Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing (Desire Path, 2014)

nicholas szczepanik - not knowing album cover
Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing (excerpt) (Desire Path)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 

A few years ago, Nicholas Szczepanik put out a subscription series of 12 mini-CDs called Ante Algo Azul where he “experimented” on different styles & sounds. The first release from that series was Not Knowing (For Eliane Radigue). This new release on Desire Path takes the original 18:00 piece and expands & elaborates on it creating a full 53 minute record of the most perfect drone you’ll ever hear. The first part of “Not Knowing” is the same as the original (as far as I can tell), which is to say it’s a super minimal pulsing that sounds like a comatose heartbeat. And then shit gets fucking glorious, softly, slowly shifting gears to an angelic harmony that could tear down the walls between warring nations with everyone embracing their newfound family, swirling cascading strings that fill your heart with the joys & pains of life, strongly reminding me of Szczepanik’s magnum opus Please Stop Loving Me. The contrast on Not Knowing, gracefully moving back & forth between long form minimalism and refined euphoria, is something I haven’t heard Szczepanik do yet, and he’s already proved himself a fucking master. The highs are incredibly high, tearful & magnificent, glowing & intricate, and the lows are delicately hypnotic, with a precision in tonality that’s breathtaking. This is absolute fucking perfection. This has everything I ask for in a drone record, and more. As much as I love Please Stop Loving Me (#1 drone record of 2011 yo), I can easily say Not Knowing is hands down a more mature, accomplished, and impressive fucking record. I have a hard time imagining Szczepanik ever topping this.

Also, you might be thinking that since Not Knowing is one long track, what the fuck is Desire Path, the label who’s literally 7 for 7 on their releases and exclusively works with vinyl, doing releasing this? They started the Tangents series, where they’ll release CDs of long form music that can’t (shouldn’t) be on vinyl. And this is the debut release in that series, strictly limited to 500, but given the deluxe treatment as Desire Path always does.

Interviews

Questions For Nicholas Szczepanik


 
Drone Grandmaster Nicholas Szczepanik and I must be vibing on the same wavelength. He was one of the next two artists (in my head) to ask my questions to and he approached me first, just to throw his name in the hat as someone who’d like to contribute. Obviously, I took him up on the offer. Be sure to check out any/all 3 of his killer albums out this year (The Truth Of Transience made #3 on my Top 10 Drone Records list).
 
What is the best way to die?
Death is inevitable and unknown. The uncertainty is what makes it scary, but whether it’s seen as a beginning or an end, death is always change. Yet life is also change, and since it is a series of passing moments, we should enjoy each one as best we can before we too pass. I know this is all much easier said than done, but this is what I have decided works best for me. The best way to die is to live.

How do you think you’ll die?
I guess because I’m slightly morbid, I sometimes imagine myself dying unexpectedly at a relatively early age. Strangely, I think I do this as a strategy for self-motivation. In all honesty, I just hope I die after my mother; she already had the burden of bringing me into this life, she doesn’t need to be around when I leave too.

What makes you happy?
Chocolate; a hot tea in my favorite mug from Mexico; a home-cooked meal to share with someone; the smell of the fallen leaves in Autumn and how they crunch under my feet; the animals I see and hear each day; the silence of snow; the warmth only love’s laughter brings; crying, because it means I feel.

How can you die happy?
Knowing that you lived for those two or three things that mean something to you.

How close have you come to death?
We’re always close. Life is one big, ever-changing risk. I imagine we’re all teetering on the brink of death by the simple choices we make each and every day. Though, somehow, I still think we die at a particular point in our lives for a particular reason. Or maybe I just hope it’s not completely arbitrary—that would be a bit discouraging. Either way, I try to remind myself that being alive means eventually dying, and that being dead means having lived.

What does kindness mean to you?
An instinctive, incidental gesture.

Where do you find love?
Now, I find it everywhere: in sharing and forgiveness, in laughter and heartache, in knowing that things will happen and still wanting to experience them with that one person who makes the world a little less daunting.

When were you most afraid?
When I tried to make sense of it all.

How do you listen to music?
With my gut.

Top 10 Drone Records Of 2012

A couple months ago I was lamenting that 2012 had shit for good drone records. The words of a madman, clearly. This year was chock full of goodness, although to be honest, nothing this year is quite as good as my favorite drone record from 2011, Nicholas Szczepanik’s Please Stop Loving Me, which will always be the best thing ever. Still, there’s tons of amazing drone this year and it was damn near impossible to keep it trimmed to a tidy 10.

I know genre-specific lists are already niche enough, but I decided to give myself a couple new rules to help narrow my focus. First was defining “Drone Record,” which I hadn’t really done before. If you know the site, then you’ll know my drone tag is liberal. I throw that fucker on everything. But to me, for a record to be on a list of drone records, its top-level genre has to be drone. If I was cataloging it by genre, it would have to go under “Drone.” Not “Noise,” not “Black Metal,” not “Doom,” not “Folk.” Those could be sub-genres, just not the main one. This cleared out a lot of records. It meant I couldn’t include Horseback’s Half Blood (probably my favorite non-drone record this year), Gates’ Eintraum, Sutekh Hexen’s Behind The Throne, etc.

Second, I decided no reissues or box sets. I’ve sorta followed this one in the past, but I didn’t want highly publicized massive tomes like William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops or Pauline Oliveros’ epic 12 disc Reverberations stealing the thunder here.

As you know, I only write about the most top notch shit that gets me super psyched. Every drone record that came out this year and I reviewed should be on this list. So go digging through the drone tag and find the rest that just barely missed the cut. They’re all #11.
 
 

10. Moonshine BluesThrough (Hidden Vibes)
“Floating in the grey and rapt in heartache, while sheets & swells of euphoria shimmer in the dark, dragged to the edge of oblivion and left alone…”

One of the best drone releases this year is free. So go download this bleak beast right now and you can feel totally guilt free doing so. And it came out of left field, too. Self released (on his own label), solo Ukrainian guy making some sad fuckin jams, usually as Endless Melancholy, but venturing out into more “ambient” territory as Moonshine Blues. He’s got this blues drone thing down pat and it was more or less an experiment. A+ dude.
 
 

9. WastelandersCosmic Despair (Calls & Correspondence / Basses Frequences / Space Idea / Hewhocorrupts Inc.)
“The first few tracks are as depressing as it gets, gloom thick enough to asphyxiate on, solid minimal melancholy that turns your heart into lead and brings gods to tears.”

Gloomy. As. Fuck. The kind of sadness reserved for royalty eulogies & the internal monologue leading to suicides. Long torturous tracks that take the cake for most depressing drones. And super fucking gorgeous.
 
 

8. ConcernMisfortune (Isounderscore)
“…nervous nondescript fumbling & fidgeting to keep busy while the drones flutter, then a huge blissful shimmering cloud of hand-wringing uncertainty, slightly transparent and hovering right in front of the sun.”

Edgy box harp drone that’s as jangling as it is soothing. When a drone record has a certain novelty (like an atypical instrument as the primary focus) I usually get sucked in regardless, but this one is outstanding in its own right. A bittersweet swansong from Concern, Misfortune being the last release under that moniker. One of two Isounderscore releases on this list because that label is 100% quality.
 
 

7. Andrew Weathers & Andrew MarinoWe Don’t Have Sun Like This (Full Spectrum)
“…always with a delicate tenderness that feels like Weathers is hugging you through your speakers.”

A unique book release with no physical music included. Marino did the photos for the book and Weathers’ tunes come via download. I honestly can’t get enough of Weathers. Everything he does is magic. The absolute perfect blend of folk & drone, he fucking nails it every time. His banjo can do no wrong and his voice is probably the only one that should be allowed to sing over drone.
 
 

6. PortraitsPortraits (Important)
“…an impossibly minimal drone that’s almost too beautiful to handle.”

The supergroup to end supergroups (this time it’s true I promise). Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Evan Caminiti, Jon Porras, Gregg Kowalsky, Marielle Jakobsons, and Maxwell August Croy to name about half of them, all working in perfect unison, somehow making harmonies that I still can’t wrap my head around. Long form drones that some work years to achieve, these guys kicked out while they all still have their regular bands & shit going on. Unreal.
 
 

5. Kyle Bobby DunnIn Miserum Stercus (Komino)
“…the soft subtleties & elegant dances are still the core, but instead of charming or uplifting, we’re given somber & melancholic, tones dipping into ethereal, haunted dreams…”

Nope, not Bring Me The Head Of…, this one is better because it’s darker and a more unique addition to KBD’s discography. Plus it’s just better. The most beautiful misery I’ve ever heard, overwrought but without tension, intimate & devastating, delicate & harrowing. This is Dunn at the top of his fucking game.
 
 

4. EUS, Postdrome, & SaåadSustained Layers (BLWBCK)
“Dense and soaring, black anvil clouds rolling over open plains, always on the edge, seeing the sun rays glow and the grey mass shift, an impending fury that always threatens, never breaks…”

This is beyond gloom. This is as dark as you get before you hit black ambient. It would be downright terrifying if it wasn’t so fucking majestic. And I’d never heard of any of these three guys or the label before. Totally opened my eyes to a new minimal darkness. Supremely awesome.
 
 

3. Nicholas SzczepanikThe Truth Of Transience (Isounderscore)
“…a wonderful long form rhythm, it starts out menacing, all horror movie suspense style, with percussive gong-like warnings and imitation bowed cymbals, turning into a loud and blissfully unnerving swirl that eventually fades to nothing…”

Szczepanik put out 3 records this year (this, We Make Life Sad, and Luz, a collab with Federico Durand as Every Hidden Color). And Szczepanik is probably my most favoritest droner right now so why & how the fuck did I chose just one? First, not only did he take the number one spot last year but he was on that list twice (his Ante Algo Azul series couldn’t be skipped). And while this is a totally biased & subjective list, I still feel the need to be a little fair to everyone who’s not Szczepanik. I mean, if he put out 10 records, chances are they’d comprise the whole list, so I tried to restrain myself and only picked one. While Luz is incredible, it didn’t hit me the way his other two did. And We Make Life Sad is one of the most personal and unique albums this year, truly amazing, but I thought I could exclude it due to it being less droney than The Truth Of Transience. Oh, and because Transience is fucking stunning. Out of the three, this one unquestionably wins the gold.
 
 

2. High Aura’dSanguine Futures (Bathetic)
“…a foggy midnight journey through the middle of the ocean, with distant muffled canons fighting off some ancient sea beast, mythical & literal sirens wailing, calling with sweetness & alarm, chimes and clatter rattling in the still darkness…”

How the hell did High Aura’d make a record this goddamn good? Seriously, this is amazing in so many ways. Dark & minimal rumblings that breathe soft and threaten your life. I literally can’t imagine him ever making a better record than Sanguine Futures and it’s only his third outing as High Aura’d. I’m pretty sure he will at some point, though, because this dude gets exponentially better with each release. But even if he doesn’t, this is a black star that’ll forever outshine so many other records.
 
 

1. SuperstormsSuperstorms (Experimedia)
“Crushed bits and burnt clouds, a blurred fury dipped in bliss, sunsets viewed through a grit lens, a trillion grey sky pixels fractured with the glow shining through, brittle static & warm drones blown out, scratched out, washed out…”

There’s a lot of dark & depressing shit on this list (tough times this past year) but the Number One sidesteps my masochism in favor of something that resonates so profoundly with me. Superstorms crafts the kind of drone that I feel is at my core, the kind of drone I crave more than any other: gritty, blissful, and fucking loud. I feel most at peace when records like this are so loud they obscure everything else in my brain. I can barely stand how fucking awesome Superstorms is. Serious next level drones. I’ve never heard anything else quite like it. I hope that you like this even half as much as I do because FUUUCK I love it too fucking much and the world would be a better place if everyone shared in this stupidly perfect love.

Album Review

Every Hidden Color – Luz (Streamline, 2012)


Every Hidden ColorI (excerpt) (Streamline)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
I’m so fucking psyched this is finally seeing the light of day. Luz has been completed for about two years, innocuously waiting for the right label to give it the love it deserves (thanks, Streamline). Every Hidden Color is a duo of the inimitable Nicholas Szczepanik and Argentinian field recorder/droner Frederico Durand. These two guys work unbelievably well together, gliding effortlessly between digital drones and organic field recordings. There’s two side-long pieces, both weaving and harmonizing in the most glorious way, the sounds mimicking and playing off each other, the rushing water, short bird calls, nondescript shuffling, and insect buzz perfectly joining flowing drones, ambient rhythmic clicks, and deep rumbling. This is one of the most lush records, bleeding warmth and comfort, a stirring of bliss that gently shifts to subtle majesty, the softness of the world captured in a gorgeous tapestry of sounds. Too much to love on this, a fantastic balance of complexity & simplicity, Luz outshines so many other albums this year. Here’s hoping Szczepanik and Durand have some more records up their sleeve.

Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – The Truth Of Transience (Isounderscore, 2012)


Nicholas SzczepanikI (excerpt) (Isounderscore)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
The other side of Szczepanik, the perfect foil to We Make Life Sad, both marking his first foray into vinyl territory. Where that one was a bunch of short looped pieces full of half-forgotten memories and lo-fi crackle, this has two side-long pieces that let Szczepanik work his magic on subtlety and the slow burn. The first side has a wonderful long form rhythm, it starts out menacing, all horror movie suspense style, with percussive gong-like warnings and imitation bowed cymbals, turning into a loud and blissfully unnerving swirl that eventually fades to nothing, changing into something quiet, delicate, effortlessly building into a heavenly choir of tones, stunning and overwhelming, but restrained. The B side is all or nothing, beginning with a barely there minimalism, completely ethereal, that imperceptibly grows, a seamless pairing of the bliss & unsettling sounds from before, a glorious wall of beauty & fear, but calm, serene, something you welcome and celebrate, this is the sound of enlightenment that Kubrick should have used in 2001. Transience has all the makings of a perfect record and there’s nothing standing in its way to take the crown in 2012.

Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – We Make Life Sad (WEME, 2012)


Nicholas SzczepanikHer Last Breath (WEME)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
We’ve never had any vinyl from Szczepanik and now we’re treated to two at the same time. Too good to be true. We Make Life Sad is the international vinyl release and is the polar opposite of the other, The Truth Of Transience on Isounderscore. This is 10 short tracks, variations on Szczepanik’s view of life’s memories, moments, emotions, etc. There’s an overall sound to this, lots of turntable crackle, lo-fi, white background noise, but each track is its own isolated experience, taking small melodies, or even fragments of melodies, and looping them into an endless dream, similar to Zomes’ records, or like Szczepanik’s highly personalized Buddha Machine. You could look at this as his Ante Algo Azul series boiled down to LP format, although those pieces were fully formed, whereas these are almost like excerpts, rarely having a defining beginning or and end and almost never developing into anything more than it was when it started, these are memories frozen in our mind, not encapsulating the whole original, but only what our less-than-reliable mind can recall, and replayed without control, no matter how sad the memory may be, until it blurs into something only mildly recognizable, a faded and washed out version of the past, tragic in its own right, but unbelievably fucking beautiful when Szczepanik turns it into sound. This is truly outstanding work from literally the best dude on the scene. Everything he makes is 100% unstoppably awesome and We Make Life Sad is no different.

Top 10 Drone Records Of 2011

This year’s list was too damn hard. There was just so much awesomeness, it was almost impossible to keep it to 10. That’s just how lists are, I guess.

Since this is an AGB list and AGB = me, I allowed myself the freedom that an indie blogger should have. Namely, defining “drone” however I damn well please. However, I still had some criteria. If a record had some songs that were hardly drone at all, but still embodied the drone aesthetic as a whole, I kept it. There were plenty of records that I wanted to mold into the list but no matter which way I looked at it, they just couldn’t be considered “drone” (especially the new Ricardo Donoso and Colin Stetson albums).

If you’re new here, there are sound samples on all of the original reviews and I beseech you to listen to anything on this list you have yet to hear. I assure you it will be worth your time 100%. But…

On to the list! On to the heckling!


10. High Aura’dMooncusser (YDLMIER)
“Soaring Windy & Carl euphoria, brief Fahey picks, and a wall of absolute beauty.”

Boston’s killerest scene stomping dude on Boston’s raddest darned tape label.


9. Nicholas SzczepanikAnte Algo Azul (self released)
“There’s mournful Basinski textures, sci-fi tractor beams, static harmonies, Eliane Radigue homages, all wrapped in Szczepanik’s own meditative perspective.”

Technically 12 separate items but they’re all Ante Algo Azul. And the ID3 tags on the official downloads have each one as an individual track of the full 12 song “album.” So suck it. Plus, this shit is the greatest.


8. Mind Over MirrorsThe Voice Rolling (Digitalis)
“Stretched out gauze floating through pink/grey bliss, endless layers of reed textured harmonies, all of the fantastic things about harmoniums but given a new life through Fennelly.”

Harmoniums always do it for me and this is like the harmonium record to destroy all harmonium records.


7. MountainsAir Museum (Thrill Jockey)
“Mountains bounce back and forth between straight up drone and pulsing minimal space techno, keeping a nice balance, never cemented in their textured planar earthly past but not jumping ship for the OPN New Age.”

Always keepin me on my toes. Mountains took it to the next motherfuckin level on this one.


6. EmuulThe Drawing Of The line (Digitalis)
“Blurred & blown out drones that breathe heavy, swaying in the breeze, scorched at the edges.”

Sad n blissful. Zen x100.


5. RaleSome Kissed Charms That Would Not Protect Them (Isounderscore)
“…a heaving sweetheart, giving you massive swells of dense intimidation… conjuring images of watching a thunderstorm roll in on the beach… enjoying it without fear and wallowing in the glory of the lightening sky, the majesty of nature beautifully overwhelming.”

Rale fucking nailed it on this one. And no one knows about it! Only 300 copies made, came out in May, and it’s still available. What’s wrong with you people! This is truly original and has AMAZING packaging.


4. Lawrence EnglishThe Peregrine (Experimedia)
“Like the finest grade sandpaper, with a tooth so smooth, the grit almost disappears and you’re left with drone as glorious as humanly possible.”

Didn’t think Mr. English could make something more satisfying than Kiri No Oto but goddammit he sure did. Unreal.


3. Kyle Bobby DunnWays Of Meaning (Desire Path)
“This is the most delicate bliss I’ve ever experienced. 100% shining purity that doesn’t need to be cranked to 11 to get the job done. It swirls softly & effortlessly turns hearts into puddles of droney delight.”

First of all, KBD on vinyl? YES. Then, the best KBD record yet? Also, YES. It has one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard on it, too. It’s just math, you guys. Of course this is on the list.


2. Andrew Weathers EnsembleWe’re Not Cautious (Sleep On The Floor)
“It’s unbelievably warm, so rich & soft, tender & charming, absolutely beautiful in every way. It can be played at full volume and it won’t overpower, it’ll simply fill your home with the most delicately lush sounds you can imagine.”

Probably the least droney record on this list but it’s got enough to break into the official “Drone” category for me. Either way, this is literally one of the best records I’ve ever heard.


1. Nicholas SzczepanikPlease Stop Loving Me (Streamline)
“As wonderfully serene as it is, the whole time you’re wading waist deep in emotion, the sustained & intertwined tones heavy hearted, cascading heartache, longing, and hope. An elegiac softness matched with poignant massiveness that ends on the brightest, most uplifting note, fading into the horizon.”

This is the one. The best record of the year. Hands down. No contest. One of the best records of all time, in fact. I shit you not. As the kids say these days, unimpeachable. Or is it unfuckwithable? Lets just go with the universally understood: PERFECT.

Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – Ante Algo Azul (self released, 2011)


Nicholas SzczepanikBlue (self released)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
I wrote about Ante Algo Azul back when I received the first in the series. Now that it’s come to a close, I thought it deserved a little retrospective. To recap, AAA was Szczepanik’s 12 piece subscription series in which each month, he would send a 3″ CD-R with a single 15-20 minute track of his gorgeous new minimalism, each with handmade individual packaging, and usually accompanied by an insert of something like a small photograph or a piece of prose. Each item is so beautiful & intricate, it could have its own photo shoot, so I opted for a group shot to keep things simple, and then direct you to this site where he documented the process with lots of photos.

The music contained in the 3.5 hours of AAA is a dream come true. It might be an easy mistake to write these off purely as exercises or experiments due to the format, but they’re so much more than that. These songs are as deep and fleshed out as his single track full length, Please Stop Loving Me. For such a minimal sound, Szczepanik really has an amazing range. There’s mournful Basinski textures, sci-fi tractor beams, static harmonies, Eliane Radigue homages, all wrapped in Szczepanik’s own meditative perspective.

I’d like to say something like “Nicholas Szczepanik is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists” but it’s too late. He’s already there, sitting at the top of my list. It’s not just the prolific part, (ok, it’s totally the prolific part) but it’s also that he’s crafting THEE BEST sounds to be coming out of music today. It’s honestly the most perfect blend of minimal & maximal, crystal clear smooth long form tones & textured emotional high volume drones. Literally, perfect. And this is me talking about him as an artist, not just Ante Algo Azul. But when you have someone like that who puts out a slice of brilliance every month for 12 months, and then has the gall to release in the same year what’s likely the year’s best drone full length? This dude is fucking unstoppable.

It’s a damn shame if you missed out on this series. It’s too late to buy in, but you can still stream (almost) all of the songs and even buy some of ‘em too. Who knows, maybe they’ll show up on his rarities box set in 50 years.

Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – Please Stop Loving Me (Streamline, 2011)


Nicholas Szczepanik - Please Stop Loving Me (excerpt)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
This is difficult for me. I haven’t written a full album review since Mind Over Mirrors on June 1. That’s almost 2 months (not that I’m counting or anything). But it’s not just about having a hard time gettin my groove back, I’m also having some performance anxiety. You see, Please Stop Loving Me is downright astonishing and possibly the best drone record this year, and trying to do justice to it while my gears are rusted over is a bit nerve wracking.

New work from Nicholas Szczepanik isn’t rare. If you’ve been keeping up with his Ante Algo Azul subscription series, you’d know he’s been putting out a new 15-20 minute piece every month. However, a new full length, well, we haven’t had one of those since LAST YEAR. Withdrawal inducing, to say the least. But the best news about this recent one, though, is that it’s the longest single piece Szczepanik has released (I think?), just about 50 minutes worth of beautiful tones & dreamlike drones. Fucking HEAVEN.

I can’t imagine a nicer way to spend each and every day than listening to Please Stop Loving Me. It dances in such organic ways, shifts and glides so smoothly, pure delicacy seeping through each moment. It’s like swimming through a spring fed lake, floating from pockets of warm to cool, rising and falling but always completely immersed.

As wonderfully serene as it is, the whole time you’re wading waist deep in emotion, the sustained & intertwined tones heavy hearted, cascading heartache, longing, and hope. An elegiac softness matched with poignant massiveness that ends on the brightest, most uplifting note, fading into the horizon.

I’ve listened to this countless times and every time it’s more breathtaking than the last. It’s almost overwhelming how gorgeous it is. If I was the type of dude that was brought to tears by a record, Please Stop Loving Me would have made me weep until I collapsed.

Album Review

Nicholas Szczepanik – Not Knowing (For Eliane Radigue) (Ante Algo Azul #1) (self released, 2011)


Nicholas SzczepanikNot Knowing (For Eliane Radigue) (excerpt)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
Y’all know who Nicholas Szczepanik is, right? Only one of the greatest new-droners working today. He put out a couple of straight up amazing full lengths and that collaboration with Jenks Miller. He’s right up there with Kyle Bobby Dunn and Ophibre. AKA watch out for this dude ’cause he’s fucking going places. Here’s the proof.

Szczepanik is doing a subcription series!!! It’s called Ante Algo Azul and it’ll consist of 12 3″ CDs, each with one piece of music, each housed in beautifully handcrafted packaging, and, of course, limited to 100 copies. The best thing is, you don’t need to pony up all $125 right out of the gate, you can do a payment plan (4 x $31.25). HELL YES. The first, titled Not Knowing (For Elian Radigue), just got sent out. If you’ve been paying attention, then you’d know Szczepanik released this track a couple months back on Soundcloud as a “work in progress” sort of thing. Well he finished it up (you can still stream the entirety of it) and made it the inaugural AAA.

“Not Knowing” is an 18 minute slow moving static monster, heaving & throbbing with glacial bass for the first half. It’s hypnotic but a bit menacing, dark pulses breathing at you from the abyss, relentless. A sleeping monolith that eventually opens its dreams to you, showing you the cascading choirs of beauty that surround it while it sleeps, gorgeous harmonies that rise & fade, never lasting as long as needed to totally envelope you, to relish in that glorious warmth. It runs up to you with open arms only to get scared of some unknown and hide behind shadowy rocks, inching closer & closer to a full embrace that never quite comes.

Clearly, this is some amazing fucking stuff. I love it just as much as anything else Szczepanik’s made. And the packaging is wonderful, a stamped envelope (each stamp is different) sealed with a thumbprint and a photograph inside (more pics & updates here). I absolutely can’t WAIT to see how the next 11 turn out. And it’s not too late for you to join in. Plenty of copies still left.

Album Review

Jenks Miller & Nicholas Szczepanik – American Gothic (Small Doses, 2010)


Jenks Miller & Nicholas SzczepanikWhite Light

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


 
Another glorious collaboration, although I’m not gonna lie, I hadn’t heard anything by Jenks Miller prior to American Gothic. Not that it matters. Anything Szczepanik does is guaranteed gold and I was super pumped to hear him work with somebody else, so I was destined to love this record no matter what.

The opening track is one of the best. Pretty much embodies the whole record. It starts out with a shrill static insect drone, kinda piercing. It goes on for a minute, you think it’s going to last forever and maybe you won’t be able to handle it, but then some youthful xylophone like synths come in and all of a sudden it’s a pop song, like American Analog Set noise for infants. It’s so charming & easy going, but so abrasive & stabbing, the combination of textures & tones is unreal.

And that’s what American Gothic is all about. Smoothing your dreams with the beautiful, subtle, & low-key while scouring your face off with the offensive, brittle, & hardcore. Slow static buzz drifts with digital clouds, mournful organs sound the arrival of new life while a blissful chaos unfolds in the heavens, and an insanely epic album closer where the sun fills you with majestic perfection and the universe crumbles at your feet. So fucking incredible.

Not that I needed it, but this has solidified my faith in Szczepanik as a truly great modern creator, and it has only made me hungry for more from Miller. Collaborations ran amok this year and I feel like they generally tend to get overlooked. Don’t let American Gothic slip by unnoticed because it’s honestly some of the best noise drone. Period.