Some predicted that pandemic would mean less music, fewer releases – creative shutdown. Instead, sounds are one of the things most effective in fighting feelings of isolation. David Abravanel is back with more picks for CDM. -Ed.
Welcome to another Pairing Mode! As it were, my knockoff Bluetooth airpods are on the fritz, but I’ve been enjoying some deep listening with the Campfire Audio Andromedas – look forward to another post in the future about making music ITB with those.
As always, if you’ve got new music that you’re working on, please feel free to contact me at david[at]dhla[dot]me. And I’m on Twitter if you need to tell me to shut up.
Now let’s jump into it!
Ae (Autechre endless)
Has any label ever done as much for the digital reputation of a non-label act as Ghostly Intl. has done for Autechre? Fellow #GhostlyAfterDark heads will be well familiar with the strange turn the Ghostly Twitter account takes at night, including satirical conspiracy theories and over-the-top devotion to the prolific (and still on Warp) duo. Honestly, I imagine we could at least see a Gescom EP on Ghostly before all of this is over (and if this is Ghostly’s goal, let me be the first to get #GescomOnGhostly #GOG trending).
Anyway, Autechre are back, champs, with a slim 25-minute mini-album. JK of course, it’s nearly 8 hours of new live soundboard recordings from 2016 and 2018 gigs. IDM’s own Grateful Dead continue to excavate the sweeping breadth of their sound design prowess here; many of these shows are slow burners with a deep focus on murky moods and shiny percussive clangs.
While Ae’s 2015 shows were a bit more rhythmically focused, there’s a lot more use of space this time around. It certainly suggests interesting things, given that the pair – who’ve been broadcasting and interacting again on their Mixlr channel – have also promised two albums to be culled from over 20 hours of studio recording. Given that their last “album” release was the 8 hours of (stunning!) NTS Sessions, I’m just going to pre-emptively buy another external hard drive.
I can’t be more eloquent about this massive amount of music, but my personal favorite of the new sets is from Nijmegen. Maybe start with that one?
Temp-Illusion and painful realities
For some of us in wealthier countries, it might be hard to remember that there were enormous insecurities and threats on earth before COVID-19. For Tehran-based duo Temp-Illusion, the threat of war has sadly been all too present for years now. In response to escalating violence and instability, Shahin Entezami and Behrang Najafi produced the aural cold sweats of PEND, their latest release on the fantastic Zabte Sote label.
I can feel my fists clench with some of the beats on PEND. “Construction of Insomnia” comes on and I’m immersed in the icy shiver that comes with staring at night become dawn. This is a funky nightmare the likes of which I’ve previously heard on albums like Skinny Puppy’s Too Dark Park, only this industrial glitch is a reflection of reality, not the fantastic – all the scarier. The dark knocks and surprising machine lurches of “Caustic Surface” squeeze out adrenalin like a sponge. Comfortable this is not – but compelling it certainly is.
Braille Brings Joy
Getting some respite from the darkness, there’s also the defiance of hope. It’s also now time for us to count our blessings and remember that this, too, shall pass. Praveen Sharma aka Braille (also ½ of Sepalcure) provides a wealth of sunny uptempo numbers on Too Much. We may not have social interaction, but we can still look up into the sky and dream, and wonder, much like the sample in “Constellation Conversation” encourages before an Amen break and steel drum melody takes us straight to Blisstonia. By the time “Do It Right” comes on, I feel the happiness of an outdoor shower in the sunshine, and love for humanity. Somehow only jungle does this, and damn if Praveen doesn’t kill it on this outing.
Digital Acid from ayrtbh
Our old friend Wang Changcun aka ayrtbh has a new mini album out, HTTP 508. Changcun’s Instagram feed provides a constant tease of his custom Max for Live tools that fuel his dense sound, in full display on such digitally-tinged acid workouts like “lcCc”.
While it’s the incessant acid lines that take center stage, HTTP 508 (which is, cheekily, the Loop Detected error code) also showcases some dynamite FM sound design as on “plPl”, and a case study in clanging intensity with closer “Lc7bm”.
Stew in it with Radere
Despite what influencers would have you believe, many of us are not able to maintain 100% smiles and sugar during an unprecedented pandemic. And sometimes there’s something oddly calming about dark and chaotic work – “oddly calming” being how I would describe my reaction to I Do Not Want What I Have, the latest from Carl Ritger aka Radere.
Chronicling a tumultuous time for Ritger, I Do Not… continues with a temporary switch from guitar to modular synthesizer as a primary instrument. “Spitty Kisses,” the first of two side-length pieces here, is constructed from equal parts beautiful background reverberated melodies, and foregrounded, brutalized synth drones. “You’ve Been a Ghost Yr Whole Life”, on the other hand, feels simultaneously weightless and yet oppressive. An exercise in Lucier/Niblock-style minimalism, it’s a triumph of space that always seems to find me staring intently at a wall late at night.
I Do Not Want What I Have feels so wholly realized that it’s difficult to match it with the five bonus digital remixes, many of which can’t help but densify the formula and thus evoke very different moods. Though perhaps that’s the best way to approach taking on such challenging material – Ultraesthetic’s “jungle rework” of “Spitty Kisses” turns the original into fodder for a half-time atmospheric workout that would sound at home on Hyperdub or Samurai/Horo.
0N4B Keep it Deep
One of my favorite discoveries last year was 0N4B, the collaboration between Egyptian musicians Onsy and Abadir. In a year like 2019 that saw a lot of ambient contenders, 0N4B’s Supra/Infra/Intra really repainted the possibilities and depth of ambient for me. Follow-up bar(a)ca is equally lush but on the dubbier side, with sticky rhythms underlying many of the tracks. It’s a headphone treat for sure, featuring incessant rhythmic backbones and glitch ephemera which remind me of Terry Riley jamming with Phoenecia. Close your eyes, empty your thoughts, and let this one take over for a bit.
…Then, there’s a hard left turn. The final tracks on bar(a)ca – “bar(aaaaa)ca” and “bar(aaaaaa)ca” – earn the extra “AAAAAAAAAA”s with an onslaught that approximates a Commodore 64 imploding from a recursion and an incessantly nagging yet superbly sound-designed app notification. We can’t get uninterrupted peace right now, can we? At least we have great albums.
C. Lavender Occupies Space
Field recording is the kind of thing that sounds simple on the surface, but in practice becomes something of a dark art. There’s the simple joy of listening back to natural recordings – see Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map series – and then there’s the alchemy of processing sounds and spaces to something familiar yet alien.
C. Lavender’s Myth of Equilibrium, in addition to featuring a perfect title for the current time, pulls some amazing aural landscapes from recordings within a geodesic dome. At times reminiscent of Lustmord’s subsonic space exploration and Ben Frost’s overdriven ambience, Myths also carries the spacious thrill you might have from listening to a bootleg concert recording of Suicide or Throbbing Gristle from the late 70s.
Perhaps most fascinating is how much of the sound on Myths was derived with relatively little processing. As C. Lavender tells me: “The album had relatively minimal post-processing in my DAW. The combination of utilizing a binaural microphone, the geodesic dome’s unique natural reverb and my hyper-editing (as far as making cuts and moving sounds around) technique created a synthesized-sound to what was predominantly acoustic percussion. Some of the tracks also feature synthesizers (including a Doepfer modular system), electronics and my custom electric bass.”
Cosmin TRG Swims in Solitude
Moving from natural to unnatural atmospheres, we have the immense swells on “Proactive Synergasm”, my favorite track from Cosmin TRG’s recently-released Remote EP. Over his career, Cosmin has moved from the dubstep/bass mutations of his early work through to techno and then serene satirical sound on last year’s Hope This Finds You Well. Remote definitely has an active pulse, but the reverb and background hiss have things feeling like an old forgotten 45.
To be frank (and basic), I like a happy ending, and “Having Said That” ends Remote with some defiantly hopeful pads. We’re alone, but we’re together. And we still have music.
Stay tuned for our next episode and more listening.