Anne Guthrie – Strongly Leaning With Irregular Crown (Students Of Decay)
After a handful of excellent releases under her belt, Guthrie drops her first vinyl full length on Students Of Decay, and, surprise surprise, it’s fucking outstanding. Guthrie works in the realm of field recordings and processed instruments, most notably here with the French horn, violoncello, and contrabass. Brilliantly blurring the lines by twisting the natural world with the manmade one, I think I hear rushing air & squawking birds, but hardly confident enough to identify anything in particular. The mysterious origins are only the beginning though, while a spectral world floats between the bizarre sounds, fleeting moments of abstract turning concrete slip between your fingers, subtly blown out radio transmissions crackling & crumbling like an ancient stone wall, insects humming past your ears, decaying mournful horns looped to infinity, this is both sterile and full of life, a strange overlap of warmth & cold, Guthrie is adept at finding the perfect tone at the perfect moment and allows for both extended silence and lush minimal drone, absolutely wonderful stuff, definitely not to be missed, and SOD is only making 250 of these, so get while the gettin’s good.
Federico Durand – El Espejo De Mil Años (Desire Path)
I first heard about Argentina’s finest Federico Durand through his superb collaboration with Nicholas Szczepanik under the guise of Every Hidden Color. This
debut LP of Durand’s (translated to The Language Of The Fireflies) takes that pristine sound from Luz and amplifies it to a level of pure magic. This is a record of subtle complex sounds, finding wonder in the smallest audio spaces and turning a regular peaceful morning into a world of bright white bliss. Intimate field recordings of wildlife chatter and drifting chimes are in perfect company amidst minimal tonal shimmer, delicate softness, humble piano twinkling, and emotional dreams. This is a damn near perfect drone record, kicking introverted euphoria into uncharted territory. As is all things with Desire Path, El Idioma is limited, so don’t sleep on this.
Benjamin Finger – Consonance Of Fear (Time Released Sound)
Incredible new somber piano out of Norway from Benjamin Finger, this is a truly special record, carving a nook in the solo piano realm with field recordings of half forgotten memories, a familiar stranger who walked by, birds chirping outside your window last spring while you fluttered around the house, the voices of childhood friends, smothered fireworks acting as vinyl crackle, all hidden in the background of Finger’s eulogistic meditative piano, twinkling a bright & eerie melody, looped into your consciousness, finding a perfect balance between serene & melancholic, not straying too far into euphoric or depressive but still evoking both, this is a beautifully intimate record that will score your noir past and your peaceful tea time, this dude couldn’t have made a better record, and you have the option of copping the ultra deluxe version of this which comes with a skeletal bird mobile made from antique piano parts that lives in a huge collaged chocolate box adorned with more piano parts and contains even more piano pieces inside. So fucking over the top, so fucking cool. Only 70 of those are available, so if that’s your thing, ya best get on it.
Betacicadae – Pahoa (Elegua)
One Kevin Scott Davis making an astounding debut with Betacicadae. A wholly unique record, taking every instrument he’s got, a bunch of guitars, a wood flute, vibraphone, harp, violin, drums, synths, and runs some of it through some effects pedals, does some post-processing, and mixes it all up with field recordings from farms, rainforests, and cities, making the most incredible electro-acoustic ambient record that is its own separate planet of sound, there’s nothing else quite like this, it’s a microcosm of personality but the breadth is endless, breathing warmth into electronics and twisting organics beyond their limits, life is everywhere & at every moment, this covers the entire range of emotion with calm oddities, frightened fauna, chaos & control, washed out & dazzlingly brilliant, the dark night of the unknown & the slow morning peace, and the opening track “Pahoa” is the most beautiful fucking thing I’ve ever heard, it’s a masterpiece of wonder, a place of perfection, and I just want to live inside it forever. This is as good as debuts get, my friends. The best on every level. The whole thing is streaming and there’s only 100 copies each of vinyl and CD, so don’t do anything dumb like not pick one of these up immediately.
Be Honest – Tea, Sugar (Fallow Field)
Goddamn this is a special fucking record. Ian Maleney’s first under the Be Honest name and it’s inspired by/has field recordings from the rural Irish bogland making some truly exceptional drone. The only recognizable samples I hear are bird chirps (done quite tastefully) and maybe some rain (not too sure about that though), the rest is impeccable guitar drones and subliminal synths, the two side long tracks acting as polar opposites, the first starting out with a soft & bright drone that quickly turns into an overwhelming dense dark static, snarling & growling but never actually biting, subtly beautiful with melodies buried in the noise, briefly breaking off into a calmer haunted dream, then bursting through again with the gorgeous abrasion. The B side takes a lighter approach, very playful & soothing, a couple layers of processed picking laid on top of vague nature, an organic warmth that feels sun drenched & slightly melancholic, undeniably beautiful, and just fucking perfect. Not too many of the bad boys were made, only 50 on Maleney’s newly minted Fallow Field label, so get white the gettin’s good.
Anton LeVey – Satanism
Download The Occult Explosion
This is kind of the companion record to Nat Freedland’s book of the same name. An amazing 2xLP of interviews with leaders in various occult fields, from witchcraft to magic to ESP to Satanism. Rosemary Brown channels dead composers and Anton LeVey talks about how Satanism is more about life than death. Tons of awesome material, hearing these people speak about their experiences is pretty fucking cool. There’s also a couple of killer tracks at the end by Black Widow, the British cult rockers that never made it as big as Sabbath. It comes with a full size attached booklet (that was too difficult to scan, sorry) so definitely pick this up if you ever find a copy. Plus that artwork by Wilfried Satty is fucking incredible.
There’s a rip of this record on the Internet Archive (that has more details on this if you’re interested). Normally I’d just leave it at that but the copy that was ripped for IA was in rough shape. Mine sounds great, very clean, so if you’ve already downloaded it from there, I recommend replacing it with my version.
Every Hidden Color – I (excerpt) (Streamline)
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.
Concern – God, Weak And Quiet (Isounderscore)
A bittersweet moment, this is Gordon Ashworth’s final release as Concern, but it’s such a stellar album that it stings a little less. Made almost entirely with a 15 string box harp, with the exception of some field recordings thrown in to spice it up, Ashworth looped & processed that shit until he turned his 15 strings into a solo Crimson Grail of box harps. This is like the Swedish massage or acupuncture of drone, thousands of little pins & slaps layered and sequenced to give you an overall good time. The first side long track starts with an incredibly lush strum, tender & sharp, that bleeds into samples of indistinct human chatter, a shy social anxiety building as everything tucks itself away into a corner, 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. The first of the two pieces on the B side stretch out the stress and worries, all encompassing but still a heavenly textured euphoria, until the closing track that reaches a relaxing peace, a reserved chillness, obtaining freedom of all concern (yep). An arc in an album I strive for in life, the last track my primary goal. This album is absolutely fucking beautiful and definitely some of the most amazing & unique drone this year. I always expect the best from Isounderscore and, big surprise, Misfortune is another winner.
Download Auscultation Of The Heart
A record for medical students to hear normal vs “pathological” hearts. Lots of super awesome science speak about hearts & their defects. Lots of rhythmic hearts beating in a muffled stutter. If you enjoyed that dog heart sounds record I posted, clearly this is for you (and vice versa). A friend, the proprietor of the exceptionally rad music/tech blog Zed Equals Zee, scored this for me. She clearly knows my interests well.
Dog Hallucination – Untitled 2 (Intangible Cat)
A tightly compacted 3″ where Dog Hallucination (Doggy P. Lips & D. Petri) is joined by Bob from Headless Ballerinas Underwater. Weirdness abound on this one, the guitars getting fucked up & beatified by Bob with some added field recordings thrown into the mix. Gentle looping guitars, droning into the ether alongside ruptured electronics gurgling everywhere, phasers set to “caress,” celestial warmth feeding the fire, all infused with a solid rhythm, a noisy techno-drone that does more to invoke lucid dreams than it does the urge to party. But this is still totally partyable (at least a couple of the tracks are). And totally awesome. Here’s hoping Bob joins in the Hallucinations more often.
Ous Mal – Metsien Hämy (Full Of Nothing)
Finland’s now defunct Ous Mal makes one of his last outings on a split with Russia’s Bedroom Bear. Ous Mal’s side is absolutely killer, a cracked bliss that will surely be missed. Some songs have a way about them similar to the recent surge of instrumental hip hop jams except the beats here hit as soft as your grandma’s punches. The rest are a warped & blurry bedroom pop, droned in the best way with zero sense of urgency, moth eaten and full of holes like it’s been tucked away in the attic for half a century.
Bedroom Bear takes a slightly more dramatic approach to the bedroom pop, permeated with a low-key psych sound, waves of the bizarre melting into dream-like drifts of noise, all while still being chill as fuck and totally blissful. One track is like a nap on the beach with waves lapping at the shore and the creatures of the coast singing about how awesome life is. Doesn’t get much better than that.
A truly great split, limited as expected, and on the increasingly awesome Russian label Full Of Nothing. Wholly worth your while.
Patrick Emm – Sleep Eater (YDLMIER)
More Boston on Boston love with this one. Emm is somewhat of a newcomer, although he’s still shown his awesomeness on his debut Mythics. This tape is a whole other beast, though. It’s dark as hell and full of sci-fi horror electronics, brittle contact mic static, clattery field recordings, and warped tape fuckery. These are the dark sounds that emanate from the recesses of your dirty basement. Sounds of paranoia & terror, swampy bubbling & eery chirps, didgeridoo electronic waves, muffled percussive field recordings, woozy synths, shrieking high end whines, haunted echoes from the shadows, heaving drones rumbling below everything. This tape is 100% cool and totally recommended. Perfect for all y’all scuzzy folks.
Ernst Karel – Scuol-Motta Naluns (Gruenrekorder)
Absolutely one of a kind. Karel has made field recordings of gondolas, chairlifts, funiculars, and various aerial cable cars in Switzerland, without any self righteous tweaking or altering. These sounds are coming straight from the cars. Mostly a calm, serene, and hushed album, with lots of motorik rhythms and mechanical percussion breaking through. The man-made sounds are the focal point, gears grinding, bang clanking, crunching, howling, etc. This is one that demands your full attention though, as it’s easy to think there’s nothing going on if you’re not 100% intent on hearing it. Despite the spiked mechanics, it’s a record of profound & solitary quiet. But it’s not empty by any stretch of the imagination. Just the opposite. It’s full of life. Every little detail is captured, the wind carrying through the mountains, distant animals, hushed hums, Swiss voices, it’s celebrates the minutiae and tells me to live in the moment and enjoy what I hear around me. Pay attention, hear it, live it. Truly fantastic. Swiss Mountain Transport Systems could be my new life mantra.
Szymon Kaliski – When Facing North (Hibernate)
A magnificent follow up to his debut, Out Of Forgetting. Cold, sparse, and hidden textures opening up a world of revered memories and rainy days. Pianos whimper in the corner while unrecognizable field recordings scratch up against old wallpaper. Stuck in gray fields with a sliver of gold lighting up the horizon. Lonely, exhausted sounds sprawled out on beautifully minimal canvases. Tiny processed clicks shack up next to complementary keys, not bogged down with excessive bullshit. A crystal clear hi-fi production matching a vision just as clear. Wonderful on every level. Part of Hibernate’s limited Postcard Series but, sadly, sold out. Luckily, you can name your price for it over at Bandcamp.
Download Canine Heart Sounds
I never thought I’d fine a record weirder & closer to my heart than that seashell pronunciation LP from a while back but I’m pretty sure this Canine Heart Sounds album trumps it. It’s pretty literal with its title and minimal in its jacket design. Then again, it was put out by a pharmaceutical company and I don’t think they’re usually known for their creativity.
The sounds on here are incredible, starting out with normal heartbeats which could be used for lullabies or an homage to Gas. Later on the sounds get more & more irregular, and by the end of the record, you hear dogs with severe heart problems and their beats could be thrown down without alterations at your next dance party.
So the sounds are super fucking awesome but there’s the whole reality of it that you’re listening to these poor dogs who aren’t doin so hot. :(
There’s a narrator, Stephen Ettinger, who explains what’s going on for each sound, so this is definitely an educational record for vets and animal surgeons and whatnot. I’ll probably edit out all of his talking at some point like I did with the Sounds Of Insects, but I was too fuckin psyched about this record to wait to post it and I didn’t have enough time for superfluous editing.