The hits keep coming here in September, the worst of the months. Can’t it just be fall already?
Irarrázabal / Baldwin Grips (Tripticks Tapes)
I can’t imagine something more in my wheelhouse than a double-double bass album with two of my favorite bassists, yet Grips still exceeds my expectations. Both Amanda Irarrázabal and Nat Baldwin are no strangers to Foxy Digitalis as they’ve put out countless diamonds in the last few years, but their combined force has a new gravity. Searching passages get lost, stretching the bass’s timbre into seemingly impossible places. They dance together, moving around each others’ exploratory sonic combinations as though their choreography is planned. Screeches and hollers give way to hollow remnants of another life, but a melodic undercurrent is woven in the strings. Grips is enticing, invigorating. The sound of life happening in the background becomes an aural blessing for the ages. Crucial.
Aaron Dooley Trapped In Purgatory (Island House)
The magic of Trapped in Purgatory is in its transformational approach. Recorded during the depths of 2020, music became a reconnecting force for Dooley and a host of musicians in his hometown of Bloomington-Normal, IL. Spiritual vistas loom on the horizon, perhaps out of reach but swirling with a hopeful spirit that will bring us together again in the future. Loose and free, the music on Trapped in Purgatory shifts between lucid jazz-infused meditations and bright-hued cathartic ecstasy. Horns and guitars dance on ageless rhythms, buoyed by catchy basslines and a desire to hold it all together. Darker passages lurk, finding their way to the surface in the quiet moments, but the forest of dreams is never too far behind. Revelatory, beautiful music. Huge recommendation.
Sarah Bernstein Veer Quartet s/t (New Focus)
Sarah Bernstein is delightfully unpredictable. The poet/composer/violist/etc. has a chameleon-like quality that turns up in many places, and her ability to harness many ideas and styles leaves listeners excited for further prospects. On the debut of her Veer Quartet, Bernstein, along with Sana Nagano, Leonor Falcon, and Nick Jozwiak, reinvent the possibilities of a string quartet. Lush washes spreading outward like an organic wave intersects with pointillist sonic phantoms to create emotive pieces flush with catharsis and reverie. Wistful, melodic passages are a binding force. The ground floor is steady, but there’s no putting out the lilting fires above. Pure magic.
Leslie Keffer Perceive (Self-Released)
Beneath an icy sheen, rhythmic globules and vestiges of melted bodies form a grotesque sonic wall. Leslie Keffer’s a longtime Foxy Digitalis favorite, and her recent run of music and art is my favorite work of hers yet. Perceive is gnarly to the point of becoming beautiful, so intricately constructed that the form itself becomes the resonant attraction. Minimalist beats scatter granular ashes across a faded synthetic gloss, rife with stillness but ready for one last jump toward heaven. Eventually, the tonal stretches fade into immateriality and live forever in the spectral ether. Excellent.
Iceblink Carpet Cocoon (Moon Glyph)
On this vinyl reissue of a limited cassette from a few years ago, Iceblink helps us drift away into ethereal zones. Whimsical guitar explorations find solace with lilting woodwinds, bright rhythms, and synth glimmers. Birdsong and other field recordings bring an open-air, organic feeling to the table where a veritable feast of playful melodies dance. Throughout, there’s a timeless spirit, as though Carpet Cocoon was unearthed in a dusty vault, a lost relic of another era. This, combined with the capricious structures and recording techniques, gives it its own air. Iceblink is treading in some beautiful sonorous spaces.
Nickolas Mohanna Sight Drawings (Run/Off)
Details matter when they slice through the morass on Nickolas Mohanna’s fantastic Sight Drawings. Using an expansive library of sound sources, Mohanna creates worlds within worlds. Grains of sand hold vigil for sonic remnants strewn throughout untold histories, while fragmented strings are the flame of wrecked synthetic drones and metallic guitar clatter. Freeform rhythms blanket variable expenses with a slithering beauty, holding up the resonant corridors with a decaying grace. Sight Drawings has so much going on, but Mohanna threads it together with a real narrative finesse.
Brasília Laptop Orchestra 10 yEars aLive (Public Eyesore)
The machines are getting real weird on this strange and beguiling document. Recorded over a decade in various places, 10 years aLive is a delightful sonic playground filled with alien sounds. Electronic squiggles scrawl out warped, melodic arpeggios over glassine shimmers and a roiling splintered sea. Rhythms appear as bleeping whirlwinds and subsonic rumbles, but they propel this music into different, otherworldly plains. There’s a maximalist, throw-everything-at-the-digital-wall approach here that is so appealing and results in so many unexpected tonal combinations that it’s dizzying. I love it.
Alexandra Spence a veil, the sea (mappa)
Aqueous bliss hides darkening shadows in the depths of the latest from Alexandra Spence. Haunting tones spread across the subterranean bellows like seeds scattering before a storm. Spoken word alternates between crystal clear proclamations and an obscured voice hypnotizing from behind a shrouded veil. Oscillators growl. The world below changes, dreaming of opulent ravines and luminescent shapes. Spence’s work is always mesmerizing and inviting, but a veil, the sea is so tactile that I can almost feel its sonic tendrils cutting off the air supply with a dose of beautiful sadness. What an album.