might begin to play an important part in his output. If this is only the beginning of that shift, I’m her for what’s to come. If this is all we get, then I’ll just have to cherish the shining embers of Sun Piano as often as possible.




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Laraaji – “Lifting Me”

Despite being a constant in new age circles, Laaraji has made a heavy impact in psychedelic and kosmiche circles in the last few years. While the artist has become synonymous with the zither, on his latest LP he’s focusing on circular, meditative piano compositions and they radiate a kind of calm centeredness that’s quite appreciated in times of shifting realities. The latest piece of the puzzle from the upcoming Sun Piano is “Lifting Me,” a sparkling composition that reverberates through the speakers with the promise of a clear dawn. Recorded in a Brooklyn Church by Jeff Zeigler (known for work with Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs and Mary Lattimore), this is a new direction for the artist, but one with a familiar feel.

While it doesn’t quite hit on his often sublime rippling that he’s created with his signature instrument, its clear that Laraaji is just as at home behind the piano as the strings. Tensions melt, time stands still, and the canvas is reset as the notes of “Lifting Me” float out of the windows to commune with the crisp summer air. Any fans of his past works will certainly be rewarded, but newcomers looking for a way into the minimal world of the artist might do well to crossover from the meditative fare of say, Recital or 130701. The record is out July 17th on All Saints.



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Ezra Feinberg

I’ve shared a bit of this new LP from Ezra Feinberg, but the album’s really not something that can be parsed out into bits and pieces. Feinberg made his mark in the sorely undersung band Citay, fusing guitar flash and virtoistic playing with a sun-baked good nature that was way ahead of the Cosmic Americana curve that’s reared its head the last few years. He’s since taken to more Kosmiche waters, with a stunning LP in 2018, Pentimento and others, which he’s ably expanded upon with the rippling Recumbent Speech. Now navigating territory smoothed by Terry Riley and canonized by the German synth set — think Harmonia, Cluster, or Rother’s solo works – the new territory suits him. Naturally there’s the stamp of Eno as well, but with Tim Green, Chuck Johnson, Robbie Lee, and Jonas Reinhardt in tow, Feinberg is building soundworlds of his own that recall the light spirit of Citay, but embrace the new age with wide-open eyes.

While the mood is serene, Feinberg has plenty of rhythm at play on the album. As with his previous outings his string work often creates a loping underbelly to tracks, but he’s meshing the repeated phrases with the soft skitter of drums that range from whispered shapes of a pulse to prog and jazz touches that feel at home with their ‘70s precursors. Most welcome here is the pedal steel of Johnson, who uses it to shade in the songs with a darkness that cools off the abundant ease of the album. Feinberg’s compositions use their players as subtle, yet essential layers. Even the vocals of Mandy Green and April Haley are woven between the cataclysmic crumble of “Ovation,” one of the album’s true highlights. With his previous outing, Feinberg set the stage for this new chapter in his output, but with Recumbent Speech he’s crafted a cosmic high water mark that should be touchstone for anyone looking to elevate minimal records for years to come.




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Ezra Feinberg on Jon Gibson – Two Solo Pieces

Back around the time that Raven was still ramping up there were a good string of releases by Citay. The band was out of step with the indie set at the time. While they had a sense of grandiosity that would slot them in nicely with the ’06 – ’09 class, Ezra Feinberg and Tim Green embraced a cosmic classic rock quality and genuine appreciation of sunshine ‘70s riffs that would have done well had the band been coming onto the scene right about now. Where bands like Garcia Peoples and One Eleven Heavy have been embraced, they’d rightly have Citay to thank. A decade or so later Feinberg has moved on to a more serene thrum, though still struck with a shining positivity that radiates through his playing. With contributions from John McEntire (Tortoise), Chuck Johnson, and Jonas Reinhardt, he’s swimming through the calm, embryonic gap that lies between Eno, Cluster, Ashra, and Riley. Now Ezra’s sharing a gem that’s more in line with his latter day work – the haunting minimalism of Jon Gibson. Head below to see how this one came into his life and the impact its left there.

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Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughin

While there’s barely a raised eyebrow at the thought of Mary Lattimore helming a collection of neo-classical minimalist compositions there’s a bit of an ear perk when Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan gets thrown into the mix as well. The pair have teamed up for a collection of movements called New Rain Duets, with Mac helming the synthesizer as a foil to Mary’s poignant plucks. The pair are working in an Eno womb of sound – appropriately evoking the grey-skied sighs of the album’s title. There’s a feeling of cabin fever, bone chill brooding, and eventually a resigned despair to the record. The pieces, set against actual field recordings of rain, begin by lapping at the windows of the soul in a deflating drizzle, rather than wild torrents of sound. There’s isolation vibrating between the notes, a yearning to connect doused by nature’s icy fingers.

As usual Lattimore’s playing remarkably pulls the heart from its chest and massages an ephemeral ache into every inch. As the record wears on, though, MacCaughan’s synths become less subsumed into the walls and reach a rising panic- the feeling of isolation, fear, and anxiety pushing aside Lattimore’s emotional balms. The caged demeanor moves from home windows to car windows, with the rain slicking the streets and a storm lacquering danger onto every minute. There’s still that unmistakable pang of sadness – the feeling that if you can just get through this deluge it’ll all work out all right. In the throes of the second and third movements, the light of exit doesn’t seem so close, however.

I’d love to say that the fourth movement brings a feeling of peace, but its more relief. The gnawing of anxiety and inertia is left behind in a long sigh, but the break in the downpour only seems to leave the world damp and dour. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking record, that doesn’t let the listener off easy. While its an unexpected output from these two musicians, its nonetheless a masterfully constructed chrysalis of pain and panic.



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Gnod

Gnod capture the mood of the moment with a scathing album that vacillates between numb noise and outbursts of explosive indignation. A year after their last album, which played up their post-punk side, they choose to go for brutality over nuance and it feels good on them, not to mention aids in the cathartic absorption of the psychic shitstorm that’s swirling closer every day. The opener, “Bodies For Money” is a boot to the neck, a wake up call that lets the listener know that Gnod is ready to get into the noise trenches for this one. Though, it should be pretty self-evident that the band is on the rampage from the moment the sixteen-ton title, JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE rolls off of the tongue.

While the sludge and pummel of noise rock is the roux that gets this album going, they’re not entirely unyielding with regard to adding other elements to the pot. There’s a primal dance that runs through several of the tracks, not so much in the club sense, more along the lines of working oneself into a trance for battle. And by all regards that seems to be where Gnod is headed with this. They’re eschewing subtlety and leaving that road for someone with more patience. It’s evident that they prefer to smack the populace awake and light a few fuses before it’s too late. Gotta find that at least a bit admirable. If you’re looking to soundtrack your civil disobedience, you’d do well to put Gnod on the speakers and let the volume knob fly.




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Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement

Dominick Fernow (Prurient/Vatican Shadow) lives in a world that’s ostensibly clouded by darkness and thatched with shades of bleak hopelessness. In his most coiled character, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavelment, he’s also perhaps at his minimalist best. Under this moniker he works completely instrumental, opening Green Graves with a set piece of jungle rain that creeps into the animalistic slink of the album’s mindset. Further into the shadowed underbrush, Fernow keeps things calm and collected on the surface, but winds its springs tight with a sense of unease bubbling just under the veneer of each of the album’s lengthy tracks. A sense of dampness pervades the album, with rain filtering throughout several of the tracks and its easy to see that the Rainforest banner isn’t purely coincidental or ornamental.

This seems to be Fernow at his most cinematic, the jungle themes bringing to mind taught Vietnam war films and the knife edge tensions of Predator. He’s crafted a fight or flight world that, while it never escalates the fight, keeps it within expectations at all time. It would almost be too easy to just let this pot boil over and explode into the kind of chaos that’s certainly lurking in Fernow’s darkness, but he shows his masterful restraint by snaking the listener through danger and threatening to let blood at any moment. Fans of Fernow’s other work will certainly be pleased but there’s plenty to love here for fans of some more recent horror soundtracks. Its less flashy, but by no means less effective.



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Gnod

Gnod have been increasingly harder to pin down over the years, wandering from rhythmic psych to desolate dub excursions and landing on the minimal electronic scrawl of last year’s Infinity Machines. So where does that leave them next? The clearest through line in all their work is an ever encroaching darkness and on Mirror that darkness is front and center. Packing in a lot more instrumentation than Infinity Machines this album finds solace in the strung wire post-punk drawn in black and grey shades that made Swans and PiL and Throbbing Gristle household names (depending on your household I guess). The album deals with mental illness and the increasing impact the presence of social media has in fostering schisms in personality and ego. Its a claustrophobic, anxious barrage that creeps as close as it can to the cliff without plummeting.

The album packs its oil caked pummel into just three tracks but each of those three build to an increasingly desperate plateau. By the closing track’s 18+ minute mind scratch, its hard not to spend the rest of the day wrestling with anxiety, feeling the walls close in and praying for rain. This is certainly about the bleakest set I’ve heard from Gnod, but there’s something comforting in its clangorous gnash. It feels like fighting, like pushing against the walls that have been imposed by unseen hands and in that regard Gnod have created a bit of a hopeful album as well.




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