It’s been a week of cold and ice in Tulsa, and we’re going on snow day number four. Everyone feels stir-crazy, so I’m surprised I pulled this column together this week. Still, with Bandcamp Friday looming, there was a pile of music I wanted to write about, so here we are.
Speaking of Bandcamp Friday, The Jewel Garden is releasing Country Wifi’s debut, Smoked Bologna Blues. Country Wifi is the duo of myself and Nathan Alexander Pape and, I’m excited to finally get this into the world. It will be on CDR and digital formats. Give it a look tomorrow. With that, here’s some other music worth checking out.
Ruhail Qaisar Fatima (Danse Noir)
The future is covered in a chainmail shroud that drowns out any light and encapsulates in midnight. Synthetic exoskeletons grind through disjointed rhythms, fracturing architecture, and leaving behind a trail of textural scrawl with bass-heavy electronics. Fatima is a dystopic treatise. It imagines the vision ahead as a broken reflection of past and current traumas. High-pitched drones ring like sirens echoing across bleak landscapes, an omen promising destruction from above and below. Qaisar’s sonic playground throughout Fatima is dense and expansive. He draws from countless sound sources to create a rich, immersive world rife with tension, with its cracks shaded in by the desolate narrative. It’s one hell of an accomplishment. Unmissable.
Antonina Car Immersed Sensibilities (Time Released Sound)
Exquisite details emerge from an inviting sonic glow flowing from Antonina Car’s lush, poignant soundworlds. Violin notes whisper ancient secrets across winding aural trials. Stirring background vocals heighten Car’s lyrics and push the emotional apex of this music to points unimaginable. She shifts between ethereal She uses synthesizers to add depth and texture, sometimes harrowing, sometimes introspective, but never without purpose. There’s a desire running through this music to search for pathways and experiences that expand understanding. Desperation creeps in as the urgency grows within the emotive arrangements. A special mention to Zurfahani Batrisya, whose flute and clarinet passages on the closing track add another captivating layer to this incredible album.
Hamid Drake Dedications (Black Cross Solo Sessions 6) (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
All of these Black Cross solo albums from Corbett vs. Dempsey are well worth the price of admission. Few drummers of this era have reached the echelons of Hamid Drake, and on Dedications, we get the broadest spectrum of his unique, inventive practice. For an artist who can play with anyone and heighten whatever else is happening within an ensemble, when he goes it alone, the sparks really fly. Percussive investigations lead through polyrhythmic mazes. Progressions rise and fall, like the inner workings of a heartbeat or intentional breathing. These pieces are clockwork. Dedications run the gamut from Don and Moki Cherry to Milford Graves, Big Black, and Fred Anderson and to the beauty and diversity of Chicago. Drake is the center, but how he manages to channel the spirit of all those dedicatees while keeping his voice at the fore is something special.
Davide Cedolin Ligurian Pastoral (Island House)
The nights and tides are drifting away throughout Davide Cedolin’s latest, Ligurian Pastoral. Acoustic guitar bones hold these wistful, gentle songs together, setting out on a magical ride through bucolic vistas and cozy aural vignettes. Plucked guitar arrangements pull melodic vapor from the air, buoying the whimsical feelings with harmonica, organ, field recordings, and more. Laughing babies and purring cats only heighten this album’s pastoral, intimate nature. Cedolin has a knack for memorable hooks but presents them in such an understated way that they slip by in the moment, only to be revealed down the road when I find myself humming his music at unexpected moments. Ligurian Pastoral is like a series of sonic still lifes, intricate and personal, that can’t help but warm our collective spirit.
Kult Koruth s/t (Self-Released)
Nights stretch for eternity in the liminal synthscapes of Kult Koruth’s memorable debut. Anna Ruth and Michael Nechvátal join forces for a narrative series of sonic world hopping. Ruth’s vocal incantations are a fractured beacon woven into the fabric of these midnight escapades and gnarled atmospheres. Each piece plays out like its own self-contained world, but as the album progresses, it becomes clear they’re interconnected like fruits on a decaying vine. Distorted drones wail in all directions. Reverb-soaked auras darken the mood, imbued by stretching textures across the barren fields. Desolation creeps through every timbre of Ruth’s voice, as though the ghosts we are trying to keep hidden are finally set free. This is fantastic.
Cunningham / Nguyen / Shiroishi Basket of Knives (Astral Editions)
This is one hell of a trio. Alex Cunningham, Thom Nguyen, and Patrick Shiroishi have all been featured in these pages many times, but Basket of Knives goes full supernova. In the beginning, there’s a quiet tease, like everyone is feeling out the space and seeing how far they can push. It’s a deep breath before the chaos paints everything black. Shiroishi and Cunningham are shredders, but they move in and out of each other’s zones, sometimes occupying the same tonal layers and veering off at sharp, adjacent angles. Nguyen has his finger on the heartbeat of the session, guiding the burrowing sonic drills in the directions to wreak the most havoc. The speed and volume changes throughout Basket of Knives are so engaging, like interjacent cataclysms melting together with cathartic fervor and leaving bits of sonorous debris dotting the horizon. Slice me open, and this pandemonium flow.
Joanna Mattrey & gabby fluke-mogul Oracle (Relative Pitch)
Two of the most exciting violinists join for an affecting and visceral collaborative session. Oracle relishes in its intensity and focuses as Mattrey and fluke-mogul find inventive, infectious ways to meld their approaches into something new. Deep sonic valleys get carved from emotive string splatter thrown against hidden prophecies. The currents connecting us become visible within bowed elegies and clattering pizzicatos. So many of the timbral textures blend with the pungent emotional expressions, turning this music into raw expositions spilling from our bodies like gravel-voiced angels. These sounds puncture skin so we can feel it howling in our veins. Highest recommendation possible.
Elizondo, Ojeda, Taveira Trio Cerentenyal (Ramble)
This Uruguayan trio combines adept technicality with a soulful expression on their follow-up to 2022’s excellent ANBU. A weightlessness winds through these six improvised tracks, led on an ascendant journey by the wistful incantations from Manu Ojeda’s guitar. Each note is chosen carefully, buoyed by drummer Damien Taveira’s feather-weight touch and the foundational pomp of Ian Elizondos’ bass playing. Quiet and pensive in the shaded stretches but frenetic and bold when needed, Cerentenyal rides on a pure spirit imbued with liminal ambiance and ghostly histories. Timelessness becomes a glowing sheen to send these songs out beyond the cosmos for eternity.
Khabat Abas Skin Cello Improvisation (Self-Released)
I honestly have no idea how old this piece is because there’s no release date on it, but it’s been haunting my mind’s darkest stretches since I found it last week. The “skin cello” is an experimental cello made using a drum skin and cello. Abas’s approach gives it an ancient quality, as though this instrument was dug up from the Earth. Cryptic percussive creeps tap out morse code messages, echoing through subterranean grottos like long-buried skeletons. Death is a beacon in the slowly-bowed scrapes and piercing string screech. The skin cello has a distinct, sinister resonance permeating every stray note and every melancholy expression. It’s unnerving and utterly hypnotic.