Monthly Spins: November 2018


Harmony Rockets with Special Guest Peter Walker: Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos

File Under: psyche, American raga

Peter Walker has been playing guitar for 70 years, is a fixture in the Woodstock music scene and here plays with Steve Shelly (Sonic Youth) on drums, Nels Cline (Wilco) and Jesse Chandler and Martin Keith. I’ve now listened to this once a day for the last two weeks especially the 17 minute long Lachesis which manages to conjure a modal Miles
and some John Mclaughlin.

Julia Holter: Aviary

File Under: a conceptual composer finds the mojo

This is a massive 90 minute opus that finally proves that Julia Holter is a major talent in contemporary avant-garde music. She’s dabbled in avant-pop with her last record, which was frankly a disappointing foray into pop, and now seems to have found her full voice, one that came through here and there over several releases. Aviary is not full of poignant and harsh truths about the tenor of our times and, although stunning and beautiful throughout, it’s going to take a dedicated listener to decipher all the allusions and quotations in both the lyrics. The song Underneath The Moon directly quotes the quintessence of avant-garde
rock experimentation Mea Culpa from Eno and Byrne’s, My Life in the Book of Ghosts. Of course Talk Talk. This record will certainly give your sonic systems a workout. There’s so many brilliant songs here that it is quite frankly staggering.

Tim Hecker: Konoyo

File Under: avant-electronica-gagaku

A record that seems at once as vast as staring into an Hubble image of billions of galaxies. A musical cathedral, if you will, that has all the permutations of something that was done in exquisite collaboration and recorded in an actual Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Tokyo. He asked for the help of Tokyo’s Montonori Miura to put together a gagaku group using traditional instruments such as the Japanese flutes hichiriki and ryuteki as well as strings, drums and a 17-pipe organ called the sho. What ones hears then is what Hecker set out to do. Not to take a group of traditional musicians, record them then take the results back to the studio to be refined into a Tim Hecker record. Other contributors are Kara-Lis Coverdale and Mariel Toberts, both classically trained and artists who bring to their projects their own experimental tonalities and timbres. I’ve listened to it both at Eno’s ambient level, at a comfortable range and quite loud. This will no doubt be a record that will only grow in power and surprise depending on the sophistication of your system.


Somesurprises: Alt

File Under: motorik impulse and trance emancipation

Seattle-based singer/guitarist Natsha El-Sergany goes where Grouper likes to explore: the foggy bottoms, early morning hours and expectations of a subtle and progressive movement forward and maybe upward, which might lead to a sense of serenity and a calm meditative state of concentration. This is the deep space where Grouper dwells. If your willing to go along with the spacial atmospheres and motorik groove it’s an enjoyable ride. But of course it’s an EP and things end abruptly. For that you can refer back to 2017’s “Serious Dreams” full length that is just as tasty as this one.

Billy Gomberg: A Changed Meaning

File Under: experimental, improvisational, electro-acoustic drones

What started out as a career in Chicago’s 90’s industrial scene has evolved over time to pure ambient drones using a variety of digital, analog, electroacoustic sounds conceived from the lowest registers. A wonderful accident happened while I was playing the album from Tidal and another Youtube video by Gomberg started playing automatically and I didn’t realize it for until one track faded away. I think that would be possible to mimic with a lot of his work

Klara Lewis & Simon Fisher Turner: Care

File Under: electronic exploration

That fact that there is a 40 year difference in their ages means little when two electronic explorers get together to work on common themes. Simon Fisher Turner has composed soundtracks for many films, especially the work of director Derek Jarman and worked under various guises including Deux Filles, Gadget and the The. He has always swung for the fences in his work whether it be ambient, pop or post-punk. Klara Lewis is new to the experimental field and just happens to be the daughter of Graham Lewis, of the iconic band Wire. Her earlier two works Ett and Too explored the use of field recordings, IDM and music concrete.

Aby Vuliamy: Spin Cycle

File Under: constant surprises and sweet volition

All sorts of possibilities on this one with some harp, trombone, percussion, melodica, but done so with a sense of discovery and while skipping along the genres of folk, experimental by this Yorkshire-based music therapist who has played professionally with a number of chamber groups and orchestras. This is her first full length album and it is decidedly a feminist document

Miss Information: Sequence

File Under: experimental pop

As a founding member and singer for notable band Cibo Matto, Miho Hatori comes to her solo album full of experience and beatific sounds. This is right at the edge of pop and so was the Cibo Matto project, which always pushed the boundaries of what was possible within this genre and Sequence does not disappoint with it’s silky, sexy beats. Hatori created the Miss Information moniker while in residence at Brooklyn’s creative nexus Pioneer Works and began the album with an idea “What if information was a woman who brings change to the planet.”

Booker Stardrum: Temporary etc.

File Under: back to and beyond the Fourth World

Percussionist and sonic adventurer know as Booker Stardrum takes us into the land of seldom heard rhythmic contortions and, yes, he goes to the Fourth World, which for many of us is not such a new place to visit. Still, he manages to expend his abilities with technical proficiency and an accidents will happen attitude. He’s using a kit, variety of percussion instruments, there is also synthesizer, bowed guitar. Although mostly solo he is helped in many songs by some well known players including trumpet, soprano saxophone, electric bass, alto saxophone and
alto flute. Some heady and complex stuff

Fischerle: groove 7

File Under: deep beats, dub techno, analog synth

Two ten minute cuts on this Outlook release. Polish publisher and sound artist Mateusz Wysocki, aka Fischerle has really hit a sweet spot with this 160 bpm dub techno outing exploring Chicago footwork. You might be able to dance to this but what on the surface seems quite simple is actually complex and easy to get lost in.

Notable Videos/Singles

Leverage Models: “Cooperative Extensions”

File Under: synthwave

$hit and $hine: “Very High” (EP)

File Under: bring the funk

Mountain Man: “Rang Tang Ring Toon”

File Under: ???

Viagra Boys: “Sports”

File Under: very British punks

Charles Bukowski: Reads himself

File Under: no introduction is needed

Notable Netflix Series

Maniac: Directed and written by Cary Fukunaga and Patrick Sommerville

File Under: A ten hour wonderland of long format film.

It may be one of the most creative and supple things I’ve ever seen committed to the long format Netflix, 10 hour (movie) format. These extended pieces have become extremely long form film that manages to subvert the subjectivity and overt mechanisms of what we used to call film. If you think that Star Wars and Marvel are the height of science fiction filmmaking then I wouldn’t bother watching this astounding new production directed by Fukunaga and starring Emma Stone and (a skinny) Jonah Hill as well as a host of guest appearances, notably by Sally Fields, and the stunning work of the young actor Julia Garner (The Americans, Ozark), with Justin Theroux doing a wonderful camp performance. Maniac is high concept science fiction with the only close approximation being the last season of Black Mirror (which is episodic) but this series made me laugh out loud many times. Black Mirror is rarely funny and that’s fine. Maniac is also serious and it’s almost like there is a running meta-joke taking place whereby the myriad of genres and fantasy worlds are self-consciously letting the audience along for the ride. The show asks you to take it easy and let it play out it’s wonderland and reserve a quick judgement. The art direction is particularly memorable as are the performances of all of the actors, There are dozens of scenes of wrenching psychological and emotional poignancy that resonate throughout the series and serve to ground the conceptual and geek nods with a bracing sort of intelligence rare to popular entertainment. Emma Stone owns every character and scene. Jonah Hill plays a bit of a catatonic, sad sack who is deeply enmeshed in a well constructed absence from the world. I could tell you so much more but I will say that I look forward to watching this again, for the humor and humility and flat-out genius script. The looks on the actors faces in the very last scene make the journey all the more worth the ride. Now bingable on Netflix

Notable Books

On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno

by David Sheppard

File Under: the definitive biography of one of the most important composers and producers of the last 50 years

Reading the book about the making of Brian Eno’s Another Green World then lead me towards something more substantial and I did a little research and discovered a book about this musical and visual genius that is meticulously researched and detailed. Brian Eno came from a middle class family of tinkerers and started playing with tape machines as a child. Not surprisingly he brought this inclination as he attended one of the most pedagogically extreme art schools. He was a painting major but ran into resistance when he proclaimed he wanted to combine painting with sound and eventually wanted to really “paint with sound “. After college he joined forces with a group of improvisers and was frequently seen at concerts of avant-garde and experimental and improvisational concerts. This is how he came into contact with Brian Ferry and then a founding member of art rock pioneers Roxy Music. Eno was not trained at all as a musician and really only played a small, portable synthesizer and various tape machines, some looped and some where he tapped into the board, channeled all the musicians through his machines adding effects, slowing the pace, adding in looped effects. Due to dust ups with the reigning diva of Roxy he volunteered to leave the band and also trained his replacement. Eno released four solo albums, taking Tiger Mountain by Storm, Here Come The Warm Jets, Before and After Science, and Another Green World. He also released a duo project with Robert Fripp. This brought him to the attention of David Bowie who worked with him on his Berlin Trilogy. At the same time he recorded Discreet Music, which is now considered the first album, self-titled by Eno as “ambient” music. He followed with Music For Airports. Eno’s reputation came in part because people found him outgoing and upbeat, rather than a diva. Not to mention he liked to give the musicians odd directions, like play something you’ve never played before and other ways he had of getting people out of their comfort zones so that new sounds could be created. He has worked as a producer on albums, such as the seminal collaboration with Jon Hassell called Fourth World Possible Musics, and again a new genre of music was born. He also was a producer for Robert Fripp, Talking Heads, David Byrne Devo. If all this isn’t enough he also co-produced U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. It’s a stunning book and one I underlined a lot, as well as taking a lot of notes.