January is 2/3 finished, and I still feel like my brain is only half-functioning. I don’t know why the end-of-year break zonked me out so much, but getting back into the site’s rhythm has been a struggle. But I’m working on it! With that, The Capsule Garden is moving to Thursdays! I did 41 of these columns last year, and I aim to do at least as many this year. Let’s see what happens.
Sachi Kobayashi Magic Spell (Umé)
Soft vistas flicker with a cocoon-like resonance in the distances beyond our vision. As ever, Kobayashi crafts sonic environments with enchanting warmth and calming aural waters. Subtle movement sends gradual waves extolling the moment the astral plane shifts and magic pours into our world. Magic Spell represents the birth of something new. Unexplainable forces shimmer within the synthetic passages to open our connection to the growing universe within ourselves. A quiet masterpiece.
Chad Taylor Trio The Reel (Astral Spirits)
Taylor’s drumming has always grabbed me for reasons I can’t exactly explain, but he’s at the heart of what makes The Reel so listenable. Together with saxophonist Brian Settles and pianist Podgurski, the trio crafts a series of bouncy, lyrical vignettes; a few Taylor originals, some tunes by Andrew Hill, and more. Podgurski squeezes mesmerizing, pointillist patterns into Taylor’s angular rhythms, blazing a path that Settles lights on fire. Taylor leads the trio with his vulnerable approach, adding layers of emotional depth and connection. Pensive reflections veer into bop-infused cathartic expositions to give The Reel a rounded, world-traversing joyous feel.
Almanacs The Golden Hour (Self-Released)
I’ve been a distant admirer of Wilmer Murillo’s Almanacs project for some time, yet The Golden Hour sent me to new, unexpected zones. Melodic sequences and searching arpeggios lift the veil on a sonic sculpture garden imbued with wistful memories and serendipitous dreams. Gliding soundscapes shimmer like light reflecting off a gently moving stream, sending beams of color and wonder spilling in all directions. Buoyant cadences press us into comforting spaces where the aural synapses are ephemeral drone remnants drifting through the ether. This music is both moving and full of movement, guiding us to a place where we can float away on our own paths.
Ángeles Rojas breathe into the forest, into the bird, into the song (Sawyer Editions)
One of my favorite labels from 2022 is already off to a banner start with its first batch this year, with this stunning 38-minute meditation by Ángeles Rojas hitting me the hardest. Rojas weaves a spellbinding shruti box drone into elongated narrative shapes, with each pump of the bellows sending us further beyond the horizon line. Joined by a stellar ensemble of musicians on instruments, from tuning forks to cello and saxophones, the world turns green and glows like an incandescent memory. Each instrument’s resonance feeds off the others, bouncing through space and growing into a tactile embrace. This music wraps itself around us, squeezing tight but gently until eyes closed, we find another way to levitate. Incredible.
Martina Bertoni Hypnagogia (Karlrecords)
Dreams that attempt to mold surrealist fantasies drown themselves in nostalgia and come out the other side, alluring and unrecognizable. Cellist and composer Martina Bertoni’s Hypnagogia blows up this liminal space into six incredible sonic portraits. Darkness prevails in unexpected places but leaves tiny open crevices that let light flood through. Textural elements shade the distorted vistas with emotive chord progressions, and withering synthetic leads holding a candle against the melancholic downpour. The tangible quality of Bertoni’s cello playing brings these moments to life. This music is strange and wonderful, as though our reflection is being twisted into different versions of ourselves, not necessarily better, but impossible to turn away from all the same. Hypnagogia is an album that continues to reveal its countless layers after the last notes fade away.
Eyot Tapes Paradise Lost (Muscut)
Beneath the waves lies a mystical undersea kingdom obscured from view. Eyot Tapes imagines this decaying aqueous world through tape manipulation, modular synth skronks, and a peculiar yet fanciful aural narrative. Magic rises through hidden sea vents, spilling globular tones into rising spheres. Inside a cavernous echo, situated between layers of hiss, arpeggios bubble like neon fountains faded from decades of being forgotten. There’s so much movement on Paradise Lost that it adds a panicked urgency to the reverb-drenched melodies. This is wild.
Manish Pingle Samarpan (Ramble Records)
Mumbai’s Manish Pingle taps into an otherworldly stream on Samarpan. The Mohan veena (Indian slide guitar) maestro weaves spellbinding meditations across three divine ragas. Pingle has studied under legends Ustad Shahid Paravez and the late Shri Vishnu Waliwadekar, and through these three compositions, he pays homage. Pingle structures these pieces to slowly build into cathartic reverie, showcasing his undeniable talent and skill. Slow, methodic excursions dig deeper into our minds, opening a pathway for the sonic transcendence to come. Rhythms spark to life, pushing the winding guitar melodies higher and higher until each raga touches the clouds. It’s truly remarkable, transcendental music.
Warren Realrider x Mateo Galindo Spiriling Joy (Self-Released)
Voices sliced and diced from beyond the cryochamber spin in circular patterns around the spatial plane. Poisonous gas erupts, shifting in guttural stomps beneath a misfiring machine. Warren Realrider and Mateo Galindo both know how to cut through the drifting darkness with a diamond-edged sonic scalpel. Senses are overwhelmed. The fire glows red, white, and black. Slathered in glass dust, oscillations obliterate the last remaining shreds of our hopes and dreams before dropping us into an ice-cold vat of excess. Harsh. Awesome.
ÄILI AKA SUEÑÑÑO, Lumtz AWAROSA * RECONXILIACIÓN DEL SOL (bruma del sur)
Pink skies drip with cascading echoes of silver sounds and gossamer rain. Across two 15-minute tracks, Äili and Lumtz graft aqueous drifts with electronic chirps and washes, pressed forward by globular bass explorations. Synth atmospheres fill the empty voids when the curtain gets pulled back, but the space inside each piece invites us inside. Textural drones rise through sunkissed mirages next to repeating patterns and tape crackles. A minimalist, quiet choir of voices rises and falls, a reminder of our simple origins. There’s something profoundly moving about these soundscapes, as though we’re peering in on vulnerable moments lost in time.
OZONE SKYRYKS (Golden Ratio Frequencies)
Listening to these spiraling aural structures makes me realize I should have included the excellent Golden Ratio Frequencies in my list of favorite labels from last year, but I digress. OZONE is gliding well beyond the Troposphere with simmering melodic ecstasy. Shapeless songforms emerge from a fading ether, covered in misty harmonies and gilded reverie. There are bouncing rhythms in places, somehow combining stochastic edges with an aqueous spirit. SKYRYKS opens a view to the strangest dancefloor imaginable, bathed in high beams and woozy crystal energy. Moods shift all over the place throughout these nine tracks, but there’s a cohesive thread tying everything together. It’s a glorious zone to get lost within.
Hudson Glover Solar Surfing: Music From The Film ‘Crystal Oscillators’ (Hotham Sound)
There’s something magical about this soundtrack for Hudson Glover’s self-produced 2020 VHS film Crystal Oscillators. Sure, I’ve read the synopsis in the album description, but through the unabashed whimsy and aural romanticism underlying each of these 13 tracks, I can easily imagine the visual storyline. It’s a triumph of sonic narrative. Synthetic worlds bloom across hazy cybernetic landscapes, where melodic arpeggios bubble away like underwater vents. Humor and joy permeate the toiling spaces between notes, striking a poignant balance between living and dreaming.