Experimental music is a glimpse into the future, a tapping of future trends, the cutting edge of the new. In this field, what’s next is what’s now. Not that any of these musicians are trying to be popular after they die; they are simply fascinated with sound. Those on the electro-acoustic end of the spectrum are recording unique juxtapositions, while those on the improvised end of the spectrum are pushing their instruments into uncharted territories. Few of these albums will sneak their way into house parties, clubs or radio; but they’ve already found a way to our hearts.
Our cover image is taken from Alexander Tucker + Keith Collins’ Fifth Continent on Subtext Recordings, covered three paragraphs below..
We’re not sure how the Norwegian synth-pop band will feel about the newest AHA, an Egyptian-Canadian composer whose Thonis pays tribute to the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion. The field recordings evoke a sense of place, while cello and violin convey emotion (Sryphe, January 2). On the same label and day, ni zheng brings the confrontational body of immanence, where screams meet blasts of steam and sudden electronics keep the listener off guard. CEM‘s Music for Spaces is a DJ album that isn’t for DJs: an exploration of space within the rhythms of electronic music, as well as a reflection on the spaces in which people dance, even when they’re not dancing (Psychic Liberation/Pain Liberation, January 31).
Creative percussion dominates Tachycardie‘s Autonomie Minérale, while synth lurks in the background: an intriguing blend (unjenesaisquoi, January 13). Ilia Belorukov admits that he is “not a drummer,” but uses a wide array of percussion on Scattered Underfoot, also with synth. We wonder if these two can be friends? (Crónica, January 10). Also on Crónica, Marla Hlady & Christof Migone offer Swan Song, whose title bears a dual meaning. Field recordings, drones and even choir were filtered through the resonant swan necks of retired whiskey stills, resulting in an installation and an album, a tribute to architecture and sound (February 14).
Alexander Tucker pays tribute to his friend Keith Collins on the elaborate Fifth Continent, available both as album and as a book. The book contains remembrances from friends and colleagues; the album contains guitar improvisations, the words of Collins’ partner Derek Jarman, and field recordings captured in the Dungeness (Subtext, February 24, internal art pictured right). Hypermedium’s Future Chorus includes works from AGF, Savvas Metaxes and more, a morass of human and animal sounds, samples and poems, fed through A.I. and remixed: an aural cornucopia (January 20). Hourloupe returns with poems and beats on a variety of subjects; the conclusion of a triptych, Three Nights in the Wawayanda, drags Thoreau to the dance floor and convinces him to move (March 15).
Ruhail Quasar‘s Fatima is a series of eruptions, with mulched field recordings, vast power electronics and noise. The album laments the state of Leh, the artist’s hometown in Ladakh, ravaged by the twin beasts of war and tourism. A 48-page photo journal is also available (Danse Noire, January 27). The history and danger of asbestos mining is the subject of Yannis Kyriakides‘s elaborate Amiandos, a suite that comes across like a mini-play, with explanatory liner notes (Unsounds, January 15). Mattias Peuch combines multiple stories into one on Mt. Hadamard National Park, imagining the mathematician discovering an area of wilderness instead of a series of principles, then transposing it into sound. Footsteps and breath are reminders of the human element in the midst of aural chaos (Hallow Ground, January 31).
Holsen & Cassiers‘ Walking in Circles starts off predictably, then goes off the deep end. Using trumpet, electronics and vocals, the duo shifts the tone from ambience to drone to abrasion before returning to where they began (Stroom, January 27). Public Eyesore Records will be releasing two albums the first week of January, representing the more experimental side of drone. charles lereau‘s stasis is a suite for electronics and tape (January 5), while the self-titled album from Guro Skumsnes Moe & Philippe Petit mixes bass, synth, turntable and voice (January 1). The wildest album in this preview comes from YoshimiOizumikiYoshiduO, which should be no surprise to those familiar with the artists. To The Forest To Live A Truer Life is part live and part processed, part organic and part electronic, and experimental all the way through (Thrill Jockey, March 24).
Jazzy and Improvised
As always, 577 Records leads our experimental music pre-order list, with five albums already announced for 2023. That’s My Life is the year’s first release, a pair of sidelong pieces from Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, Tony Orell recorded in 1989 (January 2). This will be followed by Music Frees Our Souls, Vol.. 2 from Francesco Mela featuring Cooper-Moore and William Parker, a two-track jam session between old friends (January 20). Coultrain brings funk and spoken word to MUNDUS (February 1); the Astroturf Noise trio (with guest stars) returns with Blazing/Freezing, a playful commentary on the current political-environmental climate (February 17); and horns and drums lend excitement to the rock grooves of Furthered, an raucous set from Alex Ward Item 4 Furthered (March 3).
Infrequent Seams launches the K7 Commissions Series on January 10 with the first of three four-packs representing an album a month for the year. The initial salvo includes Ekphrastic Discourse, a series of improvisations from bassist James Ilgenfritz, guitarist Sandy Ewen and saxophonist Michael Foster; blood::face, a folk-acoustic set from Lily Guarneros Maase; the self-titled, water-inspired Time Phase Trio and Avenue 64, which includes works from William Roper, Cassia Streb & Tim Feeney: spoken word, wine glasses, beaks and bells. The official release date for the last three is February 7.
Kawashima / Mochizuki / Henritzi have clear fun improvising on alto sax and lap steel on Chinmoku wa ishikure ni yadoru bouryoku, inspired by a Georg Traki poem, while the DRY THRUST trio of Graewe / Siewert / Kern contributes the extremely abstract The Less You Sleep, both out January 20 on Trost. We appreciate the tongue-in-cheek album title of Groupshow‘s Greatest Hits, as we’ve never heard these tracks on Top of the Pops ~ nor would we expect to do so. Hanno Leichtmann, Andrew Pekler and Jan Jelinek – recorded separate pieces in concert and in improvisational sessions (faitische, January 27).
Miharu Ogura Plays Stockhausen, specifically “Klavierstücke I–XI” on solo piano, a double-disc set on thanatosis (February 10). A month later, the label releases Marianne Svašek‘s Marwa, a single-track alap piece for voice and two tampuras (March 2). Guitarist Harry Christelis leads a jazz quartet on Nurture the Child / Challenge the Adult, a languid set that may also appeal to adventurous ambient fans (Clonmell Jazz Social, February 17). Emil Strandberg‘s trumpets take the lead on Tonpoem 2021-2022, while four guest musicians round out the improvising ensemble (Haphazard Music, January 13).
The Sensory Illusions return with a second helping of friendly tuba jazz on II, drawing on surf music and Bond themes for inspiration (Karaoke Kalk, February 24). The 13-piece Beats & Pieces Big Band returns with Good Days, a fun set that surprisingly references post-rock and Björk in the press release – signs that this is no ordinary big band (January 27). “No strict beat” can be found on light.box & Emil Karlsen‘s The Undanced Dance, though one will find a generous helping of percussion, trumpet and bass, along with light electronics (Bead Records, February 10).