There’s a decent chance this will be the final Capsule Garden for the year, but I’m not quite ready to call it and have hopes for one last installment next week. But if this is it, 41 of these columns in the space of a year is pretty incredible if I can pat myself on the back for a minute. I love doing this, though (and am excited for Scott McKeating’s new Microforms column in the same format), and I am excited to have the opportunity to share more music.
Some upcoming programming notes… Foxy Digitalis will be on hiatus from roughly December 22 until January 9. I’ll publish the 2022 recap article on our return. I mentioned this on Twitter, but I know many of you aren’t on there, so I’ll repeat myself – pushing the year-in-review pieces to January (when they were always published back during Foxy’s original run) feels right. There’s still great stuff coming out, so why rush? I also plan to do what I did last year, ask for reader input on music I missed and do a quick follow-up article with some favorites from those recommendations. It’s been a hell of a year of fantastic tunes.
With that, I’ll mention again that there’s a new Charlatan album out called Earth Games that I’m very proud of, and I’d love for you to check it out HERE. Now onto the capsules…
Malcolm Goldstein/Fred Lonberg-Holm Missa Amissa (Notice Recordings)
Two longtime figures in improvised and experimental music caught on tape in 2003, creating an impenetrable, cacophonous sonic wonder. Strings simmer and drone, intersecting at unexpected angles. At times Goldstein’s violin is like a boa constrictor around the timbre of Lonberg-Holm’s cello. Roles reverse and disintegrate into the thick room ambiance. Goldstein’s voice emerges like a liminal specter, an incisive cut into the opaque aural densities howling underneath. When a desolate melody emerges from the floorboards or a series of visceral scrapes catch fire, Missa Amissa leaves us unable to move. This music unfolds organically to find relief in the disconsolate surrender. Huge recommendation.
Elyse Tabet with Pascal Semerdjian and Yara Asmar Low Toms Bright Bells and Darkest Spells (Ruptured)
Another stunning release from Beirut’s Ruptured label, this time seeing one of my 2022 favorites, Yara Asmar, joining up with Elyse Tabet and Pascal Semerdjian for a series of incredible sonic experiments. Saturated electronics crawl out from a buried well, pulled up on strings by frenetic rhythms and metallic resonance. Ghostly melodies emerge from behind a veil of caustic drone and levitate like constellations made of glass. This music is simultaneously powerful and fragile; it will fall to pieces and use the shards to cut us to shreds. Tabet’s approach is visceral but engaging, creating spacious aural moments filled with living memories, impossible to ignore. Elements of dissonance filter through but never overtake the tonal embankments while adhering to the melodic expressions throughout. Low Toms Bright Bells and Darkest Spells is a captivating trek I’ll be returning to for months.
bvdub & James Bernard Departing in Descent (Past Inside the Present)
The space between day and night glimmers like a distant pearl, infused with glassine recollections and wistful melodies. Departing in Descent bathes in every last ounce of that light through emotive arrangements, engaging vocal explorations, and a general feeling of sensory overload. This music is maximal in almost every way, from the blown-out production to the layered density, composed to envelop listeners within a harmonic sphere. Voices melt into synthetic valleys where sequenced loops dance and fade away before dawn peaks over the horizon. Crystalized arpeggiations become a road map between crescendos, giving way to introspective laments distilled into intense drones. Departing in Descent is a remarkable collaborative effort that shows both artists’ best sides and creates new ground in the process.
Mong Tong Indies EP (FADA)
Sentimental grooves cut through digital forestscapes, clearing a path for serrated arpeggios and beguiling vocals. Indies is filled with basslines for days. They’re the foundation and the pinnacle. Everything else – rhythms, synths, vocals – moves in and around the subterranean lurches. Slow builds show considerable restraint, but this music is always ready to explode into the tropical ether. Each track has a distinct mood, and together Indies forms a kind of inviting surreal narrative. Architectural beat structures glow with a metallic sheen, a perfect counterbalance for the often-distorted synths. This adds opaque textures throughout Indies, fueling the rich intricacies of the music.
Waclaw Zimpel & Hans Kulk Breath of Brahma & Sri Crickets (Tak Picture)
Heavy, transcendent meditations gently explode from the confines of this first collaboration between clarinetist Waclaw Zimpel and electronics maestro Hans Kulk. A slow rise and expressive exhale repeat up the mountain on a staircase of dense saw waves and affecting, drawn-out clarinet melodies. “Breath of Brahma” is massive and enveloping. Zimpel and Kulk use density as a warm cocoon, bringing different timbres and textures to create an inviting sonic glow. “Sri Crickets” jumps through pointillist landscapes with polyrhythmic repetition, purposeful with its tonal shapes and engaging through an organic palette. Minimalist piano arrangements dance intricate steps on the churning foundation to scratch out cryptic messages in the aural patterns. It’s an excellent counterpoint to “Breath of Brahma.” What a record.
Bella Tinku (Buh Records)
Buh Records continues to be a revelation, consistently putting out incredible music from new-to-me sources. Bella’s Tinku fits the bill in spades. Fried electronics set the table for alien vocal acrobatics before moving into decaying caverns. High-pitched pulses sputter and explode into a blackened sky, charred beyond recognition yet alive with frenetic energy. Joined by a host of stellar collaborators, Bella guides Tinku through primeval ecstacies that move beyond the scattered, noise-infused elements. There’s something profound hidden inside these screaming bones obscured by growing shadows towering above the mayhem. This is killer.
Bohannon & Turnquist living fictions | silent rooms (Aural Canyon)
These duets are living in the magic hour. Golden resonance flows in metallic waves from the acoustic pendulum swinging through light beams like they’re shards of the lost cosmos. These songs are laden with emotional warmth, buoyed by Tom Abbs’ cello in places, alive in a wash of pensive drones and feedback. Bohannon and Turnquist walk the path with purpose and confidence, choosing each note carefully from an endless river of possibilities. There’s a timelessness stitched into the bones and chord progressions as though these songs have always existed somewhere in the ether, waiting to be pulled into this plane. Stunning.
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