The heat continues creeping up to unbearable levels here in Tulsa, and the forecast worsens daily (110 on the horizon). It’s brutal. We always have gnarly summers here, but 2022 is pushing that too far. What a year. I’m trying to stay cool in a dark house. Fun.
In other news, The Jewel Garden launched a new Singles Club for subscribers. As a teenager, I was always obsessed with Sub Pop’s Singles Club and thought, why the hell not? Check that out if you’re interested. In the meantime, here’s a cache of excellent new offerings this week.
Ashley Paul I Am Fog (Orange Milk)
I Am Fog is a perfect title for this album of desolate whimsy from Ashley Paul. Existential questions are a dark, hazy mist with the gravity of an entire galaxy spread across nine arrangements of sonic cobwebs. The funeral march toward a flower garden filled with discarded ambition and childlike memories embrace playful melodies and subdued rhythms. Paul’s voice is, as ever, a beacon. She sings with an openness that gives even the most brutal message a saccharine edge. Saxophones breathe new life into a peaceful world. The chemistry between Paul, Yoni Silver, and Otto Willberg is infectious; it effervesces from every note, bringing a warm undercurrent to the darkness. I Am Fog is tremendous.
Fantasma do Cerrado Mapeamento de Terras a Noroeste de São Paulo de Piratininga (Municipal K7)
A stunning, psychedelic reverie from Brazil’s Rafael Stan Molina (h/t to Alex Tripp from endaural for putting this on my radar). Fantasma do Cerrado is a gentle whisper scattered across elegant guitar arrangements, field recordings, and resonant synths. Aspects of this feel like it’s a long-lost private press white whale while other spaces are beamed in from a desolate techno future. This music is timeless, as though Molina is a shapeshifter reincarnated throughout history, capturing this spirit through sound. Folk songs bleed into stilted, rhythmic routines and everything in between, telling an elegant, cohesive story that demands repeated listens. Highest recommendation.
Tiers La Familia Active Cultures/Active Couture (Strategy of Tension)
Sharp turns send metallic fragments spilling across the pavement, bouncing around in chaotic rhythms. Synth loops either rain from the acid-soaked heavens or crawl out of the neon sewer to build an angular sonic architecture that becomes haunting grounds for countless surprising hooks. There are tinges of wistfulness and longing, making Active Cultures/Active Couture a heavy splash in this summer heat.
Ryan Wade Ruehlen Tropic Of Paranoia (Self-Released)
Experimental arrangements and sustained drones built from woodwinds always get me. Ruehlen (a longtime collaborator with the always great CC Sorensen) collects a series of live recordings on Tropic of Paranoia, investigating obtuse tonal stretches and finding lyrical expression adrift in the meandering ether. Railroad clatter is washed in a bath of effusive saxophone skree. Quiet, textural cacophony bleeds into organic timbres, where sonic islands float down rapids beneath a flock of birds waiting for their last meal. Emotive and suggestive, each soundscape gestures toward the impending collapse.
Christina Burke Something kept close : outdoor music (Sawyer Editions)
I’m a bit late to the excellence of Sawyer Editions, but I’m floored by what the label is doing. Christina Burke’s Something kept close : outdoor music puts me into deep thought while still being imminently listenable. All three compositions on the album were played in outdoor settings, giving the environment a vital role in each piece. The way the timbre of the instruments interacts with the outside spaces is elegant and sophisticated, and it heightens the impact of these beautiful arrangements. Solo organ serenades bleed into birdsong and wind cascading through leaves. The two longer ensemble pieces give voice to shadows and fading light, disparate tones dancing with insects and motorcycles. Metal objects fuse together, their sparks imbuing woodwind tones with an illustrious edge. This music is intimate, vulnerable, and a gift to the world.
Viitakoski Blue Exhibition (A K T I)
Mika Rättö (Circle, Kuusumun Profeetta, etc.) offers two sides of minimalist piano excursions accentuated with gossamer electronics and an air of introspection. Notes hang for what feels like millennia in the quiet tonal stretches. Imbued with a heavy emotional undercurrent, each small passage in these arrangements feels like a lifetime distilled into minutes. Rättö hovers, reaching down from the midnight heavens to play each dissonant chord. Light fades, and the pathways all turn to darkness in the end. Blue Exhibition is stunning.
wøunds Nocturne (Low Versions)
Ethereal doom percolates through tiny cracks in the bedrock, digging into the earth’s center, where sonic explosions expand into spectral drones. Electronics whirr through the viscous atmosphere, elucidated shards cutting through the spacious aural blankets. Dramatic highlights glow, becoming melodic serotonin releases trickling through our veins and inhabiting every pore. So much of Nocturne is all-encompassing that it’s overwhelming, but that’s where its emotional depth emerges. Eyes closed, relaxed in the darkness, these sounds wash away everything to open a new, liminal dimension.
Amnertia Clearing (Wormhole World)
When this turned up in my inbox with a description of “album made from twigs and vocals,” I was in. It exceeds expectations, and Amnertia also goes in numerous surprising directions. Organic scratches lead to full-on noise-field rhythmic clashes. An intensity stitched into the oscillating synapses, and the vocals veer from playful to feverish and dramatic, adding a bizarre, wonderful element. Drones bleed into the undergrowth of this strange, original album.
Lieven Martens Short stories – pleasant and/or rather sad (Dauw)
I am continually floored by the breadth of Lieven Martens’ oeuvre. The enchanting Short Stories shows another side of his work, each piece a look into the intimate aspects of people’s lives. There’s joy in the horn ensemble and birds of “Sonorities” and sadness woven in the threads of “Romantic Collection.” Whimsy shows up, too, when Martens dances melodic keyboard tunes with a clatter of stilted rhythms and pizzicatos. Fresh overtones permeate the spaces between us, this music facing anything head-on, ready for another sunrise. Magic.
Chained Bliss s/t (Drunken Sailor)
Jagged resonance spills to the ground, surrounded by shattered glass and breathless hooks. Chained Bliss is gently pummeling, a body blow with a melodic touch that hones the edge of these raucous songs. Banger after banger, every piece breathes fire even if it’s not moving at lightspeed. Restraint isn’t a bad word. It heightens just how damn catchy this music is. Guitar leads slither through power chord mountains as Devin Graham spits out memorable lyrics. The angles are all wrong, but that makes this record so damn right. Everything I want in a punk album.
Gemini Revolution Switching In and Out of Consciousness (8D Industries)
Gemini Revolution glides through a city made of glass, dreamlike synths bubbling as afterthoughts. Dizzying leads sparkle and glow with mirth. Moments of sonic ecstasy filter in like light refracting against towering windows. A prism becomes a rainbow. Melancholy fuses with liminal melodies and simple rhythms to cascade between dimensions and create new worlds. Sweetness blooms beneath hope laced with aural opiates. Glistening tones move in all directions, an intricately choreographed synthesizer ballet. Looping sequences add to the lushness, buoyed by glassine silhouettes and a mesmerizing crystal sea. This is lovely stuff.