The world keeps spinning and the music keeps flowing. Here’s some recordings that have been in my ear this week and refuse to leave.
Lola de la Mata KOH – Klee – uh (SA Recordings)
Kicking off SA Recordings’ single series, The Hearing Experience, Lola de la Mata’s tactile, introspective “KOH – Klee – uh.” The piece, based on her experience with tinnitus, finds grinding bass sludging forward like a body dragged through fetid mud. Joby Burgess adds contrasting resonance with sharp, glassine tones sculpted from his Canna Sonora (a 9-foot tall aluminum harp). The dichotomy reorients perceptions, building an unearthly tension that spreads through the entire piece like a parasitic web. “KOH – Klee uh” is excellent and I am excited to hear the wider project of which it’s part (as well as what The Hearing Experience will offer next).
Brodie West Quintet Meadow Of Dreams (Astral Spirits/Ansible Editions)
Toronto’s Brodie West is on a roll right now. The forthcoming Eucalyptus album he plays a pivotal role in is stellar, but Meadow of Dreams is a smooth pill to swallow. West’s saxophone playing is weightless as though he’s pinging from cloud to cloud in search of a golden ticket. The whole ensemble is faultless, though. Moments of quiet contemplation where pianist Tania Gill and bassist Josh Cole push back and forth, urging someone to relight the fire. Drummers Nick Fraser and Evan Cartwright are like puppeteers keeping everyone connected and sending up flares when needed. Cartwright also brings cold heat with his vibraphone exultations and guitar playing, always adding the right texture and resonance to these feather compositions. West is the center, though, and this is some of his best sax playing yet, always present and hitting each note, each run with heart. Meadow of Dreams is stellar.
Thyme Lynes Galactic Templates / Palm Rubber Land (Cudighi)
There’s an underlying bounce to most of the songs on the Galactic Temples half of this release as if we’re bobbing down a neon river surrounded by fantastical flora and swinging vines. Simple rhythms pulse under the strong currents, lilting synth arrangements, gleaming chimes, and bubbling electronics always pointing forward. It’s a magic trip. Palm Rubber Land is the hallucinatory destination stretched across mind-bending timbres. Using the entire spatial plane, the duo weaves sonic tapestries in every color and uses the moving air to spin unimaginable shapes and cadences. I can’t help but be reminded of the psychedelic spirit in Monopoly Child Star Searchers at times, but it’s clear that Thyme Lynes is dripping into tomorrow.
picnic lucky numbers (Daisart)
Meandering loops that are actually secret maps to hidden paradises. Guitars traipse through hanging leaves, stepping softly along paths made of crackling drones. The details shine brightest, poking holes in the gossamer veil surrounding lucky numbers. Each scratched-out melody is a forgotten face in the stream of lives lived in distant neighborhoods, crowding the water source to get the last drops before it runs dry. lucky numbers is an absolute delight.
Lisa Bella Donna American Watercolors (Self-Released)
American Watercolors is a perfect title for these two 21+ minute sound paintings. There’s layer after layer of different synthesis techniques coming in continuous waves, but every sound and sequence is a verdant universe where dreams come alive in an endless sonic stream. Emotive chord changes and electric arpeggios trace the outlines of these lush landscapes while sanguine pads become arching boughs fluttering skyward. Bella Donna’s talent for weaving countless threads into a gleaming prismatic world is, as ever, extraordinary. American Watercolors has quickly become one of my favorites in her remarkable discography.
Kyle Motl/Patrick Shiroishi Apparitions (Notice Recordings)
Apparitions has stuck with me since I first listened to it a couple weeks ago. There’s a cryptic energy running throughout these four double bass and saxophone duets. Motl’s deft touch ratchets the tension when needed before breaking the spell in the blink of an eye. His bow work is particularly gripping as it imbues his playing with simultaneous jolts of apprehension and catharsis. Quiet stretches end up shredded on the floor and Shiroishi is in excellent form, moving from restrained inflections to fire-breathing release through quick runs and sharp blasts. Together, Motl and Shiroishi move in tandem, creeping through abandoned corridors admiring the decay where new roots have been planted and the dirt reclaims the concrete. Apparitions is an absolute killer.
Jane Bruckner Agnes (Self-Released)
A small collection of songs dedicated to and inspired by painter Agnes Martin find a way straight into our unseen frailties. Bruckner calls these ’five movements in the same song,’ but the subtle changes on each are where the energy glows brightest. Eloquent sonic intonations wrapped in soft timbres create soft corridors where every corner is a new affirmation. Repetitive arrangements glide with an effortless gleam, holding each moment aloft as if it might be the last. Agnes is deeply engaging, filled to the brim with a melancholic wonder held aloft on sonorous waves of love.
Ilia Belorukov A Fluteophone In The Forest (Raw Tonk)
There is so much about this album that is in my wheelhouse that it’s kind of ridiculous. Belorukov’s prolific output is all over the place, but he is constantly showing interesting new ideas. A Fluteophone In The Forest is exactly what it says. Seven solo horn exploits were recorded in the forest of the Vologodskaya Oblast region. Restrained, inquisitive passages line up next to rhythmic bursts and full-on screeching. Insects and streams cradle the woodwind tones with a light breeze, adding a touch of whimsical magic to the whole thing. Huge recommendation.
Chihei Hatakeyama The Ancient Forest II (White Paddy Mountain)
Left behind in a dream, the light slowly fades first at the horizon but eventually stretches across the entirety of the vision field. Shadows stretch and fade. Tones glide through disappearing surfaces unmoved by the dwindling gravity. Arrangements are the length of a lifetime pulled across emotive emptiness where the silence feels alive and being alone is a timeworn memory. We become singular to become ordinary into the furthest reaches of forever.
Syko Friend Stars Fight Many (Unifactor Tapes)
Syko Friend (aka Sophie Weil) haunts this fried collaged world like a contented ghost. Stars Fight Many is an otherworldly expanse where rusted towers are the damaged paeans of another time. Guitar scrawl echoes in empty hallways as Weil sings, her voice a tourniquet stopping the last rays of light from escaping through the growing cracks in the floor. Smoke lingers. Hiss washes over everything. Distorted hymnals lift the ceiling to peak at the sky. Weil is steadfast even at her most humdrum, determined to break the egg open and make us believe.
Sunplus Soft Printing Machines (Canigou)
Lovely little worlds of aqueous microtones and flickering synthesizer motifs brighten even the darkest mornings. Soft Printing Machines is light yet it carries a hopeful spirit deep into the decaying hollows underground to sprout new life. Pads drift with a lackadaisical elegance saturated with winnowing currents colored by the sun. Beautiful moments uncloak when least expected and Sunplus captures them in sparkling translucent sonic capsules.
Selvedge The Real River (Self-Released)
I’m glad it’s spring, but the latest missive from Chance Dibben’s excellent Selvedge project distills the winter months into a surprisingly inviting sonic reverie. Stolid drones condition sweeping blisters into a hellish scrawl. The Real River rides the delicate balance between the moments of beauty when snow covers and mutes every surface and the chaos that is an icerink nightmare. Cracked glass arrangements cut through the whiteout even if the disintegrating electronics are begging to be let inside. Stay warm.
NRV sobyo (Tabula Rasa)
The intertwined melodies on the opener “a brief moment of happiness” had me hooked on NRV’s sobyo from the beginning. Electronic vistas emerge from behind a fog-laden with shimmering, modest arrangements, languid guitar soundscapes, and a scattering of field recordings. The calming rhythm of a train is punctuated with airy synths and lithe harmonic passages. Soft edges disappear into the background as chords rise and fall with the wind. NRV’s music has a calming spirit full of emotion and grace.
Tilda Björnberg, Jon Lipscomb An Arrangement in a System to Pointing (Self-Released)
Angular guitar and piano improvisations that raise the hairs on the back of my neck with their cryptic, searching nature. Björnberg’s use of the piano flits between string scraping horrorism and surprisingly sweet chord punctuations. The interplay with Lipscomb’s granular excursions is captivating and even in the most melodic, jazz-infused moments, there’s a strangeness that drives the music forward. Dark drones crumble, sounding as though Björnberg is sawing Lipscomb’s simmering tonal workouts in half with a dull, serrated edge. The whole thing is incredibly satisfying.
Pascal Battus Cymbale Ouverte (Akousis)
Metal expands into intricate forms throughout Cymbale Ouverte. Battus bends the circular howls into grandiose sculptures resonating reflections in a broken mirror. Severed synapses bleed like drones thin as wire wrapped around the world’s open wounds. Feedback cries on the back of a mechanical zeppelin slowly descending from the sky trying to harness the harmonic vibrations shivering through every solid structure. Bows and scrapes are the instruments of conviction here, but Battus has stripped the bowl bare and left nothing but reverberating crumbs. Excellent.