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.
Wave Collector is a Portland-dwelling guy by the name of Neal Wright and his self-released LP Catalog of Stolen Worlds is a fine debut. The delicious aural pranks and everyday vagaries that weave their way through the Wave guy’s sensuous downtempo electronica give off a little bit of shibuya-kei kitsch, a bit more of the cosmic. The way Wright marries poppy melodies to simultaneously goofy and meditative sound collage takes me back to that open-ended and airy spirit of the electronic sounds of the late 90s and early 2000s. Though he does bust out some pop vocals of his own for “Teach a Man to Long for the Sea New” and “Ice Enchantment”, it is sound design where he excels and he knows it. You can be certain an artist is on an interesting trip when he describes himself as a sonic collector/traveler, yet isn’t afraid to throw an exchange with a curious bystander to a field recording into the mix (see: the opening moments of “Crow Flies”). It’s smart stuff, it’s pretty stuff, and it’s a journey you’ll want to take with someone who’s definitely pushing himself places as a sound chemist. Favorite moment: the bittersweet farewell of “Temps Perdu”, propelled by dubby riffs and the faraway trails of bells and lapping water.
Basho is a moniker of Portland-dwelling electronic musician, photographer, and swell guy Dominic Voz. On his new self-released EP Japan, the tactile, airy, rambunctious melodies, microbeats, and textural accoutrements of Basho’s generally house-based soundscapes act as tour guide through a blurred maze of crowded streets, buzzing screens, sprawling parks, lazy evenings. The meshing of digital stutters and field-recordings gives that strong sense of simulacra melding with everyday beauty that music press was so eager to label “folktronica”. The truth is that there isn’t a buzzword in existence that can describe the playfully ethereal vibe this music brings out, so forget it. Fix your mind on something between Four Tet and Haruka Nakamura and you should have a good idea of what this one is about.
And hey! Check out this great music video for “Don’s Dream” by video artist Kevin Nagler:
For In the Lens, Australian electro-acoustic duo Solo Andata (Kane Ikin and Paul Fiocco) threw all preoccupation with idiom and mode to the wind to create the sort of more open-ended, slowly-unfurling exploratory work rife with mystery and empty of easy resolution that you can always expect from Taylor Deupree’s 12k. This is the pair’s third appearance on the label, after all (for Ikin, this is the fourth time on 12k).
Look at what their output independent of one another, and you’ll see that both of these guys offer a deeply textural and idiosyncratic take on experimental music; in the case of Ikin, this takes the form of sinuous, crackling, vaguely-techno-influenced soundscapes (see his 2009 near masterpiece Sublunar, and his fine new full-length for Type Modern Pressure), while for Fiocco it manifests as chilly minimalist compositions based on acoustic timbres (check his sole full-length, the excellent Torsions and Drifts, for Meupe). Put them together and interesting stuff results. Six years ago, on Ritual, their collaboration took the form of tenebrous and eerie collages of drones, vinyl hiss, and acoustic textures. But now, on In the Lens, we’re greeted far more airy and loosely-structured.
Obscure acoustic tinkerings, lo-fi field recordings, and relaxed indoor recording-area ambience root vague expressions from guitars and percussive instruments in a sense of the personal, the micro-scale. It’s a humid summer evening and the air around you is thick with the chirps of crickets, the sky with glimpses of swifts and bats. This is the kind of nostalgic feeling pieces like “Separate Lovers” and “Leaden Sky” evoke. The pieces were in fact constructed in large part from forgotten threads, recordings made in a wide variety of environments. It took me a bit to warm up to the album because it is so different from what I appreciate and have come to expect from these two artists both independently and together. However, this is definitely one that grows on you fast. Another great contribution to the modern electro-acoustic/ambient scene from a label that really brings out the best in its community– humbleness organically finding singular moments of beauty.
For his new cassette off Toztizok Zoundz, Sri Maha Mariamman, Dutch guitarist Arvind Ganga takes a dive into the trickier realms of free improv for a series of maddeningly skittering lo-fi experiments with guitar and found-objects inspired by a Hindu temple of renown in Malaysia. I was beguiled most by “Hungry Stare” and “Closed Doors”, which suggested for me the grim sight of destitute souls and greedy monkeys that will greet you the moment you step outside the Holy Space back into the Real World. An interesting collection throughout, and well worth your time. Give it a listen.