Pure, Beyond Reproach

Halocine Trance
Streets: 02.03
Egyptrixx = Area + Laurie Anderson

Since his 2011 debut, Bible Eyes, Toronto-based producer David Psutka—aka Egyptrixx—has been taking his music further and further away from that record’s pop-oriented dance music. While Bible Eyes pulsed with heavy drum grooves and throbbing basslines, each subsequent release has been filled more by drones and slow, distorted percussion lines. This trend continues on Pure, Beyond Reproach, Psutka’s second album on his own Halocline Trance label. With Pure, Psutka all but entirely removes himself from the world of dance music, instead making an album that aims to combine heavy-as-lead beats with drifting ambient noise. The most successful tracks on here achieve a perfect balance and feel up to par with many of the fantastic works that came out of NON Worldwide and the Janus Collective last year.

As much as this music sounds blurry and massive, there are lingering elements of electronic pop throughout the record. The subtlest but most important element of these is the song structures. Most of these 10 tracks function on quite simple progressions, each with two or three sections alternating in a sort of verse-chorus-verse sequence. It’s tempting to look down upon this as not conforming to the idea that drone music should be formless, but this trick helps reinforce some of the melodies and loops that Egyptrixx puts in his tracks, repeating them to the point that they become almost catchy.

The other pop trope used here is vocals. Earlier, Egyptrixx records had their share of vocals, but on those songs, the guest singers would be front and center, delivering their lyrics through crystal-clear production. On Pure, Beyond Reproach, however, the vocals are buried deep in the mix. On both the title track and “Anodyne Wants to Ammo,” which happen to be two of the most exciting tracks here, a crooning voice gets thrown under layers of distorted drum programming and buzzing synths until it sounds like a robot singing from beyond a digital grave. “Anodyne” also contains one of the sole up-tempo grooves on the whole record, and as such, it serves as a much-needed respite from the dragging ambience of the tracks before and after.

Other tracks are more abstract and use driving rhythm to produce a dizzying effect, recalling the early minimalist work of Terry Riley and Steve Reich. “We Can Be Concrete” takes an arpeggiating keyboard riff and repeats it ad infinitum. The sound of this melody is both grating and subtle, sounding like a brake drum and a warm synthesizer. If there’s one thing that Psutka does better than most, it’s choosing his sounds. Each track on here contains a combination of breezy keyboards and brittle electronic drums, and the slight variations between tracks show his supremely nitpicky approach to his craft.

If this record doesn’t always interest or connect, it’s because of a reliance on formula. A few of the tracks here, especially the first (“Lake of Contemplation, Pool of Fundamental Bond”) and the last (“Ti Exactamundo”), feel like they use the same tricks to get their points across: dreamy and fluid sections that get interrupted by big percussion hits and noise samples. While these tracks are individually enjoyable, they feel monotonous in the context of the whole record. Egyptrixx might not have crafted a completely genre-bending and expectation-shattering electronic record, but Pure, Beyond Reproach shows both the producer’s ambition and skill, and it certainly comes with a load of gems that will warrant repeat listens throughout 2017. –Connor Lockie

Editor’s Note: The original version of this article misspelled David Psutka’s name. The corrections have been made.

Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel
I Can Spin a Rainbow

Cooking Vinyl
Street: 05.05
Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel = Kate Bush + Lewis Carroll

With their new collaborative record, Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel claim that they can not only spin a yarn, but a full-fledged rainbow. Thankfully, this isn’t an empty boast. The songs here feature long, complex storylines full of fantastic characters and alternate worlds. There’s an underlying darkness to each one, reflecting tensions that the two artists see in their reality now.

I Can Spin a Rainbow isn’t musically remarkable. That’s not to imply that the compositions aren’t well-executed—they are. Rather, the music here is so subservient to the stories Palmer and Ka-Spel sing that, often, the instrumental aspect of the songs can take a quiet, subtle form. The light piano and string arrangements on each track often feel like operatic recitatives, where the music takes a minimal approach in order to help the vocalist advance the plotline.

When these stories contain some semblance of the real, Palmer and Ka-Spel find the greatest success. “Pulp Fiction” is the welcome party, romanticizing the promise of a new life and the draw of the unknown, forming a powerful escapist anthem. The bleakest track on the record is “The Shock of Kontakt,” the only story that abandons fantasy altogether. The three verses show two characters’ relationship in different stages: impoverished but heartfelt love, deceit and financial instability and eventual disconnection when the narrator’s partner takes the blame for her lover’s crime, leading to a prison sentence. Through all of these trials, “the shock of contact” (both sexual and not) keeps the couple’s love alive. It’s a gloomy but heartfelt story, and Palmer’s expressive delivery gives these emotions tangibility.

“The Clock at the Back of the Cage” is another standout, using a lush glockenspiel-based arrangement as its background. The story itself is rooted in a dark scenario, portraying an exploitative circus master and his subjects, one of whom Ka-Spel claims to have known and lost. “How they crowned you, weighted and drowned you / How they made you numb,” sings Palmer, expressing how power can both glorify and diminish at the same time. The track finishes with Ka-Spel showing defeat, given that the captive has done so: “There’s a nice patch of straw, and a comfortable cage,” noting how the trick of contentment can cause people to accept their oppression. Even though the story is fictional, the message feels eerily prescient.

Sometimes Palmer and Ka-Spel delve too far into an absurd fantasy and lose focus. Tracks like “Beyond the Beach” and “The Changing Room” feature bizarre characters going to various places, but they never really seem to do much or expose anything. Against the powerful commentary and detailed stories on other tracks, some of the weaker ones feel more like random excursions into goofy and mindless playtime.

The vinyl edition of the record comes with two instrumental bonus tracks. “Subway” is an eerie sound collage and “The Sun Still Shines” is an acoustic-ambient cut similar to Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs with its meditative strums. It’s a shame Palmer and Ka-Spel save their musical best for these non-album tracks, since it makes the other instrumentals feel even more lackluster in comparison. The two have certainly stretched their lyrical muscles here, creating what might be some of the most haunting and potent stories released this year. As the hour-plus record wears on, however, it starts to feel like reading I Can Spin a Rainbow in print edition might be more enjoyable than listening to the recorded version. –Connor Lockie

Dan Deacon | Rat Film OST | Domino Soundtracks

Dan Deacon
Rat Film OST

Domino Soundtracks
Street: 10.13
Dan Deacon = Bing & Ruth + Eluvium

If you asked me who would be my top pick to soundtrack a film about the intersecting lives of rats and humans, my last option would be the musician whose last release was a sugary dance-anthem called “Change Your Life (You Can Do It).” Then again, Dan Deacon has never been a one-dimensional artist, and though there’s often a brevity and cheeriness to his music, there are a few glimpses of Deacon as a darker, more distressed composer (look specifically at the “USA” suite that closes out his 2012 record, America). It’s this side of his musicianship, along with a more nuanced and subtle style of writing, that brings him success on Rat Film.

Even removed from the footage, many of these tracks still deliver strong emotional characters. Save the opener and closer (which are variations of each other), each track works off of an instrumentation and style that’s nearly unrecognizable from the cut before and after it. However, while the sonic palette is wide, there are a few unifying elements of composition that hold the album together. Deacon uses ambient clichés like rhythmic phrasing and harmonic overlay frequently, but he’s so good at manipulating these elements that a little reliance on convention is forgivable. While the nostalgic synthesizers of “Horn Phase” might initially sound musical worlds apart from the dissonant, screeching strings of “Harold’s Lament,” the way that the music will move through many emotional and tonal centers almost unnoticeably binds the two.

Outside of these more abstract, ambient tracks lie some wonderful cuts with a bit of force—or at least identifiable rhythm—to them. One standout is “Pelican,” which takes the dreamy atmosphere of the first half of the record and gives it a little more momentum. The sliding bass melodies and dampened tom beat make this sound a bit like an AOR riff on painkillers as the music slumbers along its runtime. Rarely does music sound this laid-back and careless yet still maintain a steady drive and purpose. The second half of the record moves away from serenity and toward darkness and conflict, reaching its apex during “Video Game.” A deep, distorted synthesizer line swells and contracts throughout, with creaking thin tones on one end and booming, monstrous chords on the other. Everything is grounded by a rattling, percussion-like keyboard that speeds up and slows down throughout, following the shifting energy of the harmonies.

There’s an odd stretch of tracks in the middle of the album (“Harold” to “Seagull”) that are all short, underdeveloped synthesizer ideas. It’s doubly frustrating to not only see these interesting and well-composed remains as fragments themselves when Deacon goes on to show off how well he can craft longer, more expansive tracks on the rest of the album. The soundtrack format suggests that these are one-time examples of motifs that occur frequently throughout the film, but it still feels like Deacon missed an opportunity to see these tracks through to their fullest ends.

I’m normally not a fan of soundtrack albums, as many rely too heavily on their visual counterparts for success, but Rat Film is a shockingly good standalone ambient record. A lot of the glitzy, ecstatic ooze that coats Deacon’s music and has turned me off in the past is washed away. Here, Deacon shows himself as a more reserved, contemplative composer, one expertly capable of manipulating moods and balancing headiness with viscera. –Connor Lockie

Arian Shafiee
Beauty Tuning

Hausu Mountain
Street: 03.23
Arian Shafiee = Noah Creshevsky + Yves Tumor + Oneohtrix Point Never

The debut solo release from Guerilla Toss guitarist Arian Shafiee approaches psychedelic music as an untamable, constantly shifting style. Not only is his music more diverse than the genre typically entails, but his conceptual range is equally varied. Though the touchstones of exoticism, vast, open landscapes and plenty of drug use still inform his music, he extends his scope to encompass more digitally relevant material. Beauty Tuning is mind-altering in the way that stepping outside after a getting locked in a YouTube rabbit hole blurs your vision and stuns you back into physicality. Shafiee makes psychedelia for the fragmented self of the internet age, where reality has taken on the surreal disorientation once reserved for fantasy.

In an appropriately hallucinatory manner, Beauty Tuning rides a fine line between spiritual ecstasy and a bad trip. While there are moments of transcendence and otherworldly beauty, there’s also a fair share of inexplicable terror. Opener “Dramafree” is the most chaotic piece on the record, full of glitching electronics and half-finished melodic motives that taunt the listener by constantly avoiding resolution. There there are the swarming quarter tones on “ASMR Sigh,” which, as they build in volume and number, start to sound like mosquitos buzzing through the mix. Each track delivers a distinct character, constantly complicating any hope of finding a single mood that defines the album.

Beauty Tuning’s structure helps ease this tumultuous genre-hopping, especially as it highlights its two centerpieces. At roughly 10 minutes each, “Voice or Trash” and “Perfect Memory” are nearly two-thirds of the entire album’s length, and each multi-faceted track takes Shafiee into various territories of psychedelic bliss. The former opens with incessant keyboard motives and some expressive guitar soloing. For the first time on the album, the harmonies are noticeably beautiful, building toward climaxes of explosive resolution. The track slowly decompresses into a messy, disorienting take on stoner rock that takes the genre’s penchant for sludgy riff-riding to new extremes. Even more varied—though far from disjointed—is “Perfect Memory,” which manages to transition between rigid guitar playing and heavenly synthesized strings before eventually collapsing into a wash of distortion and slowly shifting keyboard passages.

Outside of a few recurring sonic preferences (distorted guitars, electronically manipulated Eastern instruments), Beauty Tuning’s primary unifying factor is its dissatisfaction with unity. The only thing you can expect the music to do is defy expectations, so enjoyment depends on a submission to and coping with Shafiee’s restless sonic spirit. Some might find themselves searching for some key to understanding the music, but others will rejoice in an album that only defines itself by the umbrella of “psychedelic,” a term whose very meaning is complicated and deconstructed by Shafiee’s compositions.

While there’s no shortage of druggy music out there, Shafiee’s addition is a welcome one. Far from capturing one style or reference point, his music embodies the whole of mind-altering culture. The glory of this music is that it finds common ground in electroacoustic sound collage, slow-burning guitar workouts and densely structured harmonic progressions. Shafiee finds connections between ASMR and Lucier, between different music from deserts across the world and a society within the internet. However short it might be, Beauty Tuning delivers a wealth of material that continues to deliver on repeat listens. The simple pleasures of wonky melodies and mystifying surprises never grow stale, and the litany of unsolvable puzzles buried in each track keep the music endlessly interesting, even if only for the sake of morbid curiosity. –Connor Lockie

The Frenetic Process | Early Onset > Late Bloomer | Self-Released

The Frenetic Process
Early Onset > Late Bloomer

Street: 04.20
The Frenetic Process = Klein + Hype Williams

Early Onset > Late Bloomer is the latest from The Frenetic Process, a local electronic duo consisting of Matt Saari and Caleb Johnson. Together, they build gigantic walls of sound that morph into experimental dance tracks. Early Onset—on many frontsis a behemoth of a record. Every sound is drenched in cavernous reverb then mixed to the front, and there never seems to be any fewer than a dozen things happening at once.

This trait is compounded by the fact that each track is a densely structured, multi-dimensional endeavor. Ambient intros and outros, subtle variations, and continual development mark many of the compositions. While this could make it tough to follow the music along its winding path, Saari and Johnson always provide a roadmap. “Twilight Satellite Valley” is a particularly wandering track, though the repeating samples of glitched-out singing laced throughout are one of many facets stringing the anomalous parts together.

These vocal samples, while not the star of the album, are one of its most important qualities. Though most of the sounds here are intensely digital (drum machines, MIDI, synthesizers), the inclusion of human elements adds an eerie mirror to the electronic landscape. Instead of warping these sounds into the fold, The Frenetic Process leave enough of their original nature to retain the human identity. “Harsh Noise Monthly” threatens to be one of the most confounding tracks on the record, with its rhythmically conflicting synthesizers, tittering drum machines and abundance of space. However, at the track’s midpoint, a naked singing sample appears. The sleek, unemotional chrome backdrop is sullied by the simple, sorrowful sounds of humanity.

All of these effects would be a bust if Early Onset wasn’t so delicately produced. Every sound is perfectly crisp, each rhythm precisely aligned. For an album that sounds so distraught on the surface, its creation was the labor of careful love. This is ultimately what separates The Frenetic Process from other hyper-digital groups. Instead of hiding behind layers of irony and sarcasm, as many experimental artists do, Saari and Johnson seem like they truly care and enjoy the music they make. Yes, there are bad computer puns in the track titles. Yes, the closing track is an overly saccharine ode to digital romance. But through all this, Early Onset never stops being intensely colorful, danceable and enjoyable. –Connor Lockie

Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends | Nue | RVNG Intl.

Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends

RVNG Intl.
Street: 09.28
Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends = Forest Management + Pauline Oliveros

For the better part of a decade, RVNG’s FRKWYS series has been linking contemporary artists up with their logical influences. In what has to the most wholesome edition so far, drone composer Tashi Wada gathers a group of his friends (including Julia Holter and Corey Fogel) and his father, esteemed musician Yoshi Wada, to realize a set of pieces that explore a mysterious connection between space, harmony and timbre.

As far as the textures on Nue go, they’re wholly strange and constantly in flux. After a brief intro by Tashi alone on a synthesizer, the full group enters for the otherworldly hum of “Ground.” The instrumental mix alone is something unique: muted bass drums, synthesizer swells and bagpipes. This isn’t the first time the Wada family has used this nasally instrument before, but the sound can take some getting used to for anyone not familiar with their prior work. Especially contrasting the soothing low end of the other players, the piercing drones of the bagpipes are jarring.

This odd mix never stops the structural aspect of the pieces from speaking, and the music of “Ground” is a fascinating exercise in patience. Most of the track feels like one note stacked on top of itself in a dozen layers. As the music progresses, each individual slowly adds a subsequent pitch or harmony to build a mass of sound. In its final moments, some of the synths start to glitch and shift, brining in an anxious feeling that was always present but masked as a dreamy wash.

While this extended, layered approach remains throughout the record, the group’s ability to alternate moods and sound combinations keeps the music form stagnating. One of the most haunting and memorable tracks is “Ondine,” the only cut to bring in musicians beyond the core quartet. Simone Forti, Jessika Kenney and Laura Steenberge join Holter to form a choir of eerie, wordless vocals. In a broad sense, it accomplishes the same thing as the tracks preceding and following it: stretching out a single sound, only adding new sounds when it becomes absolutely necessary. Here, though, the overall effect is more tumultuous.

Yoshi has roots in the 1960s performance art movement Fluxus, and that group’s surreal, kitchen sink approach is present. On a few tracks, the Wadas play intricately pitched sirens, and on “Bottom of the Sky,” Holter and Yoshi enact a duet between resonant bells and alarm clocks. In the 50-some years since the origin of these practices, however, Yoshi and the generation after him have gained a new understanding of how to translate these ideas into something other than gleeful absurdism.

This growth in sincerity is present the most toward the album’s close. As the mood shifts to introspection. “Mutable Signs” is a duet between Holter and Tashi, and it offers Nue’s most calming moment. The duo builds a cushiony base of an uncharacteristically moving harmonic progression, and Holter gives a vocal performance that is nothing short of heavenly. The music glistens and offers a welcome contrast to the surrounding discomfort.

Nue is characterized by these musician’s ability to take the strangeness of these compositions and arrangements and turn them into something with emotional potency. Never does it feel like the group underestimate the unorthodox nature of their choices, but never do they fail to offer something beyond curious interest. The focus is always on finding a way to turn nonconforming abstraction into something that reaches unfathomable levels of feeling. –Connor Lockie

Feymarch | BEDROOM EYE | Self-released


Street: 10.14
Feymarch = Throbbing Gristle + Xiu Xiu + Mooninite

Feymarch is one Kyle McFarland, and BEDROOM EYE is the artist’s new mini-album. The eight-track release consists of lo-fi electronic music that doesn’t seem to stay put in one category. The only uniting factors are the gritty production quality and Feymarch’s flat, drone-like voice. The music here pays homage to many sorts of homemade music and succeeds in understanding the disparate styles and replicating a few of them.

Most of the tracks here offer a quiet experience with the slow, synthetic backing tracks rarely rising above a hum and Feymarch’s vocals a sensual whisper. Take the track “Let’s Play.” Over a punchy and clipped drumbeat, Feymarch’s hushed vocals are so high in the mix that it borders on an ASMR-like delivery. The track’s ending is somewhat unique on the record, replacing the normal subtlety with huge blasts of distorted synthesizers. It sounds triumphant and complete, a feeling missing from some of the other track’s structures.

The non-melodic vocals on “Let’s Play” work well and are a good place for Feymarch. When the singing attempts an expressive and melodic character, it sometimes misses the mark, like on the closing track “Petnames,” where the off-key singing is uncomfortable. However, on a track like “Dude Ranch,” the atonality of the vocals works well. Feymarch layers sweeping lines of singing over each other until it becomes extremely cacophonous. The eerie atmosphere that the beginning of this track gives is enhanced when the synthesizers enter and clash perfectly with Feymarch’s vocal lines. The dissonance is grating and offers a needed break from the soft, clicking grooves and mumbled singing.

The track “Baby IV” showcases yet another style of lo-fi music. Instead of paying homage to static-laden electronics, this track looks toward underground garage rock as an influence. The distorted vocals and crushingly noisy chord progressions that make up the track wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ty Segall track. What’s more shocking than the sudden shift away from electronics is how well Feymarch fits into this sound. The chaos suits the artist’s drawl well and makes “Baby IV” one of the most exciting tracks on the whole album. BEDROOM EYE is a cluster of lo-fi sounds, and Feymarch finds comfort in this thrown-together and dirty musical environment. –Connor Lockie

Laurel Halo | Dust | Hyperdub

Laurel Halo

Street: 06.23
Laurel Halo = James Ferraro + Holly Herndon

After a few quiet years, Laurel Halo returns with Dust, her first release to feature vocals since 2012’s now-classic Quarantine. However, the comparisons between those two records end there: Dust finds Halo in a new mode, working with warped dance samples, freely improvised drumming and an arsenal of pitched percussion. The product is a record that overflows with musical nuance. Holding everything together is an alien, dreamlike atmosphere and Halo’s ability to playfully manipulate rhythms while writing gorgeous melodies.

The first half of the record delivers the most lively cuts Halo has ever released, but still veers far left of convention. Opener “Sun to Solar” features a looping techno sample that’s chopped-up and clipped, removing any sense of homogeneity. The whole track undergoes one massive swell, climaxing with a cacophony of echoing vocals and dissonant synthesizers. Lead single “Jelly” is vibrant, featuring a driving drum loop and a circus of warped vocals. As confounding as it is when Halo drops a line like “My eyes, back there in the mirror where I left them,” her syncopated delivery is gleefully punchy. 

“Moontalk” is the most bombastic track here, featuring busy hand percussion and a goofy, triumphant synth sample. Again, Halo disregards linear structure in favor of staggering repetitions and entrances, implanting wayward sounds, varying from strings to dial tones. Her lyrics ask “What if you walked? And what if on your walk, you breathed? And what if on your breath, you heard the moon talk?” Surreal imagery is common on Dust, where lyrical fragments often obscure the places, situations and actors of Halo’s stories. On “Who Won?,” a pitch-shifted spoken-word piece tops a cluttered and eerie ambient instrumental. “They arrived yesterday. Everything is ready. What’s the phone number? What’s the password?” the narrator drones, rambling to no one in particular.

The use of studio treatment on Halo’s voice often obscures the lyrics beyond recognition: She freely floats between different languages and layers her voice into stacked choruses. As such, the vocals lie in a sort of linguistic, uncanny valley, close to legibility but still shattered across language borders and distorted toward confusion.

The second half of the record does away with energetic dance tracks in favor of more subdued and slower compositions. “Like an L” features dreamy synthesizers so densely layered that the harmonies blur together, but the flat progression doesn’t offer much in terms of direction. Thankfully, a few tracks later comes “Do U Ever Happen,” and Halo showcases her ability to write a truly moving ballad. The number of different instrumental tones that randomly pop up throughout the track are innumerable, but each one feels delicately placed and adds to the track’s controlled mania. When the harmonized vocals question, “Did this ever happen? Do you ever happen?,” it feels like a summation of everything on Dust. No matter how tangible things might get, there’s still an underlying sense that it all might be a dream or a ruse.

Dust ends with a track fittingly titled “Buh-bye” and serves as a last-ditch effort to explore Halo’s experimental tendencies. Easily the most convoluted and abstract piece here, it’s disorienting how much Halo packed into the glitchy mix of percussion and synthesizers. Even though it might not have the visceral immediacy of “Jelly” and “Moontalk” nor the intense emotionality of “Syzygy” and “Do U Ever Happen,” its complete disregard of structured coherence makes it a worthy closer. Dust is truly a musical feat. Laurel Halo has found new bounds of hyper-abstract dance music and displayed them vividly.–Connor Lockie

Moth Cock | 0-100 at the Speed of the Present | Hausu Mountain

Moth Cock
0-100 at the Speed of the Present

Hausu Mountain
Street: 11.17
Moth Cock = Black Dice + Wolf Eyes + Mukqs

The orange face on the cover of every Hausu Mountain release serves as both a subtle warning and a firm promise. Hausu music is always strange and often abrasive, but it’s also some of the highest-quality material to come out of left-field electronica. Such descriptions apply to Ohio-based duo Moth Cock and their new record, 0-100 at the Speed of the Present. Doug Gent (reeds) and Pat Modugno (electronics) have created a fantastic blend of colorful noise and free-improvisation, resulting in one of this year’s most confounding yet enjoyable records.

A lot of the album seems like Moth Cock is trying to one-up the listener by constantly pulling musical tricks to keep the music unpredictable. On “A Gust That Night Never Ended,” a steady drum loop cuts in and out, often leaving the duo in segments of arrhythmic drone. Still, the drums always return into the noise and confirm that the duo maintains their composure even through the most random-sounding sections.

This characteristic defines much of 0-100 and is one of the duo’s greatest strengths. On first listen, the album sounds like the product of one session where Gent and Modugno let their ideas run rampant and unrestrained. However, each subsequent listen reveals 0-100’s dense structures and clever writing. This is true of both individual tracks and the album as a whole, where each small part adds toward a bigger concept. Longer tracks like “Let Us Share a Coke” never settle in one place for long, but there are deep connections between each section. The opening drones give way into a drum beat that slowly builds upon itself, constantly complicating the sense of meter. Letting moments of confusion linger is one of Moth Cock’s favorite tricks, but one that they always execute well. 

“Let Us Share A Coke” continues to swell, adding in beeping synths and heavy distortions while Gent switches up the style of his saxophone playing. Even though the same lumbering drum track plays throughout, there’s a clear distinction between the slower, more expansive playing of the front half and the more sparse, pointillistic shrieks in the middle. Moth Cock build their tracks out of small amounts of material but always manage to morph and twist each idea into something unexpected.

These tracks are also sequenced expertly with Moth Cock’s catastrophic, post-civilized universe coming closer into focus as the album goes on. The dissonant accordion melody of the opener seems worlds away from the rapid hand percussion loops that follow on “Catastrophic Currency,” but Moth Cock use their arsenal of synth tones to connect these ideas. The ending of the title track (one of the noisiest sections on 0-100) falls always softly, and the opening kick drum of “The Flesh Shall Never Enter” doesn’t so much relieve the tension as heighten it. Moth Cock hold this tension for the whole track, letting it swell toward huge electronic noise that never resolves. Each of these sounds originate in some place or time, but Moth Cock reappropriate them to fit 0-100’s disassembling purpose.

This idea is as old as electronic music itself. Early musique concrète pieces placed far-reaching sounds in conflict with each other, and the best of these (Stockhausen’s Telemusik is one of my personal favorites) use this conflict to create meaning or reinterpret culture in an increasingly globalized setting. Moth Cock take these ideas and carry them further, using their music to bring all these styles into the absurd, chaotic present. –Connor Lockie

Similar Fashion
Portrait of

Street: 02.16
Similar Fashion = Zs + it foot, it ears + Evil Genius


Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the new album from Utah expats Similar Fashion. The quartet fuses the worlds of avant-rock, jazz and classical music to form a whole that, although deeply informed by the stuffy traditions of academic music-making, ends up being an exhilarating and sugar-coated ride through blistering saxophone playing, absurdist lyricism and—yes—plenty of polyrhythms.

Even though the music often comes off as scorching (and John Dieterich’s production job is heavy and forceful), Portrait of never sacrifices enjoyment and musical beauty for aggression. A huge part of this is Lauren Baba’s viola playing, which adds a layer of refined nuance whenever it enters. Sometimes that’s a sweeping orchestral line (“Portrait of James Turrell”), or it’s a series of playful bluegrass slides (“Myra’s Fortune”), but her addition is always a good mediating factor within Similar Fashion’s colliding musical elements.

Then there are the melodies, which—track after track—are pure gold. “My Heart & Lungs” is one of the more subdued cuts on the album, and its twinkling guitar lines and surreal, peaceful lyrics are a moment of serenity on Portrait of. In a different vein, the varied iterations and instrumental backgrounds of the main motif on “We Watched the Car Sink Into the Puddle” showcase the extreme diversity possible within 10 notes: at once frantic and searching, but later more akin to an agitated lament when the music stretches out into lush chord progressions.

Most of all, though, Similar Fashion are incredible at being loud, dexterous and strange. The brief “Melonface” is one of the most baffling minutes on the record, its incessant saxophone riffs and bludgeoning distortion falling to pieces by the end of the cut. Closer “Get Away” combines all the best elements of the band into a satisfying finale: conflicting guitar riffs, heavy but precise drumming, a grand chorus of saxophone, strings and multi-layered vocals and an equal focus on abrasion and harmony. Even though it’s the softer moments that help set Similar Fashion apart from their experimental rock contemporaries, they more than stand among the best when it comes to eccentric, full-throttle compositions. –Connor Lockie