M. Geddes Gengras
Synths. People have them. As a matter of fact, lots of different people have them, and in most circumstances, there’s a marked difference between the folks who know how to expressively control their equipment and the folks who don’t. M. Geddes Gengras is one of those musicians who knows a thing or two or five-thousand about synths. In fact, Gengras is such a master of his equipment/sound that he’s become an in-demand sideman and collaborator, having worked with everyone from Sun Araw and Pocahaunted to Akron/Family and Warm Climate — and it’s easy to see why when listening to Gengras’ solo work.
As made apparent by Collected Works Vol. 1, The Moog Years, Umor Rex’s forthcoming compilation of his early work, not only has Gengras always displayed a knack for wringing a number of sounds out of even the most minimal of setups, but he also always knew how to craft beautifully varied soundscapes in the process. In many ways, “Magical Writing” might be one of the best distillations of Gengras’ craft on the record. It pits a subtly shifting sustained harmony against various electronic glitches & whirs that slowly give way to more drones, before the atonal sounds eventually bring back more abstract timbres. On this track and others — check out “Resistor” and “10.17.2009 (for ccg)” via the label’s SoundCloud — Gengras clearly realized the massive potential that synths had to create completely modern sounds, and it was his ability to actualize this potential that put him high among the synth gods of his time.
Collected Works Vol. 1, The Moog Years is out on vinyl and digitally August 20 via Umor Rex. Stream “Magical Writing” here:
Kevin Greenspon / Former Selves
Betrayed by the Angels / Apropos of Golden Dreams
You flip a split LP from heads to tails, and you prepare yourself for what could very well be an Acute Shift in Zones: different instruments, divergent ideas, a whole new world. Some splits hit hard with juxtaposition and attempt to fit a Yin and a Yang onto one vinyl slab (last year’s OPN / Rene Hell split on NNA comes to mind). The flip from Kevin Greenspon’s Betrayed by the Angels side over to Former Selves’ Apropos of Golden Dreams, though, comes out just the opposite. The former’s iridescent ambient miniatures segue into the latter’s layered synth compositions so seamlessly that I imagine fresh ears couldn’t tell them apart in some kind of blind Pepsi Drone Challenge. Both artists stand out among the “drift” crowd by covering plenty of harmonic and dynamic ground within their relatively short structures, interweaving hypnotic chord progressions and delay-drenched, upper-register leads as each session builds to a climax. For Greenspon, that climax manifests as a passage of detailed noise hiss on “Truth and Falling,” while Former Selves (Paul Skomsvold) shakes up his “Golden Dreams” halfway through with an arpeggiated melody that animates the track into an even lovelier arrangement.
This split LP marks the 100th release on Greenspon’s consistently killer label Bridgetown Records — no stranger to TMT’s love and affection. If you pre-order it now, he’ll ship it on or around July 30 when he gets home from the West Coast leg of his eternal 100+ date US tour schedule (!!), which is bound to bring him to a continental US city near you sometime soon.
Following his programming credits on the thicker, fleshier hunk of Yeezus, Arca delivers his fullest-bodied work yet with &&&&&. The 25-minute (freely downloadable, 320 kbps) “mix” contains nothing but the NYC artist’s own latest productions, true to his longstanding policy. The 14 fragments frequently call to mind Burial’s Truant in form and function (with a juke approach to vocal samples), revealing new depths of beauty in Arca’s discography. There is still room for a Snoop stem or two therein.
11. DM True
13. Pure Anna
E+E, truly one of the most interesting and promising acts that resides primarily on SoundCloud, has just posted a stunning track called “Saint Omega.” If you’re too numb to feel anything for the orchestra’s swelling romanticism or the sentimental cover of John Mayer’s already overly sentimental “When You’re Dreaming with a Broken Heart,” then perhaps the jarring interruptions of gunfire, explosions, and various other violent, aggressive sounds here will get your heart racing. One might assume that E+E, a.k.a. Elijah Crampton, is merely evoking a pseudo-spirituality here for critical purposes — and this could very well be the case — but Crampton himself is a spiritual being, someone who prays that he “might create something beyond [himself], somehow answer to a will beyond [his] own within [his] work.”
One of his friends described his music as “romantic comedy.” I agree. This is the sound of an angelic choir in the bathroom.
• E+E: https://soundcloud.com/eande
“How to Burn a CD”
“A goop of commercial radio pop, corporate surrealism, noise-tronica, and new jack swing designed to make you fist-pump so hard you explode into a ball of light…”
Welcome to the world of Honnda, folks. Amnon Friedlin — renowned for his work with ZS, Mouthguard88, and Normal Love (of which he is a founding member) — has been hard at work dredging the backwaters of pop’s most remote watersheds for the rudiments of one screwed-up slurry. Britney Spears, Test Department, G-funk, New Jack Swing, the soothing voices of customer service representatives: these are but a few of the identifiable aural relics in the post-apocalyptic landscape known as Fantasy Remover, where summer never ends, the ice cream never melts, and the townies are all sporting Dorito sunburns.
No, seriously — that’s the best way to describe the mutants in Friedlin’s latest tutorial-cum-music-video, entitled “How to Burn a CD.” It’s as though the members of Die Antwoord fell into a vat of molten Doritos (after eating too many carrots, of course) and emerged even more sinister and sillier than before. As for the pedagogy, well, it’s every bit as pyrotechnic as you’d expect, and you will walk away from this video premiere knowing how to burn a disc.
Besides providing us with a fun way to put all our blank CD-Rs to use (or copies of Yeezus, take your pick), “How to Burn a CD” also serves as a tantalizing taste of Fantasy Remover’s scrambled pop palette. And, TMTers, it’s your lucky day, because Friedlin is hooking us all up with a FREE download of the new album, over at the recently-created Honnda Bandcamp. It’s also available on cassette, via Public Eyesore. Check it out, and feel your fist bumps carry you into the light.
One thing I know about Jenks Miller: he contains multitudes. With his Horseback project, the multi-instrumentalist (and member of Mount Moriah) fuses tropes from black metal, US roots music, psych rock, and dark ambient into original compositions that overflow with ideas and juxtapositions. If his synthesis of croaked Xasthur via Tom Waits vocals and near Nashville-core studio lushness was his only contribution to contemporary music, he’d still deserve some kind of zoner blue ribbon — but the man’s catalog is already deep with killer collabs, three full-length LPs, and a handful of way-sold-out tapes and 7-inches and stuff. If you’re not on his level, which is to say inside a secret mausoleum chamber at least 12 feet underground at the center of a sacred and super-haunted animal burial ground untouched by other humans for generations, you should probably try to get there now.
His upcoming solo “solo” (solo) album Spirit Signal seems like both a solid entry point for a Miller neophyte and a welcome change of pace for a well-versed head. The album’s six loose, improvised sessions showcase Miller’s guitar upfront, accompanied by detailed drone voices and a whole lot of open space. In some moments, his playing fits into the post-Dead Man drifting Morricone vibe mastered by Dylan Carlson in his more recent output; but in others, like the title track below, his playing escalates into a tightly controlled twang closer to the melodic comping of Bill Frisell or Marc Ribot (Miller’s labelmate on Northern Spy). Coming from a man who can proficiently record anything, the restraint Miller displays in these beautifully dry mixes attests to his sense for extreme dynamics on both sides of the spectrum.
Pre-order Spirit Signals from Northern Spy, and it’ll ship around its September 3 release date.