In St. Cuthbert’s Time [excerpt]
It may seem odd to say that field recordists have a distinctive style, but it’s undeniable that they do. A lot of this has to do with the implicit intentionality of each composer and recordist’s work and how they approach editing their unaffected natural sounds into a streamlined listening experience. This is an issue that Will Montgomery addresses in his essay “Beyond The Soundscape,” in which he sets out to note the different approaches that various phonographers use and how these techniques ultimately create a particular aesthetic. For instance, there’s Toshiya Tsunoda, whose work tends to focus on the sonic properties and literal vibrations of objects in nature, whose work sounds markedly different from the psychoacoustic field recording explorations of Jakob Kirkegaard.
And then there’s Chris Watson, whom Montgomery argues is concerned with creating narrative through unfiltered recordings. The concept of narrative is indeed important when looking at Watson’s work as a whole, and his latest album In St. Cuthbert’s Time is no exception. Much has been made about the conceptual narrative behind In St. Cuthbert’s Time, which is Watson’s attempt to recreate the soundworld of St. Cuthbert in 700 A.D. However, what hasn’t been discussed nearly enough in most reviews of Watson’s work (including In St. Cuthbert’s Time) are the sounds of the work itself. While the narrative underpinnings of the phonographer’s work are indeed fascinating, the outstanding qualities of Watson’s recordings and his ability to make listeners experience even the most obvious sound source in new ways is a feat worth discussing.
In St. Cuthbert’s Time consists primarily of various birdsongs intermingled with gentle oceanic tracks, and while these two sound sources may seem like the most rote of field recordings, Watson manages to make them seem consistently interesting and new throughout the course of the record. On the track “Winter,” various bird songs create a slightly cacophonous counterpoint that could almost pass for granulated or processed sound, while “Lechten” captures an amazing song-like call and response between creatures. Of course, Watson’s perfectionist recording methods are a large contributing factor to the three-dimensional sounds presented here, but the sheer length of the tracks on the record also serves to defamiliarize them from the listener’s normal associations and experience them from a sheer sonic level. In St. Cuthbert’s Time, like all of Watson’s work, is immersive and hypnotic, and it’s through this aural detail that the world of St. Cuthbert is created. Even when removed from its concept, Watson’s recordings create a tangible environment and are worth hearing for their ability to re-contextualize sound alone.
In St. Cuthbert’s Time is now available via Touch. You can listen to an excerpt of the record courtesy of Experimedia below:
Music For Keyboards Vol. IV: “Blackout”
Last year, Montreal-based artist Chris d’Eon released not only his second full-length, LP, but also three installments of Music For Keyboards series. Today, he drops the fourth, courtesy of Hippos In Tanks. Titled “Blackout,” the release is another “exercise in tonal relationships,” music for “when electronic sounds will only be imagined and not heard.” Like the others in the series, d’Eon intends for the installment to be written and released without the cultural influences that come with the typical 21st-century cross-promotional, ad-centric music-releasing process, an attitude that, yes, is ultimately shaped and defined by these very forces, but one that at least attempts a “market”-free approach to an otherwise sticky web of monetizing networks.
Download Music For Keyboards Vol. IV: “Blackout” here and stream it here:
“Between Villains” (ft. Viktor Vaughn, Earl Sweatshirt & Thundercat)
If you’ve ever wondered what a super-villain cypher sounds like, wonder no more. “Between Villains,” the latest installment in the Adult Swim Singles series, sees Captain Murphy (Flying Lotus’ scary, Rick-Ross-by-way-of-voodoo-curse avatar) heading a sinister spitting sesh with Earl Sweatshirt and Viktor Vaughn (DOOM’s alter ego). With help from Thundercat, his usual accomplice, Captain Murphy’s cooked up what’s perhaps his spookiest beat yet; there’s enough funeral piano plonks, guitar trembles, and harp glissandos here to make Umberto’s hair stand on end. And the lyrics are every bit as evil as the instrumentation: a good old fashioned Super-Villian Team-Up where each rapper tries to one-up the dastardly deeds described by the other. Atop the infamous grassy knoll, Vaughn perches, threatening to “drop his bombs on a critic” (hope it’s not Christgau!). Further off in the distance, Earl looms “in the cut/looking for some puss to pick apart,” and Captain Murphy is fixing to “cast a spell upon your bitches.” These guys mean business: Mojo Jojo and Skeletor need to watch their backs.
You can download this track over at Adult Swim.
“Tony’s Last Communion” (Gnod cover)
Hampington Upon Wicke is a town in which everyone bleeds profusely from the knees. The cobbled streets have a lacerating bite that turns even the most hardened kneeler’s kneecaps into a pair of scabby, weeping wounds. In the middle of the town is a lake, bordered by an almost impregnable circle of benches, each dedicated to deceased former residents. “To Edith, Who Kneeled Well. INGNODWETRUST,” says one. “To Tony, Who Needed No Knee Pads for his First Communion,” says another.
On a fine day, you can wander into the central square of the town, vaulting the ever accumulating rows of ergonomic, wooden memorials, and glimpse a rare site in the lake’s shimmering waters. Beneath the surface is a bizarre hellish nether world made up of whips, chains, and iron grips. Most disconcertingly, apart from the aforementioned instruments of pleasure/pain, the two worlds seem almost alike. Yet, in this world, the benches are not comfortable, they are deadly sharp. As a consequence, inhabitants of Hampington Below Wicke bleed profusely from their rear ends. Instead of kneeling forlornly at the lake’s edge, knees streaming iron-red goo into the clear water, the “People Bellow The Wicke” stand tall, staring up, yet never floating to the top.
Two years after releasing Deep Politics (TMT Review), Grails is paying another visit into the quagmires of the Black Tar Prophecies. If you’ve yet to bear witness to the Portland instrumentalists’ expansive experiment, do yourself a favor and check out Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 1, 2 & 3 (TMT Review). It’s sludgy psychedelia at its finest, swarming with Eastern polyrhythms, killer drum fills (courtesy of Emil Amos), and banjos (because who doesn’t love banjos?). Throughout the years, Grails have quietly stitched on additions to their enigmatic tapestry; Black Tar Prophecies, Vol. 4 was released in 2010 as a limited-edition 12-inch, with Black Tar Prophecies, Vol. 5 — a similarly elusive, limited-run split with Finish psych-rock phenoms, Pharaoh Overlord — following two years later.
Because of their limited physical release, these tunes were apt to sink into the tar long before listeners knew of their existence. Luckily, with next month’s physical release of Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6, those unfortunate Grails geeks will get a second chance, and then some. The 12-song collection includes Vols. 4 & 5 in their entirety, plus a trio of previously unreleased tracks. “Self-Hypnosis” is the second cut on the album, and, well, the title pretty much says it: a freefall down the rabbit hole that contains fleeting glimpses of New Age, Kraut, prog, and every other subspecies of trippy you can imagine. Listen to it enough times, and you’ll find yourself transported to some other astral plane, guaranteed.
Black Tar Prophecies is out September 23 on Temporary Residence. For all you vinyl diehards out there, you’ll be pleased to know that the Deluxe Gatefold 2xLP features four mind-blowing laser etchings — one on each side of the record, beginning where the grooves of the music end. And be sure to check out Amos’ morbid album trailer!
“We Are The Worst”
Some of my favorite musicians are the ones who can create and maintain a style built off of diverse influences. What I find interesting about these folks is how every release seems to highlight a different element of their sonic makeup, thus creating a diverse discography while still maintaining a distinguishable voice throughout.
Martin Dosh is definitely one of these artists, and with “We Are The Worst,” he’s finally made the move towards focusing on the minimalist elements of his work. “We Are The Worst” very gradually unfurls from a gorgeous slice of looped electronic ambiance into an even lovelier fractured pop song of sorts, which features some of Dosh’s signature skittering percussion amid flutes and strings. Formally, the track finds Dosh presenting all of the piece’s harmonic/structural elements in the first half and then subtly shifting the focal point of each element in the song’s second half. In this way, the structural shifting of “We Are The Worst” is reflective of how new parts of Dosh’s influences come to the forefront with each release. If “We Are The Worst” is any indication, this new phase of his career might be his prettiest yet.
“We Are The Worst” is from Dosh’s forthcoming record, Milk Money, which will be released October 22 no Graveface Records.