We love the experimental genre, because we’re never quite sure what we’re going to get. This season it’s an album in which plastic is the only instrument, others that experiment with vocals in completely different manners, and a whole lot of free improv. Rules are thrown out the window, save for those that are self-imposed. This genre allows for variations in timbre, including atonalism and dissonance, and disregards traditional tempos. Often there are no tempos at all.
Our cover image is a cat piano. There were once meaner cat pianos involving real cats, but we like this keyboard a lot better. Experimental artists should be clear that no cats will be harmed in the making of their music ~ even when their music sounds like cats.
Rich’s Pick: Matmos ~ Plastic Anniversary
(Thrill Jockey, March 15)
Last time around, it was a washing machine. This time it’s plastic. The duo uses everything from bubble wrap to breast implants to create another original work of art, one that simultaneously calls new attention to the over-abundance of plastic on our planet. As the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow in size and free divers swim through trash, we become more aware that the time to act is now. Matmos makes something good with garbage, and the physical editions are 100% recycled. The first taste of the music can be seen and heard in the video below. A happy 25th anniversary to the duo, and wishing you many more!
The ever-prolific Machinefabriek is unveiling at least two new recordings this January. With Voices is a beautiful soundscape atop which guest vocalists are invited to “talk, read, sing or (use) guttural intoning.” Peter Broderick, Melissa Nadler and Chantal Acda are but a few of the many participants (Western Vinyl, January 18). Over on Eilean Records, Machinefabriek joins forces with Michel Banabila for the sharply experimental Entropia, which includes trumpet, field recordings and unexpected transitions (January 3). January is the beginning of the end for Eilean, whose extraordinary run will be completed in December with its 100th release, connecting all points on the map. We’re looking forward to the final year, although it makes us wistful while we’re still eleven months away. Meanwhile, a variety of women’s voices are showcased on Voices from Eris, which dances from poetry (“Ode to the Women Who Were Silenced”) to stutter and echo (“Interruptions”). One of the enclosed art cards by Bronwyn MacKenzie is shown to the left. If 2019 is to be the year of the woman, it starts here (Shiftingwaves, January 3). And vintage folk songs are given substantially new stylings by London Experimental Ensemble on Child Ballads, returning the sense of unease to the original, creepy tales (January 25).
Massimo Discepoli‘s The Right Place on the Wrong Map is one of the more accessible entries on our list, as the percussionist embeds jazz rhythms in ambient and electronic frames. The album is warm and inviting, an open door for those who want to trust their musical GPSes (DOF, January 8). Mixing electronics and percussion with Thai flute and mouth organ is the trio of Arild Andersen, Clive Bell and Mark Wastell; Tales of Hackney is out January 11 on Confront Recordings. One of the oldest composers on our list, Alvin Lucier is still making music, and Ricochet Lady is his only work for solo glockenspiel. The notes come hard and fast in the manner of Lubomyr Melnyk (Black Truffle, January 18). GNOD (R & D) is described as “an alternate version of GNOD.” This version is intensely percussive and includes a ritualistic element conveyed through drums and vocal repetitions. The subject is “the capitalist industrial death machine,” which would have been a much better title than Vol. 3, but the music is no less confrontational as a result (Sound of Cobra, January 11).
Free Jazz and Improvisation
Cello and guitar may be present on the self-titled album from Screaming Plastic, but this isn’t classical music. It’s a dense and often difficult listen, as the title might suggest, but loaded with four-piece exploration (Health Inspector, January 11). Paal Nilssen-Love‘s last album was New Japanese Noise, so we’re amused to hear how much the gears have shifted on New Brazilian Funk: the same concept with a whole new setup. The fact that this is a live recording from Denmark only adds to the intrigue (PNL Records, January 25).
The label A New Wave of Jazz is preparing a trio of albums for January 19 release. Benedict Taylor & Dirk Serries pair up for Puncture Cycle, highlighting viola and acoustic guitar; Serries joins four other musicians as TONUS for Ear Duration, which toys with traditional expectations of silence and space; and Christoph Schiller & Anouck Genthon offer Zeitweise Leichter Schneefall, mingling spinet and violin with (abstract) voice. Sometimes ambient and others dissonant, Dany Ahmed & Christian Grothe‘s ReImagine concentrates on the acoustic guitar, but embeds it in various electronic settings (Space Edition, January 11). Meanwhile, Rhys Mottley prepares his own guitar with bottle caps, chopsticks and more, sharing the results on Parasite (Splitrec, January 14).
Trumpeter Steph Richards has recorded a love letter to New York City, filling it with all the rhythms of the night. Take the Neon Lights will be out March 1 on Birdwatcher Records, just in time for the flocks to return from their southern migration. In contrast to Richards, Nate Wooley‘s Columbia Icefield demonstrates just how different two trumpet albums can be. Inspired by the glacial feature of the same name, Wooley presents a sprawling meditation on humanity and the breadth of nature (Northern Spy, February 22). Guitarist Bill Wells pairs with tuba player Danielle Price on The Sensory Illusions, an accessible album with a happy vibe (Karaoke Kalk, January 18), while sax features strongly on At the Hill of James Magee, presented by the duo of John Butcher and Joe McPhee (Trost, January 18). Guitar, sax and clarinet make their homes on the jazzy, finger-snapping Melon Shades, a self-titled release from Shawn Russell and Henry Raker; a mouse eats cantaloupe on the cover, and the music is similarly playful (January 11). Sax, trumpet and farm animals meet on the highly unusual Is the Belly/In the Belly, from Is In Unsamble; the album also features whistling, radio waves and cowbell (Gilgonko, February 1). And the Post-Haste Reed Duo melds sax and bassoon, exuding a playful vibe; Donut Robot! is out February 15 on Aerocade.
Angelo Bello collects the best selections from the long-running GENDYN series on GENDYN Suite. The title is an abbreviation of Generative Dynamics, and exposes the algorithmic process behind the composition. The album will be released January 15 on Elli Records. Benjamin Finger, James Plotkin and Mia Zabelka combine their creative energies on the diversified Pleasure-Voltage, which builds upon a base of drone with piano, e-violin and glitch (Karlrecords, January 18). Frans de Waard, Richard Youngs and Peter Johan Nyland record sans electricity on Onder/Stroom, but one can’t tell when listening; batteries were present, but not amplification. The album includes both mixes and remixes (Moving Furniture, January 17). Seeking an additional layer of sound, Hans Castrup asked Carla Worgull to provide some “overtone singing and other ways of vocalization” on Heterogenous Cell Information, the artist’s third album on Karlrecords. The artist keeps growing decade after decade (March 15). Hugh Marsh uses abraded loops to mangle the sound of the violin on Violinvocations, making it sound like something between a human voice and a trumpet. Fans of Ian William Craig should investigate immediately (Western Vinyl, February 15). And Philip Sulidae’s year-old Hemisphare label returns with a trio of releases: Jay Dea Lopez’ Pulse, Modelbau‘s The Invaders and Bruno Duplant‘s Chants du Memorie are all expected to appear in early 2019.
The Truth Is Out There
Sun Araw Trio XIII goes off the rails on the psychedelic Activated Clown. There’s a day side and a night side, and the album is inspired by sci-fi movies and fueled by coffee and sausage. We don’t expect to hear it on the morning drive (NNA Tapes, January 11). Aches Zepezauer collects 158 45-second recordings from artists as diverse as Rhodri Davies and Simon Whetham, and runs them through a Slotmachine. This is about as weird as it gets, a further expansion of Gruenrekorder, designed for the disorientation of Las Vegas’ neon lights (February 1).