Overcast skies and rain finally wrapped around Tulsa this week, teasing us that autumn may actually arrive this time. We’ll see. I’m hopeful because I’ve got 10 days for enough leaves to fall to make a pile large enough for multiple people to walk through at a time. Fingers crossed.
Songs of Our Lives this week features the one and only Marc Masters, a writer I admire so, so much, and whose new book, High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape, is excellent. The perfect mix of fun and nerdy but also a real deep dive. There are extra bits on Patreon, too, for each episode! Anyway, on to the show.
Jeremiah Chiu In Electric Time (International Anthem)
Endless possibilities coalesce into a pointed sonic slope headed well beyond the cosmic divide in the captivating world of In Electric Time. Electronic silhouettes ripple in faded neon moonlight, shadows cast against a stark backdrop. Rhythmic patterns dance, layer-upon-layer of melodic exploration fused into a whimsical, synthetic landscape where aqueous drips are infinite stars and whispy arpeggios become maps of the horizon. Chiu’s expressions are detailed and emotive, filling turquoise pools with sweet, gleaming aural mountains. An absolute delight.
Afrikan Sciences Embedded Facts (The Student Body Presents)
Fires burn in the distance, an ever-present tension hanging over the skittering movements of everyday life. Embedded Facts is lithe and sharp, vibrant rhythms building intricate architecture that globular basslines wrap around. Melodic spells resonate within moving shapes, scything out the middle ground to find meaning and expression in the extremities. Eric Doulgas Porter’s music as Afrikan Sciences is steeped in complex outlines, arranged to pull us into expected directions, to explore the unseen nodes on the map. Cosmic flows are interrupted and intersected with strident beats, whimsical melody shards, and purposeful chaos, turning the sonic gravity on its head, and leaving us tied up and adrift. When we’re lost, we find the unexpected, and Embedded Facts tells that timeless story through a new electronic prism. Dance until the next midnight, ride these instrumental waves, and crash into the dawn. Fantastic.
Islaja Angel Tape (Other Power)
Greeted by a disembodied voice cut into wavering ribbons, a piano cascades into darkness, barely hanging on. Islaja’s music has always employed an otherworldly atmosphere, but Angel Tape goes further, honing in on abstract moments in celestial ruins. Her voice shines, twisting into new, intricate shapes rife with buried memories and emotional turmoil. Tactile expressions take hold in whispered passages and field recordings, buoyed by minimal resonance funneled into guttural scowls, enchanted melodies, and a humming void roiling just beneath the surface. The angelic undercurrents bloom into full-fledged expressions through layered vocals, plucked harp notes, and distorted smears coalescing disparate threads into a complex aural fabric. There are stories in all the tiny details of Angel Tape, unwritten histories waiting to be unearthed. Life blossoms in the spaces left behind where hollow drones are pulled apart, and looping harmonies echo with spectral darkness. Unforgettable.
Nicole Mitchell & Alexander Hawkins At Earth School (Astral Spirits)
What an absolute delight. Recorded live at Cafe OTO in 2022, At Earth School is a whimsical, riveting journey, with Mitchell and Hawkins leading each other down forking paths. Flute rondos alternate between lush and soothing to pointed incursions, flickering in the sky, creating beautiful patterns with Hawkins’ deeply expressive, pointillist piano arrangements. Album centerpiece, “What are you Afraid Of” is a cathartic push with Mitchell’s voice utterly transcendent as she questions and encourages, flitting between spoken word whispers and soaring bellows. Hawkins floats with her in unison, weightless and effervescent. It’s pure sonic magic. Once Mitchell drops that weight into the deepest reaches of the ocean, quickfire, arpeggiated runs crack open the sky and we’re free to fly. Highest possible recommendation.
Action Pyramid & Jack Greenhalgh Mardle: Daily Rhythms of a Pond (mappa)
Mardle is a world – real and imagined – unto itself. Using hydrophone recordings taken over 24 hours as a conceptual jumping-off point, Action Pyramid and Jack Greenhalgh immerse us in an alien, aqueous landscape. Beguiling aquatic life clicks and hums, buoyed by electronic phrasings that become extensions of this environment. Everything here is tiny, microscopic. Insects purr and crackle, intersecting with quiet drones and swirling hollowed-out resonances. There are echoes in all corners and every detail encourages us to lean in and fully immerse ourselves in this pondscape. Night brings out a bug chorus thrumming like an electric wire, quietly sparking and dancing in the periphery. Every moment on Mardle is utilized to fill in gaps and shade the natural gradients of life beneath the gentle ripples. This is so wonderful.
OTSE “Mains d’oeuvres” (Self-Released)
Stochastic cadences align through careful layering and crystalline sound design. OTSE explores what it means to be part of the working class in the face of rising automation and digitalization, using familiar sounds and percussive timbres. Movement is central to “Mains d’oeuvres.” Polyrhythms develop as the layers progress forward and pull us deeper into this sound world. Tonal elements bring a surprising airiness to the sharp-edged aural environments, and the combination forms an unexpected meditative aura hidden within the chaos of the piece. It’s so well done.
B.C. Slumber family trees, the falling leaves (Self-Released)
Seasons change across eons, always dreaming of future dust. B.C. Slumber’s lackadaisical drift slinks through ambient corridors with hiss-laden loops and a wistful, melodic asymmetry. Synths bound into terrestrial dreams with restrained sparkle, drifting forward on relaxed rhythms and a buoyant mood. This music gets its hooks in and we can’t help but wrap ourselves in the sinuous progressions and gentle, engaging cadences. The shimmer never fully fades, but its remnants settle into cascading arpeggios tinged with familiar melodies, lilting like sonic constellations obscured by overcast skies. Crisp tones glisten in the cool air like a warming beacon against the smoky autumn nights. Lovely stuff.
Chie Otomi & Hirotaka Shirotsubaki Season of Wandering (Muzan Editions)
Lucid dreams become tactile aural clouds on this beautiful collaboration between Chie Otomi and Hirotaka Shirotsubaki. Textural elements elevate the hazy pads and ephemeral drones, opening a divide in the glossy waves for wistful guitar leads. A lush softness is threaded through each moment accented by blunt-edged, sporadic synth patterns and field recordings. Otomi and Shirotsubaki carefully build these worlds to ensure they’re immersive and inviting. Spirits sing in and around each emotive passage, creating a warming glow of spectral timbres of ambient whispers. Shirotsubaki’s guitar playing has a quiet gravity. He makes each echoing note matter. Paired with Otomi’s restrained approach the brings so much tension and depth, it’s a stellar pairing. Season of Wandering creates space for our own exploration while cultivating an understated sense of wonder and belief.