It’s been a thousand degrees all week, and it’s a miracle my brain is anything more than a puddle of spoiled mush. Today I will attempt to channel that pulp into another Country WiFi (my new duo with Nathan Alexander Pape) session, though the heat will have other ideas. Alas…
Every week I am utterly overwhelmed by the amount of music coming through, and every week I am overjoyed by that inundation. Bring on the sonic gluttony.
Cheryl E. Leonard Antarctica: Music From the Ice (Other Minds)
There’s something very strange about listening to this collection from the great Cheryl E. Leonard. Constructed over 14 years, Antarctica: Music From the Ice is the culmination of time spent in Antarctica, the library of recordings Leonard made while there, and the transformations due to climate change she observed in the process. Sonically, it’s such an elegant suite of aqueous vibrations, antirhythmic bell tones, intriguing field recordings, and hard-to-distinguish sounds. There are competing elements of desolation and warmth strewn across alien landscapes. Mesmerizing timbres intersect with the natural world in unimaginable ways, all guided by Leonard’s exceptional vision.
Mat Ball Amplified Guitar (The Garrote)
BIG| BRAVE’s Mat Ball discharges a penitent slab of guitar exorcisms with Amplified Guitar. Bedrock riffs hold court and embrace all the mournful damage oozing from his amp. This music is visceral as though haunted by buried trauma and midnight darkness. Still, Ball’s ability to fuse gnarly sonic textures with wistful, buried melodies pushes Amplified Guitar into a special place. Feedback sizzles in the margins before the fire finally burns itself out. Killer record.
Silvia Kastel Xantharmony (YOUTH)
Lush melodies congeal around a central source and expand into intimate sonic cathedrals. A longing suffuses the shifting tones as though Kastel keeps the melancholy at arm’s length for another glimpse of the sun. There is sacred energy here, even if it’s dissipating faster than we can capture or feel it. Birdsong is the cracks in the ethereal shimmer of Kastel’s aeriform vocal spells, and they grow into canyons beneath the aqueous arpeggios. Gelatinous incantations spiral into inconceivable shapes, pulling downward into a synthetic whirlpool to disappear from memory.
SIKSA Poskromienie złośnicy (Korobushka)
End-of-the-world transmissions spilled like blood into the blackened soil. Lean sonic elements open miserable spaces for SIKSA to eviscerate. Her words are laced with acid as she spits them over jarring, heavy guitar riffs at a million miles-per-hour. There’s such intensity throughout that it’s exhilarating and also exhausting. Her visceral screams shatter every piece of glass within earshot, so they become another sonic edge to cut through the abyss. These are the charred remains of a world that doesn’t deserve something so fierce anyway.
Theoxenia (Adventures in) Stasis (Self-Released)
Lush offering from (the former?) D. Charles Speer channeling ageless aural sprites into a new realm. Bouzouki meditations spill over, leading to buzzed-out drones and catchy basslines. Late-night vocal stylings are the antidote to space age fuel and the rhythmic glorp feasting on the roots. Theoxenia is simultaneously deep underground and surfing across the stratosphere, gleaning shadows directly off the hottest sun rays. On the edge of angular tonal shards is a feast for long-dead radio waves oscillating through interstellar debris. It’s all an excuse for the psychedelic remnants threaded throughout that lace elegant shapes in the sky and lift a resonant fist toward heaven. Huge recommendation.
Esmam La Crowned Nuclear City (Self-Released)
Dark, inviting drones emanating from Dhaka, Bangladesh, are welcome surprises. Forlorn memories get cut into aural shards and reassembled into emotive compositions. Varied timbres win the day, Esmam La Crowned veering from the distorted crunch of “Probeshadhin Shonrokkhito” to the crystalline reflection of “Landscapes of Loneliness” and wistful, burning resonance of closer “Not Gone But Forgotten.” So much ground gets covered on Nuclear City, but it’s connected in an unfolding narrative. Plaintive chord progressions sing beneath sheets of rain. A familiar hum emerges from melancholy synth arrangements and coalesces into a magnetic core. Esmam La Crowned is a project worth keeping an eye on.
Cult Objects Secrets of Pain-Free Living (World Gone Mad)
Once the fuse is lit on the opener, “What Do I Owe You?” there’s no turning back. Secrets of Pain-Free Living is a deep-cut menagerie of sharp angled guitar riffs, bass hooks, and a stellar vocal performance. Energy cavalcades through the lines in its purest form, bouncing on propulsive rhythms as Lauren Leilani Iona breathes gasoline and sets her heart on fire with razor-sharp lyrics. Along with the palpable force in Cult Objects’ music, there’s a driving earnestness woven throughout that elevates these already memorable songs to another level. I can’t get enough.
Devin Brahja Waldman & Hamid Drake Mediumistic Methodology (Astral Spirits)
The quiet pitter patter from Drake’s kit scratches its way out from the underground, pulled along by Waldman’s simmering saxophone reflections. Lean in. Get close. Details emerge that shade all the colors before the volume elevates. Waldman howls, and Drake brings in the bellows. They each stray at different angles, searching for different ground before returning to the intersection. Waldman’s playing is capricious and detailed, each note a brushstroke across the more extensive palette. For his part, Drake is right there with his own range in parallel as they wind through intricate pathways. The blast-off comes, and it is as cathartic as ever. These are two guys I could listen to every day and every night. Killer.
FM Radio s/t (Sweet Wreath)
Interdimensional time travel via garbled tape flutter seems impossible, but FM Radio found the key. Warped pop songs get further distorted through a confusing array of feral hiss and spectral silhouettes. Guitars loop in every direction before folding in on themselves, cascading like sonic diamonds down a decayed rainbow and into a place where ghosts fill the airwaves. FM Radio bounces between festering whimsy and sentimental desolation, all genuine and rooted in the melted summers of the past. Their vocal melodies are saccharine, but this music is rarely sweet and prefers the company of junkyards instead of the promised land.
Madeleine Cocolas Spectral (Room 40)
Spectral is such an apt name for this new album from Madeleine Cocolas. Her vocal compositions are like haunted reveries raining down from a distant heaven. Ethereal choirs lilt in wide open spaces, expressive and sanguine, waiting for seasons to shift. Piano arrangements come in with elegant reflections looking backward while still leaning ahead. Colas has an unparalleled ability to distill complex emotions into remarkable, engaging soundscapes, and Spectral is among her best. A beautiful, poignant album.
Colin Fisher Sol Invictus (Personal Records)
Embarrassed to say I missed this when it came out in spring, but I can’t let something from Colin Fisher slide by without investigating. Sol Invictus is a pensive deliberation spread across five spacious wanderings that show Fisher’s mountainous talent on an array of instruments. From the self-reflections woven into melodic arrangements on the opener, “Pistis,” to the effusive exploratory prog-infused “Arete.” Of particular note, Fisher’s guitar playing on Sol Invictus is revelatory, and the same dynamic force he saturates his saxophone playing with is present in these starlit passages. As ever, he is one of my favorites. (Bonus points for this being released on 10″ vinyl!)
BB84 ARDNACRUSHA (Wrong Speed)
Superstar collaboration between Paddy Shine, Moose, George Brennan, and Natalia Beylis leaves my hollow husk parched and wanting. Cataclysms are mountains to climb in these desolate, cathartic soundscapes. Surprise harmonies cut through the aural morass on “POWER,” infiltrating every liminal space with resonant supernovas. The clatter keeps things on edge. The overwhelming sense of illumination is cleaning. With “SOUND,” intricate details intersect at sharp angles, slicing the destructive drones into ruinous death spirals. Caustic subterranean howls meld into rhythmic explosions moving like molasses toward the sea. Calling ARDNACRUSHA heavy is an understatement. This music is a black hole where only darkness lives.