I had only listened to Isthmus before, which was already quite tormented — female vocals + strings + electronics, melancholic but also cold, dissonant, noisy, with a definite sense of violence — but still sounded grounded somewhere. And I felt at the time that the band still had untapped potential. Turns out that album was the prelude to a plunge into the abyss.
Nocebo and Placebo, about coma and death respectively, are extremely tense and genuinely terrifying. There's more noise than singing. Nocebo in particular sounds shattered and absolutely hopeless.
“That's the sound nothing makes. Tastes like nothing. Smells like nothing. I know nothing very well. It tastes and smells like wet paper, drying ink, heavy brown unwashed sheets, cold bathtub, wet concrete, red telephone booth, thunder, empty metal bowl, mouldy leather and rotten flesh.”
Placebo is closer to Nocebo than to Isthmus stylewise, but it's not as bleak. (I mean it's still very dark, but it's not at the bottom of a bottomless pit.) There's singing, dancing, visions, and some complex passages I'm not sure how to interpret yet. Nocebo could be the most striking of the three — but the whole trilogy is worth listening to.
Melvin van PeeblesAin't Supposed to Die a Natural Death
This is where Madlib got all these samples for Quasimoto from!
And I like it better than either of Quasimoto's albums.
Each track is a bit like a skit, but in a good way (yes it's possible!) — or like a film scene if you prefer, with spoken word and funky grooves. It's moving, sometimes funny and it all feels just right; I'd like to say it reminds me of some vocal jazz I've heard like that but I'm direly lacking in references so I don't know.
Nature recordings, out in the country and near the sea — a little rain, lots of birds. All tracks segue into each other seamlessly, but the recordings are left untouched, simple and beautiful — and genuinely interesting too! (Have you ever closely listened to the percussive sounds storks make? I see them everywhere where I live but rarely hear them this clearly.)
Her Soundscapes of Spring are also good, but I find that the summer environments and species are more interesting. There's more variety too. Would be nice if she released some for autumn and winter!
Visions of a futuristic world in which humans are being exterminated and biotechnological (virtual?) mutant plants are taking over, or other scenarios in this spirit. The kind of vengeful sci-fi fantasy I can get behind in 2021.
Ecogrime (a subgenre of weightless grime) sounds brutal and shocking like a lot of electronic music nowadays, experimental too, but it also uses natural sounds and can even veer towards ambient. The scene is quite small, I don't know if it's given birth to a truly great LP yet but the three Ecomodern EPs make a good listen, each one has been better than the last so far.
PCP [Perforated Cerebral Party]Walkin' the Doggy EP
PCP's debut, before they developed their signature 90 BPM, dark and experimental “somatik techno” sound!
The slowness isn't here yet, but the darkness and experimentation are. (Is it breakbeat, drum'n'bass or something else, I don't know, this is pretty atypical and I'm bad at telling genres apart.) Includes acoustic Spanish guitar, trance, some pretty dark basslines, lots of contrasts. The title track is solid but the bonus track “Universal Love”, recorded live with guitars and saxophone, is even better to my ears.
... And now for somatik techno, the slow, weird, dark and heavy stuff! They also describe it as “ghetto psychedelic” in the tags here. The 90 BPM tempo really has a cool effect, it makes everything sound heavier and weirder and really compelling to nod your head along with the beat.
This is a V/A compilation from the Somatik Sounds label, 26 tracks by 26 artists, released during the first lockdown. It's good. You can get it for one dollar.
Discovering and describing an enigmatic archeological site.
It's a surprising structure for an album — each CD is an ambient stream divided in fifty one-minute tracks, each one with a spoken sentence that's part of the text — but it works very well. Like reading a short story, part factual, part strange and esoteric, which gives off a sense of mystery.
Nothing to do with the gritty industrial × post-punk sound they're best known for — this is over two hours of ambient techno. Clean. Drugged out / sedated, moody and dark too, but catchy.
Too long perhaps (it remains in the same hazy atmosphere throughout), but it's a keeper — I've been coming back to this album for years now.
Improvised tracks on a Casio SK1 using drum presets; the first tracks are all funny, playful and upbeat with a little weirdness — until the batteries start to die out on bidule 8, and bidule 9 is a very different beast with dissonance, noise, some concrète collage added too. The bonus tracks are cool too, very rhythmic.
A super fun listen if you're into experimental music and colorful bleep bloops!
A dark, surreal nightmare mix, featuring FKA twigs (several times), Eartheater and more hip hop and r'n'b artists, immersed in modern classical with deconstructed club and dark ambient. Contains a few disturbing samples (from a monster film? I don't know), comes with IA-generated chaos and extra files, ends with a half-hour long dark ambient dirge. Pretty riveting.
I like installation recordings, when the artist doesn't have to give the listener a definite beginning, progression and end but can just go with loops or weird atmospherics.
Many tracks here show a darker, weirder side of the artist, with hypnotic loops and mysterious samples. “Does Music Affect Plants?” is particularly interesting, both repetitive and unpredictable; “Snurp 1937” is almost shocking with its angry vocal samples and anxiety-inducing loops, and “The Storr” and “The Self-Inflating Camp” are particularly subtle and minimal, reminiscent of Autour de la lune (Biosphere's most minimal album, one of his weirdest and most polarizing) but not as cold. And if you wanted more typical Biosphere doing soothing arctic ambient, you also get some of that with “Laika” (50 minutes in the long version). No bad tracks here. It's more than three hours long, for fans maybe but I find it pretty great! There's also a shorter 86-minute version if you prefer.
Brazilian new age / folk music played on custom-made instruments — that still sound pretty close to xylophones, guitars, drums etc, so don't expect any really weird sounds —, co-produced by Philip Glass, whose compositions the band would also play on a later album. From the booklet it also looks like they used I Ching symbols as sheet music, transcribing each — as a crotchet (♩) and each - - as two quavers (♪ + ♪). Exotic, relaxing and beautiful.
If Voices from the Lake feels like diving underwater and Barker & BaumeckerTurns feels like flying over a city, this has more of a luxuriant jungle feel. But with some acoustic instruments too, some energy — unrest sometimes — and complexity contrasting with the peaceful elements.
Killer acid techno + trance. “Octagon” is more techno, it goes hard but still leaves room for some dreamy atmospheric pads to come in; “Anouk” is closer to trance, more melodic at first with some slightly oriental vibes, though it quickly sets on the same perfect balance of hardness + dreaminess.
Listening to information theory can be nice when you don't have to understand it and it's illustrated by instrumentations, drones and field recordings like this!
Of course it's nerdy — how could it not be? — but it's also surprisingly playful, accessible and eventful for something published on Edition Wandelweiser. The text is recited in the same natural, relaxed tone, almost taunting the listener to either focus on it without being distracted by the instruments — and if you fail (as I do) you'll end up being lost in a strange, tranquil chaos that will constantly call for your attention without giving you any answers.
The second track is more typical reductionism, it's pretty good as well.
... No English translation for this one yet? A shame, it's really good if you like swashbuckling fantasy and machiavellian power plays! The plot is solid, the writing is stylish as hell, the protagonist is almost likeable but also an irredeemably bad person. It's disturbing at times but mostly a lot of fun.
Do French sci-fi and fantasy books often get translated? It's clearly a US and UK dominated genre, but sometimes it's worth checking out the local stuff too. Alain Damasio's La horde du contrevent (which follows an expedition of twenty-three explorers trying to reach the upmost point of their world — each character talking in their own style) didn't get an English translation either and I also wish somebody would get on that.
Dream DolphinThe Seventh Dream
The Great Queen and her army of magical dolphin angels shall cleanse this world by drowning it in an ocean of divine waterfire! Their glorious breaks and acid beats shall engulf the world in a blissful dance of destruction, and all shall be peaceful for ever after! All hail the Great Queen who speaks to the dolphins!
A game inspired by Tsutomu Nihei's Blame!, with music by Pauline Oliveros and two members of Art Zoyd!
Many rooms are featureless and grey, but sometimes there are unexpected, truly impressive sights.
Progression may or may not make sense. Sometimes it's a platformer, sometimes it really just messes with you.
It's pretty short and available for free on Steam.
Don't play it if you're sensitive to fast blinking lights.
Psychedelic, crepuscular techno — with a distant wordless choir, hypnotic bleep repetitions and speech samples from Timothy Leary. The back cover of this also reads a bit like Time Cube for 1990 LSD heads!
Very emotional. It feels like memories, longing, a tribute. Perhaps an elegy, considering the titles and how the title track is silent — all centered around an absence. Each track has a different sound, even a completely different genre sometimes, but it does seem to form a narrative.
or Éclat(s) d'âme in the French version; this was tagged as
• Slice of life
on the back cover, and it was just right! Four volumes, the tone is serious but with just a hint of whimsy.
SukoraIce Cream Day! Nice Day!
I don't really get Sukora, and that's part of what I like about this project.
Lo-fi recordings of nondescript… things. Can't even call them events, places or situations really, most of the time they don't sound like anywhere or anything. “Sukora is a music project based on the concept of language” says the Discogs page, but I couldn't verify that — the artist's website is no longer online and the archived versions don't work.
So, this record then. All sounds are so quiet you may not hear anything at all. “The Second Hand Turning” features a few eerie drones and a very faint ticking clock in the background — which makes it an exceptionally eventful, evocative and accessible Sukora track! (Seriously, it's good.) “A Moving Organ” has so little happening the light background noise is one of the most noticeable things about it, though you can tell somebody is quietly moving or manipulating something in the distance. It doesn't sound like anything anyone would want to listen to.
What is this all about? It's not exactly beautiful nor pleasant, nor does it sound composed or purely experimental. It doesn't sound like anyone just messing around either. I don't think anyone would ever mess around in that way — they'd at least try to make it sound weird or fun. Or extreme, scary, random, anything. But these sounds don't sound like they're trying to be anything at all. It sounds mysterious and sometimes creepy to my ears, in quite an unique way even, but I'm not sure other listeners would agree. And I have no idea what to make of that title and cover either — dark humour? A private reference I can't get?
I don't know if there is any meaning in this at all. But I'm still intrigued.
Cool minimal synth ambient from 1979! Some parts are a bit like lo-fi electronic tribal ambient, others are dronier and darker, some are close to progressive electronic. Sounds a bit primitive but in a good way.
Labyrinthine. Evil sounding. Some jazz (dark jazz perhaps, though not the slow, pitch-black atmospheres you'd get from Bohren & der Club of Gore), some fragments inspired by Japanese music, some field recordings, other experiments. This album doesn't let you settle down, it pushes you one way and the other until you get lost in unexpected places.
Everybody talked about Evangelion when I was in high school. But it didn't air on TV, DVDs were expensive and pirating a whole series seemed like way too much for my hard drive and connection back then, so I only read the first couple of manga, learned about the characters and spoiled myself parts of the plot by looking up fan sites and generally just hanging around on the internet.
So watching the real thing felt like revisiting the series rather than fully discovering them. At least for most episodes. I wasn't ready for the last ones and especially not for The End of Evangelion! The “personal apocalypse” mood is so relatable. The early combat- and humour-focussed episodes are the series' weak point, but the darker ones towards the end only get better and better.
I didn't expect my favourite characters to be Misato and Ritsuko. Also Shinji — kudos for making the protagonist a truly relatable, human character. (Kaji's a jerk though.)
Personal favourite musical moments:
• the opening song totally rocks
• the repetitive mechanical clang and faint nondescript noise in Rei's room
• “Borderline Case” — that track when things get weird and very introspective (like when the screen only shows a white line wavering on a back background). Sounds a bit like Geinoh Yamashirogumi?
Speaking of which,
芸能山城組 [Geinoh Yamashirogumi]Africa Genjoh
I've just started exploring their back catalogue; this one covers traditional African songs and it sounds pretty great! You can recognize a few elements which were reused on Ecophony Rinne and it also has theatrical beauty, but with a more stripped down approach — it's all about the vocals and drums. “Prayer of the Gerre” and “J'aime Mari” are amazing.
It would be interesting to compare Geinoh's reinterpretations with the originals; I don't know if any recordings of them are available though.
So I've been listening to Miles Davis albums for, like, fifteen or twenty years but this is the first time I feel confident enough to give my opinion about one? Anyway it's solid. Long groovy jams that sound like they could keep burning forever.
(Bitches Brew will probably remain in the “hmm, sounds interesting but I'm not fully into it” zone forever though — like many other jazz albums.)
I'm not really interested in the French pop/rock scene, but I like this one. Catchy, light-hearted songs with humour (mostly self-derision), whimsy and melancholy, some pretty nice grooves and vocals. Also a song about nostalgic monkeys.
Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I'm somehow getting Pink Floyd vibes (?!) from this psychedelic ambient dub album. Only the good kind too, not the boring kind. I know, it makes no sense, there's no rock in this anywhere and I'm really not sure where I picked that up.
I like how it gets truly weird while remaining chilled out, without ever disturbing the flow. Nicely concise too. I think like it more than Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, which has some fantastic parts, others that dragged on a bit and a few that just put me off.
According to Greg Reason on Discogs, Alex Patterson (one of the members of the band) had this to say about Pomme Fritz: “Nothing makes any sense on that album! It’s all pads and punk and aggression and passive nonsense. But at the same time it’s repetitive, dare I say it! But there’s the godlike little synth sound all the way through...”
Layered, altered recordings of this and that (but what? — probably urban environments, I can hear cars passing, drones, crowds, a song that comes on and off on one track, though most sounds are hard to identify), like a noisy, urban, very dynamic collage.
Lee Ranaldo, Jim O’Rourke & Christoph HeemannBloomington, Indiana ... Autumn
Short of being great perhaps, but there's something special about this. Especially if you like eerie drones, cityscapes at night, spoken poetry and creepy, distorted echoes. Wistful, beautiful but also quite scary.
A love story between a plastic boy and girl, told in a distant voice over very abstract, alien, even shrill synth soundscapes and some dramatic melodies. Psychedelic, unique, bittersweet. Very 1960s in a sense?
(They have a new album out by the way — first one in 53 years!)
Osamu Sato / Asmik Ace EntertainmentLSD: Dream Emulator
In some ways, this game has aged pretty badly: walking and looking around are cumbersome, the maps are few and small, it's often ugly, there is very little to do.
In other ways, this is still fascinating, unique, always full of surprises and very dreamlike indeed. Sometimes nightmarish. It might seem very limited, but it works in a very different way than other games. Osamu Sato's music is on point, and reading about the elements and how fans try to make sense of them is interesting.
Is there a spiritual successor to this?
+ A related book exists and is also worth checking out — it's an illustrated edition of Hiroko Nishikawa's dream diary that inspired the game! It's called Lovely Sweet Dream and you can get it as a PDF here or read it here on Tumblr.
Could be my new favourite Roden album; four long tracks based on recordings taken from a window, with grainy textures and looped elements. Recommended if you like drones, field recordings, static but intriguing long tracks.
Modern drone reinterpretations of traditional music from Auvergne — what La Nòvia specializes in —, with hurdy gurdy, violin, bagpipes, bass pedal. This makes me want to go there! (I live in Alsace, which has some great forests and cakes but the local folk music is just horrible.)
CAPS LOCK FOLK DRONE TO STROLL THROUGH THE FOREST SHOUTING AYI AHO BULLSHIT AND JOIN MY LOCAL DRUIDIC CIRCLE AND HAVE NAKED WICCA PARTIES WHILE BANGING ON IMPROVISED PERCUSSION AND PLAYING HURDY GURDY SO I CAN FUCKING SMASH AUVERGNAT MANTRAS ON MY RAMSHACKLED COUNTRYSIDE DRONES REEKING OF RILLETTES AND PAGANISM AND FOR FOURTY MINUTES OF BANGING AND SCRAPING AND DANCING AND PRAYING AND HOWLING AND ZONING AND FEELING ALIVE AAAA AAAAAAA AAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAA
LE DRONE FOLK EN CAPS LOCK ENVIE DE ME BALLADER DANS LA FORÊT EN HURLANT AHIII AHI DE FAIRE DES CEREMONIES DRUIDIQUES A POIL EN FRAPPANT DES OBJETS IMPROVISES ET EN JOUANT DE LA VIELLE A ROUE EN PLAQUANT MES MANTRAS AUVERGNATS SUR MES DRONES DEGLINGUOS DE TERROIR CA GRATTE CA HURLE CA VROMBIT CA SENT LES RILLETTES ET LE PAGANISME ON SE SENT EXISTER AAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Possibly my favourite Eleh yet! His ultra minimal, extremely clean drones are an acquired taste, but this particular album feels more organic (because acoustic instruments are used?), even hints towards emotions while remaining true to this style. “Collect Yourself / Well Arranged” is particularly beautiful.
From night to early dawn. A time of gradual changes, quietness, slight strangeness and beauty; colours emerging from sleep. A 94-minute organ drone that sometimes is just a light presence in the background, sometimes becomes mesmerizing.
rotor plus's albums are special. Subtle, fragmented, never revealing themselves fully in one listen. This time it's like beautiful fragments in a haze, with some underlying darkness, uncertainty, disorientation. More acoustic instruments are present this time (violin, clarinet, viola, cello, oboe, English horn, trumpet), but that doesn't mean it sounds warmer than his earlier glitch/IDM ones (the first ones even had a Boards of Canada vibe at times — but this was a long time ago, recorded in more carefree times).
It's neoclassical ambient, but more experimental than most, and I think I can hear some reductionism influence in here too.
… And this one is lonelier. Gone are most of the instruments; drones, field recordings and absences remain. It's harsher sometimes, perhaps evoking a more sober, lucid state — though the sense of not being entirely there, only getting fragments of the story remains. The ending is surprising and strange, as if to tell the story either wasn't finished yet or came to an abrupt ending.
Found this by checking RuthlessVillain's account for more instrumental hip hop — this guy knows his stuff. This one is quite obscure (the blurry photo of the vinyl is the only cover you can find online, there's only one person sharing an untagged .aiff vinyl rip on Soulseek, and good luck finding any of the artist's other records) but deserves more attention! Nocturnal, tense and murky, with piano, pretty hard beats, and some traditional Japanese music influence in a few tracks.
A short but wonderful little game! Exploring an island, finding hidden treasures and things everywhere, talking to people, learning how to fly higher and higher. Buying a cool dorky hat. I think it can improve nearly anyone's mood.
So I thought I'd try extratone — the genre with BPMs above 1000, so fast they don't sound like beats anymore — out of curiosity, half expecting it to be gimmicky and unlistenable to be honest, and —
— wow. The cyberpunk vibes here are incredible. Ultraviolence, total blackness, cinematic choirs. The > 1000 BPM beats are just one of the extreme textures used in the music, it's close to flashcore. Next gen IDM or something.
Really good art pop. Beautiful voice, a lush production, catchy songs — two rhythmic ones (“Committed Language” has a cool tropical beat, but “Dream Story” is the real hit here, so infectious) and two slower, dreamier ones with piano. All good.
The Hafler Trio“ ''''''' ” – A Peek Through a Broken Window
This could have been anything, really. The description of the project this is an excerpt from is, as always with the artist, not descriptive at all. A track with the same name was already included on the reedition of The Sea Org and consisted of a sample of the word “meaningless” going in and out of phase with itself, a book with the same name was recently published, but what that supposed to mean anything?
Turns out it's really good! And unexpectedly pretty for a Hafler Trio album. Drone, but not the cerebral, puzzling compositions nor the eerie self-indulgent stretches I've heard in earlier releases; this is acoustic, beautiful, and... probably the first H3O release I've heard that doesn't sound cryptic and mysterious?
▷ Bandcamp (no streaming, no preview, your only option is to buy it for €17) ▷ RYM
Sarah HenniesEmbedded Environments
If you liked Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis playing ambient in a huge cistern in Deep Listening — how about four percussionists in a huge silo?
Defining, drawing spaces, textures, a climate first: most of “Foragers” doesn't even sound like percussion, in a sense it feels like a prelude to the coming deflagration, but it's just as effective as “Embedded Environments” — when the storm starts to roar, the space tangible, shaking and vibrating in so many places. Before it all recedes in an aftermath that feels like a landscape that's been struck by thunder and soaked wet by the rain, changed but still living.
One of the best works I've heard by Hennies so far.
The only RYM release tagged as both teen pop and minimal synth! And it totally sounds like the music teenagers (or pre-teens in their case) would like to make in 2000. Lo-fi, amateur and weird but also genuinely cool, and sometimes dark, like “Conversation” (a haunting song about an abusive relationship).
His takes on illbient (Songs of a Dead Dreamer) and jazz (Optometry) are why I like DJ Spooky and what makes him so interesting, but this one — hip hop + drum and bass, a lot more direct — is also fire. Definitely going to explore more of his discography.
A comforting yet strange drone album. Microtonal saxophone, synthesizer and electronic wind instrument — I don't think I've ever heard a saxophone sounding like this before! The sound is warm, complex and subtly shifts between harmonic and dissonant, smooth and abrasive. The first track is divided in sections or fragments, clearly structured and sometimes repeating itself yet also unpredictable (jigsaw puzzle-like?), the second one is a continous drone.
I had never been completely into a Jim O’Rourke album before this one. As if everything else I had heard by him was daytime music and night was falling this time; more introspective, beautiful dark tones, a sense of space. Many things happen but they're understated and subtle, nothing is immediate. Nice.