This season, listeners can travel to a distant village to hear the reminiscences of centenarians; wander into the forest to encounter lost tribes; rail at the machines of politics and industry, who have marginalized races and classes; or simply sit back and let the machines take over. This season’s experimental music slate is one of the most diverse we’ve ever heard, in both theme and execution. Whatever you don’t know you’re looking for can probably be found here! Welcome to the cutting edge, where the most fascinating stories are told.
Our cover image is taken from SABIWA’s No. 16 – Memories of Future Landscapes on Phantom Limb, covered below.
Textures and Words
Fractured Whole is a wonderful title for Cruel Diagonals (Megan Mitchell)’s new LP, as it represents both the emotion behind the release and the execution. Every sound on the album, from mezzo-soprano melody to drone to percussion, is generated from Mitchell’s voice, producing an immersive, even holy experience (Beacon Sound, 24 March). Lorenzo Abattoir explores the breadth of breath on Disincarnazione, the word referring to the loss of the corporate. The album highlights the fact that there is so much more than “breathe in-breathe out” (Flag Day Recordings, April 7). Breathwork is also integral to Rachel Lyn, whose Stories Came to Us is packed with poetry, spoken word and loops, disembodied ideas floating slowly into focus (MOIW, April 21, pictured right). Sung and synthesized harmonies are the core of Piotr Kurek‘s Peach Blossom, which includes fragments of a theatre performance as well as glockenspiel, marimba, flutes and reeds (Mondoj, March 31).
Kaivajaiset began as a Finnish installation, and has now found its way to vinyl. Niko-Matti Ahti‘s album is a collage of dialogue samples, everyday sounds and sparse instrumentation, a three-dimensional exhibit turned radio play (Students of Decay, April 7). In Anat Ben-David‘s Conversations, words become notes and notes become words; conversations are transcribed into music, and vice versa. Even Debussy makes an appearance (March 30). SABIWA returns with No. 16 – Memories of Future Landscapes, incorporating tribal music from ancient Taiwan with immersive soundscapes that jumble past and present to create a ritualistic trance (Phantom Limb, April 14, pictured right). YoshimiOizumikiYoshiduO presents To The Forest To Live A Truer Life, recorded in a forest cafe. Piano, voice and synth combine like splatter art that somehow makes sense (Thrill Jockey, March 24).
Already receiving mainstream press is Ian Brennan‘s historically valid project, The Oldest Voice in the World (Azerbaijan) “Thank you for bringing me back to the sky”. The album preserves the voices of post-COVID centenaries, captured by Brennan and his wife on a life-altering visit (Six Degrees Records, April 7). Rosso Polare‘s Bocca D’ombra is built on a bed of field recordings, which adds a real-life aspect to the project. The cave art cover connects the work to nature, prompting the question, “do humans have an exclusive claim to music?” (Sagome, April 4). Field recordings and tape loops form the core of once upon a time there was a mountain, an already-intriguing album made more interesting by the fact that the duo switches roles on the flip side (Bezirk Tapes, March 24). Rob St. John‘s Örö merges field recordings from the Finnish Archipelago island with evocative music, presented on a lathe-cut 7″ along with a book and film; a great gift for those who have seen the installation, as well as those unable to make the trip (Blackford Hill, April 13).
Tripticks Tapes is releasing a trio of cassettes on March 24. Evan Lindorff-Ellery‘s Swollen Air is dronelike, featuring feedback, contact mics and a full use of the stereo field; Playbackers‘ Playbackers Record uses turntable, cassettes and reel-to-reel (what, no CDs?) to create a time-spanning collage; and Beam Splitter‘s Split Jaw amplifies trombone, effects and electronics to an often frightful level.
Histamine Tapes is also preparing a trio of spring releases, staggered throughout the season. First up will be Another Dark December‘s Anthropocene’s Apocalypse and other various anxieties, a mash-up of samples and field recordings, including those of truckers blocking business in Ottawa (March 31). Then Demetrio Cecchitelli will offer OBVIOUS OBLIQUITY, an ambient-toned extension of an art piece, filled with tumbling tones (May 5). One week later, the label will release a slightly darker work from Robert Eggplant, featuring guitar improvisation, tape effect and delay. All of these and more can be previewed on the January compilation Histamine Tapes 2023.
Sooth continues a run of unique releases from Chinabot. While Pupa‘s music is electronic, it disregards any typical mode of composition, doing what it likes ~ sometimes glitch, sometimes drone, sometimes video game bleeps, a plugged-in potpourri (April 6). Elnath Project‘s The Long Lightning Flashes of the First Flood is a generative work, with half of the tracks using hexatonic scales and the other half the octatonic scale. The artist traces the technique back to the 7th century, albeit without computers (Wormhole World, March 24). Pieces from 1968-2004 are included on Hemlock Stone, a career retrospective of Richard Orton, who was experimenting with reel-to-reel and computers before many of us were born (Persistence of Sound, March 24). Cello, percussion and live electronics are recorded, deconstructed and reassembled in random order on Terra. In doing so, Luca Forcucci makes a statement about populaces and territories subject to similar changes (Cronica, March 21).
Improvised and Abstract
It’s become our habit to begin this section with the 577 Records roster, as the Brooklyn label clearly has its act together when it comes to advance promotion. Seven spring albums are already in pre-order, beginning with Scatter: On a Clear Day Like This, recorded live by the 30-year ensemble of Phil Minton, Pat Thomas, Dave Tucker, Roger Turner. By this time, the improvisation comes naturally (March 31). A Lifeboat (Part II) continues the journey, as Michael Sarian & Matthew Putman pair their skills on trumpet/flugelhorn and keyboards (April 7). Piano trio Novoa / Kamaguchi / Cleaver Trio debuts on 577 on April 14 with Vol. 1, a second volume already in the works. Beating them to that goal: Ayami Ishito & The Spacemen, whose cosmic Vol. 2 is released April 28. Stretching to May 5, Svoboda / O’Connor / Green offer Time Together, Time Apart, a title that seems perfect for our times. This will be followed by another live Cafe Oto performance, Towards The Flame, Vol. 1 by The Flame (Robert Mitchell, Neil Charles, Mark Sanders) on May 12 and Gerald Cleaver‘s 22/23, the most accessible of 577’s spring slate, featuring electronics and saxophone, on pretty purple vinyl offset by a bright yellow cover (May26). And then it will be summer!
Earshift Music is also coming on strong, with seven spring releases already in pre-order. Sax and piano are joined by bass and percussion on Oceans Together, a melodic suite from Mark Ginsburg & Ryan Grogan. The concept of shores is extended beyond the physical to the spiritual and emotional (March 23). The Trichotomy duo expands to a quintet for parts of To Vanish, a jazzy set that includes everything from bassoon to pedal steel (March 24). Tripataka‘s double album Gliese 667C features vibraphone and digideroo, even woodblock (March 24). Book of Boobook is more book than Babadook, as a quintet led by bassist Paddy Fitzgerald travels through a series of storylines (March 24). Jazz pianist Steve Barry invites three friends to join him In the Waves, which celebrates the simple pleasures of swimming (March 31). A month later, Underwards offers the groovy Delve, followed by the surf vibes of The Vampires, who boast a heavy association with The Necks, which cannot possibly be coincidental! (May 12).
Christopher Butterfield‘s 14-strong avant-chamber project gathers compositions from three decades, making Souvenir a fine overview of the composer’s work (Redshift, March 31). Dark saxophone timbres decorate Wave Nature, on which the multi-instrumentalist plays 15 different instruments and even sings. After all that, he still leaves room for guest stars! (Colorfield, April 7). The Last Quiet Place is not as quiet as one might think, as saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock gathers a sextet to elaborate on her vision. In this case, quiet is a state of mind (Pyroclastic, March 31). Thermal‘s Ice in a Hot World is certainly heated, due in large part to volcanic saxophone; the trio’s album was recorded live, celebrating its 20th anniversary (Unsounds, March 25). Live at Scholes Street preserves a performance by Ithaki, a quartet led by bassist Nick Panoutsos (Slow & Steady Records, March 22). deVon Russell Gray / Nathan Hansen / Davu Seru use We Sick to comment on the state of Black America and the legacy of Malcolm X ~ the recording made as the National Guard ringed the Minnesota State Capitol across the street (Innova, April 28).
Seminar Shadow‘s Heatwave is a work for two pianos, less concerned with melody than with vibration and movement. The album includes two side-long selections (Dear Life, March 24). In like manner, Jason Doell‘s piano work is completely unpredictable, from frozen keys to disturbed innards, with abstract cover art to match. becoming in shadows ~ of being touched is released April 21 on Whited Sepulchre. Christian Rønn‘s “live and ad-hoc” piano pieces are decidedly non-linear; Travel Through Stones includes four such works, one over 18 minutes in length (Nische, March 24). Eventless Plot adds two clarinetists on Distance Between Us, expanding their avant piano timbres to a more mysterious level. The cover is an apt depiction of the music: layers of different materials organized into a loose whole (Dinzu Artefacts, March 31).
Hear the Drummer Get Wicked
Mark Sanders / Emil Karlsen each play drum kit on Muted Language, a single afternoon session that sounds like a whole lot of fun. Look for the album April 23 on Bead Records. Matt Mitchell‘s Oblong Aplomb is dedicated to drummers, and contains a wide variety of percussion from Kate Gentile and Chas Smith, along with avant piano from Mitchell: a raucous affair (Out of Your Head, April 14). Similarly percussive is Vasco Trilla / Ra Kalam Bob Moses‘ Singing Icons, which includes “clock chimes, flat bells and vibrators,” although we’re not too sure that last one will catch on as a musical instruement! (Astral Spirits, April 14). Cape Town drummer Asher Gamedze uses Turbulence and Pulse to talk about history and legacy, especially as it pertains to African culture. His final conclusion: the future is still unwritten (International Anthem / Mushroom Hour Half Hour, May 5). The rhythm continues on For Percussion, from @c + Drumming GP, which features marimbas, minerals and a track inspired by Frank Zappa (Crónica, April 25).
Rock Around the Clock
Violent, dramatic and upper-case, Mats Gustafsson & Joachim Nordwall‘s THEIR POWER REACHED ACROSS SPACE AND TIME-TO DEFY THEM WAS DEATH-OR WORSE honors the title’s genesis as a line in the sci-fi novel Space Lords. One can imagine the alien overlords landing, digging into the earth, sending out tendrils, capturing humans with traction beams (Thrill Jockey, March 24). Poetry, funk and groove can all be found on Lightning Dreamers, from trumpeter Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra. The album is dedicated to jamie branch, who passed away between recording and release (International Anthem, March 31). Rock and jazz combine on Malplacé the debut album from Organ Donor. A giant O links the release to others on Thanatosis. If not for the saxophone improvisation, we might have placed this in a different category (March 24). The band Thresher is one vowel away from thrasher. One can detect a metal influence on Homunculus, which delves into distortion and relishes reverb (OwnSound Recordings, April 7).
Pingback: A Closer Listen’s 2023 Spring Music Preview ~ Experimental – Avant Music News