I often find that one of the most difficult things to write about in music is beauty. There are times when I can completely break down a particular harmony or sound I enjoy to its base theoretical components and recognize it as something that I’ve enjoyed in the past but that doesn’t necessarily get at why I find it to be so particularly lovely in the context of a work as a whole. Subnaught’s Oscillations is full of moments like this.
On a theoretical level, Oscillations utilizes simple mathematical ratios that create a particular brand of just intonation as a result of modulation. Each track focuses on a particular drone and then seemingly seeks to explore the different harmonics of that sound through the process of modulation. However, that hardly explains why these minimal drone works are so beautiful and entrancing. This is wonderful reduced music in the vein of Eliane Radigue and Nicholas Szczepanik but unlike the sometimes austere textures of those artists, subnaught’s drones manage to be completely warm and inviting. Above, the artist’s webpage for the record, there’s an epigraph about how “music therapy, since it is never done in just intonation, has never been tried.” With Oscillations, subnaught has created a mesmerizing work that manages to turn the work of his fore bearers into a near therapeutic experience.
Oscillations is out now via bandcamp. You can stream the record in its entirety below:
• subnaught: http://www.subnaught.org
“Greater Mass,” the heavy-fisted debut song off Many Arms’ new album Suspended Definition (a little jazz pun for you there), is built on a violent dialogue between electric guitar and saxophone, two instruments that equally revolutionized the eras in which they were introduced. And BAM: a long-awaited battle of intellect and brute strength begins. Years of tension is released in the span of nine and a half minutes, which is relatively short considering the number of times the band readdresses the idea of a “chorus,” before rejecting it with explosive intensity. Seriously, try to find Waldo. Not all of Many Arms’ songs are so athletic — in truth, its hard to imagine the band sitting still for longer than eight seconds — this one here is a bastard child, though. The band retains structure by moving as one unit, tackling intense improvisation with equally matched intensity but never straying far from one another, moving in a million different direction but powering forward as an aggregate.
In one corner, Nick Millevoi’s dissonant trichords and veiny, muscle-bound threads of notes superimpose guest musician Colin Fisher’s tantrum outbursts of squalling noise. Each attack is anchored with dizzying dexterity by bassist John DeBlase and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino, who both manage to expel tight grooves in between bursts of bloodthirsty free jazz and maintain peak Lance Armstrong-levels of inertia. With a Burroughs-style approach to not giving a fuck, Many Arms combine basement punk and 50s avant-garde to terrifying effect. Listen to them with your family and THIS THIS will most likely happen.
Dynamic Chicago hip-hop duo The Guys (blood brothers Heavy Smelly and Fya Starta) – still smoldering in the embers of their fantastic, style-hopping one-two-three punch of loosies – are kind of an enigma.
Chicago hip-hop fans longing for a reprieve from the hard-and-fast aesthetic lines of the philosophical Either/Or that is Drill/Bop would be more than willing to put their support behind the group, who appear to be equally adept at doing the en vogue styles and doing whatever the fuck they want, but songs and videos remain frustratingly scant.
This Elevator Mag-shot music video for the duo’s steel drum-driven bop anthem “Flee” harkens back to the long-standing hip-hop tradition of YouTube-hosted videos about blowing up on YouTube, featuring footage of The Guys Googling themselves and excerpts from fan-made bopping videos, plus a whole lot of YouTubes-within-YouTubes to get your meta-narrative gears all greased up: “A million views on YouTube/ Tell haters R.I.P.”
Goddamn, The Guys, y’all always flee… Look for their self-titled debut, coming soon.
• The Guys: https://twitter.com/WeTheGuys_
SEMI LIKE & DONKY SHRBRT
“Is it worth it? Is this cassette worth risking everything?”
“I’ll tell you when I find out what’s on it.”
Comprising four sides across two tapes totaling C66 and twenty-eight tracks, the double release SEMI LIKE & DONKY SHRBRT by MONTGOMERY WORD is a monstrous achievement of lip-licking SP404 cuts, spliced with some of the stranger vocal samples I’ve heard in the genre in some time. It’s real traditional mixtape material turned on its head, while still paying homage to the miles of magnetic tape that paved the way for this smooth ride through years of R&B and glitchy hardware. Semi-like a record player skipping intentionally because daaamn, it just can’t get enough. MONTGOMERY WORD ya’ll.
Listen to the opening track from DONKY SHRBRT below, and “find out what’s on it.”
SEMI LIKE and DONKY SHRBRT are out now via WORD’s label, Ewe of Now Recordings.
Glasgow’s Dawson wrote in tippex all over your shitty school jotter; phrases that could have been sexual fetishes, obscure Soviet political slogans, made-up bands from some utopian moon-future. They fucked your denotative, well-meaning impulses with a sharp smirk. These were absurdist manifestos written in a scratchy calligraphy that bled through its serifs right onto the next page.
The band is wonderfully impossible to Google, track down, codify, or assess, having struck upon a musical and lyrical language that is poised so carefully between silliness and seriousness that it denies any critical assessment a similar surety.
But Sumshapes are not Dawson.
While Leed’s finest chose to make a fast buck covering themselves — while the critic[s] made a similarly masturbatory move — Sumshapes make a not-only-nominal break from their previous selves, riffing hard on this demo, shouting quieter to be heard clearer.
• Sumshapes: https://soundcloud.com/sumshapes