Posts Tagged ‘Ambient’

Front & Follow – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Longtime Aural Aggro faves Front & Follow have delivered the third in their series of truly immense Rental Yields compilations, with another twenty-five tracks of remixed works which showcase the community spirit they espouse as a label and among those in its orbit.

They describe it as ‘a multi-release collaboration project raising money to tackle homelessness in Manchester… Inspired (if that’s the right word – perhaps ‘motivated’…) by our current housing system, the project encourages artists to steal (or borrow, nicely) from another artist to create their own new track – in the process producing HIGH RENTAL YIELDS. Over 100 artists are now involved (the spreadsheet is fun), each one tasked with creating a new track from the sounds created by someone else – we are then collating the tracks and releasing them over the course of the next year.’

Some would describe the project as ambitious, others as simply crackers, and it’s likely both in equal measure, but this is why we love F&F. That, and the fact that they seem of have a knack for attracting and releasing interesting artists who exist far beyond the peripheries of any kid of commercial radar (or even most alternative radars).

This compilation really does make the most of the medium: unrestrained by the limits of vinyl, cassette or CD, and has a playing time of about a week. Yes, I exaggerate, but the point is, each contribution is the length it needs to be, or the artist feels it ought to be, rather than cut or constrained, meaning that while a fair few pieces sit around the five minute mark, the Decommissioned Forests vs Pulselovers rendition of ‘Rental Yields’ runs for nine minutes and forty-four seconds, ahead of the ten-minute workout that is IVY NOSTRUM vs The Snaps Jar’s ‘AND MONEY LESS’ and a few other six- and seven-minute monsters.

But what is time, anyway, and what’s it for? As much as it’s a measure of time, it’s a tool by which lives are ordered, limited, constrained, controlled. The vast majority are paid work by the hour, not by output, and time on the clock is not your time, but your employer’s. You don’t own your time, and you don’t own your space, and you give your time to some company who profit from your time and output in order to pay for a roof over your head, a space to eat and sleep, for the profit of a landlord or a bank you owe tens, even hundreds of thousands.

How often do you hear people shrug about their shit jobs saying ‘well, it pays the rent’. Imagine lying on your deathbed, reflecting on a lifetime of drudgery to say ‘I paid the rent’, while your landlord’s spent their life living it up in restaurants and on overseas holidays and celebrating their success because you’ve paid their rent too.

Audio Obscura VS Secret Nuclear’s ‘Vacant Period’ opens the album with an apposite sample from a TV show discussing gross and net yield before embarking on a glitchy, flickering journey of droning industrial Krautrock, and paves the way for an extensive and magnificent-curated collection of variant forms of ambience. Pettaluck Vs Giant Head’s ‘Dot to Dot’ is disorientation yet soothing and hypnotic – and fucking strange. But we like strange, and Front & Follow provide plenty.

If it’s a long, long listening journey of crackling stating, looming darkness, bleeps, bloops, and extraneous noise intercut with snippets of radio, film, and TV, and ultimately forges an immense intertext of sources.

Sometimes it’s swampy, eerie, tense, others it’s quite mellow and finds a subtle groove, but Rental Yields is unyieldingly brilliant, both in terms of range and quality. And you really can’t go wrong for a fiver – the worthy cause is simply a bonus.

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2nd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

UK duo Thraa consists of Sally Mason and Andi Jackson, whose bio states that ‘Working without the constrictions of a traditionally structured song, this duo improvise around meditative drones, combining Sunn 0))) influenced guitars with soaring vocals. Making single take recordings, they capture an organic sense of sound that has cavernous textures with minimalism at heart.’

In some respects, this debut EP brings us full-circle in terms of drone evolution, and it’s fitting in the most appropriate, and planetary sense. The most successful and celebrated purveyors of drone, Sunn O))) famously took their moniker as a reference to drone/ doom progenitors Earth, who will, in certain circles, be forever remembered for the tectonic grind of their epic second album, Earth 2, from 1993, which contains just three tracks spanning some seventy-three minutes, with nothing but guitar and bass feedback stretching out, crunching along at a glacial pace and carrying the weight of entire continents. It’s hard to believe that this release will ever be surpassed for all that it is, with two of the three tracks stretching out around the half-hour mark with no shape or form, only an endless, grating, grumbling grind. Into Earth connotes a return to base material, a slow collapse, even a decay into compost form, but also hints at a sonic slide toward this territory carved out by the original and definitive drone act some twenty-nine years ago.

Thraa intimidated at the shape of things to come in June with the release of ‘Move Among Them’, which is the first of the EP’s four tracks. It’s swampy, sparse, beginning with an awkward, gurgling, wheezing, a kind of tentative snuffling grunt in the bass region before soaring, sculpted feedback howls and churns metallic—tinged clouds of scraping ambience. It probably sounds like a contradiction on paper, but hear me out: the screeding layers blur into a whirl without definition and tumble into a vortex of abstraction, and in doing so, create the sound closest to that early Earth whorling wall I’ve heard from any other band.

The title track lacks even more overt form, spurs of guitar feedback screeching as it breaks loose from the dense, rippling wall of undifferentiated noise. There are strong elements of Metal Machine Music here, but it’s around the midpoint that a slow, rhythmic piano emerges, along with a haunting understated vocal from Sally that’s half-buried beneath the noise of explosions and / or tidal waves. It’s both dolorous and ethereal, and BIG | BRAVE comparisons aren’t out of place here, either.

Everything coalesces after the subdued scrape and low-end rumblings of ‘Elgon’ on the seventeen-minute finale ‘Over Warm Stones’. Nothing different happens as such: there is only more, in terms of duration, and in terms of atmosphere. The snaking, rattling notes that swell and shimmer provide a sparse, textured backdrop to a quivering, evocative vocal performance.

Into Earth may not offer anything new, per se, but does provide a strong contribution to the canon of emotive, evocative ambient drone / doom which features vocal, which in this instance are essential to the experience, and it’s an experience which is compelling, immersive, heavy as hell and at the same time heavenly, before it collapses into a landslide of feedback that stretches out to the horizon.

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Dret Skivor – 5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

In typical Dret style, the accompanying notes are brief and to the point; functional, you may say.

As such, we know nothing of either AU or FDO as individuals – if indeed they are – of their previous works or methods, but then, nor to we need to in order to address the release at hand. ‘When analogue electronic drone meets toy keyboard drone, the results are this.’

‘This’ being a forty-three minute piece of continuous drone. Not that it’s all just one long drone: it’s multiple drones that hang and hover in layers. Despite its lack of overt structure or form, there are clear distinctions and a strong separation between the different layers, that, unexpectedly – and whether intentional or not – bring something of a conventional musicality to proceedings, with a distinct ‘lower’ drone overlaid with a higher ‘lead’ drone, as well as incidental moments of discord and dissonance as the shifting tones interact with one another. And, as the piece progresses, so the pitches change, and consequently, so do the moods. At first comparatively calm and tranquil, the tension rises over time.

Shrill wraith-like whispers flit through a darkening atmosphere as the lower drone begins to thicken and swell in density and volume and the overall sounds grows murkier, forging a more sinister, ominous feel.

Over time – and here, time feels like a vague concept, where seconds stall and minutes moderate and ultimately swing in suspension, slowing, until reaching a point around twenty-five minutes in where nothing moves and a perfect stasis is reached. The interweaving drones remain locked, and there is no movement. Life itself has stopped and the listener finds themselves frozen, like an insect set in amber to be preserved for all eternity. And here – here – the urge for any form of transition or trajectory abates, simply sliding away along with even the desire to move.

Somewhere along the way, you simply forget you exist and the sound becomes everything, and yet, simultaneously, it fades into the background as you find yourself in a fugue-like state, entranced, and barely notice when it ends.

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Room40 – 2nd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a sign of the times that this is being released only as a download: labels – especially niche labels like Room 40 – know their audience and know their budget. The time has now passed when a connection with a label with ensure a physical release, and theres something sad about this. Still, better a virtual release with a label’s backing than no release and / or no label backing, and ROOM40 have some respect in their field.

Dark Over Light Earth is very much a release that highlights the intersection of different media, specifically visual art and music. As Steve Roden explains of the album’s origins, ‘dark over light earth was created for the final weekend of the exhibition moca’s mark rothko, which featured 8 rothko paintings from the museum of contemporary art los angeles’s permanent collection… i initially made a list of every color in each of the 8 paintings, to generate a score. i recorded myself playing the score on harmonium and glockenspiel – the notes and their order pre-determined by my color notations; and the tempo, duration, and overall feel, improvised. some of these recordings were then processed electronically with filters.’

It’s fair to say, then, that this is a quite specific, technical, and theory-based work, and it’s not immensely accessible either. Granted, it features violin and amorphous synth drone, both of which are fairly familiar aspects of contemporary experimental music, and there are moments which are genuinely magical, and musical, as they skip from here to there with a lightness and ease that’s magnificent.

But so much of the album – which consists of a single track with a running time of nearly thirty-five minutes – is discordant, difficult, atonal, and it’s hard to get a handle on. The individual elements are comparatively tuneful, but when placed together… Picked dissonance flits over dolorous droning synths and mournful strings – the violin so often sounds sad, but all the sadder when it scrapes sinuously, against the note, against the grain.

The sparser passages are minimal to the max; stuttering scrapes and picked notes forge tension against not drones, but tense scrapes and scratches while notes drape in fatigue across the rough and barren soundscapes.

Listening to Dark Over Light Earth prompts me to revisit not only Rothko’s catalogue, but his biography, which reminds me that he committed suicide at the age of 66. So much is made of the ‘27’ club, that the suicide rate among older people, particularly artists, tends to be overlooked. Hunter S. Thompson, age 67; Ernest Hemingway, age 61; Robin Williams, age 63; Tony Hancock, age 44: it’s all to easy to bracket the psychology of suicide as an affliction oof young males, but this masks the broader issue.

Just as there is nothing in Rothko’s work which indicated darker underlying issues, so Dark Over Light Earth isn’t anywhere near as dark as all that; it’s simply a work of quiet, but troubled, contemplation.

It is, unquestionably, a fitting soundtrack to accompany the viewing of Mark Rothko’s work abstract, overheated, yet austere, simple yet confrontational in their stark minimalism, and in that capacity, it’s magnificently realised.

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Cruel Nature Records – 6th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

These are interesting times for Nadja, the ‘ambient / experimental / doom metal’ duo comprising Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker. Luminous Rot was recorded during lockdown, and found a home on the legendary Southern Lord label. Released in the spring of 2021, it’s a veritable beast of a work, which combined metal with post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Lockdown feels like something of not so much a distant memory as an unreality, and if by May 2021 it felt like life was returning to normal, the truth is that the wounds were still raw, and any attempt to move on as if life was back as it was before was simply a wilful act of delusion to stave off the effects of the trauma.

And with every trauma, there is some residual hangover, and you might say that Labyrinthine is the product of that. As the accompanying notes detail, the material was recorded during the pandemic and concurrently with Luminous Rot, and ‘explores themes of identity and loss, monstrosity and regret, extreme aesceticism, the differences between labyrinthes and mazes, taking inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror.’

When a band chooses to self-release an album, it’s no longer an indication that it’s substandard or not worthy of a label release, and the case here is that Labyrinthine, which ‘this might be Nadja’s heaviest, doomiest album to date’, it’s clear that rather than consisting of session offcuts, it stands alone as a separate project from Luminous Rot, featuring as it does, a different guest vocalist on each track, and it’s worth listing them here:

Alan Dubin – legendary American vocalist from O.L.D. and Khanate and, currently, Gnaw

Rachel Davies – vocalist and bassist from the British band, Esben & The Witch

Lane Shi Otayanii – is a Chinese multi-media artist and vocalist in Elizabeth Colour Wheel

Dylan Walker – American vocalist from grindcore/noise band Full of Hell

With such a roll-call of contributors, it’s in no way possible to fee short-changed by the fact there are only four tracks, and ‘only’ is somewhat redundant when the shortest of these is almost thirteen minutes in duration. This is an album alright, and it’s an absolute fucking monster at that.

And while the CD release is on the band’s own label, Broken Spine, there are limited cassette versions by several different indie labels from around the world: Katuktu Collective (US), Cruel Nature Recordings (UK), Bad Moon Rising (Taiwan), Adagio830 (Germany), Muzan Editions (Japan), WV Sorcerer (France/China), Pale Ghoul (Australia), and UR Audio Visual (Canada) – and it’s perhaps noting that the running order differs between formats,  and I’m going by the Cruel Nature tape sequence here rather than the CD. It may be more intuitive from a listening perspective, but limitations off format and all…

This co-operative approach to releasing music is highly commendable, and seems to offer solutions to numerous problems, not least of all surrounding distribution in the post-pandemic, post-Brexit era where everything seems on the face of it to be fucked for any band not on a major label with global distribution and access to pressing plants and warehouses worldwide.

The title track is a lugubrious droning crawl: imagine Sunn O))) with drums crashing a beat every twenty seconds in time with each pulverising power chord that vibrates your very lungs. And those beats are muffled, murky, and everything hits with a rib-crushing density, that’s only intensified by the squawking, anguished vocals that shred a blasted treble in contrast to the thick billows of booming bass sludge, and it’s a truly purgatorial experience.

And then, here it comes, and it all comes crashing down hard over the course of the most punishing nineteen minutes in the shape of the brutal behemoth that is ‘Necroausterity’. In a sense, the title speaks for itself in context of a world in lockdown, and it’s sometimes easy to forget just what terrifying times we endured, watching news reports of bodies piling up in New York and elsewhere while governments and news agencies fed a constant stream of statistics around cases and deaths. It felt truly apocalyptic. And ‘Necroausterity’ is the sound of the apocalypse, tuned up to eleven and slowed to a crawl, the writhing torture of a slow, suffocating death soundtracked by guitar and drums do dense and dark as so feel like a bag over the head and a tightening grip on the throat. The recording is overloaded, distorting, and it’s a simply excruciating experience. And it simply goes on, chord after chord, bar after bar, slugging away… and on in a fashion that makes SWANS feel lightweight in comparison. It’s relentless, unforgiving, brutal, and punishing.

‘Rue’ broods hard with dark, thick strings and a heavy atmosphere, but it’s light in comparison. It’s dense, and weighty, but Rachel Davies’ ethereal vocal drifts gloriously within the claustrophobic confines and conjures another level of melody that transforms the thick, sluggish drones into something altogether more enchanting. It builds to a throbbing crescendo that is – perhaps not entirely surprisingly – reminiscent of Esben And the Witch or Big | Brave.

Wolves howl into the groaning drone of ‘Blurred’ and the guitars slowly simmer and burn: no notes, just an endless am-bleeding distortion before the power chords crash in and drive hard, so low and slow and heavy so as to shift tectonic plates and shatter mountains. Amidst the raging tempest, Lane Shi Otayanii brings an otherworldly aspect that transcends mere words, making for a listening experience with a different kind of intensity as it trudges and churns fir what feels like a magical eternity.

The sum total is the sound of hellish desperation, and while Labyrinthine may offer absolutely no solace in the bleakest pits of deathly despair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album that better articulates perpetual pain and anguish better than this.

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gk. rec. – 13th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since taking control of his own release schedule – in addition to various releases via various labels – Gintas K’s output has shifted from rivulets to cascades, with this nature-themed album being just one among countless releases, live performances, exhibitions. soundtrack and compilation appearances so far this year, and, not least of all, Lėti in May, released on venerable experimental label Crónica.

There’s little explanation behind Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades, beyond a selection of quotes from HP Lovecraft and the detail that the album’s six pieces were ‘played, recorded live, at once without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller’ in 2020, and one suspects Gintas has a hard drive bursting with such recordings just waiting to be edited and mastered to form unified documents of his tireless output.

The first five pieces form the larger work that sits under the album’s overarching title, numbered one to five. They’re sparse, minimal, echo-heavy, like wandering around in a vast cavern while droplets fall into the subterranean lake that occupies the bottom, and who knows how deep it may be, how many tunnels are filled with millions of gallons of water that have run down through the ground and into this naturally-carved warren of rock-lined corridors beneath the ground.

In places, barely perceptible glimmers of sound, like bat sonar, jangle in the upper reaches of the audio spectrum. I’m reminded of the cat repellent device in my back yard, and I wonder if to some, these passages would actually appear as silence – or if for others, like my ten-year-old daughter, they would find the pitch unbearable and have to run from the room covering their ears. Quiet gurgles and trickles are the primary sounds on ‘Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades #3’ and I find myself feeling altogether calmer, picturing myself in a pine woodland with steep banks. I picture in my mind’s eye local scenery like Aysgarth Falls and Ingleton Falls and find myself at ease – but this being Gintas K, there’s disruption afoot, and blips and squelches zap in seemingly at random to remind us that this is digital art, and the fourteen-minute ‘#4’ marks the full transition into digital froth and sluices of laptop-generated foam.

And so it trickles into ‘#5’ which brings more bleeps and blips and jangling and some high-pitched rattling that for some reason makes me think of seeing footage of milk bottling plants in the 80s – back when milk came in glass bottles, and I trip on this trajectory of nostalgic reverie until the arrival oof the unsettling final track, the eight-minute ‘eastern bells’ that’s a slowed-down yawn of sound, metallic reverberations ringing out into the silence, echoing in the dark emptiness in ebbs and flows, like a conglomeration of sounds, drifting in a breeze.

Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades is a supremely abstract work, and while it’s not a huge departure for Gintas K, it does represent one of his softer, gentler, sparser and less frenetic works. It’s by no means an album to mediate to. But it is overall fairly sedate, and it not only allows, but encourages a certain quiet reflection.

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Expert Sleepers – 25th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Fallout 4 is, as the title suggests, the fourth album in Darkroom’s Fallout trilogy.

Darkroom have been going for more than twenty years now, and have built up an extensive catalogue centred around fluid ambient work, which they’re keen to point out ‘stretches the definition of the genre to its limits in many directions: from quiet, introspective and naturalistic through celestial and melodic to intense, abrasive and synthetic.’

In presenting three longform compositions, Fallout 4 affords the collective to fully explore all of these elements.

As the accompanying notes explain, ‘Darkroom’s music has always been played not programmed, with a focus on human interaction and capturing the magic of live performance’, and the first two pieces hark back to the last performance of their 2012 tour. ‘It’s Clear from the Air’ is hypnotic, rippling, mesmerising, low, undulating drones providing a subtle low end to the textured interweaving synths that overlay subtle yet complex rhythms.

It bleeds into the twenty-five minute ‘Qaanaak (Parts 1 & 2)’ and immediately the tone is darker, denser, with a grumbling low and needling pulsations that create tension within the suffocatingly thick, beatless smoggy atmosphere. You find yourself lost, in suspension, somewhat bewildered as the tones twist and change. Electronic flares whip and lash as stuttering beats emerge through the relentlessly nagging pulsations, and continue to shift and mutate to a broiling, bubbling larva as booming bass tones surge and swell. The rhythm grows in urgency, but it’s muffled, constrained, which heightens the experience of a sense of airlessness and entrapment and as much as the throbbing oscillations are indebted to Can and Tangerine Dream, their abrasive edge hints at the uneasy, wheezing synth grind of Suicide.

The third piece, ‘Tuesday’s Ghost’ is perhaps the most conventionally ambient’ of the three, and is certainly the most overtly ‘background’ as is swims and floats and chimes along fuzzy lines of slow decay and loose, vague forms that have no shape, rise and fall. There is a discreet linearity to it, as it gradually, and subtly builds in depth and density, and it’s here that it become clear just how essential that human element is to Darkroom’s work – that sense of musicians bouncing off one another and understanding one another through intuition. There is no substitute for it, and you simply can’t programme the dynamics of form. It’s this intuitive, natural fluidity that breathes life into the compositions, and in turn, it’s this sense of life that the listener connects to and engages with. Fallout 4 may be ambient at heart or by genre… but it’s also far beyond the frontier of ambient.

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Lo Bit Landscapes – 7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Life has felt somewhat relentless of late. I do mean this on a personal level, although this is perhaps as much a result off external factors as anything else. The pandemic turned me into an addict. An addict of 24/7 steaming news, of doomscrolling, of relentless checking of social media. When things are constantly happening constantly evolving, it’s easy to find yourself dragged into the whirlwind, and ultimately to depend on the maelstrom. Silence becomes scary. You’re overwhelmed by the volume of emails, texts, FaceBook messages and WhatsApps and find yourself begging for them to stop, but when they do, you panic that something is wrong, that there’s something more sinister afoot, something isn’t working, or that perhaps you’ve died and haven’t realised.

Lately, there’s been a tidal wave of music that’s been created as a reaction to life in lockdown, to social tension, to the mental health pressures of contemporary living. And I’ve been lapping it up, I’ve been loving it. Because people are bringing issues out into the open, and speaking in their own voice about the difficulties we’ve all been facing, relaying those relatable traumas. But I’ve started to feel more like a silent counsellor rather than a music critic. It’s a truism that a problem shared is a problem halved, unless you’re the recipient of all of the sharing. Sometimes, you need a break. Sometimes, you need to let all the tension go, and to simply float.

Nihiti’s Sustained is the perfect antidote to all the tension. It consists of three slow-moving ambient works, extensive in their duration. The shortest, ‘Tetrachrome’ is almost ten minutes long, and it opens with the immense, twenty-one-and-a-half-minute soft soundscape of ‘Stellar Observer’. I sit back by candlelight and close my eyes, and feel my jaw slowly unclench, and my shoulder blades gradually begin to loosen. It’s soporific, deep ambience that washes over you and with washing waves of sound and soft, elongated mollifies drones that drift like vapour. It isn’t without turbulence, but said distortion and treble waves crash a way in the distance and charge against a backdrop of slow undulations. The broad, textured sounds are indeed sustained, for what feels like eternities, and the yawn that swells in my jaws is one of relaxation rather than boredom.

There are glitches and switches in ‘If the Colour’ that disturb the flow, and you almost feel yourself tripping momentarily, like a sleep twitch, but things soon right themselves again, and you resume your calmness, despite scratchy samples and moments of dissonance, because in the overall sensory experience, Sustained is slow and gentle.

Breathe it in, absorb the vapours. Ignore the distant voices as they whisper and echo, and assume they mean no harm, despite the darkening sky toward the end. Let it simply hang in the air: sit back, turn down the lights, and tune in to your inner voice instead of the inaudible mutters. Trust your instruct. Trust the space. Absorb the calm.

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ROOM40 – June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I feel like I’ m forever playing catchup. The simple fact is, there are more new releases – and remarkably good ones at that – than there are hours in the day to listen to them all. I can’t bee the only one who sees friends on FaceBook posting about how they’re loving the new album by X, Y. and Z, and who gets asked if they’ve head / what they think to this, that, or the other and wonder ‘how the hell do you actually listen to all this?’ These people must listen to music 24/7 and possess three pairs of ears by which to listen to all of this music simultaneously, or something.

Admittedly, it doesn’t help that my dayjob doesn’t really afford much opportunity for listening while I work, so I really only have a spell while cooking dinner, and evening, which, after everything else, tend to start around 10pm.

And so, presented with anything up to thirty new releases a day in my inbox, I simply can’t listen to everything, and I deeply envy those who can, and seemingly do.

One particular source of guilt, for wont of a better word, is my inability to keep up with ROOM40 releases. They may only be number three or four a months, but they’re invariably interesting, exploratory, intriguing. And tend to warrant for more detailed analysis than I can reasonably offer. Hence a summarising catch-up for the label’s June releases, on the day July’s have just landed with me.

Alberto Boccardi’s Petra (released on tape) is a comparatively short album of intense electronic drones: consisting of just five tracks spanning around thirty-two minutes, is sparse, ominous, sonorous, predominantly mid-range but with some stealthy bass and sonorous, trilling organs. Recorded over several years and partly inspired and assembled while Boccardi was resident in Cairo, it’s both chilling and soporific, it’s an intriguing minimal work.

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Blue Waves, Green Waves by Alexandra Spence isn’t receiving a physical release, and is an altogether different proposition. As the tile suggests, the ocean provides the primary inspiration, and sure enough, it begins with the sound of crashing waves, but this soon recedes to the background, while analogue organ sounds ebb and flow as the backdrop to low-key spoken word pieces. Noters drip and drop and hover in suspension like droplets of water hanging from leaves before their inevitable yielding to gravity, sliding off and into a puddle. ‘Air Pockets’ sloshes and sploshes, reverberating against empty plastic pipes. The flatness of sound and the shifting of tones as they bubble and sploosh is the aural equivalent of close reading, interrogating a source to microcosmic levels.

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‘All intensive purposes’ is one of those (many) misspeaks that drive me fucking crackers. And this release by there inexplicably—monikered ‘Pinkcourtesyphone’ is an album likely to frustrate and bend the brain, albeit for different reasons. With the exception of the final mid-album interlude, ‘Out of an Abundance’, these are darkly mellifluous drones that stretch well beyond the five-minute mark, and ebb and flow slowly amidst rumbles and reverberating snippets of conversation and radio. The mood is tense, unsettling; not creepy, so much as just uncomfortable, spine-tingling, ominous, and at times, other-wordly.

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Some will likely find something in one or another of these, while others will doubtless find all three of these releases to be of interest and collectively, they do very much provide a broad, wide-ranging view of matters experimental and ambient, presenting different perspectives of found sound and field recording. It’s credit to ROOM40 for giving space to these artists, and showcasing such a range of music from within what may, on the surface, appear a narrow field, and demonstrating otherwise.

Preston Capes – PCT001 – 1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The Front & Follow label may have reverted to mothballed status (at least for the time being), but that doesn’t mean that Justin Watson is doing nothing these days, despite the title of the latest release from three-way collective The Incidental Crack, who we’ve been following – and covering – for some time here at Aural Aggravation. For this outing, they’ve found a new home on newly-established cassette label – and these seem to be springing up all over now – Preston Capes (and I’m guessing no relation to Geoff).

As the notes explain, ‘The Incidental Crack began with Rob [Spencer] recording himself wandering around in the woods and finding a ‘cave’ – Justin put some weird noises to it, and then Simon joined in. The rest is history. The Incidental Crack are joined again by Dolly Dolly / David Yates on this album.’ Indeed, however much The Incidental Crack may evolve, they remain fundamentally unchanged, their albums assemblages of random field recordings and strangeness melted and melded into awkwardly-shaped sonic sculptures that unsettle the mind and by turns ease and tense the body.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing follows the two albums they released in 2021, the second of which, Detail, was a challenging and expansive work, and this very much continues in the same vein.

With The Incidental Crack, it very much feels as if anything goes, and reflecting on the name of the collective, this seems entirely appropriate. What their works represent is a crack, a fissure, in time, in continuity. Their methodology may not be specifically influenced by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-ups, but are, very much, open to, of not specifically channelling and incorporating, the assimilation of random elements, and have a collage aspect to their construction.

‘Shitload of Rocks’ is comparatively airy, and serves as a brief introductory passage before the dank, gloomy ambience of ‘The Worst Party’. It’s a dark, ominous piece that hovers and hums, echoes, clanks, and rumbles on for a quarter of an hour; it’s cold, clammy, and unsettling. But is it the worst party ever? While it does sound like hiding in a cave while an armed search party charged with the task of your erasure stomp around in adjacent tunnels off in the distance, I don’t actually hear any people, laughing drunkenly or loving the sound of their own voices while holding court with tedious anecdotes, so I don’t think so.

‘Hair falling from our bodies clogs up the sewers,’ we learn as a clattering beat clacks in and rattles away on the industrial chop-up churn of ‘Hair’, featuring Dolly Dolly, who’s clearly no sheep. It’s the album’s most percussive cut, the monotone spoken-word narrative somewhat surreal, and looping eighties synths bubble in around the midpoint, although it’s probably too weird for the Stranger Things retro adopters.

‘Couch Advantage’ is the album’s second longer piece, a sinuous, clattering workout almost nine minutes in duration. It’s minimal, yet somehow, there’s enough stuff going on as to render it all a blur: is that jazz drumming, a groove of sorts off in the distance? Or is it simply some clattering chaos, the sound of bacon sizzling? What is going on? And following the brief interlude that is ‘Belting’, the final piece, the ten-minute ‘Photography’ with more lyrical abstraction from Dolly Dolly depicting random fragmentary images against a backdrop of clicking sparks and evolving, supple sweeps of drifting clouds of sound. It’s all incidental, every second of it: fleeting, ephemeral – and in the cracks, is where it happens. As they open wider, you peer in, and observe. There is movement. There is life. Because life is what happens between the events, among the random incidents and accidents.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing may be confusing, bewildering, difficult to grasp – but it is, without doubt, a slice of life. You can do with that what you will.

AA

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