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:
In anticipation of her new LP Aerotropolis, Ikonika is taking us all to gamers’ paradise. With its strippers, sports cars, and subtropics, “Mr Cake” screams Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, except with one major difference: GRRRL POWER. Instead of skulking around in a Hawaiian shirt like Tommy Vercetti, our leading lady is off flipping emojis and taking names. Watch as she slips on some shades, cruises down the mean streets of Generic City That Is Not Named Miami (For Legal Reasons), USA, pickpockets a rich dude at the strip club, and steals his jet, all the while racking up a killer high score. Of course, if you’d rather just take in all of the uncanny-valley-girl visuals, that’s all well and good too. But don’t blame me if you get creeped out by the overeager — and underanimated — club patrons at the 2:40 mark. Between this and “Black Skinhead”, I think it’s safe to call this the “Second Life Summer” as far as music videos are concerned.
Aerotropolis comes out July 29 on Hyperdub.
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