Another month down and perhaps the most fruitful for experimental new releases so far this year.
It’s been a mission to keep up with everything let alone back track through what has already be sent to us in the months preceding April. Suffice to say the thrill of the chase is worth it.
Over the last few weeks, the excellent avant-jazz leanings of Xylouris White have been hard to shift from the playlist (read all about it in our recent catch up with the duo via the link below). So too the swathe of new releases from droneroom, who takes country and drone to wonderful new places over three albums released over the past seven days (full round-up here).
Perhaps the biggest coup of the month is straight up the M6 about three-and-half hours north of us here in Liverpool. Yes, Tyneside label Cruel Nature Records celebrated their 10th birthday last Thursday, and to mark the occasion, they released what is arguably one of the finest compilation in years.
Redefining – if at all possible – the label’s mission statement for sonic diversity, every artist who features on Spectrum brings their A game, with most releasing their best sounds yet (Katie Gerardine O’Neil, Empty House, Petrine Cross, the list goes on). For more information, check out our interview with label founder, Steve Strode, here.
That just about sees us through to May, which looks set to be another blockbuster month for new releases. For now, though, here are seven of the finest March/April releases from the wonderful world of weirdness and experimentation.
Cabbaggage: Piano Homage to Gormenghast
Veinte 33 Records
Vancouver composer, Levi Kempster, loves his fantasy, and while there has been new music from him since, Piano Homage to Gormenghast was the first release which come to our attention back in February.
With each piece said to be a study of the characters from Mervyn Peake’s Gormengast 1946 novel, Titus Groan, through a sequence of lovely piano compositions, Cabbaggage softens the edges of sci-fi and fantasy with something that’s almost tailor-made for candle light dinners. No, this isn’t Richard Clayderman, but if he dropped some acid, then maybe!
Gormenghast is an elusive gateway album that evaporates all your troubles, as Kempster takes us on a journey to the outer world. A very solid offering that proves difficult to shift from the turntable platter.
Deludium Skies: Ichor
Going strong for well over 10 years now, Karl Pelzmann’s Deludium Skies project is an odyssey. Throwing the ideas of free-jazz and improvisation against the wall, the result is a protracted psychedelic horror that puts the fear of God into your own worst nightmares.
On Ichor, the Austrian artist is joined by a cast of equally glorious reprobates, including Iker Garmendia, Guido Spannocchi and Charlotte Keeffe. Together they bring us some of the project’s finest results since their self-titled debut over a decade ago.
A quick glimpse of Icho’s fantastic artwork (one of the year’s best), tells you what you’re in for here. Durational psych-inspired doom jazz that drags you out to the darkest frontiers. Stay with it, because the results are compelling.
Tim Hecker: No Highs
Canadian experimental veteran, Tim Hecker, is one of the few artists within the realms of ambient music not to make the same record twice.
Always looking to shape his soundscapes in different ways through different inspirations, it’s fair to say that the results over the last decade have been somewhat mixed. However, on his latest, No Highs, it sees Hecker reaching for the similar thought-provoking moments which made landmark albums, An Imaginary Country (2009) and Ravedeath, 1972 (2011) such enthralling encounters.
Synths and drama have always been prominent in Hecker’s work, and No Highs is no different. While perhaps more of a headphones listen, compositions like album highlights, Lotus Light and Winter Cop have the kind of tear-jerking hymnal quality that cuts you in two. It’s these moments that confirm that Hecker still has the magic touch.
Ale Hop & Laura Robles: Agua Dulce
Berlin-based Peruvian experimentalists, Alejandra Cárdenas (aka Ale Hop) and Laura Robles unveil one of the most unique pieces of music so far this year with their debut collaboration LP, Agua Dulce.
With the album title named after the most popular beach in Lima, near where both artists grew up, Robles employs a self-built electric cajón (an instrument black slaves created from wooden fruit boxes after foot drums were banned at the end of the Spanish colonial-era in the 19th century). Alongside Cárdenas on guitar and electronics, the pair explore Afro-Peruvian music and dance traditions like no other, bending sound design and drone into obscure new ways.
With intense build-ups via thrumming strings and frenetic beats, Agua Dulce is a complete deconstruction of sound worlds. You won’t hear anything like it for the rest of the year and beyond.
Arthur King: Changing Landscapes (Zompopa)
Los Angeles label, AKP Recordings, are fast becoming the champions of futuristic sounds from the underground, and they’ve unearthed another gem in Arthur King’s latest LP, Changing Landscapes (Zompopa).
The brainchild of Peter Walker, this album is the latest in a series filled with cosmic meanderings which are pulled from various orbits. This time, we see Walker joined by Mia Doi Todd and David Ralicke where sweeping astral jazz meets the world of field recordings (in this case captured in an Central America rain forest).
Led by Todd’s sweeping, wordless vocalisations, Changing Landscapes (Zompopa) is deeply hypnotic and wonderfully executed, with a lot of ideas that will draw in many listeners from all different musical communities. That’s why, in a sense, it’s a celebration and yet another fine addition in this series.
Loud As Giants: Empty Homes
13 years after their collaboration as Fear Falls Burning and Final, Belgian experimentalist, Dirk Serries, and incessant noise purveyor, Justin K. Broadrick, mark a barnstorming return as Loud As Giants.
While the pair don’t reinvent the wheel on their debut LP, Empty Houses, it’s something that will most certainly placate fans of both artists all across the board. Take the dream-like ambience of Jesu with Serries’ meticulously improvisations of the past, and suddenly you have four compositions that take on a new meaning of hope.
Evoking the kind of multi-dimensional dream-state beautification recently captured by Ozmotic & Fennesz on their own debut collaboration LP, Senzatempo, coincidently Empty Homes acts as a wonderful companion piece. Here’s hoping this is just the start of the Loud As Giants story.
Mighty Lord Deathman: Wild Beasts
From the first two minutes of Mighty Lord Deathman’s latest release, Wild Beasts, you’d think you were in for some luscious piano balladry designed to untie your mental blocks. Wrong.
You only have to look at the moniker to realise that this is far more than that. The new project of Mat Colegate formerly of Teeth of the Sea, Wild Beasts is a collage of weirdness that teleports you to a fanciful world. Think Faust wrestling with Shit & Shine and Sunburned Hand of the Man whilst Whirling Hall of Knives are at the ready with their recorders.
Not many collage artists amalgamate the void and euphoria, but Colegate manages to cover both ends of the spectrum. Not only is this a gateway from troubles: it’s a wonderful entry point into Mighty Lord Deathman’s body of work. Just be sure to avoid the psychedelics before taking the plunge…
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