2018 Spring Music Preview ~ Experimental

Some of the most creative sounds come from this section, ranging from the intriguing to the out of this world.  This season’s crop includes improvisation, electro-acoustic works and all-out noise.  If you’re in the mood to hear something a bit different, this is where you’re likely to find it!

Curious about that cover image?  It’s the Singing Ringing Tree of Lancashire, a musical sculpture by Tonkin-Liu and worthy companion to “A Day in the Life” (10,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire).  This particular image was culled from the website one small seed, currently in hibernation yet still offering a vintage selection of art articles.

And now, without further ado, A Closer Listen unveils its list of the experimental albums announced for spring!

Rich’s Pick:  Psychological Strategy Board ~ Penny Slinger: Out of the Shadows
(Front and Follow, 6 April)
We gravitated to this one as soon as we heard it: an album that is powerful in its own right, yet which possesses a great backstory.  It’s almost certain to appear on our list of best film scores for 2018, as we are confident few can beat it.  But the film behind the film is just as fascinating: a reclusive artist at the top of her game, creating images that continue to resonate decades after their initial appearance.

Sometimes we hear voices.

Lucretia Dalt‘s non-linear poetry marks her as a sonic original.  Alticlines, is released on RVNG 4 May, preceded by the mesmerizing single, Tar.  Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper merge their skills on Divine Ekstasys, a ritualistic album that brings to mind ancient religious observances through drone and wordless chant.  Louise Bock sprinkles her voice among the cello, sax and lap harp notes of Repetitives in Illocality, keeping listeners pleasantly off guard (Feeding Tube, 4 May).  While vocals are present on Eve Essex‘s Here Appear, they often appear in odd forms, doubling back on themselves as multi-faceted improvisations unfold around them (Soap Library, 20 April).  Jan Jelinek translates a radio play to vinyl on Zwischen, chopping up old interviews from everybody from John Cage to Lady Gaga (Fatiche, 4 May).  Kink Gong mutilates Chinese radio hits on Dian Long: Soundscape China / Destruction of Chinese Pop, drenching the sounds in field recordings and rabid electronics (Discrepant, 23 March).  On the same day, the label releases Death in Haiti: Funeral Brass Bands and Sounds from Port Au Prince.  The album incorporates weeping and wailing, hymn and spoken word, all thanks to soundscaper Félix Blume.  Discrepant’s next two releases will be Tasos Stamou‘s Musique con Crète, which offers a great pun and is drenched in local sonorities; and Sugai Ken‘s tele-n-tech-da, which began its life as a radio play.  Both will be released on 27 April.  Jemh Circs (Black to Comm) is also fond of pop deconstructions, and his new (untitled) album continues his fascination with shards (Cellule 75, 20 April).  Perhaps you’ve never heard of Charlie Morrow, but he’s been active since 1970, and his work is offered in retrospective form on Toot! Too. His specialty is the organization of music in clusters, from conches and bagpipes to “60 Clarinets and a Boat” (Recital, 23 March).  Hastings of Malawi waited 37 years to release their sophomore album ( ! ), but on 30 March we’ll finally get to encounter Visceral Underskinnings, a 40-minute soundscape that includes field recordings, voiceovers and musical snippets (Sub Rosa).  Field recording and musical styles meet on Giardino Forico n° 1, from Fabio Orsi & Alessandra Guttagliere; the package also contains a 56-page book of paintings and photography (13/silentes, April).  Saint Abdullah may sound angry on their latest release, but they have a right to be, as enmities have continued to exist between the West and Middle East.  Stars Have Eyes is an explosion of field recordings, spoken word, chant and beats, a tapestry of tension.  While not an easy listen, it’s a powerful one (Purple Tape Pedigree, 6 April).



Split Rock Records unveils three releases this spring: Henry Kaiser & Ed Pettersen‘s We Call All Times Soon (guitar pairings), The London Experimental Ensemble‘s Treatise (a graphical score brought to life) and the collection Interstellar Transmissions, in which various artists perform duets with sounds beamed from Voyager.  GreyWing Ensemble will be releasing two albums on 25 March: nature forms I and Lines of Flight.  On the first, they turn field recordings into graphical scores, while on the second they use linked iPads to toy with the very nature of recorded improvisation (Tone List). Saxophonist Mats Gustafson joins the Chaos Echoes ensemble for Sustain, a pair of elongated, textural jams that splay notes like paint guns.  The album is due 13 April on Utech, and the album art is pictured to the right.  Guitar, trumpet, double bass and drums form the core of Oker, whose restrained recordings border on drone.  Ekvator drops 20 April on SOFA.  The Thollem / Deroche / Stjames Trio offer a jazzy set on Live in Our Time, due 23 March on ESP-Disk.  Pianist Yuko Fujiyama is joined by guest improvisers on percussion, violin and cornet / flugelhorn for Night Wave on Innova (23 March).  Jazz piano and flute are paired on Ceder, from Cara Stacey & Camilo Ángeles.  The mood is light until sudden exhalations shock the system (Kit Records, 1 May).  For traditional flute music, turn to Ragnar Johnson‘s Crying Bamboos: Ceremonial Flute Music from New Guinea: Madang, a foray into deep tribal sounds (Editions Mego/Ideologic Organ, 4 May), and for clarinet and sax improv, investigate Henry Raker‘s Rhythmic Observations (31 March).



Lucy Railton draws from drone, modern composition, and electronic music on her debut Paradise 94.  She’s a cellist, yes ~ but she also engages in vocal backward masking, layered juxtapositions, and mutilated field recording.  Such diversity is bound to make an impact (Modern Love, 23 March).  At certain points, Simon Cummings‘ 間 (ma) is the quietest album here; at other points, it’s the loudest.  The album deals with negative spaces, amplifying the interludes, turning sound inside out to expose its guts.  At one point in the recording process, evensong was present; it was subsequently erased.  While the label recommends headphone listening, we recommend the opposite, at least the first time around, until the listener knows what they’re in for (Cronica, 10 April).  An orchestra is at the core of Joana Gama and Luís FernandesAt the Still Point of the Turning World, but it’s not like any orchestra we’ve heard before.  Exploring tension through minimalism, the two composers set the instruments against each other until common themes can be found (Room40, 6 April).  Bass clarinet and effects form the core of Ben Bertrand‘s NGC 1999, a space-themed set reminiscent of interstellar film scores (Les Albums Claus, 30 April).  Finland’s Kemialliset Ystävät has always been easy to like.  The cast of Siipi Empii is up to thirteen, and the sounds of the collective continue to expand into phantagorasmic shapes. One never knows exactly what’s coming next, but trusts that the results will entertain (IKUISUUS/Leaving, 13 April).  Also on the same label we find Baldruin returning to peak instrumental form on Vergessene Träume, an impressionistic set that sounds as dreamlike as its title (26 March).


With a name like ranter’s groove, one might expect out-of-control music; yet music per camaleonti is precise in sound and placement.  Traditional instruments such as guitar and cello get along great with their electronic friends (Kaczynski Editions, 29 March).  Meanwhile, the Muddersten trio plays with image and perception on Playmates, as demonstrated in the bodybuilding cover image.  The music sounds little like the art, but that’s part of the plan; these tracks are a different form of sculpture (SOFA, 6 April).  Perhaps the opposite of sculpture is Seth Graham‘s Gasp, which intentionally sounds like “a digital blob of classical music with no obligation”.  The cover art (pictured right) is a fitting demonstration of its contents (Orange Milk, 23 March).


Not for the Neighbors

Død Beverte‘s solo career continues to explore the horror angle of his former band Dethcentrik.  On Polarination, he imagines a nuclear holocaust through varying degrees of industrial assault (Dod Incarnate, 4 May).  The very name Geography of Hell should be a tipoff, but the fact that the band uses video of atomic attacks in its live performances seals the deal.  Hiroshima 1945/Nagasaki 1945 makes no apologies, nor does it need to (Hospital Productions, 23 March).  Editions Mego calls Bruce Gilbert a “charming deviant.”  The sound of Ex Nihilo is abrasive and confrontational, the opposite of calm (23 March).  Even more extreme is Dave Phillips‘ Ritual Protest Music, which incorporates body punches, garbled language and broken objects (23 March).  Another contender for the sonic assault crown is Reg Bloor‘s Sensory Irritation Chamber; even the cover is electrified (18 May).

Richard Allen

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