Author: Ryan Hall

BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa / Anla Courtis
Golden Circle Afternoon
Editions Mego
Street: 10.13.14
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa / Anla Courtis = The Wanda Group + Skullflower + Rashad Becker

Written and recorded on a trip through Europe, this grouping of jarring noise/drone artists BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa and Buenos Aires–based guitarist Anla Courtis is some type of miasmic hell-ride into the Europe depicted in all those Hostel movies. I am saying that because my wife lumps this into all the “haunted house” music that I listen to. Golden Circle Afternoon is full of the type of squealing, squelching, contact-mic stabs of noise she is referring to. But listening beyond/past/through that offers some moments of pure brilliance on an otherwise straightforward noise record. The trio hits moments that rival Oneohtrix Point Never’s deconstructed synth styling during “Fish Is God” that is then blasted apart with some power-electronics blasts of noise. Courtis’ brain-melting guitar work is nearly undetectable, but his explorations into dynamic sonic landscapes have their mitts all over this record. –Ryan Hall

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The Mattson 2
Agar
Um Yeah Arts
Street: 09.16
The Mattson 2 = Popol Vuh + Niagara Falls + Dungen

Jazz rock, amiright? The Mattson 2’s latest album provides enough latitude, enough shape-shifting musical identities and go-for-the-throat thrill to snatch the term back from the terribly stilted ghetto of quasi-jam/easy-listening bands for retired hippy dads and local band leaders who like to rip off their players. Comprising a drummer playing a mix of hard bop, decidedly Eastern rhythms and a guitarist with more pedals than a roving, pedestrian-powered bar, this duo moves effortlessly from raga-inspired, quadruple-time burners to sliding, looping ambient passages that turn on a dime. This is some inspired stuff. If you thought that jazz rock was only dumbed-down covers played at your friend’s wedding reception/corporate event, Mattson 2 will make you seriously reconsider the endless possibilities between those two worlds. –Ryan Hall

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Metatag

Transmission

Hel-Audio

Street: 01.22

Metatag = Tangerine Dream + Oneohtrix Point Never + OuOu

Metatag’s tape cover bears a strong resemblance to Joy Division’s classic, Unknown Pleasures, if it were isolated and magnified a couple hundred times. Much like that image of a pulsar CP 1919 radio wave, Metatag plays under a microscope. Often restricted to a handful of repeating melodies undulating and ringing out and full of the warmest, most shimmering digital sounds created sans computer, Transmission also breaks wide open at times with a free-exchange between typical folk instrumentation (guitar, harpsichord) and the siren call of a deep, soulful drone. The who of this 60-plus minute tape is the mysterious Norwegian who goes by the symbol Ɵ, who put out an equally unpronounceable album last year full of dark-ambient soundscapes. This ever-ascending marble staircase of crystalline synths scratches all the itches that tape couldn’t. An album full of John Carpenter melody and repetition without any of the creeping darkness—this is beautiful stuff. –Ryan Hall
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Black Books
Self-Titled
Believe Recordings
Street: 10.01
Black Books = The Besnard Lakes + Band of Horses + Slowdive

Black Books write big songs confined to small places. There is an epic and anthemic quality to Black Book’s cloistered little pop songs: a driving, pulsing urge to express something too huge for words written in broad brush strokes of soaring choruses and the diffused light of atmospheric passages oozing out of guitars and synths that blend ambient colorings into vital, crunchy power chords. All of this is centered around Ross Gilfillan’s pronounced twang buried under a thick cotton sheet of reverb. Still, these songs don’t get all Kings of Leon fake histrionics. They hum, buzz gently and ring out as tiny mantras for everyday living. Black Books is your first fist pump of the day on your morning commute. –Ryan Hall

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pas musique inside spectrum album cover

pas musique inside spectrum album coverPas Musique
Inside the Spectrum

Alrealon Musique
Street: 05.12
Pas Musique = Nommo Ogo + Scrambles of Earth + Sindre Bjerga

Inside the Spectrum is 10 collages of morphing, undulating beats, guitar drones, manipulated electronics and acoustic instrumentation that, when put through the blender that is Pas Musique, sound like some terrifying, old-god mating call. Inside the Spectrum takes its cues and inspiration from the final frontier, blending in sampled lectures from physics professors and television edutainment from the Space Age that was still trying to understand and explain all of this new technology. What saves this record from another “interesting” (intellectually engaging but emotionally flat) designation is Pas Musique’s bizarro take on classic house, often allowing a 4/4 beat to ride into infinity while seemingly unaffected by the fuck-all weirdness happening around it. At a BPM right around our natural heartbeat, it makes the incomprehensible seem familiar and easily digestible. This album, with 10 tracks at around four to five minutes each, covers an ungodly amount of musical ground without sacrificing listenability. –Ryan Hall

Ron Morelli

Ron Morelli – A Gathering Together

Ron Morelli
A Gathering Together

Hospital Productions
Street: 09.21
Ron Morelli = Corporate Park + Vereker + Violet Poison

While the album title A Gathering Together seems to include the presence and (potential) enjoyment of that company, L.I.E.S label-head Ron Morelli’s latest sounds fully internal, as if ingested and playing out through the hard bone and soft tissues of Morelli’s body—very much removed from any sort of extroverted pleasures. The resulting work is an assemblage of buried synths, scraping metal dirges, pulsing and living gurgles and submerged cellular breathing that rides the bleeding edge between sound-art and dark-ambient. The exhale of waste and filth, the inhale of the same—there is rhythm to this record. It’s a creeping, bottom-feeding rhythm that scrapes its barnacle-y claws along the ocean’s floor but rarely peeks its head above the churning seas of Morelli’s anti-social milieu. It’s transcendental headphone music. –Ryan Hall

Dalhous – The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44

Dalhous
The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44

Blackest Ever Black
Street: 03.11
Dalhous = Vatican Shadow + Ron Morelli + Gates

For this Scottish duo’s third record, Dalhous create a lurid internal space that explores, they say, “the relationship between two individuals cohabiting the same creative space—their interactions, their sense of self and each other and the pregnant space between.” If the sonic space that they create on this record is any reflection of the real, inhabited space and environ in which Dalhous created House Number 44, it must have been pretty bleak. This album is one of those slow-burning, dark-ambient/broken-techno synthesizer albums that crawls forward with a destination in mind, but takes the long way through some sketchy back alleys to get there. Marc Dall and Alex Ander R.D. are not the first duo to create deeply unsettling music as a method to exorcise bad vibes between two individuals. The legendary drone-duo The Fun Years would reportedly make themselves ill by binging on junk food before recording their dense, magma-like drones in order to put themselves in the proper headspace to create such dense and bodily reactive music.

It is a cliché in music journalism to draw a clean line between mental state and musical output: The Beatles vs. LSD, disco vs. cocaine, EDM vs. MDMA, grunge vs. depression. House Number 44 takes on this body-mind relationship by constructing a loose narrative around the slack mental health of an unreliable protagonist. This narrative, however, does not come in the form of album-arcing storytelling nor overtly expressive, anthropomorphic instrumental flourishes. Rather, the cracked beats, brooding and bleeding mid-range of synthesizers, and washes of oscillating noise sound like an A.V. cable plugged straight into the base of a brain intermittently awash in dopamine or dangerously low in serotonin. The album moves from seething synthscapes of buried piano chords to rhythmic tracks that propel these synthscapes forward—with the rumble of a plague-wind drone winnowing its way throughout the composition in tow. This breaks into sturdy, studio-recorded drums to cracked, broken arpeggios of acid house put through an acid bath.

The track “Running Sheets” is a microcosm of the entire record. Opening with the faraway lapping of screeching, backward tones, it eddies slowly into the placid, low rumble of a distant synthesizer before breaking wide open into the fractured beatscape and ramping tension of mid-’00s cinematic techno or electronic music that’s still played in Eastern Europe. It’s held in uneasy tension with the unexpected non sequiturs of  forward-thinking labels like Orange Milk. Dalhous’ home in the Blackest Ever Black stable of psychedelic post-industrial darkness is a bullseye match.

House Number 44 succeeds on two very different fronts: as experimental place-sharing between two musicians and as a loose concept album tracking the internal stimulus of an unpredictable protagonist. The blending and merging of both narratives, however, hearkens back to the body-mind state that I propose earlier. The question that remains is whether the protagonist’s mental states of despondency and bi-polarity birthed in the often maddening way that musicians must interpret abstract brain signals and moods in order to communicate musically; or whether this is another album in that linear connection between the mental states of the creator(s) and the musical output of the record. In any case, House Number 44 is a highly emotional record, troubled with undercurrents that worsen, matching the lability of the troubled mind that it gives voice to—a “composite mood” if there ever was one. –Ryan Hall

The No-Nation Orchestra
Coil EP
Self-Released
Street: 11.14.14
The No-Nation Orchestra = Antibalas + Fela Kuti + The Budos Band

The No-Nation Orchestra is a diasporic take on funk, jazz and various types of non-Western music flying beneath afrobeat’s all-encompassing flag. As the group’s name suggests, this type of loose confederation of non-geographically bound musical modes and styles has pooled and sunk into one of the most unlikely places to host such cosmopolitan influences. Does a city get on the map by housing a sprawling orchestra playing straight-up authentic cuts off of Fela Kuti’s Afrika ‘70 band or matching a sitar drone with a punchy bass line and a big, bright brass section? Salt Lake City is now on that map, but that map does not exist because there are no maps because there are no nations—just ideas, and ideas flourish where there is water and sunlight, which SLC has in spades. I pledge allegiance to No-Nation. –Ryan Hall

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Grizzly Spectre
All of Them Witches
Self-Released
Street: 08.27
Grizzly Spectre = Arthur Russell + Loscil + Julianna Barwick

Operating under the name Grizzly Spectre for this album, Parker Yeats has stripped the entire apparatus of his Grizzly Prospector project down to a series of movements. These movements come in the form of huge swells of voice floating up through the floorboards, reverberating through apartments with high ceilings before dissipating into the atmosphere. Other movements are sheer mechanical ones: the ponderous downstroke on a guitar unleashing a massive wave of droning guitar maw. Michael Biggs’ synthesizer contributions take on an organic voicing, sounding like bowed cellos buried beneath a winter night’s worth of reverb. Grizzly Spectre are an affecting vehicle for Yeats’ powerful bellow. His voice sounds distant, as if reaching us from another plane. These are hymns sung by the living that guide the dead home. –Ryan Hall

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Silver Antlers
All a River
Inner Islands
Street: 01.04
Silver Antlers = Mark
Banning + WYLD WYZRDZ + Sean McCann
 
It is really wonderful to hear some new work from Skyler Hitchcox, the guiding light behind Silver Antlers. To the uninitiated, Silver Antlers is heavily ritualized pop music that explores the endless possibilities of dreamy, shoegazy drone that seeks to communicate with something bigger than ourselves inside ourselves. Hitchcox’s heavily processed guitar does equal parts floating and shredding on this practiced, patient record. Percussion is hypnotically rhythmic and placid. The ever-ascending guitar and piano lines—layered inside each other like a Russian doll and punctuated by Hitchcox’s pitch-shifted voice—reverberate and echo back like solipsistic conversations with ourselves where we find someone else’s voice answering. Who does this belong to? When gripped with something this transcendent, it is impossible to tell. Everything is as it always has been. All a river. –Ryan Hall
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