anthéne is Toronto-based drone musician, sound artist and curator of Polar Seas Recordings Brad Deschamps, otherwise known as North Atlantic Drift with Mike Abercrombie. His fine debut tape as anthéne, repose, led us through furrowed paths of ambient synth, guitar, and melodica, with blown-out textures and drowned swirls accentuating the sense of decay to that album’s organic vibe. The general feeling of his new CD for Cathedral Transmissions, Permanence, comes across pretty clearly in the cover photograph by Kasia Cieryt– a faint, stately light standing uncertain guard as night falls.
These excursions on synth, samples and guitar, chilly, calm, yet also very melodic, occasionally reminded me of Angelo Badalamenti for their very cinematic, ethereal unease. The rolling waves of hiss that occasionally trespass indeed give the sense of a darkly transformative dream unfolding, especially on the aching, more guitar-oriented “lowlife”. You think of an empty monochrome room, an unreal stillness. Snow blankets the scene but no snow falls now. On the longest piece, “permanence”, buried voices haunt the background, but ever so gently. It’s only on “small victories” that the cold seems to subside in a swelling, impassive flurry. Humble and lovely– though it came out in July, it’s the sort of stuff that you will want to spend some time with on a rainy day in fall.
Ryan Stuewe, a visual artist, percussionist, and sound artist based out of Portland, Oregon, uses his project Ifsh as a vehicle for alternately ethereal and pulverizing tape collage. Big Ear Tapes is an imprint specializing in exactly that sort of thing, run by my show-buddy Sundial, also based in Portland. It was practically inevitable that these guys would cross paths. The fruit of their meeting is Be Locus // Be Limpid, a two-part concrete odyssey of both carefully-arranged found sounds and original performances by Ifsh himself.
What I’ve noticed about Big Ear Tapes over time is how their releases tend to make the choice to never stray too far from popular music when it comes to source material. By way of hypnotic loops and mutilating distortions, disparate sound sources not only form cosmic drones but evoke dub reggae and chopped and screwed hip-hop as much as all that acousmatic esoterica and ambient soundscaping. That’s definitely the case with Ifsh’s Be Locus // Be Limpid, which wildly races from the hypnagogic meshing of deafening echoes to makeshift gamelan to muffled electronica to floating minimal passages with a deft eclecticism. And by the time we wind up at the tail-end of Side B, Ifsh knows to dial the violence down in order to give a breathy ballad its space. As it disappears from view, it gently unravels. The dream ceases to be. Phillip Jeck would be impressed for sure.
On their new outing for Parisian imprint In Pardisium, Verdaillon, Toulouse drone duo Saåad (Romain Barbot & Grégory Buffier) employ their electro-acoustic setup towards beautifully tenebrous, arcane atmospheres. The aulos (an ancient reed instrument…) on “Egregore” sound the call and begin the rite: we have begun to tumble backwards through the darkened hollows where history and prehistory become muddled. Obscured peripheral creaks and splashes sound out the spaces surrounding rolling drones from heavily processed electric guitar and pipe organ; the genesis of the album was an invitation from Toulouse les Orgues to perform on the organ at the Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade. Slow, thundering dirges; murmured vocals dissolving in the gloom, tolling bells…these mind-manifesting sonic details all seem to relate back in one way or another to that mighty organ above all other voices. And for the closer “Vorde”, the duo give that beast the space to sing only adorned by distant echoes, rather than harmonizing with another prominent voice– a bellow both evoking a specific time and place and issuing from an abyss lost to time.
At turns the album evokes Gothic ceilings and spires– at others, mystic Pantheistic visions. The album seemingly progresses from the animistic to the seraphic without us noticing. Perhaps it is because at all times it reminds us that they both come out of the human spirit, and so they have that duality in a way. Reverent visions from Christianity often intersect with that ancient world. In Verdaillon, Saåad have crafted a record of beautifully enveloping drones that ultimately belong to eternity.
Seattle’s Noisegasm are the duo of Brad Anderson on keys and synthesizer and Greg Weber on guitar and something called the Noisegasmatron. Contrary to the moniker, they are really more of an electronica outfit, though the churning distortions and ghostly undercurrent of dark ambience that propel their sound certainly set them apart as something more atavistic, nearly delirious. Bad Trips and Chromosome Damage is their debut CD, and should be marked down as a must-listen for any and all deep into industrial and ambient sounds, or, for that matter, feeling curious as to what’s going on in the Pac Northwest underground in that department; Noisegasm have been hard at work since 2013. Brad, whom I met at PNCA’s annual SIX conference through my friend Tim, was kind enough to send me a physical copy.
The songs on Bad Trips find an ecstasy in their desolation. “Cavity Search” has a queasy pulse but it intoxicates as it steadily burrows through your brain, spiraling and spinning in a cosmic dance. “Indochine” could be a harder-edged counterpart to ink wash synth-fantasies like Vangelis’ “The Tao of Love” or YMO’s “The End of Asia”. Perhaps the pair are romantics at heart. As you delve further into the the emerald haze of the album’s second half, and lovely tracks like “Lucid Dreaming” and “Ether”, it most certainly seems that way.
For readers in Washington: Noisegasm are performing tonight at 8 at Seattle’s Pocket Theater on Greenwood Avenue to celebrate the release of Bad Trips and Chromosome Damage! Noisegasm will be joined by Tarsier Eyes and Kblanq. You won’t want to miss this one!
Here’s one that is definitely a pleasure to write about because doing so entails I’m supporting some Portland show buddies in the process: an April sleeper from Pac Northwest underground staple Acre, Beyond Cease to Exist, off Los Angeles’ Monorail Trespassing. Sound artist Aaron Davis has churned out some pretty wicked drone-noise under this moniker for the past nine years, with the project perhaps reaching its apex in the scoured epic Painless, off Alex Cobb’s always reliable Student’s of Decay. There, Davis’s feedback soundscapes found a killing emotionalism in their slowly shifting, unrelenting layers– however, this new cassette might be an even better introduction to his stuff if only for its conciseness. Beyond Cease to Exist was recorded and mastered by Mike Erwin, who performs as The Exploding Couch and also recently produced new work by underground staples ABSV and Galaxy Research.
This isn’t really the realm of harsh noise agitation– indeed, from the opening moments of “Low”, you get the sense that you’re in for something with a cosmic sweep to its unease. The music of Acre gives off a mantric ambience, almost as if Florian Fricke had tried his hand at blistering guitar-based drone. Moreover, I think I have heard the melody from the enveloping closer “Trust” in dreams many a time. Through its steadily rising and falling agony and peace, Beyond Cease to Exist gets you into a head-space of both calm and dread where soul secrets can be considered carefully. And it does not take too much more than twenty minutes in total for this aural isolationism to run its course. Excellent stuff. If you are at all into dark ambience, noise, or electro-acoustic music, this one needs to be on your must-listen list for the year.
For my Portland readers: Acre will be performing at the Projection Museum (53 SE 80th) with the Dolphin Midwives and Andrew Tomasello on August 12th. It’s been a great summer for experimental sounds and it’s sure to be a great show!
Don Gero is my show buddy Zach D’Agostino’s noise rock-influenced one-man whirligig for drum kit and modular array. Weirding, off Ewe of Now Recordings, is Don Gero’s debut tape and damn is it good. The first image that comes to mind as I zone out to this is a sort of krautrock console adventure– we’re racing with endless psychedelic streaks across a parched plain, weaving in-between towering red hills. Zach’s garbled war cry urges us further and faster through the manic, percussive maze and rippling sequences on synth increase a sense of urgency and claustrophobia underneath the reeling, unreal sky. “Keys Open Doors”, my favorite, gives that sense of the hero’s quest, both real and imagined, hurtling towards the finish line that becomes the beginning all over again just the same. And by the time “Stone Burner” finally gets us there, we’re dazed yet ready for another round. Like Boredoms’ Vision Creation Newsun and Destruction Unit’s Sonoran, this stuff barrels through insistent rhythms and glittering near-cacophony to scale serious spiritual spires. This lo-fi gem most definitely deserves your attention right now!
For my Portland readers: you can get your hands on a copy of Weirding from Zach at the release party tonight at Human Flesh Body World show house at the corner of Northeast Williams and Fremont. Don Gero will be playing with Sean Pierce of ASSS, Disxiple 113, and Stress. It’s sure to be a great one!
Here’s another great one from a few months back you may have overlooked: an excellent split by Lay Llamas and Tetuan, put out by my friends at ArTeTetra. Label heads Babau support all kinds of ecstatic and strange psych sounds, and many of them are a far cry from their own (check: Alegrìas y Duelos de Mi Alma by the Spanish surreal free-folk guy Futeisha). Here though, we’ve got something that is really in their vein– droney psychedelic rock with characterized by an experimental hunger and strong ties to a wide range of trans-ethnic influences. We need more of that these days, less of the tired revivalism. Put this one on and you’ll feel as though you have stepped into the torrid air of an oneiric greenhouse.
On Side A, Lay Llamas’ “The Big Calm Sea of Transition” fleshes out an ethno-ambient soundscape of probing drone that might throw you back to certain offerings of Sun City Girls, Pelt, and Vibracathedral Orchestra for its enveloping psychical unease and mystery. An electric guitar sounds like a sarangi, a flute sounds like a voice calling from a dream, and when it is over you are left feeling it was over too soon.
No sooner than the transitory sea has retreated, Tetuan bolts you upright with the cosmic dervish “Juju”before ushering you through the slow progression into night that is “Lame Rosse”. Slowly surfacing ambient textures on keyboard and murmured chants are anchored by thundering, insistent percussion and a muscular bassline that all at once bring Latin, North African, and Celtic vibes into confluence with that krautrock evocation of suspended time. Fantastic stuff.
I could go on, but I shouldn’t! Fall into this weirdness and let it speak through you for a bit. Highly recommended.