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Patrick Shiroishi Evergreen (Touch)
One of the most unstoppable forces in music shows a new side. Evergreen has its roots in Shiroishi’s visits to Evergreen Cemetary in Los Angeles, where many of his family members are buried. Field recordings made on those trips are foundational to Evergreen, where they’re imbued by synths, clarinet, and voice. Shiroishi channels his woodwinds-based work’s inquisitive, emotive spirit into new sonic shapes and ideas. The same deft touch is present, though. Passages hold together with gossamer arpeggios and glassine reflections, his voice lingering in the shadows like a permanent ghost. This music feels ageless, as though it’s always existed somewhere in the ether, waiting for Shiroishi to bridge a connection and pull it into this world. Evergreen is a powerful, moving document that sits with the best of his expansive catalog. Highest recommendation.
Sugar Vendil May We Know Our Own Strength (Gold Bolus)
At the core of this incredible album are three stunning compositions from Sugar Vendil. The pianist and composer threads intricate, obscure patterns into compelling sonic narratives. Along with a host of outstanding artists (Laura Cocks, Hajnal Pivnick, Mara Mayer, and Marina Kifferstein), pointillist excursions coalesce and break apart at just the right moments. Tension is a gilded force percolating in the foundations of May We Know Our Own Strength as these passages search inward to bring out a buried power. Vendil’s phrasings are so engaging, pulling our focus ever closer as cadences rise and fall with an imperious push across the breadth of what it feels like to let go. Vendil’s piano and keyboard arrangements are the lifeblood of each piece, buoyed by her transfixing vocalizations and her collaborators’ accouterments. In the end, an air of hope permeates the flickering aural streams, guiding us ever closer to deliverance. Absolutely stunning.
Ishmael Reed The Hands of Grace (Reading Group)
To call American poet, novelist, songwriter, playwright, and so much more Ishmael Reed a legend undersells the truth quite a bit. He’s a towering figure, and there’s not much he can’t do. The Hands of Grace features original music he composed for his 2021 play, The Slave Who Loved Caviar, presented for the first time in this format. Reed’s songs have a lyrical pensiveness, even in their most jubilant structures. The piano-based work (with minimal accompaniment in places) paints detailed silhouettes of stories filled with humor, joy, and despair. Familiar moods twist through unfamiliar phrasings to arrive in dusty alleyways stripped of their facade. Reed’s daughter, Tennessee, lights up “How High the Moon” with her spoken word, the delivery, and cadence matching the arrangement perfectly. Carla Blank’s violin and Roger Glenn’s flute become beacons whenever they appear. The Hands of Grace is a beautiful invitation into a timeless feeling.
Corntuth Letters to My Robot Son (Flow State Records)
Beneath a soft sheen of tape hiss, futuristic utopian landscapes emerge from a faded neon fog. Synth sequences dance in the haze with resonant fervor folded into electronic mazes. Corntuth’s sense of melody is infectious as he layers hook after hook on top of one another so that every aural crevice is filled with harmonic expression. Dizzying arpeggios melt into whimsical landscapes. There’s a welcoming cadence in the arrangements and chord progressions of Letters to My Robot Son that are familiar but assembled with Corntuth’s own interesting articulations. Everything in this world is bright and captivating.
eXU-9 Space Cadet Session 3 Stockholm December 14, 2017 (Self-Released)
Norman Long’s eXU-9 project always hits me in that sweet spot where emotional vulnerability and sonic exorcism collide (last year’s Space Cadet is such an underappreciated gem). This recording on EMS Stockholm’s Buchla 200 is relentless. Long navigates countless wormholes with a focus and curiosity that leads to captivating tonal progressions and combinations. Electronics sputter through resonant metallic caves echoing off each oscillating wall. Repetition slowly breaks down in the synthetic drifts, leaving sharp tendrils flailing in high-frequency space. There’s a buried narrative inside the noise walls that can be hard to untether, but the challenging nature of this massive piece is a significant part of its appeal. Long continues to push our minds into uncomfortable zones, opening ourselves to this cataclysmic experience. Excellent.
Raquel Gonzalez Sonic Creations For Violin And Lyra (Trouble in Mind)
These duets between a violin and a Soma Lyra-8 synthesizer (an instrument I am very familiar with) are enthralling. Gonzalez blurs the line of where one instrument ends, and the other begins, fusing harsh melodic explorations with a light touch. Movements throughout Sonic Creations are purposeful, pushing one idea into a new realm or bending timbres in new directions. Lead melodies get obscured in sporadic, skittering rhythms and enveloping drones. The processes she uses to mold the violin’s sonic palette into a guttural electronic feast seem otherworldly, as though nothing here makes sense even if I understand everything at the surface. It’s a hell of a trip that keeps me wondering how any of it is possible. Awesome.
ML rootless s/t (Flower Room)
What a beautiful collaboration. ML Wah and rootless get together on a Vermont porch to light the night with quiet fireworks. Over two side-long expressions, the two guitarists send tendrils deep into the drift, convening with the cool breeze carrying late-season fireflies adrift. Acoustic fingerstyle hymns are an organic foil to Wah’s spacious celestial electricity. Intertwining melodies resonant with abundance and restrained joy, happy to settle into a singular moment and let the outside world guide these steel excursions deep into the woods. It’s impossible to listen to these lovely duets without a smile, this music flowing within the natural order of things and becoming part of the terrestrial divide.
Margarida Garcia Good Night (Feeding Tube)
Good Night unfolds at the speed of molasses. Every impact develops its own gravitation pull in the slow, purposeful push into midnight. Garcia’s practice has always been unique in creating massive sonic voids with her electric contrabass, fusing stretched-out melodies with textural exploration. There’s an emptiness growing in those expansive spaces on Good Night, filled with layered drones and solemn atmospheres. Minimal arrangements let every note breathe and spread into the widening chasms. Ghostly charms decay into effervescent remnants of light. This music is elegiac and ephemeral yet carries the weight of a thousand dying suns. Incredible.
Cool Sorcery Intergalactic Void Boys (Syf)
This Brazilian one-man project from Marcos Assis bursts into flames straight out of the gate. Angular punk riffs grind caustic rhythms into a vat of molten debris. Assis sculpts vocal hooks out of the gnarliest shards, hitting us like a sledgehammer with memorable hit after memorable hit. There’s something claustrophobic about the precise production quality that only enhances the EP’s impact. He tempers this overwhelming feeling with stop-start progressions and wormhole guitar leads. Through its entire runtime, Intergalactic Void Boys bristles with acerbic electricity.
Bahía Mansa Documentary Coast (Colony Collapse)
Bahía Mansa’s latest is an unfolding daydream circumventing reality’s nightmare. Inspired by travels, memories, and photographs of the ocean, Documentary Coast is an intimate recollection through a filtered haze. Modular synth worlds give way to expressive harmonica laments and quiet, silhouetted guitarscapes. Iván Aguayo’s music always has this understated elegance, but these eight pieces turn that up a notch. Every sound and every sequence is meticulously crafted. Intricate and polished without ever feeling cold or distant. The aqueous undertones permeate each moving sound pattern and add a liveliness, sometimes buried deep in the undersea movements, sometimes ever present on the surface. As ever, Bahía Mansa has created something beautiful and inviting.
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