The abstract and avant-garde, the difficult and dissonant meet in our Experimental section. The genre includes improvised jazz, found sound, electro-acoustic works and cross-genre splices. The music is just as likely to startle as it is to seduce. The only common theme: everything here is outside the norm. To peruse the autumn slate is to rummage through a thrift shop, never knowing what one will find, but eager to be surprised.
Note: Our amazing cover image was taken by Simone Fratti, and is the press photo for Gianmaria Aprile, taken in promotion of his upcoming album Rain, Ghosts, One Dog and Empty Woodland, previewed below.
The Wonderful World of Marc Richter
As with prior releases, Black to Comm is hard to categorize. There’s drone present on Oocyte Oil and Stolen Androgens, but it’s not all drone; there’s also spoken word and ambience, along with a heavy serving of experimentalism. The album includes a bonus track for those who order early (Thrill Jockey, October 30). This is only one of three Black to Comm releases slated for fall following two this summer. The other two are released on Cellule 75. A C of M is a variety pack of tones, while Une Fille Pétrifiée is recorded as Mouchoir Étanche (September 25). The artist keeps us in a constant state of surprise, a rare feat in an industry of such diversity.
Auteurs and Outliers
T. Schafer has been releasing an EP every month since the pandemic began, but Another Sense of Place – Oktoberfest may be his best yet. Put simply, it’s a prayer of thanksgiving for autumnal beer. Bach makes an appearance as well. How can one go wrong with a set like this? (September 1).
How to categorize Phew? We can’t; that’s why she’s here. The former punk rock frontwoman continues her solo career on Vertigo KO, leading with two distinct tracks, one instrumental drone and the other caustic electronics with voice. The constant is the intrigue. The limited edition Japanese version comes with a 20-page zine of essays and photography (Disciples, September 4). Drew McDowall‘s Agalma contains multiple guest stars contributing multiple timbres. Kali Malone, Caterina Barbieri, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and more appear on a set that embraces drone, voice, beats and a sense that anything can happen at any time (Dais, October 30).
After five years, Jesse Osborne-Lanthier is finally ready to unveil his magnum opus, a 28-track excursion that takes in ambient, grime, rap, metal and more. We suspect fans of the recent Matmos album will find this the next logical purchase. But don’t be fooled by the title; Left My Brain @ Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria) OST is not a film soundtrack (Haunter, September 8). Meitei completes a recent trilogy with the beguiling Kofū on the Kitchen label. It’s yet another ages-spanning tribute to Japanese culture with a contemporary twist (September 25). The always consistent Unexplained Sounds group is back with the exotic Anthology of Persian Experimental Music Vol. 2, the latest in on ongoing series that is also available as a bundle at a discounted price. Everybody wins! (September 4.)
Room40 has a surprisingly experimental slate lined up for fall. In addition to the new Pinkcourtesyphone and Alvin Curran albums (previously covered in our Ambient and Modern Composition sections), the label is releasing Samm Bennett‘s Oscillendulum, a ten-chapter diary of a composer falling in love with a Roland JUNO 60 synthesizer (September 4). A week later, Room40 unveils a pair of works from author / composer David Toop. Field Recordings and Fox Spirits is consistently intriguing, a collection of lost recordings, found dialogue and improvisational sketches, accompanied by a 40-page book; Apparition Paintings is inspired by an abstract form of Chinese painting, utilizes snail shell whistle, bamboo flute, harp and voice, and is available on blue vinyl (September 11).
Astral Spirits is celebrating the release of a new Sarah Hennies album by re-releasing the ultra-minimal Casts. The Reinvention of Romance is a more active affair, populated with bells, whistles and repeating patterns (September 25). A month later, the label will release Exposure Quintet, the newest offering from Luke Stewart (October 23). Hennies also appears on John Kolodij‘s First Fire At Dawn, along with Anna RG on fiddle, making his solo debut not quite solo (but we don’t mind). The album is out October 2 on Astral Editions. Even more Hennies appears as part of insub.distances, a new audiovisual series from Insub Records. Each one of the eight installments, appearing in September and October, invite a composer to submit an original work that will then be interpreted by a duo. Color us intrigued.
Victoria Keddie follows her own path as well, with a combination of sounds composed and generated, organic and electronic, on a USB stick along with a multichannel video. The album operates as a sonic map of space debris as it travels around the earth (Chalkin Records, October 2). Jordan Dykstra’s The Arrow of Time is promoted by a fitting video that includes both pendulum and hourglass. This has been the year of temporal confusion, so it’s good to have a reminder that things can still move forward (New Focus, September 11).
Jerusalem’s Raash label will be a trio of appealing oddities on September 4. The iconoclastic collective staraya derevnya links all three. A dozen strong, the band utilizes theremin, dulcimer, whispers and toys to create an exotic atmosphere on Inwards opened the floor. Aided by Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet, they will also unveil the live set Still life with apples along with their own Oto/Tusk festival pairing.
Asha Sheshadri processes and layers word loops on the oddly alluring No Longer a Soundtrack, making the music seem an afterthought (Anòmia, September 1). In contrast, Andreas Bülhoff and Marc Matters‘ A Sound Writing Tool is billed more as a DJ implement; monosyllabic syllables strip the meaning from political discourse (Research and Waves, October 15). Organ and voice are combined in a most unusual fashion on Mentos Gulgendo, tagged “harmless lunacy” by Sabino Marfi (Slip, September 2). Etruscan words form the foundation of the self-titled Etrusca 3D: spoken and processed, laid atop synthetic arrangements like bricks on mortar. This is the first release for Pacific City Discs, and co-sponsored by Discrepant (September 11). Discrepant is also prepping the 37-track Música imaginaria de las Islas, which tops out at only eighteen minutes. Lagoss’ “adventure in island mythologies” unfolds like a chapter book, with each installment awash in new timbres (September 25).
Our fall slate is filled with electronic contra alto clarinet albums; just kidding, there’s only one! The self-titled album from Black Burst Sound Generator is one of the season’s obvious originals (Moozak, October 26). Vocal-electronic Gabonese is a subgenre so small it may rest on the career of a single performer. Masma Dream World (Devi Mambouka) incorporates field recordings and exotic instrumentation, making Play At Night seem beamed from another planet (Northern Spy, September 25).
Collaborations and Improvisations
Two saxophones lie at the heart of Black Diamond‘s A Held Space, but many other instruments keep them company: kalimba, singing bowl, rainstick and more. This all results in a peaceful, occasionally meditative set (Woolgathering Records, September). Sax and piano may be the primary instruments on Inner Garden, but the wind chimes make the biggest impact as they take over the back end of the set. This shared composition by Travis Laplante and Yarn/Wire unfolds in three movements (New Amsterdam, October 9).
The first of a diptych, Cooper-Moore & Stephen Gauci‘s Conversations Vol. 1 combines piano and tenor sax in an improvised study of Manhattan’s shifting moods (577 Records, September 18). Two weeks later, the label will release Shifa‘s single-track Live in Oslo, featuring piano, drums and saxophone (October 2), followed by the improvised jazz-psych of Telepathic Mysteries, the fifth album from The Telepathic Band (October 16); I Went This Way, from Rachel Musson and her saxophone-led ensemble (October 23); and Exolinger, Sarah Bernstein‘s album of violin and voice (November 6). Sax, double bass and percussion paint the shores of Estuary, the debut album from Moritz / Ali / Costa, due September 18 on Neither/Nor.
While guitar and drums are the highlights of Also‘s Live in Celovec, Katharina Ernst and Martin Siewert also play toys, which they have arranged playfully on the cover of their upcoming Trost album (September 18). On New Focus, Cat Toren’s HUMAN KIND lights the stage on fire on Scintillating Beauty, but leaves time for introspection; while Tomás Gueglio‘s Duermevela searches the gap that lies between the dreaming and waking worlds (September 11 and 4). Guitar and double bass get caught in the Rip Current of Bivins Menestres, who skip their own biographies and invite readers to go right to the music (September 4). Guitar improviser Tashi Dorji releases the blistering Stateless as a response to the world’s current trajectory; nothing is spared (Drag City, September 25).
Emily Kuhn‘s jazz trumpet leads two bands, one vocal and one instrumental, on Sky Stories, due October 30 on BASE. Two trumpets stand out front on Sand Storm, an organic / electronic hybrid from Kaze and Ikue Mori (Circum-Disc, September 18). Experimental quintet THE LAB pours out all the test tubes on Welcome before pouring them back in jazzy new combinations (September 4). Bright Dog Red is primarily an improv band … until it isn’t. The upcoming double album Somethin’ Comes Along folds in a generous amount of hip-hop, funk, poetry and freestyling. The fact that the band has opened for Parliament Funkadelic says all we need to know (Ropeadope, September 25).
Cuneiform Records has two releases scheduled for release September 18: Ray Russell‘s Fluid Architecture is a showcase for jazz rock guitar, while I.P.A.‘s Bashing Mushrooms is prog jazz, propelled by horns ~ not the psychedelic journey that the title suggests. Both are available in regular or HD versions. These will be followed on October 16 by Anthony Pirog‘s Pocket Poem, a guitar-led “post-genre” soundscape including film reels and sudden changes in timbre.
“Queen of the acoustic guitar” Kaki King returns on October 23 with Modern Yesterdays, which began as music for theatre before the theatre production was put on hold. After that, the artist recalibrated the theme, which now refers to the longevity of trees (Cantaloupe).
An occasionally atonal “lost classic” gets its due on Bunita Marcus‘ Lecture for John Kondo. Amazingly, the composer was not allowed to conduct her own work in 1985 due to “male egos.” Now the full piece is unveiled along with an electronic, reconstructed take, courtesy of David August (99Chants, September 25). Lemur & Reinhold Friedl combine forces on Alloy, forming a quintet. As the title indicates, the result is more than the sum of its parts (Sofa, September 4). Friedl will follow this with KRAFFT, a concerto for 18 amplified instruments (zeitkratzer productions, October 23). Two side-long tracks occupy Ashioto, a showcase for the drumming of Tatsuhisa Yamamoto, whose percussion is fleshed out by contributions from friends (Black Truffle, September 25). All manner of objects are used on A Softer Collision, from improvising quartet MASS; the name connotes a different type of religion (September 4).
The title of Ian Power‘s latest album and the reference to drone may lead some to expect a different sort of album, but Maintenance Hums is primarily a percussion album; if anything, it sounds like the bashing one might perform in order to fix an appliance (Carrier, September 4). In like fashion, the bells seem muted on Jordan Dykstra‘s 14 Horse Bells; the preview track is laden with sine waves and subharmonics (Editions Verde, September 4). Unrealtime seems like a phrase Panos Ghikas may want to copyright; these hyperactive improvisations seem to follow no set course (Diatribe Records, October 3).
Want something loud and caustic? Try Cuts Open, from Merzbow, Mats Gustafsson and Balazs Pandi. This follow-up to Cuts lurks in the shadows for a while before it explodes (RareNoise, September 25). Fiona Gurney & Maxwell Patterson make an existential racket on The Holographic Medium, which begins with anguished shouting before the duo takes out all their aggression on the instruments (Absurd TRAX, September 4). Bad Stream‘s single, 39-minute collage Sonic Healing features a dozen performers and lands on nearly as many genres; there’s also a remix, but we can’t vouch for its healing properties (Antime, September 4).
Judith Hamann is known for cello, but on Peaks she takes a more abstract approach by incorporating the sounds of churches, steps and breath. The effect is meditative (Black Truffle, September 18). The same tone holds true for Pedro Tudela‘s Auditório (Portuguese for auditorium), a sculpture and installation-based work that revolves around the sounds of bells. An expensive but lovely limited edition box set is offered as well (Cronica, September 1).
Esc.rec. unveils two projects on the first and fourth of September. Francisco López’ untitled (2019) affords the rare opportunity to hear new sounds from the prolific sound artist online, as much of his oeuvre is quietly released; Karen Willems‘ Bentillse Berber 03 is a stark reflection on the solitude of quarantine.
tsss tapes has a full slate on tap, starting September 4 with Philip Sulidae‘s intricate Stien, each piece named after a type of fruit; and Daphne X‘s Água Viva, which amplifies the sound of raindrops on polyester, metal and skin (there’s also a dog). These will be followed on November 6 by Giovanni di Domenico‘s L’inutile (two long compositions for solo piano) and an intriguing set from Marco Scarassatti / Thelmo Cristovam, Caraguatà / Moxotò that includes improvisations on sax, Viola de Cocho and “a self made instrument called Pássaro-Peixe-Morcego (Bird-fish-bat).”
Forty years after their inception, Three Point Circle has backed away from improvisation, but not experimentalism. Layered Contingencies is a quiet, subtle affair that plays on each of their strengths (Palace of Lights, September 4). Tetuzi Akiyama is similarly sedate; the guitar improv of Thaumaturgy (“Wonderworking”) is good for the soul (besom presse, October 16). Michael Begg has two releases out on September 4: Two Gather in the Waiting Room is a guitar-based conversation with Roedelius, while the more experimental Witness 5 (recorded with Black Glass Strings) is the final part of a series that uses Witness Engine software to “score” the environment ~ in this case variations in air quality. Both are available on Omnempathy.
Our readers will recognize Martin Taxt as the microtonal tuba player alternately known as Muddersten and Microtub. Now recording under his own name, he combines forces with Inga Margrethe Aas on viola da gamba and double bass, composing an ode to Japanese tea rooms and tatami mats. First Room is out September 18 on Sofa. Germany’s Sascha Muhr approaches music as collage, pasting and layering orchestral sounds on FUIVE – Part 2, the center of a triptych (September 4). Ellen Fullman‘s the man who grew common in wisdom was composed for dance, and is now ready for home listening as well. The last two movements find their way to this release, suffused with wood, water and glass (besom presse, October 16).
Rummage Records is releasing four works this September: Robert Stowsky‘s [p] is the audio reflection of a sound installation inspired by a printmaking studio (September 10); Dong Zhou‘s s-lou-p uses machines to generate phonetic materials (September 17); Nicola Fumo Frattegiani‘s Polvere Nera pulverizes chalk blocks to tease out their acoustic properties (September 17); and xaoRa‘s The Nothingness starts as a tabula rasa and grows increasingly more introspective (September 24). Italy’s Digipur releases two new albums in its Tempo Reale collection on October 2. Zumtrio‘s Radioscapes is packed with radio waves, percussion and improvisational fire, while Minus‘ Collettivo d’improvvisazione captures the energy of their live performances.
Oliver Leith‘s 10″ Balloon/Slide pairs two works of electronic experimentalism, the first purportedly reminiscent of “a balloon beaten by a baseball bat without being popped” (SN Variations, October 23). Amplified flute, electronics and a huge array of unidentified objects appear on Disputa e Guerra no Terreiro de Roça de Casa de Avó (Quarrel and War in the farmyard at Grandma’s house). We imagine Marina Cyrino, Henrique Iwao, Matthias Koole and Marco Scarassatti as agitated animals (oem, September 2).
The title Listen to Me seems tailor-made for our site. Pedro Rebelo‘s album began as an installation before making its way to cassette. Listen closely, and one can hear the sounds of liquid nitrogen, air fans, and the equipment of the Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (Cronica, September 15). Upon seeing the title Recordings with Guitar, one might reasonably expect a guitar album; but the word with is crucial. Andrew Weathers incorporates household objects, producing found percussion (Astral Editions, September 18).
Guitar and guquin are the only instruments on Gianmaria Aprile‘s Rain, Ghosts, Dog and Empty Woodland, which he graces with a light touch of electronics to produce an evocative combination. While the cover image reflects the nature of our site, we do not recommend that our readers give anything that close a listen! (We Insist!, October 23). Kai Althoff adds synth to a collection of rattles, ratchets and strings on the unusually tinged Aber mich macht’s traurig (“But It Makes Me Sad”) (Sonig, October 2). Voice, reeds, sax and duduk improvisations are electronically modified on the eclectic We Q, from Edith Lettner and Dafna Naphtali (Clang, September 25). Here’s a mouthful: Martin Küchen‘s Det försvunnas namn l The Name of that which is Lost | Der Name des Verlorenen was made with baritone and alto sax, speakers and iPod, marking it as a pure 21st century recording with a sheen of modern composition (Thanatosis, October 23).
Wouldn’t endless happiness be nice? That’s the label behind the self-titled Mentos Gulgendo, the name inspired by a fictional philosopher who purports our universe to be a madhouse. The theory doesn’t seem that far off, and the duo’s music gives it credence (September 2). The season’s most unwieldy combination of moniker and title goes to d. dzhincharadze‘s D.sf.gurment pt.3. The music follows suit: electronic in tone, yet eschewing melody or club potential. This completes a multi-year trilogy for the Russian artist (Kotä, September 4). Similarly abstract is Frank Bretschneider‘s installation-based abtasten_halten, whose non-repeating electronic tones are generated by VU meter needles (faitiche, September 18). Piercing tones meet feedback blasts on Marcin Pietruszewski‘s The New Pulsar Generator Recordings Volume One. This may be the least accessible album on the fall docket, but that’s why they call it experimental (Fancyyyyy, October 2)!