Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ibex - Two Videos

Two video collages created and scored by Ibex. The first features sounds from "War Zone Pirate Radio Transmissions Sent and Received." Eventually, each track from that album will have a video of its own. The second video features sounds from "Their Copy Hearts Beat at their Chests." Perhaps more videos from there to follow as well. All footage was taken from the Internet Archive.

Ibex Video 1 from Ibex on Vimeo.

Ibex video 2 from Ibex on Vimeo.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Steven Hess and Christopher McFall - The Inescapable Fox

This collaboration between Steven Hess (a percussionist and sound artist from Chicago) and Christopher McFall (a composer from Kansas City who crafts his pieces largely from field recordings, saxophone, piano, and phonograph noise all captured on chemically decayed tape) is a truly phenomenal record. Released last year on the always excellent (but sadly under-appeciated) Under the Spire imprint, these two side-long pieces, divided into five total movements, represent perhaps the finest of McFall's many collaborations to date. The result is a wonderfully textural exploration of light and dark sonic palettes. The natural reverb, decay, and static wash of hyrdolytically treated analog tape lends a haunting, compelling quality to the pieces, as metallic creaks, murmuring brass, ghostly vocal tones, and water-logged piano ebb and flow throughout the crumbling soundscapes. Using decayed tape is not a new trend. William Bazinski's "The Disintegration Loops" is perhaps the most famous contemporary example, but artists like The Caretaker and Oneohtrix Point Never are known for the technique as well. McFall's approach, which decays tape in a very specific manner, is novel nonetheless. His sounds are studies in deeply submerged minimalism and truly reward a patient ear. Hess's percussive elements add a whole new level of dynamism to the proceedings. Together, the pair have crafted a series of elusive, enigmatic soundscapes. Just when a piece threatens to become too academic, or too bogged down, some new element is introduced to pull listeners back in - a brush of piano keys, perhaps, or a voice keening in the sonic mist. Among all the tape hiss, crumbling mechanical thrum, and sinister static tangle, there are moments of true beauty and sadness. "The Inescapable Fox," which draws its title from the myth of Lealaps, is sublimely haunting, a melancholy, surreal, and captivating piece of music, and one of the unsung great albums of last year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nate Wooley, Paul Lytton, and Ikue Mori - Live at The Chapel of the Holy Innocents, Bard College, 03/08/2011

Trumpeter Nate Wooley, percussionist Paul Lytton, and electronics/laptop noise-ateer Ikue Mori came together at Bard College in the spring of 2011 for this 40-minute improvised set, and I’m fairly sure this is the one and only recording that exists of the performance (thanks to Goro, I believe, for capturing it). Lytton's drumming swings from propulsive and cacophonous to nuanced and textural. Mori's electronics are scattering, piercing, and industrial-ish, with whooshing swarms of feedback and crumbling static thrum. Wooley, as always, proves himself to be an incredibly exciting horn player, relying almost as much upon the instrument to modify the sound of his breath as the opposite, and seamlessly shifting between dizzying free-jazz assaults and far subtler, more textural sound explorations. There is very little friendly about this piece. It’s unsettling, even hostile, and at times downright ferocious. It’s a thrilling listen, however, in part because all three performers seem truly in sync with one another on a really meaningful level, taking the piece in unexpected directions that just work. This kind of music and approach to performing can so easily fall flat and become aimless and meandering if all the performer’s aren’t at the top of their game. Luckily (and not at all surprisingly) Wooley, Lytton, and Mori knock it out of the park. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Altar Eagle - Nightrunners

Altar Eagle is Brad Rose (who somehow finds the time for at least a half-dozen musical projects in addition to running the excellent Digitalis label) and Eden Hemming Rose, a husband-and-wife duo out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Because Brad is best known for his work as The North Sea and with Ajilvsga, an unwary listener might sit down with an Altar Eagle album (in addition to this new one, there's also 2010's excellent "Mechanical Gardens" and a handful of cassette releases as well) prepared for nightmare dronescapes. They would be shocked then to find themselves instead listening to blissful electro-pop. Of course, this pop music is quite a bit scuzzier and more washed out than the pristine production you might find on, say, that new Purity Ring record, or the ultra-chilled sounds on the Digitalis-released "Ro Me Ro" by Paco Sala (another stellar album from this year). Industrial clatter and bitcrushed scree distort and warp these glistening pop gems, almost like someone rubbed a bunch of gravel over some long-lost Cocteau Twins LP. The husband-wife duo draws from a deep reservoir of influences here: The bass line on "Carousel Ocean" is a dub-y groove, "Digital Gold Futures" is as texturally dense as the best shoegaze, "Runaways" sounds like an ultra-cool Dark Wave classic, "No Spring Till Summer" is funky as hell, with lushly layered vocals and even some shades of New Wave, "Hologram" has an almost club friendly beat, albeit one that's deeply offset by vocodered vocals, and mangled production. It's hard to pick the standout tracks, because they're simply all so good.

"Nightrunners" is constantly surprising. Anchored more than ever by Eden's just-washed-out vocals and featuring more addictive hooks and woozily cathartic bursts than ever before, it's catchy, even danceable at times. Still, there's so much fantastic production work going on that it almost feels like time with the album is better spent picking up the nuances. In any case, the result is a gorgeous, haze-blasted piece of electro-pop. In a music scene glutted with sterilized, derivative synth-pop, it's an absolute relief when an album comes along that plays with conventions and reconfigures them in exciting ways like this one does. Maybe Brad Rose's hellish industrial soundscapes aren't too far removed after all. More than any album I've heard in recent memory, "Nightrunners" proves that there can be common ground between noise purists and indie-pop diehards. It's easily one of the best records of the year so far.