Dirty Beaches has been laid to rest, but Alex Zhang Hungtai remains a wanderer. In the statement that accompanies swansong Stateless, he comments on the transitory and unpredictable nature of life and prompts us to “brace ourselves for the ever changing tides of time.” Above, find the profoundly affective audio-visual representation of this rather melancholy existential mindset. Godspeed to us all as we wander through this life!
Stateless is out now via Zoo Music.
It is pretty much impossible to classify the music of Finnish collective Kemialliset Ystävät. I might say its style is kind of psychedelic, appears to be predominantly electronic, and has exotic elements, but half the time I can’t even tell what is generating the sounds on latest album Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa: Live instrumentation? Sampling? Synthesizer? Voice? You could say it is a mash-up of world music (particularly from the Far East), krautrock, chiptune, and plunderphonics, but in the end I’m not comfortable isolating any one of those (micro)genres. Ultimately, Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa is sui generis – the style is Kemialliset Ystävät’s alone.
The result is an ironically whimsical experience. Alas would be the perfect soundtrack for a Hayao Miyazaki movie – images of Spirited Away and Porco Rosso filled my head, well before the oinking pig samples that come in at the end of the clap-led centerpiece “Vettä Yarahille.” A few more of my favorite moments are the initially boisterous and later moody “Arkistorotat/Risuilla Täyteyssä Salissa,” the clanking and marching “Naderbux & Sundergrund,” and the ethereal “Hetkinen,” which I swear sounds exactly like part of the Spirited Away soundtrack. I wish I could, as usual, lay down a bunch of interesting genre descriptors to posit an idea of the aesthetic and pique your interest. But I hope my inability to do so for this LP will have the same enticing effect. I’ll try one last film allusion: if there were a Studio Ghibli-produced adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, this would be the score.
- From my joint Ultima II Massage / Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa review for The Arts Fuse
Jason Lescalleet is coming forward as a proponent for the virtue of instant gratification with monthly/quarterly subscription series This Is What I Do (deets on his Glistening Examples website).
In an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes, the musique concrète virtuoso touched down on the value of immediacy in music: “Part of this project’s value comes from the immediacy of the material… Immediacy means that I won’t have time to over think anything. Raw. Pure. Also, timely, current, now. A glimpse into my state of mind on a real time basis. Keeping it real.”
You might recall Lescalleet teaming up with Kevin Drumm to suck listeners into an inescapable void of emptiness and beauty earlier this year with The Abyss. If that’s not real, I don’t know what is. Help Lescalleet keep it real – check out last month’s This Is What I Do above and if it’s your bag, consider following the series as it makes its way into the new year. Enjoy!
Four Pattern Distorted Harmony is the fourth album released this year by Vitoria-based experimental music project i.o. I endorsed their album Edit Architect earlier this year.
Just like i.o’s previous exploits in 2014, this album is an intense, glitchy collection of tracks indulging in progressive rock, free jazz, noise rock, and match rock. It’s got a number of subtle, serene moments as well that work wonderfully as well. Enjoy!
Hypnotic: a term used too often to describe anything slightly disorienting.
Repetition: often overemphasized by writers to manufacture effect that isn’t there.
Jolting: applied to the softest of transitions.
Impressionistic: used to delineate music that barely hints at being allusive.
With Zs however, bold descriptors often apply simply because their music is doing bold things. This group boils musical ideas to their purest and most elemental forms before stacking another idea onto the fold. To employ so many strong musical expressions in the span of twelve minutes, lapsing into and out of focus yet maintaining a cohesive thought throughout is undoubtedly impressive. Free jazz, blues, industrial, and many more forms of music, some that I probably can’t even name, meld into each other here. “Corps” can be found on Zs’ upcoming album Xe, which was recorded in one sitting and is sure to contain similar experimentation.
Fresh off a Mercury Prize win, previously loved Young Fathers have dropped a new single titled “Soon Come Soon,” which features the trio’s usual blend of hip hop, African music, and alluring balladry. The song starts with a loose, primal groove and ends with a gorgeous set of vocal harmonies. It’s a warm track that brings back the natural vibe I enjoyed so much from their initial mixtapes, but was somehow forgotten on their recently released commercial debut.
A strange, unsettling single from the forthcoming Vision Fortune album, which is titled Country Music, and will be seeing a release via All Tomorrow’s Parties.
The otherworldly tones and deadpan vocals on “Dry Mouth” remind me quite a bit of Liars’ output in the 2000s, but even more challenging and pop-defying. Immediately after establishing the song’s central refrain, the band embarks upon an ominous instrumental interlude that leaves my mouth watering.
Burial Hex, the well established pseudonym of experimental singer-songwriter Clay Ruby, has reached its calculated end. Last week, Ruby put out The Hierophant, the most graceful finish conceivable for his long-running project. On past efforts, Burial Hex almost always had me wondering at what point a piece of music might be considered sui generis – his style has clear elements of darkwave, death industrial, and modern classical music, but this has always struck me as a trifling observation to say the least. I believe The Hierophant, fittingly Ruby’s most holistic statement to date, confirms this. So, I can really only set up the above title track by calling it a “Burial Hex song” and hope that’s enough to grab your attention.
Although this ‘death’ was prophesied or whatever, I can’t help but be sad that there won’t be any more Burial Hex music. Fingers crossed that like the recently concluded Dirty Beaches, Ruby will continue exploring his own sound under different names, but as is, he has given us one of the greatest avant-garde albums of the year. Anyway, I feel I should pay my respects: R.I.P. Burial Hex.
The Hierophant is out now via Handmade Birds.
Previously mentioned Living In Frames has a new single titled “Can’t Dream,” and it’s a joyous exercise in ambient maximalism. There lies no subtlety in the wailing production on this song, nor should there be. Beginning with a beautiful and layered chord progression, the song consistently hints at dropping into dance territory. However, every time the booming steps threaten to overshadow the song–at 2:40 the song literally teases a 2010-esque dubstep drop–they quickly dissolve away again. Living In Frames is not afraid to employ every sound at his disposal: dark ghost vocals, harsh reverb, glittery synths to fill out the sound, but most importantly, an ear for incredible melodies.
- Garrett Cottingham