Posts Tagged ‘Synth’

L.A. Lungs

Breaking away from their work with Debacle Records, West Coast duo/couple L.A. Lungs release an ominous air into the new batch of Eiderdown releases. The pair’s work is methodical and measured — their sounds blend into the background like a good score. Said score seems to either soundtrack a quiet breakdown or the dark voyeurism into one’s own soul. On Magishishan! the hiss becomes a character unto itself, watching the watcher in the band’s narrative. The band remains masterful in their use of slow, menacing bass, letting the anxiety build under nail bitten keys that squirm and shift slowly on their heels. The album’s certainly not ambient for the relaxed soul, though thankfully its not synth for horror fans and Netflix cue builders either.

Their synth strain is something else. It’s anguished, on edge, and still somehow detached as well. There’s a feeling that terrible things might happen, and soon, but the feeling remains of watching from ten feet above even if you’re at the center of the maelstrom. Now this all sets the album up to be uncomfortable, which in a very real way it is, but its also able to burrow under the skin and find a home next to your own insecurities like an auditory lichen. As the record crests into the midsection, it feels like some sort of solace may be at hand, but as they creep towards a close the walls become tight and the air acrid. There’s no escaping “The Distant Light.” The final chapter feels like a gorgeous comedown. It couldn’t be called peace after what’s ensued on the rest of the album, but its a mixed feeling of relief and trepidation that lets a cold wind blow across the final moments.



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Spires That In The Sunset Rise – “Sax Solfa”

2020 seems like an awakening of psychedelic lay lines of sort. At the very least, its some sort of convergence of the psych-folk and cosmic foreces that were rumbling at the beginning of the ’00s. Following news that Farmer Dave Scher is back in the fray this morning there’s a new video from RSTB fave Spires That in the Sunset Rise. The band’s been bubbling under for a few years, though they did pop up on Astral Spirits last year for a short tape, but this one hearkens back to their Secret Eye Records days when I knew ’em best. The energy in “Sax Solpha” quavers on the air — voice, sax, synth all come together into an undulating chorus of fervent energy that feels like it’ll burst the thin membrane of reality and let the sounds spill over into tracers of color and chrome in all directions. The barrier holds tight just long enough for the song to come trembling to a close after six or so minutes of dizzying delight and with the last few notes, our collective worry seems to flutter into the still air for just a moment. The band’s got a full LP on the way, Psychic Oscillations out 10/9 on FPE records.

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John Jeffrey – “Leaving Franklin”

Got a real nice cut today from John Jeffrey, who’s probably best known as the drummer for Moon Duo, though he’s been working up this brew of Kosmiche synth tracks over the past year ‘n change so his renown seems subject to change once this one hits the atmosphere. Jeffrey’s debut LP, Passage is out October 30th on Ripley and Sanae’s Jean Sandwich records, which has been home to the first Rose City Band LP and a split with Kikagaku Moyo. “Leaving Franklin” blends a skittering beat with heat hazed synths that push past the usual ‘70s German markers and into something moodier and more inclined to fill in the vacant crevices of the mind. There’s some Ashra in here — at least a taste of the slick plasticity of Correlations — and perhaps a whiff of Heldon, but Jeffrey’s pushing even further into narcotic soundtrack territory that’s somewhere between blissful surrender and purposeful suppression. The song has a low sun in the sky, a strong buzz in the vein. It’s either the beginning of a self-destructive bender or the sobering end. The track reverberates a slip through the cocaine buzz of ‘70s cinema, the kind that’s beautiful on the outside but corroded and caustic under the surface. The song’s only a taste of what Jeffrey has put forth on his new LP and I can assure you that the rest stands up to the queasy optimism that resides in the bones of “Leaving Frankin.” The LP lands this fall from Jean Sandwich and its already a 2020 essential.



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Belbury Poly

On his last album, New Ways Out, Jim Jupp took Belbury in a less fantastical direction. ‘80s vapors crept into the cabin and the album began to imagine cinematic reaches and glossy magazine cover shoots. There was a surreal undercurrent (it is Belbury, how could there not be), but for the most part it was an album that embraced something more upbeat. It was modern life looking to imitate nostalgia and doing the feeling well. But those who’ve traveled through the Polyverse in the past know that Jupp’s world isn’t just synthscapes looking to give a backdrop to adverts that are looking for the rosy glow of the ‘70s in the rearview. Enter the next chapter, The Gone Away. The record returns to some sort of imagined captive kingdom that’s lodged somewhere between fever dream and coma nightmare.

The synths lay out a queasy backdrop of bewildered travelers grappling with being dropped into danger and unpredictable surroundings. While so many rely on a barrage of effects to initiate the psychedelic storm, Belbury has always succeeded in simply creating an unfiltered sound that simply feels like the floor being pulled from underneath you, like the sight of an extra moon on the horizon, or like encountering fauna in colors that defy human comprehension. While so many countless contemporaries armed with synths keep trying (and largely failing) to recreate the exploratory fear of ‘70s horror cinema, Jupp’s gone ahead and begun world building in sound, and the results are beguiling, disorienting, admittedly terrifying in their own way. The Gone Away is pocked with wonder, sadness, fear, and confusion, but as only Jupp can conjure the pieces fit together into a half remembered narrative that’s crawling through the subconscious and leaving iridescent footprints in is wake.

Naturally, as a Ghost Box release, this also benefits from the incredible art direction and design of Julian House, who remains as incredible as ever. Somehow Ghost Box seems to elude the larger review outlets, and that’s always been a shame, each release remains and essential piece of a puzzle that’s been doled out over decades. Perhaps one day the puzzle box will open. Until then. I’m going to keep listening.



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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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The Belbury Poly – The Gone Away

Its been a couple of years yet since The Belbury Poly released a standalone album and news that a new one is one the way for 2020 is well received around these parts. Jim Jupp, who runs Ghost Box alongside Julian House has been busy in the interim, with collaborative LPs finding their way out with The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks, Sharon Kraus, and Justin Hopper. Even with these sating a bit of the break, its exciting to hear Jupp’s hallucinogenic sci-fi storybook soundtracks taking root once again in the synthscape wonderland that he’s created for Belbury. This teaser isn’t a video proper for one of the songs, presumably mixing up a few, but the warped tone and unsettling delivery from director Sean Reynard and star Quentin Smirhes play well with the haunted nostalgia that Belbury lays down underneath. Pushing this one way up the anticipated list for 2020. New LP The Gone Away is out August 28th, and again its coupled with Julian House’s impeccable artwork that makes every piece in the label a collector’s dream.

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Tarotplane

A split last year with Prana Crafter brought Baltimore’s Tarotplane further into the light, at least around here, but PJ Doresey’s been issuing deep-tissue cosmic platters for a couple of years on labels like Aguirre and Lullabies for Insomniacs. He debuts on hometown outpost VG+ with an LP split into two side-long excursions into the outer reaches of crystalline headspace. The Feedback Sutras was conceived mid-winter freeze and the isolation and cold feed into the windswept desolation that scars the album’s surface. There’s something both macrocosmic and microcosmic at work here. Dorsey’s voluminous riffs and synth burble tug at the tundra like an ice core drill down through a glacier. The album leeches out the gasses and grit of eons packed in cold compress, refracting light off the crystal structure to create an earthbound cosmos in compact.

The first side is tenuous and trembling, with a slight tinge of danger lurking beneath the surface. While the coldness is at its core, something in Dorsey’s delivery sidles his work up next to the underwater explorations of Sven Liabek or the watery prog of Dominique Guiot. Like those soundtracks to the deep, there’s something of a descent into the abyss to Tarotplane’s latest. There’s a weightlessness, but also a force pulling the suspended listener further into the depths of shadow and light that flicker through the liquid lines of his playing. The second side sets aside some of the wonder to let the feelings of danger grip tighter. Its hard to fight the pull downward to the frigid waters that grow ever darker, even as the lights of the first track dance in glances back to the surface above. Last year’s split positioned Dorsey to take a hight place on the list of cosmic players filling up the ranks, and with The Feedback Sutras he leaps ever higher. Isolation just got a new soundtrack. Not a minute too late, either.



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Tengger

The new album from pan-asian duo (or trio if you count their child accompanist / dance enthusiast) is a glittering example of Terra Firma synth explorations. While many of their contemporaries explore the cosmos, looking to dip their synth strains in an otherworldly light, Tengger are doused in earthbound explorations of natural beauty given sonic flight. The band has long embarked on pilgrimages to inspire their work and it’s clear that the high, green-draped peaks of mountain trails and the verdant expanses of highborn waterfalls and streams give life to their new age psychedelic soak in ways that seem more dazzling than the outer realms could ever hope to achieve.

On the fittingly named Nomad, the couple move more towards an embrace of rhythm than on past Tengger records. The stratospheric float remains in place, but underneath there is a burbling, wondrous sense of movement that picks from the German Progressive template and adds a hypnotic flow to the album. With the DNA of Neu and Klaus Schulze in their veins, the band push the motorik impulses into a new generation, eschewing the modern tendency to mash these influences into a fine paste. They embrace the dichotomy of ambience and propulsion with a clear vision that ripples nicely in all directions. The album finds them balanced, clean and focused on a terrestrial peace that’s enviable, yet attainable, at least for the 37 minutes that they radiate from the speakers.



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Ezra Feinberg – “Acquainted With The Night”

Just in time to cool off the angst of the year, the new album from Ezra Feinberg (Citay) comes to quench the thirst for something serene. Built on a circular guitar line, and bathed in the cool blue waters of synths that ripple like a requiem for an unworried life, opener “Acquainted With the Night” sinks below the soul’s horizon on the last amber hues of sunset. After the final folding of Citay, Feinberg has spent time traversing the ethereal with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Arp. His close collaboration with Jonas Reinhardt from Arp is paid back on Recumbent Speech with synth contributions and he taps quite a few longtime compatriots with input from John McEntire (Tortoise), Chuck Johnson, Diego Gonzalez (Citay, The Dry Spells), April Hayley (The Dry Spells) making its way onto the album. I’ve long been a fan of Feinberg’s work with Citay and this feels like both a continuation of tone and exploration of new directions from the artist. Some days we all need a balm, and this is just what the mid-year stretch called for. The album is out June 26th. Mark your calendars.




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Tengger – “Achime”

The last LP from Tengger was a beacon of hope, a calm respite in troubled times, and as the band eases into the release of their follow-up, Nomad, they don’t falter as the deep breath on a cool morning we’d all like about now. Still rooted in shimmering tones, “Achime” also lets in a soft burble of rhythm to the mix, percolating with a cosmic ripple that drives the celestial tones and the vernal glow of life that’s woven into the vocals. The band accompanies the track with an equally gorgeous video, tying their sound to natural wonders as they have in the past. Nature and the splendor of Tengger always seem to be on parallel tracks and here they wet down our souls in the font of rebirth yet again. The LP lands June 7th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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