“Change is inevitable if you’re lucky,” says guitarist / vocalist Alex Edkins while talking about ‘Atlas Vending’, the fourth full length album by Toronto’s Metz. “Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.”
"The music made by Edkins and his compatriots Hayden Menzies (drums) and Chris Slorach (bass) has always been a little difficult to pin down. Their earliest recordings contained nods to the teeming energy of early ‘90s DIY hardcore, the aggravated angularities of This Heat and the noisy riffing of AmRep’s quintessential guitar manglers but there was never a moment where Metz sounded like they were paying tribute to the heroes of their youth. If anything, the sonic trajectory of their albums captured the journey of a band shedding influences and digging deeper into their fundamental core - steady propulsive drums, chest-thumping basslines, bloodyfingered guitar riffs, the howling angst of our fading innocence.
With ‘Atlas Vending’, Metz not only continues to push their music into new territories of dynamics, crooked melodies and sweat-drenched rhythms, they explore the theme of growing up and maturing within a format typically suspended in youth. Covering seemingly disparate themes such as paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia and the restless urge to leave everything behind, each of Atlas Vending’s ten songs offer a snapshot of today’s modern condition and together form a musical and narrative whole. The song sequencing follows a cradleto- grave trajectory, spanning from primitive origins through increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys all the way to the climactic closer, ‘A Boat to Drown In’. The lyrics speak to this arc as well, with the songs addressing life’s struggles all the way through to death, as Edkins snarls “crashed through the pearly gates and opened up my eyes, I can see it now” before the band launches into the album’s cascading outro.
While past Metz albums thrived on an abrasive relentlessness, the trio embarked on ‘Atlas Vending’ with the goal to make a more patient and honest record - something that invited repeated listens rather than a few exhilarating bludgeonings. It’s as if the band realized they were in it for the long haul and their music could serve as a constant as they navigated life’s trials and tribulations. The result is a record that sounds massive, articulate and earnest. Bolstered by the co-production of Ben Greenberg (Uniform) and the engineering and mixing skills of Seth Manchester (Daughters, Lingua Ignota, The Body) at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Metz deliver the most dynamic, dimensional and compelling work of their career."
A crushing testament to the might of Yellow Swans resurfaces in their 2020 reissue campaign, newly remastered and ready to hug your head like a xenomorph. RIYL Wolf Eyes, Astral Social Club, Decimus.
Straccato drum machines and whelming walls of noise define the six tracks, each drawn from releases with Scratch and Sniff, Hung Like A Horse?!, and Collective Jyrk, and tiled together into a crushing portrait of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s legendary noise duo. Expect swampy swells of noise driven by brittle percussion and muscular bass, prone to morph into jagged post-techno steppers and pounding tramples.
"Titles and artwork always had a lot of work to do: they had to both be open enough and specific enough to matter. With titles we decided early on to just leave it blank or “untitled” if we didn’t have a name for the track. Why force it? I tended towards the melodramatic, while Pete preferred subtle poetics. I could usually persuade Pete to go with a more over-the-top title if it was an interesting enough reference to music or literature. In the case of this record, a reference to the Talking Heads cleared this hurtle, but it also felt like the right title for a “Live” album recorded in the same moment as the revelations around Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, the devastation of Fallujah. How do you make art or perform when this shit is happening? I wanted this record to be remembered as a document of trying to make art about freedom while breaking from the patriotic hegemony and general complacency of that moment. “
A crushing testament to the refusnik noise might of Yellow Swans resurfaces in their 2020 reissue campaign, newly remastered and ready to hug your head like a xenomorph. RIYL Wolf Eyes, Decimus, Prurient
Slowly banking, whelming walls of noise define the six tracks, framing a crushing portrait of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s legendary noise duo at their claw-handed best. Expect dense thickets of distortion pitted with distant vocals for a heavily body-gurning and phosphorus-burn impact that brilliantly doesn’t know when to let up. Ideal for beckoning the neighbours over for a brew/barney.
"Recorded during our second EU tour, our first one was between Neon War and Psychic and this is between psychic and At All Ends, embracing the murk, moving away from beats and towards density. I remember this tour being soundtracked by Sade’s Love Deluxe and just wanting to embrace that slowness and beauty. Which I think gets touched on here, so does some more metal and no-wave tendencies in the guitar playing.”
Pivotal ambient metamorph, Special Guest DJ aka uon distills previously unheard works by his coven of atmospheric imagineers, lending a duvet-diving episode to our Documenting Sound series.
‘Spring / Summer 2020’ was sequenced and recorded at the Berlin apartment of Shy (Special Guest DJ, uon, Ghostride The Drift, Caveman LSD), who, in recent years, has emerged as a crucial catalyst of new ambient music with a string of cherished and influential releases via their Experiences Ltd. label and its xpq? and bblisss offshoots. Their tape draws specifically from this cluster of labels and affiliates, pooling previously unreleased pieces by Perila, Ulla, Ben Bondy, OL, EL2, Nikolay Kozlov, Huerco S., Pontiac Streator, Ophelia xz, Jason Graf, Pascäal, JJ and JS in a bittersweet tape primed to soundtrack depression naps for its duration.
There’s no tracklist to go from, but you can trust that all artists share a mutually meditative vibe throughout. Shy elides their respective gestures into a vaporous dream sequence of drifting harmonic hues, ASMR whispers and temple-rubbing pads, occasionally bumped with offbeat ephemera, and faithfully unfurling with a time-slipping, illusive, and deeply heavy-lidded quality that underlines the scenius of the new Berlin ambient movement. Needless to say you probably know the style, but unless you’ve got access to Special Guest DJ’s HD, this is a must check tape for the growing number of ambient fiends in need of atmospheric therapy.
Class debut batch of warped algorithmic IDM from WEȽ∝KER (Wet Locker), aka Manchester’s Dujat and Joe Beedles, sprouting strange new computerised forms for fans of Æ, Lee Gamble, Kindohm, Sote
Presented by Berlin’s intrepid Conditional as “a voyage into the warm heart of computer music”, following the label’s sympathetically skewed turns from Kindohm and William Fields, WEȽ∝KER’s ‘GULP’ marks a leap forward from what we last heard of Joe Beedles, who appears here to spark off new Manchester artist Dujat in a prism pushing style that wickedly tesseracts with their adventurous labelmates while lending a vital streak of strange, computerised “soul” to their flux.
The 9 tracks make a perfectly oddly proportioned body of work that feels like a semi-artificial organism coming to life over the course of the album. From a polychromatic tonal soup ‘velarized’ is laced with pangs of stringy synth emotion and a bodygurning muscular-skeletal structure, replete with with ligaments and glowing flesh. Crucially a throaty voice emerges that comes to haunt the album as a feral variant in ‘razzi’ and the Autechrian techno of ‘(self titled)Chugg’, while their organism seems to grow in emotional intelligence and complexity with the lusher surges of ‘hinterhioj’, and the schizzy switches between alien BM atmosfear and grizzled rhythms in ‘ATLAMS’, and the IDM-as-hyper jazz fusion bursts that close the album, and surely leave us looking out for their next instalment.
One to watch for all IDM electronica dreamers and earnest futurists, then.
Haunting-but-soothing ambient metaphysics from Andrew Hargreaves (The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra), blessing AD93’s Syon series with his barely-there presence on tape - RIYL Stephan Mathieu, William Basinski, The Caretaker/The Stranger
Leading on from a pair of ‘Returning’ volumes as Tape Loop Orchestra, Andrew makes a relatively rarer outing under his own name here, rummaging around his cabinet of curios to patch together acephalic chorales, distant street noise, and thee clammiest layers of spectral drone in his signature style, as he outlines below:
“[Pouring Salt into the Sea is] A reconstructed assembly of sounds that never existed together in actuality. Sounds pulled from the air and placed in juxtaposition - new meanings for old sounds brought together from the air of temporality. Sound is a presence that remains unseen. Recordings built from reproductions of reproductions, to become an object for reproduction, a way to move/envelope time and carry forth an essence of an event (that perhaps never existed).”
The results make a fine follow-up to AD93’s previous ambient suite by Dylan Henner, sharing something of Henner’s dreaminess, but with a more washed out, brooding and crepuscular sort of Moorland atmosphere native to both his music and the likes of Demdike Stare’s recent collab with Jon Collins. If you’re a veteran of these pages you’ll no doubt be familiar with Andrew’s work, and should have no doubts what to do next. But if you’re an ambient noob dipping your tootsies and feeling your way out there, welcome to a whole parallel world unto itself in Andrew Hargreaves music.
Immersive sleepwalker dance trax to work you like a ghostly marionette, drifting off the desk of cult NYC figure J. Albert via Illinois’ Forgot Imprint
Albert’s patented style of spectral, serpentine breakbeat chicanery is in superb effect right here, pursuing the tail-chasing breaks and heavily blunted atmosphere of his ‘Pre Formal Audio’ 12” into four elusive new flexes. His syncopation of cascading subs, starscream stabs and scything 2-step breaks in ’Starship Bibble Kush’ is right up there with his best, while the frothed greyscale soul of ‘Bubbly’ could easily be mistaken for an early Actress joint, and ‘Grip’ shows off a lush mastery of gutted dub dynamics he shares with likes of Jay Glass Dubs or Topdown Dialectic.
From their lockdown ‘hood to yours, Bookworms, Félicia Atkinson, Space Afrika, CV & JAB, JD Emmanuel, Jefre-Cantu Ledesma, Roberto Carlos Lange, Sugai Ken, Ka Baird and many more offer room for reflection with a highly empathetic set indebted to Ernest Hood’s spellbinding 1970’s proto-ambient album ‘Neighbourhoods’.
The curatorial antenna of Freedom To Spend’s Pete Swanson & Jed Bindeman glow bright on this set, which takes Ernest Hood’s early mesh of drowsy, everyday field recordings and gauzy synths as the jump-off for a project spanning continents and which comes to highlight a mutuality between far-flung spirits that transcends time, space and place. Looking in every direction for contributors, the collected results most beautifully resonate with the everyday but dreamy qualities of Hood’s original work and make a damn fine set for the times in their own right.
It’s crammed with notable inclusions so we’ll get right into it. Fresh from issuing a standout mixtape Space Afrika yield a superb, Burial-esque collage of pads and fractal crackles woven with traces of the duo’s current homes in Europe, while new age synth pioneer JD Emmanuel gifts a rare archival excursion with the richly evocative scenes of ’Shenandoah, Texas’, and you can trust Dolphins Into The Future guy Lievens Martens to relay the uncanniness of his home in Belgium via ‘Five Elements, Five Repetitions’.
Félicia Atkinson can be counted on for theee most sanguine scenario of keys and hushed street noise in ‘The Willow’, and Bookworms supply an absolute killer with some of the strangest, most detuned AFXian keys and under-the-porch feels with ‘Fluctuations In Temperature’, while Todd Barton tends to the subtlest transitions between spaces in the David Toop-esque enigma of ‘Ashland Ambience’.
All proceeds from the first edition of this collection will benefit the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of community groups across New York City using research, advocacy, and grassroots to build equity and justice in their neighborhoods and citywide. ANHD’s mission supports lower income and working-class communities by developing affordable housing, an essential effort during the COVID-19 pandemic, where low-income, BIPOC communities have been hit the hardest. Member organizations of ANHD have provided 80,000 units to this date, and homes for almost 100,000 people.
Formed by Swiss post-metal veterans from Knut and Abraham, strom|morts' goal is to compose music inspired by their Alpine environment and its weather, which glides over impassive mountains, evolving with the seasons. Such a landscape encourages deep listening – minimalist musics whose subtle evolutions reveal themselves over several minutes, disturbing the perception of time passing or even provoking, through deep and sustained concentration, a meditative state.
"strom|morts write: "Clock Resistance is all about time and chaos, reflecting the behaviour of nature around us, embodying the cycles of life and death. The sinister yin yang of strom|morts symbolising the source and the end of everything we have known so far. Two drones were composed as an embodiment of this concept. This record was mainly made with modular synths for their flexibility, but you can hear here and there the ghost of a Moog Voyager. One drone is totally synced, the other one is free. One side's got a guitar, the other one is synths only. Achieving symmetry, the two drones have the same timing." –strom|morts, Conthey, Switzerland, 19 May 2020.
Lucy Railton renders a sublimely haunting impression of Berlin made in early Spring 2020 for our Documenting Sound series of sonic postcards from all corners of the globe.
Essentially a recording of a world-renowned cellist duetting with the S-Bahn outside her apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, ‘5 S-Bahn’ utterly steals our hearts in the simplest, most evocative way. Playing with, thru, and against the atmosphere of Berlin in spring during lockdown, Railton captures scenes that feel timelessly nostalgic but also uncannily eerie, taking a reading of the city’s pulse that may feel at once familiar yet surreal and latent, pregnant with an unresolved and restless quietude.
Across the 41 minute work Railton describes the slow daily arc of life under lockdown in a usually bustling Berlin slowed to stasis. Quite brilliantly, her voice and her musical gestures become fleeting ephemeral presences as much as the birdsong, passing trains, planes overheard, and the gorgeous church bells of P’Berg, which all unfold and recede in languorous turns. It reminds us of the exquisite, seemingly effortless location recordings used in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ - ambient sound in the truest sense of the word; suggestive of life just outside our field of view; close - and out of reach.
Lucy’s esteemed ear for ghostly haptics serves to search out an underlying poetry in the ubiquitous and everyday, highlighting the serene yet dread-filled uncanniness of a usually bustling Berlin awakening from winter into the torpor of lockdown.
Original isolationist Lasse Marhaug assumes his natural disposition in an incredible, dread-filled snapshot of life recorded April 1st and dialled in from Oslo for our Documenting Sound series.
A behemoth in the Norwegian Metal, noise, jazz, electronic and experimental scenes for nearly 30 years, Marhaug is something of a polymath - appearing and collaborating with countless artists (Sunn O))), Carlos Giffoni, Merzbow, Maja Ratkje, John Wiese and many, many others), he’s a highly sought-after producer with credits on records by Jenny Hval, Hilary Woods and Okkyung Lee, as well as a photographer, visual artist, writer, magazine publisher - basically he’s done - and is doing - it all.
Lasse was born and raised above the Arctic Circle and made his name up there via the international mail-order scene before moving to Oslo, so he clearly knows a thing or two about life communicating from under virtual lockdown or isolation. His tape here documents an hour of music recorded on April 1st 2020 (and later deftly edited) that provides a glimpse of just how deep his talent runs, using a stripped down set-up of guitar, turntable and synths in much the same grizzled and intuitive way that’s practically unchanged from his formative, teen-aged days in the cold, cold north.
Lasse’s free-ranging taste for raw, crumbling noise textures and scowling drone scuzz is in strong effect on four skull scraping and apocalypse-baiting works. Whether describing huge glacial events and a lack of Vitamin D in the noisy transition of ‘Exiles’, or more sensitively evoking a sense of ambient sehsucht recalling Kevin Drumm’s classic ‘Imperial Distortion’ on ‘Family', or plainly baiting the apocalypse with the magisterial string drones of ‘Perfect Places’, Lasse’s music conjures scowling moods that enact a solidarity for outsiders as much as a frank admission that life’s always been a bit crushing, and we just have to get on with it.
Gabie Strong is the founder of Crystalline Morphologies community imprint, dedicated to releasing experimental sound works by historically underserved Los Angeles women, queer and non-binary artists. She has been working in experimental music since the early 90s.
"The recordings on this cassette document a series of live performances from 2017-2019 in which the Los Angeles artist Gabie Strong asks, "What does the body sound like when it is making its own music?" A hard-of-hearing interdisciplinary artist, Strong asks us to consider that hearing is subjective, based on how the brain translates the reception of sound. Each track documents a performative questioning in which Strong suggests that being deaf is not living in silence, but rather it is navigating a highly complex and nuanced soundscape of noise that is audible only to the deaf body.
For Strong, deafness comes from her own skull working against her, closing off external sounds and sending scrambled messages back to her consciousness. Captured at Ende Tymes 9 Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation, Land and Sea Oakland, Volume at Coaxial and the Sagehen Creek Field Station Experimental Forest, Strong layers the kinetic sound of contact mics running over her body and through her hair, ambiguous vocal utterances and amplified guitar feedback to create a visceral soundscape of her body."
New on Kassem Mosse's Ominira label.
“Hadj Sameer gifts us with sonorous collages that scale up to another dimension while our humble surroundings sprout under the influence of a select array of new-music jazz composition tings. Science & growth, baby. 80 minutes of contemporary & vintage accoustronic selections on pro-dubbed tapes.This project is about the duality in between wild natural jungle (side 1) & and urban jungle or life of a modern human being (side 2)."
The first time Richard Francis and Frans de Waard met was in Tokyo, Japan and they talked a lot. The second time was in Boston, USA and they danced all night long. The third time was in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and they recorded a lot of music together. During the course of a very long day they recorded in Frans' studio using a small modular set-up, Korg MS-20, computer, tapes and field recordings, all captured on a multi-track tape where it kept sitting for quite some time before Frans decided it was time to make heads 'n tails out of it. The usual process of editing and mixing resulted in the release that is now called "Retired Dilettantes". No track titles as both sides are to be seen as one composition all together. From delicate static and complex electrical textures to the bursting of loud drones.
"Richard Francis is a sound artist working with electronics and field recordings. He has released solo and collaborative albums on Senufo Editions, Entr'acte, Glistening Examples, Korm Plastics, Banned Production and Aufabwegen. Recent collaborators include Frans De Waard, Ralf Wehowsky, Anla Courtis, Bruce Russell, Mattin, Jason Kahn and Francisco Lopez. His works have been performed, presented or exhibited at Issue Project Room, New York; Uplink, Tokyo; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Werkstatt fur Improvisierte Musik, Zurich; Adam Art Gallery, Wellington; IMA, Brisbane; The Toff, Melbourne; St Paul St, Auckland; Tuned City, Berlin; Alt Music Festival, Auckland; Te Tuhi, Auckland; Cave 12, Geneva; Radio New Zealand National.
Frans de Waard (1965) has been producing music since 1984 (Kapotte Muziek, Beequeen, Goem, Zebra, Freiband, Shifts, Modelbau, etc.). In 1984 he started his own record label Korm Plastics, releasing music from Arcane Device, Asmus Tietchens, Jim O'Rourke among others. He has worked for the pioneering Dutch label Staalplaat (1992-2003) and since 1986 as a reviewer for his own publication Vital (now Vital Weekly), a magazine which has been an online source for underground music since 1995, and which celebrated its 1000th issue in 2015. In 2016 Timeless published in France his first book, an autobiography of life in Staalplaat titled This Is Supposed To Be A Record Label. His interests in music creation ranges from ambient to noise to what he describes as 'silly disco music'. He has played concerts in Europe, USA, Canada, Russia and Japan, and collaborated with Steven Wilson, Jaap Blonk, Andrew Liles, Radboud Mens, Keiji Haino, Pan Sonic and others."
Demdike Stare rake over the embers of their recent ’Sketches of Everything’ album with guitarist Jon Collin to present ‘Fragments of Nothing’; a windswept collection of strung out blues that we reckon makes for some of their best low-key work; gorgeous, highly evocative sonic tapestries for the times.
Further teasing out vintage, arcane threads of connection between Deep-South porchside styles and their native brutalist blooz, Demdike sound absorbingly comfortable in this strung out mode, with the deftest hands on their noumenal loom spinning Jon Collin’s expressive guitar licks into acres of cranky, ghostly space to offer a starker and more blunted nocturnal perspective on the album’s dusky panoramic scenery.
Extracting an elemental Ur-state, the duo draw upon a deep well of inspiration from the rugged beauty of the Pennine landscape to invoke a steeply immersive style of folk-blues abstraction. Across two sides they rustle a ragged, whiskey soaked and red-eyed tapestry of ideas, variously recalling darker echoes Loren Mazzacane Connors and even Stephen O’Malley solo sides across the 45 minutes of their spirit-guiding trek.
Pick your poison - mushies, peyote, banana skins, whatever’s to hand - saddle up, and prepare for an engrossing chapter in the Demdike saga.