It finally feels like I’m getting back into the swing of things, and my brain is less of a puddle of mush. Hopefully, that’s a good thing! One small plug for The Jewel Garden subscription – kicked off a new series of subscriber-only physical releases last week that I’m pretty excited about, and plan to do more of going forward. Check it out.
Tetuzi Akiyama / Ayami Suzuki Allelopathy (Ftarri)
I’ve probably said it a million times, but I’ll reiterate again that Tetuzi Akiyama is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. In a duo with Tokyo sound artist Ayami Suzuki, an enigmatic vaporous presence haunts every corner of these two sprawling pieces. Allelopathy has an arcane spirit throughout, as though this music always existed in the ancient ether waiting for Suzuki and Akiyama to tap into its mystical threads. Angular guitar shards glow with volcanic heat, primordial and undeterred. Akiyama says so much with just a few clandestine notes. Yet Suzuki’s vocal incantations are something else entirely, an elemental force filling the cracks left in Akiyama’s wake. It’s an incredible collaboration that elevates each artist’s practice into finding new ground.
Heather Stebbins At the end of the sky (Superpang)
With the opening track, in a little over a minute, Heather Stebbins transports us into an ethereal, skyward cathedral on At the end of the sky. Her vocal experimentations throughout these six pieces veer from enchanting to mind-blowing. Twisting her voice into spiraling, monolithic shapes and all-encompassing atmospheres send our imaginations wandering far and wide. The spatial presence of this music is enveloping and relentless. It warms from the outside in, infiltrating us with illuminating aural brilliance. Buoyed by sharp oscillations and castigated electronics, cracks begin to show and open a rich vein from the heavens. Saw-shaped crackles and fizzing debris fall back to Earth, leaving us wondering what the hell just happened. Incredible.
Wasteland Jazz Ensemble s/t (Gilgongo)
Light the fires and light ‘em again because nobody blasts first without bothering to ask questions in the follow-up like Wasteland Jazz. Here, as a seven-piece ensemble, the howl is long, and the grinding is relentless. Thrashing guitars tunnel all the way from Osaka to lend a hand at the infernal scree, pushed past all boundaries into the darkest reaches of space by dueling percussion and electronic heart attacks. The onslaught never ends. Basslines dance like waterbugs up a cyclone, moving at an impossible speed without any cause or concern for splattering back to the ground. Sonic shards etch the initials WJE into every broken piece of glass on the wrong side of the tracks, staking a claim that paradise is just a squelching ball of mayhem left to shatter our ideas of what that word even means. Over and over, Wasteland Jazz smashes us to bits, and we’ll thank them for the privilege until the next squall rides in on blackened feedback waves. Fuck yes.
Zheng Hao Harmonium (Hard Return)
Frayed edges offer disparate spaces for sonic stretches to investigate and rest. Across five pieces, Zheng Hao uses contact mics and harmonicas to bend compact tones into a sharp focus. Sounds that begin as permanent fixtures, covered in ancient memories and glass dust, decay in the expressive aural environments. Hao’s approach bends the reedy whispers toward a distant voice, muted to the universe but alive to possibilities beyond. It’s a deep and heady listen from beginning to end.
Ekin Fil Rosewood Untitled (re:st)
The fantasy building within the hidden corridors of our minds floods out through Ekin Fil’s unique lens. She has always created immersive music that sends us across the universe into unknown worlds and unseen memories, and Rosewood Untitled continues this journey. Ghostly melodies spawn from an atmospheric aural bed shrouded by mist yet alive and tactile. Distances are obscured by the shadow-laden arrangements, keeping us wondering whether the destination is near or if we’re just getting started. A slender thread winds through Rosewood Untitled that keeps the album together, stitching muted guitars, airy synths, and Fil’s beautifully spectral voice into a cohesive narrative. Rosewood Untitled still stands out for an artist with so many stellar releases in her discography.
QNDFK A Heavy Gloss. (tracedobjects)
There’s no reason to take a breather. Hell, there’s no time either. A Heavy Gloss. is a globular onslaught of chaotic rhythms, deep-fried basslines, and surprising melodic spells. Clattering spectacles undulate with decaying precision, giving off an intense feeling that somewhere in the future, everything will fall apart. Synths amass in six dimensions. Sonic bubbles wobble inside tape madness only to come out the other side reconfigured and searching for the last neon holdouts. QNDFK is an amalgamation. So many disparate ideas churn along in unison, intersecting at bizarre angles and melting into entirely new sound forms. Attempts to pull the pieces apart and dissect these songs’ insides prove futile because there’s always another bulbous arpeggio creeping around the bend. A Heavy Gloss. is entrancing and impossible to resist.
夢范例 振興 (Self-Released)
夢范例 (Dream Paradigm) overwhelms the senses with a lustrous mass of synthetic reverie. The shine that begins 振興 grows into a resonant ball of blinding light. Its mass becomes overbearing, like macropressure crushing us entirely but in the most gentle way possible. Even beneath the incandescent sonic flood, it feels safe and welcoming. Subtle shifts hint at bigger dreams coming into view. The horizon never fades, but the winding labyrinth needed to get there stretches further as a reminder to stop and let this moment wrap around us. Beautiful work.
textural bug charm ~ II (Self-Released)
Quiet rhythms mimic an irregular heartbeat holding up gauzy electronics as they lilt in soft rain. Mementos of a past life are uncovered, but the question of how welcome these remnants are is never fully answered. This is introspective music, softly spoken and adrift in a charm-filled aquarium. The aqueous undercurrents throughout both tracks add texture and a surprising feeling of warmth. Emotions bloom in these quiet soundscapes. Even though this music is gentle, it has considerable heft. Tactile scratches move across the space like secret footsteps in a hidden garden, drawn to the sound emanating from the world underneath. Really lovely.
Chad M. Clark Vast Mass (Self-Released)
Each time I’ve put Vast Mass on, I’ve been perplexed. There’s a frenetic creepiness lurking in the countless corners, but a feeling of whimsy and enchantment winds through the intricate sonic architecture. It’s a fantastic combination that leaves me on edge. There’s a lot of different instrumentation throughout Vast Mass, but Clark’s wizardry on guitar is the foundation. Skittering excursions, creaking motifs, bowed strings, and angular soundworlds in constant motion. Dichotomies run wild throughout Vast Mass, whether it’s the aforementioned whimsical creep or the way Clark creates simultaneously expansive and intimate music. Rapid-fire guitar runs to spark the sinewy atmospheres that let ghost melodies filter in from nowhere, all transmitted like a secret whispered in broad daylight.