Ed.: Pairing mode is a new series focused on music to which we feel connection – mostly new, some back catalogs, all stuff we’re listening to. And maybe that’s the most essential way to approach music, finding what excites us. Resident music editor David Abravanel launches his new column.
Interested in getting covered? Promos can be sent to david[at]dhla[dot]me, or hit up David on twitter at @dabravanel
Quiet no more: cLOUDDEAD reissues
About a decade before the likes of Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, and Lil B made Cloud Rap into a genre with major-label appeal, Oakland’s cLOUDDEAD were forging an experimental hip-hop path that was so cloudy it literally featured “cloud” in the name and clouds on the cover of a self-titled compilation of early EPs.
cLOUDDEAD – none more cloudy
Consisting of Why?, DoseOne, and Odd Nosdam, all of whom would later go on to solo success, cLOUDDEAD was a seminal moment for the late-90s/early-00s “undie” hip-hop sound. A series of EP releases featured side-long tracks that collaged together stream-of-consciousness raps, lo-fi drone beats, and the occasional bizarre skit. Predating Burial’s track collages and the lo-fi/chill beats explosion, this was noncommercial music for the time, but sounds like the kind of thing that could easily have taken off towards wider appeal in the SoundCloud/Spotify/Bandcamp era.
cLOUDDEAD – “The Sound of a Handshake”
And there’s a lot to listen to from cLOUDDEAD, on top of everything. With a self-titled compilation of early EPs (2000), the album, Ten (2003), a couple Peel sessions and an EP which featured career highlight “The Sound Of A Handshake”, it’s hard to know exactly where to start. For beginners, Ten is a pretty consistent listen – and its single, “Dead Dogs Two”, featured a rare Boards of Canada remix (Odd Nosdam later returned the favor, remixing “Dayvan Cowboy” in 2006).
cLOUDDEAD – “Dead Dogs Two (Boards of Canada Remix)”
The new remastering from Daddy Kev brings things to a better general level while respecting the extremely lo-fi origins of some of this material. Dig in and surf some clouds.
The Sound of metal
For decades, Electric Indigo aka Susanne Kirchmayr has explored the experimental nooks and crannies of techno and its adjacent microgenres. Following 2018’s 5 1 1 5 9 3, a granular-heavy album on Robert Henke’s Imbalance Computer Music, Kirchmayr moves to another impressive imprint, Editions Mego, for 2020’s Ferrum. Inspired by the sounds of metal (“ferrum” is the chemical name for iron), Ferrum sounds appropriately clangy, exploring digital synthesis and the metallic tones is enables.
While the album’s first two 10+ minute pieces focus more on evolving and immersing sounds (this is a headphone album par excellence), Kirchmayr’s affinity for and roots in techno come through on pounding numbers like “Ferrum 5” and “Ferrum 7”.
Ed. I fell in love with this material when I first heard her live set associated with the release – I think that may even have been the last time I was out in Berlin before the lockdowns, at about blank. Anyway, point of this story – this work is equally engaging live. If you’re thinking of whom to book in 2021…
A welcome return from Windy and Carl
Isolation lends itself well to drone music, and Detroit’s Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren are two of the best ever to do it. Eight years after their last album, new LP Allegiance and Conviction on Kranky is another winner full of the duo’s trademark heavenly guitar, bass, and organ soundscapes. Windy Weber’s singing, previously used on other albums as a sparing treat, is a more frequent feature this time around – and adds an extra emotional punch to the sonic tapestry.
If we’re going to continue the navel-gazing narrative around “ambient” as a buzz term, we can pause and show some respect for truly classic artists who have advanced ambient music, and continue to provide engulfing and beautiful post-rock experiences with deceptively simple guitar and bass lines.
Iheartnoise hearts space rock
Having followed the label Iheartnoise for a while, I’m hard-pressed to pinpoint their specialty, other than perhaps “all that is outside the norm”. There’s label stalwart Petridisch’s plunderphonic collages (including a forthcoming MiniDisc exclusive release – take that, cassette fetish culture), and in another corner there’s the slow psychedelia of Skyjelly and Solilians, two acts whose split release forms Iheartnoise’s first-ever vinyl release.
Skyjelly’s side reminds me of back when Animal Collective was a bit more disjointed and noisy, while Solilians self-described “tireless Jewish space rock” sounds somewhere between a bootleg of Seefeel on “Gowron Breaths” and drone rockers Loop on the live “Planet”.
Until next time, you can tell David what you think of his opinions on Twitter.