Mike Shiflet
The Choir, The Army

Under The Spire

I always admire the patience in Mike Shiflet’s records, the way principles of ambient music appear alongside the tones of early 21st century noise — lingering, slow motion movements, steadily evolving, and almost purely textural. In fact, it’s easiest to break down the sound of The Choir, The Army, Shiflet’s newest on Under the Spire records, in terms of basic texture. The album begins with soft rain and wet gravel, moves on to a smooth sonic goo, introduces a hint of sandpaper, and eventually morphs into an explosion of rock and metal (I’m talking raw materials… not musical genres!) Such sheer contrast of tones is, for me, the record’s most arresting quality, particularly when a nasty bit segues into an eerie, beautiful, languid chordal figure like at the end of Side A. Needless to say, this is recommended for fans of ambient music, harsh noise, ‘sound artists’ and beyond. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia 

A top ten list from Experimedia writer Keith Rankin of Giant Claw and Orange Milk Records.


01. DJ Rashad - TEKLIFE Vol. 1 - Welcome to the Chi
02. Death Grips - NO LOVE DEEP WEB 
03. Grimes - Visions 
04. Macintosh Plus - Floral Shoppe
05. Man Made Hill - Intercourses 
07. Black Dice - Mr. Impossible
08. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid M.A.A.D City
09. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
10. ahnnu - Prohabitat 



The opening track of the self titled album from Brooklyn newcomers ERAAS had me pretty well hooked. It starts with a creepy, bustling ambience, then some eerie, awesomely recorded strings enter, and hey, it’s over before you know it. Quite the mood setter, though. When an insistent bass guitar rhythm jumps at you on the second track, it’s a bit jarring. So this isn’t going to be an orchestral/ambient drone record? On the contrary, ERAAS is a percussion centered rock-horror album, if you want to go there. The recording quality is top-shelf, and if the bass had been handled by a dingy oscillator, parts of the album might even seem like early Silver Apples. It just has that lonely, desolate vibe about it, equal parts distant and beautiful. Lots of clanging, heavy reverb on fast picked guitar texture, dark piano and background strings, but also so much upbeat percussion work and enough vocals to create an interestingly bizarre mix of moods. Most of all, I like that ERAAS is taking some potentially esoteric influences and channeling them through their driving, accessibly approach. I’d say that makes a pretty successful debut. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia 



Ever since hearing Kemialliset Ystavat’s self titled 2007 album, I’ve had a big fond spot for Jan Anderzen. The meticulous and expertly mixed collage of sounds was really something to behold then, and that same style continues wonderfully on Hylyt, Anderzen’s new album under his more prolific Tomutonttu moniker. What strikes me most about this work is how unified the seemingly random bursts of noise are around a central, almost compositional thread. Though obscured through the eschewing of traditional song templates, a composers edge is at work, with each squeal and squelch finding a specific home within Anderzen’s far-stretching sonic cornucopia. Hylyt is focused on how timbres and textures interact and fit (or don’t fit) together, and a constant sense of discovery pervades the album, as when bursts of worn piano notes butt against looped pitch shifted vocals, stuttering tom hits, and synth embellishments. On the surface this collage might seem almost overwhelming — there is a lot going on. But again, the mixing and placement of each tone is precise enough to allow new templates to rise from the realms of noise. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia 

Outer Space
Akashic Record (Events 1986-1990)

Spectrum Spools

So much music exploded in the 20th Century that it’s still hard to keep things straight. Most trends simply didn’t have long enough to culturally gestate, hence the cyclical reassessment of these once forgotten genres. The name John Elliot should be familiar to those who are overjoyed at the prospect of synthesizer music stretching its legs out again. Performing as Outer Space and in the group Emeralds, Elliot has continuously showered us with blankets of textured ambiance and crystal clear, minimal arpeggios. Akashic Record (Events: 19986-1990), out on his own Spectrum Spools imprint, is a further refinement of his expansive, pulsating synthesizer music. The album is best enjoyed as an adventurous electronic soundtrack — the backdrop to someone’s specific emotional situations. These scenarios are only teased in the song titles (“11:38”, “October 27th, 1989 - Bay Village, Ohio”) but their presence is enough to suggest a broader narrative beyond the persistent bass sequences and shimmering electronics. They hint at the flesh and blood behind the often stark tones here, and reveal how nuanced and beautiful even the most synthetic music can be when a heart is beating somewhere under the surface. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia

Decimus 11


Decimus is the solo project of Pat Murano (No Neck Blues Band), and on 11 he takes us deep into the world of modern sound collage. Except I don’t think anything is sampled here, rather Murano has created separate modules of instrumentation that when melded together make a mutant patchwork of sorts. The album’s unifying factor is it’s dankness and murk — most of it feels subterranean, or dripping with brown goo, and because of that lo-fi blanket even a beat or a standard guitar meditation sounds a bit otherworldly. Other recognizable musical elements do crop up on the album, but it’s hard to use standard genre tropes like electronic, kraut or drone-metal (or whatever) to describe what 11 actually sounds like. It is abstract, but not necessarily “difficult” music — which is to say I never felt my mind wandering while listening. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by the craft and arrangement skills on display, especially in conjunction with the pervading weirdness. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia

AJ Nutter
The Birds

16 Pound Rabbit 

Apparently AJ Nutter made The Birds as a soundtrack inspired by the Hitchcock film of the same name. I’d have to compare the music to the film to see how they gel, but musically there’s plenty of variety to sift through — scratchy dissonant strings, muted ambience, tense horror music, deep house-style dance tracks (not sure how those would fit in with Hitchcock). Taken as a stand alone album, The Birds is somewhat of a curiosity, clocking in at just under 23 minutes. Each track is like a brief preview of some larger, more satisfying masterwork. Movement is hinted at and tension is built only to be stripped down, which leaves you both a bit frustrated but also wanting more. Overall, this feels like an unfinished piece, but the musical glimpses we get are thoroughly interesting and engaging while they last. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia

Mpala Garoo
Ou Du Monde


I like how the name Mpala Garoo sounds in my mouth — like a bite-full of mashed potatoes or something. To western ears, Moscow native Ivan Karib’s music shares a similar fluffy exoticness; a translation of a translation, filled with electronic and organic hand drumming that dances around hazy off-center guitar jams. In the last few years tropical imagery has been appropriated by a range of artists, imbuing their aesthetics with a sense of sunny escapism. On Ou Du Monde — which is a vinyl update of a 2010 Sweat Lodge Guru tape — Karib proves that the tropics are more a feeling than a place. The Beach Boys or Jo‹o Gilberto might as well have been from the arctic. This kind of music is both optimistic and bittersweet. It feels good, and feeling good is a cross-generational, cross-regional kind of thing. - Keith Rankin

Cedric Stevens (w/ Leyland Kirby, Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Fennesz, My Cat Is An Alien, Buring Star Core, Sylvain Chauveau)
The Syncopated Elevators Legacy


It’s interesting that techno musicians often tire of the back beat and shift into more watery, exploratory realms over time, while the opposite seems true for those with roots in drone or ambience (even now, ‘experimental’ dance music is on the rise). Cedric Stevens certainly falls into the former group — a DJ/producer who felt the urge to venture beyond the confines of a 4/4 thump in the late 90s. The Syncopated Elevators Legacy (S.E.L.) was the project he formed, and after a dozen or so years of activity we get an expansive anthology of his work via the Discrepant label. From the outset this compilation focuses on ethereal, often eerie patches of sound and bright electronic bleeps. It is markedly different from the current trend in electronic music in that it doesn’t sound overtly analog, at least to my ears. Instead of vintage throwback, S.E.L. provides bubbles of early 21st century electronic futurism, the kind that starts with a steaming, industrialized landscape vibe before panning up to a crystal clear, multi-colored skyline. The dark tones here are cleverly offset by a shimmering high end that, taken with a grain of salt, can enter the conceptual territory of light complimenting dark, or progress vs. decay.  - Keith Rankin

Mount Eerie
Clear Moon

Clear Moon is Phil Elverum’s fifth wide release under the Mount Eerie moniker, and when he proclaims in the lush opening track “I’ve held aloft some delusions. From now on I will be perfectly clear” he seems to mean it. The album is no less than an extended meditation on the brevity of our existence. “A life as brief as the morning fog.” Elverum constantly reminds us how little time we’ve got and that we’re not alone in clinging to some sort of meaning in life, maybe to support internal illusions of immortality? These reminders seems at once haunting and futile gestures, and when coupled with an unexpectedly expansive recording quality and some beautiful instrumentation, they can be deeply affecting. Several songs take a more abstracted “wall of sound” approach, but Clear Moon is most successful when it reaches that delicate symbiosis between lyric and sound. Definitely check this one out. - Keith Rankin 

Plvs Vltra

Spectrum Spools

You’re probably already familiar with the voice at the center of PLVS VLTRA, as it belongs to Toka Yasuda of Enon and Blonde Redhead fame. Pantheon is her debut solo album for Spectrum Spools, and she injects the label with a serious dose of eclectic electronic pop. Yasuda’s voice, being high pitched and japanese, has unavoidable ties to Jpop artists like Shiina Ringo or the more electronic Takako Minekawa, which works to the record’s advantage when placed next to its adventurous instrumentation. Simply put, the sound palette here is all over the place. I like when it gets a bit weird and dancey, especially on “Sweet Tooth”, “Parthenon”, and “Like Space”, which are adorned with interesting shuffling grooves, found-sound samples, and bubbling synth-tom sounds. Every nook and cranny of Pantheon is filled with some interesting element, making it a pretty dense listen (especially for a “pop” album). But that’s the charm, and repeated listens reveal a smart compositional sensibility hiding in the Yasuda’s tangled jungle of sound. - Keith Rankin

The World Is A House On Fire


On album opener “The Southern”, Chicago band Zelienople sound like a downtrodden Americana version of The Smiths. If that seems appealing to you, what are you waiting for, pick up the record. If not, stick around for the seven-minute “Chemist”, which builds beautifully with a steady pulse on a bed of hushed guitar drone, eerie and string-like. Really, the whole record is all about subtle instrumentation, a brushed drum kit, sporadic vocal lines, softly droning organ, broken horns, a real noir-ish feel. I’d be interested to see the band live, because despite being a three piece utilizing pretty standard “rock” instruments, there is a delicate quietness to The World Is A House On Fire that feels rare. Learning to pull back, to play with restraint and tension and let the room interact with the sound can be difficult, but Zelienople pull it off quite well. - Keith Rankin

Eli Keszler / Keith Fullerton Whitman

(NNA Tapes)

 Experimental percussion master Eli Keszler teams with Keith Fullerton Whitman, wielding what sounds like a mammoth Modular Synth setup, for a split LP on NNA. At first this may seem like an odd pairing, but both musicians draw from the same musical language, albeit at different angles. The general focus is on flurries of staccato chaos — or controlled chaos — a swarm of synth, drum, and “Micro-Controller Metal Plates” that is balanced by the calm, understated eeriness of Keszler’s “Cymbal, Bass Drum, Clarinet” track. Whitman’s side is more relentless; a 17-minute freak out that, through its sheer dexterity, recalls minimal shredders like Orthrelm or cosmic free-jazz. Really, it’s just a fine display of the synthesizer’s capabilities when pushed to the edge by a savvy handler. The standout for me, though, is the brief “Drums, Crotales, Installed Motors, Micro-Controller Metal Plates,” which unifies a shrill metallic buzzing with precisely orchestrated drum clatter. That may sound like a contradiction, but the piece is deceptive like that. It drifts between the aforementioned staccato chaos and finely layered rhythms; just when you think it might lose control, Keszler dramatically pauses or plays a familiar rhythmic pattern, making clear the tension between composition and improvisation that pervades most of this record. – Keith Rankin, Experimedia


(Arbor Infinity) 

I feel like Joseph Raglani is a name I had heard a lot, but never checked out for one reason or another. Luckily, Husk seems a fitting place to start. It’s a compilation of material recorded between 2004 and 2009, and acts as a fairly convincing argument for Raglani’s name being synonymous with the current outsider synth movement. The double LP is culled from a bunch of short run cassette and CD-R releases, and it operates in a few modes, the first being a propulsive, heavy-synth styling that should tickle fans of keyboard-driven German experimental music (ok, ok… Krautrock). But maybe that’s a lazy comparison, after all. The truth is, this sort of bristling, atmospheric music has deep roots, but manages to subversively mesh together loose, disparate forms like punk and new age to create this modern mutant-music that we all know and love. - Keith Rankin, Experimedia

Masaki Batoh
Brain Pulse Music

(Drag City)

In the promotional video for Brain Pulse Music, Masaki Batoh attaches a humorous looking piece of gear to his head, stating “there is a small sensor in front which will pick up your EEG (Electroencephalography = Brain Wave).” He then demonstrates the device running through a “motherboard,” which is essentially a crude synthesizer, with pitch, frequency, and volume control effects. Voilà! The electric impulses in your head are made audible. This translation of brainwaves into raw sound forms the intellectual basis for Brain Pulse Music, but the actual record is much more than seemingly aleatoric synthesizer/brain squiggles. The theme of the work seems to be meditation; the centering of one’s mind through music. Batoh attempts to achieve this state through his EEG machine, but also with understated percussion and woodwind passages. Throughout the “Kumano Codex” tracks, for example, a sense of beautiful timelessness is conjured; if someone told me they were ancient religious chants or the soundtrack to a Kurosawa film neither option would seem too far a stretch. Simply, Brain Pulse Music reveals the struggle and harmony between mind (synth/brainwaves) and body (percussion, woodwinds). - Keith Rankin, Experimedia