AGB Radio

Smokey Emery – Soundtracks For Invisibility Vol. III: Qui Mal Y Pense (Holodeck, 2014)

smokey emery - soundtracks vol 3 album cover
Smokey Emery04 (Holodeck)

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Smokey Emery is one Daniel Hipólito who works primarily with reel-to-reel tape loops, he’s been working on this Soundtracks For Invisibility series for a while (as well as a series titled Lives), and while this one, Volume III: Qui Mal Y Pense, was originally released digitally in 2011, Holodeck gave it a proper physical debut on cassette this summer, so thanks a ton for that, because this is fucking awwwwesome, a wide open space jam of dark dank beautifully transcendent drone, an hour’s worth of material, half of which is from a single 30 minute piece, this thing goes all in for minimal weirdness, slow-mo fog horns and glacial swells, subdued industrial dread with possessed moaning and ethereal resonant guitars, the sound of an inter-dimensional séance that’s not meant to contact the deceased but rather alternate versions of yourself, and it goes horribly wrong leaving you deranged and with an abyss for a soul, this takes you on a harrowing journey to great & terrible places, a glorious black slab of ancient drone that will reach your innermost thoughts, this is unsafe music for those seeking the true phenomenons of life, an absolutely killer fucking record, love it ’til it’s dead.

Album Review

Howard Stelzer – Brayton Point (Dokuro, 2014)

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Howard StelzerUntitled (excerpt) (Dokuro)

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I remember first getting into weird music and having Howard Stelzer be one of my launchpads. All I knew was that he made the most awesome sounds essentially from messing around with tapes, and of his innumerable collaborations, the ones with Giuseppe Ielasi on Night Life and Jazzkammer on Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe were on constant repeat for a while. Then I went to a show he put on with Astronaut (early OPN group), Geoff Mullen, Fire In The Head, Skeletons Out (which unbeknownst to me at the time was a collab between Stelzer and Jay Sullivan), and Red Horse, and while talking to Howard at the merch table afterward, I realized that 1: the dude I was talking to was in fact the one & same Howard Stelzer who collaborated with anyone worth a damn, 2: this guy ran a super boss label Intransitive, and 3: he was from Boston! I was a kinda floored. He had his brand new solo CD Bond Inlets for sale, so I snatched that up and have been enamored ever since. According to Stelzer, Brayton Point is his first solo full length since 2008′s Bond Inlets (although Discogs begs to differ), but yeah, I’m pretty fucking psyched about this one, and yeah, it’s as good as I hoped it would be.

Brayton Point is comprised of sounds taken from the Brayton Point Generating Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, and it’s one big horror show of industrial chaos swirled together in a hulking drone storm, a dense and twisted hellmouth with fleeing screaming demons, the sort of music your parents thought you’d hear if you played a melted Black Sabbath record backwards, except way fucking cooler, with more high end skree, whirlwind static, and core shattering garble, but with plenty of moments of reprieve, a subtle mechanical hum with ancient technology creaking in the distance, the texture of tape making its way to the playing field, this is absolutely & ridiculously awesome, the whole 50 minute piece a welcome beast of Stelzer’s patented tape fuckery, so glad this dude is back in the game, and he’s back with a motherfuckin winner, really can’t wait to see what else he’s got on deck.

AGB Radio

Tecumseh – Violet (Anti-Matter, 2014)

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TecumsehSerenade For The Dead (Anti-Matter)

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This Portland trio (Ian Hawk, Jeremy Long, and John Krausbauer) has been pretty dormant of late (their last release was in 2011) and now all of a sudden they’ve got two new records out on Anti-Matter, this 30 minute LP Violet and the For The Night 10″, so yay! but regardless whether this is a sign of things to come or they’ll just hide out for another few years, this new stuff is the fucking besssst, Violet diving deep into the minimal drone via heavy dark doom vibes, this is like Sunn O))) minus the metal and laid up on downers, sorta like that Culver record on Fabrica from last year but way louder, funereal tonal shifting that’s absolutely fucking massive, a monolithic drone that roars in your head and rattles you to your core, but doing so without too much crunch or abrasive grit, so while this is evil as fuck, it’s also kinda soothing, like being inside a mausoleum reverberating from a constant rolling thunder, mega monstrous minimalism for those sleepless nights spent watching demons crawl up the wall, this is just fucking spectacular, and fyi For The Night is just as good, so do yourself a favor and scoop up both of these limited leviathans, if for no other reason than being able to see that beautiful eyefuck of an album cover (by Tauba Auerbach) in person.

Album Review

Foie Gras – Held (self released, 2014)

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Foie GrasWants You In That Way (self released)

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Foie Gras is one strong, tender force hailing from San Francisco who makes music in the subtlest ways. She’s as yet released a physical record under this name, instead gifting us with free downloads on her Bandcamp (although I think there’s something tangible in the works), and you would do well to hit up each and every one of her albums (currently two available in addition to Held) as she is prone to taking them down whenever she fancies, and this is one is especially special, with a couple covers (Sparklehorse’s “Heart Of Darkness” and Heroin Party’s “Summoning Ritual”), and a slow-mo drifting drone, a welcome smothering of soft thick fog that moves effortlessly through you, blank of all emotion on the surface but digging deeper shows this is lined with an almost imperceptible but undeniable void, a bittersweet minimalism under a thin veil of devastation, frequently singing of death & suffering but always from the most delicate perspective, including the intimate Chelsea Wolfe-esque acoustic closer “Cliffs” where she croons “This is why we can’t have nice things, this is why I’ve destroyed my being, and this how you prolong the suffering,” this is the brightest dark music I’ve ever heard, and it’s just fucking outstanding, a painfully doomed record that floats above and rests in the ether bliss, truly excellent shit that makes me wonder how she’s not at the top of the drone chain, so maybe you can do you part and give this a listen, it’ll stay with you forever.

Album Review

Taiga Remains – Works For Cassette (Helen Scarsdale Agency, 2014)

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Taiga RemainsThere’s Nothing (Helen Scarsdale Agency)

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I’ve been holding on to this one for a while, spinning it on the regular at AGB HQ, digging deep into the subtle drone, this is to be Alex Cobb’s final release under the Taiga Remains moniker, although this isn’t new work, it’s a collection of two out-of-print tapes, the A side is Beneath The Weeping Beeches on Ekhein and the B side is Thereafter on Arbor, both originally released in 2008, but the great thing about this is that Taiga Remains has never had a vinyl release all to himself, it’s always been splits, so now you’ve got his wondrous smooth tones on what is essentially a full length, and the world is a better place, these are some dark & beautiful sounds, hunting through empty industrial plains in search of the glimmer of an epiphany, desperately hoping there’s something beyond the substance in front of you, absorbed in the delicate grit and shifting muffled majesty that soothes in a way harrowing music rarely does, this is mindful, meditative, and gloriously expansive, a vast open landscape speckled with the remnants of a once great civilization, the dust still settling and lit up by the sun shining through the breaking sky, this is a truly fantastic record, and what a great gift to have this remastered and repackaged on sweet sweet wax, all thanks to the impeccable HSA.

Album Review

Sublamp – Lianas (Eilean, 2014)

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SublampOur Bodies Draped In Moss And Cloud (Eilean)

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Sublamp, aka Ryan Connor, is primarily interested in “pre-language experience” and Lianas takes us on a trip to the cloud forests of Monteverde, evoking a strong jungle vibe without the jungle rhythm, this is a gorgeously lush drone that’s just pure fucking bliss, 4 tracks, 3 of them nice & long, slow burning thick minimalism, like huffing ether to the point just before passing out and seeing stars dancing everywhere, parts of it reminding me of the precise intimate guitar work of Josh Mason, other parts going full blown texture overload, tender, warm, & timeless, I feel like I’ve been listening to this forever, the hum & crackle acting as the foundation of my life, a majestic fog rolling through your memory, giving everything a euphoric glow, this is truly spectacular drone, easily one of my favorites from this year, and the CD looks beautiful with deluxe handmade packaging and strictly limited to 80 copies.

Album Review

Telecult Powers – Black Meditations (Experimedia, 2014)

telecult powers - black meditations album cover
Telecult PowersNever Ending Empires (Experimedia)

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Crazy duo of Witchbeam & Mr. Matthews are back at it with a stellar freakshow on Experimedia that features guests like Rachel & Grant Evans (Motion Sickness of Time Travel & Nova Scotian Arms) and Lala Ryan (Excepter), so already this record is at peak awesomeness. Dark rhythmic weirdness banged out in an enchanted lodge that sounds just like what you’d hope a record called Black Meditations would sound like, unnerving noise waving in & out of focus, bleary drone making you woozy and filling every inch of the room, suffocating and hypnotic, conjuring an inter-dimensional knowledge of the Beyond, these guys capture the ritualistic séance of the 21st century with a creeped out occult vibe that permeates every moment, from the stuttering static and panning future electronics to the bizarre samples and mystical imagery, this record is way off the deep end, and I gotta say I’m both surprised and impressed Experimedia released this. Not their usual type of jam, but clearly Black Meditations transcends that bullshit, this will be right at home in any weirdo’s collection.

Album Review

Ian William Craig – A Turn Of Breath (Recital, 2014)

ian william craig - a turn of breath album cover
Ian William CraigTEAC Poem (Recital)

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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.

Album Review

Lawrence English – Wilderness Of Mirrors (Room40, 2014)

lawrence english - wilderness of mirrors album cover
Lawrence EnglishThe Liquid Casket (Room40)

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Lawrence English is one of the artists that continuously/impossibly tops himself with each new release and Wilderness Of Mirrors is just fucking jaw dropping. Way more dynamic and aggressive that his recent efforts, this is the drone that smothers all competitors, it’s dark and audacious, intense sounds coming from midnight forest jaunts, swirling static that cuts deep alongside delicate chimes and melodious humming, balancing perfectly the reassuring soft tenderness & sky high soaring bliss with nightmarish gravitas & densely melancholic cacophony, English unleashes a visceral chaos peppered with the sweetest fucking drone, delicate minimalism, and moments of sheer triumph, all mixed together this is full blown euphoria that is unrivaled, dude is at the top of his game on this record and his game can’t be fucked with. This is all time Top Ten stuff. Immerse yourself.

Album Review

D. Burke Mahoney – Sonora (Cathedral Transmissions, 2014)

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D. Burke MahoneyTidal Currents (Cathedral Transmissions)

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This underrated dude is quickly proving to be one of my favorites in the current drone world. His newest outing comes from the appropriately named Cathedral Transmissions, and it’s a fuckin grand slam of a record, with four long pieces (ranging from 11 to 18 minutes) of gorgeously minimal drone, that wavers between modern classical and flat out hypno-wave tones, tossing in some field recording-esque texture, this thing goes all the way to the depths of your soul and just chills, hovering inside you while the thick warm hum smothers your every fiber, and the last (longest) song is almost like Basinski doing an ambient techno track, with the beats stretched wayyyy out and super fuckin murky, it’s fucking incredible, Mahoney wields subtlety & patience with such perfection it’s like he’s been doing this forever, but he’s only got a handful of releases and a bunch of one-offs on various comps & podcasts & such. Hopefully that’ll change soon because he clearly deserves the attention. And Sonora is wonderfully packaged in a cardboard envelope with artwork by Jessica Bell on the front. Super sweet. Super limited (45 copies). Definitely worth adding to your collection.

UPDATE: Looks like this one’s already sold out. Sorry about that. But there’s always digital, and it’s a fuckin steal at £2.

Album Review

Gog – Gog (King Of the Monsters, 2014)

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GogThe Lies, They Want To Give You Something (King Of The Monsters)

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Muther. Fucken. GOG. This dude rules all. Everything he’s done has been the highest caliber black drone metal and his newest self titled release on the ever trustworthy KOTM takes shit to the next level. Things are way rowdier than before, less drone (but also more drone?), more songy songs, even pianos & vocals (with Francesca Marongiu of Agarttha & Architeuthis Rex lending her incredible voice to one track), the heavy doom is amped up, cranked to 11, and absolutely mono-fuckin-lithic, serious blown out darkness spewed from a core of pure fury & pain, the black metal blacker and metaller than it’s ever been, Gog transformed into a dynamic beast capable of droning silent voids of non-existence and unholy squalls roaring from the depths of despair, listen to this at maximum volume and be prepared for a true pummeling, this is a wholly unique record, and as a Gog fan, I can safely say it’s my favorite thing he’s ever released. Only 300 copies pressed, and if you’re unfamiliar with Gog or KOTM, know that this will not stick around long.

Album Review

Rvnes – Rest/Relief (Jehu & Chinaman, 2014)

rvnes - rest relief album cover
Rvnes – Relief (Jehu & Chinaman)

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Rvnes is new, but Malte Cornelius Jantzen has been around for a bit as S N DY P RL RS, whose LP on Umor Rex is fantastic. But S N DY P RL RS is no more and Rvnes has risen in its place. Glory be to Rvnes, this debut is easily one of my favorite drone records this year, two side-long pieces of deeeeep minimalism that sounds like it’s nearly motionless but feels like it has an entire universe of detail (which is proven by the waveform that’s way more dynamic than you’d expect), it’s the subtle pulsing, the delicate shifts in tone, the silence hovering between moments of resignation & peace that take what could be nothing more than a simple sleep to a beautifully perfect transcendence, this is full of a dense & delicate precision, a softness that almost diverts attention from the intense melancholic sobriety, but fully embracing this allows for all intricacies to be teased out, the borderline bliss alongside the bittersweet void, this is absolutely fucking awesome and deserves way more praise than it’s likely to get. Only 30 tapes were made, so seriously do not waste any time picking this up. Also it was mastered by the master himself Nicholas Szczepanik. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Album Review

Equal Stones – Transgression (Hidden Vibes, 2014)

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Equal StonesSet Free (Hidden Vibes)

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This is a truly magnificent record from Equal Stones, aka Amandus Schaap from the Netherlands. Hidden Vibes makes note that Transgression has more of a “drone theme” than previous Equal Stones stuff, which I haven’t heard, so I can’t say if this is his usual sound or not, but I’m gonna guess this drone is somewhat new to him. But who fuckin cares because this record is the fucking best. This is a softly textured drone that’s gritty and looped, making heavy use of analog creek & crackle alongside echoing guitar, subtle synth, and ethereal nondescript vocals, wonderful waves of static that rise nice & high without being overwhelming and sit just below the threshold of euphoria, mysterious & hypnotic, like staring at the horizon through a thin fog over the ocean, seeing the occasional whitecap and floating debris, all shrouded in a soothing bittersweet bliss, dissolving your problems to their true objective state and letting that obsessive anxiety fall away. 100% awesome and you get the best of both worlds with options for limited gatefold vinyl and/or free* digital. You know what to do.

Album Review

Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Cody Yantis / Josh Mason – Line Drawings (Desire Path, 2014)

yantis mclaughlin mason houpert - line drawings album cover
Nathan McLaughlin3:59 (Desire Path)

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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.

Album Review

Brinstaar – Testarossa (Kotä, 2013)

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BrinstaarLakshmi (Kotä)

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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.