Wow. Say what you will about the limitless capabilities of software synthesizers, but Alessandro Cortini is about to throw down a knob-gripping gauntlet on behalf of the analog realm. Forse 1, his upcoming double LP for Important Records, showcases a series of his compositions for the Buchla Music Easel that tonally chew up and spit out the synth competition.
Check out our first taste, “Resta,” below. Revel in the thick, juicy oscillations of its central chord progression; peep those gentle little upper-register chirps; try to hold back your smile as the cutoff opens up and the piece escalates into beautiful distortion (I’ve just been sitting here playing it over and over for a while). In the composer’s own words: “The real change happens at a spectral/dynamic level, as opposed to the harmonic/chordal one. I believe that the former are just as effective as the latter, in the sense that the sonic presentation (distortion , filtering, wave shaping, etc) are just as expressive as a chord change.” I agree, man. Damn.
The Italian-born sonic guru has put in years of synth work, live performance, and production for the likes of Nine Inch Nails, M83, and Ladytron. A member of Chicago-based synth collective Trash Audio, his Easel played a crucial role in Trash Audio founder Surachai’s Embraced LP earlier this year. Forse 1 (due July 8th) represents some of the first solo work released under his own name — and, according to Imprec, the album represents only one-third (!!!) of his music they’re releasing this year. May all six of these LPs someday reach my turntable safely and come to wholly consume my home with their insane tones.
• Important Records: http://www.importantrecords.com
Guys, we’ve reached the end of an era: the finale of the Chocolate Grinder’s first-annual, three-part Sic Alps video premiere extravaganza! Drag City’s Rian Murphy has some extra special words to mark the occasion, so for this post, I’ll let him take it away:
…and then there was “Carrie Jean.” Over the past month, you’ve been around the world in three days - Sic days, you might say, courtesy of the jet-propelled balloon called, “She’s On Top,” and the video trip diaries that have accompanied each song out into the world. We started you off with the self-titled moment, a glamming, fizzing moment of puro pop. Next came the shift into high gear, with the street-wise (and loving it) speed-dating of “Biz Bag.” Now, we cycle down, cutting the engines and hearing the sounds of the long night of the earth rising up to us. “Carrie Jean” is a slow-marching portrait of a female superman, in whose dossier Sic Alps find all sorts of creepy details that glow luminescent in the dusk. It’s been a heck of a time bringing the Alps to you, Mohammad! Enjoy another day’s images, repeat!
Gotta hand it to Sic Alps for keeping the videos coming all month long. It’s been a SIC ride, to say the least (ouch, I’m gonna get it for that one).
The She’s On Top EP is out now on 12-inch, MP3, and FLAC via Drag City.
A hi-hat clicks into the natural reverb of an empty room. Claustrophobic arpeggios and low-end drones crest over primal drum loops: boom boom boom boom BA BA BA x 12. A woman’s voice intones (sweet) (detached) (ominous) French (promises) (discoveries) (threats). Close your eyes and its almost like you can see the notes spinning around you, beckoning you in with little vibrating hands. Temporary synesthesia: the snare is white, the bass drum is black, the voice oscillates from green to blue, the synth is too rainbow to figure out. Marie Davidson stands across from you in that part your mind that resembles a derelict warehouse, surrounded by synthesizers, mic in hand, doing all of the things at once, filling the void with dark textures and dark ideas. Just for you, you think. “Just for me.” Her session gathers and loops more little melodies, intensifying, as her words hang in the open space, just for you.
Holodeck Records continues their mission to bring the finest nocturnal, mystifying tones to our eardrums. If Troller’s industrial death-knell spooked you just right, Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist/composer Marie Davidson’s self-titled EP of jet-black electronic pop — now available on cassette — might do it even better. When she packs up her gear and heads out into the night, it’s not over yet. Take a seat. You’ll still hear her in your head, “Je sais que je sais que je sais / Je sais que je sais que je sais” x ∞.
• Holodeck Records: http://holodeckrecords.com
Guest Mix: Russian Tsarlag
Champ Mixtape [by Profligate]
Some musicians these days produce so much music that it can be hard to keep up. It’s probably always been this way, but the internet ease-of-access often serves as more of a reminder of how much you’re missing rather than as a way to tune you into everything that’s going on in the depths of underground music. Adam Harper just wrote an essay about this for his continuing column for Electronic Beats. In it, he outlines ways to try and keep up with so much going on, but the very existence of that essay is an admittance of how hard it is to actually do that. He mentions the usefulness of websites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp, as well as the benefit of links, but these alone couldn’t possibly uncover even a fraction of what’s out there. Luckily, you are not alone. The line between music listener and music journalist has blurred to such a degree that everyone has become an archivist, collecting names, labels, and releases, reconfiguring the context of everything in order to fill in the gaps of the music web with more and more lines.
This mix of early Carlos Gonzalez songs from his long-running Russian Tsarlag project is a great example. With less than a week to go before the release of Russian Tsarlag’s new album, Gagged In Boonesville, Noah Anthony of Not Not Fun’s Profligate thought it’d be a good idea to compile a what-you-probably-missed greatest hits of Gonzalez’s massive output. Collecting songs from years of limited and tour-only releases, each of the 10 tracks here fit together like timeless references to Russian Tsarlag’s evolving “swamp-surf” sound.
Stream the mix below and then feel free to dig deeper into the Russian Tsarlag discography. However, you may want to leave bread crumbs so you can find your way back. After all, every look in one direction is its own turning-a-blind-eye to every other direction, and we don’t want you getting too stuck in the web.
01. “Last Release”
02. “Teenager In A Mansion”
03. “Lived Too Long”
04. “50 Years”
05. “Death Night”
06. “Let’s Drive”
07. “Take U Home”
08. “Bertha’s Back On Tape”
10. “Desire’s Trace”
Russian Tsarlag’s Gagged In Boonesville is out next Tuesday, July 2, on Not Not Fun.
Cold Of Ages
You lie awake at night clutching the Cold Of Ages cassette and the Cold Of Ages CD like evil twin infants against your chest. Your mind races. “Ash Borer, I love you, but I just need more. I need your rhythm section to beat me to an even more disfigured pulp. I need your endless tremolo-picked guitar lines to criss cross down my limbs with even more clarity. I need whatever that synth-like ambience is, probably a synth, yeah, to permeate me to the core. What more can I do? Don’t leave me like this, Ash Borer.”
It’s ok. No more tears. As if you need a reason to gather more Ash Borer physical media, Arcata, CA’s soul-crushing black metal sorcerers — perhaps the closest American humans have ever gotten to Emperor’s high water mark (other than Weakling, of course) — just reissued the mammoth Cold Of Ages on two LPs “featur[ing] a vinyl-only mix and master for a heavier and more aggressive sound than the CD and CS versions” via the eternally dope Pesanta Urfolk. Take a listen to the album’s 16-minute opener, “Descended Lamentations,” below. If it doesn’t satiate you, I don’t know what will.
Called to Leave
No Kings: the name of the label itself signifies quality. From Lee Noble and Motion Sickness of Time Travel to Dan Svizeny and Secret Birds, No Kings’ lo-fi, half-reclaimed National Geographic/half-deco artwork and aesthetics of longing and happiness found in dark, sketchy places provide many a beautiful piece of tape.
Stephen Molyneux is no exception. His folk ballads are visceral and tactile, aided in part by the stark recording conditions (a single microphone, according to the website). On Side A, Molyneux squeezes seven songs into 11 minutes. Saving no breath, he allows the steady strum of his guitar to dictate the pace by which the tape progresses. His voice, the only other instrument present (for a while), mesmerizes with its unapologetic imperfections and boldly audible lyrics. Pairing folk images of ghosts, mountains, gold mines, legendary characters, and fruitless journeys, Molyneux is charming and engaging in his vocal delivery.
When “Of Ghosts” appears at the end of Side A, it signals — via time-tortured organ chords — the transition from the oddly jubilant air of discovery to the cold reflection on death of Side B. Here, the tape hiss threatens to overwhelm Molyneux’s singing, which is reduced to barely a gasp in a silent attic. Just as the rivers of Tennessee provides life and sunlight — birds, delicate beauty — straying far from it can lead to wasteland. There is recovery from the darkness in “Of Labor,” which is perhaps a darkly tongue-in-cheek eulogy to the hopelessness of rural poverty, where work and toil are only ever substituted by sleep.