I revived an old music blog at the end of 2021?

Maybe it’s been a foolish endeavor, and maybe I’m the only one who misses the blog ol’ days, but I’ve been giving it a shot. I’ve been working on restoring some of the old content, though much of it was lost. I’ve slowly been rebuilding the old remix sunday archives, and even posting the occasional new edition. And I’ve been writing again.

You can find all the label’s releases here, on bandcamp, or most anywhere you listen to music these days. I’ve still got copies of some of the old vinyl releases, and I recently released the first in a set of charitable cassette compilations to raise awareness about the continued [mis]use of broken windows policing methods.

Plus, I put together a playlists section with a handful of spotify lists that hopefully start to capture a [slightly] updated version of the moods we used to peddle. Give those a listen and a ❤ if you would be so kind. If you want to get in touch, just give me a holler.

– Haldan/Boody

  • Mailbox: Glance – Temple

    As horrifying and destabilizing as the pandemic was, time seems to evince that it also presented an opportunity for many to explore sides of themselves they previously had been unable to. The clichéd examples of this were the surge of new sourdough bakers, home improvement mavens, and amigurumi makers—the effects of all of which are still evident all over social media, farmers’ markets, and swap meets. Aside from those, however, as I’ve been reviewing blog submissions over these past few years, a story I keep hearing is how many musicians in bands took lockdown as an opportunity to start making music alone; and naturally, electronic music lends itself to working alone.

    One such musician is Glance, an Irish-born artist living in Amsterdam. After years as a drummer in the Irish hardcore punk and metal scene, the lockdown allowed (forced) the time and mental space to pursue a long-held curiosity about electronic music production, particularly using modular gear and other hardware. Given their background as a drummer, the music that has resulted—the Temple EP—is thoroughly and pleasantly drum focused. Each of Temple‘s four tracks relies heavily on sequenced breakbeats — and with BPMs from 155 to 175, it’s all in the jungle and D&B universe. All the ingredients are there for an easy win-me-over: sharp, liberal use of open breaks; recondite vocal samples; a nice balance of glittery arpeggios and pads against repurposed jazz samples. The winner for me is definitely the EP’s closer “Cavalry” which trades all the reese and reverse bass for an almost-unnerving combination of subbass rumble and contrabass that underpins a tortured time stretched horn line and a disembodied voice that tells us “the kids are changing, and so has the music.” From the quality of this record, you’d never really suspect Glance is new to making this kind of music. The kids might be changing, and so might the music, but records like this demonstrate a course change can lead to welcome outcomes.

    Temple is out now on bandcamp, or for streaming.

    Glance – “Cavalry” (sc)

    Glance – “Temple” (sc)

  • Lazy H – Music For Modular

    There’s a common perception of modular synthesis (especially Eurorack) as only suitable for either (a) long-form generative ambient music, or (b) noodley glitch and noise. Another common opinion of modular—or at least of the musicians who invest in it—is that it’s primarily an exercise in vanity, or just a pure expression of gear acquisition syndrome. I’ve had these doubts about my own forays into modular, especially when I’ve considered how much strain it can put on my pocketbook. There’s definitely some truth to all of these clichés; plenty of people with big Eurorack setups let them collect dust, or at least only use them to fiddle around, creating ephemeral soundscapes with little utility for music they actually release to the public (if they release any music at all). Nonetheless, these are not necessarily pointless pursuits—sound for sound’s sake is perfectly reasonable as a goal in and of itself; and I don’t even fault a pure collector. I’ve collected ephemera of various sorts my whole life, and I have found lots of satisfaction in doing so.

    But none of this is the only way to use modular. The wonderful thing about it is that it can be whatever you make of it. Its power is in its flexibility. Music For Modular is the latest album by London artist Lazy H, and is a brilliant example of modular’s versatility. While there’s plenty of exciting synthesis and sound design at work on this record, it’s also a demonstration of how a modular setup can integrate comfortably into a classic band format, playing a role alongside live drums, bass, and keys. Most importantly, Music For Modular is distinctly musical. It has its atmospheric moments (opener and closer “Start from an Arp” and “Allen” fit this bill), but it’s far more an exploration of the danceable and melodious sides of jazz and funk (lead single “Body Thaw” and “Quicksilver” as the best examples). My pick from the record is “Tadasana Pose,” which oscillates between viscous, syrupy glitch hop and total serenity—with stretches that seem to even approximate prayer music.

    None of these genre-descriptors are particularly useful here, though, and may end up reductive. What’s evident throughout the album is that this is music that emerged from spontaneity. It’s not the robotic navel-gazing of a lone synthesist. Instead, it’s the product of improvisations that have let the synths act as warm and expressive instruments with as much personality and elasticity as any physical instrument. This may be music for modular, but it’s music by humans.

    Music For Modular is out now on bandcamp or for streaming.

  • Mailbox: Broey. – Fragments

    Like so many others, in the few years preceding the pandemic, I sheepishly fell for the lofi girl. It was truly easy listening for millennials (and zoomers). At the time, I was overwhelmed with studying for the bar, so when I wasn’t actively writing music myself as an outlet for the stress, I simply could only handle background music. I was exactly the demographic the chilled cow was targeting, someone who only needed music to study to. But despite generally not paying close attention, I would occasionally notice a song here or there that would stand out from the rest, and make note of the artist. It often struck me how many of them seemed to be producing these lofi beats in parallel to other styles, sometimes many other styles. It was as if, for many of these artists, the production of the study beats served a similar purpose as did the listening: reducing stress by embracing the loopy calm. Often a quick dig into these artists’ catalog would reveal they primarily produced brostep or house or metal, or all of the above, or just whatever. There was seemingly no unifying route to the study beats, just a collective individual embrace of the microgenre youtube birthed.

    I was recently sent this lovely record by Scranton, PA-based producer, Broey. His latest record is Fragments, a nice and sweet 24-minute journey through an array of midtempo house subgenres. As it turns out, Broey. is exactly one of these types—a guy who’s been making music for years, and who’s explored a range of genres, but who’s seen the most substantial reaction to his contributions to the world of study beats. He himself describes those contributions primarily as community efforts—lots of collaborations, and a way to connect with like-minded producers across the globe. This in contrast to Fragments, which he describes as a passion project.

    Fragments shines in the moments when it focuses more on the fundamentals. The stand-out is without doubt the opener, “Like That,” an effective and pleasingly modern take on Chicago house, even flirting with elements of juke. Similarly, “Run For Cover” is my second pick because it doesn’t try too hard to get fancy. It’s bread and butter modern house music primarily suited for a dancefloor, but with enough hookiness and personality to stick in your ears after the fact. You can tell Broey. is a producer who can shape-shift, and that’s enviable, but it also seems like with this project he’s intent on drilling down closer into the music he actually loves. Study beats are a means for many to maintain equilibrium and even make friends, but underlying all those waves and waves of constant chill, we all need some substance.

    No bandcamp for this, unfortunately, but you can find Fragments for streaming all over.

    Broey. – “Like That” (sc)

    Broey. – “Run for Cover” (sc)

  • Parable – Monument

    It’s a touch comical how much I’ve written about Boards of Canada on this blog over the years. In 2021, I wrote a piece about the Kahvi Collective’s Tangents compilation, which was an unrepentant Boards of Canada tribute album, made out of a longing and impatience for more BoC material. On that record, we heard manifest the yearnings of fifteen artists expressing their devotion to the Scottish duo. At the time, I wrote about the compilation as if those songs were made specifically in tribute, almost as an invocation for the brothers Eoin/Sandison to return from their hibernation. While it may partly have been that, it may have been naive of me to think those artists weren’t already writing music like that out of pure inspiration, not just as an exercise in conjuration. BoC are not just missed, they’ve also legitimately birthed a subgenre.

    It’s no longer enough to recognize that BoC’s music revolves around nostalgia; their music has become nostalgia. A generation of musicians like me have grown up with them, and now many of their qualities have been absorbed and become the sincere expressions of others. It’s almost unfair to call the resulting music derivative, or at least not in a critical sense. It’s like calling Raider Klan records derivative of Three Six Mafia; or modern electro released on the likes of Central Processing Unit derivative of Planet Rock, Kraftwerk, or Cybotron; or the sea of current ambient music derivative of Brian Eno. Sure, in all these examples, the current artists working in those subgenres do literally derive portions of their sounds from the work of those originators, but participating in a subgenre doesn’t make one’s music unoriginal, or for that matter any less enjoyable or emotionally important.

    Parable (real name Julien Hauspie) is an artist from Kortrijk, Belgium. He belongs to this generation of consanguineous artists, linked by their mutual debt to Eoin and Sandison. His debut album is Monument, self-released earlier this year. While it certainly owes much of its sound to the oft-mentioned duo—particularly in its pace and liberal use of reel to reel tape warble—Monument is gorgeous in its own right. Perhaps more importantly, I walk away from it firmly facing forward, filled more with hope than a romantic aching for the past. There’s something matutinal about this record; it’s a sunrise record. It’s open-hearted and full of light and warmth. BoC records are of course some of the warmest electronic music ever produced, but they are often sunset records, characterized by a contemplative rear gaze, as opposed to an eagerness to tackle whatever today has in store.

    Hauspie apparently wrote much of the record as an ode to the nature he experienced while backpacking across Europe, which may explain some of Monument‘s wide-eyed optimism. Even the record’s darker moments (e.g., “North Central”, “Undercurrent”) can’t quite contain the underlying flashes of light; the hope overpowers the melancholy. There are dozens of quietly joyous moments throughout the album, but Hauspie’s compositions shine brightest when he lets down the guardrails and embraces the ecstatic. The album’s opener, “Taking Control” brims electric; “Flashpoint” is like a modern day pagan devotional, rich with a sense of gratitude for the natural world; and pre-release single “Pin Drops” stirs in me the desire to run wide-armed through a wheat field. (By the way, I posted the lovely video for “Pin Drops” a few months ago, which is well worth checking out.)

    Ultimately, Monument is a record beaming with love and sincerity. There’s enough of the past in it to make me smile about what I’ve already loved, but more so, it makes me want to bring new into the world.

  • Lee “Scratch” Perry – Real Love

    In 2015, I worked briefly as a project manager at a record label in Brooklyn that primarily released Jamaican dancehall and dancehall-adjacent music. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon to see deejays (in dancehall terms, that means a vocalist) come by the office to voice riddims the label was pushing, or otherwise make use of the label’s fancy studio. Toward the end of the summer that year, one of my bosses called me one morning and told me in a somewhat hushed tone that Lee Perry was going to come by to work on some music. The tone was called for. After all, the man was a living legend, having led the Upsetters, produced and released early Bob Marley and Max Romeo records, and collaborated with everyone from The Clash to Paul McCartney. For my own sake, I revered Perry mostly because of his role in pioneering dub music and its associated production techniques, in parallel with the likes of King Tubby and Scientist. I love old dub terribly, but I also credit those techniques as the seed for many of the subsequent genres that I hold dearest.

    The label’s owner, who largely owed his career to the work of pioneers like Perry, was understandably deeply excited. He even had a set of action figures depicting Jamaican musical icons that decorated a shelf in the studio’s control room; a Lee Perry among them. The rest of us were a little tense too, not only because of Perry’s legendary status, but also because he had a reputation for being a madman. He had claimed to lead an alien race living on earth, and he was rumored to pour blood on his equipment and master tapes in order to preserve them. When he arrived, he was generally subdued but friendly enough. I didn’t get to sit in on much of the session, and had to run the office while my bosses got to go have fun, but from what I did observe, his imagination was as vivid as ever and his eyes wide.

    As far as I know, nothing came of the recordings made that day, but after he left, his action figure was mysteriously gone too. (He eventually mailed it back from his home in the Swiss Alps.) Like those unused recordings, I’m sure there are literal hours of Perry’s music that remain unreleased. Though he died in 2021, music has continued to pour out, with dozens of posthumous releases already. This song is among the latest. I don’t know much about it or who’s behind it—it’s released on a label with very little digital footprint, MoSai Music. As far as I can tell, the label has only released music from one other artist, an album called Paris Mosel by Skinny Pablo, about whom I know nothing, but the album is dope. While it’s possible Perry produced this song himself, it’s unlikely, since most of his output in the past decade has been produced primarily by others, with him instead serving the role of deejay. Given the sound of this song versus that of the Skinny Pablo record, it stands to reason that Skinny Pablo may have had a hand in producing this, but maybe not—time might reveal the details. In any case, this is my kind of Perry record: hypnotic and dubby; an exaltation of, and incantation to, the aliens.

    This isn’t on bandcamp, unfortunately, but it’s available for streaming, and thankfully the publishing company behind it has kindly granted me permission to post the mp3 here.

    Lee “Scratch” Perry – “Real Love” (mp3)

  • Abdullah Miniawy & HVAD – Notice a Tiny Scratch for the Blue Behind

    HVAD has long been among my favorite artists. Notice a Tiny Scratch for the Blue Behind is a collaboration between HVAD and Egyptian artist Abdullah Miniawy, released in 2022 on HVAD’s new label ULLLU (RIP Syg Nok).

    The album is a theatrical exploration of spirituality, the failures of polytheism, and claims to offer a “telepathic experience of a valiant communist figure such as Abu Dhar Al Ghafari (the inventor of Alsalamu Alyukum).” It embraces the ancient, but intends to do so via the “transmission of new practices” and the wholesale avoidance of nostalgia. To this end, the album features Miniawy’s take on traditional desert singing, and uses a recording technique in which improvisations played on classical Indian instruments were cut directly to lacquer discs (generally used as part of the vinyl mastering process) at HVAD’s Copenhagen studio, and then manipulated as the grooves on the lacquer degraded (which they will quickly if not specifically prevented). What results is full of reverence and even warmth, but is simultaneously chillingly and urgently contemporary.

    Notice a Tiny Scratch for the Blue Behind is out now on bandcamp, or for streaming. Unfortunately the limited vinyl run is long sold out.

    Abdullah Miniawy & HVAD – “Meanwhile The Survivors Are Shamefully Arriving (King of Rome)” (sc)

    Abdullah Miniawy & HVAD – “Notice a tiny scratch for the blue behind” (sc)

  • Mailbox: George Crotty – Inner Nature

    Having a child has made me think more about the question of nature vs. nurture than I ever expected to. Before Iris arrived, I thought of it as one of those questions that didn’t make much real-world difference, and therefore didn’t merit much contemplation. Whether or not we were born with some quality or another wouldn’t relieve us of taking responsibility for it, and society would be likely to judge us the same regardless. But now, perhaps largely out of sheer awe, I’m equally amazed by my daughter’s utter behavioral originality as I am her perfect absorption and reflection of my behaviors and those of my wife’s. What makes us who we are? Are we primarily the product of our surroundings, or is our true self innate? It’s porbably some combination of both, but now I don’t think I’ll ever cease being fascinated by the question.

    If you’ve been reading closely the past couple of years, you’ll have noticed I’ve been flirting more and more with ambient music that teeters into the world of classical. Tonight, my toe dipping is replaced by setting my foot down squarely in the realm of Baroque and contemporary classical. Inner Nature is the new three song EP from Toronto-based composer and cellist George Crotty. And while it’s certainly the most straightforward classical music I’ve written about here, it’s by no means stiff. The record is open-hearted and lush, and ultimately an abstract exploration of exactly the questions I’ve posed above. The extent to which we can ever know the answers to these kinds of perennial questions is limited, but Crotty has written a record that seems to communicate that the answers themselves are essentially unimportant. Instead, it tells us to embrace our inner selves, no matter how obfuscated our true nature may be, or how impossible it is to know its source.

    All three songs on Inner Nature are simultaneously optimistic and wistful; harmonious and bittersweet. We can accept ourselves for who we are while still acknowledging our capacity to hurt others and cause pain. True self acceptance is forgiving oneself for one’s misdeeds and also rejoicing in the capacity to do good.

    Inner Nature is out now on bandcamp and for streaming.

    George Crotty – “The Fog” (bc)


    This review was written in support of the artist’s promotional campaign.

  • Aleph Om – Planes of Broken Mirrors

    The common wisdom is that short term memory is encoded primarily acoustically and can only store about seven items at a time (like the seven digits of a US phone number), where long term memory is generally best recorded semantically and visually. Anterograde amnesia is the loss of short term memory, or more specifically, the inability to create new memories. There’s an opposite, sort of. It’s called hyperthymesia, and it’s a condition where someone essentially can’t forget any of the details of their own life experiences. The first person diagnosed with this syndrome (of which there are only ~60) is Jill Price, who can recall details about every day of her life since February 5th, 1980. She’s described how much of a burden it has been to live with this kind of memory, which doesn’t seem to me unlikely in the least. I’ll probably only be able to recall a handful of days of my life with the detail that Price can for most days of hers, yet I can absolutely relive the angst of my bad ones at any moment. The right trigger can bring me right back into an embarrassing moment I had when I was 12, or overwhelm me with the dull horror of receiving terrible news. Memory is pungent and enveloping, and you don’t often get a choice about it. Apparently, brain scans of some people with hyperthymesia look similar to those with certain types of obsessive compulsive disorder or PTSD. Remembering the good moments can be wonderful too, but isn’t it pretty universal that recalling those moments doesn’t generally have the same transportive quality?

    Aleph Om (ℵॐ) is the assumed name of Detroit-based composer Alexander Brown. His latest record, Planes of Broken Mirrors feels like it’s about memory. Like so much of the music I’ve compared to Boards of Canada over the years, this album is innately nostalgic. But where most nostalgia-conscious music like BoC is nostalgic precisely because it conveys warmth, rose-tint, and childhood melancholia, Brown here seems just as concerned with capturing the dread and anxiety of emotional permanence and ceaseless memory itself. A few more-or-less overt references to this concept show up in some of the song titles (“I am Completely Haunted by the Past”, “Every Mother Was Cradled”), but currents of both warmth and ennui run throughout the album—often cooperatively.

    Brown does deliver a few moments of relatively pure beauty and comfort here (“Cuddle Forever”, “Ripples”), but the strongest sequences on Planes of Broken Mirrors are those where stress and romance meet. “Simex Erasures” feels like getting chills under a heatlamp, like hurriedly entering an aggressively heated vestibule after being soaked in a sleet storm. “Esoteric Grocery Shopping” sounds like the musical embodiment of a thousand-yard stare, “Unbelievable Sojourn” an illustration of the way bucolic or pastoral beauty can persist in a place even in the aftermath of war or destruction.

    This is music that attempts to bridge the ephemeral and the enduring. It’s music that recognizes it is definitionally delivered acoustically, but tries to reach its listeners’ semantic and visual memories, even occasionally at the listeners’ expense, but mostly for their benefit.

    Planes of Broken Mirrors is out now for streaming or on bandcamp.

    Aleph Om – “Unbelievable Sojourn” (bc)

    Aleph Om – “Simex Erasures” (bc)

    Aleph Om – “Esoteric Grocery Shopping” (bc)

  • Rex Kalibur – Fragmentum

    A few months ago, I wrote about Rex Kalibur, the pseudonym of Joshua Tree-based artist David M. Young. He’s just released a new record, Fragmentum.

    Throughout his catalog—which is extensive given the fact he’s only been releasing music actively since 2020—Young has consistently explored themes related to nature, and particularly the California desert in which he’s immersed himself. In this sense, Fragmentum fits right in with his other records. It’s still distinctly desert music; textural and vast, but clean in a way that I can only describe as sand-washed or sun-bleached. Not in any way sterile, but also somehow purified. However, this is a less conceptual record than most of Young’s previous releases, many of which are written in the context of relatively prescriptive philosophical or technical frameworks. The record I previously wrote about, Lopen, attempted to use learning model-constructed sample generation to bridge the gap between the human and the artificial. (Just a fun note, I mentioned last time that the song “Sidequest LM” sounded like music you might have heard in an Ecco the Dolphin game. It turns out that Young’s father, also a composer, actually did the music for some of the Ecco games.)

    Fragmentum is looser than Young’s previous work, and better for it. Straddling that middle ground between full length and EP, the record is nine songs—all fully realized thoughts of varying levels of complexity—but only twenty-two minutes runtime. It’s a collection of otherwise unconnected pieces that Young wrote over the past few years, without any uniform academic structure around them, nor produced using any strict sound palette (hence the title’s allusion to fragments). Instead, they’re tied together more instinctually, by Young’s sense that they belong together, which I think has led to a richer holistic experience than some of his previous work.

    Fragmentum‘s opener, “Machine Dreams of Living” is the album’s standout. Its title doesn’t do it justice. This is not simply a robot’s melodramatic lament. It feels more like a song to serve as backdrop for the collective wail of a generation of machines left to rust in the desert for lifetimes after humanity’s extinction. Sure, the machines might outlast us, but will they have anything to live for once we’re gone? Another high point is “Finding Your Place,” which sounds to me a bit like a broken-hearted Joey Santiago pining for a cyberpunk cowgirl. The song’s liberal use of guitar is a good example of the stylistic freedom Young gives himself on this record. If it fits, use it. The final song, “Pedestrian” is aptly titled, it’s the only song on the album that communicates much palpable anxiety—it’s as if it’s a song about being forced out of nature and into a throng; surrounded by people instead of the desert, all that purity is suddenly sullied; space replaced by claustrophobia. But that’s not to say it’s a low point. It’s more like being let down easy.

    At first blush, Fragmentum might feel like an introspective record, and it’s certainly personal. But like the rest of the Rex Kalibur catalog, this is music that looks primarily upward and outward. Young is in touch with the natural world around him as much as he’s in touch with himself, and in the desert, you get a great view of the sky.

    Fragmentum is out now on bandcamp, or for streaming.

  • Mailbox: Cheap Love Hotel – sexting w my besty

    If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity over the past 6 months, you’ve probably encountered one of my references to this breed of quasi-breakcore jungle-inspired internet music that I’ve hastily been describing as online jungle (as distinct from internetcore/webcore which seems much too broad a term to adequately capture this stuff). The breakcore-adjacent gaming-influenced microgenre seems to be proliferating quickly, not least because of the growth of the dreamstation discord, which also maintains dreamstation.fm and its live radio feed. To be fair, folks on dreamstation just seem to call this breakcore, without qualification, but I’m old and come from a time when breakcore was a lot more abrasive than most of the stuff I’m hearing coming from the dreamstation users. Plus, the dreamstation radio feed goes as far as playing house music sometimes, which isn’t a knock, but does detract from its authority re: the term breakcore.

    One artist pursuing this style (though I’m not actually sure they’re active on dreamstation) is Cheap Love Hotel, based in Japan. Ripe with plenty of discord-friendly gaming humor and detail (again I’m old, but this still reminds me a lot of IRC channels or AOL chatrooms), and based in-principle on hollow bass stabs, and jungle-style breakbeat and sample manipulation, Cheap Love Hotel’s debut album sexting w my besty is real fun. The album fits in with the work of other artists in the genre, for sure, but is also generally more whimsical and idiosyncratic, often favoring hiphop sampling techniques and chopped jazz riffs instead of more serious melancholia and giant pads. This may partly be attributable to Japan’s rich raregroove and acid jazz scenes, but I can’t confirm that. In any case, the record is still squarely in online jungle territory, as far as I’m concerned, including because it embraces the shortform—of its sixteen songs, only one is over three minutes.

    sexting with my besty is out now on all the streamers, or you can grab it on bandcamp. Cheap Love Hotel has also been generous enough to let me share with you the mp3s of three tracks from the album, including the title track, which is definitely my favorite from the record.

    Cheap Love Hotel – “sexting w my besty” (mp3)

    Cheap Love Hotel – “HYPERFIX SUPER7” (mp3)

    Cheap Love Hotel – “RETENTION” (mp3)

  • Analise Hausmann – seminary

    Even if you don’t know it by name, you know the sound of a Waterphone. It’s that haunting dissonant whimper of delicately vibrating metal that sounds a bit like the call of a whale’s ghost; it’s present in virtually every horror movie since Poltergeist, and many blockbuster thrillers and epics like Aliens, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, and innumerable other films. It’s a sound that Hollywood has ensured is inescapably linked to the feelings of dread and tension. The instrument was created in the 60s by the late artist Richard Waters after he encountered a unique Tibetan tonal instrument that he described as a “water drum” (which has incorrectly been associated by other writers with the Jibara water drum, nothing like what Waters has described playing). The instrument he found—and apparently never saw again—created pre-echoes and bent tones when it was struck, as the result of small amounts of water moving across its flat bronze surface.

    Influenced by his single encounter with this instrument, and other resonant metal percussive instruments like the Kalimba and 16th century nail violin, Waters built the Waterphone, comprising a shallow bronze or steel bowl that holds water, with a resonating tube and handle jutting out from its middle, and a series of metal rods of varying size lining its edge. These rods are then carefully tuned using a combination of micro-tonal and diatonic relationships that Waters came up with, leading not to a unified scale, but instead to multiple integrated scales with both even and odd increments. Until his death in 2013, Waters built each Waterphone by hand and ear, using a metal forging technique he developed over the course of 40 years.

    It’s almost impossible to hear the Waterphone without being transported into a horror film, but that tight association does the instrument somewhat of a disservice. There ought to be room to use its sounds effectively in the context of resonant, pleasant, or even playful music, not only to communicate moments of serious, fearful, dissonance. On her new EP seminary, Vermont-based artist Analise Hausmann seems to make a noble attempt to do so.

    Intended to honor and find holiness in life’s more ordinary parts, seminary vacillates between the meditative choral ambience and found-soundscapes of songs like “cars” and “‘come on, I’ll catch you’”, to disorientingly hypnotic songs like “tuning” or “reflecting headlights” that appear to use the Waterphone heavily, closely in tandem with Hausmann’s violin. I asked her about the choice to use a Waterphone, and it turned out the sounds to which I had been referring were not, in fact, the product of a real Waterphone. Instead, Hausmann had managed to recreate—unintentionally—the sound of the Waterphone through experimentation with the modular synthesizer software VCV Rack. Though unplanned, the distinct sound she stumbled upon can still evoke all the feelings a strike of the Waterphone would, and it seems fitting in the context of her concept for the record. Waters crafted his instruments with a reverence generally reserved for religious objects and high art—imbuing them with a sense of holiness—but they nonetheless became most associated with pop-horror and thrill, reduced to evoking only fear. Hausmann’s record attempts to take mundane moments like the passing of a car and the melting of ice and breathe into them a sense of greater significance.

    I’ve written often about the musical-emotional value of ordinary life and its building blocks. Hausmann does an excellent job recontextualizing not only the sound of the Waterphone, but also the sounds of the forest and everyday winter life in a Vermont college town. At its most serene, seminary evokes pious virtue and a sense of sorrowful profundity. But elsewhere on the record—partly because of Hausmann’s bold use of the pseudo-Waterphone—the record provokes in me a near-maniacal level of oxytocin-response, and instead manages to radiate mischief and whimsy. It’s perhaps inescapable in those moments not to imagine in that Vermont forest something like a witch or a warlock snickering over a bubbling cauldron. But I don’t see those images as if they were from a horror film; instead I’m reminded of how possible it can be to find something unusual in the innocuous.

    Find seminary for streaming all over, or download the record on bandcamp for whatever you wish to pay.

    Analise Hausmann – “‘come on, I’ll catch you’” (mp3)

    Analise Hausmann – “tuning” (mp3)

  • Lyra Valenza – Low Gear No Pressure

    I always get a little extra psyched about a new act I discover if I learn they’re from Denmark. I can’t help but have a sense of national pride, even though I’m only half Danish, no longer live there, and have plenty of criticism for the country politically and culturally. It’s just that I love Denmark, and I spent many of my formative adult years trying to uplift the dance music scene there, especially its weirder and less pretentious sides. And since I have friends there still, I end up continuing to promote Danes more than acts from most other countries (case in point, see the previous post about Anders Dixen’s Ndares project). It’s also just simply a small country, so I’m always proud to see it having an outsized (or even appropriately sized) cultural effect in the world.

    Lyra Valenza is a Danish act that ought to have such an impact. When I first heard the duo’s new album Low Gear No Pressure, it was immediately energizing. Without any context at first, I fell right in love with the hyper-modern junglism of “Life on the Line,” a song that sounds to me like what might soundtrack Wave Race 64 if it were released right now, instead of in 1996. My other favorite from the record is “Joy Divided”—which also manages to sound bleeding edge while full of 25+ year old reference points. (Maybe there’s a deeper point to be made here, about how the current musical moment’s quintessence is itself about recurrence and breathing new life into 25-year-old archetypes? I’m not quite able to put the pieces together right now, so you take it the last few yards please, dear reader.) In any case, I was already sold on Lyra Valenza, but when I saw the names Hjalte Lehmann Christensen and Jens Konrad Barrett, and inferred they were Danes, I paid a little extra attention.

    Low Gear No Pressure is a shining example of how dance music can be framed for the album format. Christensen and Barrett span genres so effortlessly, I can’t bring myself to start listing which ones, because doing so would only reduce the album’s personality; it’s palpably unpretentious, friendly, and approachable (which is fitting, since its title is a nod to escaping industry expectations and enjoying friendship); but most importantly, Low Gear No Pressure is just really well written, full of humor and detail, and impeccably produced. I will be listening to this album for a long time.

    Christensen and Barrett have been generous enough to let me share the mp3s of two of my favorite songs on the album, but don’t delay—support them by buying Low Gear No Pressure on bandcamp—or at least throw them a few pennies by streaming the record on your parasitic streamer of choice.

    Lyra Valenza – “Joy Divided” (mp3)

    Lyra Valenza – “Life on the Line” (mp3)

  • Neil Cowley – Sleep Year

    Neil Cowley is best known as a pianist, and an accomplished one at that, having been treated as a prodigy in his youth, and seeing commercial success in the aughts and 2010s with his Neil Cowley Trio. Even if you aren’t familiar, you’ve probably heard his playing as a session musician for people like Adele and Emeli Sandé.

    In 2018, the Cowley Trio went on hiatus, and Cowley announced he’d be focusing less on piano in his music, in favor of electronic instruments. In 2019, he put out a maxi-single that I loved called DFAM (presumably named after the endlessly inspiring Moog percussive synth). Respect to anyone for branching out sonically, but for as gifted a pianist as he, I’m glad it wasn’t long before the piano reemerged as the central voice in his music. In 2020, he released the first in what became a six-part series called Building Blocks that aimed to chronicle his reconnection with the piano and place it in the context of his broader influences, including electronica and ambient music.

    At the end of February, Cowley released the sixth and final volume of the Building Blocks series. He describes the music on this record as an attempt to bridge the gap between the euphoria of the electronic music he might dance to all night and the personally fulfilling quality of the music he’d listen to on the couch to recover from one of those nights. For many, I think this will strike more as home listening unsuitable for a night out, but nonetheless it’s still a noble attempt to meet in the middle. More importantly, it’s one that has yielded music with an exciting level of detail without becoming academic or particularly noodly. This is music that has a beautifully recuperative quality—it’s intelligent, but gentle—which is exactly what I need lately. The fifth song on the record is titled “Sleep Year.” I just need to say that sleep year is what I want so desperately right now. This past year with a toddler has been awake year.

    Building Blocks pt. 6 is out now on bandcamp, or for streaming.

    Neil Cowley – “Deep Affliction” (bc)

    Neil Cowley – “Herald” (bc)

    Neil Cowley – “Sleep Year” (bc)

  • How To Dress Well – New Confusion

    Hell is where no one has anything in common with anyone else

    I’ve been confused and oversensitive all day. One of those days when the even the smallest slight feels like a personal injury. I’m never sure how best to handle those moments except to try to bridge the gap dividing me from the others in my life, whether my wife or my mechanic or the guy at the bodega. I’m happiest when I feel connected to other people, even those I only encounter once. My wife teases me for making friends with every cab driver, but what kind of life would it be to not find out what you have in common with the people with whom you cross paths? Sometimes it doesn’t work—people don’t always want to be found—but usually it does, and I walk away from the interaction feeling like my shoes fit better than they did beforehand.

    When I was making music full-time in the 2010s, I crossed paths with Tom Krell a few times. I was briefly signed to the label on which he released one of his first records, and If I remember correctly, he liked some of the music I had been making at the time with Kalifa (fka Le1f); we found ourselves in the same room a handful of times. His music has always had an earnestness, even in spite of some of its more academic qualities. I appreciate both sides, and I’ve always gotten the sense that Krell was actually the person he put into his music, for better or worse. My sense now is that’s what he’s looking to [re]capture on his upcoming album I Am Toward You. After releasing a string of relatively high profile records on Domino, he’s been quiet for the past six years (save for a couple of remix albums). Following 2018’s The Anteroom, he apparently burned out in the wake of a debilitating tour schedule and disillusionment with the cynicism of the business of music. Fair.

    The first two songs from this new record have a clear-eyed immediacy to them. I haven’t heard the rest of the album, but both sides of the lead single seem distinctly less cool than the songs on The Anteroom or the preceding releases on Domino—both in substance and in style—and I truly say that as a good thing. Neither seem contrived, nor do they feel overly stylized. Krell’s production is always pretty immaculate, and that’s still true here, but the songs have a bit more room to float to the surface, and they’re better for it. As an artist with such natural vocal and songwriting talent, sometimes his fondness for intricate flavor-of-the-day production has worked against his favor in the past. That no longer seems to be the case, despite working with folks like CFCF and Joel Ford on the new album. Sometimes when we’re trying to connect with other people, we just need to get out there without trying to gussy ourselves up. Saying what we have to say is usually more important than making sure we look cool saying it.

    How To Dress Well‘s I Am Toward You is out May 10th on Sargent House. You can get access to two songs when you preorder the record on bandcamp. You can also stream it.

    How To Dress Well – “New Confusion” (bc)

  • MELO-X – Wake n Bake Vol. 1

    You probably know Sean Rhoden, professionally known as MELO-X, from his work on Beyoncé’s Lemonade–having produced and co-written “Hold Up” and “Sorry.” More recently, he co-wrote “Move” on Bey’s 2022 album Renaissance, and provided background vocals. He also put out a phenomenal collaborative album with frequent collaborator Jesse Boykins III back in 2012, and a string of singles a few years ago as half of Electric Punanny—a duo with Jasmine Solano. His latest release, Wake n Bake Vol. 1, is his first substantial solo effort since 2015’s Curate EP, following two bootleg remix EPs he released for free during the pandemic (one of all Adele songs, the other more Beyoncé).

    Wake n Bake is not a reference to weed, at least not overtly. It’s meant as a directive to listeners to meet the dawn with intention and purpose—whether through mediation, cooking, or other forms of creation. The music itself speaks to that purpose. All nine songs on the record are instrumental, and purely contemplative in spirit. It reads more like a thoughtful, near-ambient beat tape than an album or mixtape, with each song—most under 2 minutes—functioning like a vignette to soundtrack a piece of a healthy morning routine. “Rise n Shine” (Sunrise Demo) is the moment when your eyes open and you hear the dulcet tones of birds and beach; “Green BABA Riddim” is rolling over to see your loved one; “Papi Cooks the Best Breakfast” is for just that; “Happy Smiles Take 1” is meditative digestion.

    Wake n Bake‘s aesthetic is all potions, satin sheets, cinnamon leaf tea, and bammy cake; its message is all about nurturing self-love. For someone like me who’s scraping through a two-year-old’s sleep regression, the record feels deeply aspirational, if perhaps totally out of reach. I can only pine for enough sleep to have the occasional peaceful morning; and self-care for me right now is finding an hour every night to pay bills. But notwithstanding the dissonance between my own life and the tone of this record, these songs have a beautifully healing quality that manages to reverberate even over here in the land of a toddler’s fire and brimstone. I recommend this record for anyone who needs a reprieve from that kind of chaos, and to those who simply need a reminder of how valuable a peaceful morning can be.

    To listen to the record, I recommend purchasing it directly from Melo’s website, but you can also grab it on bandcamp, or stream it on the usual outlets.

    MELO-X – “Rise n Shine” (Sunrise demo) (bc)

    MELO-X – “Green BABA Riddim” (bc)

    MELO-X – “Papi Cooks the Best Breakfast” (bc)

    MELO-X – “Happy Smiles Take 1” (bc)

  • Mailbox: Big in Borneo – Sertraline

    But when this volcano starts inside of you, can’t you stop it?
    If it starts, there’s no stopping it, really.

    Big in Borneo is Michael Pybus, an artist from London making serene and sincere electronica and dance music. The record he sent over is named from the drug Sertraline, an antidepressant branded in the United States as Zoloft. Pybus credits the drug with helping him overcome debilitating anxiety and allowing him to regain a creative foothold. I have very close loved ones who have benefitted enormously from the same drug, so I appreciate Pybus’s willingness to name it and make himself vulnerable by putting his experience with it on display. None of this should be taboo, so hats off to anyone willing to share their own experiences navigating mental illness and seeking to improve their health.

    The music Pybus made inspired by Sertraline is graceful and sublime stuff, as if it was made in the midst of a long exhale, which in a way it may have been. My pick is “How it Feels” — a gentle, shimmering slice of 2-step that’s anchored by samples of kids in Belfast in the 1960s being interviewed about their feelings; asked to describe those overwhelming feelings like love. It’s such a sweet scene that gets set by those kids, and such a simple and essential demonstration of why it’s so vital to have a verbal outlet for your feelings. My nearly-two-year-old daughter is starting to be able to string more complicated sentences together now, and the satisfaction she feels when she can manage to express a big feeling is so palpable. She’s so proud (as am I), but she’s also so relieved. Those feelings gotta go somewhere, and almost never a better place but out.

    In addition to two of the three tracks from Sertraline, I’m also posting another excellent track from Pybus’s previous EP, which is also well worth checking for. No bandcamp for any of these, unfortunately, but Pybus was kind enough to let me post the mp3s — for all the iPod warriors and those who might want to include them in a mix or set. They’re also available at the typical streaming outlets.

    Big in Borneo – “How it Feels” (mp3)

    Big in Borneo – “Sertraline” (mp3)

    Big in Borneo – “Control” (mp3)

  • Macro/micro – Clicks

    I’ve written about Los Angeles native Tommy Simpson a couple of times before. Most recently, I wrote about the excellent scores he did for the short film R.A.E.R BETA 0027 and the VoE collection for Lever Couture, respectively. And in 2022, I covered his brilliant album Things Will Never Be The Same Again, which was on heavy rotation for me last year.

    His latest is Clicks, an EP that is without doubt my favorite work from him thus far. As song titles like “Follow” and “Like and Subscribe” allude to, it’s a refreshingly direct tongue-in-cheek comment on what Simpson describes as the “hellscape of our social media dystopia.” Initially written as a single 9 min+ composition, Simpson chose to then break the song into four smaller movements—a reasonable choice given the subject matter, where short-form is king. He’s also included a compressed edit of the whole record, which he names the TLDR edit (though it might have been more fitting to say TLDL).

    On each of the movements of Clicks, Simpson repeats a set of incantations, voiced through a guttural vocoder:

    Just click on the screen, it’s so easy to be, someone else’s dream / just click on the screen, it’s so easy, no need for agency / just click on the screen, you can’t disagree, there is no resisting

    I’m someone who really wants to avoid social media, but nonetheless gets pulled into its dopamine loop. I’m also someone who prides myself on my willpower, having managed to set down most of my vices in mid-adulthood, but I find it agonizingly hard to keep myself off socials. It’s so easy as a creative person to justify succumbing to its continued pull in the name of self-promotion, but actually promoting myself and my work is the easiest part to avoid. It’s the consumption that’s so seductive. Anything from sex, to GAS, to DIY, to inspiration/tragedy porn and Mr. Beast-style charity porn, even to enjoying legitimately wonderful individual expressions of art that deserve a place in our collective consciousness—it all gets reduced and distilled, presented as if it’s all of equal value.

    None of my hip-fire thoughts here are novel or particularly original, but Simpson’s take on this subject is resonant. He seems to be framing the tragedy of web 2.0 less as a 1984-type dystopia where our data is harvested, and we lose our sense of (or actual) privacy in service of some behemothic Brother. Instead, the aesthetic tone of the record—which sounds like it was written inside a sewer tunnel by manipulating the natural resonances of cast iron pipes and rat footsteps—seems more of a comment on the diminution of our sense of self (or at least the extent to which our sense of self is actually self-generated). There’s no real enemy pointed to here, what’s important is illustrating the comic/tragedy of our individually sad, separate, and ultimately lonely experiences under the dull light of our devices.

    Support Simpson’s work by purchasing the record on bandcamp (after all, we must still monetize our “product” for maximum profit, we have little choice). You can also stream it on spotify or whatever, and help him earn a few fractions of a penny.

    Macro/micro – “Like and Subscribe” (sc)

    Macro/micro – “Clicks” (all four movements) (bc)

  • Mailbox: autom8 – Bad Selecta

    autom8 is an artist from Portland, OR, writing uncompromising hi-NRG jungle. Authentic jungle vibes from the Pacific Northwest—hard to imagine writing that phrase so casually in 1994. I don’t know a whole lot else about automat8, but they’re clearly a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the genre; so much so that they even chose for themselves the kind of pseudonym you might have seen scribbled on a dub plate cut at Music House 30 years ago.

    A few years ago, during the first lock-down, I stumbled across the 1994 BBC documentary Jungle Fever. The film has its high points and low, but in addition to serving as a nice piece of an important historical record, it features some interviews with novelist Koushik Banerjea (then a lecturer at Goldsmiths). At one point in the film, in response to a question about criticism of jungle as glamorizing violence, he explains the following:

    If it’s a reflection on the reality which an individual seeks to portray through his or her music, then I cannot see how it can be a negative thing. [Jungle artists] feed a mainstream, predominantly white fantasy about the lifestyles and the primary definers of Blackness in Britain; the way in which young black men are seen to be running wild. And if, by feeding into this fantasy, artists embracing the so-called gangster genre can make money, then that is deeply subversive.

    Later in the film, Banerjea continues:

    It goes back to my argument about the redefinition of Britishness. The sense of Britishness, the British nation, and British culture. For the first time, you’re probably seeing all of those things being redefined on Black terms. That in itself is a radical departure from what you’ve witnessed before.

    I imagine it would be jarring for the originators in that film like Shy FX, Gunsmoke, MC Lenny, and UK Apachi, had they been given a window into the future to be able to witness the nature and breadth of jungle’s current popular resurgence. I corresponded a little with him after I saw the film, and while we didn’t discuss this directly, I suspect the Banerjea of 1994 might not have found it totally surprising had he been told that jungle would become fully international (or globalized) music with virtually none of the associations of “gangster music” remaining; that it would be sound-tracking American Grammy Award winners, and its building blocks used by some in a manner transcending even the pastiche. After all, this isn’t jungle’s first spell in the mainstream.

    For as much as jungle was synonymous with Britishness, having indeed redefined those notions on Black terms much in the way that hip hop had a decade earlier for the US, it was itself already a product of a global imperial diaspora. As Simon Reynolds has noted, jungle may be best described stylistically as the convergence of UK rave and Jamaican dub, with its “spatialised production, bass quake pressure and battery of extreme sonic effects.” Perhaps as a genre born of globalization, it was nearly inevitable that it would be adopted and readopted by one generation after another, with little regard to geography, or eventually even to race and culture. It’s not unique in that way, obviously (see nearly any other genre of dance music, all owing their very existence to the hyper creativity of Black youth sharing sensibilities with their immediate neighbors in one city or another), but maybe it again serves as a reminder that nothing can be contained in the post-internet age, and maybe embracing that futility is the only way to ensure the originators of a genre at least get some flowers.

    autom8 has generously provided a free download of one of their tracks, “Bad Selecta”. The song’s name may be a gentle acknowledgement that they are borrowing from a culture in which they weren’t around to participate, but of which they mean to be a diligent student.

    Find all of autom8’s admiring tributes on bandcamp or on streaming platforms.

    autom8 – “Bad Selecta” (mp3)

    autom8 – “Show U” (bc)

    autom8 – “B4DB0Y S0UND” (bc)

  • LOOR – In The Dark

    Melancholy-in-the-club from Bristol’s LOOR, the dance project from former alt-J member Gwil Sainsbury. This song is from LOOR’s latest record, Sings In Japanese: We’re Sad Because We’re Alive, which explores the potential for cultural resonance and emotional self-exploration in the use of royalty-free samples, particularly from the Splice platform. It’s an interesting tact to take, and Sainsbury makes a good point in describing how emotionally productive it has been for him to shed his cynicism about where a sound is sourced:

    [W]hat I’ve found is that by using these samples—quite shamelessly—I have been able to enhance the emotional resonance of my own electronic productions beyond my original intentions- it’s opened doors that I didn’t realise existed. These emotional spaces have in turn allowed me to explore my own emotional life in ways I couldn’t have done before.

    This makes a lot of sense. The emotional value of a piece of music is in the ear of the beholder, so to speak—why should it matter if the building blocks of that music are available to everyone? Is it really that different from other forms of sampling? Or from using a I-vi-IV-V chord progression? Probably not, except for the fact that Splice is a VC-backed startup built on Goldman Sachs dollars and with an estimated worth of over half a billion dollars. To what extent do the investments flowing to companies like Splice actually benefit creators? Sainsbury recognizes this inherent conflict too:

    In a way, I’m not entirely comfortable with this. I think that the commodification of music is a serious problem and, in a way, a for-profit company like Splice is part of a general wealth extraction from musicians. […] Despite the rotten core of capitalism at the heart of the EP—there is a small, beautiful mushroom growing out of it that is simultaneously joyful and yet deeply sad in its own existence.

    He seems to be saying that out of something ugly, we may as well try to grow something beautiful, if for no other reason than we are essentially powerless to avoid the greed upon which the creative industries are reliant. This is a sentiment I can get behind, even reluctantly; perhaps our power is in the lasting value of what we build on the backs of the powerful. Without Velasquez having dutifully painted his portraits of Philip IV and members of that court, history wouldn’t have recorded his emotionally rich examinations of the working class and disabled.

    Sings In Japanese: We’re Sad Because We’re Alive is available now on bandcamp, or wherever streams are offered. There’s also a lovely remix from 1-800 GIRLS on the record that you ought not to miss.

    LOOR – “In The Dark” (bc)

  • Wil Bolton – Null Point

    Wil Bolton is an East London-based artist who’s been releasing textural ambient music for the past fifteen years. His latest album is Null Point, out on The Slow Music Movement. It continues Bolton’s focus on found sound, granularity, and deliberate melodic gradation; however, where much of his previous work has been less concerned with rhythmic elements, this record makes liberal use of organic percussive elements, apparently some of which were sampled from an old 7″ of sounds of the human heart. While these thuds, rumbles, and clanks are present throughout the album’s six songs, it would be inaccurate to describe this as a rhythmically focused record; it’s not. The foci in each song are without doubt the meandering and intersecting melodic lines, and the carefully carved sounds delivering those patterns.

    When the label sent me the record, it referenced Boards of Canada in its press release. That’s always a surefire way to get me to pay attention (I’m one of those who wakes up at least a couple times a month wondering if BoC will ever release again), but when I listened to Null Point, I didn’t hear the reference at first. But I was drawn in nonetheless, and after a few listens, I think I hear the connection. I found myself thinking about Null Point as what it might sound like if the brothers Sandison/Eoin got really into Norwegian Slow TV, or perhaps my personal favorite youtube channel, Kand Hayati (sometimes the only thing that can get my toddler to calm down). I suppose this is a particularly fitting reference, given the name of the label releasing Null Point, but I swear it’s really true. Some of Bolton’s synth patches feel like a shimmering suspended BoC line was taken and timestretched, then chopped, resampled, and reshaped into a pluck or a stab, and then sequenced into a delicate dulcet melody. But where there is often the presence of anxiety in the Edinburgh duo’s music, Bolton seems to have shed that while maintaining all of their penchant for nostalgia. Like if gazing out the window on a rainy autumn morning was simply replaced by a summer afternoon nap in the backyard under a cherry tree.

    You can find the album for streaming all over, or for purchase on bandcamp (support the artist, do the latter).

  • Mailbox: Haven – I Write Music For Those Who’ve Never Been In Love

    Haven is a singer-songwriter from New York, and she’s current with I Write Music For Those Who’ve Never Been In Love, her second EP, following 2023’s Panacea and a string of singles before that. The record is unabashedly pop, but sits comfortably among the new class of pop and R&B artists choosing uptempo double time UK production styles over the weathered half-time quasi-trap stuff that’s been unavoidable for over a decade.

    The lead single on I Write… is “Better Run”—a pearly two-step romper that evokes early Shygirl records. Vocally, Haven seems to be embracing her youth and femininity, with a lilting cadence that often sits near-falsetto. Lyrically, it seems at first as if Haven is treading familiar woman scorned territory, with a simple chorus in which she repeats simply “you got me missing you” and describes a lover who never really appreciated her (“you never liked me / never thought highly of my face”). But the second verse takes a darker turn, with Haven’s character revealed to be more vengeful than the song’s pink champagne mood would first have indicated. “Don’t run from what you’ve done / I hope your life turns into dust, pass me the knife, this is getting fun” Haven croons, with what one can only suspect is a twinkle in her eye.

    At first blush, Haven comes off as an artist exploring largely straightforward pop, but with a little interrogation, it becomes clear she’s seeking to imbue her music with more than just the conventional female pop narratives, and trying to imagine herself in the shoes of characters with richer emotional lives. That creative modesty is worth attention. I look forward to hearing what she does next.

    I Write Music For Those Who’ve Never Been In Love isn’t available on bandcamp, unfortunately, but you can stream it at all the usual outlets, which you can access here.

    Haven – “Better Run” (sc)


    This review was written in support of the artist’s promotional campaign.

  • Flex Ariani & Lacy – Tension / Neck

    Flex Ariani and Lacy are both artists from Greensboro, NC. They’re current with this white label maxi, the first release on Less Than Family, a DIY imprint meant to act as a vehicle for the output of a collective of musicians (most based on the East Coast) of which both artists are a part.

    A-side “Tension” lives up to its name perfectly. It’s a patient half-time roller centered around larger-than-life sub and a disembodied voice telling us what’s what. It’s a great example of how a minimalist quasi-drop can be so much more rewind-worthy than a drop that goes big. “Neck” is on the flip, and it’s likely the more versatile tool of the two: a shuffling bit of mongrel UKG with choppy reptilian vocals and appropriately clattering percussion.

    Both tracks (but particularly the A-side) are perfect examples of understated modern dubstep that’s low-end-focused and mid-range avoidant, out at a time when many of the genre’s originators are returning to their old styles in force. It’s really refreshing to see a new generation of artists embracing the elements of dubstep that made it so exciting when it first emerged, before it was co-opted by the EDM machine and maximal-ized for its midrange–and often middling—big room potential. All that midrange wobble worked fine to shred the fuck out of the open air in a stadium, but what was lost was all that wonderful greasy viscous sub, and the power it had to fully engulf a human-sized audience in a well filled basement. That’s not to say there isn’t a role for the shreddy midrange wobble, or that the Skreams of the world shouldn’t strive to fill giant venues with dubstep heads old and new, “real” and “bros” alike. It’s just even more encouraging to me that those events are coinciding with a new wave of producers warming up to the sultrier side of what was once the most ambrosial club genre around. If this single is any indication, Flex Ariani and Lacy—and the Less Than Family crew in general—deserve our continued attention going forward.

    Tension / Neck is available on bandcamp, so go support the artists there. Or for those of you more inclined towards streaming, both songs can be found at all the usual outlets.

    Flex Ariani & Lacy – “Tension” (sc)

    Flex Ariani & Lacy – “Neck” (sc)

  • Hidetoshi Koizumi – Number Face

    Number Face is the new album from Tokyo and Paris-based composer Hidetoshi Koizumi. Koizumi is better known as Hybrid Leisureland, the pseudonym under which he released music between the years of 2007 and 2021, at which point he shifted to using his real name. The new album—his second under his real name—follows closely his previous work, and is primarily concerned with the intersection of serene texture and minimalist, hyper-intricate programming. Over the course of the album’s seventy-five minutes, on songs like “Finale” and “Illusion in Illusion,” Koizumi coasts gently across the tranquil waters of carefully laid pad washes, disturbed only by the delicate insect-wing flutters of serial clicks and blips. He moves from the near-neo-classical territory of “Clowns” and “Second Delight” to songs like “Phantom” and “Misalignment” that almost feel like highly restrained takes on dub techno.

    Koizumi describes Number Face as an exercise in “express[ing] a sympathy with the various movements of the human heart; the thoughts, feelings, and concerns of our daily lives.” This sentiment feels realized here. After a few listens, I found myself hearing the record as the soundtrack of everyday people completing their activities of daily living, if perhaps at times at both lethargic and manic paces. On “Second Delight” I can picture the overworked parent frantically vacuuming their house as soon as they’ve arrived home from work, before rushing to get dinner prepared; “Snow Tiger” could be the soundtrack of someone soaking in the tub until they prune; “Judge” could be the song you hear when you catch someone’s eye for a couple of seconds too long on the street; album closer “So Was Red” could be just for someone eating a meal alone with their thoughts.

    These daily mundanities are easily overlooked, but they carry with them most of our feelings and thoughts, whether fleeting or concrete. As is the case with much of his previous work, Koizumi seems willing to treasure these moments, in lieu of focusing on the more melodramatic or visceral. The result is a record that at first blush is placid, but upon more thoughtful reflection is full of insight into everyday living, the kind of record that can keep you company while keeping you even-keeled — one that doesn’t feed on your agita or lull you to sleep.

    Number Face is available now on all streaming services, and for purchase on bandcamp.

    Hidetoshi Koizumi – “Phantom” (bc)

    Hidetoshi Koizumi – “Illusion in Illusion” (bc)

    Hidetoshi Koizumi – “Judge” (bc)

  • Astrid Sonne – Great Doubt

    Do you wanna have a baby?
    Do you wanna bring people into this world?

    Hope battles doom on Danish composer Astrid Sonne‘s new LP Great Doubt. It’s fair to feel trapped in this tension. There’s so much in the world to be in awe of, and so much simple beauty by which to be captured. But we’re also inundated with information that rightly ought to make us doubt our collective futures, and in turn would cause most artists seeking sincerity or posterity to doubt themselves. Sonne puts these contradictions on plain display on her new record, and in doing so, gives the impression of utter confidence–anything but great doubt.

    Sonne’s previous three records were largely instrumental; confluences of heady and often futuristic sound design and measured instrumentation. They were all terribly beautiful at times, but also sometimes bearish. They gave a sense of Sonne as thoughtful and self-aware, but maybe also a touch self-conscious or unfeeling. There were previous glimpses of something else among those records too — Cliodynamic‘s “To Change Is To Continue”, outside your lifetime‘s “Withdrawal”, or Human Lines‘s “Alta” were all moments that made me sure something much more fluid was at work beneath all the virtuosity.

    The new record is so much looser than its predecessors, and it’s wonderful for it. Most obvious is the addition of Sonne’s words; they appear on much of Great Doubt, and they’re almost all full of such a welcoming tender unpretentiousness and intimacy. But I also get the impression that Sonne has become unwilling to hide behind a complicated sound palette. The sound design across the album is skeletal, and at times, almost naive in its simplicity (at least when compared to her previous work). This is a ruse, I think — there’s still plenty of care put into these sounds, but I think that’s mostly just a product of Sonne’s skill in getting at the essence of the recipe, no longer overworking the ingredients. I believe she just had the confidence on this record to let the sounds serve the songs, and not obfuscate her feelings with overthinking.

    Great Doubt is out now on Escho. You can purchase it on bandcamp, or find it for streaming anywhere.

    Astrid Sonne – “Do You Wanna” (bc)

    Astrid Sonne – “Boost” (bc)

  • boerd & Boko Yout – All My Life

    I was fourteen when Massive Attack’s Mezzanine was released, and like many, I bought it at first sight—for that album cover—despite not yet knowing what trip hop was. At that point in my life, I would typically go to my local Tower Records after school to try to find hiphop records I didn’t already have—it wasn’t usually a fruitful task. Even though the genre was fully ubiquitous by that point, mainstream outlets still did pretty terribly to hide their implicit (or explicit) bias against the genre. (And no need to pretend race and class weren’t a big part of that.) Similarly, despite being a huge store with plenty of room for experimentation, Tower wasn’t actively featuring many import records either. But I’m super thankful to whoever the Tower employee was who decided Mezzanine was a worthy record to put on a display rack — I doubt I’d have noticed it otherwise. Because of that discovery (and learning about the existence of Fat Beats a few weeks later), my tastes took a sharp left turn and my life was changed.

    This song by Swedes boerd and Boko Yout (Bård Ericson and Paul Adamah, respectively) is an unambiguous callback to the records of that era. I’m certainly not alone in recognizing trip hop’s quiet return to relevance, but I suspect I’m also not the only one who righteously continued listening to the genre throughout its colder years. It seems to me a sign of being well-adjusted to periodically make room for listening to the milestone records of one’s youth, if for no other reason than to put one’s teen angst in some perspective—and maybe to recognize where a more critical ear would have been deserved in the first instance.

    Boko Yout’s vocals here—particularly in the verses—can’t avoid some comparison to Daddy G’s gravely timbre, but boerd’s production doesn’t strike my ears as particularly close to the lineage of the genre’s more ubiquitous torchbearers, like Massive Attack or Portishead. Consistent with much of his earlier work, boerd’s beat is markedly less ominous or grim compared to those acts. It’s lighter; and that’s not a bad thing. The drums and use of scratching evoke something closer to the open breakbeat style of a Nightmares on Wax record. The walking bassline feels more like Morcheeba. And the pop sensibility of the songwriting and its key feels almost like something Sneaker Pimps would have written. These are all references to be plenty proud of too—trip hop wasn’t all utter darkness, it had its hopeful moments too.

    Unfortunately for all you iPod revivalists, this isn’t on bandcamp (yet), so for now you’ll need an LTE signal to stream this on your commute.

    boerd & Boko Yout – All My Life (sc)

  • nevereven – Cautionary Tale (To Those Who Will Listen)

    “Idaho” is make-believe. Commonly misattributed to the Shoshone or Nez Pearce, the word was the 1860 invention of a delegate of the Jefferson Territory, who proposed its use as the name of the state that eventually became known as Colorado. Instead, it was adopted as the name of a steamboat that transported the thousands of miners up the Columbia river and its tributaries to the gold mines that were springing up in the Clearwater area of what later became the state of Idaho. That Jefferson delegate intended the word to mean “gem of the mountains” — so its adoption by miners was fitting, and it’s probably also the reason Idaho is nicknamed the “Gem State.”

    The state isn’t well known for its music, but the way Lucy Dacus of boygenius tells it, Idahoans don’t want to be known for much, for fear that word gets out about just how beautiful the state is. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel like there’s something bubbling up there. A few weeks ago I covered the immaculate dungeon synth of Boise’s Viscount and Brutus Greenshield, and that’s definitely the first time I’ve ever clocked any electronic music from the state, much less music so imaginative. So it feels like it can’t be a coincidence that I found another artist from the area releasing equally inventive ambient and experimental music.

    nevereven is Dylan Seibert, from Star, ID—a 5000-pop suburb of Boise. He’s a young artist who’s recently self-released his debut LP Cautionary Tale (To Those Who Will Listen). To take a clumsy stab at categorization, I might say the record sits somewhere in the universes of hauntology, hypnogogic pop, and vaporwave, but none of that quite captures the starkness of most of its songs. Seibert admits an interest in plunderphonics, so references to 0PN or sunsetcorp wouldn’t be altogether inaccurate. Lopatin often shines in his insistence on recontextualizing the goofy and saccharine, but on songs with absurdist titles like “A Honeybee That Poops Out Dinosaurs” or “Stumbling Upon A Chasm That Leads To The Fourth Circle Of Hell”, Seibert’s outlook on fatuous subject matter seems decidedly darker—and the product feels immediately vulnerable as a result. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t wear some of his influences on his sleeve, but this music still feels sincerely exploratory.

    Maybe adventure is what best captures the Idaho sound, if there is such a thing (I’m deciding there is, even if lacking any union). It’s probably reductive to say that 35 million beautiful acres of public land must inspire quests, even imaginary ones; or that little to no attention or scene-iness must reduce the pressure on artists to conform to a specific aesthetic. But I just can’t shake the sense that acts like nevereven are seeking out only what feels right and not presupposing the result. This spirit of exploration is almost literally captured by the foghorns and time-stretched accordions of the album’s closing track, “Voyager’s Lament”, but its implication is inescapable throughout the record.

    Maybe it’s best to forget everything I’ve said about a nascent Idaho scene and let the Idahoans to themselves. Any way you cut it though, this record is a gem.

    nevereven – “A Honeybee That Poops Out Dinosaurs” (bc)

    nevereven – “Idle Soul and the Tale of the Crying Machine” (bc)

    nevereven – “Stumbling Upon A Chasm That Leads to the Fourth Circle of Hell”

    nevereven – “Voyager’s Lament” (bc)

  • Amy Godsey – Regions of Resonance

    My cables are falling apart
    I don’t know why
    I didn’t do anything wrong

    I’ve written about Amy Godsey before–she’s an LA-based artist exploring a largely instrumental sort of gently tactile semi-ambient synth music. Where her newest record, Ananta (which I wrote about previously) attempts to reflect the freedom of nature in its chaos and complexity, her 2020 album Regions of Resonance is more concrete and cerebral. This is likely indicative of Godsey’s divergent circumstances at the times the albums were written. Ananta emerged while Godsey traversed the American wilderness in the aftermath of the death of her best friend. Regions of Resonance, on the other hand, is the work of someone toiling to survive in New York. My home town is glamorous and beautiful, no doubt, but it also has a way of forcing people into their heads and asking them to sharpen themselves to a fine point.

    The results are no less effective. Indeed, some listeners will connect more with songs as tightly and carefully wound as “Geenie in a Bootle” or “Eustatheia”—or as metallic and cement-like as the album’s title track—than they would the more loosely emotive and meandering fare of Ananta. I can’t help but picture Godsey writing some of these songs in her head as she sits on a crowded train commuting home later than she should have had to.

    None of this is to say that the album is morose or sullen. New York is a grind, but it’s also full of possibility. Godsey’s exasperated vocal lamentations on “A Cable Called Blue” encapsulate this tension well. Sure, New Yorkers may be trapped in internal struggle, and may feel like the City is unfairly casting its weight on them alone, but they’re often equally able to fall in love with each of its tiny unclaimed corners and feel like the whole town belongs only to them. For all it takes from us, the City inspires us to energize. The two-track sequence of distorted siren calls on “Honey” quickly leading into the electricity and determination of “Reverie” reflects this tension elegantly.

    Godsey evidently understood the city she spent eight years in, and I imagine that like many who leave it (myself included) she probably misses it a lot of the time. After stretching to meet its vibration, it becomes hard to ever feel quite as virile or fierce once you’ve left. But the evolution between Godsey’s two records also serves as evidence that New Yorkers (including long-term transplants like Godsey) may well better enjoy the opportunity to loosen their belts outside of the pressure cooker. And that relaxed enjoyment can also be the catalyst for greater openness and more honest self-expression.

    Amy Godsey – “Geenie in a Bootle” (bc)

    Amy Godsey – “A Cable Called Blue”

    Amy Godsey – “Eustatheia”

    Amy Godsey – “Regions of Resonance”

  • Viscount – Divine Points

    Viscount is a project by a man named Eric, based in Boise, Idaho. This is music most simply categorized as ambient music, but it’s not for the background. This is stuff most concerned with how palette and structure can tell an actual story; how modern music can exist in the context of myth.

    Do you recall the ‘dungeon synth’ micro genre that emerged in the 90s from Kosmische and Black Metal? Well while I wasn’t paying attention, the genre quietly flourished, and Eric seems to have been part of some of that over the past decade or so. Eric is half of Brutus Greenshield, whose records you ought to check out too. Their work is probably more easily identifiable as dungeon synth than Viscount’s solo material, but neither is by any means the kind of harpsichord-driven medieval cosplay that some 90s metal kids might remember when they hear that term.

    Viscount’s 2022 LP, Divine Points, is less overt in its stylistic references than the Brutus Greenshield material. There’s a subtle vein of pre-baroque dungeony-type aesthetic that gets revealed at times throughout the record, but largely this is not kitsch music whatsoever. To the extent those references do appear (and I’m not knocking them when they do), they feel like a sincere expression of Eric’s personal sensibilities.

    Viscount is a project that succeeds in crafting something sincerely escapist. I don’t throw around the term cinematic lightly, especially when I’m writing about ambient or ambient-adjacent music, but Divine Points really scratches the same itch for me that a good film would.

    Divine Points is available for whatever you’d like to pay on bandcamp, so no excuse not to go grab it there. Apparently new music is due in the spring.

    Viscount – “Cirrus” (bc)

    Viscount – “I Saw How the Planets Gathered” (bc)

  • Mailbox: omniboi – Panorama

    omniboi is a Los Angeles-based producer and composer, originally from Arizona. He rose to some prominence in 2016-17 with a viral video in which he married a Migos acapella with Nintendo-jazz-chic chords, followed soon after by a string of notable singles and albums. He’s current with a new EP, Panorama, out now on Canadian powerhouse label and management group, Nettwerk.

    After listening to a few songs from Panorama, it won’t be hard to gather that this is music heavily inspired by video game culture. But it’s not really 8-bit or chiptune. Instead, songs like “Ghost Town, USA” or “Marathon” feel distinctly 64-bit, and would fit right in on an N64 of Wii score. Music from that era of Nintendo games was deeply charming; these songs carry much of that charm because they’re so clearly the product of omniboi’s sincere love for that music.

    Nevertheless, I’d say omni is strongest when approaching the less overtly video game-inspired fare on the record. The EP’s lead track “Set Apart” (featuring vocalist Dona) and “Omni-Vision” (featuring nelward) both temper the rubber and sodapop aesthetic that omni’s most comfortable in with a touch of red leather and champagne. Neither would be out of place in the context of a late aughts fluokids party in Paris where the DJ was playing nothing but French Touch and bloghaus. None of that is to say these are stuffy songs only for millennials either—they’re not—they just seem aimed at a broader audience. (I caught my two-year-old absent-mindedly shaking her stuff to “Set Apart,” and babies don’t lie, so that might also tell you something.)

    Ultimately, Panorama is omniboi continuing to write the kind of music he loves, but there’s also evidence he might be eager to see his music working a few more dancefloors.

    Panorama is out now. Grab it on bandcamp or stream it anywhere streams are sold.

    omniboi – “Set Apart” ft. Dona (sc)

    omniboi – “Marathon” (sc)


    This review was written in support of the artist’s promotional campaign.

  • Mailbox: D-Nite – Echoes

    Many people don’t think of Belgium as a place with a rich history of contributions to dance music. Some may only recall 2 Unlimited’s 1993 masterpiece “No Limit” or Technotronic’s classic “Pump Up The Jam”–both of which were extremely formative for me when I heard them as a little kid. Maybe others associate the country with groundbreakers like Soulwax/2manydjs, who are indeed Belgian and not French. The country is no doubt overlooked, despite the fact that Belgians have been raving since before raving was raving, and essentially birthed genres like EBM. But despite its significant contributions, Beligum’s proximity to its northern neighbors means its sound is generally associated with eurodance, gabber, and industrial influences.

    For his new EP Echoes, Belgian producer D-Nite (real name Kevin Dodeur) certainly draws on his country’s history, but leaves most of those typical associations behind, instead opting to deliver a record full of strong global influence and tempo-shifting adventurism. From the rapid-fire kuduro of “Late Night Tale” to the tablas loops of “Calming Mantra” and the chopped jazz rides of “Stuck in a Dream” — Dodeur clearly embraces the breakbeat, but won’t be limited to overreliance on American JB production or UK Amens. (Not to be accused of leaving anyone out though, Dodeur does throw in a few bars of the Think break on the EP’s title track.) Dodeur is a committed travel guide on this record, insisting that the listener follow him around the world from party to party. But it’s a great trip, so who would complain?

    Echoes is out now on Fine Grains records, purchase it on bandcamp now, or stream it wherever you do that sort of thing.

    D-NITE – “Late Night Tale” (bc)

    D-NITE – “Echoes” (bc)