19 February 2017


midnight circles 2017, edition of ?

"eight pieces that build heavily upon looped sounds – piano passages, machinelike rumbles, noises of defective analogue tape, scratches and dust. While some of these recordings are coated in layers of distortion, others are arranged with a distinctive amount of reverb and hall. In these pieces piano loops can be heard that seem distant as though they were only playing for themselves, thoughtless about any accidental listener who might be near... lo-fi in nature, with high-pitched tape-hiss, sudden rattles and aging cassette-material adding to an often melancholic atmosphere. The noticeable repetition within each part of this recording is thereby far from begin stale or monotonous; it seemingly slows time, concentrated on only a couple of notes which move through wide rooms, disappear and then slowly come back. It is because of this repetition that 'Birch' as a whole feels like a circle with no explicit beginning or end. Instead it is meant to be played over and over again, like those piano-loops that would have gone on forever if the tape had not been stopped. Non-notebook-speakers are recommended." - MIDNIGHT CIRCLES

"A charming exploration in the world of disintegrated sounds. Clay is a composer and sound artist from Ohio now based in San Francisco, drawing upon elements of American folklore, genealogy, art education, children's theater, improvisation, digital media and everything in between to make music. Gorlen is an experimental musician living in San Francisco. He produces music and noise using junk, found tapes, and home made cassette loops." - CANTI MAGNETICI (as part of their label write up for BRITTLE)

i feel like i remember hearing this in passing a while back - perhaps a temporary digital release via GORLEN's CASCADING FRAGMENTS now physically manifested, but i can only find a trace of it on soundcloud with "birch viii" apparently existing since august 2015 so i guess maybe that's what i previously perused and BIRCH has been waiting in the wings all this time or else backlogged in MIDNIGHT CIRCLES' queue - in any case, here it is, to hold and behold

BIRCH is the best yet from C&G, a stone cold masterpiece encapsulating the best this glorious collaborative entity has to offer, legendary -separately and together- around here well before this tape came along - this is the fourth C&G recommendation - their entire cassette catalog has been highlighted here over past two years - a stunning collage like debut and MMM SOUND standout LIGHT THROUGH LEAVES [REC #10], patchworked longform loop disintegration in CASCADING FRAGMENTS' CONCH [REC #43] and full realization of collaborative potential in CANTI MAGNETICI's BRITTLE [REC #142] which made my top five tapes of 2016 (and previously CLAY and GORLEN locked up my #1 and #2 tapes of 2015 respectively)

previous metaphoric blurbs still apply - "woosh and crackle of worn out tape are strangely alluring accompaniment for warbly minimalist piano variations and sparse synth passages like BASINSKI disintegrating SATIE and BLADE RUNNER" and "synth-on-damaged-tape bliss like a warped and worn out copy of ENO's APOLLO" as they return to brief collage form with only three of eight tracks passing the four minute mark - if BRITTLE was more GORLEN-centric or else "a complete mind meld" as i contended, then BIRCH is a more distinct sum of its parts with CLAY's styling more prominent, as elegantly established by last year's understated vinyl debut STILLS (unfortunately i was unable to issue a proper recommendation), with these intimate modern classical ambient loops of wistful "furniture music" providing a structural backbone of sorts with which CLAY and GORLEN delicately and intricately tinker - ethereal atmospherics, subtle layers, grainy textures, warbly tones, even a little white hot distortion - adorned and masterfully manipulated into one of the finest works of new weird american drone music i've ever heard, with approximate contemporary comparison to favored artists like AMULETS, LOST TRAIL and SKITTISH ARM, but like them C&G are way out there on their own in that ever expanding universe

back in 2015 i stated about GORLEN- "without question he is making some of the most compelling ambient music out there right now" - that is still true to my ears, with CLAY now deserving the same accolade, both as an equal partner in this endeavor and in his own right - i know it's only february but good lord i can't fathom a better tape finding me this year

12 February 2017


digitalis 2010, red vinyl edition of 100

"collaborating in various forms for years, but this is their first fully-realized work. made with vintage gear and recorded to 8-track in Chicago in 2008 and mixed at Twells' Seventh Door Studio outside Boston. a spectral odyssey in two parts. Darkened passages shift and fall apart while keeping the piercing sun at bay. Faint song structures lurk beneath the rolling black waves, but only get an arm above the surface during those rare moments of light. Rattling tones crawl out from underneath swirls of electronics. Lines are crossed but blur together and everything ends up sounding like a desperate, beautiful collage of sound. Crunching guitar chords bowl into you at full-force, moving slow but piling on the pressure. Tension rises to the point of no return as they desperately search for a breaking point. Things finally settle down and gently fade into oblivion. In the end, the seamless nature of the collaboration is what really leaves its mark." - DIGITALIS label blurb (i think?) by way of FORCED EXPOSURE

i figured this was as good a title as any for my RETROSPECTION series launch -- COASTS was and remains crucial to my musical taste development and consideration, not only helping to spark interest in what was and what is, but also what can be, in challenging any given notion of what music is and is not, and moreover what such music can mean to the listener or rather what the listener can independently discover with little or no apparent cues, with or without regard to artistic intent (or lack thereof)

i was well on my way exploring these ideas and sounds before COASTS and others arrived seemingly via a singular deep vein that pulsed in the latter half of the previous decade, cultivated and curated by a select group of labels, blogs and distros, facilitating a critical inflection point along my musical continuum of which COASTS is most emblematic alongside concurrent revered works like EXPO 70's SONIC MESSENGER, SEAN MCCANN's THE CAPITAL and YELLOW SWANS' GOING PLACES

tulsa oklahoma legend DIGITALIS was one of the big movers and shakers of that era, taking root in the early 2000s, issuing as various imprints and in various formats titles by ILYAS AHMED, BARN OWL, ETERNAL TAPESTRY, NATURAL SNOW BUILDINGS, ROBEDOOR, SPARKLING WIDE PRESSURE, STEVEN R. SMITH and ZELIENOPLE, just to name some of the more readily recognizable artists, many now established as major influences throughout the weirdo music world - PSI LAB regulars will clearly recognize the influence DIGITALIS had on my ears

as the golden years of that era waned, this december masterpiece came and went, most unassumingly and mostly unnoticed -as perceived then and still apparent with cherry red vinyl copies (limited to 100) abundantly available on discogs and presumably black vinyl copies still in stock at FORCED EXPOSURE- despite glowing contemporaneous reviews by entities like ANTI-GRAVITY BUNNY championing "Coasts is fucking spectacular, they should make it a regular thing, Put out records like a normal band, make everyone happy, maybe become Drone Gods in the process?" and earning "album of the year" distinction from THE RADIANT NOW (there's a name that will take experienced heads back), not to mention T&C are better known as TYPE head honcho aka ZELA and ZELIENOPLE frontman, respectively

the abridged label (?) blurb above doesn't leave a whole lot of room for me to work with regarding my typical metaphoric hyperbole, but i will give it a go - a pair of dynamic dark ambient drone passages, two sides of the same coin, brooding and contemplative, dizzyingly immense, bubbling, coagulating, swirling eddies of harmonic structures, the perfect amount of goosebump inducing dissonance coaxed from an array of guitar, analog electronics and voice-as-instrument, man and machine as one, kinda like ENO and KLAUS SCHULZE entangled and tumbling through space, and to drive it home for folks riding the same wavelength, the last 90 seconds of of this album is maybe thee ultimate play-through payoff in my collection

also, the cover art is top ten all time for me, easy -- owning and cruising around in a 1970 dodge challenger with "coasts" on the front license plate is on my shortlist of things i would like to enjoy before i die



01 February 2017


aurora borealis 2017, cassette edition of 50, vinyl edition of 300

"As fans since 2014, we’re very excited to be releasing the debut vinyl from Danish multi-disciplinary artist øjeRum. ...two extended tracks of aetherial, haunting and otherworldly beauty. The cover art is a hand-cut collage, part of an ever growing body of incredible work from this talented Dane. The artwork expresses the audio perfectly. A floating, drifting haze of light, subtly shifting, organic. This is a world to lose yourself in." - AURORA BOREALIS

i have also been a fan since 2014's SANGE TIL DOENDE, since then one PAW GRABOWSKI has proliferated output as OJERUM and cemented himself as a top shelf PSI LAB favorite (this is the seventh OJERUM title recommended, surpassed only by LOST TRAIL with eight), a rare talent fusing sonic and visual artistic realms - he has been pairing good music with good artwork to such extent i can't think of a good comparison on an operational level as most of his albums are incredible dualities making him a rather singular artist in that regard

his music has mostly segregated into two hemispheres - songform (FRAVAERSMINDER, SNE, etc) and longform (HE REMEMBERS, STILHEDENS, etc), with some blending and stretching here and there (most notably NAAR VI VAAGNER, and SANGE of course), and to be sure consistently great, but nothing so boldly achieving escape velocity to blast free of SANGE and settle into its own orbit around my mind as the next big mile marker in OJERUM's discography

until now

if i could only have one of the aforementioned hemispheres of OJERUM's music it would have to be his longform styling and that's right where WHEN BIRDS FLY lands, or i should say soars, as this isn't just another turn of the wheel, rather it is quite the hemispheric paradigm shift, perhaps the ideal refinement of his musical ability and identity, as perhaps one might expect (demand?) of a vinyl long-playing debut from such an established weirdo cassette artist but nonetheless credit where credit is due when realization exceeds expectation

it could be forgiven if one did not readily recognize WHEN BIRDS FLY as OJERUM - the mood, both sonically and visually, is decidedly less gloomy, less wistful, less parapsychological for lack of a better word - instead OJERUM ascends toward the heavens out over a sea of bliss (again, both sonically and visually), establishing a more distinct connection to the classical ambient model than ever existed in previous works - measured ebb and flow of gentle tones finding contemporary relatively sunny side up comparison to DAVID ANDREE, KYLE LANDSTRA and WILLAMETTE - i might think of this as OJERUM's moonshot, "a world to lose yourself in" indeed, exquisitely presented on neatly full color labeled clear vinyl with glorious "hand-cut collage" cover art

AURORA BOREALIS also did a cassette edition "in keeping with the artist's previous catalogue" but also in keeping with OJERUM's catalog it didn't last long - but rest assured this is as about as good as it gets for me in terms of a "proper vinyl debut" so might as well enjoy it as such, sure to be one of my absolute favorite ambient albums of the year

30 January 2017


illuminated paths 2017, edition of 15 (?)

"tags: experimental broke machine films drone guitar noise pop" - ILLUMINATED PATHS

one of the best tapes yet from ILLUMINATED PATHS, a stroke of genius for all parties involved, moody moonlit ambient pop ballads, breakdowns and dirges, perhaps cueing off ZELIENOPLE's favored brand of ethereal post rock, echoing LOREN CONNORS and ROY MONTGOMERY post blues inventions, haunting hooks reminiscent of early GROUPER with touches of SIX ORGANS elevated experimental folk trickling into more weirdo zones inhabited by heads like JAKOB OLAUSSON and TUCKER THEODORE, perhaps inspired by higher profile art pop flavors like RADIOHEAD and ROXY MUSIC and TALK TALK, at least that's what my ears hear here and there

JANUARY HEADS is a seamless relay yielding an impressively continuous vibe - a rather clever deceptively simple twist on the "split tape" concept, seeming very much a deeply involved collaboration and yet apparently not - it gels so damn well that i feel there just had to be some degree of call and response, of some intellectual interplay between the two, but even so "collaboration" doesn't fully satisfy - this very much sounds and feels like a singular work manifested by a singular artist - but in practical terms, LONESOME BLOOD's contributions are mostly these immersed atmospheric dronescapes tilting toward TIM HECKER and WINDY & CARL albeit more sunny side down than that might suggest (which is fine by me - you'll find me right at home on "chasm"), to an extent functioning as interludes to POMEROY's more fragile songcraft, but this metaphor breaks down as POMEROY is just as culpable in creating this magnificent haze that persists from start to finish, and in a literal sense i think "interlude" is insufficient suggests diminished importance - some of my most favorite moments on those RADIOHEAD and TALK TALK albums are those crucial moments tucked away between so-called "proper songs" and the same applies here

the first cassette masterpiece of 2017 has arrived - it may be too early yet to hand out a "top ten lock" but chances are slim to none that this -doesn't- makes the cut when the time comes

23 January 2017


deep distance 2017, edition of 300

"vinyl outing at last for the incredible freeform guitar noise freakouts of Manchester’s Yerba Mansa. Previously confined to occasional, epic live shows; these heavy guitar & percussion only (bar the whacked out vocals of Edwin in part) pieces represent something of a curveball for the label here. nods to those revered early VU live boots, with a dose of early Amon Duul, even the mighty guitar heavy improv of early Television shows and more recently the Flower / Corsano duo. This from fellow DD recording artiste Nick Mitchell: 'Edwin Stevens and Andrew Cheetham are two of Manchester's most prolific purveyors of raging, outer-limits rock-ism. Both members of free-rock army DSDV as well as countless other projects, they take a similar blueprint for their head-to-head skyscraping duo, with a singularity of heavy chord chug that aligns them with Gown or even Michael Flower & Chris Corsano.' clear khaki vinyl pressing of 300 and featuring beautiful art from Dylan Hughes, and destined to sell out super quick." - DEEP DISTANCE

well if you're a PSI LAB enthusiast (how many of you are out there i wonder) and you read that juicy write up you would know there is no chance i wouldn't be drooling all over it, even if i wasn't already a fan, which i am -- YM's THE OTHER THING [REC #100] made my top ten tapes of 2016 -- while i initially tried to distinguish what YM are doing as separate albeit parallel to the free rock line as loosely plotted by a precious chosen few acts, it may be closer to the truth to say YM are the ideal distillation of free rock as might exist in my mind at least, sonic transcendentalism emanating from this free rock lagrange point affording YM some advantage that might not be easy to express in quantitative terms but can be qualitatively appreciated nonetheless, as if YM are on a mission from god whether they know it or not, something no other free rockers can attest by my measure

UNTITLED (which i must admit i have always found to be a paradox of a title) collects this "psychotic rock power duo"s first jams as a band, recorded december 2014, almost a year before last year's THE OTHER THING - with that it isn't fair to consider this a proper follow up, but in any case this is every bit on par with the level of excellence previously established - previous comparisons still apply - TOM CARTER, GOWN, SIX ORGANS - rippin it up like GR & FULL BLOWN EXPANSION or GUNSLINGERS or a bizarro world JOHN DWYER binged out on FUN HOUSE side two and BARDO POND, a most essential bare bones counterpoint to the "big band" approach of BURNT HILLS and DSDV - in that i suppose this is just as much a bold extension of minimalism - and so i again find myself entertaining the thought that "this isn't free rock"