Stellar Om Source
Joy One Mile
RVNG International

The solo project of Christelle Gualdi, Stellar OM Source is one of the myriad outfits that grew out of the OPN/Emeralds/Ferraro axis, the “zeitgeist of artists trending away from their noisy roots via polyphonic escapism,” as the press release tells us. “Joy One Mile” is Gualdi’s first album for RVNG and orients itself around the recognizable bass synthesis of the famous Roland TB-303. “Polarity” opens the album and pulls no punches, with arpeggiations and sprightly drums orbiting TB-303 rhythms. Later, “Trackers” unfurls itself from of a web of cycling digital synth tones, reaching a frenetic, dancefloor-ready pitch. Ultimately, “Joy One Mile” does not surprise or innovate, but rather offers up a cohesive and well-crafted set of songs that will appeal to fans of the aforementioned artists  as well as devotees of RVNG’s diverse yet coherent catalog.  - Alex Cobb, Experimedia 

Pharmakon
Abandon
Sacred Bones

"Abandon," the new full-length album by Margaret Chardiet’s Pharmakon project, couldn’t open more aptly – a processed scream of anguish is held and allowed to develop, imbued with horror film synth, spoken vocals, and crashing, panning electronic hisses and pops. It’s not until three minutes into the track that the listener is given some space, as a lurching bass tone begins to subtend sequenced oscillations, creating a rhythmic bed for Chardiet’s truly tortured vocals. While the second piece follows a similar trajectory, all swarming masses of synth skree, stalking rhythms, and menacing vocals, the album’s third track, "Pitted," yields something new (and more arresting), possessing a dirge-like component that recalls Zola Jesus at her most  primitive. There’s a raw physicality to the track that serves as the perfect lead-in to the album’s final movement, "Crawling on Bruised Knees," a hypnotizing, largely instrumental work that constitutes a savvy denouement to the proceedings. A harrowing album of stark and brutalized songs, Pharmakon’s "Abandon" will likely appeal to fans of Wolf Eyes, Black Dice and, beyond that, industrial music in general. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Alan Licht
Four Years Older
Editions Mego

New recordings from Alan Licht are always welcomed by me and received with a sort of happy nostalgia, the NY-based guitarist’s ’90s output (particularly “Sink the Aging Process” and “The Evan Dando of Noise” being somewhat formative records for me in my teenage years).  ”Four Years Older” is an interesting concept for a record, with Licht presenting two iterations of a guitar piece that he’s been playing live for several years. Side A, recorded in 2012, begins with ecstatic ring-modulated guitar licks, blooms into something more stately and reverb-heavy, returns to furious atonal fretwork and ultimately dissolves into a beautiful, resonant drone. It’s an arresting piece that I imagine would be quite powerful in a live setting. The B-side documents the same piece, we’re told, performed in 2008. The recording does sound older and Licht, if anything, sounds even more impassioned and frenetic, carving scalding arcs of guitar noise for the duration of the side. All in all, an interesting experiment of an album and a worthy listen taboot.  - Alex Cobb, Experimedia

EVOL
Proper Headshrinker
Editions Mego

The stupendously titled “Proper Headshrinker” is EVOL’s follow-up to “Rave Slime,” an influential out-techno record which came out nearly three years ago. Stephen Sharp and Roc Jimenez trade in a type of conceptual electronica that is both strikingly defiant and undeniably hypnotic. The album’s ten tracks all clock in at 3 minutes exactly and are uniformly constructed around simple cyclical patterns of mangled sawtooth tones. For many, this will be a polarizing record (if not an outright endurance test), as Sharp and Jimenez make no concessions or apologies for their aesthetic throughout. As ever with eMego releases, the production spec is high and the material is all the better for it. A pristine, crystal clear mastering job by Russell Haswell and a cut by D&M augments the physicality and brutality of this music. Ultimately, “Proper Headshrinker” is a focused and rigid masterclass in post-techno formalism that, frankly, could probably be used in military operations. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

STREAM+REVIEW// Betacicadae - Mouna on Elegua Records

Out of nowhere (at least to me), comes this debut album by Betacicadae, presented as a painstakingly assembled edition on the Elegua imprint. Betacicadae is the nom de plume of Kevin Scott Davis who has concocted a superlative suite of recordings culled from a wide range of instrumentation including, we’re told, “guitars (electric, bass, lap steel), wood flute, vibraphone, harp, violin, percussion, synthesizers, effects pedals, and digital software.” The album opens with “Pahoa,” a sort of looming mass of held, billowing tones and subtle field recordings. It’s quite lovely and immediately offers the listener transport into the rich sonic world that awaits him. The piece develops slowly, with a beautiful, elegiac melody that recalls perhaps “October Language”-era Belong and deepens with each pass. “Gold Country” is another highlight, with field recordings and bowed and plucked guitars slowly orbiting one another before whirling together into pure white light. Closing with choral vocals and coiling drone clouds, “Mouna” is a quite lovely listen, one which instills me with a firm sense of place and a type of implacable nostalgia. Recommended. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia

  1. Camera: iPhone 4S
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Joseph Minadeo
Come Down Now
Pattern Based

A new name to me, Joseph Minadeo has put together a quite lovely and astutely composed album with “Come Down Now.” Across the record’s ten tracks, Minadeo sculpts radiant synthesized tones into quasi-New Age (not in any pejorative sense of the term) edifices. High-end detritus and static are married with delicately evolving drones and slowly developing melodic arcs, as on the superb and aptly titled “Ebow the Particle,” which opens the record. The following piece, “With Parachutes or Not with Ron Tucker,” recalls some of Federico Durand’s more evocative output, with chimes, keys and vast decays worked with childlike wonder into a beautiful ambient lullaby. There is enough nuance and originality, to say nothing of compositional and musical prowess, in Minadeo’s work to separate it from the current pack of “pastoral ambient” DSP cosmonauts. Recommended for fans of the current 12k ethos, Own Records, etc. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Jim Haynes
The Wires Cracked
Editions Mego

Proprietor of the estimable Helen Scarsdale imprint and long-time Bay Area experimental music figurehead, Jim Haynes’ output never ceases to wow me. My first exposure to his work was the wonderful “Magnetic North” (a glorious and worthy candidate for vinyl treatment *hint hint*). That album, along with the perhaps even richer “Telegraphy by the Sea” which followed it, cemented my enduring interest in Haynes’ recordings, an interest that’s never once been met with a letdown. 2011’s “The Decline Effect” saw Haynes make a large leap forward with his aesthetic, and indeed “The Wires Cracked” constitutes yet another significant development of his craft. The album opens with “Oscar,” an ominous, undulating cloud of amorphous sound. Haynes obscures (or rusts, as he likes to say) his source materials past the point of recognition. We’re told in the press release that his palette is comprised of “shortwave radio static, electric field disturbances, controlled feedback manipulation, and numerous textural scrapings,” but in Haynes’ deft hands these disparate sources cohere into organic, colossal forms. The side-long “November” contains arguably the album’s most arresting movements, beginning with highly-detailed industrial clatter which dissolves into a beautiful, cinematic bed of soft tonal manipulations and textures which rank with some of the most flat-out gorgeous sounds that I’ve heard from Haynes. Simply put, a true cracker of an album – one of my favorites on eMego in quite some time. Highly recommended. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Hurricanes of Love
Night Tyme Vybes
Scissor Tail

I hope I can be forgiven if an album called “Night Tyme Vybes” instantly conjures for me a bit of dread and/or skepticism, projecting a nightmarish soundscape of ’90s pop culture pastiche and heedlessly stacked synthesizer arpeggios.  Instead (and refreshingly), what we have here is a quite enjoyable and honest set of lo-fi songs that wouldn’t be out of place on Time-Lag Records or even Woodsist.  ”Candlelyght” (again with the y’s) opens the album, recalling something pre-Young God Devendra Banhart might have penned and possessing the sort of timelessness that is so vital and hard to achieve with this type of music.  It’s these moments where Hurricanes of Love are at their best, presenting a brand of stripped down blues that manages to thrive by virtue of its authenticity and skillfully wrought songcraft.  Recommended for fans of the abovementioned labels/artists. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Various Artists
Traces Two
Editions Mego / Recollection GRM

eMego sublabel Recollection GRM continues its sterling public service campaign with “Traces Two,” a collection of “forgotten” archival works plucked from the verdant INA GRM vaults.  Those familiar with RGRM’s first editions (and with the aesthetic of INA GRM as such) will find much to love here.  The highlight for me is surely Dominique Guiot’s “L’oiseau de paradis,” which opens with clarion tones and bewildering oscillations and feedback.  Apparently inspired by the “rules of cinematic writing,” the piece is indeed a filmic journey, developing a sort of language or narrative logic of its own throughout its duration.  Rodolfo Caesar’s “Les demux saisons” is a jittering, thrilling edifice that provides nothing if not highly imaginative listening.  Indeed, “Traces Two” is an engaging and dynamic listen – a compilation that feels like a coherent distillation of the INA GRM/RGRM agenda. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Kobuku Senju
Joining the Queue to Become One of Those Ordinary Ghosts
MIE

Following excellent releases by Pelt and Trouble Books, among others, MIE continues its hot streak with this lovely album by the Japanese-Norwegian quintet Koboku Senjû, a group that consists of Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura, Martin Taxt, Eivind Lønning, and Espen Reinertsen. The LP documents a live performance from 2011 and is a sterling slice of adventurous free improvisation that wouldn’t be out of place on labels such as Erstwhile or 23five. The group dynamic here is really quite rich and immersive, with the players each keenly attuned to each other’s decisions and palette. For much of the record, it’s Nakamura’s trademark no-input mixer atmospheres that provide underpinning for exhilarating interplay between brass, reeds and guitar. The record’s two side-long pieces are both very detailed, transportive improvisations that warrant repeat and focused listening. Very recommended and another superlative pressing from MIE. – Alex Cobb, Experimedia

A top ten list from Experimedia writer Alex Cobb who also runs the Students of Decay label.

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1. Kendrick Lamar
good kid, M.a.a.d. City
Interscope

2. Actress
R.I.P.
Honest Jon’s

3. Nina Kraviz
s/t
Rekids

4. Af Ursin
Trois Memoires Discretes
La Scie Doree

5. Chromatics
Kill for Love
Italians Do It Better 

6. Ingenting Kollektiva
Fragments of Night
Invisible Birds

7. Ab-Soul
Control System 
Top Dawg Entertainment

8. Roc Marciano
Reloaded
Decon

9. NHK’Koyxen
Dance Classics Vol. 1
PAN

10. Schoolboy Q
Habits and Contradictions
Top Dawg Entertainment

"Honorable Mentions"

Future
Pluto
(Epic)

High Aura’d
Sanguine Futures
(Bathetic)

Evan Caminiti
Dreamless Sleep
(Thrill Jockey)

Frank Ocean
Channel Orange
(Def Jam)

The Slaves
Ocean on Ocean

Helen Scarsdale Agency

My first exposure to The Slaves came with the release of “Spirits of the Sun,” their quasi-devotional drone epic that was published by Digitalis earlier this year. After poking around a bit on the ‘net (and checking out Slaves member Birch Cooper’s equally stunning, short-run solo LP), I gleaned that the duo’s true opus had already been recorded and released in micro-edition and was due for an imminent rerelease on the always superb Helen Scarsdale. “Seventeen” opens the record and establishes a familiar palette as that which the duo manifested on “Spirits of the Sun,” with wraith-like, chanted vocals hovering and weaving throughout cresting feedback and held tones. In short, it’s beautiful. There’s something a bit more expressly post-shoegaze (for lack of a better term) about the sonics here than what we encountered anywhere on the pair’s Digitalis LP, perhaps less synthesis and more processed guitars, or more likely it’s the barely-there rhythms that coalesce to form arcs of wondrous, hypnotic sound. The record comes to a head at several points, such as on the sublime “Wild Ride” and on the album’s ultimate track, the dirge-like “Dokude.” All in all this is a terrific, completely immersive record and Helen Scarsdale has done us all a major service by publishing it in a proper edition. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Bee Mask
When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

Spectrum Spools

Chris Madak’s Bee Mask project returns for another full-length outing on eMego sub-label Spectrum Spools, following a well-received slight detour of a 12” on the Room 40 label in which he explored slightly less abstract climes and focused more on rhythm and repetition, a tendency that also rears its head on this record. “When We Were Eating Unripe Pears” is perhaps best understood as the “proper” follow-up to his initial offering for Spectrum Spools, “Canzoni dal Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico,” and offers the listener rich, alien soundscapes that are rife with detail. Burbling, chiming, seething, rising, panning - Madak’s palette is diverse yet coherent, with disparate tonal arrays held together by a deft sense of pacing and recurrent motifs, rhythmic or otherwise, that show up throughout the album. “The Story of Keys and Locks” blooms suddenly into a sequencer-driven reverie that recalls co-conspirator John Elliott’s work as Outer Space, all claustrophobic arpeggiations and high-end detritus. Obversely, “Fried Niteshade” and “Rain in Coffee” exist in more open spaces, with writhing, bubbling tones pinging and humming softly as if rotating in concentric orbits. Ultimately, “When We Were Eating Unripe Pears” is right at home in the Spectrum Spools stable, and if you’re a fan of the imprint’s output this should be a no-brainer. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia 

NHK’Koyxen
Dance Classics Vol. II

Pan

The first volume of “Dance Classics” was a huge favorite around these parts, its primal, haphazard (and undeniably catchy) polyrhythms were nothing short of addictive. I was beyond pleased then to hear that Kouhei Matsunaga was returning to the PAN label for another installment. “Vol. II” blooms into being in a similarly compelling way as did its predecessor, with a rollicking track that perhaps recalls Gold Panda at his most bare. “703” conjures a similar soundworld to that which dominated the first “Dance Classics,” all skittering rhythms, high-end filigree and a head-nodding bedrock sequence. Ultimately, my reaction to this LP is the same as it was with the first volume, that Matsunaga makes fascinating and urgent avant-techno to which I find myself wanting to return over and over again. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia

Lee Gamble
Diversions 1994-1996

Pan

PAN’s turn towards the rhythmic has been nothing short of enthralling to me and, from a curatorial perspective, impressive in its seamless integration with the rest of the label’s more experimental releases. “Diversions 1994-1996” has an interesting backstory, its source material reportedly culled from old Jungle mixtapes, assembled into the looming, spectral masses that occupy the record’s two sides. The effect of Gamble’s process and production tactics is one that is fundamentally deconstructive, much in the way that, say, the Dead C’s appropriation of rock tropes is. We hear recognizable elements of techno and Jungle divorced from their usual environs, existing here as fragments and signifiers. A focused and unique record, “Diversions” is one of PAN’s finest drops to date. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia