Please, for the love of everything, enough with the goddamn fireworks, yeah? It’s been going on every night for the past week, and just because it’s now the 5th of July, I don’t expect we’ll be lucky enough for it to stop. Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety, but damn. Anyway, read about a pile of great tunes below, and check out the new Asomatous album while you’re at it.
Sunik Kim Potential (Otoroku)
The immensity and intensity of Potential are like secret keys that unlock hidden languages and unimagined worlds buried deep in our subconscious. Sunik Kim harnesses that moment of realization and the daunting gamut of emotions and ideas it unleashes. MIDI-controlled chaos is sculpted into constantly-moving, monolithic sonic forms built from scraps of familiar instruments. Piano notes are processed into dizzying, maze-like structures where synths and organs swirl like shifting destinations on a blackened horizon. This is music in full color, chased by a determined, end-times void, but Kim remains steps ahead, zigzagging through electronic helices and pointillist blips with joyful freedom and humor, breaking functional systems apart. Potential is maximalist and brutalist, but cathartic in its mayhem. One of the year’s most essential pieces of music.
Eric Mingus and Catherine Sikora “the water rushes down” (Self-Released)
Before diving into “the water rushes down,” take a deep breath and pause. This remnant from Mingus’s explorations into the history of his enslaved ancestors bleeds with a cleansing force. Bass scrapes and scratches build into emotive hymnals with Mingus’s voice channeling something unseen, the emotional rawness poking through the decaying seams. Moments of pain become guttural exultations, buoyed by Sikora’s earnest expressions. “the water rushes down” grows into its powerful manifestations with restrained fervor. Mingus’s bass falls into a lower register, tension building in the hypnotic repetitions as Sikora searches the darkening sky with affecting runs. When the duo coalesces into high-strung chaotic moments, it’s like someone holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually the rhythm and purpose return, Sikora’s saxophone igniting as Mingus dances deeper into the ground. Essential listening.
Kirin McElwain Viriditas (Self-Released)
Cellist and composer Kirin McElwain dazzles on this four-song debut. Vocal silhouettes tease an ethereal view in the opening moments, but crushed hiss bisects the drifting melodies. Cello arrangements sing in the background, but McElwain’s voice persists as oscillations growl to life. McElwain imbues her music with waves of texture. Plucked cello strings echo with crisp certainty while rhythmic pulses move across the spatial plane, pulling our focus in multiple directions. She stacks narrative traces on these songs as they build to explosive conclusions, leaving sonic dust scattered in the air. It’s easy to get lost in the shape-shifting explorations and diverging timbres of Viriditas, but it’s never disjointed, McElwain ties a cohesive thread through the abstract electronics, captivating vocals, and classical-tinged strings. This is one hell of a debut.
Gvantsa Narim Apotheosis Animæ (Cruel Nature)
Dreams seem real in the beguiling confines of Apotheosis Animæ. Chamber-like pieces simmer before merging into futuristic, arpeggiated synthscapes that traverse a neon sea. Narim wields countless approaches, using shifting palettes to bend discrepant genres into novel sonic forms. Distant views of small moments are amplified through prismatic electronics and drifting pads. Scattered, skittering rhythms offer touchpoints, but only in certain spots; most often, we’re left to find our own way through this evolving dreamworld. Hazy motifs hide the edges of beautiful and hypnotic tonal patterns, but the obscured glances add a subliminal effect as this music seeps into our core. Emotive piano passages sink to the depths, the heartbeat slowing as it descends to find a welcoming foundation. Apotheosis Animæ is such a memorable listen.
Erin Rogers & Alec Goldfarb Earth’s Precisions (Infrequent Seams)
Spellbinding duo confrontations from saxophonist Erin Rogers and guitarist Alec Goldfarb. Knives are out all across Earth’s Precisions. Rogers dances on tiptoes, boiling pointillist stretches until they melt into enigmatic wailing that smothers Goldfarb’s sharp-angled diversions. Guttural tones coalesce into stifling drones, encasing forward progress in a weighty, roughhewn sphere. Modes shift without notice, veering from cataclysmic screech and scrawl to quiet, inward explorations. Rogers sits in moments of stillness, holding notes in the night air until Goldfarb opens a door to the sky to meet her. Haunted houses get torn down to the studs, dosed with celestial seeds, and rebuilt into cathartic expositions. Rogers and Goldfarb clatter into a range of emotions before the fervor spills out with ecstatic joy. Great stuff.
Sawt Out Black Current (Al Maslakh)
Tension ties the expansive currents of Sawt Out’s second album, Black Current, into a series of unending knots. With two drummers/percussionists (Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld) flanking trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, resonant spaces are punctuated by metallic textures and hollowed-out echoes. Kerbaj creates unearthly tones through novel techniques, heightening the eerieness spread throughout Black Current. This music is built on glass shards, delicate and intricate, but somehow stronger than its surface lets on. Beins and Vorfeld weave stuttered rhythms with immovable drones like ancient machinery working to sharpen every edge to a point. Black Current is unexpectedly hypnotic and immersive as we search for the origins of these otherworldly sounds.
Alexander Grawoig Chants (Sun Ark)
Brightness reigns supreme on Chants. Every solid surface reflects a shimmering ambiance like steely buoys guiding us through a sea of entanglements. Grawoig spins dizzying yarns with angled views toward the sky, obscuring the periphery with radiating sonic glows. The world seeps in stretched across the fingerpicked stitching. Drones melt into the soil and bleed into the aural streams throughout Chants, steeping the sound in drama and organic fuel. Split-screen catharsis drives us into divergent universes, one with a wistful resurgence, the other baked fresh with blinding light. Rhythms cascade skyward while still anchoring the rapid-fire melodies, a tether of gilded lore and boundless gravity. Chants is one hell of a trip.
Hollie Kenniff “Rest in Flight” (Self-Released)
“Rest in Flight” builds slowly and with purpose before exploding into stardust. As dawn breaks, chord progressions breathe slowly and grow into the blossoming light. Kenniff’s voice is a celestial specter surrounding each note, accentuated by dramatic piano arrangements and a spirited atmosphere. The world rises higher on drifting, plaintive repetitions, and it’s as though our eyes are opening for the first time ever, our lungs sparking into life. Within the aural drama, we are weightless. An absolutely beautiful track.
Oui Ennui “The Scarab” (Self-Released)
“The Scarab” soaks in the hallucinogenic cosmos, unlocked by fevered exultations and acceptance of the inevitable husk. Calming chords and looping arrangements lull our senses. Oui Ennui fuses these ethereal sonics with liminal rhythms, building an inner glow that submits to transcendent forms. Jazz-adjacent atmospheres slink through smoke-filled avenues layered with chimes and brass textures buried by echoes. The voice samples throughout keep our focus, sending us into wild meditations on Egyptian pharaohs and helping us welcome the end of days. This is a peaceful track with a bleak undercurrent, and that dichotomy heightens its lasting impact. Oui Ennui doesn’t miss.
Satomimagae + Duenn 境界 KYOKAI (rohs!)
境界 KYOKAI is a beautiful collaboration. Disintegrated pop themes get repurposed into blurred, melodic soundscapes. Satomimage’s voice is a skeletal beacon fused with Duenn’s immersive, phantom arrangements like two soft forces melting together. Vague forms drift in and out of view, glimpses of fleeting futures passing into the ether. Most of these pieces are small, but their flickering remnants stick around long after the music fades. Crystalline bells tap out hypnotic rhythms, giving Satomimage another scaffold to climb higher into the sky where melodies bloom. 境界 KYOKAI covers a lot of ground in a short span, making sure that each little piece lasts forever.
Miroslav Tóth Nemiesta (NEXT Festival Records)
Hymnals and reveries for abandoned places and forgotten worlds, unfinished and left to decay. Nemiesta finds Slovak composer Miroslav Tóth joined by the Dystopic Requiem Quartet. Hellscapes teem with glimpses of drama and life in these captivating pieces, with enigmatic textures laying the groundwork for the quartet’s strings to soar. Moments of stillness are divided by discordant stretches and sputtering, electronic oscillations. Voices dance across percussive bones, the rhythmic cataclysm another frayed edge in these solemn, haunted compositions. There are so many layers and so much depth to these pieces, and especially the lament for Ukraine, where beauty and horror intertwine and intersect. This music is enthralling.
Wilson Shook & Ted Byrnes Joy (Other Ghosts)
Drum and sax duets that glom themselves onto moving vehicles and rusted scaffolding. Shook and Byrnes elevate grime from the ground floor to the penthouse, but never without losing sight of the dirt that birthed everything. Byrnes’s frenetic rhythms are emotive and progressive, finding pockets nobody else can hear and scattering rocket fuel across every surface waiting for Shook to ignite. Both players meet each other where they are, sinking into ominous spaces where sonic catharsis becomes the breaking point. Joy is a collection of exultant improvisations from two inventors coming together for transformation and ignition. This is one ecstatic fucking ride.