Love: Rafael Toral Plays John Cage
Rafael Toral has always been one of my favorite guitarists/composers. The man is a much needed link between the academic world of experimental music and forward-looking shoegaze/rock. He’s one of the few people who can release an album of Alvin Lucier-esque process-based compositions with a My Bloody Valentine-referencing cover and somehow have the resulting sonics evoke both artists. I believe that it’s increasingly more important to have people like Toral in the world, because there are important similarities between the rock world and the world of experimental music.
One of the major similarities between these realms is the role that contingency/indeterminacy plays in both cases. Rock music is often implicitly guided by this. Songs are not scored but rather structured, and often what happens within those structures may change on a regular basis. For instance, a guitarist might do something within a particular section that changes the song’s character, even though the chords and structure are the same. Essentially, the same principles guide experimental composition, where a set of structural rules is given and/or a process is set in motion. An experimental piece has the potential to radically vary with each performance, but even the most radical interpretations will usually retain some similarities due to the structural material presented. Perhaps it’s due to this common indeterminacy that something like Sonic Youth’s Goodbye 20th Century works so well as opposed to strict classical musicians tackling the same material.
With Love, Toral presents a very complete statement that ties the genres close together in a manner similar to the aforementioned Sonic Youth record. Love is a collection of Toral’s interpretations of John Cage pieces that were initially recorded in the early 90s. Toral admits to stretching some of Cage’s parameters perhaps a little too far by overdubbing and layering himself, but the aural results of Toral’s methods/alterations seem to fit within the aesthetic of Cage as opposed to the flamboyant performances of the composer’s work by Charlotte Moorman (which are fantastic performances in a very different way, but were notoriously despised by Cage). These recordings are from the heyday of Toral’s virtuosic guitar deconstructions, and the results are gorgeously spare realizations that perfectly impose and align Toral’s aesthetics with Cage’s. The final piece, a live version of the delicate “AER 7E” from Toral’s own Sound Mind Sound Body performed in a noisy crowded space, only further illustrates the effect that Cage’s thoughts on silence and contingency had on Toral. The record is a real treat.
You can stream excerpts of Love and download the record for free from Toral’s website here.
• Rafael Toral: http://www.rafaeltoral.net
One of my favorite things about Deep Magic is listening to it in confined spaces (bathroom/shower, hallways/tunnels, foyer/entrances) on my headphones, trying to hum along, matching the tone, but reverberating it enough that I can hear myself echoing in the confined spot and through the music playing in my ears. There’s a real resonance to Deep Magic (Alex Gray)’s work, beyond that of sound and thought. It’s almost harmonious to the natural path of Earthly living, as though he’s bringing a dream-like state of mind to the most realistic of moments: that of the further thinkers opposed to the corporate satirical. It’s a peace with electronics that helps you sort out future-sorta-thoughts when dabbling on “Brighter Days.” It’s complete submission of artistry of life, not work. Is it abstract, or is it just the way we perceive it? Are we confined to the spaces we’re placed in, or do we confine our minds to what’s around us, rather than divulging in crevasses of our brain stem? It’s all out there. Deep Magic is out there. Discover anew. Meet Alex on the astral-plane of thought and melt your minds together in musical matrimony. HEAP!
Deep Magic’s Reflections of Most Forgotten Love is out late June on Preservation.
Earlier this year, London producer AyGeeTee (also known as Actress Pets) released his third album, Fools. Featuring 17 tracks of diverse electronic beat permutations, the album has thrived on the contrast between its murky ambient tones and its crisp rhythmic interplay, a sort of lush, exquisite blanket of sound continually punctuated by dry, skittering beats, the sole reminder here that time is indeed passing. It’s electronic dance, essentially, cerebral and full-bodied, transient yet everlasting, “of its time” yet uprooted from any obvious geography.
“Amor Buscador” is, in my opinion, the album’s standout track. Not only is the beat at just the right tempo to push the song along without getting shit too hyped, but the ambient sounds are the primary focus here, their reverberations, delays, and overlapping tonal patterns obscuring the rhythm and producing a sense of being perpetually out of time, out of sync. Might seem like an aesthetic conflict on paper, but the actual music sounds harmonious, contrasted here a little by the video’s imagery of dated tech commercials, trippy Disney animations, and old race footage slowed to a crawl. There’s a disconnect somewhere here, but it’s often the disconnects that lead to unexpected connections. Check it out here:
Fools is out now on AMDISCS, which is gearing up for its second SOFT FREQUENCY event. More details coming soon.
MC billy woods and producer blockhead both spell their names in all lowercase letters. With History Will Absolve Me and Interludes After Midnight, these artists individually released what were arguably their respective genres’ best albums of 2012. “Tinseltown,” the first single off their forthcoming collabo, Dour Candy, finds Mr. woods spitting more of those BFG 9000 “obliterate everything in the immediate vicinity”-type lyrics, with lines like: “Pedal to the metal, enthusiastically peddle crack over instrumentals/ Only to backpedal when the narcs come knocking/ Any resemblance to actual events is merely coincidental/ Motherless child — Hansel and Gretel abandoned in the ghetto/ Fear not a Wicked Witch but a clever Gepetto/ Have ‘em holding the bag or on stage in stilettos/ Separating Canaanites from they shekels/ Nigger pennies add up if you the neighborhood Gordon Gecko.”
Forget about rap music or any other genre distinction. Seriously, all hyperbole aside, find me an active lyricist currently writing at that level. I’ll wait.
Dour Candy drops July 2. It will probably be my favorite album of the year.
• Backwoodz Studioz: http://backwoodzstudioz.com
Enter another slab of music marked “drift” — the ears aren’t perfect, but they pick up enough clues to spark some mental images of the scene of the drone: maybe synths spread out in crescent moon formation, a tape deck could plug into the chain somewhere, multi-multi-instrumentalizing, probably plenty of pedals, perhaps layering live input by looping (tones arrive and come back around with regularity), perhaps fusing multiple discrete takes together all studio-style. With gear and process obscured, the real Need To Knows become evident quick. Does it progress? Does it engage? Does it zone you out? Does it confound? What are you listening for? For what are you listening?
Trust in Rambutan, known to loved ones as Eric Hardiman, to rise way above “drift” standards and make each minute count. Inverted Summer marks his full-length vinyl debut after 30+ cassettes and CD-Rs under the moniker, along with dozens of releases with blown-out psych outfit Burnt Hills and omnivorous noise/drone duo Century Plants. “Topology” offers mighty details from its first moments. A low-end bas(e)(s)line all hiss and hum holds things down. Lead synth phrases between “sear” and “stain” shake up the atmosphere. Radar blips recur. We lock in. When the flute-ish samples drop into the mix, we climb higher. When an oscillator buzzes through a molten doom progression, we reach the peak, and find Hardiman’s flag already up there.
Inverted Summer is out now via Fabrica Records.