Joseph Minadeo & Curt Brown
The discography of Harold Budd looms large on “Wood Land” and even if Joseph Minadeo cannot quite match Budd’s subtle melodicism, the treatments and embellishments to the sound prove to be a welcomed addition to his undulating piano notes. Guitars, field recordings, synths, drum machines, bells, and many more instruments litter the delicate and frost-ridden landscape and though the instrumental combinations don’t always suit the underlying piano melodies, when Minadeo finds the right mix the results can be stunning. In particular “The Astronaut Spider,” with amp hiss and synth strings that recall an abstracted Sigur Ros, and the folk-leaning atmospherics of “On Leaving or What They Left Us With” leave a profound and memorable impression. A 28 page booklet, featuring a story by Curt Brown, also accompanies the CD to form a limited edition package of 400 copies. – Ryan Potts, Experimedia
Real Colors of the Physical World
Raglani creates thought forms of pure solar energy through longform electrocosmic machinations on his new album for eMego, Real Colors of The Physical World. The electric expanse synthesizes a void crackling w/ hypersonic energy and machine spit hallucinations that swell to a kosmische concrete that attempts to dissolve temporal boundaries in holistic reconciliation. The success of the attempt is proven by moments of rapture and respite and Raglani manages the modular synthesizer as transdimensional dials tuning waves of nebulae to thought forgotten realms and unawakened states. The art by Jeremy Kanappell portrays stray symbols of enlightened awareness and conjurary reflection , where past and present feedback in tachyon torn loop. Together these offer glimpses of controlled awakening, where science and mysticism operate in the harmonious glee of exploration. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
FORMA’s OFF/ON finds the Brooklyn trio exploring the propulsion of motorik and sequenced hypnosis as trancefeed in some cosmic mystery cult. Each track moves forward as magnetic bullet train in near future megapolis. Arpeggios and intricate sequences flutter among celestial synths. Recorded using an impressive collection of vintage synthesizers and drum machines, OFF/ON is a magnetic journey through realms buzzing with electric potential. The end result is an album of hypnotic, swirling texture that invites the listener to trance states filtered through the hue of soundtrack to a lost 1980s film. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
And IV (Intertia)
Though always a controversial term, IDM comparisons are natural for Grischa Lichtenberger’s new album for Raster-Noton, And IV (Inertia), which plays like Autechre funk filtered through Clarkian lowend and near random chaos fields of distorted pattern. The rhythms come from some otherworld realm where subsolar flares light the darkened hallways of the digital domain. The songs are all labeled in cryptic ways that evoke the random complexity of computer code. Bouncing bits of spring and strange metal objects asteroid blast against the walls of resonant eternity and tether the beat in steady Bucephalus Bouncing Balls of glitch and chance. The beat pulls through and a trans-dimensional dancefloor materializes before fading into the green glowing binary of collective conscious grid. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
Ricardo Donoso’s double LP Assimilating the Shadow is a magnum opus electronic soundscape. Following last year’s terrific Progress Chance, Donoso’s third album on Digitalis takes the drumless down-tempo trance formula even further in a hypnotic engulfment of pulsating patterns and transcendental melody. Donoso’s work as a film and television composer is evident throughout Assimilating, which plays like the soundtrack to an unfilmed epic that evokes both the neon sci-fi of Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack as well as the blockbuster orchestration of Hans Zimmer’s recent work with Christopher Nolan. Whereas Progress Chance was an excellent album, the overall massive feel establishes Assimilating as a true journey that moves steadily forward, collecting influence from forms of techno and electronic dance music along with Berlin School and early New Age, stripping them of any pretension or guise, and exposing the shadow beneath. The basis in Jungian theory and interspersed vocal samples conjure both introspection and mysticism and Assimilating transforms from the soundtrack of an unfilmed epic to the soundtrack of individual awakening. It documents the listener’s psyche as it moves inward, discovering forgotten truths and becoming something new. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
Giant Claw’s sophomore LP Mutant Glamour moves Keith Rankin’s progressive hypersynth music toward a grand robot world of mutants and cream. Following cassette releases on Digitalis, Bridgetown, and Retrograde and an LP on Wool, Giant Claw returns to Orange Milk, the label Rankin co-founded with Seth Graham (Henry Dawson). Mutant Glamour opens with the menacing chords of “Brain on Cream” amidst a stuttering pattern while strange melodies creep in. A renegade robot or kaiju could be lurking around any corner. The strange beast is revealed in a frantic chase through a hypercolor world that is equally vintage sci-fi and 8-bit melodrama. The synthesizer is interrupted by a wailing saxophone on “Empire of Summer,” momentarily inducing a free jazz seizure, before moving into the rainbow in pixelated air of “Glitter Logic” and silver Apple IIe of the moon of “Mutants in the Bedroom.” No one else is making music quite like Giant Claw and Mutant Glamour is a solid album that firmly establishes Rankin as a unique force in the world of modern synthesizer music. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
Debut LP from Hamburg neo-krautrock duo Phantom Horse that plays as a continuation of themes introduced by the likes of Neu!, Can, and, most prominently, Cluster (Phantom Horse maintain a Zuckerzeit-style propulsion throughout). The opener “Neunzehnhundertzweitausend” translates as “nineteen hundred two thousand” and this reinforces an idea of a temporal bend, an awareness of legacy and continuation. The album starts things off with a throbbing baseline that fades in and out of focus while an electric piano patch, soft bells, and careful guitar swell toward ultimate disintegration when the machines lose power. “Twilight Sohn” follows with a motorik drum machine and distorted melody accompanied by electric chirps and wobbling oscillations. The patterns that Phantom Horse conjure are hypnotic and, like their namesake, an ethereal presence that overwhelms and engages while maintaining a steady gallop. There’s a bit of early Battles melodic repetition in songs like Rongo Rongo and Kateshi among the constant kraut rhythm and movement. A worthy debut and definitely a group to keep an eye on. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
Spirits of the Sun
DOUBLE REVIEW! What does it mean? It means we accidently assigned the same review to two of our writers. Well this is a fantastic record and certainly merits it. So all is well.
Portland, Oregon two-piece, The Slaves, create a haunting, liturgical work in Spirits of the Sun. The album opens with “111” and spacious chanting that summons robed figures in giant, incense filled halls. There is something both tragic and revelatory at play here in hymnlike fashion as the music builds and distorts to a crescendo of feedback. “River” flows slowly into place following a similar formula of long vocal notes and sustained, processed tones. Whereas “111” takes place in the confines of an ancient church, “River” is out in the open and forms a luckdragon ride through faded clouds and fog filled valleys. “The Field” brings about slow melody, while closer “Born Into Light” creates a Steve Roach style soundscape of transcendence and transformation. Sprits of the Sun is an album of invocation with an overwhelming sense of holy beauty and sonic immersion. - Curt Brown, Experimedia
Latest missive from the Digitalis imprint comes in the form of this radiant full-length from the Portland based duo of Barbara Kinzle and Birch Cooper operating as The Slaves. “Spirits of the Sun” opens with a pathos-infused chant, recalling the superlative acapellas of Julianna Barwick. These vocals are soon merged with rising, distorted tones sourced from processed guitars or perhaps synthesizer. This first piece is pathos-laden and devotional, a destroyed hymn built upon seething drones and wraithlike vocals. The remainder of the record is similarly excellent, never veering far from the structure of the opening piece but being all the better and more focused for it. Highly recommended for fans of anything from Grouper to Nadja to lovesliescrushing. - Alex Cobb, Experimedia
I believe this is the first vinyl offering from Ohio’s Black Unicorn after a slew of killer tapes. “Rediscovering Infinity” is a tangled web of extrasolar exploration. With the short and on point opening slab of “Temporal Immensities,” you’re taken straight to the docking station and shoved through the airlock with nothing more than whispered promises of eventual return. Smothered rhythms lay the bedrock for a dizzying array of synthesizers to weave past, leaving soaring melodies in their wake. It’s oddly catchy, like a virus that directly attacks your brain, and is the perfect beginning to a great record - you already know you’re infected. Ambient abstraction plays a vital role as well, adding circuit-fried texture to these complex aural clusters that fill the deep sky. Layers of sequenced tones are fired rapidly, puncuated by scorched leads that cut through the dark matter on the evocatively-titled “Trans-Dimensional Railway.” At this point, you’re already on one hell of a ride. But the flipside is where the magic antes up to a whole new level. With a buried-but-still-booming 4/4 bassline underneath a river of murky electronics, “Celetal Supersanity” is deliciously grimey and relentlessly cerebral. It eventually breaks down and sinks to the bottom of an interplanetary ocean and that’s where album closer, “Whale,” rises for one least shot at the stars. It’s tense and dynamic, building up into a frenzy until it just kind of gently fades out into nothingness. “Rediscovering Infinity” is a absolute blast, showing just how on top of their game the criminally underrated Black Unicorn really are. Recommended. - Brad Rose, Experimedia
Artificial Interface is a fitting title for the anticipated new album from Concessionaires (Digitalis’ Brad Rose and Greenup’s Pete Fosco), a long player on the machine uprising just released by Under the Spire. “Mirrorshades” evokes a reflective robot head, spitting binary that decodes as “Skynet is awake and pissed.” Synthetic dewdrops and screeches blanket nuclear snow w/ occasional percussion and yarning synthesizer voices screaming that mourning song of robot rebellion. This is the moment when the supercomputer addresses the populace. The machine ambiguously breaks apart toward the end of “Mirrorshades,” is this retreat or retaliation? The quick follow of the long pad in “Live Angel” introduces the human resistance as viable player. Pulses and a buried synthesizer melody debrief the rebels for deploy of “Gazelocked” where the armies line against synthetic, trace glow landscapes and crumbled skylines. Minimal martial percussion propels the album forward and “Introducing Rocket Nights” finds the humans musing on the situationÑtechnological evolution and the synthetic basis in organic life are campsite chats as Artificial Interface's situation comes to focus. Rose and Fosco have created a concept album that addresses the relationship between humans and technology without creating a concept album at all. The music is strong enough to evoke its own tale and meticulously crafted, able to maintain momentum through polars of bleakness and hope. Artificial Interface pulls back the reinforced cybernetic shell at timesÑexposing raw ambient, pure soundscapes, and echoes of classic era ambient composers wandering among forward-moving technique and composition. Artificial Interface is singular album of mixed emotion and modernity. It ends w/ “Sparkler,” wailing guitar pulls, buried ambience, and ominous percussion while stuttering synthesizer and ether pads drift the album off to ambiguity. The thoughts and emotions elicited throughout the duration of Artificial Interface are not permitted a formal response, but instead allowed to wander anew and lingering in the mind of the listener. - Curt Brown for Experimedia
It’s easy to imagine Norm Chambers as equal parts musician and mystic - one hand on the keyboard playing blissful synthesizer melodies well the other hand dances wildly in the air, collecting ethereal timbres. This balance comes organically on Chambers’ latest outing as Panabrite, Soft Terminal, out now on Digitalis Recordings. Nothing on the record is forced, it evolves naturally and Soft Terminal exemplifies the interaction between humans and synthesizers as a point of transcendence. Gentle melodic waves, pulsing sequences, and crystal leads float about, conjured into meeting before dispersing back into the ether.
The album opens with “Rainbow Sequence” a hazy patch resembling an electric piano strikes delay saturated chords, a color washed, cross processed image appears as a vocoded voice sings an indecipherable incantation, and LFO chirps appear as DNA strings carrying the plan for the rest of Soft Terminal’s existence. An arpeggio swells in the background, frequencies filter, the picture grows clearer. A low analog drone grows, stretching along with the LFO chirps until they form pulses of pure energy. “Index of Gestures” follows taking the meditation to movement. Against a hypnotic sequence, a vibrato filled lead attempts to mimic human speech~the synthesizers are now alive and Panabrite acts as medium, channeling the cosmic message.
Panabrite explores the neo-kosmische (or neu-kosmische, rather) of modern synthesizer music that grew in popularity in the middle to late oughts. Rather than become absorbed in passionless criticism or trend absorption, he moves forward with the idea of cosmic exploration. Soft Terminal is an album that reconciles the synthetic, the vast unknown of the cosmos, with the organic, the human experience within the cosmos.
Songs like “Janus” and “Sound Softly” are driven by beautiful guitar melodies, while the drum machine cameos as propulsion in “Camembert Symphony,” although, in large, Soft Terminal is composed from synthesizer sources. Panabrite is obviously familiar with the instruments and this allows him to convey the message of cosmic unity that much clearly. The title of “Microlife” is indicative of the album as a whole - each song expounds upon the miracle of life springing from the lifeless, with the synthesizer as primordial ooze from which component organisms emerge in surprisingly complex form to connect in waves of beautiful movement before dispersing back to source.
- Curt Brown (of Rubber City Noise/Black Unicorn/Cane Swords) for Experimedia - Buy