Another week of blazing temperatures has given way to torrential rain, flooding, and tropical humidity. Climate change is going well. In better news, Carl Antonowicz (Open Casket Sound System, the real star of Foxy Digitalis’s Illustrated Reviews, etc.) and I finally played some music together after talking about it for most of the year. More on that soon. In the meantime, here’s a heap of music worth hearing.
Grassy Sounds The Sounds of… (Destiny Records)
Ron Stabinsky and Nick Millevoi have been soundtracking my summer since the temperatures dipped above 90. Waltzing surf motifs bounce through neon memories tinged with hints of supernatural horror and the space race. Stabinsky and Millevoi are both exceptional talents capable of playing anything, but Grassy Sounds thread the wormhole of 80s excess and 50s beach pop soundtracks with a chrome needle. Grooves galore spill from every Stabinsky run and the fiery pomp of Millevoi’s musing riffs is dream fuel for the dawn patrol.
Donna Thompson Something True (PRAH)
Donna Thompson’s debut EP is a reckoning. Her voice is a smooth balm that commands attention, every note leaving me wanting more. She is such a force. Across four songs with jazz-inflected soundscapes and progressive R&B rhythms, she sings with a determination built on the bones of fighting for every scrap. Harmonies from another dimension are like sinew for a broken world, wrapping around pristine beats and visceral instrumentation to build something stronger, something new. Thompson’s words hold ageless power, and her voice could crack open the Earth. Essential listening.
Cassiopeia Sturm & Patrick Shiroishi The Invention of the Saxophone (Surface World)
In this incredible collaboration between two LA-based saxophone players, unseen sonic terrains give up their ghost status to slam down in the metaphysical scrapyard. Hair-singing drones blackout at high frequencies infused with cybernetic symbiosis. It’s like there’s some kind of electrical ESP connecting Sturm and Shiroishi as they navigate invisible topography, skittering through anxious runs and opening the gates so the blast furnace can sing. Brass walls try to confine the chaos, but simmering drips melt through and break free. This music is engaging and cathartic, pushing the limits of what we imagine as saxophone music. Killer.
Jem Finer Hrdy-Grdy (Thanet Tape Centre)
Kudos to Aidan from Bandcloud for turning me onto this last week – he clearly knows my tastes. Hrdy-Grdy is an elegiac curiosity. Finer concocts forlorn inquisitions and sacred drones from hurdy gurdy and electronics, spilling the secret history of lost civilizations into the thick air. Every melody is stripped bare and repeated until all meaning is sucked from its marrow. Finer’s arrangements are stark, but the bare palette allows each looping passage to eviscerate the morning light. Even in its most cathartic, dazzling paths, some unseen horror lurks. This is music for midnight and all its hidden hollows. Incredible.
Tumi Mogorosi Group Theory: Black Music (Mushroom Hour Half Hour/New Soil)
The well of incredible jazz from South Africa is infinite. Group Theory: Black Music is the latest treasure and one of the most potent statements in recent years from a scene full of them. Tumi Mogorosi’s songs and arrangements are steeped in history and dynamism, and, as a leader, he pushes this music well beyond its banks. A marching cadence presses ahead, anchored in the rich soil, and gives a host of exceptional musicians like trumpeter Tumi Pheko and guitarist Reza Khota room to wander. Surrounding the mighty tectonic flow is the sacred embrace of South African choral music. The combination of Mogorosi’s fluid jazz and the hallowed strength of this otherworldly choir is life-affirming. Absolutely crucial listening. Wow.
Bleakness Life At A Standstill (Sabotage)
Lyon’s Bleakness is the perfect, hopeless soundtrack for a world on fire, fusing angular post-punk desolation and goth-infused gloom. Heavy riffs snap at the edges of rhythmic furor with thick fuzz papering over expansive cracks. A wave of melodic hooks keeps pressing these songs into the darkest reaches where even the bleakest thoughts can’t go, offering a fluorescent light to clean away disease. This music is dense but never overbearing. Vocal exultations slam fist-first into the decaying concrete, each word a jackhammer tearing down these isolating walls. Life At A Standstill is the perfect mix of melancholy and catharsis.
Cameron/Horne/Flaten/Thomson Place Is The Space (Personal Archives)
What an unexpected, great session from four heavyweights. The timbral spectrum on Place Is The Space is delightfully all over the place. Angular guitar swashes fall into clanking metallic pits surrounded by deftly propulsive, catchy basslines. Håker Flaten never disappoints. Joshua Thomson’s saxophone has a pensive edge as it rides the clatter with an effervescent refinement. I am consistently drawn toward its illuminative spectacle throughout. This session further proves that Lisa Cameron’s percussive style and approach are utterly singular, with playing pointed, vibrant, and wonderfully strange. She paints such vivid soundscapes. Not to be left out, Jonathan Horne covers a lot of ground on his guitar, from skeletal pathways to ornate cosmic expressions. This is one hell of an ensemble.
Lorna Dune Anattā (Medicine for a Nightmare)
Anattā reaches deep into our consciousness to uncover existential questions and long-forgotten answers. Rotating vocal waves transmit deep into the ether where memories hide. Dune choreographs liminal, synthetic orchestrations into arpeggiated ravines and fractured skyways. This music is gorgeous, yet anxious for what comes next. Condensed drones spiral outward into crystallized signals and spectral synth leads. The light grows brighter. The day extends. Quiet rhythms skip around, expanding fault lines as Dune’s voice hangs steadfast in the celestial sphere. She creates a soundworld worth giving in to, a place to stay forever. Anattā is a masterful collage of sonic emotion.
Yui Onodera Too Ne (Room 40)
Onodera’s music is often so visceral and intimate that I can only take it in small batches. Too Ne is in this same vein, but there’s a certain familiarity that makes it more inviting. Roiling tones rise and fall with the seasons, spreading aural light beams across the landscape. Focusing in on the details within these larger contexts allows Onodera to move methodically from feeling to feeling, using exquisite sonic miniatures as a narrative form of expression. Crackling electronics fade into elegant synth drones. Crystalline passages become a reflective corridor where we can stop and let this music flow across our skin. Too Ne is beautiful in its vulnerability while still offering expansive vistas to explore.
Su Sous Toulouse en Rouge Tierra Verde (Steep Gloss)
I love a good mystery. Found sounds and field recordings that sound like the setting of a horror movie, Tierra Verde creeps through the abandoned landscape with purpose and a sense of dread. Cars roll past one after another, escaping the oncoming planetary erosion. Screeches in the distance are a reminder someone is still out there fighting the static ghosts, but every creak and signal flare opens another fresh crevice. These bizarre, minimalist soundscapes are messy and ominous, though I keep hearing messages in the static that promise something better soon. Tierra Verde is a curious delight.
tino interpreting clouds (sound as language)
Surfing in the subtopic latitudes, Santino Gonzales levitates like a silver-lined veil basking above the horizon. Desert-hued guitar explorations rinse darkness from the air, even if the wistful memories of past lives creep along the edges. The nestling crawl of beach birds, a whimsical arcade silhouette, a pile of hypnagogic drones, and the feeling that something has been lost along the way permeate the enveloping haze of interpreting clouds. It simmers and cools. Embers of the coming dawn sting the elegant glassine tones, melting each granule into a lustrous aural sculpture.