Before heading into the final stretch of 2016, we’d like to once again share our favorite releases from the last few months. This list features a little bit of big (Frank Ocean, Nick Cave) and a little bit of small (Foodman, N-Prolenta), flanked with sonics both blistering (serpentwithfeet, Valerio Tricolo) and blissful (M. Geddes Gengras, Ian William Craig), pure (D/P/I, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma) and contaminated (Arca, Elysia Crampton), with comebacks (Gucci Mane), comedowns (Fennesz/O’Rourke), and comeups (Princess Nokia). There’s maybe even stuff for the kids (Macula Dog??)!
Shortlist: Tristan Perich’s Noise Patterns, Les Halles’s Transient, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound, Lil Yachty’s Summer Songs 2, DJ Earl’s Open Your Eyes, Noname’s Telefone, Zomby’s Ultra, Angel Olsen’s My Woman, Vatican Shadow’s Media In The Service Of Terror, SunPath’s SunPath 2, Cousin Stizz’s MONDA, The Nativist’s Various Options, Delroy Edwards’s Hangin’ At The Beach, and WWWINGS’s Phoenix.
Entrails. Arca’s image is the spill-over vessel, one that tips over when filled to the brim, then rights itself. Small strands of water escape the container and flow out; each stream finds its own channel, fertilizing earth, bringing everything into becoming. The vessel could refer to the body that is spontaneously filled with illuminated music. The music finds meaning-channels spontaneously, according to the language-state of the listener. Then the vessel pops upright and is filled again, and each day it overflows. It’s a chaotic process — but one from which something always comes into being — a body of bodies — Pérdida, Girsasol, Sin Rumbo. The trauma of this is found in the melancholic timbre of the subject, located brutally between the vessel’s overflow — its spillage and fulfillment — a body spilling over itself into constant new forms. As such, there are pipes and flutes that differ in length, their various notes differing in pitch. Hence, the multiplicity and complexity of long and short, low and high tones. Although tones vary in a thousand ways, the principles of their endowment is the same. The music of nature is not an entity existing outside of things. The different apertures, turnt pipes and flutes — the snakes, the torero, the vicars — in combination with all living beings, are Arca’s sound.
Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke
It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry
There’s a very special kind of sorrow in knowing that you’re wrong — the queasy taste of your own tongue, holding ground within your throat, an invisible wall of your own making that refuses to let you say what you know you need to say. With all the tension of a pregnant pause, It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry is another loaded session from old drone guards Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke, but on their first dual collaboration, the two have come together in the spirit of coming apart. Scarred guitar chords and rosy synthesizers mix to form a concoction resembling a shoegaze romance distilled into pure, weightless air, as majestic and harrowing as watching a tornado unfold in slow motion. But It’s Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry isn’t a melodrama, nor is it carefree ambience; it’s a soft, dying light, the most lush O’Rourke or Fennesz have sounded in years, not to mention the most purposeful. Its two sides unfurl in massive sound that nonetheless feels intimate and small, an eternal yet brief moment taken wincingly, in the vain hope that it might not end.
Dizzyingly complex it may be, yet Composer is music at its purest and most elemental. Not just because Alex Gray’s final LP as D/P/I was the product of a subconscious, almost randomized creative process into which convention can’t possibly intrude, but because its aural fabric sounds equally subconscious. The album’s seven chaotic tracks seem to lack all extraneous coloring and texture, their careening notes amounting to pulses of unadulterated tone that fly hypnotically through the air. In fact, so minimal are these notes in tonality and timbre that frantic pieces like “Semantics” and “Ecstatics” become music in its most abstract and subliminal sense. That is, they become less performances experienced consciously by their audience, and more direct signals to the brain, manipulating and programming it from within, without listener or composer fully understanding just what the hell is going on.
Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City
Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Elysia Crampton’s works have always sought to exorcise the distorting traumas of erasure and repression that explode with maximalist aplomb in mainstream, subverting hypermasculinity and schema of domination in an anti-historicizing archaeology of sound drawing from diasporic erasure and muddling intersections. On Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City, her resolve to face upright the brutal incisions of history is palpably clear even while, throughout exercises like Chino Amobi and Why Be collaboration “Dummy Track,” the humiliating, antagonistic demons imbricated with the fabric of self-expression can’t be warded off by any measure of compositional incantation. They co-arise with us, in tandem foil to our survival instinct and interdependent subjecthood. The bitcrushed demonic voices and unremitting pentatonics of Demon City are not a funhouse reflection of our present reality; they are merely what one encounters upon listening and looking closely.
Of all the Foodman releases we in the States have yet heard, IKEIKE arguably does least to confront the senses. But don’t let that fool you: Foodman is still concerned with disrupting dance music’s elemental schemes. IKEIKE just does it in a finer way. Where Ez Minzoku, Foodman’s previous 2016 US release, was a barrage of needles, pricking and prodding at irregular intervals, this tape is elemental mercury — silvery and glinting, squirming just beyond contact. Tracks range from the off-kilter floppy-drive jitters of “Foot” to the jarring, stuttering “Erekutoro.” On each track, the groove remains futilely just out of reach. Not so on “Osoi” or final track “Kitekudesai” — the disruptions in rhythm and texture are still there, but they don’t shatter as much as they glitch. It’s subtler subterfuge than we’re used to from Foodman, but the strange details are still unmistakably his.