Well, I hoped to maybe get an installment of The Capsule Garden out while were in the Pacific Northwest, that obviously didn’t happen. There’s been a bunch of great, interesting music coming out in that time and I’ll never get to it all, so here’s a smattering of music I listened to on the trip.
Golden Donna It Won’t Be There When You Reach For It (Self-Released)
When Joel Shanahan dons his Golden Donna moniker, something special awaits. It Won’t Be There When You Reach For It collects four new pieces in a faded neon cocoon. Tension rides shotgun across writhing ethereal waves connected at disparate angles to living structures. Austere exteriors melt into the engaging slipstream where buoyant basslines bring whimsy to the layers of lamentable melodies. Shanahan is so good at the slow build, filling out tracks as they careen toward an unseen destination to the point where it’s fantastically overwhelming. A shattered ceiling becomes a deep space dance floor where woozy arrangements bleed into future memories. This intricate, enchanting music can delude us into thinking the backside of our downfall won’t be so bad. Shanahan is a king.
Razen Regression (Marionette)
I love Razen, but add in Will Guthrie on percussion and Paul Garriau on hurdy gurdy and something special is born. Regression feels ancient, as though it was unearthed from a haunted tomb. Opening with the triumphant spectacle of “Wood,” Regression is a trip. Celesta runs shimmer like moonlight across a frozen lake on “Aether” with Garriau’s hurdy gurdy building tension. Organic clatter underpins quizzical whistles and detached harmonium drones before exploding into dissonant shards. “Moon” is a soft and dark fantasy world draped in elegiac tones while closer “Sleep” sends listeners into a dreamworld only to find abstract nightmares in the pattering rain. Highly recommended.
Paola Lesina Hot Conversation (Falt)
Everything about Hot Conversation is strange and wonderful. Calming field recordings mixed with surreal and alluring vocal incantations and experiments create a familiar space shaded in different hues. Lesina’s extended screech on “Fondente” is a beacon, a warning. Meandering recitations over a backdrop of quiet birdsong is raw and vulnerable as though we’ve been let into some secret world. It’s like being lost in the deep woods finding new ways to stay collected and alive. I can’t get enough. Pure magic.
KMRU Imperceptible Perceptible (Longform Editions)
Rippling aural vistas blossom from affectional synth arrangements that bleed into one another as they drift away, lost in time. Memories of better days pirouette in the upper frequencies, a kaleidoscopic sonic ballet trying to find distance from the gravity of the swelling aural void below. Voices and the sounds of a city add life in wistful strokes; remembrances that slowly fade from view. Noise creeps in from the outset, building toward a broken facade encompassing the lithe, elongated melodies; filling spaces with familiar timbres only to sculpt them into something enlivening and new. KMRU always delivers music that is stirring and unforgettable.
Sally Decker & Briana Marela Small Tremble In Slow Motion (Surface World)
This guided meditation borne from a remote artist residency with Qubit sounds more like fragments from a sound diary beamed backward through time from a desolate future. Within the storytelling framework of Small Tremble are shards of anxious electronic detritus enveloping the voices in a storm of disquietude. Some moments feel calming, leading to deeper revelations and surprising epiphanies, but I keep getting lost in the angular pathways where growing self-awareness almost becomes too much. It’s a stunning album filled with otherworldly soundscapes overlaid with distant woe and sorrow that finally sparks new growth in the 16-minute title track that closes the album.
Burgundy Relief April & July (Self-Released)
The last light is snuffed out with a quiet patience on April & July, a new collaborative project from Beau Devereaux and Michael Vallera. Trails form in slow-moving aural spaces buoyed by trenchant, minimal rhythms where heartbeats bleed out into the glistening flora. Emotive electronic arrangements swirl like a funereal storm cloud stalking the horizon. Jilted sequences become fodder for a world turning in on itself as Devereaux and Vallera push through the blackened collisions to find a new kind of paradise on the other side. Excellent.
coraldefense housefly sting (self-released)
Alien pop explorations that cover a lot of ground and harness underlying dreams of whimsy spill out of the electronic confines of coraldefense’s housefly sting. Layered production shimmies in all directions with beguiling vocal melodies leading the line. Synths purr in the bright-colored sonic ephemera, softening harsh-edged rhythms with cumulous sonorities. Hypnogogic shapes emerge in the hypnotic leads and shadowy chord progressions giving housefly sting a sense of timelessness and wonder. There are so many interesting ideas here and the narrative sequence heightens their impact. Lovely.
Whettman Chelmets Brunch (Self-Released)
There’s something weirdly ominous about the cover for this live piece, like a solemn memory I’m trying desperately not to forget even though it gets further away every day. Chelmets deconstructs a thousand different melodies and repurposes them for wistful reveries and somber drones. Voices peek through the static, brief encounters with others’ lives that leave a mark without us even knowing. Sonic whirlwinds loom, not as a threat but as an invitation into this space where we’re overwhelmed with the past in hopes that we won’t forget, and won’t make the same mistakes. As a lonely piano sequence guides us toward the edge of this aural maze, the simmering textures shift into faint distractions that grow into a howl before evaporating as crystals in the sunkissed sky.
Family Ravine Away & Instinct (Round Bale)
On Family Ravine’s (Kevin Cahill of East of the Valley Blues’ solo guise) second album, Away & Instinct, meandering song structures find new ways to get lost. Simple structures hide the complexity of emotion woven through these emotive sonic vistas. Guitar resonances hang in the dusk with Cahill spelling out wistful messages in sound. Melodica passages become laments to seemingly immovable obstructions in our path, but Cahill presses on to find a certain solace in being stuck. Abstracted forms of familiar melodies give Away & Instinct a timeless feel wrapped in a gilded modern shroud.
Primary Mystical Experience Drum Art (Mystery Circles)
There’s a potent flow on Drum Art. While countless synths and electronics are floating through these compositions, this is foremost a drum album. PME infuses every passage on Drum Art with effusive rhythms, bringing countless timbres and textures to make these compositions positively sing. This music feels good. It’s transportive and affirming, moving beyond simple experimental expanses to explore zones without boundaries. Progressive beats dole out spirited grooves and prog-infused synapses spark to get bodies moving. More meditative spaces emerge, riding scatted waves of drum patterns into floating islands of hypnotic sound.