Life on Earth in 2017 so far might feel like an exercise in brain-warping unpredictability, but there are still a few things we have left to depend on. Like a new season of Dancing With The Stars… or air (for the time being at least)… or NNA Tapes, heroically proving that even while the world might seem as if it’s sliding into a volcano, there will always be a place in it for high-quality experimental music.
NNA is getting right back to work with two new releases — both based on live performance — which, while very different from each other on the surface, each exemplify the label’s mission to keep discovering new, strange zones to build sounds in.
First up is the debut of GRID, a “doom jazz” trio led by Battle Trance’s Matt Nelson and featuring Tim Dahl (Child Abuse) and Nick Podgurski (New Firmament). Drawing from assorted improvisational disciplines, the group’s self-titled record is heavy; full of leaden feedback and Hell-level bass, and recorded live to extra-thick-sounding two-inch tape, the four pieces here marry sludge and free-jazz to make something impossibly dark, and which might feel demonic if it didn’t also seem so in love with the power of creating music as a group. The label describes it as “an essence of eternal void,” which is about as good as you can get. This is the sound of four intrepid musicians heading right into the bleakest pit and soundtracking it on the spot.
On the other hand, we are also receiving All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, an album by New York composer Lea Bertucci that is as open, airy, and controlled as GRID feels weighty and spontaneous. Calling back to her performance work with woodwinds, here Bertucci uses strings (and tape/amplification) to mirror the vibrations of breath, making near-hypnotic rhythms that seem circular even as they are continuously changing. The two pieces on All That Is Solid are sparse but always full, using space and distance themselves as instruments — explicitly so on track “Double Bass Crossfade,” which documents its instrumentalists (James Ilgenfritz and Sean Ali) crossing a 50,000 square-foot expanse, the echo of their passing one another creating a deeply eerie effect.
You can enjoy comparing the various pleasures of these two rich records when NNA Tapes releases them both on March 24. Grab GRID’s self-titled release here and Lea Bertucci’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air here. Profits from today’s Bandcamp orders will be donated to the ACLU.