Experimental songwriting, post-classical-jazz-folk, and eventually some bass-infused jungle... all in a Sunday's work.
Lena Hessels - First [Terp Records]Lena Hessels - Sunflowerbby [Terp Records]
Two tracks from the incredibly assured debut from Lena Hessels. Scattershot indie/DIY stuff, with strange arrangements, off-kilter samples, and yet really catchy songs. She recorded this as she finished school, and is still only 18 years old. It's released on her parents' label, and oh yes - her dad is Terrie Hessels of legendary Dutch anarcho-punks The Ex, and her Mum is a violinist as well as co-running Terp Records. Good pedigree, but even greater talent.
Paula Rae Gibson & Kit Downes - Love On Time [Slowfoot]Paula Rae Gibson & Kit Downes - Black Hole [Slowfoot]
An album of beautifully controlled understatement from English singer-songwriter and photographer Paula Rae Gibson, collaborating for the first time with composer & pianist Kit Downes, who plays various instruments across this album including, on the first track, cello. Gibson's delivery reminds me a little of the emotional yet controlled work of Carla Bozulich (high praise!) or PJ Harvey (whose early work I hear a bit of in Lena Hessels too). Downes' playing and arrangements are the perfect foil for Gibson - dark, cavernous, entirely without melodrama.
Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore - Damaged Sunset [Three Lobed Recordings]
I've been following Meg Baird since her folk-rock group Espers was only one album in, although to be honest I became more of a fan with the simple beauty of her solo work. She's also a consummate collaborator, and it's lovely hearing her working with experimental harpist Mary Lattimore. On this track, with the vocals and acoustic guitar up front, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's basically a (wonderful) solo Meg Baird track, but listen on headphones and immerse yourself, and you'll hear lots of bubbly tones stretching out through the background like aural lens flare...
Kim Myhr, Quatuor Bozzini, Caroline Bergvall, Ingar Zach - days [Hubro]Kim Myhr, Quatuor Bozzini, Caroline Bergvall, Ingar Zach - thngs dispr [Hubro]
Norwegian guitarist & composer Kim Myhr can do no wrong, and this album is probably his best work since the 2016 collaboration with Jenny Hval & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Myhr's 12-string guitar work is exquisite, often focusing on repeated broken chords in unusual chromatic voicings. Similarly his string arrangements, beautifully played here by Montréal string quartet Quatuor Bozzini, favour the perfectly placed dissonance of minor or major 2nds, and gentle hairpins. The great Ingar Zach contributes a myriad of unusual percussion, and the record centres around French-Norwegian (and London resident!) poet Caroline Bergvall, whose declarative style of speak-singing perfectly matches the minimalist/maximalist music. I could listen to this over and over.
Adam Basanta - Casual Optimist [Kasuga Records]Adam Basanta - 1000 Tunnels [Kasuga Records]
On Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch Montréal-based musician Adam Basanta takes a recording of a single acoustic guitar improvisation and re-contextualises it by chopping it up and rebuilding it - at times we hear tiny snippets glitched into Ryoji Ikeda-like rhythmic buzzing, while at other times the sample length increases and we hear the jangly qualities of the acoustic guitar, granulated into lovely filigree constructions. The press releases don't mention it, but there are definitely fragments of wordless vocals overlaid in there at times, giving an additional human touch to the pieces as they open up here and there. The granular processing is very intricately arranged into evolving, through-composed works. What could be a fairly academic exercise is gorgeously immersive and rewards multiple listens.
Erik Griswold - Yokohama flowers [Room40]Erik Griswold - Guaguanco [Erik Griswold Bandcamp]Erik Griswold - Pleasure principle [Room40]Erik Griswold - Day dream [Room40]
The prepared piano work of Erik Griswold is pure delight. On one level it's boundary-pushing New Music, sure, with complex cross-rhythmic patterns that you sometimes can't believe are being played by one pianist. But on the other hand, so much of it is so joyful and full of life, it just brings a smile to the face. On "Guaguanco", from 2002, the patterns switch direction at various points in breathtaking ways. "Yokohama flowers" (title track of his new album) and "Pleasure Principle" (from 2015's Pain Avoidance Machine) are just lovely melodic works, while "Day dream" is a little more ambient, but interjects little double-time riffs into the proceedings now and then. Head music for the feet, dance music for the brain.
Kiln and Mute Forest - Bones ov Chorus [Lost Tribe Sound]Manyfingers & William Ryan Fritch - A Threadbare Web [Lost Tribe Sound]
Two great and unexpected collaborations, for the new compilation on Lost Tribe Sound, We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadow. As usual if you get the physical version (either on its own or part of various subscription packages on their Bandcamp), it's luxuriously appointed. There's much more to find inside, but tonight we heard the Michigan ambient trio Kiln working with Colorado producer Kael Smith aka Mute Forest, infusing indiefolktronica with field recordings, while Manyfingers' distinctive queasy varispeed strings (recalling his long work with Third Eye Foundation/Matt Elliott) fit in perfectly with the similarly soundtracky arrangements of William Ryan Fritch. This compilation shows perfectly what the Lost Tribe Sound label is up to today, with a whole lot of exclusive stuff. Highly recommended...
Chris Adams & Oliver Doerell - Ni Maitre Ni Dieu (reprise) [THESIS 14]
Another unexpected collaboration, here courtesy of the excellent US label THESIS, famous for just these kinds of pairings. Chris Adams was once frontman of the greatest band ever, Hood, and makes music as Bracken and Downpour. Oliver Doerell is a member of German jazz/postrock/electronic trio Dictaphone and ambient/electronic duo Swod. These tracks are floaty worldtronica, with occasional vocals and beats. Absolutely lovely.
Rognvald - Tranquilizer [Love Love Records]Rognvald - Selecta Scene [Love Love Records]
UK producer Richard Wilson releases music under various aliases, including the rather dubious Beatwife, for which he's known for acid techno. He was also one half of Misty Conditionsdoing heavily distorted bass music of all stripes on one awesome album for Planet Mu in 2013. Over this year he's put out three 12"s for Love Love Records as Rognvald, exploring jungle and breakcore with heaps of heavy bass. On these two tracks we see the sounds abstracted from their dance music purposes, with stretched out ambient washes, bass drops and MCs calling, although eventually the snare rushes and amen breaks are allowed to skitter and punch their way in.
Sully - Qualia [Astrophonica]Moresounds - Shut Up [Astrophonica]
Finally, Fracture's mighty Astrophonica have released their second Gradients compilation (the first dropped early in 2017) showcasing the label's love of all things jungle & drum'n'bass, with slow-fast jungle/bass/footwork hybrids as well as more direct d'n'b productions. Nobody's doing jungle productions with as much fluidity as Sully at the moment, and his contribution is one of his best in a while. There's plenty more to love in here (including Luke Vibert combining his love of acid with his love of drum'n'bass!), but Parisian prodigy Moresounds jumping between dubsteppy bass and junglisms really hits the spot.
This is an Australian track.