Kicking back into a higher gear after a slow(er) August, it’s been a busy week. So much good music has come across my plate that it’s been hard to narrow down what to write about (I wish I had a couple clones of myself!), but everything on this list is well worth your time. And a reminder that The Jewel Garden has a couple of new ones (Ossining and Charlatan) for perusing. Stay cool out there.
Manja Ristić Dobra Voda (Self-Released)
Manja Ristić continues to grab my attention with her quiet, inquisitive works. Aqueous landscapes rise and fall like a breathing world settling in for the long night. Dobra Voda is an exercise in movement and the interconnected nature of those movements’ sounds. As waves wash across sand and rock, and insects sing to no one in particular, a stoic drone emerges like a cocoon of warm air holding everything else aloft. Grounded feelings situate themselves in the crests, buoyed by this inviting, magnetic tone. Eyes closed, I sink back into the sea.
Li Yilei Secondary Self (LTR)
As soon as I saw the incredible cover of Secondary Self, I knew it was something I needed to hear. Li Yilei doesn’t disappoint with this impeccably composed album. Early morning howls are a startling beginning, but they’re offset by harmonic reflections and alien worlds to investigate. Yilei has an innate skill in balancing sharp edges and rough textures in ways that are never overwhelming. Strange guitar tones bellow inside a purring machine while electronics suffocate in spaces without air. Sure, Secondary Self is intense, but when it gets near a fever pitch, soft melodies, and lithe aural passages swarm. Each track feels like its own enclosed enclave. They’re interconnected and form this inner universe, hidden from the outside.
Mirensky / Sysoev Discordia Concors (Archive Officielle Publications)
When the duo of Feliks Mirensky and Alexey Sysoev set out to impose limits on their approach and palette for these recordings, they ended up expanding their world. Discordia Concors is disparate and riveting. Using a limited arsenal of samples, digital electronics, board-specific hardware synthesis, and no-input-mixing, an organic, twisted landscape of fizzing wires and digital greenery emerges. Sharp tonal debris manifests as cold corridors that should be off-putting, but melodic flourishes and an air of humor turn the whole thing into an upside-down, inviting circus. Unexpected ideas blitz through every pathway pulling a host of sonic weirdness in its wake. Nothing makes sense, except it absolutely does. Discordia Concours is bizarre and wonderful.
ML Wah Searching (Flower Room)
What a breath of fresh air. ML Wah, aka Matt LaJoie, is obviously a big Foxy Digitalis favorite, but this unexpected turn toward doo-wop-infused psychedelic expression is fantastic. LaJoie hasn’t done any front-and-center vocal songs in a while, but he’s always been so good at it. “Searching” is awash in the dusk light, simultaneously hopeful and wistful. The air is crisp, and the melodies fit like a golden glove, LaJoie gleaning the last rays of the sun to send us off with peace in our hearts and light behind our eyes, arms outstretched toward one another. So, so beautiful.
Morgana Contemporaneità (Low Ambition)
There’s an ageless feel to the sonic palette and lilting melodies on Morgana’s stellar Contemporaneità. Cold wave arrangements are tempered by the expansive, luminous guitar tone and Bri’s beguiling vocals. Morgana weaves countless hooks into the angular aural sheets, buoyed by propulsive rhythms and bouncing bass lines. Indie pop elements cascade through Bri’s voice and Sola’s chord progressions, but Contemporaneità holds its visceral edge to the fire, gleaming like hot coals in the darkest night. Killer.
Mary Lattimore “The Last Roses” (Self-Released)
It’s easy to get lost in the intricate, gossamer shimmers of Mary Lattimore’s spellbinding 16-minute “The Last Roses.” Repeating patterns coalesce into glassine sonic towers, a place that appears fragile from the outside but is infused by a potent timeless spirit. Lattimore’s playing is weightless as though suspended in the air by the lightest breeze, even as each progression pierces like a hail of needles. Determined, faultless. Each section glows with a building urgency, unencumbered by gravity and willing to touch the sun. What an incredible piece of music.
Tyler G. Holst Antic Aquarium (Transcendental Tapes)
I find Tyler G. Holst’s aquatic creations transfixing. Music for ammonites & their utopian environment has been on semi-regular rotation for the past couple of years, but he continues expanding his underwater universe. Antic Aquarium situates itself next to undersea generators and experimental sonic reveries. Mechanical loops gloss over invisible waves held up by prismatic gem tones and liminal whispers. Each longform piece is immersive and lulling, but our journey gives us new looks into the brightest depths. Good stuff.