Thursday, October 29, 2009

After the goldrush #52

Mark Nelson, founding member of Labradford and general magic wizard when it comes to spacious and airily ambient electronica, is the man behind the Pan American wheels. Nelson binds together electronic leanings and organic washes with shoegazer minimalism and dub influences. The latter component is not quite as visible on White Bird Release (Kranky) as on some of his previous outings which make the whole thing even more graceful and soothing. It’s not the most original thing in the world but if you like your drones warm and rounded you can’t really go wrong.

More on the same label comes from Greg Davis who approaches the drone formula from a somewhat different perspective on his Mutually Arising release. We get two extended pieces constructed from synthesizers, effects pedals and computers that are all about sustained and subtle sound exploration. The sound moves glacially but over the course of the 27 minutes long opener “Cosmic Mudra” the patient listener can witness how it transforms from a sound that is barely there to a minimalist roar. Watching the static sound swell is a gorgeous experience and leaves us at the ideal starting point for “Bliss” which sounds quite a bit like its title with warm, floating drones seeping out of the speakers. Increase the volume folks!

I’ve been meaning to write a few words about some Bezoar Formations releases for quite some time now, but for some reason I haven’t come around to actually do anything about it until now. This San Francisco-based label seems pretty flawless if you ask me and Radiant Husk’s Several Totem is as good starting point as any with its quietly buzzing sax/tapes/keyboards swirl. Slowly enveloping tones that sound like a hill of mist-clad pines that hum in the wind makes this all too limited CD-R mysterious and very worthwhile.

Anemone Lodge’s self-titled disc on Bezoar is a chance meeting between Broken Face favorites Number None (Chris Miller and Jeremy Bushnell), The Opera Glove Sinks in the Sea (Gwyneth Merner) and the aforementioned Radiant Husk (Matthew Erickson).The hand-stamped packaging is worth the price of admission of alone and the sound is by no means less exciting. Dark, desolate warehouse drones float like waves across the ocean, meaning this is as natural as the cycle of days and seasons yet somewhat industrial in its droney approach.

Swedish Jonas Rosen’s Duo Senza Testa continues the droney approach of this column with underwater ceremonies that sound like Eyvind Kang and Folke Rabe dipping their toes in Tangerine Dream-tasting waters. At its very finest Fabula (Kalligrammofon) is music for the beginning or end of a world, and no matter how dramatic that may sound it's difficult to find any more suitable words. Clouds of cello and outstanding piano work color these washes of sound that seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of atmospheric beauty.

Harps of Fuchsia Kalmia is a project of Italian composer/multi-instrumentalist Salvatore Borrelli, and his Burning with Your Old Joy in the Terminal Sun on Ikuisuus sounds like a chaplet of folk-inspired tones glued together to one stumbling entity, leaning as much towards improvisation as composition. Takoma-inspired guitar plucking blend with corrosive dulcimer drones and bouzouki and although I don’t think all of it is perfect enough is to make it an organic listening experience which takes a sound similar to Scott Tuma’s into the terrain of avant-garde music.

Other Thunders (NO-FI) from The One Ensemble Orchestra (featuring Volcano the Bear member Daniel Padden among others) approaches the folk sound from a completely different angle, displaying a somewhat Eastern European and chamber music-inspired take on the genre. This is a fairly up-beat affair and it offers at least eight different routes to aural enlightenment, and believe me, you can’t beat that at this price. I believe all these tracks are new but it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them were actually based on traditionals, because this music is festive and uplifting in a way that so many psych folk explorers today dare not to be, but that being said there’s sadness here, a sense of real memory alloyed with a deep-reaching transcendentalism that words can’t really capture.

The Stumbling Block is Liverpool-based Zukanican's second album and third release on the always-impressive Pickled Egg imprint. Like its predecessors it blends krautrock moves with jazz grooves and dub influences, but this one might very well be their best one yet. The opening “Scaling Wax” sets the standard with trumpet hovering over pulsating basslines and keyboard sounds aiming for the sun. It’s never fun to mention the same reference points as the press kit does but this disc does actually sound like it’s influenced by Can as much as Soft Machine and Art Ensemble of Chicago so what can you do?