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 sense of disquiet 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 pipe organ and heavily processed electric guitar; 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!