Aster (Ashley Paul and Eli Keszler)
“Secrets and Lies”
I once saw a Michael Pisaro concert that involved a piece for bowed crotales and sine tones. One of the piece’s goals was to produce a psychoacoustic beating effect between the relatively stable high-frequency drone of the crotales and the constantly modulating sine tones around it. However, during this particular performance, a loud rock band was playing across the street, and occasionally their performance would cut through and blend with and alter the close register beatings of the frequencies. Instead of hindering the performance, I found that this chance occurrence turned the piece into something else. The juxtaposition of the rock band’s rhythm and harmony was gradually blending in and out of the pulsating drone, almost as if their distant playing came out of the beatings itself.
Eli Keszler and Ashley Paul’s second collaborative release as Aster comes across as something of a fully realized version of the aleatoric acoustic phenomenon that I witnessed at Pisaro’s performance. Many of the pieces on their forthcoming Things That Just Happen album involve the exploration of high-register beatings through the use of crotales and various woodwinds, but the duo use this textural template to allow genuine harmonic movement to emerge from the psychoacoustic effects of their playing. Of these pieces, “Secrets and Lies” is the most removed from the high-frequency work, but listen closely and the wails of Paul’s clarinet and the subtle squeaks of Keszler’s percussion draw a clear line to its place in the midst of the duo’s impossibly successful psychoacoustic song cycle.
The concept of intimacy has often been discussed when examining Paul’s work, and “Secrets and Lies” definitely continues to develop that theme. Even though the track clearly involves overdubs, the duo create an atmosphere that is at once claustrophobic and expansive. Paul’s voice and clarinet often sound like they’ve drifted in from a room over the course of the track’s close-mic’d acoustic noise. In this sense, Paul and Keszler create a space where the roomy-sounding melodic/harmonic components of the work seem to emerge from the microcosmic world of their warped instruments. Of course, Keszler and Paul acknowledge this emergent nature of their compositions both with the album’s title and by allowing songs/melodies to develop out of their psychoacoustic explorations. As a result, they’ve managed to make a record that recreates the contingency of various spaces and styles interacting in real-time.
Things That Just Happen is out October 22 via Rel Records. You can listen to “Secrets and Lies” below.
After just releasing 23,000 new albums of rare and previously unheard material on Bandcamp, Jim O’Rourke is back at it again, this time with a track called “Low Bow,” according to Pitchfork. For over seven gorgeous minutes, we hear O’Rourke in electronic mode, exploring repetition and texture by getting down and dirty with the sonic material. It sounds both controlled and unhinged, warm and desolate, a spacious, Oval-esque approach that sees O’Rourke skittering on its surface before becoming completely enveloped by the sound particles he himself set forth. Listen to the track here:
“Low Bow” is off Air Texture Vol. III, curated by Deadbeat and DJ Olive. It’s out September 23 and features tracks by Phil Niblock, Oren Ambarchi, Fennesz, Pauline Oliveros, Thomas Fehlmann, Marina Rosenfeld, and more.
Almost two decades have passed since their formation, and Melt-Banana is still out for blood. With the release of Fetch, their first album in over six years, the duo has once again shattered the limitations of conventional form and function, busting boundaries to expose the madness that lies within. It’s glitchy, gutsy stuff, a unique strain of aural venom that’s impossible to replicate. “The Hive” is the first single to be released from the new LP, and it just might be the catchiest tune the band’s penned to date — that is, if you like your peppy pop-punk with a heavy dose of Walter White’s blue-meth madness. The verses fly in the face of Melt-Banana’s traditional, bajillion-BPM time signatures, strutting along at an unsettlingly casual pace. But then, of course, Yako and Agata kick it into turbo, delivering a digitally-distorted assault of blast-beats that reminds you, in the most punishingly way possible, that there is no comfort zone to be enjoyed with this band. This is a song that will kick your ass, spin you around until you puke, smile, giggle, and have you skipping back to the start, over and over. Call it a Hive-mind mentality.
Fetch is out October 1 via A-Zap records. Catch them on their US tour in October.
Sensum and Clunch
“Sensum and Clutch,” said my subjective self of a few moments ago, “if their music has half the assonance and bite of that fantastic moniker, I’ll be happy.”
Chiming in from the left aural plane of my headphones comes a voice of present day affirmation, “Shit, past me! These jamz are tight! Looks like we’ll have a decent soundtrack to this morning’s Mini Blueberry Neat Wheats.”
“But surely there is better, wider, deeper music out there”, whined the incessant Shuffle Button child of some future subjective self.
And luckily, the pull of an infinite world of ‘better’ music can be drowned out, Sensum and Clutch’s s/t EP — a cascading modular-synth brain storm from some cyborg congress — stops, stares, and disarms those Google corp spiders that never. Stop. Searching.
We pause to hear all kinds of rewarding sounds, not so much arranged as set off to meander/mingling with and eventually replacing that unquenchable lack of concentration we call modern life.
• Holodeck Records: http://holodeckrecords.com
Oneohtrix Point Never
And the tracks keep coming. So far, we’ve heard “Still Life,” “Problem Areas,” and “Joyvtl Jvbuayf” (figure out the title yet?), and today comes “Zebra,” yet another preview from Oneohtrix Point Never’s forthcoming album, R Plus Seven. The nearly seven-minute track sees Lopatin employing quick, choppy edits and jarring textural juxtapositions to sculpt an ever-changing, morphological shape of a song. The overall effect is awkward yet seductive, with the song’s jagged edits not quite fully smoothed over and its appropriated sounds not quite buried deep enough to approach pure materiality. It feels like the sonic elements are mapping out the boundaries of some sort of amorphous shape, but all we can perceive is the way it articulates time — in the Lopatonian sense of time, of course. Listen to the track here:
And if you want a curiously beautiful context in which to listen, check out Jacob Ciocci’s art on OPN’s website.
R Plus Seven is out October 1 on Warp Records.
Earlier this year, Charlie Looker (Extra Life, ZS)’s Seaven Teares project released its debut album, Power Ballads. With the help of Amirtha Kidambi (Sequins and Skeletons), Robbie Lee (Howling Hex), and Russell Greenberg (Yarn/Wire), Looker had crafted a curiously hypnotic, boldly anachronistic blend of English folk and Early Music, with touches of dark ambience and modern composition serving as both an aesthetic reminder of its modern reach and a signifier of atemporal themes like violence and transgression.
But of course, Power Ballads opens with perhaps its most conventional song, “Meet Me.” Contrasting Greenberg’s heavy, thudding downbeat with the playful, impressionistic sounds of Lee’s portative organ, the melancholic track foregrounds Looker and Kidambi’s vocal arrangements, the forceful acrobatics of which obscure the song’s seedier plummets. Here, Seaven Teares drop lyrics like “Meet me where you blush, meet me at your skin/ Kiss me through the bars, unsmiling in pleasure” next to lines such as “The more I grab at your hated parts and search you like a corpse” and “Bars of coke await us there and then we’ll flee to separate rooms to cry,” juxtaposing its superficially wistful aesthetics with something much darker and more emotionally challenging. It’s a difficult listen if you want it to be, a testament once again to the complexity of Looker’s unique approach to music-making.
Check out Seaven Teares performing “Meet Me” here:
Power Ballads is out now on Northern Spy. Watch the band perform live on Sunday at Northern Spy’s Spy Music Festival (of which TMT is a sponsor) at 285 Kent.