Lots of big news sending shockwaves and ripples through the music community that Foxy Digitalis tends to focus a lot of space and energy on this week. The Bandcamp situation isn’t ideal, but I don’t find any of it particularly surprising, either. It’s a good reminder (to myself) to always be exploring multiple options and not put everything into one place. But right now, it’s still the best option for a lot of people I like, appreciate, and want to support so as it is Bandcamp Friday, I hope anyone reading will consider picking up some of these albums or checking out these artists and labels.
Lau Nau Puutarhassa (AKTI)
Any new Lau Nau release receives a warm welcome in this house. Puutarhassa is borne from a live performance done in summer 2020 on her makeshift outdoor setup, letting synth drones mesh with the sounds of a living garden. Bees buzz along happily beneath singing birds while simple chords carry dreams on oscillating waves. Arpeggios imagine a future where automation sends signals up the trees to commune with the sky, growing louder and fuller with each passing season. Speculative echoes are carried on glistening raindrops bouncing on wooden decking, each small pop a fleeting memory lost to disappearing footsteps. As ever, her attention to detail is wonderful and it makes the world of Puutarhassa come alive. In the closing moments of Puutarhassa, the transcendent “Ahvenkallio” shows the album’s glowing heart. Lau Nau makes room for us all to let go of ourselves and find the sublime aloft in the cool rain.
Chris Williams Quintet ‘Live’ (cow: Music)
Chris Williams is a force and this new ‘live’ joint is the perfect way to christen the new cow: Music label. The relentless flow of ideas on ‘Live’ is overwhelming. It’s like traveling through time and across dimensions to a place where space wasn’t just the place it was the focal point. Williams lathers layers of trumpet flights through an echo chamber while dub-infused rhythms bop across electronic filaments. Patrick Shiroishi gets in on the fun with some restrained skronk and I have to give credit to the incredible trio holding down the middle: Joshua White, Eric Revis, and Guillermo Brown. They are rock solid and when White lights his piano on fire toward the end of “Side Bee,” the ship is sinking straight into the cosmic sludge. This is essential listening.
Rosso Polare Cani Lenti (Self-Released)
The duo of Cesare Lopopolo & Anna Vezzosi takes up a perch overlooking the catacombs on the fantastic Cani Lenti. Saxophone squalls keep away the chatter in the shadows while disembodied voices are a reminder of the ghosts lurking in the corners. Clattering percussion barely coalesces into rhythms, though the chill across the skins is enough to raise heartbeats to lightspeed. Drones beckon at a distance, a tease of light at the end of a tunnel that only leads further down into the underworld where sweet little demons strum guitars at obtuse angles. This is incredible.
ML Wah Mirrored Night (Flower Room)
Lying in the grass with eyes closed facing a moonless sky, ML Wah’s speculative piano plucks become stars searching for strings to guide them. Each improvised piece glistens. “Higher Key” loops twinkling melodies with strident arpeggiated chords like sparks raining from the night. There are introspective salutations spread across all three parts of “Lunar Hymn,” while closer “Liberation” celebrates the call to cut those aforementioned strings and float free amongst the heavenly bodies. ML Wah’s spirit is illuminated on these eight vulnerable pieces and it’s a beautiful thing.
Darkroom The Last Sense To Fade (Whitelab)
In the basement, a secret lurks in the rotting foundation. Andrew Ostler and Michael Bearpark commune with ghosts through harmonic duets that stretch across the divide. Guitar, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, and electronics combine with a focused restraint. Drones grow stronger as shadows stretch out and encircle the heartbroken laments. There’s a longing etched throughout The Last Sense to Fade that hovers over each sonorous valley like a black cloud reminding us of the days fading away. It’s beautiful in a way, and each swell is an echo that pushes us forward.
Francesca Heart L’Inno delle Oceanine alla Bellezza e alla Fortuna (LEAVING)
Underwater dances performed beneath a crystal sea send a cascade of prismatic bubbles pirouetting toward the water’s surface. These aqueous sounds are a delight. Layered upon each other, figures take shape before dispersing into a shimmering mist. Synthesizers ride arpeggios through the rainbow heartbreak, searching reefs and clouds for hidden messages left by forgotten civilizations. This is the voice of the ocean.
Steve Gunn Nakama (Matador)
I love hearing alternative versions of these instant classics. Steve Gunn’s Other You is still on regular rotation here, but these are getting worked in nicely. Mdou Moctar’s bassist and drummer (Mikey & Ahmadou) add a deep groove to “Protection” while Bing & Ruth’s remix of “Reflection” is a space wave jam of the highest order. It’s somehow easy listening but so far in the future, it seems impossible. The biggest highlight, though, is Natural Information Society absolutely smoking out “Good Wind” and “On the Way” to the point of levitation. This is such a great addendum to an all-time album.
Carmen Villain Only Love From Now On (Smalltown Supersound)
Night falls but no stars are out. Carmen Villain’s newest is a warped vision sent backward in time filled with pensive thoughts and tales of stolen romance. Synthesizers bubble beneath glass, trying to push outward to touch the off-kilter trumpet silhouettes that howl in the limelight. Rhythms bound off the walls with gentle force like a tender caress on the back or a breeze tickling skin, carrying gossamer arpeggios through diamond corridors. As silver threads are braided into enchanted melodies and stolen glances, Villain melts the softest metals into the sweetest sonic cotton candy and fills the empty spaces between sugar strands with beguiling emotive harmonies. Stellar.
Virtual Balboa + Greg Kelley Petrichor (Creative Sources)
Abandoned factories come to life after the sun disappears. Machines may not be able to move any longer, but component parts howl away and grind further into the bedrock. The trio of Ben Bennett, Zach Darrup, and Evan Lipson is joined by trumpeter-extraordinaire Greg Kelly to celebrate the life that sprouts up in forgotten places. Tendrils of bowed bass growls encompass crunching guitar stretches, pushing through concrete to sprout vertically. Screeching metal beams buckle under the weight of settling concrete, each sprinkle of percussive intricacy a tiny creature settling in. The space on Petrichor wins out as each musician adds their own texture to the rust-laden decay.
Flower-Corsano Duo The Halcyon (VHF)
I’ll happily admit there’s an element to a new Flower-Corsano Duo album where I know what I’m going to get before I hear a single crash or note, but they never fail to scratch a very particular itch. Flower’s guitar spits out sparks at obtuse angles with surprising melodic fervor. One thing I love about all the Flower-Corsano Duo records is that it doesn’t matter who takes the reins for a spell and it doesn’t matter what depths they dig down to, the other will meet them there every time. Corsano’s drumming is, as ever, spellbinding. He plays with such precise ferocity that it becomes an out-of-body experience. Quiet moments seep in, too, and in those sweet breaths the world recedes, the sky becomes electric, and Mick Flower and Chris Corsano blast off on another trek. Highly recommended of course!
Marta Forsberg Light Colours In Jyderup (Warm Winters Ltd.)
Marta Forsberg’s voice is an instrument like no other. Inquisitive vocalizations tease out the boundaries present in this unlit space before she lets loose. Vibrant layers expand into full-bodied, warming invitations to step back and let the living vibrations wash across our bodies. “Light Colours in Jyderup” overwhelms the sense, filling our skulls with an incandescent glow, pushing us beyond meditative spaces where transcendence is a virtue. Forsberg takes us for a different ride that we feel in every pore as sprawling harmonies coalesce around a central point. New melodies spark to life; virtuous incantations recount ancient knowledge, transmitting through sound and feeling instead of words. We become whole.
JayVe Montgomery, Drew Gowran Reality Warping (Self-Released)
Saxophone and percussion share whispers in secret on Reality Warping. These eight vignettes are like shapes drawn in sand like sacrifices to the tides; music that glows in the feeling of impermanence. JayVe Montgomery fabricates quick, tiny wisps of sound that move with a slowed heartbeat. They’re packed with emotion as if they were crying against an unseen force. Gowran, for his part, builds delicate architecture with intriguing combinations of scrapes and clatters giving Reality Warping an overall feeling of breath held to keep quiet, to avoid detection.
Milieu Silver Ore / River Garden (Self-Released)
Long stretches of imagination become worlds of their own, gilded and stuck on a pedestal to admire as generations turn to dust. Milieu floats adrift on a cosmic floe, eyes closed and attuned to the melodic spires reaching out from far below. Silver Ore / River Garden features two hour-long-plus pieces that are a warm bath. This music is not quite still, but the subtle currents propelling it forward on resonant chains of piano saturate the landscape with aqueous jewel tones while atmospheric clouds wrap around every lilting passage. Held aloft in a time capsule, Milieu guides our thoughts inward toward the hollow cosmic center. Beautiful as ever.
Group Listening Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works, Vol. 2 (PRAH)
When Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works, Vol. 2 begins, spring is in the air. Lighthearted clarinet melodies skip along with the effervescent piano arrangements of “Sunset Village” like butterflies caught in the wind. Sonorous caverns open into magical wonders on “Y Cwsg,” clarinet and piano moving together with triumphant splendor. Group Listening cover a wide swathe of emotions on Selected Works, Vol. 2, from the quiet reminisces of “Take Care” to the jubilant surprise of “All Of A Sudden” and solemn reflections on “This Was Us.” The elements from song to song are mostly the same, but this is a varied album that keeps listeners engaged from the opening moments until the curtain falls. Tremendous.
The Smudges Song & Call (CryptoGramophone)
The duo of violinist Jeff Gauthier and cellist Maggie Parkins make music that I feel in my bones. With a simple palette, Song & Call echoes ages in each passage; histories open for a reckoning as strings are bowed and plucked with electronic effects building new monuments. Gauthier and Parkins open Song & Call with “Music of Chants (in memory of John Cage)” and it feels timeless, hypnotic. The way these two musicians play together is like watching a well-choreographed ballet. In the middle section of the album, things get stranger as new elements emerge. Effects expand the depth of possibilities opening a sonic well where urgency bellows. It’s deep and affecting. Elsewhere chatter shifts into full-on free squelches and writhing movement as Song & Call finds an eventual resting spot. This is an exceptional record.
Daytime Moon Chrysanthemum (Self-Released)
Guitar motifs dot the frontier. Faded murals crumble at the edges, but the nostalgia still peaks through the spiderweb cracks. Daytime Moon’s music is covered in a layer of dust and maybe a little frayed, but each of these seven pieces has a timeworn elegance to them. Simple melodies splinter off into new vistas where the past is hidden within coarse chord progressions and expressive leads. Skeletal remains of cosmic rhythms seep in from time to time, but they keep the storms brewing on schedule so these songs can sweep away the detritus we’ve left behind.
Codas s/t (Ways Inner Pass)
Repetition becomes a means to redemption on this interesting collection of sparse pieces from the duo of Cory Levinson (kohwi) & Yoshi Sergel (YSDM). Preserving the simple serenity of quiet places, Codas never veer too far into the ether, rather inspect and observe the undulating cloud from a short distance. Keyboard notes tiptoe across a wire. Speculative bass arrangements move beneath, neither a buoy nor distraction. It’s simple music that’s effective at pulling emotional undercurrents into view. A special note that Codas was released on cassette and as a special tea set edition that also includes a handmade ceramic & tea by Diana Mangaser (YSDM) and is nearly sold-out.
Karl Vorndran Cathartic Automation (Rubber City Noise)
After the last few years, the idea of hell started sounding pretty good. Karl Vorndran’s lost album has been exhumed from a dead hard drive and now Cathartic Automation can cut open a wormhole to take us back to 2014. Modular synth growls blitz through caustic rhythmic shapes covered in charcoal. There’s a feeling that any contact with these electronic sandstorms will leave smudges across every surface. Layers of rock buckle under the sonic stress. Vorndran keeps the pedal to the floor and never lets the intensity have a moment to catch its breath. Noise clatters and synth splatters become best friends again on Cathartic Automation when factories across the globe gain consciousness and head for the hills. Let’s dig a hole and live in it.