Ian William Craig – TEAC Poem (Recital)
Since Craig’s A Forgetting Place snuck into last year’s Top Drone list at number 4, he’s already released an incredible digital release (Theia And The Archive) and now he’s prepping his debut vinyl for Recital and holy mother of god this record is going to tear everyone’s soul to shreds and sit itself upon the Throne of Drone, reigning all from here on out. Craig is trained as an opera singer, and he takes his incredible voice and fucks it up with some Basinski style tape madness, going over the top with an emotional rollercoaster, this dude sings so fucking sweetly if he collaborated with Julianna Barwick world peace would be inevitable, he sends it straight to the stratosphere, soaring euphoria, and then cracks it into a million pieces with decaying texture and warbled beauty, this is the sonic equivalent of a Turner painting, horror and melancholy in stormy waters amidst the sun shining bright with hope & purity on the fringe, crumbling crackling harmony turned inside out, bursting with life and on the edge of death, I feel absolutely fucking devastated listening to this, it’s the most heart-wrenching, overwhelming, fucked up, perfect, warm, somber, delicate, monster of a drone record, I know I tend to dramatize things when I get excited about a record but for real this is the best fucking thing you’ll hear all year, maybe for the next 5 years, I don’t know, it’s just a goddamn masterpiece. And you may remember me saying in my review of A Forgetting Place that there was one song, “On The Reach Of Explanations,” that could have comprised the whole record and I still would’ve been just as psyched because that song is just un-fucking-believable, well that song made it onto A Turn Of Breath which means I can spin that track until the grooves wear out and I’ve passed out from heavenly bliss overload. So yeah, this new one has a couple of “old” songs but Craig has never had a physical release so I’m totally game. Only 500 copies getting pressed up (including 125 deluxe editions) so seriously do not waste another minute in pre-ordering this. 100% necessary for everyone.
Nathan McLaughlin – 3:59 (Desire Path)
Oh fuck, this one’s a doozy. Some background: Houpert, McLaughlin, Yantis, & Mason have this huge project that has its own site called A Line In The Sand. In addition to this Line Drawings LP on Desire Path, there’s a ton of other related stuff. There’s an hour long tape called Alice Sketches on Digitalis consisting of “conversations” where they responded to challenges & questions they posed to each other while creating Line Drawings. There’s a 12 page newsprint tabloid with gorgeous artwork from Chris Koelle that includes portraits of all 10 artists. And there’s a series of 5 split 7″s called Studies (co-released by Desire Path and FET Press) where each of these guys (including Chris Koelle) picked another artist not involved in A Line In The Sand to contribute to the other side of their 7″, which brings in Anne Guthrie, Mary Lattimore, Brad Rose, Olli Aarni, and Norm Chambers. Holy jesus that’s a lot of stuff and I assure you every bit of it is 100% worthwhile. No filler. But this post is about the Desire Path LP…
Which is un-fucking-believably awesome. 2 tracks per artist, 1 for each side, and these 4 are perfectly suited for a split like this. I only knew of Josh Mason and Cody Yantis beforehand and I could easily name their records if I heard them randomly or out of context, but here everybody’s music blurs together so seamlessly it could just as well have been a collaboration. This is the most subtle, intimate, & delicate music, soft drones humming throughout, with processed & glitched guitars, intentional banjo plucking, satiny strings, mystical field recordings, the warble & crackle of ancient analog media, this is deep music that’s full of life & emotion, it gets dark, harrowing, dipping into the dreadful void, far enough down that the light above almost but not quite disappears, but mostly this is a tender ambient that effortlessly divulges truth & peace, an insane pleasure listening to this record, there is nothing better than a 4-way split that comes together so beautifully. And this just continues to confirm Desire Path’s streak of masterpieces, they’re currently 9 for 9 and I see no sign of them tripping up anytime soon.
Brinstaar – Lakshmi (Kotä)
Some killer weirdness coming out of Russia with this new Brinstaar record, abstracted wandering that births intimate ritualistic chimes & clatter, static glitch finding new ways to hypnotize, mega drones, pulsing bliss, plinky rhythms, and solar transcendence, adding some hidden & mysterious field recordings alongside the processed guitar and synth, this is fantastic work that Brinstaar says comes from looking for that “elusive moment of infinite bliss that keeps him alive and conscious.” Not sure what his moment is but it’s probably pretty similar to mine because this record fuckin rules. And it comes in the most future-tastic holographic jacket that has to be held in your hands to be fully appreciated. New to me label Kotä has instantly won me over with this one.
Mike Weis – Out Of The Flowers (Type)
Mike Weis, aka the drummer from Zelienople, drops his second solo LP and it’s a fuckin stunner. This was made after being diagnosed with cancer and is a sort of meditation on death, which becomes pretty apparent after giving this a spin because it’s dark as fuck and full of tantric percussion, a hypnotic droning beast that plumbs the depths of what we as humans know as life, it’s full of hallowed rituals opening new pathways in your head and begging for answers, propulsive and mystikal, taking you to uncharted interstellar domains with all manner of religious instruments, dwelling on subtle shifts in tones, screaming sirens, bombastic rhythms, searing static, delicate cymbals, organic field recordings, and a thousand hidden threads intertwined in a vast tapestry of morose beauty, this is a magnificent goddamn record, one that evokes a plethora of emotions and is easily one of the better things I’ve heard this year.
Ambarchi, O’Malley, & Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos (Drag City)
No audio, I’m not allowed to post anything yet. A video will be released soon though so keep an eye out for it.
Three dudes who hardly need an introduction, Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley, and Randall Dunn, have come together for what was originally supposed to be the score to the short Belgian film Kairos but evolved way beyond that into this 2xLP of harrowing dark ambient, a subtly menacing record that merges the already outstanding collaborative work between O’Malley’s guitar and Ambarchi’s electronics with Dunn’s perfect percussion, Shade Themes From Kairos walks the dark side of life, showing us all manner of occult & macabre, smoke & magik, ruins & rituals, truly penetrating music that ebbs & flows with soft skittering, bombastic nightmares, effortless drifts, enchanting vocals, devastating feedback, sonorous drone, and unholy freakouts, sights never before seen are laid in front of you, monolithic & unyielding, the sound of kingdoms fallen and souls forgotten, this is incredible fucking stuff, a truly magnificent record. I know these guys are pretty prolific but this one is not to be missed. And look at the fucking artwork by Denis Kostromitin I mean come on.
Hiss Tracts – Shortwave Nights (Constellation)
Hopefully you’ve heard of this already because of the people involved and because it’s on Constellation but if not, here’s what you’re missing. David Bryant from Godspeed You! Black Emperor & the painfully underrated Set Fire To Flames and Kevin Doria from the late great Growing and, more recently, the massive minimal drone of Total Life, have joined forces to become an otherworldly duo reigning ambient supreme. This is some seriously incredible shit, way better than you would have even hoped from a collab like this, these guys bring their creeping magic together and make some beautifully dark harrowing bliss out of fluttering piano, buzzing drone, haunted radio transmissions, whispered creak & crackle, and infinite fucking texture, this is goddamn perfect, sounds from the other side of the apocalypse, a post civilization decay seething throughout, shards of light poking through the gloom and offering moments of hope amidst the crumbling sadness, intense but never overwhelming and always with a somber ease (ok maybe it gets a little overwhelming once but it’s the fucking best). Top fucking notch. Truly hope this isn’t a one off because it would break my heart if this was all we ever heard from these guys.
HolyKindOf – Requiem, Et Cetera (Eilean)
One of the dudes behind ambient doom shamans Zurvan and part owner of Rubber City Noise, James Bryan Parks has unveiled the debut full length of his solo project HolyKindOf and it’s a fucking glorious mess of crackle & warble drone, only 3 tracks but clocking in around 40 minutes, it’s got a ton of zippy tape fuckery and old vinyl grit alongside solid cello hum and ambient synth tones, burning like a more elaborate Basinski & Jeck collab, beautiful & melancholic, slowly breaking the fabric of your soul down into its foundational dust, and the middle track is really where Stay/Sea shines, where the drone drops deep and fully resonates in your bones, moving to transcendental sadness, knowledge of painful memories surfacing and opening up the world to a new light, heavy & heavenly, a masterful fucking record. Do not miss out on this, new(ish) project, new label, get in early, leave satisfied.
Talons’ – Part 2 (Functional Objects)
Download MIDI Pillow
/sleep, welcome respite/
/the dream of nothing at all/
/from silence to bliss/
Donato Epiro – Naja Nigricollis (Black Moss)
Donato’s been around for a while, letting loose on numerous labels limited tapes and CD-Rs of bizarre worldly sounds, generally (unfortunately) not making too big of a splash. Then along comes Black Moss, the label responsible for that Umberto picture disc to accompany your suicide and the insaaaaane Slowmantra tape, and they’re like “Dude! The world’s gotta wake up! Lets press this shit to wax and spread the love.” So they did. This is Epiro’s vinyl debut and it compiles tracks from two of his previous releases, Sounding The Sun & Supercontinent, both on the late great Stunned. Now I don’t normally post about reissue/compilation stuff here but this gets a pass because 1: I already mentioned this dude is way under-appreciated, 2: it was really easy to lose track of the onslaught of Stunned releases at the time, let alone going through the back-catalog now that they’re kaput, and most obviously 3: Fiume Nero fuckin kills. This is some dark jungle shit, vibin hard on sweaty rhythms, heat wave fuzz lines droning in the distance, ethno-industrial jams that feel like fever dream hallucinations, washed out black noise and beastly flutter, this is what you hear after solo trekking through the rainforest for weeks on end and you’re at the edge of your life, stumbling upon a tribe performing manic dance rituals, this record appropriates everything and comes out sounding fresh as fuck, Donato nails it. Only 300 copies and don’t let the reissue thing dissuade you. Fiume Nero is essential.
Cinchel – Falling Asleep In The Big Blanket, Waking Up With snow Falling Outside The Bedroom Window (self released)
Chicago’s Cinchel (aka Jason Shanley) has been slowly but steadily releasing super solid guitar drone records for the past few years, flying a bit under the radar for reasons unknown because this dude consistently knocks it out of the park and his newest release is no different. A House Once Lived That Never Was is like an hour and a half or something (according to my quick & sloppy math) and it’s all killer no filler tender ambient that’s as organic as Mountains used to be and as heartfelt as Andrew Weathers, taking a guitar and a tape delay and coaxing out the softest most delicate sounds, looped & dusty, droned & drifty, like chilling in a creaky house during a summer rain and listening to the air come alive, hypnotic strumming lulling you to a dreamland of pure perfection, this is absolutely wonderful stuff, and it comes with a 25 page color zine of photos taken by Shanley and his wife Kirstie (she’s really good). The digital version is out now (which includes a PDF of the zine) and the physical version will be out late May/early June.
Symbol – Shadow Harvesting (Holodeck / Light Lodge)
Christopher Royal King of This Will Destroy You exorcising his inner psyche with this solo debut as Symbol. On the surface this could be just another synth record, a drop in the overflowing barrel of New Agey revival, but King takes this shit to the next level, if only due to the additional instruments he brings to the table, he’s got harmonium (which is an instant win obviously), singing bowls, hammered dulcimer, bowed cymbals, tape manipulation (another “fuck yes”), and guitar, all processed to heaven and back, giving this gorgeous beast a rare richness, full blown bliss that’s overworked and overdone to perfection, simple subtle drones that drift like dust in the sun, burnt static & soaring melodies opening new doors in your mind, falling apart as soon as you grab ahold of it, euphoric but not overwhelming, truly fantastic work that sounds all the better on wax.
Haunted Disco – Paradigm (self released)
Download Enter Through The Exit
/murky dream rhythms/
/chill party time on cloud nine/
/sexxxed up bedroom pop/
Inventions – Entity (Temporary Residence)
First of all, Matthew Cooper aka Eluvium is one half of this new project so it’s already the best thing ever. The other dude is Mark Smith, guitarist from Explosions In The Sky, so yup, definitely 100% the best thing ever. It sounds kinda like what you’d expect, there’s moments where it literally sounds like those clean EITS guitars on top of some premium Eluvium drone, and that’s fucking great and it would be perfectly satisfying if that’s all it was, but it’s sooo much more. These two come up with something familiar but unique, taking their respective talents and washing it in a blissed drone pop that feels way better that you’d ever imagine it could, like magic space dust swirling in slow motion, with subtle mini-crescendos, unexpected rhythmic grooves, and wordless soothing vocals, this is the golden shimmer on top of clouded water, the score to the dreams you hope for every night, giving you the feeling that yeah maybe everything is ok, at least for the duration of the record. Pure fucking excellence. This one has been pretty much glued to my turntable for the past few weeks. Couldn’t love it any more.
Joshua Bonnetta – Strange Lines And Distances trailer (Experimedia Films)
Yes, you read that right. Experimedia Films! And yeah, that’s why there’s a trailer instead of a streaming song. But there’s an album cover too? Yep. Stay with me here for a moment. Get this, Strange Lines And Distances is a record… AND a movie. 2 in 1! It’s what the art world calls “audio/visual.” Joshua Bonnetta created an a/v installation that’s been shown around the world and Experimedia started a film off-shoot to bring this beautiful beast to the public. There’s a DVD (with optional Blu-Ray add-on) of the 16mm film and an LP with an extended version of the score (as well as digital downloads for both audio & video), and it includes an in-depth write up by Jeffrey Sconce that starts out “There will never be a digital ghost.” The whole thing is fucking amazing, and I haven’t even gotten to the content yet.
Story time! Guglielmo Marconi was the first dude to broadcast a radio transmission across the Atlantic (between Cornwall and Newfoundland). Also, he believed that sound waves never completely disappear but rather fade out over time, and if technology was advanced enough, with the right tools you could pick up sound waves from centuries past. Strange Lines And Distances is directly inspired by this belief and Marconi’s transmissions.
Bonnetta’s work here is both thematically fascinating and aesthetically gorgeous. The video has 2 channels, it’s split down the middle with footage from both of the original transmission sites in Cornwall and Newfoundland, it’s a half hour of perfectly paired complementary images of snails & reeds, webs & leaves, clouds & trees. The visuals stand on their own as truly captivating, capturing the micro & macro magic of our planet. The sound part dives even deeper into the mystery of Marconi’s world, finding the most subtle interplay between field recordings, radio transmissions, and electronic sonics, moving through a world of delicate precision and deafening static, getting rolled over by waves of heaven, overwhelming & majestic, next to the silence of being the only person around, hearing your heart beat in tandem with the natural drone of the world, slow & resigned. This is easily one of the most incredible releases so far this year. The record alone is some of the best drone around, and the video is downright masterful, but together, and so exquisitely packaged by Experimedia Films, the whole thing is just absolutely fucking perfect.
Gordon Ashworth – Desperate And Indebted (Orindal)
You might not recognize the name Gordon Ashworth because this is his first record under his own name but I can almost guarantee you already know him. He’s recorded as Concern, Oscillating Innards, CAEN, etc, he’s also in the band Knelt Rote, and a bunch of others. So yeah, busy dude, he ain’t new to the scene, and S.T.L.A. makes that readily apparent because HOLY SHIT this record is fucking amazing. He takes a wholly unique approach to folk drone, bringing together his arsenal of talent to blend lush digitalism with tender acoustic keys & strings, in just under 40 minutes he’s able to conjure an entire world of sound teeming with life, mini portraits via field recordings, transcendence out of emotional piano, soft Tesla static and minimal tonal drift, a beautiful banjo singing with heartache, the boundaries are non-existent and Ashworth reins everything together with precision, old Americana & musique concrète alongside blurred drone & modern classical, everything all at once and pared down to the barest intimate impression of reality. Not gonna lie, I was pretty fuckin bummed when Ashworth drew the shades on Concern a couple years ago, but S.T.L.A. heals that wound and goes way beyond what I had hoped for, this record is utterly fantastic, gorgeous in every way. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for banjos, especially banjo drone, I mean forget about it I’m a fuckin goner, but trying to get past that, this is easily one of the best goddamn records I’ve heard in a long time. For real. Only 300 copies pressed up, so stream some samples then get your pre-order on now and lock it in.