Friday, February 25, 2011

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (2011)


For fans of: Supersilent, Land of Kush, Barry Guy

Colin Stetson uses a bass saxophone in a way somewhat similar to Albert Ayler on Spiritual Unity, although this is 2011, and the music here is far from mid-60s avant-free jazz. There's a lot of extra-saxular sound, not in the form of drums or piano, but in the form of noisy electronics (I think) and vocals provided by artists such as Laurie Anderson. Most of the tracks put Stetson's incredible sax playing to the front, but several of them are more like electronic drones with interesting layers and rhythms. I don't think I've ever heard anything quite like this album, and while my jaunts into experimental music often leave me uninterested, this one does not. If you enjoy both avant-jazz and noisy modern electronic music, this is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"Colin Stetson's 2008 album New History Warfare, Vol. 1 showcased the saxophonist/multi-reedist's phenomenal multiphonic improvisation style and circular breathing technique. Released in 2011, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges features a similar exploratory solo saxophone approach that is nothing short of mind-blowing. Stetson uses the circular breathing style, recorded in single takes and occasionally with overdubs, to create atmospheric and hypnotic loops that sound like layered analog keyboards more than saxophones. In that sense, the tracks here often bring to mind something along the lines of Jean Michel Jarre crossed with Roscoe Mitchell. These tracks allow Stetson to skronk and pulse, wheeze and then soar with white jet-engine noise that is never purposeless and always controlled. Also featured here are a few spoken word sections with avant-garde icon Laurie Anderson -- including the poetic "A Dream of Water" -- that lend a cinematic quality to the proceedings. Elsewhere, vocalist Shara Worden delivers a haunting lead on the spiritual "Lord I Just Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes." Primarily, however, it is Stetson's transcendent and muscular ability to layer sound, breath, and rhythm in a meditative compositional style that sticks with you long after Judges is over." - AMG

Monday, February 7, 2011

Harald Grosskopf - Synthesist (1980)


For fans of: Oneohtrix Point Never, Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching

This album starts as a downpour of synths and percussion, and ends as a soft and flowing wave of sound. Although it comes from a prominent member of 70s Krautrock, along with Manuel Göttsching's and Klaus Schulze's work it fully embraces the possibilities of electronics as a primary instrument. On the cover it says "New Age Music," and I couldn't disagree, but it's not really ambient, and isn't something to just put on in the background. In short, it contains a few really fantastic tracks that are very much ahead of their time. - Matthew Foster

"Synthesist also rhymes with sequential here on, where Grosskopf's powerful pleasure goes deep into dynamic, fizzing electronic compositions, the combination of fairy melodies, cycling keyboard sounds and (last but not least) the percussion infusion being probably dubbed over several rehearsals and synchronized recordings. The taste of these tracks flows exactly like Ashra's un-sensational, but intense and cheerful glimpses (a la Correlations or a bit of un-fluesy Belle Alliance). The soil for this style is nowhere near rich, but it's no pop or grease either, Grosskopf preferring at any time an ambitious and curios dance over fine art or complex looping. On some moment, the drumming is convincingly superior, alternating upwards to some Nietzsche fast taps, or downwards to a split end of lite-disco. The contrast is set by focusing entirely on keyboards and organs (B. Adrian, Trauma), the result being nothing but ambient, lofty and un-smashing, but yet again enjoyable and un-superficial. There's a weak spot in the album, down precisely the last two tracks, which slip deeply and unforgettably into pop-electric/new-age simple hopping music (a la Baumann and other 80s minor soloists)." - Ricochet

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fluxion - Bipolar Defect (2000)***


For fans of: Echospace, Pole, Vainqueur

I don't think it's possible for me to not love a single thing from the Chain Reaction collection of deep, dubby, and supremely atmospheric ambient techno. Fluxion's music has me lost in a world of endless reverberation and beats that I don't quite feel comfortable describing with words. A few years ago when I was still new to techno, this kind of sound immediately appealed to me in the form of Pole and Basic Channel, and looking back after exploring many different EDM sub-genres, I realize this sound is central to my appreciation of it. Fluxion took it further than most, throwing the atmosphere to the top with no inhibition. Similar to a psychedelic experience, this has a simple beauty to it that I don't think I can ever deny. If you're a fan of ambient music as much as you are of techno, this is a must-hear. - Matthew Foster

"Fluxion's fourth and most otherworldly Chain Reaction EP, Bipolar Effect, sprawls as Largo did onto two 12"s. But by the time the artist released Bipolar Defect a year after Largo, his sound had become increasingly ridden with disorienting reverb and had also become increasingly vacant, alleviating itself of most clear-cut percussion in favor of just bass and raw tones. In fact, if not for the glimmering traces of reverb filling the space of these tracks, little would remain except for a heavy, yet ultimately simple, dub bassline. It's remarkable to listen to these tracks and relish the idea that such a limited amount of sounds can trigger such surreal sensations. Of course, if the sounds weren't so deformed with ambient reverb, they wouldn't be nearly as effective. Though probably the least accessible Chain Reaction EP by Fluxion, Bipolar Effect remains his most stunning listen, as the producer continually crafts hallucinogenic aural experiences with an unbelievably minimal palette." - AMG