MASAKATSU TAKAGI - "MARGINALIA #22"
Marginalia #22” is taken from an album comprised of similar sketches. Windows flung open to the Japanese countryside, sounds of insects and birds filtering in and first-thought, best-thought improvisation on the piano without any overdubbing or pre-conceived notion before fingers touched the keys. It is quite the beautiful experience to hear the timbre of the insect drone intersect with Takagi’s fleeting and leaping passages – melodic phrasings are replete through this, as are stirring counter melodies and slight dips into atonality. It’s as intimate a recording as they come.
JESSE WOOLSTON - "WAVE REMNANTS"
Following a stint scoring music for the Carl Sagan Institute, “Wave Remnants” is as huge and orchestral as we’ve heard the New Zealand-based artist. Sweeping strings stretch across dynamic rises and falls of melody and gaping drones. It isn’t until the last ¾ of the track that we begin to hear Woolston’s prepared piano lines sounding like hollow vessels bobbing in and out of a sea of cosmic refraction.
ACROSS THE SNOW - "OCTAVIUS"
“Octavius” is full of quivering guitar lines that expand and swell until they shudder under their own weight. Never quite given to collapse, Provo, UT musician Jackson Harden shepherds these slight drones and volume swells by overlaying them with downcast and mournful guitar lines that cast a horizon about two-gazes long. Linear guide posts about vast and empty as the Bonneville Salt Flats.
IFYYELLOW - "NICER THAN YOU"
On “Nicer Than You” Ifunanya Onyima creates a composition that is all addition by addition. What starts as downcast, outer-limit R&B retelling of a relationship on the outs, gathers, on each pass, another propulsive synth line, another slightly off beat, another looping vocal melody until the entire track blooms into upward ascending composition comprised of a thousand fragments suggesting a resolution found through creation. It’s journey reflecting how fragmentary experiences (even negative ones) contribute a broader tapestry that often ends miles away from where it started.
ANNI HOGAN - "BLUE CONTEMPT (FEAT. LYDIA LUNCH)
Composed around Anni Hogan’s searching piano line, deeply resonant synths, distant harmonica, a Twin Peaks-ian bass and Lydia Lunch’s scorched and exhausted vocals reciting a mantra against the cyclic nature of abusive/toxic co-dependency. Hogan is joined by David Ball (Soft Cell), Riccardo Mulhall and the No Wave icon to create a depressing and ultimately mysterious composition that pushes back against the death impulse with tiring hands. Her new album with an impressive list of collaborators will be out this March on the legendary Cold Spring label.
MACHINEFABRIEK - "IV (FEAT. MARIANNE OLDENBURG)
For the second outing from Machinefabriek’s upcoming With Voices album, Marianne Oldenburg’s sustained vocals are stretched into elongated drones that are smeared across the track’s arching ceiling, pitched up to create percussive stabs, and folded one atop the other in melodic fragments and phrasing’s that make good use of Oldenburg’s trilling upper register. Featuring guests such as Peter Broderick, Terrence Hannum and Richard Youngs – Machinefabriek’s upcoming album on Western Vinyl finds his vocalists in their natural habitat – singing, reciting poetry, guttural gestating – while the Dutch composer recontextualizes and warps them into his ever-curious palate.
UAH - "AFTER WORDS"
It’s easy to fall into a lulling sense of resigned melancholy while listening to the first half of Uah’s “After Words”. It’s full of deliberately paced, mournful minor notes. But right around the 2:15 minute mark “After Words” introduces an upswell of electronic arpeggios that suggest an ultimately hopeful destination as the track folds itself into a crescendo of distorted electronics aiming for the rafters. It’s a dynamic move that doesn’t erase the tracks earlier sense of melancholy but rather channels it into a quietly triumphant conclusion.
TEAM PICTURE - "CLONE YOU"
There is an imperceptible attraction to “Clone You” by Leeds, UK group Team Picture. The way the bass line hangs unfinished in the air on the embedded hook, trading male-female vocal lines, huge upswells of reverb-laden guitars, delve deep into the track’s midnight color palate. It’s path hewn by bands like xx or Rolling Blackouts that is given a bit more of a pastoral setting than the clubs that the lonely and anxious look for love.
BAD SUN CORP. - “どこでもどこでも”
Tokyo, Japan based Bad Sun Corp. filter a very laid-back trip-hop percussion line through the busted eardrum effect of dragging bass, drums and a surging, swelling synth line underwater. It’s a delicately paced track that features tectonic shifts in tone as the track moves underfoot. Positively disorienting.
EVGTHUG1 - "DUNUL SUTRA"
Created entirely on a nanoloop for android, this Russian outsider electronic artist has created a sturdy weirdo, lo-fi track that, based on its restrictions, shouldn’t sound as full or forward-thinking as it does. Getting these glimpses into the intersection creative process and consumer electronics from around the world is highly rewarding. Especially when the results bang as hard as this.
PETER KARDAS - "I SAW YOU"
This is an incredibly exciting discovery for me. One of my favorite musical movements from the last decade was the abundance of 80’s private label synth/new-age compositions finding a new audience through thoughtfully curated reissues. This track by Peter Kardas is no exception. Gentle washes of synth and Kardas’s delay-drenched vocals bring to mind Panda Bear’s Young Prayer, Stag Hare and VALES. It’s an incredibly prescient track forshadowing drone-based minimalism that would find purchase 20 years later.