Among my chief complaints is that there’s is so much good and interesting music out there, even pushing myself as much as I can, a lot of it slips through the cracks. That’s an unsolvable problem, obviously, but here’s the thing: I listen to a ton of music every week. Much of my day revolves around having headphones on or speakers blasting some strange sonic potion and I often jot done a random thought here or a little observation there. Sometimes those little ideas spark bigger ideas and that’s where the longform reviews on Foxy Digitalis are ultimately conceived. However, a lot of the albums I listen to stay in those little scrawled notes. The thing is, a lot of those albums are quite good, but I simply can’t flesh out my thoughts further on all of them.
When I put together this 2020: An Epilogue article to kick off 2022, it gave me a bigger idea. That article was a list of reader-inspired favorites borne from conversations around Foxy Digitalis’s year-end coverage, but I knew that simply listing a handful of albums that resonated with me wasn’t enough. And so I wrote a couple sentences – little capsule reviews if you will – about them and compiled the feature from that. A lot of people told me they found albums they’d missed or heard things that excited them from that list, so my brain spun that into a regular (I’m hopeful this will be weekly) round-up of music that made an impression but didn’t end up growing into a full-on review.
One last note – just because I didn’t write 500+ words about any of the albums featured in this column (this week and going forward) certainly doesn’t make them less worthwhile. I can’t explain why my brain comes up with four paragraphs about one album and four sentences about another. It’s not a judgment call, it’s just the way I’m wired sometimes. With all that said, enjoy the first installment and check out some of these absolute gems.
Camila Nebbia Presencias (Sound Holes)
Nebbia’s tone is lithe and sharp. It cuts through empty space like a brass scalpel, opening up surprise passages where gongs become siren songs and her spoken word is a speculative glance. Life creeps in at every crack, footsteps and voices reminding us we’re still here and waiting. Nebbia continues to show why she’s one of my absolute favorites.
BLAKMOTH Phantom Limb (Self-Released)
BLAKMOTH never disappoints. When I need something visceral, dark, and heavy, he’s my go to these days. Deep cuts through the roiling murk where a living sonic boom is just as likely to slither past as a synthetic saw wave, Phantom Limb is a world cut off from reality and ready to rock the death throes to sleep.
Misty Picture Lens Blossom (Pointless Geometry)
Underwater worlds come to life through this synth prism from this duo of Enchanted Lands and Wim Dehaen. Artificial landscapes exhale oxygenated neon into glossy images etched in glass. Voice chants are broken into component parts to create a new devotional future. Globules of dreammatter coalesce into aqueous rainbow blooms before teleporting us back to the verdant shimmer.
Kendraplex Two Rivers (Self-Released)
I’m completely obsessed with this. Kendraplex assembled this 40+ minute two-sider of all original music and it’s a total trip. Autoharp fieldscapes dressed in resonant warmth holding hands with kosmische gloop dodging stilted rhythms in a black and white mixing bowl of synth granules coalescing into the sweet crunch of her guitar. Voices break through the radio jamming frequencies only to be told to stay inside because the entire world outside is on fire. It’s all about the organ passages, though. I’m reminded of the best bits from Imaginary Falcon-era Peaking Lights jams, flowing like a magical river through neon forests. I need all the organ grooves in my life and will ride this wave into the abyss. This is so good.
francisco lopez + mykel boyd microscale deploy knob (zyf) (Somnimage)
The machines are talking to each other, but they don’t know we’re listening. Submerged synthetic spittle gargles wires into intricate shapes, spreading a message of destruction into every sentient molecule. Be still and draw something pretty.
Richard Norris Ultramarine (Self-Released)
Side-long aqueous excursions with deep-toned synth motifs. There’s so much blue injected throughout each aural corridor that the heart-wrenching resonance becomes a meditative trance. Mermaids drift beneath the waves; lovely and inviting at the core of everything.
Alex Green Curvature of the Earth (Self-Released)
Curvature of the Earth is my first foray into Alex Green’s work and it’s been such a wonderful surprise. The opening clockwork rattle is intricate and pristine; the metallic tones and humming guitars combine to create magical automatons and whimsical landscapes. Elsewhere Green is more introspective, pulling angular notes from distant suns, but there’s always a silver thread to tie it all together. Beautiful. I can’t wait to hear more.
Gabby Wen a posteriori 後知 (Self-Released)
Situational readouts start as noise walls and quickly turn into aerated guqin improvisations bent in countless directions. Soft wooden rhythms buoy flocks of birds fighting with airplanes overhead, the field recordings adding life and texture to this nonlinear excursion. Wen’s voice folds into the sonic spaces, a moving surprise creating signals to new worlds and beckoning the lost ones home. A fantastic debut.
Lambda Sond Waglands 1921 (Important Records)
Glass enclosures filter light through verdant matrices growing like tendrils reaching toward heaven. Alien colonies transmit melodic missives through a silver haze, quietly meditating on the patterns made by three suns in the sky. Drenched in nitrogen rain, the greenhouse rises again.
Julien Demoulin Everything Forgotten, Everything Remembered (Self-Released)
The surface may be pristine and calm, but the void lurks underneath. Demoulin is a conjurer and his drones become ingredients to strong potions, lulling us into a state of semi-consciousness while the bottom becomes a swirling mass of beautiful emptiness. I’ll sleep well here.
Hideaki Shimada [島田英明] October Variations (scatter)
The world is written on strings. Steel tension stretched across eons while Shimada caresses piano keys as he walks the intricate passageways like a tightrope walker on his last leg. Tape manipulations blast the bowed screech into subterranean boxes, the sound bouncing around, encased in dirt while searching for a way to escape. This single piece is an incredible, edge-of-the-seat journey. I am transfixed.
Orasique Ixtlahuaca (Public Eyesore)
Junkyard free improv from Mexico City that’s running through the gutters with strangled percussive cacophony and destroyed guitar skronk. Tension is ratcheted up to a million. Empty space becomes thick with sonic goo and taunting voices daring us to take another step into this warped carnival.
Anne Laplantine Selected Poubelles I (Powdered Hearts)
Microscopic worlds teeming with electronic life are put under the microscopic. Nearly 90-minutes of ethereal sonic reverie, whimsical backward non-pop, and a whole lot of engaging strangeness in between. Anne Laplantine is a delight and this is such a wonderful, massive dose of what makes her great. This is kid-in-a-candy-store wonder at its finest.