Gurun Gurun is a Czech group that has been deeply influenced by the extremely delicate, airy style of electro-acoustic music of Japanese artists like Minamo and Sawako. One person on a laptop, another gently caressing the string of a guitar, another hounding a feather with a condenser mic…you surely get the idea– this is an aesthetic that was pioneered in Japan. And they have been opened to this school with welcoming arms– Home Normal, the label on which their new album Kon B was released early in May, is in fact based in Tokyo. On Kon B, the quartet of Federsel, Jara Tarnovski, Ondrej Jezek, and Tomas Knoflicek are joined, in addition to some collaborators closer to their neck of the woods, by Japanese vocalists Cokiyu, Cuushe, and Miko, who wrote lyrics in Japanese for their features. The result is beautifully chaotic but not muddled.
Compositionally, the release is challenging– the pieces seem to swing rapidly from dissonance to consonance, from what sounds to be carefully planned and melodic to what sounds to be free improvisation. Gurun Gurun have crafted an album of mysterious electro-acoustic expedition, with the voices of their trans-cultural collaborators occasionally acting just as other textures in the atmosphere, and other times as the guides that define the musical direction of a section or entirety of a piece. Recommended.
Matthew Akers is a Portland-based experimental musician whose particular take on kosmische synth music is drawn out of vintage analog equipment and could best be described as soundtracks for imaginary 80’s films. His upcoming album on Suite 309, Whitest Hunters, Blackest Hearts, comes with a curious epigram from John Cale’s great live album Sabotage/Live: “Mercenaries are useless… disunited, unfaithful…they have nothing more to keep them in a battle other than a meager wage…which is just enough to make them want to kill for you… but not enough to make them wanna die for you.” Bearing this epigram and titles like “Sniper” and “Soldier of Fortune” in mind, the title of the album obviously has deeper sociological implications than a clever reference to a certain book and film that its author may have enjoyed.
Think of a sensibility like that of Tangerine Dream’s score for Thief and Vangelis’s for The Bounty describing a desolate landscape ruined by violence and you’ll have an idea of what this album holds in store. The album’s tone is mercurial and savage, with Akers’s vast array of synths and modules employed to create many jarring, over-the-top effects– however, like its influences, Whitest Hunters, Blackest Hearts has a waveringly beautiful melodic core. This balance between pyrotechnical effects and melody is very apparent on a track like “Last Patrol”. This visceral and compelling album comes highly recommended to fans of dark ambient and synth wizardry alike.
Sound Awakener (musician and sound artist Nhung Nguyen) released Episode, an intriguing collection of harsh noise culled from recordings made between 2013 and 2015, midway through May. Of particular interest to me is the rippling, explosive attack of the title track, though Nguyen may be more curious about listeners’ reactions to the defeaning, barely-fluctuating “Stones Turn to Ash”. This return to the harsh noise roots of the Sound Awakener project shows Nguyen’s unflagging dedication to making music and sound art that cannot be intellectualized over, but rather, intuitively felt…
Salem’s Orchards recently shared the title track of their upcoming debut full-length album Haunted with me.
Orchards has been a project of Daniel Remington’s for some years now, but as Haunted edges closer on the horizon, it has become clear that since the project developed into a full-fledged band, he has finally kicked things into overdrive.
The lovely vocal harmonies and ethereal strings of “Haunted” are a tantalizing hint of what this new album may have to offer. Keep your eyeballs glued to Orchards’ bandcamp for what will certainly be one of 2015’s not-to-be-missed post-rock sleepers.
Spazio Sacro, the new album from sound artist Giulio Aldinucci, is covered in a thick gauze of effects that make the slightest gestures reverberate endlessly, if only to amplify their relationship to the steadily beating heart beneath. Aldinucci, who began learning music as a child, writes music for acoustic instruments, but his fine last three albums Aer, Tarsia, and now Spazio Sacro, were synthesized more from field recordings and tones generated from digital and analog hardware. The pieces on Spazio Sacro were culled from childhood memories from rural Tuscany.
One could relate the timbres of Aldinucci’s pieces to those of Simon Scott and Marsen Jules, yet the almost disorienting flurry of dreamily altered scenes and fragments layered over the minimal composition forms an overall style that is hyper-evocative and more musically emotive than their work, almost demanding the listener to search for the secrets held within. The swelling chords and drones evoke the vastness of this landscape just as much as the mystic traditions that have coexisted with it– the album creates a conversation between the epic ambiance of this environment’s accumulated history and its author’s memories. Spazio Sacro is a musically affective and sonically imagistic electro-acoustic work, and certainly the best work that Aldinucci has done to date. This release comes highly recommended to fans of sound art and modern classical music.
Massimo Discepoli took a fresh approach to ambient music that concentrates on microtonality with Parallax, released to widespread acclaim last September on Assisi, Italy’s Depth of Field. On this album, delicate synth drones and slowly changing chords make the bed on which the lead voice, that of the drumkit, will at first excitedly whisper and shout, as if nervously exploring its environment, only to suddenly seem to fall in line with the trance in the background in one beatific swell.
Discepoli’s past project Nheap was much more angular and orderly than this– Parallax is a huge departure in style for him. More than that though, it is a very compelling ambient jazz album for the way that it brings jazz deep into the spiritual recesses of microtonality and drone in an unexpectedly harmonious union. I do not think that one could compare this accurately with most other music that mixes tendencies from jazz with ambient experiments– the album seems to be completely singular. Discepoli’s experiments pay off– Parallax is highly recommended.
Chicago-based experimentalists Comfort Food (Daniel Wolff and Jake Mashall) call themselves “junk jazz”, and less than a minute into the raggedly percussive “Memories of Babies”, off their 2013’s Dr. Faizan’s Feel-Good Brain Pills, you can see what they mean. Marshall’s propulsive chaos and Wolff’s lunatic holler of a voice make for a jolting concoction. Recommended to fans of jazz, punk rock, and all other music from the other side of the fence.
Check out their tape release of Dr. Faizan’s Feel-Good Brain Pills at Already Dead Tapes when you can.