Album Review

David Andree & Josh Mason – Call, Response (Own, 2014)

david andree & josh mason - call response album cover
David Andree & Josh Mason – Winter To Spring, Further Than First Thought (Own)

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After Mason’s The Symbiont scored the number one spot in my Top Drone list last year, suffice it to say I was craving more of his delicate sound. This new record, a collaboration with David Andree, fills the void quite nicely. Andree & Mason worked long distance (from Minnesota & Florida, respectively), each recording a piece to tape in one take and sent to the other with the stipulation that they too must record their contributions in a single take, with the intent of closely simulating a live collaboration. The results are pure fucking magic. These two dudes work so perfectly together, it’s as if they’re the man with two heads, both individuals’ unique ideas being implemented by the same body. Call, Response is the calming restrained guitar drone that I loved so much on The Symbiont with the addition of Andree’s field recordings & tape manipulation which gives an already multi-faceted sound an even deeper quality, this is the most tender music you can think of, each tone & click acting as a breath of life, nothing existing but the natural silence found between floating specks of dust, the pluck of a guitar string as subtle & precise as the blink of an eye, textured rustling and elongated resonance doing everything it can to point the way towards enlightenment, spend an entire lifetime looking at every detail in this record and you’ll always discover more. I can’t imagine how much effort went in to making a record this understated and profound, but we reap the benefits, and the elegance of this masterful ambient is ours to enjoy. Only 300 pressed, so do not sleep on this.

Album Review

Lawrence English – Lonely Women’s Club (Important, 2013)

lawrence english - lonely women's club album cover
Lawrence English – Lonely Women’s Club (Important)

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This is Lawrence English at his fucking finest, just him and his Elka 30 organ billowing out the most beautiful minimal drone, with a touch of post processing to blur the edges a bit, this becomes a fucking masterpiece of warmth, the very core of life, the bright glimmer that shines even on the darkest days, reality seen through rose tinted glass, a little woozy from the booze, solemn & content, perfect sounds floating and finding their way home in my heart, infinite bliss, the best sounds you’ll hear all year. Only 500 copies from the impeccable Important. Won’t last.

Album Review

Taps – Taps 2 (Individual Lines, 2013)

taps 2 album cover
Taps – Side Two (Individual Lines)

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Two bad Boston vets making some weird noise that’s all kinds of cool. Brendan Murray does some electronic wandering and Chris Strunk bangs out krauty jazzy foreign beats on his drum kit. Not really sure where the fuck this would get shelved in a record shop, they’ve got some sprawling minimal psych that gets into a killer fuckin groove, hushed ambience where they’re bathed in tape hiss, a semi-IDM that could be played at only the specialest of dance parties, and sonic synth explorations propelled with drum fuel. It’s kinda funky, kinda techno, kinda punk, but totally sparse and just rad as hell, unlike anything else coming outta Boston right now. Dudes know how to keep it fresh. Tapes & digital available from the increasingly awesome local label Individual Lines.

Album Review

Ben Bennett – Spoilage (Experimedia, 2013)


Ben BennettEverything / Everything / Everything (Experimedia)

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This is the definition of hard to peg. Minimal power electronics? Noisy jazz punk? Funky field recordings? Not quite any of those but kinda all of them. Bennett takes whatever the fuck he can get his hands on and makes the craziest racket ever. This dude doesn’t know what acceleration means, he’s only got 3 speeds: silent, quiet, and brain boiling, and he jumps in between them with super precision, but there’s something about the brain boiling mode that, even though it’s chaotic as fuck, still has a maximal minimalism, knowing that whatever you’re hearing is basically just a handful of everyday items and Bennett is going to town on them, it’s fucking raw & primal, without being simplistic or boring. And I’d swear there’s some electronics or effects going on here but apparently that’s not the case, this is pure analog in all its caustic glory, and maybe you could chalk it up to lo-fi recordings, but he goes from blown out in the red explosions to painfully detailed squeaks & scratches in half a second, so fidelity ain’t the answer. This is just the sweetest fucking noise and Bennett is a master of his tools, which are almost impossible to guess. Some are decipherable… Are those pots & pans? Oh, yep, he mentions a “camp cook set.” Some aren’t… I bet this is a percolating coffee maker. Haha nope, it might be either a “mason jar ring with latex glove stretched across it” or “the narrow part of a balloon.” Then there’s the truly bizarre moments, like the track that literally sounds like a motherfucking freight train. I have no idea how he did that, but it’s insanely awesome. Maybe he used his “pizza cutter” and “wheelbarrow.” Clearly the “how” isn’t the reason to check this out, though. Just know this is some fucked up shit that sounds incredible on the turntable. Don’t miss out.

P.S. “All proceeds from digital sales of the album will go to Living Energy Farm, a project to build a farm, community, and education center without the use of fossil fuels or electronic media. More info at livingenergyfarm.org

Album Review

Chord – Gmaj7 (MIE, 2012)


ChordStasis (MIE)
Track removed by request.
 
Strictly for the hardcore minimalists. These Chicago dudes play long form pieces off of single chords, and they play hard. This is the kind of power drone that transports. Gmaj7 has two side long pieces, two sides of the same coin, the first being a deep and detailed mind expander that pauses about 3/4 of the way through and turns into a dark & heavy many-layered wall of bliss. The B side is the first time these guys brought in some drums, so it’s perhaps a bit too dynamic for you purists, but it’s an elegant transition and it works beautifully, an uplifting and immersive track that builds organically to a lush, euphoric climax, sounding like a fuckin drone rockstar. I’m not sure how Chord haven’t already joined the ranks of modern minimalists like Sun Circle, but hopefully they’re on their way. Maybe Gmaj7 won’t be the one to vault them to the top due to its badass drums, but this is an absolutely killer slab of drone nonetheless. Drops next week on some sexy limited vinyl with handscreened jackets thanks to MIE.

Album Review

Wastelanders – Cosmic Despair (Calls & Correspondence / Basses Frequences / Space Idea / Hewhocorrupts Inc., 2012)


WastelandersThe Beginning (Calls & Correspondence / Basses Frequences / Space Idea / Hewhocorrupts Inc.)

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Despite the plurality, Wastelanders is actually just one dude, Dean Costello. And he’s got four different labels working on his side, C&C and BF doing the CD release, Space Idea is taking care of the tape, and Hewhocorrupts, Inc. is releasing it digitally. Maybe a little over the top, but whatever. I’m just glad this is getting out there on all fronts because Cosmic Despair is a fuckin BEAST. Mostly organ based, this is a drone record for the masses, calling up all sorts of dark places. 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. Then there’s a 15 minute piece that gets noisier, rumbling feedback sounds crisped on the edge of a black sun while stardust and distant beacons twinkle in the faded background. The final 20 minute closer is a fucking burner, shifting gears into something wholly uplifting, stripped of darkness and brought fully into the light, holy & transcendental, busting out all the instruments on hand to make for a hypnotic ritualistic drone to assist in trans-dimensional passage. Impecable stuff. I can’t get enough of this. Then again, I’m always a sucker for organ drones, so, consider me slightly biased.

Album Review

Max Bondi – Convolution (Tartaruga, 2012)


Max BondiMonopoles (Tartaruga)

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Max Bondi, the dude who also runs Tartaruga, has crafted a totally fucking incredible record here. Masterful in ways that are beyond me. Convolution is a drone/analog synth (maybe? no liner notes so I’m just goin with my gut) record, and if that’s an automatic deterrent for whatever reason, please take half a minute and look beyond that. Each discrete track is a fucking winner but this works much more beautifully as a whole, smoothly shifting gears from minimal drone to bubbly synths (with one exception, track 3, that breaks off the minimalist path for some relatively abrasive sequencing, giving you a taste of things to come). It’s like the sounds of a spelunker’s dreams, the deepest gemstoned caves, the air thick and stagnant, only moving from your breath’s disruption, gorgeous when it subtly shimmers, dank dungeons of hopes & terrors, scared stiff, heavy relief, and the halfway point, “Monopoles,” acts as a bridge to the yin/yang, making way for more dynamics, more standing room, synths locked in arhythmic sequences, the drones still present but more varied & buried, an overwhelming display of underground magic that turns into a frenzied dash for the exit. A record this fucking good only comes around once in a long while, and when it’s packaged as beautifully as this (screenprinted thick gatefold card, hand sewn, with a fold-out double-sided screenprinted insert), you should do everything in your power to make sure you don’t miss it.

Album Review

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


Nicholas SzczepanikI (excerpt) (Isounderscore)

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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)

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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.

Album Review

Pataphor – Probably Not (MRSA, 2012)


PataphorPublic Transit (MRSA)

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A Boston newcomer, by way of Milwaukee, Pataphor (aka Shannon Smith) has made some awesomely inaccessible noise on Probably Not. 3 tracks each around 10 minutes or so, the middle one a slight respite from its two rattling bookends. It starts with an interrupting “Special News Bulletin” morse code thing, attention grabbing tension, building/crumbling into a public school fire alarm, standing right in front of it, no chance of walking by and unplugging your ears, repeated indefinitely, which is definitely a theme here. Nothing is too dynamic, she finds a group of tones and just works & tweaks until you’re left with an erupted eardrum. The second track starts by dropping all the harshness and upping the creep factor, the sounds of a haunted swamp, gurgling on its own, ghastly moans drifting through the fog, peepers & cicadas making a tinny racket, but not even the swamps are safe because by the end of this it builds into another static shriek of noise. The final track is for the most masochistic. Solid square waves of sustained tinnitus, it’s amazing what she can do with just a few sounds, terribly piercing, an impenetrable sheet of high wire feedback, with just enough alterations along the way to make it fucking incredible and not making you want to jump through a 10th story window. This is some creatively despicable noise, and fuckin killer. It’s the first release on her own MRSA label, and you can pay whatever you want for a digital copy.

Album Review

C. Spencer Yeh – 1975 (Intransitive, 2011)


C. Spencer YehTwo Guitars (Intransitive)

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A “proper” solo album from C. Spencer Yeh… finally? 1975 is being billed as a debut of Yeh’s, but regardless of what solo-type stuff he’s released in the past, this is a departure from his usual Burning Star Core sound. This is, um, weirder. And way more minimal. The track titles are either hyper-descriptive or giving just enough info to make your mouth water depending on your point of view. I’m in the latter. “Voice”, “Drone,” “Two Guitars,” that’s about as much as you’re gonna get from Yeh. But he’s being pretty straightforward about it. No mysteries as to what’s involved, just infinite mysteries as to what the fuck is going on.

The first half is alternating back-to-back “Drone” & “Voice” pieces, the drone ones being perhaps most similar to BXC material, just way more stripped down. Sustained piercing tones, just hanging in the air. “Voice” is some of the most engaging stuff on here, with Yeh’s vocals chopped up into discrete millisecond notes, patched together in a mind-bending glitch with almost no pattern or rhythm. But the best pieces on here are the couple of “Two Guitars” tracks. Absolutely amazing. Taking the stretched out tones from the “Drone” songs and adding a few more layers of rumble & grit but still keeping it totally bare, not one sound more than is necessary. The end of the record looks back to early avant garde electronics, the lo-fi scattered experiments that paved the way for today’s accessible niceties. Yeh burns through the weirdness like it’s his job, pounding away on echoing pianos and retro sci-fi effects. Unbelievably cool.

I haven’t heard a record like this in a while, and definitely not from anyone contemporary. Yeh is pushing for an old new drone noise, ignoring his bliss-obsessed colleagues and making something that requires more attention and contemplation. You need to try a little bit more with this one. And godDAMN it’s worth it.

Album Review

Good Weather For An Airstrike – Underneath The Stars (Hibernate, 2012)


Good Weather For An AirstrikeCast Aside (The Briefest Of Pauses) (Hibernate)

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This dude, Tom Honey from the UK, has a vision. And it’s one I am fucking psyched about. He drones in ways that I want everyone to drone. His music is as serene as heaven itself. Overwhelmingly understated minimal drones, like Windy & Carl at their most subdued, or Eluvium on codeine, just steady innocuous loops that blow your mind with their subtleties. It’s the sound of air, sitting motionless above freshly greened treetops in the spring, almost completely unmoving, save for the warmth of the sun stirring the currents a bit. This is quiet purity, perfection on top of perfection. Don’t let the outside world ruin this for you. It’s meant for you, and you alone. Immerse yourself in it and you will be a better person.

Album Review

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


Nicholas SzczepanikBlue (self released)

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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)

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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

Rale – Some Kissed Charms That Would Not Protect Them (Isounderscore, 2011)


RaleSide B (excerpt)

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Isounderscore is a tightly curated label, this being only the fifth release in 2 years, and each one being a total fucking winner. So that means whenever they put something out, you know it’s going to be fucking top notch. Rale’s new LP is no different. William Hutson has been hiding on the West Coast, releasing a little here and there, staying mostly below the radar. But I think Some Kissed Charms The Would Not Protect Them is going to be the one that will undeniably prove his holy awesomeness to everyone with blinders on.

Some Kissed Charms is a mostly minimal, mostly synthy drone monster, spicing things up with some noise & field recordings (I think?) on two side long pieces. The A side is a heaving sweetheart, giving you massive swells of dense intimidation, never breaking any volume records or shattering eardrums, but glowing bright & loud enough to make your knees quake a bit. But in between those swells are loooong drawn out bouts of nothing. Literally, multiple minutes go by with nothing but the texture of vinyl and your surrounding white noise, making each listening experience entirely different from the next. Walking home late at night with this on the headphones, for example, is a fantastic way to listen to this, as the occasional car passes by, mimicking the rise & fall of the drones on the record. Too fucking cool. Eventually the silent spurts turn into a high end unnerving ambience, along the lines of bowed metal, then some distant helicopters get mixed in, each successive “in between” lull adding a little more, but always the waves of beautiful hypnotic clarity continue to wash up, and ending just as the B side starts, creating a smooth transition to the otherwise intrusive physicality of flipping the record.

The B side is starts out rearing its head in the same slow pulsing way as before, but the repetitive swells don’t last, instead going for a minimally textured glitched bubbling weave, like melting icicles on top of a blanket of thick tones. Rather than letting your environment paint a picture for you like on the A side, Rale does all the heavy lifting, conjuring images of watching a thunderstorm roll in on the beach, the dripping ice turning into rain drops piercing raincoats, wind whipping tarps against the sand, blowing a soothing grit into the mic, breathing in the salted air and waiting for the storm to reach shore, only to find that it just misses the coast and you see the tail end of it, safe from the expected destruction, the rain still pelting your face, worse than before, but enjoying it without fear and wallowing in the glory of the lightening sky, the majesty of nature beautifully overwhelming.

So Rale’s new record is pretty fucking astounding. If this can’t convince people of his greatness, nothing can. BUT ACT FAST, only 300 copies were made, and they are insanely awesome to behold. Just like Acre’s Isolationist, that image up there looks like ass compared to the real deal. It’s a bright neon blue jacket with silver foil stamping, artwork done by none other than Brandon Nickell himself. Hot. As. Fuck.