2014: Second Quarter Favorites
Our 20 favorite releases from the second quarter of the year

Amnesia Scanner
AS LIVE [][][][][]

[Self-Released]

Perhaps the most dizzying and hair-raising 23 minutes of an especially dizzying and moderately hair-raising spring, AS LIVE [][][][][] threatens to liquefy the ground underneath listeners’ feet through its sonic alchemy. A sometime-Mykki Blanco producer and otherwise unknown entity, Amnesia Scanner creates an urgent and fearsomely dense ambience broiling with sinister tension. Sanger-sequenced drums and atomized vocal samples shoot through the cyberplasm with enzymatic fury, agglutinating and hydrolyzing motifs at a ruthless pace. Thumping, ticking, screeching compounds of rhythm, code, and variation burst out of each other, shrapnel and ooze at the same time, each assault leaving no trace of the last one except shattered glass and shredded membranes. Spin, slice, read, reassemble. Just the right mistake. A sudden change of substance. A barrage of events too fleeting to be processed as experiences, a sensory smash-and-grab-and-don’t-let-go, a subclinical episode induced from without. “Live” in the same sense that a virus is alive: an iron grip, a tightly wound bundle of data, an invasion into an unsuspecting host. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Nicholas Szczepanik
Not Knowing

[Desire Path Recordings]

Many albums released in the past few months have been maximalist, violent affairs. Producers have been hammering dents and scuffs into their beats and tearing the stuffing out of their mixes in a bid to explore the limits of loudness and harshness. It seems both musician and listener want their toast fully scorched on both sides. Outside this maximalist war zone is Nicholas Szczepanik, an artist of compositional restraint and nuance, who released Not Knowing, a therapeutic journey that is peaceful and forlorn, evolving at a glacial pace. I’ve been hooked on Szczepanik’s music since 2011’s Please Stop Loving Me, where the artist expanded chords to galactic length in a similarly patient fashion. Taking direction from veteran minimalists such as Thomas Köner, Éliane Radigue (to whom Not Knowing is dedicated), and William Basinski, Szczepanik’s loops evolve into exhaustion before collapsing into themselves like a miniature model of the universe. In soporific rapture, the music paints intense fear and wonder of both formative discoveries and the mysterious processes of memory, running from and toward the same things in a green field under a pearly sky. Re-forgetting and un-living.

The Soft Pink Truth
Why Do The Heathen Rage?

[Thrill Jockey]

OF VIRTUOUS PARAGONS, LEGENDARY COTERIES OF MYTHIC VOLATILITY IMPEL SATIRICAL PROVOCATIONS. MOBILIZING LURID NEONATES BOUND UNTO SONOROUS POUNDING, A FERVID JESTER’S AUTHORITY INTENSIFIED THE PULLULATION OF MALEFIC GLORY. RECITATIONS ECHO IN THESE TESTIMONIAL CAVES OF EXHORTATION. WHEREFORE METAMORPHIC VITALITIES INSTIGATE GALVANIC CAVORTIONS. ZEALOUS CONTAMINATION MODIFIES ANTEDILUVIAN INCANTATIONS OF TENEBROUS AUTOCHTHONY. ANCIENT ORTHODOXY DISINTEGRATES. INSIDIOUS DAWN OF PARADOXICAL ASTONISHMENT SUPPLEMENTS THE DISSOLUTION OF GENERIC SUFFOCATION (A UNIVERSAL AUTOPHAGIA). THESE CLANDESTINE TRUTHS BEHOVE EXPLICIT MANIFESTATION. UNCEASING DISRUPTION OF GRIEVOUS TRADITION HATH WROUGHT NOBODY’S MALEDICTION. INFINITESIMAL CASSETTES OF CONCOCTION INSCRIBE UNCONDITIONAL LAUDATION. (Ameliorate confusion instrumentalizing Invisible Oranges’ guide to Death Metal English.)

Magic Fades + Soul Ipsum
Zirconia Reign

[1080p]

Zirconia Reign is all about aesthetics — postmodern, “post-ironic” digital-era sounds, devices, and forms that could run the risk of simply sitting static, fading into the web’s ether like their mimicked and deconstructed counterparts. Fortunately, through the bizarro lens of Magic Fades and Soul Ipsum’s collective jamming prowess (with a serious flair for sonic exploration), these live experimentations with techno and R&B don’t fall flat — far from it. There are sounds and musical gestures on here that could be read as a nod to the past or an imagined future, to some bizarre, codified commentary, all taxing topics I dare say. Or you just could enjoy its sensory delights, which are delivered in much the same manner as how its creators spawned it: with “kush, coffee and tonnes of LaCroix pink grapefruit Soda Water.” Délightful.

The Body
I Shall Die Here

[RVNG Intl.]

Cultural moments are best defined by how they confront death. Ours seems bent on avoidance altogether. We’re all guilty. We hide from death by nurturing our identities, by curating a near-pointless museum of the self. We cynically, shamelessly, and compulsively consume: images, hopes, shit. We spend our lives filling tombs with mementos that remind us about who we want to be and what we want to be about, hoping all the while that others, equally consumed, might take notice. Perhaps more than any other time in history, to be is to be perceived. But all of that being misses the point: biology remains the singular democratizing fact. It tells us all “no.” So honor those artists who dare resist us and our stupid inclinations. Listen up. The Body have some news for you, and you’re not going to like it: you’re going to die here.