Dear Laika is 23-year-old UK-based musician Isabelle “Izzy” Thorn living in relative seclusion in North Wessex Downs. Despite full immersion in the “classical” tradition from a young age, singing and playing piano and violin prodigiously, Dear Laika at once embraces and rejects these roots in pursuit of sonic invention and beauty, electronically warping classical instrumentation and conjuring ghostly choirs in the service of non-traditional structures and sound-worlds. Through invocations of mythology, mysticism and the natural world, Dear Laika explores the loss of faith, identity and love through the lens of (admittedly limited) personal experience. Two albums of this pop music exist so far: Vision of St. Cross (2017) and Rinzen (2018). There exist four other purely ambient/noise/drone albums for guitar and/or violin: Twin Mythemes (2018), White Leopards (2018), Dewy Reds, Fatal Jaws (2018), and A Panther to Ephraim (2019). This discography was selected in August 2018 to be preserved in the British Library Sound Archive. Dear Laika has played live, sharing bills with artists such as Matana Roberts, Loraine James, Mich Cota, and caroline; Dear Laika has also played violin as part of caroline in live performances.
Sally Decker has been learning to let go. When working on the pieces that make up her new album In The Tender Dream—her first under her own name—she worked heavily with feedback, a tool that helped her learn it was okay to not be in control. By their nature, feedback systems are unwieldy and unpredictable, but over time, she came to see resonance and meaning in the wavering static and unruly drones. Learning to work with these systems became a metaphor for the way she was learning to move through the world. She was beginning to understand how to embrace change, to find stability in a turbulent internal landscape.
“Being in that space of the unknown was terrifying in a lot of ways,” Decker explains. “But it felt important. I felt drawn to it.”
In the record’s distended drones, chattering poetry, cosmic synth work, and gentle ambiance, Decker dives back and forth between chaos and order, turmoil and respite. Prickly, pointillist pieces like the title track give way to more restful moments like the centered, self-assured “Affirmation,” a balance that echoes Decker’s realizations about feedback. There are stormy feelings captured in these pieces, but there’s peace too if you’re willing to listen for it.
The ideas behind In The Tender Dream first took shape when Decker moved to Oakland to attend Mills College. Drawn, in part, by the communitarian nature of the program, she went through an intense period of personal and artistic growth. Challenged by mentors to experiment and delve deep, she found her way to these feedback systems, and to new ways of making art that felt intensely personal. Exploring the ache of codependency, straining deeply for self-worth on her own terms, she crafted pieces that helped her process her most intimate feelings.
In a way, In the Tender Dream is an extension of the work Decker has done all along, including the meditative electronic pieces she made as Multa Nox. Her full-length debut Living Pearl, released in 2017 on NNA Tapes, was itself a dreamy, internal record, revealing the vibrant, varied emotional potential of her slow-moving music. In the Tender Dream again finds her inhabiting this contemplative space, but the work feels more human, more present. “I used to try to track the narrative of an emotion in a piece,” she explains. “Now it’s like, how can I work out this emotional thing in the process of sculpting the sound itself?”
It was a big shift, in part because her time at Mills lent her a new understanding of performance, improvisation, and the potential of generative systems within electronic music, but also because, for the first time, she’s foregrounding the human voice. Decker has often slipped snippets of her voice into her compositions, but there are a series of text-sound meditations on In The Tender Dream that lay bare the emotional content of the record. Working with vocalists Briana Marela and Emily Cardwell, she puts face to the shifting emotions—a voice rising from the thick mist of her feedback-laden compositions. Drawing on her background as a writer, she put words to the feelings that for so many, for so long, remain shapeless and unsettled. Taming the feedback is an emotional journey of its own, but coupled with these lucid monologues and affirmations, In The Tender Dream feels vulnerable and intense, like locking eyes with a stranger across a room, taking a breath, and staring deeply.
JJJJJerome Ellis is a blk disabled animal, stutterer, and artist. Through music, literature, performance, and video, he explores blkness, disabled speech, and music as forces of refusal, possibility, reparation, and healing. His diverse body of work includes contemplative soundscapes using saxophone, flute, dulcimer, electronics, and vocals; scores for plays and podcasts; albums combining spoken word with ambient and jazz textures; theatrical explorations involving live music and storytelling; and music-video-poems that seek to transfigure historical archives. JJJJJerome’s solo and collaborative work has been presented by Lincoln Center, The Poetry Project, and ISSUE Project Room (New York); MASS MoCA (North Adams, Massachusetts); REDCAT (Los Angeles); Arraymusic (Toronto); and the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), among others. His work has been covered by This American Life, Artforum, Black Enso, and Christian Science Monitor.
On November 5, JJJJJerome Ellis will release his new album The Clearing—an ambitious and visionary double LP—co-produced by NNA Tapes & the Poetry Project, and released in tandem with a book published by Wendy’s Subway. The Clearing is a conceptual and musical tour de force that combines Jazz with the narratives of enslaved Africans, experimental electronics with historical accounts of Black rebellion. The album centers speech but uses it as a starting point to not only depathologize dysfluent speech but to build new tools to critique anti-Blackness, linear time, culture, and power in our society.
“Time Bandit” This American Life
“Fountain #2” WNYC New Sounds
“Episode 3: JJJJJerome Ellis” Black Enso Podcast
“Episode 5: It’s About Time” Christian Science Monitor
“FEELING GOOD: Howard Fishman on Jerome Ellis” Artforum
“Review: Staging a Movie Melodrama in ‘The Conversationalists’” Vulture
“Review: Staging a Movie Melodrama in ‘The Conversationalists’” New York Times
During an artist residency in the thick of the pandemic, tucked away in a dance studio at the base of the Appalachian mountains, Ben Seretan set out to finally make the piano recordings he had always wanted to make: pristine, clean, ringing, indeterminate. For two weeks he would be alone with an antique Steinway—a blessing that, in spite of an unexpected, globally tragic, and tremendously surreal circumstance, miraculously remained possible.
But “silence” and even “peace and quiet” are slippery, man-made illusions that we can never quite grab hold of, and this proved to be especially true in the woods. The environs there were riotous, almost joyously noisy; the old wood creaking with rot, rain pelting the roof five times a day, rolling thunder. And then there was the breathtaking presence of critters; hissing feral cats, fiddling crickets, birds belting their songs every morning and, ever-presently, the sea of cicadas—enormous swarms of them—so loud and so multidirectional, as though they might try to lift the concert piano right off of the earth.
“It was clear the moment I hit ‘record’ that any sound I captured from the piano would always carry some other sound with it. There would be no silence whatsoever. So I gave in—I threw open the windows and let the world in.”
Cicada Waves, then, is the sound of allowance. It’s the sound of room being made, of guards being dropped, of adaptation. It’s more often than not the sound of a piano *not* being played. It’s the sound of wings or wind or water doing what they will.
These recordings are shared with as little artifice as possible; there are no edits or comped parts, no mixing, no second takes. The album is, more or less, simply and exactly the sounds that happened in the world at that moment, as chaotic and full of sound as they ought to be.
The debut full-length from ambient-electronic composer Rachika Nayar, Our Hands Against the Dusk, is a kaleidoscopic and inventive release—but it’s far from cerebral. In mid-2019, the Brooklyn-based artist chose the cover image (a still of her hands entwined with a friends’) from an old collaborative project. Along with the title (lifted from a Richard Jackson poem), the image of “touch” alludes to the deeply (inter)personal experiences that animated the album over the four years it was written: not just caress, but encounters and collisions.
Her compositional process similarly begins with a moment of touch: her fingers on the fretboard. Songs are built from guitar loops that are then digitally processed into endless new shapes as they are combined and threaded through multiple genres and emotions. Track five, “New Strands,” suggests this process in miniature, as a stuttering, close-mic’d guitar plays out into soaring shimmers of reverb and granular processing.
Such moments are hard to imagine separately from the blue fluorescence of Nayar’s vivid visual sensibility, which has been seen in her self-directed music videos, scores for films such as 2019 feature So Pretty, and A/V performances like the installation-version of the album to be presented later this year at The Shed.
Growing up in a small town removed from physical musical communities, Nayar originally took to the online world for her creative explorations, delving into modern composers, Midwestern emo, uplifting trance and beyond. The diverse influences are visible on longer tracks such as “Losing Too Is Still Ours,” which extends from rippling guitar figures and keening vocals to methodic, marching strings.
On the song title, taken from a Rainer Maria Rilke poem, Nayar describes, “I used to hear these lines over and over in my head years ago when I was learning to let go of people and pasts with grace, even after very painful or violent events. It talks about loss as something that is still shared, through this image of absence itself drawing a ‘magnificent curve’ around everyone and everything involved.”
The ghostly voiced haze of “Aurobindo” takes its title from a similarly intimate place, referencing an Indian yogi whose philosophies speak to elevating earthly reality to the divine. “Someone in my family had a moment of ‘darshan’ (essentially ‘a vision of the divine’ in Hinduism) at Sri Aurobindo’s Pondicherry Ashram many years ago. The images in my A/V visuals often stem heavily from my dreams, which in my head hold a relationship to this lineage of familial mysticism.”
For Nayar, the album’s fluid but always deeply felt form is thus a way of translating that which could never be summed up with static names, words, or feelings. It is her way of navigating the many communities, musical and human, through which she’s passed as a trans feminine Indian-American. Rejecting the easy reduction of her project to an “identity politics narrative,” though, she takes that understanding as one of many in a stream of perspectives that shapes her life, and her music suggests the same.
To that end, Our Hands Against the Dusk mines the flux and discontinuity of experience as fertile ground. Nayar’s debut invites us to join alongside it in thinking beyond metanarratives, as musical and emotional histories touch in its twilight space and refract into a multifaceted whole. In that endeavor, Our Hands Against the Dusk is an embrace and a hope.
The album will be released March 5 on cassette and digital, via NNA Tapes.
For Stephen Becker, music is a stream of consciousness. Originally working as the Trees Take Ease moniker, the Brooklyn based artist is stepping out from under the branches and releasing music under his own name for the first time. It marks a shift, a new beginning, that initially started out as a casual bedroom project but quickly blossomed into something significant. This new chapter starts with EP Nothing Sun Under the New.
Equal parts weird and sublime, Becker resides in a sonic universe that bends into a state of oblivion and relishes the fleeting moments. This uninhibited approach creates a kaleidoscope of textures where songs about frozen drinks and old teachers exist against a backdrop of propulsive synths, screwy percussion and lo-fi guitar hooks. “I think there’s a lot of power in the right melody and the right chord progression and the right sonic environment and that to me has as much emotional weight as anything that I’m saying,” he says.
Attending concerts as a teen with his Dad and playing in jazz band throughout high school led Becker to experiment with different improvised arts, rubbing shoulders with different genres and practises. This curiosity, along with his talents, secured him a place at Oberlin college in Ohio, studying guitar performance. There, Becker witnessed performances from the likes of Deerhoof, Frankie Cosmos, Yo Yo Ma and Fred Frith that inspired him to merge his skills as a jazz musician and guitar expert and dive into songwriting.
The transition led to “art songs” and “experimental folk music” that can still be felt in Becker’s output. “I got to a place in my studying that started to feel frustrating,” he explains. “I realised that I wanted to write songs and also embody all these other things that I was excited about, whether it was improv or contemporary classical music. I wanted to synthesise everything that I love.” With inspirations including the likes of Marilynne Robinson, Werner Herzog, Olivier Messiaen, Sibylle Baier and Nels Cline, the result is a glorious mish-mash of spontaneity, where songs flow more like free writing.
Becker’s journey into music was unintentional, accidental even. While his parents are both doctors, Becker sees himself as taking after his artistic Grandparents. His Grandmother is a visual artist, watercolorist and painter, while his Grandfather built violins and collected all sorts of instruments, most of which now reside in Becker’s own closet. He never met his Grandfather in person but he finds solace in the family connection. “It’s funny when your immediate family doesn’t really do what you do or understand what you do but you feel this lineage of carrying on,” he explains. “Who knows if I’ll be that to some future generation in my family – the quirky instrument-collecting Grandpa.”
This free-spirited, almost unconscious nature sees Becker create a playground of escapism, where snapshots of his life are exaggerated and fictionalised through an often ironic prism. He finds beauty in the in-between, where strange, abstract realms exist without the need for a clear narrative or rigid structure. Nothing Sun Under the New shines a spotlight on the beauty that can arise from a spur-of-the-moment mindset. By accessing this kind of process, Becker taps into something real and concrete, resonating through an introspective honesty. “I like to be freeform and fictional in my music, but my feeling is that within that abstraction lies a deeper truth, something more real than just the plain facts about me,” he says. “It’s a wash of sounds and lyrics, but the picture that it paints is ultimately more true and sincere than anything else.”
At an early age in her homeland of Turkey, Elif Yalvaç taught herself to play a hard-to-find guitar. Surrounded by an exciting variety of music, she found herself as fascinated with sound as with song. That fascination never diminished, eventually earning her a masters in Sonic Arts from Istanbul Technical University (after a BA in Translation and Interpretation), and it has been woven into the compositions on her debut EP Cloudscapes (2016), her debut album L’appel du Vide (2018), and now her sophomore release Mountains Become Stepping Stones, out December 4 on NNA Tapes.
On Mountains Become Stepping Stones (Yalvaç’s first release with NNA Tapes), the electronic/ambient artist leads listeners on a transformational journey through outer landscapes and inner feelings. Inspired by her travels to Nordic countries far from home, especially by Iceland and Norway, Mountains Become Stepping Stones reflects the raw vitality of nature: its danger and intensity, as well as its beauty. The record also draws deeply on Yalvaç’s inner world, and it reflects her conscious choice to keep creating in difficult times such as these, despite challenging personal circumstances. Using a vast array of instruments, including electric guitars, synthesizers, and a Game Boy, as well as field recordings from Iceland, Yalvaç’s compositions embrace opposites: microsound glitches with slow intense builds; celestial beauty with abrasive energy.
In September 2019, Yalvaç returned to Iceland–one of the countries across Europe that she has performed in–to reconnect with its magic and redefine her relationship with the landscape and her experiences there. Each piece on Mountains Become Stepping Stones is infused with a yearning for escape, whether outside or inside, and a desire to grow beyond limitations and pain, creating intense musical experiences that others can identify with.
The album’s lead single and opening track, “Brocken Spectre,” is named after the natural phenomenon: “When I was flying to Iceland for the first time from Bergen, Norway,” Yalvaç says, “it was magical to see a glory: seeing the aircraft’s shadow within a halo of a rainbow.” On this piece, Yalvaç introduces the Game Boy as a musical instrument, incorporating its soft sounds into ambient layers. “I wrote so much about Game Boy in my master’s thesis; it was now time to make music with it.” Rainbows also return elsewhere on the album on “Bifröst,” which is named after a small settlement in Western Iceland, as well as the burning rainbow bridge in Norse mythology. “Bifröst was a pick-up and drop-off point for me in my journeys to other parts of Iceland. It was a bridge for me in Iceland, and this piece also makes a bridge in the album sequence.”
“Under The Aurora 1” and “Under The Aurora 2” were composed after a life-changing experience beneath the magical northern lights: “I had some memories in Reykjavik that hurt me, but I picked up an e-bike and cycled for 15 km to a tiny natural footbath hot spring there, where I sat for hours, lost, with my eyes on the skies. I cycled back under the Aurora in the middle of the night.”
The value of the natural world also extends to birds on Mountains Become Stepping Stones. “Painted In Pitch Black” channels the flapping wings of a Phoenix rising from black ashes and “Huginn and Muninn,” is an ode to Ravens. “In some cultures, these birds are sometimes associated with ill or dark things, symbolizing that something bad might happen. To me, however, these are brilliant animals. I have seen more in Iceland than in any other place and they are so beautiful. To me, they sing beautifully.”
The album’s centerpiece, “Black Sand Beach,” features layers of electric guitars, field recordings (made in collaboration with Magnus Bergsson), and the sound of Yalvaç’s breathing. “The sand is the color of volcanic explosions. On one side you have sea stacks and basalt columns, and a cave. On the other, you have the North Atlantic ocean with extremely strong and dangerous waves. When you stand between the two, the sounds of the waves are very powerful. You feel small in the face of a powerful planet that is very much alive and changing.”
The last piece on the album, “Kintsugi,” references the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by reconnecting the pieces with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Translated to “golden joinery,” this piece represents a healing journey for Yalvaç: the process of being bent and broken into a better shape.
With Mountains Become Stepping Stones, we move with Yalvaç as she creates new memories and connections to her surroundings. “It is a celebration of individuality and uniqueness. We’re defined by our flaws, and something broken can become even more beautiful,” she says.
Bendrix Littleton is the writing and recording project of Nashville-via-Dallas musician Bennett Littlejohn. The project’s namesake, Maurice Bendrix—the protagonist of Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End of the Affair—is described by enotes.com as “sometimes an unreliable narrator, for he is so consumed by jealousy, self-pity, self-hatred, and bitterness, that he measures everyone else by himself…[and] confesses that from time to time ‘a demon’ takes possession of his brain.” It’s an appropriate moniker for the self-aware, malaise-filled songs of Bendrix Littleton’s debut, Deep Dark South, due out September 25 from NNA Tapes. While in the album is imbued with the contradictions and painful beauty of the modern American South (as opposed to Greene’s WWII-era London), the hazy, solitary narrative voice remains.
Formerly one half of the “NyQuil-Pop” duo Bent Denim (dissolved in the summer of 2018), Littlejohn sought a fresh outlet that was more individual and freed from any preconceived artistic notions. During this time Littlejohn began taking on significantly more studio work, including production credits on Hovvdy’s Heavy Lifter (out now on Double Double Whammy), new material from Katy Kirby (out on Keeled Scales), and forthcoming work from Sinai Vessel. While production on this music was deeply rewarding, it was nonetheless work that was beholden to someone else’s vision. And it was out of this craving for artistic autonomy that Bendrix Littleton was born. Deep Dark South has provided a space for Littlejohn to experiment, collage, write, and record in a completely independent manner—a long-awaited and welcome zone of unfettered creation.
On the singular writing and recording process of Deep Dark South, Littlejohn states:
The initial spurt of songwriting was directly correlated to a vintage Harmony H162 acoustic guitar I found at a flea market in Kentucky, near the Tennessee border. This guitar would’ve been sold at Sears in the early 60’s. I strung it up with all of the higher pitched strings from a 12-string acoustic set and got to writing. A lot of rich, burnt-out musicians affectedly claim that there are ‘songs in guitars’ to justify their ever-growing guitar collections, but I do feel there is an ounce of truth in this. The way something feels, or the faults of a certain instrument indeed can bring out something unique and new.
Once the basic bedrock of the record had been tracked, I realized that the songs were too slow, my voice was too low…a spark was missing. My brother had just sent me my old Tascam four track cassette recorder. So, I spent a little time with that, and ended up committing these songs in their unfinished states to fixed tracks on this old tape machine—no editing, no panning, no volume changing. Driving the cassette tape hard and speeding the songs up (which also raises the pitch), gave this album that special aspect I had been looking for, and also provided a completely fucked up and new sonic foundation for me to start layering on top of.
And on the themes and sensibility of the album itself, Littlejohn says:
Throughout the record I deal with the common tropes of alcohol/drug abuse, malaise, ennui, regional junk, and the dissolution of relationships. It’s well-trod ground, but I’d rather write what feels genuine rather than something foreign for the sake of novelty. It feels ridiculous enough to put out something in 2020…so much noise to break through. But I feel like these are common enough things. I wouldn’t say these things are universal, but they’re not far from it.
Deep Dark South is out on September 25 from NNA Tapes.
Founded at the turn o’ the ‘teens by Andrew Bernstein (saxophone/percussion), Max Eilbacher (bass/electronics), Owen Gardner (guitar), and Sam Haberman (drums), Horse Lords quickly established themselves as avant-heavies with the two extended tracks of their powerful self-titled debut (Ehse Records, 2012). Playing custom electric guitars and basses refretted by Gardner, the band’s rolling polyrhythms chime with the strange and distinct harmonies of just intonation inspired by the master La Monte Young and other heroes. Where the earliest Horse Lords releases, also including Hidden Cities (NNA Tapes, 2014) concentrated on linear performance, a trio of Mixtape cassettes (self-released, 2012-2014) pointed the way towards the newest turn in the Horse Lords saga. (Northern Spy)
For an artist whose career is almost entirely improvisational, TALsounds has refined a stunning style of music that sounds as meticulous as it does surprising. Since picking the moniker nine years ago, Natalie Chami has been flitting between experimental electronica, mood-driven minimalism, and classically trained choral singing as a solo artist in Chicago. On her fifth album, Acquiesce, she dives inward without constraints and invites the listener to do the same, to lose track of time, and to let emotion dictate what happens next.
Chami is a DIY staple within Chicago’s electronic scene as a solo artist, a member of Good Willsmith, and a frequent collaborator of Brett Naucke, Matchess, and others. Over the years, she’s honed her skills onstage, particularly her ability to block out what’s happening around her to instead focus on her subconscious, letting it guide where she steers each song. Whether she’s opening for Merzbow or Mary Lattimore, Tim Hecker or Tortoise, Mdou Moctar or Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Chami is adept at fitting the unique vibe of each concert despite never actually deviating from her music’s core sound — a prime example of her percipience and sense of control.
Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise, then, that Chami made a career out of these virtues. During weekdays, she works at ChiArts—Chicago’s premiere public high school for music and the arts—as both the Vocal Chair admin and a teacher for music technology, vocal technique, and choir. On the weekends, she offers private vocal lessons to teenagers, in addition to her after school hours. Chami’s been teaching there for a decade now, and that regularity keeps her well-versed in patience, creativity, and expression.
All of this funnels into Acquiesce, her newest album as TALsounds. Recorded at home as improvised sessions, the album is a fluid extrapolation of her thoughts, worries, and stresses, later trimmed down and reformatted into songs. Chami treats her voice like an instrument that breathes calm into interwoven electronic parts, often leaning into vowels instead of phrases, particularly the tall, forward sound of “i” words like “time,” “find,” and “decide.” Performed entirely by Chami and produced by Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave), Acquiesce is full of entrancing moments, be it the trumpet-like call in “Muted Decision,” the typewriter beat of “Instance,” the flickering vocals in “Else,” or the alien-like glitching of “Dynasty.” It picks up from the stirring sounds of her 2017 record Love Sick—named one of the best albums of the decade by Chicago Reader—and closes its eyes, as if in meditation, to reflect on what’s next.
Recorded between spring of 2018 and summer of 2019, Acquiesce caught Chami in a turbulent stretch of extremes. During that year, she collaborated on multiple local music projects. Conversations with her therapist often turned into risk factors for anxiety. Her academic colleagues were shifting titles. Above all else, she was finding her bearings alongside her now-fiance in their passionate first year of dating. Chami recorded less music in a single year than she ever had before, and she later realized it was because she was happy. Her previous full-lengths—2013’s Sky Face, 2015’s All the Way, 2016’s Lifter + Lighter, and 2017’s Love Sick—were topically heavier. This time, she was overwhelmed with questions: Am I actually happy? Is this what I want my happiness to look like? Is this change actually good? Acquiesce was a way to sort through that.
“For me, it’s not about recording; it’s about playing,” says Chami. “It’s therapeutic, but sometimes I feel more weighted after I finish. It’s like playing gets me to confront whatever I’m thinking about, even if I don’t always find an answer.”
The clearest example of improvisational healing in real time is “No Rise,” an overlap of aquatic keys and shimmering synth trills. “No rise / there is no rise, I say / I’m breathing by my strength,” she sings, repeating the phrase as if slowly counting down. “Breath is what gets you through anxiety attacks. Even when you feel your weakest, you’re able to find some control,” explains Chami. “It’s weird to read the lyrics afterwards and see what I said, because when I’m in the moment, I don’t always realize what I need to say until after I’ve said it.”
TALsounds made a name for herself within Chicago’s DIY electronic scene for her innate sense of feeling, flow, and fascination. With Acquiesce, she demonstrates not just how hypnotic her music is or how stirring her vocal range is, but how these two combine naturally for her as an improvisational artist — and she’s poised to break out nationally because of that.
Acquiesce will be released on vinyl and digital formats on May 22, via NNA Tapes.
With an approach based in free jazz, GRID takes the plunge into darker, heavier, and more psychedelic realms of improvised music. The new trio, featuring Matt Nelson (Battle Trance) on saxophone, Tim Dahl (Child Abuse) on bass, and Nick Podgurski (New Firmament;Feast of the Epiphany) on drums, harnesses the clamorous spirit of free jazz while venturing beyond its acoustic borders through the implementation of electronic processing and dirge-like tempos akin to Doom and Sludge. Noisey calls GRID “a three-way chat. It’s a conversation between musicians with differing musical opinions, but their debut album has become a shared dialogue that is as fluid as it is improvised”.
Brooklyn-based saxophonist Matt Nelson defies categorization in his frequent solo work and involvement with bands and projects across the musical spectrum. Employing an array of traditional and extended techniques and a frequent use of electronics and feedback has allowed him to expand on his jazz background and forge a unique musical identity that is ever-present but adaptable to a wide range of music. Speaking to this is his work with Battle Trance, tUnE-yArDs, Elder Ones, Premature Burial, and GRID. An active member of the New York experimental music scene, he is often involved in a large number of other projects as well. Recent collaborators include Ava Mendoza, Weasel Walter, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Peter Evans, Louise Jensen, and many others.
Tim Dahl is a professional electric and double bass player, vocalist, keyboardist, and composer living in New York City since 1998. He is best known as the bass player and co-composer of the noise-rock band Child Abuse and Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus. He has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe and Japan with both groups. Tim has also performed with many notable musicians, composers and performers including Yusef Lateef, Archie Shepp, Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, Tatsuya Yoshida, Von Freeman, Stanley Jordan, Mary Halvorson, Malcolm Mooney, Marc Ribot, Brian Chase, Hamid Drake, Elliot Sharp, Weasel Walter, Marni Nixon etc. Tim is currently living in Brooklyn and is an active member in the music scene there.
Nick Podgurski maintains New Firmament; an umbrella institute for programming, composition, listening, writing, and recording (among other practices). His musical work is manifest over dozens of recordings (and innumerable performances) in varying capacities with: Feast of the Epiphany, New Firmament, Extra Life, Yukon. Collaborators include: STATS, Geryon, Castevet, Sabbath Assembly, Andrew Smiley/Matt Kanelos. He performs here as drummer alongside Matt Nelson (saxophone) and Tim Dahl (bass).
Kalbells’s sophomore album Max Heart (NNA Tapes, 2021) opens with the process of regeneration. “I’m rotting and I’m never coming back the way you knew me then,” Kalmia Traver sings with a combination of buoyancy and resilience on the opener “Red Marker.” From the beginning, Max Heart is an illustration of death and rebirth; letting go of what doesn’t serve us in order to leave space for the blessings that do. With Max Heart as their next chapter, central to Kalbells work is the process of creativity giving space for vulnerability and radicalism–continually practicing decolonization work and fighting against white supremacist, heternormative, and patriarchal models. Take their pre-show vocal improv practice of tintinnabulation (introduced by sometimes-drummer and honorary member Dandy McDowell) which Traver explains is “more about listening than it is about vocalizing; it’s more about creating that ecosystem together of trust and respect and interplay and play and joy. I think that that practice is definitely at the center of our work together.” Angelica Bess, Zoë Brecher, Sarah Pedinotti and Traver used this collection of ten tracks to embody prosperity and reciprocity.
Kalbells began as a side project for Traver, who also contributes to the joyous, rocking chaos of Rubblebucket. Three years after the debut album Ten Flowers, a more ambient invocation of untapped self-creativity, the sophomore LP was designed to maximize the synergy that Bess, Brecher, Pedinotti, and Traver manifest. Over the course of 2019, Traver planned several week-long intervals of writing a song a day, and, surprising herself, she was writing a lot of love songs. That year she experienced acute heartbreak, but her heart organ “felt bigger than it had ever been.” Similar to energy conservation, it seems that the lost love that influenced Traver’s writing was transferred elsewhere. Rather she invested in the formidable love with her touring band turned bandmates, and they birthed songs that capture the vibrancy of their collective.
A prime example of Kalbells furthering their sum energies is the effervescent funk of “Purplepink.” Co-written between Bess, Pedinotti, and Traver, a hyper synth bass darts around elongated keyboard sighs. Although the three recorded their vocals in their bedrooms between 2019 and 2020, Bess remembers the day when the lyrics and rhythm came in sync. “I came over to Kal’s house with my bass, she had a cluster of lyrics scattered. I sort of mushed them together and came up with a melodic hook for the verse. The chorus we wrote was based off a run Kal took that day. I also remember coming up with a part of the chorus bass line and Kal took the bass from me and finished it. We kinda just came in there and boom a song was made.”
At the beginning of 2020, the band escaped to Outlier Inn for two weeks in upstate New York to record songs with the studio assistance of the prolific Luke Temple. Kalbells crafted and co-produced ten bright, layered tracks of psychedelic synth-pop. It was also Traver’s first time mixing an album. The result is a prismatic display of experimental pop. From the soft flute touches on opener “Red Marker” to the fluttering saxophone on “Flute Windows Open In The Rain,” each song holds a delicate surprise. Brooklyn-based rapper and multimedia artist Miss Eaves hops on “Pickles” for witty wordplay. On the elastic closer “Max Heart,” sprinkles of piano and bouncing percussion lock into each other. Brecher reveals that the band was grooving so hard that she felt like she wasn’t even drumming. “I was just watching us move along with the beat. It was kind of trance-like. Of all the songs on the album, this, to me, was the most fun to record.”
Traver’s visual songwriting is part of what gives Max Heart its whimsy. On “Bubbles,” Traver envisions that one’s fears “take flight on a destination vacation” where later they’re fed peaches beside a fire. Later, we’re invited into her subconscious on “Diagram Of Me Sleeping.” Her voice is low and sleepy with sand as she sings, “I woke up with a fishtank in my hips/tropical clouds of neon floating little dreamy fish.” Traver’s image-focused lyricism is a way of tapping into her emotions. “I feel like the visual for me is really generative,” she says. “That’s just a way to get me talking about my feelings more, and I think it can be hard to talk about your feelings. The little visual things are little entry points.”
Max Heart is a portrait of these badass women harnessing their improvisational magic. They dispel any sexist assumption about jamming. “When we play grooves together it’s like some spiritual experience. It’s really empowering,” Traver says. “I think, there’s an unspoken thing that women don’t groove. That men groove and women are the singers and that our groove would be not viable or not as cool,” Traver explains. “Once we’re all together it’s like frickin sparks fly.” Common groove language is a rare medicine to happen across, which is why, as a group, playing with each other has been not only exciting, but restorative. “Kalbells is a living, breathing, healing, grooving movement,” Pedinotti beams. Max Heart harnesses this magnetic power for a collection of songs that are packed with inspired tension and daring surreality.
Harpist Marilu Donovan and violinist/vocalist Adam Markiewicz are NYC-based duo LEYA.
The group works with and against the grain of tradition, mining intensity through alternate tunings, strange harmonies, and dreamstate operatic-like vocals. The resultant visceral experience underlies beauty but spans many imperfect worlds.
LEYA has released a steady volume of work in several years. Their two albums via NNA Tapes, The Fool (2018) and its critically acclaimed follow-up Flood Dream (2020), exist alongside a wide range of collaborations. In 2018, the group wrote and performed a full-length soundtrack to I Love You, an erotic film directed by Brooke Candy and produced by PornHub that also features the duo as actors. 2019’s Angel Lust, a collaborative EP with Eartheater, followed courtesy of legendary experimental label PAN. In 2020, they dropped a number of shorter releases including “Antigone,” a collaborative single with American black metal band Liturgy; a remix of their Flood Dream track “Wave” by British electronic musician Actress; another remix of the album’s penultimate track First Way by the venerable Drew McDowall (Coil/Psychic TV); and a collaboration with Deli Girls for their new album BOSS called “barriers to love.”
The Ah is an imaginary world. Its a place I’ve found and tried to make sense of over the course of making this album. It truly feels like a collaboration although ironically its the first project I’ve done that hasn’t been influenced by anyone else directly. Indirectly it has everything to do with everyone around me and all the things big and small that have affected me over the years. It felt collaborative because of this feeling of finding something that’s already there. As if i was collaborating w nature perhaps. For me, writing music and taking pictures is all about finding something opposed to creating something. An archeologist picks at a rock until something appears then carefully picks at the rock until the object is free. This has always been my process. This is another reason why I decided to not use my name for this project. It doesn’t feel like me exactly it feels like something i discovered.
I live in a loft in Brooklyn w some of my favorite people and musicians. We tour the world together and separately with many different projects we’re all involved with. We often have sub letters when one of us is gone and we’ve had countless amazing people and artists living here. Its a creative living space, a writing space, recording space, and rehearsing space. We all somehow manage to make it work here and it really feels wonderful, strange and magical. These 3 other guys and myself have basically created a language all our own. That’s in how we talk to each other , how we play together and otherwise. Its truly a bit absurd and i often say i feel like i live in a cartoon. In a way i think The Ah is a cartoon world. Not one with just humire but more complex emotions and ambiguity. My enviroment here at the loft very much influenced and helped me “find” The Ah which has literally been written on my bedroom door long before i knew what it meant. I’m always blown away how time can work. The music was all written and recorded in that very bedroom.
When this music started to feel like something i should share i also felt like something was missing from it. I think since there’s very little singing and theres a static nature in some of the compositions i was concerned it might be a bit sterile. This concern led me to found sounds , field recordings, animal sounds, something to give the music life, literally. You’ll find in this music, frogs, sheep , dolphins, guinea pigs and baby rhinos just to name a few. It truly opened this world up and i think helped define the feeling of the this place.
I’m mostly known as a drum set player and have toured or recorded with artists such as David Byrne, Albert Hammond jr, Kimbra, Delicate Steve, Rubblebucket, Marc Ribot, Sam Amidon, Daniel Rossen just to name a few. Yet theres no drum set in any of this music. It wasn’t a conscious decision but the limitations of what i had to record with completely opened me up to so many new possibilities w sampling and blending unusual elements together to create grooves.
For Kassie Carlson, singer, songwriter, and bandleader of Guerilla Toss, What Would The Odd Do? is unarguably the groups most personal release in their impressive history as a music-making collective. After open heart surgery in 2017 to remove a dangerous blood clot caused by a severe opiate addiction, Carlson has found a new joy in life. She has since moved to Upstate New York with her partner and Guerilla Toss drummer, Peter Negroponte, and has never felt more inspired.
“Only recently have I really begun to open up about everything that’s happened to me in the last few years. These songs mean a lot to me; anyone in recovery knows that going through an opiate addiction and beating it is a big deal. I am living proof that it can happen to anyone. I’ve always written abstract lyrics that have eluded to my personal struggles, but this time I try to provide context to my metaphors and allegories. In this way, I hope to help other people who are struggling, and anything else that is a result of a corroded society that has left so many people in the dust – especially women. Drugs are such a dude-associated thing, which has made it even harder for me to talk about. I felt gross, other-ed, and alone. I didn’t think anyone would be able to understand or relate. Experiencing severe trauma as a child creates different parameters for normalcy, and inclusion. Statistically, women are more likely to hide addiction and keep feelings inside, making it potentially much more festering and toxic. Drugs affect people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, class or gender. Addiction hits us all, and it hits hard.”
Guerilla Toss’ origins are somewhat unusual. They started as an experimental art-rock project at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston. When Peter met Kassie at a DIY show in Allston singing in a metal/hardcore band, he quickly asked her to join Guerilla Toss and they played their first show together a week later at the infamous Death By Audio in Brooklyn, NY. The next two years were spent touring relentlessly throughout the underground DIY circuits in the US, Canada and Europe, playing house shows, warehouses, art spaces, and (literally) a pigsty in southern Spain. During this time they released a slew of tapes, records and EP’s, label hopping around underground staples like Feeding Tube Records, John Zorn’s Tzadik, and the Vermont based NNA Tapes. In 2015, Guerilla Toss signed to James Murphy’s (LCD Soundsystem) DFA Records and relocated to Brooklyn to focus anew on making records. The DFA years proved to be an inspiring time for the band and marked a significant shift in the ensemble’s sound and attitude. A-tonal hardcore elements were replaced by a more psychedelic and harmonic approach. Moshing crowds became dancing ones as the live show evolved. GT released Eraser Stargazer (2016) and GT Ultra (2017) on DFA, both of which were met with significant critical acclaim, while barely scraping the surface of anything remotely mainstream…further establishing GT as a cult act. But it was during this period that things took a turn for the worst: Carlson’s years of substance abuse culminated in a near-death experience, heart surgery, and a month and a half stay in Brooklyn hospital.
“It was very intense. Had I not had Medicaid I would have been completely fucked. I’ve never had money – I grew up poor – with a single mother in sketchy neighborhoods living paycheck to paycheck – sometimes one never came. We lived in motels and run-down homes until we got kicked out, never staying in the same place for very long. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was a teenager. As a child, I never had financial help and usually held down multiple jobs while still attending school. At the time of my surgery, my income was low enough that I qualified for full coverage of all medical expenses, including a six-week stay in the hospital. My muscles were gone and I had to re-learn how to walk. Even simple tasks made me exhausted, but I have since greatly recovered.”
In late 2017, Kassie cleaned up for good and the band returned to the studio to record Twisted Crystal, their third album for DFA. After it’s release in September 2018, GT hit the road in the US and Europe with more confidence and vibrancy than ever before. With their expansive repertoire and set lists that cover each era of the band and change from night to night, you never quite know what you might get from a GT show.
“It’s crazy how fast it all came back once I stopped using – I didn’t expect my friends to be so forgiving, but things are back in full swing and have never been better. So many things keep me from going back to that dark place. But most of all its the music, being creative and getting to perform. I live a truly interesting life. Breaking the cycle of addiction is more than just stopping. It’s more about fixing your environment, getting deep into your brain and figuring out what creates that thick dark cloud of depression.”
All of this brings us to the new Guerilla Toss EP, What Would The Odd Do?; a further exploration into new territories, while still remaining true to their fringe sound. Another exciting aspect of this release is the bands return to the legendary avant label NNA Tapes for a one-off release celebrating the label’s new ownership. A portion of the proceeds from the album will go to the Harlem Harm Reduction Clinic, in an attempt to further our reach in the opiate crisis battle.
The album opens with the title track, What Would The Odd Do; a callout to all the lost souls that they’re not alone in feelings of existential dread. Peter’s intense drumming, alongside Arian Shafiee’s army of guitars, marches the listener into psychedelic oblivion. Kassie’s chorus of violins echoes the sounds of art-rock string luminaries Laurie Anderson and John Cale in the crusade to be your own God, control your own destiny. “If I think fast will I be wiser? Or does the test lie inside a timer? When you grow old are you a dier?” Perhaps it’s the quest for answers that unites us in the end, not the answers themselves.
“Plants” is a disco-post-punk-prog epic about the perceived psychosis of the fictional protagonist, Lara. Based off the books, What A Plant Knows and The Hidden Life Of Trees, the song combats the anti-spiritual western notion that plants are devoid of all communication, when, in fact, there is an entire language of which we are “blissfully unaware.” The track also explores the old-fashioned idea of a woman being crazy, when, in reality, she simply isn’t being heard. Stephen Cooper’s driving bass line propels a force that is somewhere between Hawkwind and Giorgio Moroder. While Sam Lisabeth’s exploratory synth explosions create one of GT’s most blissful and sentimental tracks to date. With additional drum production and sound design by Catskill, NY synth wizard, MaZmiTh, the track moves into a psychedelic oblivion.
The ferociously catchy hook of “Future Doesn’t Know” summons spirits of 70’s prog and rock greats like King Crimson and Todd Rundgren, with a shout out to modern torchbearers like Sheer Mag and Deerhoof. Carlson again uses her back-and-forth mirroring of existentialism to look deeply at life’s issues.
“Moth Like Me” is the album’s peak overload of drum & bass fury, with a hook for the ages. Kassie’s ear-assaulting vocal delivery moves at a million miles an hour, dictating feelings of going after something with passion, while not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks about it.
The EP closes with “Land Where Money’s Nightmare Lives,” an anthemic punk rock homage to 90’s trip-hop. “My home spinning sickly in the stars” is Carlson’s lament of an inevitable apocalypse that will be brought by profit and greed-driven climate change. “Its literally about our world melting and becoming more toxic by the second,” a metaphor Carlson quietly ties in with her own experiences of sickness.
Kassie Carlson is a true poet of punk, the voice of an unheard generation, the leader of The Odd. Few people have been through what she has…and making it out alive is just the beginning. With her band of musical misfits, Guerilla Toss is an unstoppable force of nature. Like all great and challenging art, their message is abstract, yet decipherable. And once the listener cracks the code, they’ll be immersed in a uniquely familiar world of wonder and excitement. What will unite us more than to celebrate the absurd and question what we’ve been told is obvious? Let GT be just one of the many songs among the soundtrack of existential infinity and divine recovery.
Lea Bertucci is a composer, performer and sound designer whose work describes relationships between acoustic phenomena and biological resonance. In addition to her instrumental practice with woodwind instruments, she often incorporates multi-channel speaker arrays, electroacoustic feedback, extended instrumental technique and tape collage. In recent years, her projects have expended toward site-responsive and site-specific sonic investigations of architecture. Deeply experimental, her work is unafraid to subvert musical expectation.
Her discography includes a number of solo and collaborative releases on independent labels and in 2018, she released the critically acclaimed Metal Aether on NNA Tapes. Lea is co-editor of the multi-volume artists book The Tonebook, a survey of graphic scores by contemporary composers, published on Inpatient Press.
As a sound designer, Lea has collaborated with dance and theater companies including Big! Dance Theater, Pig Iron Theater, Piehole!, and Mallory Catlett (Restless NYC). Her collaborations extend to other chamber-noise projects, including a recently formed duo with vocalist Amirtha Kidambi.
As a solo artist, she has performed extensively across the US and Europe with presenters such as PS1 MoMA, Blank Forms, Pioneer Works, The Kitchen, Roulette, The Walker Museum, Caramoor, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, Sound of Stockholm Festival, and Unsound Festival, Krakow. She is a 2016 MacDowell Fellow in composition and a 2015 ISSUE Project Room Artist-in-Residence. In 2018, she received a commission from the American Composers’ Forum for a new percussion trio as well as a brass octet commissioned by the Levy Gorvy Gallery in New York.
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Alice Cohen is a musician and visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in Philadelphia, with jazz musician parents, the “Philly Sound” was a huge influence. Cohen began playing her songs in coffee houses, when she was 14, then went on to sing and play in bands in the late 70s, honing her skills in disco cover bands.
In 1979 she had her first release with Philly funk band Fun City, “Save the Best for Last” (Chrysalis Records), and in 1982 wrote the dance floor classic “Deetour” for Atlantic Records’ disco singer Karen Young. In the 80’s she was in the synth-pop band The Vels (Polygram Records), and in the 90’s she sang and played bass with grunge band Die Monster Die (Roadrunnner Records). In more recent years she has released 5 solo LPs. With “Artificial Fairytales”, her 6th, she is joined for the first time by members of her live band, Adrian Knight and David Lackner aka “The Channel 14 Weather Team”. The live band has grown to include Zach Phillips on bass, and Ryan Power on drums. In addition to her musical output, Cohen is also a visual artist known primarily for her work in stop motion collage animation. She has created numerous music videos, and her work is shown in galleries and screenings worldwide.
New York-based 13-piece ensemble Tredici Bacci was formed by composer Simon Hanes in spring of 2013 as a vehicle to bring his unique musical vision to the stage, and to seduce the ears and minds of the northeast underground music scene.The instrumentation of female vocals, string quartet, horns, accordion and rhythm section is specifically designed to capture the musical qualities of Hanes’ initial inspiration – the music of italian films from the 1960s-70s. From giallo to spaghetti-western, Morricone to Rota to Cipriani, Hanes has made it his duty to absorb it all, and allow it to inform his original, very personal compositions.
Since its impetus, Tredici Bacci has played extensively throughout the northeast, performing in bars, galleries, warehouses and concert halls, leaving a trail of Campari bottles, confetti, and whipped cream in their wake. Each performance is a celebration – the audience revels as the band deftly performs is technically demanding and cinematic music. Collaboratins along the way include such musicians as Elysian Fields, Ryan Power, Ruth Garbus, JG Thirlwell, Charlie Looker, Vincenzo Vasi, and underground legend Gary Wilson.
TB has released three records – “The Thirteen Kisses EP” from 2013, “Vai! Vai! Va! (Musica dal filmato originale)”, and “Amore Per Tutti” from 2016. Set for a 2019 release by NNA Tapes, will feature Hanes’ most adventurous compositions and arrangements to date, as well as an augmented 20-piece version of the band.
The group doubles as a non-idiomatic improvisation/avant-garde composition ensemble, under the name “ENPSE”. The first “ENPSE” recording, entitled “Concetti”, was released in 2014. Hanes graduated from New England Conservatory’s prestigious Contemporary Improvisation department, and has worked extensively with Anthony Coleman and composed many works for his ensemble, “Survivor’s Breakfast”. In addition to writing for Tredici Bacci, he composes for chamber ensembles and film soundtracks. He was a founding member of the critically acclaimed group Guerilla Toss, and recently performed with Trigger, his hardcore punk band at PS1, playing the compositions of John Zorn, under the direction of the composer.
“Tredici’s debut album, Amore per Tutti, finds guest vocalists navigating Hanes’s marvelously arranged kitsch-pop fantasias.” – Rolling Stone
“Hanes pilots the 14-piece Tredici Bacci through narrow stylistic straits, his enthusiasm burns through in the band’s exuberance.” – Pitchfork
“Tredici Bacci songs are familiar and that’s totally the point. It’s that sensation of feeling like you’ve been listening to a song for your whole life. It’s such over the top nostalgia that it’s totally genius, whether that nostalgia is actually part of your memory or something you’ve longed to experience. It becomes the soundtrack to a moment.” – Noisey
“Amore per Tutti,” includes sultry ballads with feathery harmonies, up-tempo tunes with aggressive bass lines, and a snarled guest vocal, delivered by the downtown scum-rock legend J. G. Thirlwell, on the record’s most addictive cut, “Give Him the Gun.” – The New Yorker
S. Araw “Trio” is a new configuration of the Sun Araw Band, the live-action collaborative branch of Sun Araw. The “Trio” is dedicated to improvised electronic music performed in various locations around planet Earth.
S. ARAW TRIO XIII is:
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Booker Stardrum is a Los Angeles based percussionist/improviser/composer. Born from his own idiosyncratic performance practice, his solo work exists at the intersection of minimalism, sound collage, and percussive virtuosity. Seeking to explore a slippery and elusive vertical sonic space, Booker’s recent compositions involve the dense layering of other instruments and a focus on pan-tonality and an intuitive approach to rhythm. A longtime touring and recording member of NYC bands Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Landlady and VaVatican, Booker has also performed and toured with Lee Ranaldo, Weyes Blood, Nels Cline, playwright and theater director Young Jean Lee, and more.
Marja Ahti (n. Johansson) is a Swedish-Finnish musician and sound artist based in Turku, Finland. She’s performing and recording under the moniker Tsembla as well as her own name.
Ahti works with field recordings and other acoustic sound material combined with synthesizers and electronic feedback in order to find the borderland where these sounds start to mimic each other or communicate. She makes music that rides on waves of slowly warping intuitively tuned harmonies and mutating textures – rough edged compositions, rich in detail. She also makes music and sound for dance and performances.
Ahti has presented her music in many different contexts around Europe, in Japan and the United States. She’s also a member of the Himera work group, organizing experimental music events and workshops, one half of the duo Ahti & Ahti with her partner Niko-Matti Ahti, and collaborator of Kemialliset Ystävät.
Erica Eso began as the solo avant pop project of Weston Minissali (Cloud Becomes Your Hand; VaVatican) in 2014 during a 2 year stint living in between the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley, NY. While the songs may appear, at first glance, as basic pop melodies and song structure, that familiarity is used as a pallet to experiment, critique and subtly distort. Since the 2015 debut album ‘2019’ on Ramp Local, Erica Eso has expanded from solo bedroom experimentation to a full-on band, integrating Rhonda Lowry (drums), Nathaniel Morgan (bass/vocals), Lydia Velichkovski (synthesizer), and Angelica Bess (vocals/synth) to add new dimensions to their self-proclaimed “femmed-out microtonal synth pop.” But whose femininity is hollering out amongst this reverb?
Subtle Degrees is the new duo of Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone; Battle Trance) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Laplante’s new album-length composition ‘A Dance That Empties’ is available on February 23rd, 2018 on NNA Tapes and New Amsterdam Records.
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Travis Laplante is a saxophonist, composer, and qigong practitioner living in Brooklyn, New York and southern Vermont. He leads Battle Trance, the acclaimed tenor saxophone quartet; he is also known for his solo saxophone work and his longstanding ensemble Little Women. Laplante has recently performed and/or recorded with Trevor Dunn, Ches Smith, Peter Evans, So Percussion, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Buke and Gase, Darius Jones, Mat Maneri, and Matt Mitchell, among others. He has toured his music extensively and has appeared at major international festivals such as Moers Festival (Germany), Jazz Em Agosto (Portugal), International Jazz Festival Saalfelden (Austria), Hopscotch (Raleigh, NC), Earshot (Seattle, WA), and many others.
Popmatters hailed Laplante’s compositions as “an achievement not just for the saxophone, but for avant garde composition as a whole” while the New York Times called Battle Trance’s debut album Palace of Wind “mesmerizing… a floating tapestry of fascinating textures made up of tiny musical motifs, and a music that throbs with tension between stillness and agitation, density and light.”
Laplante has served as guest faculty at the Royal Academy of Music (Aarhus, Denmark), Dartmouth College, and The New School. As a qigong student of master Robert Peng, Laplante has undergone traditional intensive training. His focus in recent years, under the tutelage of Laura Stelmok, has been on Taoist alchemical medicine and the cultivation of the heart. Laplante is passionate about the intersection of music and medicine. He and his wife are the founders of Sword Hands, a qigong and acupuncture healing practice based in Brooklyn, New York and Putney, Vermont.
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Gerald Cleaver is one of the New York jazz scene’s leading drummer and composers, who covers a wide range of stylistic ground. Having played with jazz masters Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and Ray Bryant as well as the leading lights of the AACM, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill, he is a product of many traditions within creative music.
Cleaver is known for his associations with Roscoe Mitchell, Charles Gayle, Miroslav Vitous, Mario Pavone, William Parker, Michael Formanek, Joe Morris, Jeremy Pelt, Craig Taborn and Yaron Herman. He is also the leader of the bands Uncle June (a reflection on the personal and familial challenges of Black Americans during The Great Migration featuring Tony Malaby, Andrew Bishop, Mat Maneri, Craig Taborn and Drew Gress), Violet Hour (a tribute to Detroit featuring Jeremy Pelt, JD Allen, Andrew Bishop, Ben Waltzer and Chris Lightcap), Black Host (a noisy avant-garde group featuring Pascal Niggenkemper, Cooper-Moore, Darius Jones and Brandon Seabrook) and Farmers By Nature (a free-improvising collective co-led with bassist William Parker and pianist Craig Taborn).
Leland Jackson creates moving work, in both the figurative and the literal. As Ahnnu, he pushes electronic music toward its bare emotive essence, creating context in which listeners can immerse themselves. As Cakedog, however, he’s actually moving you. An avid admirer of the footwork movement from Chicago, Cakedog is Jackson’s contribution to the canon. On paper, his visual art pieces are portals to worlds where a three thousand year old edifice might be full of burners.
Originally from Virginia via Japan, Jackson has found a home in Los Angeles with hubs like Leaving Records and peers like Knxwledge and Mndsgn. During our conversation, there are moments when he reminds me of Joe Morton’s character from The Brother From Another Planet. He’s earnestly curious about the bizarre social fabric we live in while many of us still wonder what is water? He speaks directly with unsentimental optimism. His off-center perspective is the link between his emotive electronic work as Ahnnu, the irresistible grooves of Cakedog’s footwork, and Jackson’s strikingly visceral visual art. Cakedog’s new O.T.K. EP releases June 16 on TAR.
Over the last decade, Burlington, Vermont songwriter/producer Ryan Power has tirelessly embarked on the quest to write the definitive song-based music, full of accuracy, refinement, deliberation, and perfectly-placed shifting harmonic puzzles. Ryan’s latest “Identity Picks” for NNA Tapes is an eight track song cycle that dances through lush jazz pads, aquatic smooth jazz funk styles, and the sensitive side of progressive rock. These songs are long, shifting compositions, slowly unfolding and patiently circulating within a refreshing variety of stylistic modes. Throughout these colorful arrangements, Ryan creates a polyphonic choir with his own voice, adding symphonic embellishments to his calculated and catchy hooks.
Ryan addresses contemporary issues in his subject matter, including the music industry, lust, self-evaluation, identity crisis, and the contemplation and acceptance of a world gone mad. Unlike the phobic, neurotic head spaces of 2012′s “I Don’t Want to Die”, “Identity Picks” is a life assessment, a meditation on putting yourself out there and the struggle to maintain integrity under scrutiny. The production is astonishingly hi-fi – recorded, engineered, mixed and performed entirely by Power himself, aside from the occasional guest appearance from members of his newly-formed live band. According to the artist, the songs on this album were written “to help give my life meaning” through the purity and timelessness of classic, addictive songwriting. In an era of technological A.D.D. and fleeting vogue, “Identity Picks” is a record to listen to over and over again, finding new meaning and appreciation with each revolution.
We’re very proud to have the innovative composer and performer Patrick Higgins return to NNA Tapes, this time in a duo format with acclaimed violinist Josh Modney. On 2015’s ‘Social Death Mixtape,’ we witnessed Higgins’ talents as a composer, creating intricate electroacoustic compositions with a variety of performers. On ‘EVRLY MVSIC’ however, we hear Higgins as a skilled performer on his primary instrument, the guitar. Josh Modney comes from a similar background, having established himself as a prominent figure in New York City’s New Music circuit, with work ranging from the chamber music group International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), to composer-performer collective Wet Ink Ensemble. Having shared the stage together for the past 5 years both as improvisers and as chamber musicians, the foundation of ’EVRLY MVSIC’ is built on a long term musical connection between Modney and Higgins, a bond that is made evident throughout these recordings.
On ‘EVRLY MVSIC,’ the two performers have taken the concept of “Early Music” as a stimulus to inspire performances of acoustic improvisation that aim at a compositional tightness, creating a musical framework based more around the feeling, rather than the sound, of Medieval struggle. Tightly coiled around highly virtuosic and austere interactions, Higgins and Modney harness the essence of Early Music both in sentiment as well as gesture, using guitar and violin in unorthodox ways that sometimes recall the sounds of early stringed instruments such as the oud and viol. Each instrument inherently carries the capacity for both classical beauty and textural violence, both of which are employed with tasteful skill and execution. Improvisation in this project is neither free nor, strictly speaking, structured. Instead, it is aimed at an emergent form in the instant, looking toward song structure in the most novel and ancient sense. Noise and extended technique are used to create a lyrical aching quality, while melody is used to create unsettling noise.
Throughout the album, EVRLY MVSIC displays a linear progression of material, building over the course of three “Partitas.” The first two utilize an arcane, sparse musical language of plucked sounds strangely reminiscent of Renaissance lute music, advancing to a lushly harmonized set of microtonal, cantabile pieces that explore the full expressive range of violin and acoustic guitar. What furthermore adds to the uniqueness of this album, however, is the third Partita, which introduces electric guitar and real-time electronic processing on both instruments to culminate in an expansive, relentlessly energetic display of refreshing new sounds. The original acoustic palette of guitar and violin is retained, but vastly expanded upon, injecting a dense, unpredictable modern edge into the archaic atmosphere. ‘EVRLY MVSIC’ presents an incredibly original fusion between ancient European musical history and distinctly American experimentalism, hinged on the nexus between improvisation and chamber music, and fueled by a deeply personal musical alliance.
Co-owner of Leaving Records, where artists like Ras G, Jonwayne, and Odd Nosdam have released their avant beats, L.A.’s Matthew David McQueen is also a solo artist, recording and performing under the name Matthewdavid. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he was a mainstream hip-hop fan before getting turned on to the left-field beats of labels like Plug Research and Stones Throw. An internship at the former meant a move to L.A. and in 2008, a debut release on the label with the Matthewdavid EP. Leaving Records was formed with visual artist Jesselisa Moretti that same year and issued cassettes, CDs, LPs, and downloads from underground artists like Dak, Jar Moff, and Matthewdavid himself, who collaborated with Sun Araw in 2010 on the cassette release Livephreaxxx!!!!!. Mat
Sally Decker is a musician and writer from Evanston, IL and released her first full-length album on NNA this summer. She studied creative writing at Oberlin College, while also pursuing interests in sound and media art. Currently Sally most often creates and performs as Multa Nox. Her work explores the emotional potential of sounds as portals of connections, and works to impart a type of focus towards one’s own internal world. She often finds herself at the intersection of poetry and sound, exploring relationships between language, meaning, sound and memory. Sally has been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for the last two years, but will be moving to Oakland, CA in the fall to pursue an MFA in Electronic Music and Recorded Media at Mills College.
By blending traditional guitar-and-voice songwriting with field recording and tape collage experimentation, Kitz has developed a ghostly and contemplative form of musical expression all his own that breaks down walls between genre categorizations. Together with a newly-assembled band consisting of percussion and strings, “Dancing On Soda Lake” is Kitz’s most fully-realized and captivating effort to date.
The work of Max Eilbacher draws upon the European traditions of electroacoustic and musique concréte composition, the intuitive American free noise underground, and the abstract edges of processing-intensive computer sound. Recent records have been released by Spectrum Spools, Fogged Records, Anomia, NNA Tapes, and a series of self released cassettes. He has toured extensively through North America and Europe with collaborations and solo projects.
die Reihe is the project of New York City based sound artist and engineer Jack Callahan. After years of experimenting with electronic music, composition, and modular systems, the recent work of die Reihe has found Callahan operating on the outermost extremes of conceptual art, the avant garde, and minimalism. Crafting a unique style over the years through a series of live performances and releases on labels such as Ascetic House, Jeff Witscher’s Salon, and his own Bánh Mì Verlag imprint, Callahan has more recently distilled his approach to composition by holding a microscope to various genres of music and focusing on a single element within them. On “Housed”, Callahan turns his lens to this classic style of dance music and investigates one often overlooked component – the chords.
One of Brooklyn-based experimental musician Daniel Lopatin’s many projects, Oneohtrix (pronounced “one-oh-tricks”) Point Never encompasses flowing electronics that evoke Tangerine Dream; ambient drones and excursions into noise, and forays into adventurous sampling. Growing up, he was inspired by the synth sounds of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Stevie Wonder in his father’s record collection, as well as classic video game soundtracks such as Metroid. Oneohtrix Point Never emerged in the late 2000s, around the time that Lopatin was also playing with the trio Astronaut and working on another solo project, Infinity Window. His first OPN full-length, 2007’s Betrayed in the Octagon, introduced Oneohtrix Point Never’s sci-fi bent, which was emphasized by Lopatin’s Roland Juno-60 synthesizer and Korg Electribe ES-1 sampler.
Cassette-only efforts such as 2008’s Transmat Memories paved the way for a prolific 2009, which included a cassette collaboration with Keith Fullerton Whitman as well as two more albums, the reflective Russian Mind and the comparatively bright and accessible Zones Without People. These two albums, along with Betrayed in the Octagon and selected tracks from OPN’s cassettes, were released as Rifts late in 2009 by No Fun Productions. Lopatin went further afield on 2010’s critically acclaimed Editions Mego release Returnal, incorporating noise as well as more accessible melodies into the album. He also founded the Software label, an imprint distributed by Mexican Summer, with friend and Tigercity member Joel Ford.
In 2011, Oneohtrix Point Never played the All Tomorrows Parties festival curated by Animal Collective and released Replica — which featured samples from commercials and was also Lopatin’s first album recorded in a studio — on Software that November. Nearly two years later, Oneohtrix Point Never made its Warp debut with R Plus Seven, which featured some of Lopatin’s most fragmented and ambitious tracks to date. That year, Lopatin collaborated with Brian Reitzell on the score to Sofia Coppola’s film The Bling Ring and also participated in a collaboration between Warp and the Tate Gallery, composing a piece inspired by Jeremy Deller’s The History of the World, which diagrammed the interconnectedness of acid jazz and brass bands. Music from Rifts and R Plus Seven also appeared in 2014’s Love Child, an HBO documentary about video game addiction. Oneohtrix Point Never’s many projects that year included Commissions I, a Record Store Day release featuring music written for the Polish Icons project at the Sacrum Profanum festival, among other pieces.
That October, Lopatin’s soundtrack for Koji Morimoto’s 1995 anime Magnetic Rose received a live world premiere at Manchester, England’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. Oneohtrix Point Never also joined Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden on the July and August dates of their tour, playing half-hour sets of cyberdrone music instead of tracks from his albums. Commissions II arrived on Record Store Day 2015 and included an excerpt of the Magnetic Rose score as well as “Bullet Hell Abstraction,” a two-part piece inspired by Manabu Namiki’s video game music that was commissioned by the Red Bull Music Academy. That November, the full-length Garden of Delete — which was inspired by Lopatin’s time on the road with NIN and Soundgarden as well as his renewed interest in the guitar — was released. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi (billboard)
BATTLE TRANCE is Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner.
Members of Battle Trance have also performed with: Tune-Yards, Little Women, Tim Berne, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Trevor Dunn, Ingrid Laubrock, Rafiq Bhatia, Ches Smith, Steve Lehman, Weasel Walter, Mat Maneri, John Hollenbeck, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Evans, and many others.
Battle Trance had an auspicious inception. One morning, Travis Laplante (Little Women and a trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Ches Smith) literally awoke with the crystal clear vision that he needed to start an ensemble with three specific individuals: Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner. Laplante was actually unfamiliar with their work as musicians and had only a minimal relationship with them as individuals. He was also aware that a band of four tenor saxophones could be the worst idea ever. In spite of this, Laplante followed through and contacted Nelson, Viner, and Breiner. He gave them very little information beyond his morning experience. But no one hesitated – the ensemble formed that evening.
For Baltimore native John Jones, this freewheeling atmosphere of internet-era music production and appreciation has allowed him to try on the trappings of lo-fi folk, drone, and Krautrock, all under the name Nerftoss. (Not to mention his work riding the thunder stick for noise rock band Dope Body.) Jones’s latest Nerftoss missive Crushed finds him working with the colors of dance music. The cassette, out on NNA Tapes, is constructed like a thoughtful and artful DJ set, with no space between the tracks and one melodic and rhythmic idea flowing seamlessly into the next. That way the Latin house grooves of “Some Kind of Way” slowly melt into an ambient wash before being slowly solidified into the African polyrhythms of “Bender.” Or letting the piercing industrial racket that closes out “22 & C” provide the foundation for “Ever Always” and it’s disco stomp. By the time the closing track “Star Picking” loses its trance-inducing vibe in the glare of bright psychedelic swirls, your whole person will feel loose, euphoric, and desperate for more. (AdHoc)
Fans of the Montreal post-punk outfit Ought may be taken aback by lead singer Tim Darcy’s new collaboration with aural experimentalist Andrea-Jane Cornell. Gone are the catchy hooks, synthesizer riffs, key changes, time signatures, and beats — all that remains by way of pop music is Darcy’s trademark lyrical delivery, and even that lovable sneer is dialed back in deference to an increased focus on spoken word and soundscape.
“It can be said of folks living in Montreal and making music that having a project with someone is the only surefire way to actually see them. We started working together informally with live improvisation sessions on CKUT Radio, where we both worked at the time. This lead to making long form semi-structured instrumental improvs at these sleepover drone nights at The Plant, where we first performed as A Freedom Earth Tower Satellite.
We talked about using elements of the places we were playing live shows in as sound sources, like fans and fridges and the resonance of window panes, and processing them live to create a bed or swarm of static and hum. There are some remnants of this idea deep in the layers of Too Significant To Ignore, such as a long sample of AJ’s fridge gurgling in “Cosmetic Sadness”. We spent many an evening in our living rooms, kitchens, and eventually the pieces started coming together in AJ’s tiny jam room in her apartment as we were preparing for our first live performance where many of the pieces on the album took their initial shape. The pieces continued to take form in a rehearsal space where Tim and a bunch of bands practiced at the time, where we could play as loud as we wanted to and get lost in long form explorations that were finally reduced to the tracks that appear on the album.
Both musically and lyrically there is an accordion of tension and release throughout the record. We feel that the album takes you on a journey that has unexpected twists, turns and revelations. It’s both a comfortable and uncomfortable journey, where one track goes into another and sometimes those transitions are smooth and others time jarring. Thanks for listening.” (Spin)
Originally hailing from Springfield, Massachusetts, experimental musician Jake Meginsky now lives and works between New York City and the arty suburb of Northhampton, MA. Invention is at the heart of Jake’s performances before he even strikes a note. He builds his own customised instruments and electronic circuitry, combining them with percussion, modular drum machines and sampling software. Constantly transgressing the boundaries between acoustic and electronic, analogue and digital, Jake floats with similar ease between performing, composing, sound installation and live scoring. In a dazzling array of projects, side projects, labels and collaborations, Jake has worked with everyone from Milford Graves and Bill Nace to nmperign and the Emergent Improvisation Ensemble. But whatever the nature of his output, improvisation is always the essence of Jake’s art. (Huck Magazine)
Travis Laplante is a saxophonist, composer, and qigong healer living in Brooklyn, New York and southern Vermont. Laplante leads Battle Trance, the acclaimed tenor saxophone quartet. He is also known for his solo saxophone work and his longstanding ensemble Little Women. Laplante has recently performed and/or recorded with Trevor Dunn, Ches Smith, Peter Evans, So Percussion, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Buke and Gase, Darius Jones, Matt Maneri, and Matt Mitchell, among others. He has toured his music extensively and has appeared at many major international festivals throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. As a qigong student of master Robert Peng, Laplante has undergone traditional intensive training. His focus in recent years, under the tutelage of Laura Stelmok, has been on Taoist alchemical medicine and the cultivation of the heart. Laplante is passionate about the intersection of music and medicine. He and his wife are the founders of Sword Hands, a qigong and acupuncture healing practice based in Brooklyn, New York and Putney, Vermont.
Peter Evans is a trumpet player, and improviser/composer based in New York City since 2003. Evans is part of a broad, hybridized scene of musical experimentation and his work cuts across a wide range of modern musical practices and traditions. Peter is committed to the simultaneously self-determining and collaborative nature of musical improvisation as a compositional tool, and works with an ever-expanding group of musicians and composers in the creation of new music. His primary groups as a leader are the Peter Evans Quintet and the Zebulon trio. In addition, Evans has been performing and recording solo trumpet music since 2002 and is widely recognized as a leading voice in the field, having released several recordings over the past decade. He is a member of the cooperative groups Pulverize the Sound (with Mike Pride and Tim Dahl) and Rocket Science (with Evan Parker, Craig Taborn and Sam Pluta) and is constantly experimenting and forming new configurations with like minded players. As a composer, he has been commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Yarn/Wire, the Donaueschingen Musiktage Festival, the Jerome Foundation’s Emerging Artist Program, and the Doris Duke Foundation for the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival. Evans has presented and/or performed his works at major festivals worldwide and tours his own groups extensively. He has worked with some of the leading figures in new music: John Zorn, Kassa Overall, Jim Black, Weasel Walter, Levy Lorenzo, Nate Wooley, Steve Schick, Mary Halvorson, Joe McPhee, George Lewis, and performs with both ICE and the Wet Ink Ensemble. He has been releasing recordings on his own label, More is More, since 2011.
Louis Johnstone’s Wanda Group project has been making a growing name for itself across the course of this year. With a quick-fire succession of cryptically titled records, accompanied with gray scale collage artwork built from images of fragmented rock, he’s established a particular aesthetic that’s both unique and tough to pin down. Certain elements coincide with the styles and ideals of musique concrete, or artists like Joseph Hammer, Atrax Morgue and the school of industrial/experimental/minimal cassettes that cropped up in the late 80s and early 90s. But throwing names to see what sticks seems a little at odds with the nourishing aspect at the heart of Wanda Group, a certain verisimilitude that sidesteps overt abstraction towards something more beautiful.
His tracks are complex, intimate structures: webs of samples stripped of their original setting, closely examined, then messily smeared and reapplied into radically new shapes. The overall approach and final appearance is closer to papier-mache than any traditional style of production. Jar Moff seems a kindred spirit of sorts – and indeed they share a connection through Matthew David’s LA-based Leaving Records, with Johnstone having previously released a more hip-hop orientated spate of work on the label as Dem Hunger. Both have worked visually, primarily through collage, and both share musical techniques that extend those approaches into a musical medium.
Wanda Group’s work so far has both cropped up on an enviable list of labels – NNA Tapes, Further Records, Opal Tapes, Woetone, Vlek – and been fired out onto his own ‘UMBRO G’ bandcamp, always up for grabs for a couple of quid at most. Perhaps his highest profile release, PISS FELL OUT LIKE SUNLIGHT first emerged on cassette late last year via Opal Tapes (it has since been pressed onto vinyl) and proved an enticing step forwards for the artist. Over two sides, a delightful network of small forms were laid out in a sequence not dissimilar from that of a mixtape. The softest, most porous of his work to date, it sounded chiseled from rock as crumbled and aerated as that found on the artwork.
Also worth noting is his obtuse and fascinating use of Twitter as a space for stream-of-consciousness wittering, going above and beyond that which you’d expect of the medium. It’s a weird and disorienting mix of humour, observation, the everyday and an almost poetic formation of words. Sly track and record titles give you a hint of it, but the effect is scaled up here – an artist crossing boundaries between ‘weird’ Twitter and art. Particularly fascinating is a series of spontaneous meanderings from not long ago, discussing a hypothetical Resident Advisor review of so-called ‘Outsider House’ in relation to his weekly ASDA shop. All darkly knowing, wonderfully eloquent and faintly ridiculous.
It seems the Dublin-based Opal Tapes label has settled in for a long-term relationship with Wanda Group. Sitting amongst a varied roster of musicians that look to break apart the atomic framework of electronic music – especially dance music – through explorations of noise and collage, it’s a great spot for him. This Friday Johnstone will be debuting a hitherto unseen Wanda Group performance at a showcase for Opal Tapes and Public Information at London’s Waiting Room, courtesy of BleeD. It’s a potentially radical new space for the project that offers its own particular challenges. (Quietus)
Described by The New Yorker magazine as one of the “prime movers of the local avant-garde”, and an “exacting avant-classical guitarist” by TimeOut NY, Patrick Higgins is a New York based composer/performer of experimental music. Higgins has composed works for some of the nation’s leading ensembles, ranging from chamber orchestra works, percussion cycles, and string quartets to smaller ensembles and soloists. He has scored works for television, museum exhibitions, and films both short-form and feature-length. Higgins plays guitar and composes in ZS, hailed by the New York Times as “one of the strongest avant-garde bands in New York.”
As a soloist, he performs both classical acoustic and electric guitar in genre-bending contexts, utilizing extended technique and electronic processing. A work of “visionary […] master-craftsmanship on guitar” (Tiny Mix Tapes), his record of quadraphonic guitar compositions STEREO was named to the Best of 2012 by Impose Magazine, and his electro-acoustic project Bachanalia has received numerous plaudits for its re-interpretation of the Baroque master’s work. A unique double LP of Higgins’ String Quartet No.2 and its electro-acoustic “remix” Glacia is out on Ex Cathedra Records – called “stunning” by Experimedia. Social Death Mixtape – a record of assorted experimental composition, is now available on NNA Records. Patrick Higgins’ music has been performed internationally in over 20 countries, including performances at some of the world’s leading concert venues and music festivals: Unsound Festival (Poland), Merkin Concert Hall (Ecstatic Music Fest), Issue Project Room, Roulette, The Stone, 92Y Tribeca, (le) Poisson Rouge, Tribeca Film Festival, Big Ears Festival, ICA Boston, Hopscotch Festival, Club Unit (Tokyo), Vacant Gallery (Tokyo), Donau Festival (Austria), Incubate (Netherlands), Berghain (Germany), Magazin 4 (Belgium), Sonic (France), Puxian Grand Theater (China), Art Basel, The Queens Museum NY, Paula Cooper Gallery and many more.
Upcoming projects and collaborations include a new record of solo guitar and sampled percussion, a premiere of string quartet no.3 by the Mivos Quartet, a new long form composition for Vicky Chow, a forthcoming record of Bach’s lute music, some hand-bound editions of scores, and an on-going project of nomadic symphonic works with Nuit Blanche NY.
Olivia Block is a media artist and composer. Her body of work includes sound recordings, audio-visual installations, performances, sound design for cinema, and scores for orchestra and chamber music concerts.
Over the last twenty years, Block has pioneered the utilization of audio field recordings and found materials in the realms of music and sound art. She combines field recordings, chamber instruments and electronic textures, resulting in mysterious and vivid electroacoustic sound pieces including Pure Gaze, Mobius Fuse, Karren, and others. Block creates multimedia installations and performances utilizing found sounds from micro cassette tapes, field recordings, video, and curated 35mm slides.
Block’s work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architectural sound, and found/archival materials from the 1950’s-1990’s
Her work with expanded cinema and film artists has led to interests related to cinema sound, and visual phenomena like shadows and reflections.
Block has developed a body of partially-improvised compositions for inside-piano with various materials, including metal pieces and shards of broken glass. Her scores for orchestra and chamber instruments emphasize timbre and dynamics. Her most recent orchestral pieces include portions of “easy listening” inspired music from the 1970’s, playing underneath recordings of room ventilation, white noise and commercial spaces like malls.
Her solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics, amplified objects, and piano, presented in a slow and deliberate gestural style that Steve Smith of the New York Times described recently as having “palpable sensations of volition and emotional involvement.”
Block has performed, premiered and exhibited her work throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours in festivals including Incubate (Tilburg), Festival del Bosque Germinal (Mexico City), Sonic Light (Amsterdam),Kontraste (Krems), Dissonanze (Rome), Archipel (Geneva) Angelica (Bologna), Sunoni per il Popolo (Montreal), and many others. Additionally, she has presented work at the ICA (London), MCA (Chicago), La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, The Kitchen (NYC), ISSUE Project Room Experimental Intermedia (Brooklyn), and TIFF (Toronto).
She has completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Berklee College of Music. Block has presented talks at additional universities in film, music, media arts, and anthropology departments, including Yale University, University of Chicago, and Indiana University.
Block has created sound installations for public sites and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, CONTEXT (Miami and NY), Millennium Park (Chicago), the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room (Chicago), and at the “Echoes Through the Mountains” exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy).
Her 2013 LP/download release, Karren (Sedimental, 2013) was chosen as “Best of 2014″ by The Wire, Pitchfork, and Artforum, among other publications. She was selected as a 2014 “Person of the Year” in the Chicago Reader. Aberration of Light, her latest solo release, is now available on NNA tapes. She recently completed her large-scale multi-speaker sound installation, Sonambient Pavilion, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, utilizing sounds from Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient sculptures. She is currently working on several projects, including a multi-speaker presentation of her forthcoming release, Dissolution (Glistening Examples), and pieces for piano and organ. Olivia Block is based in Chicago.
Drainolith is Alexander Moskos, best known as first-chair guitar in the formalist rock group AIDS Wolf but also a member of Montreal’s forward thinking electronic music scene. Moskos has spent the last decade touring and recording with a number of different outfits often playing modified consumer electronics and analog synthesizers.
With Drainolith, Moskos is finally in the realm of song-form, albeit with a polyrhythmic undertow and woozy vocal style. All of Drainolith’s material is performed live, with no backing tapes, samplers sequencers or arpeggiators. Moskos plays foot triggered drum synths, keyboard or guitar and modified cross-patched disco mixers. Moskos has released material on American Tapes, NNA, Deception Island and Wagon. The new Drainolith 7″ You Paid For It b/w Deepwater No Cars is out now on Montreal’s own Psychic Handshake and an LP on Spectrum Spools will be ready for release in early 2012. (Last FM)
Wei Zhongle was born in a midwestern oasis, out of a love of traditional Chinese court music and general esotericism. Now they make pop music. Led by guitarist & vocal gymnast Rob Jacobs, Wei Zhongle has had four differing line-ups over five albums released with avant-taste-makers like NNA Tapes, Hairy Spider Legs, and New Atlantis. Through relentless touring and an arcane intuitiveness, their sounds have evolved from the angular meditations of their self-titled debut to the murky architecture of Raised High/Brought Low to the hypnotic ecstasy of Nu Trance. Along the way, they’ve picked up glowing endorsements from The Wire, Consequence of Sound, Impose, The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and others.
John Colpitts ( aka Kid Millions) founded and play the drums in Oneida, People of the North, and Man Forever. He writes things occasionally for Talkhouse. He has played drums with Yo La Tengo, Boredoms, Spiritualized, Laurie Anderson, Damo Suzuki, So Percussion, Michael Daves, Lia Ices, Glenn Kotche, Akron Family, Samara Lubelski, Lee Ranaldo, Glockabelle, Silver Apples, J Spaceman, Marnie Stern, Ex Models and William Basinski (among others).
What happens when you get “too good” at your instrument? Some go straight for free-jazz, jumping into a solo career to create a “big name” that will eventually collaborate with other “big names” in the improvisation world. Free experimentation with other skilled musicians becomes procedural — the task being to converse virtuosically with your instrument in a variety of different formats, honing in on loose concepts or musical goals. Another option might be to eventually attempt a reconciliation of instrumental skill with the greater pantheon of art history, a history that may or may not involve jazz. In this case, the talented player embarks to apply their instrument to other mediums, to create works that abandon the moniker of the virtuoso. Perhaps I’m making a conjecture, but VaVatican’s particular brand of NYC post-instrumentalism demonstrates a group of players who are so damn good at playing their instruments, they’re nearly bored with standard improvisational flaunt. Instead, they’ve more in common with staged performance, with theater, with constructing fragmented anti-narratives through their instruments. They may align more with Beckett than Coltrane. (TMT, by SCVSCV)
“Lost at the end of a long sewage canal, we found spray painted hearts with our initials in it. we immediately drank the juice and discovered that tons of enchantment parchments were lying beneath our feet. we are now utilizing the spells one day at time against the scurrying rodents that lie before us.”
PHORK (a.k.a. P.H.O.R.K., standing for “People’s Higher Order of Royal Kinship”) is the Los Angeles-based producer of mutant techno Neal Reinalda. Since 2012 Reinalda has dropped several album-length cassette releases, showcasing a hi-def, abstract form of footwork, heavy on vocal snippets. PHORK succeeds in injecting a warmth and humanity into dance music that is wholly original, keeping a global influence in its sampling studies, while receiving guidance from the worlds of noise, hip-hop, ambient, and sound art.
1968: Born traversing a fine line between hippies and rednecks behind the redwood curtain. first musical affinities: the beach boys, blondie, cheap trick, kiss. first television: ultraman, speedracer, bugs bunny. first films: over the edge, the mouse and his child, snoopy come home, bedknobs & broomsticks. first books: zylpha Keatly Snyder’s “Witches of worm”, “The Velvet Room” and “the Headless Cupid”.
1977: Began studies on clarinet.
1981: Began studies on electric bass and subsequently quit the clarinet as i realized that girls would now talk to me.
1986: The same year that Lynch’s blue velvet and Slayer’s reign in blood were released, graduated from EHS. the school’s motto: “pigs live in litter, loggers live in pride”. started a band called Mr. Bungle. then i got a job at shakey’s pizza. began classical technique studies on the contrabass.
1990: Graduated from humboldt state university after studying the likes of harry partch, iannis xenakis, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinksy, Gustav Mahler, J.S. Bach, you know, all the cats. Also performed Koussevitsky’s Concerto for Double Bass with the HSO.
1992: First Mr. Bungle record released on Warner Bros. Moved to SF and two months later embarked on the first MB tour of the US. At the age of 24 I was one of the oldest people in the van. For the next eight years played lots of weddings and restaurants between tours with MB. Learned a lot about music playing with Connah, Goldberg, Schott, Kavee, Amendola, Greenlief, et al.
2000: Relocated to Brooklyn, NYC.
Currently playing in various projects under the direction of John Zorn (Nova Quartet, Dreamers, Electric Masada, Aleph Trio). The Nels Cline Singers, Curtis Hassel bring’s New Mellow Edwards, Melvins Lite, Endangered Blood, Tomahawk, The Darius Jones Quartet & Erik Friedlander’s Bonebridge. I still have plans for my own bands: trio-convulsant, PROOF Readers and Mad Love; and I continue to write music for independent films, practice long tones, pine over Daisy Lowe and drink shitty beer in heavy metal saloons. (home website)
Percussionist, drummer, and composer Ches Smith is a forward-thinking, genre-bending musician with a bent toward experimental and avant-garde improvisation. Born in San Diego, Smith grew up in the Sacramento area, where he became interested in music in his teens, playing with a variety of punk, metal, and avant-garde jazz groups. After high school, he attended the University of Oregon, where he studied philosophy before relocating to San Francisco in the mid-’90s. Once in the Bay Area, Smith spent several years playing in bands and studying privately with percussionist Peter Magadini before enrolling in the graduate program at Mills College in Oakland. While at Mills, he studied percussion, improvisation, and composition under the tutelage of such luminaries as William Winant, Fred Frith,Pauline Oliveros, and Alvin Curran. It was during this period that Smith got his first big break, subbing for Winant as the touring drummer for Mr. Bungle, an association that also led to his joining Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant. Since leaving Mills, Smith has developed into an in-demand collaborator and sideman, splitting his time between performances with noise rock acts like Xiu Xiu and Secret Chiefs 3 as well as playing with cutting-edge musicians like Ben Goldberg, Annie Gosfield,Tim Berne, John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai, and others.
As a solo artist, Smith made his debut with Congs for Brums in 2006, followed by Finally Out of My Hands with his group These Arches in 2010. Two years later, he delivered the solo percussion and electronics album Psycho Predictions, played on Berne’s Snakeoil for ECM (his third date with this band) and Darius Jones’ Book of Mae’Bul: Another Kind of Sunrise from AUM Fidelity.
2013 proved a prolific year for Smith as a sideman. He played on recordings by Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson, Matt Mitchell and Berne, as well as Secret Chiefs 3’s Book of Souls: Folio A. This band issued Ishraqiyun the following year as well as Ches Smith’s These Arches’ release, International Hookah. 2015 found the drummer working again on recordings by and with Berne, Jones and Halvorson.
Smith made his label debut as a leader on ECM with the trio date The Bell in January of 2016. His sidemen were pianist, Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri. (All Music)
Travis Laplante is a saxophonist, composer, and qigong healer living in Brooklyn, New York and southern Vermont. Laplante leads Battle Trance, the acclaimed tenor saxophone quartet. He is also known for his solo saxophone work and his longstanding ensemble Little Women. Laplante has recently performed and/or recorded with Trevor Dunn, Ches Smith, Peter Evans, So Percussion, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Buke and Gase, Darius Jones, Matt Maneri, and Matt Mitchell, among others. He has toured his music extensively and has appeared at many major international festivals throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. As a qigong student of master Robert Peng, Laplante has undergone traditional intensive training. His focus in recent years, under the tutelage of Laura Stelmok, has been on Taoist alchemical medicine and the cultivation of the heart. Laplante is passionate about the intersection of music and medicine. He and his wife are the founders of Sword Hands, a qigong and acupuncture healing practice based in Brooklyn, New York and Putney, Vermont.
Nestled in the lush greenery of southern Vermont on the banks of the Connecticut river, lies the bizarre haven of Brattleboro, home to the chivalrous rock and roll duo Great Valley. Comprised of Peter Nichols and Jo Miller-Gamble, Great Valley have been kind enough to bestow their latest opus, “Lizards of Camelot”, to their northern neighbors up here at NNA. “Lizards” manages to cross over from a mere concept album into what we would call more of a “journey” album, by creating a vivid tale of a reptilian-led escapade through lands unknown. Peter and Jo weave this folklore with the classical palette of guitar, drums, vocals and keyboard, resulting in a warbly, technicolor flavor of rock that stands alone in terms of sonics and atmosphere. Tastefully twangy guitar lines flutter out over fat organ bass lines and ultra locked-in drum beats, with a unique concoction of bombastic drum triggers and synthesizer filigree bringing it all together. At times resembling The Cure playing a heated game of D&D, “Lizards” mixes up all the tastiest facets of rock into a cohesive whole, with elements of New Wave, progressive rock, surf guitar shred, and classic Sixties psychedelia all thrown into the mix. Peter’s slithery, love-soaked crooning narrates the adventure, like a bard’s song unfolding over a technical assemblage of rock-blocks. The strong, groove-laden songwriting is reinforced with warped, nitrous baloney interludes melting throughout, with plenty of digital flutes, chimes, and keyboard solos accentuating the odyssey. While hard to categorize, “Lizards Of Camelot” is soaked through with the unmistakable “Brattleboro sound”, fitting in nicely alongside like-minded freaky friends such as Blanche Blanche Blanche, Happy Jawbone Family Band, Chris Weisman, Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth, Big French and so on, many of whom have lent loving contributions to these recordings. Although DIY at heart, “Lizards” has all the makings of a well-conceived and executed proper Album, assembled at home by pouring imagination into an 8-track, like a punk mentality shining through a Brian Wilson-esque lens to create the ultimate bedroom fantasy. (bandcamp)
“Neil Campbell is a one-man subculture. In 30 years of music-making in various configurations of improvised rock, psychedelia and electronics, he has released hundreds of hours of recordings, mainly in micro-editions of home-produced cassette, CD or mp3, and collaborated endlessly with a global network of musicians that have fallen through the cracks of genre or stylistic allegiance. Since separating from Leeds-based guitar drone group Vibracathedral Orchestra in 2006, he has mainly concentrated on his activities as Astral Social Club.” (Joe Muggs, the arts desk)
Félicia Atkinson (born 1981 in Paris) graduated with Honors from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris and has also studied anthropology and contemporary dance (at BOCAL project with Boris Charmatz in 2003).
She is a visual artist, an experimental musician and the co-publisher of the independent imprint Shelter Press/curatorial platform Argument with Bartolomé Sanson.
She has exhibited her work worldwide, including at Komplot (Brussels), Bozar (Brussels), MUCA ROMA (Mexico D.F), Overgaden (Copenhagen), Lieu Commun/ Printemps de Septembre (Toulouse), Rinomina (Paris), Land and sea (Oakland), Chert Gallery (Berlin), and Joseph Tang Gallery (Paris), among others. In Spring and Summer 2016, she will present work at Last Resort Gallery and Kunsthalle Charlottenborg in Copenhagen; Et Al. etc in San Francisco; Bonelli Gallery in Milano; and Hectoliter in Brussels.
As musician and sound artist, she has performed at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Cinema Tonala in Mexico D.F, Maison de France in Rio de Janeiro, Wiels in Brussels, MOCA in Los Angeles, Rewire Festival in Den Hague, and Borderline Festival in Athens, among others. She has published more than 15 records on various labels (including Shelter Press, Aguirre, Umor-rex, NNA Tapes, and Peak Oi) and a series of books with her own imprint, Shelter Press.
Her works deals mostly with the topics of improvisation, audio, fiction, instant composition, noise, landscape, abstraction and poetry.
Her paintings, drawings, sculpture, texts, installations, performances, and musical compositions are mostly abstract and are fed by multiples expeditions to many places such as Finland, Brazil, Mexico, Brittany and most often the American West, where she collect sounds, objects, materials and other diverse materials to her visual and sound works.
Ben Greenberg (formerly of the Men) began Hubble in 2011 as a solo guitar project extended from his prior work with avant-rock band Zs and punk-fuck band Pygmy Shrews. Relying on virtuosic guitar techniques more in line with metal shredders or blues heroes than the experimental scene, Greenberg implemented finger-tapping and minimal use of pedals (no looping ever!) in his long-form compositions, setting him apart from legions of crescendo-building contemporaries. Since its inception, Hubble has released a cassette (Hubble Linger), an LP (Hubble Drums) and a 7 inch (Hubble Mingle).
Migrations in Rust is the solo alias of New York musician Jesse Allen. He plays in atmospheric noise project Cowards, and hails from the same, defunct, Far Rockaways-based Red Light District scene that spawned the likes of Pharmakon and Yellow Tears. (The Fader)
Since establishing himself as a preeminent voice in contemporary electro-acoustic study, Jason Lescalleet has exploded the notion of what is possible within the realm of tape-based music. His recorded catalog acknowledges a diversity of application, from lo-fi reel-to-reel soundscaping and work for hand-held cassette machines, to digital sampling and computer generated composition. Lescalleet’s live actions further expand his ouevre to include work with video, dance, performance art and multi-media concerns.
In the past two decades, Lescalleet has gradually and painstakingly compiled a compelling discography on notable labels such as Erstwhile, RRR, Intransitive Recordings, Kye, Celebrate Psi-Phenomenon, Hanson Records, Chondritic Sound, and most recently via his own Glistening Examples imprint. He has collaborated with Kevin Drumm, Aaron Dilloway, Graham Lambkin, Phill Niblock, Joe Colley, John Hudak, Rafael Toral, Thomas Ankersmit, and CM Von Hausswolff, among others, and during this time he’s built a solid reputation for delivering a visceral live experience in concert.
He currently lives in Maine, where he operates the Glistening Examples publishing label and the Glistening Labs studio for audio recording and mastering services.
Detroit based Nate Young formed Wolf Eyes as a solo project a bit over fifteen years ago, probably right after he left Nautical Almenac. He was soon joined by Aaron Dilloway in ’98 and John Olson in 2000. Dilloway disappeared to Nepal and was replaced by Hair Police beast Mike Connelly.
Enough of the Wolf Eyes history lesson, we are now at 2009 and Young is releasing one of his strongest works ever, the deep and impressive Regression solo album on iDEAL! Analog synths, tape delays, loops – presented in a restrained, relaxed and controlled way. This makes the music even more sick and dark than the WE sound. I guess Young was inspired by vintage horror movie soundtracks, 70’s ambient synth stuff and intoxication. These things comes to my mind anyways. Nate Young is here proving that he is covering a wide range of experimental music and that he is no doubt one of the few masterminds in the rougher parts of electronic music. iDEAL is highly recommending this to anyone claiming to be interested in synth and tape music. (http://identity.teamrock.com/)
Justin Meyers is an experimental musician and visual artist residing in Minneapolis. His work spans the formats of video, sound, screen, & print, but maintains a strong minimal approach across all mediums while confronting the expectations shared amongst the performer and audience. Instruments and processes used in his sound work include commercial and home-built modular synthesizers, reel-to-reel tape machines, computer algorithms and arrangement, obfuscated natural sound events and field recordings. In an effort to create an outlet for his own work and like minded contemporaries he founded Sympathy Limited in 2014.
Freddy Ruppert writes, composes, and records in Prague. His work often deals with circular themes of self-sabotage, the failure of body with the failure of memory, and the outward expression of grief in the public realm.
Blanche Blanche Blanche were an experimental pop group centered around songwriters Sarah Delaney Smith and Zach Phillips, with contributions from several additional musicians during live performances. Their hyperkinetic home-recorded tunes combined complex arrangements played on chintzy old keyboards with Smith’s deadpan yet sentimental vocals, all delivered with a healthy dose of absurdity. Initially based in Brattleboro, Vermont, the duo first collaborated as Sord, releasing a few cassettes on Phillips’ OSR Tapes label beginning in 2007. BBB’s first release was Songs of Blanche Blanche Blanche, a cassette issued by Night People in 2011. The 7″ single “Talk Out Loud” also appeared on Feeding Tube Records that year. The group’s first vinyl LP, Wink with Both Eyes, appeared on Night People in April of 2012, and received a considerable amount of acclaim from indie music websites and blogs. The restlessly creative group released several more albums that year, including Papas Proof (La Station Radar), one-sided LP 2wice 2wins and Our Place (both on Feeding Tube), and Open Session Rock (on OSR Tapes).
Following these releases, the group switched to a full-band sound, embracing guitars and live drums, and their music had more of a paranoid punk edge to it, but with the group’s usual Zappa-inspired knotty arrangements. The 7″ single “Scam” (credited to B B B and the Birds of Paradise) appeared on German label Adagio830 in early 2013. Wooden “Ball” appeared on Vermont-based NNA Tapes that March; the album still retained their keyboard-based sound, but with tighter musicianship and slightly more socially conscious lyrics. The group relocated to Brooklyn and recorded Breaking Mirrors, their first studio recording as well as the first album by the group’s full-band lineup. BBB contributed to Fits & Starts, an album by percussionist David Van Tieghem, which was released by RVNG Intl. The band recorded its final full-length, Hints to Pilgrims, in Brooklyn; mastered by Kramer, the album appeared on OSR Tapes in 2014. The label also issued Termite Music, a two-hour cassette of live recordings and unreleased songs. Blanche Blanche Blanche ceased recording and performing in 2014, and Phillips continued to run OSR Tapes as an “offline” label through mail-order catalogs (although the label did continue to have an online presence). He also continued to release solo cassettes and produce/engineer recordings by other artists, and he contributed Wurlitzer piano to Jib Kidder’s Teaspoon to the Ocean. (AllMusic)
Birmingham, England’s Anthony Child is best known for his work as Surgeon, a name that has become synonymous with hard, minimal, industrial-influenced techno through numerous well-regarded releases on labels such as Tresor, Soma, Downwards, and the artist’s own Dynamic Tension Records. However, he has occasionally produced more experimental works under his own name, owing more to his ambient and noise influences than to Detroit techno producers such as Jeff Mills and Robert Hood. Child began making music as a youth in the 1980s, and was part of a psychedelic space rock band called Blim in the early ’90s. He subsequently learned to DJ and started up a techno club with his friends called House of God. At the urging of Mick Harris(Scorn), Child began producing techno tracks, and his self-titled debut EP as Surgeon appeared on Downwards in 1994. After a few more EPs, full-length debut Communications surfaced on the same label in 1996, followed by Basictonalvocabulary (1997), Balance (1998), and Force + Form (1999), all on pioneering Berlin-based label Tresor, and often hailed as classics of the genre.
By this time, Child had begun to release more abstract experiments that vastly differed from his work as Surgeon. He collaborated with Harris in 1998, resulting in Live Berlin 98, a 70-minute CD excerpted from a two-hour performance, released under the project name Certain Beyond All Reasonable Doubt. That same year, Child collaborated with guitarist Andrew Read (also formerly of Blim) on a series of ambient improvisations. Two of these were released on vinyl by FatCat Records in 1999, as part of the label’s split 12″ series (Speedranch^Jansky Noise occupied the record’s flip side). Eventually, the duo’s Guitar Treatments full-length was released on CD by K2 O Records at the end of 2002. Child also released a split 7″ with Stock, Hausen & Walkman on the Slut Smalls label in 1999, as well as a 7″ titled Boys, School Showers & Swimming Pools, consisting of cassette recordings from the mid-’80s, on Downwards in 2000.
Sporadically contributing experimental pieces to compilations, in addition to continuing his work as Surgeon and other techno projects such as British Murder Boys (a collaboration with Karl O’Connor), Child released his first solo full-length under his given name in 2013. The Space Between People & Things, a 40-minute collage of field recordings and chilling synthesizer drones, was released by Vermont-based NNA Tapes. Two years later, Child moved to Editions Mego for the release of Electronic Recordings from Maui Jungle, Vol. 1, a double album of unexpectedly warm, inviting modular synthesizer pieces recorded in Hawaii, complete with nature sounds.
Howard Stelzer (b. 1974, New York) is a composer of electro-acoustic music. Almost all of his sounds are generated by, processed by, recorded onto and played back out of cassette tapes and consumer-grade tape players. He isn’t sure how most of these things work.
Stelzer operated the Intransitive Recordings label from 1997 until 2012. When he is not composing, Stelzer is a middle school math teacher in Lowell, MA, where he lives with his family in a big room behind a power plant.
Le Révélateur started in 2008 as a solo venture for Montreal-based electronic musician Roger Tellier-Craig. It has since then expanded into an audio-visual duo with the inclusion of video artist Sabrina Ratté in 2010. Together they explore a common fascination for the combination of electronic image and sound, using a varying array of digital and analogue technologies. They have performed extensively in Europe and North America, presenting their work at Museu Serralves in Porto, RIXC Festival in Riga, the Lampo series in Chicago, Resonate Festival in Belgrade, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Digital Quebec (Mutek/Elektra) in London, Sonic Acts in Amsterdam, Pop Montreal, Sight+Sound in Montreal, Send+Receive in Winnipeg, Micro Mutek in Barcelona, Mutek.Mx in Mexico, Mutek in Montreal, On Land in San Francisco, as well as touring through Europe with Black To Comm and No UFO’s in April/May 2015. They have also shared bills with Ben Frost, Robert A. A. Lowe, Pete Swanson, Caterina Barbieri, Pulse Emitter, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Steve Hauschildt, Forma, Xela, Ricardo Donoso, Oneohtrix Point Never, Greg Davis, Hair Police and many more.
When Baltimore’s experimental rock duo Ecstatic Sunshine called it a day, Matthew Papich traded his guitar for samples and Ableton Live, releasing his dreamy, loop-based music asCo La. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art who also works as an art handler, Papich released a slew of cassettes in 2011, including Rest in Paradise, Dial Tone Earth, and Fugitive of Leisure, the titles of which hint at the subversive playfulness and hypnotic lushness of his music. His first proper album, Daydream Repeater, also arrived in 2011 via NNA Tapes and used girl group pop, reggae, and exotica as some of its sources. On the 2012 EP Soft Power Memento, Papich drew from jazz and lounge samples, transforming them into tracks that were simultaneously more abstract and more immediate than some of his previous work. The following year, Co La released a split single with Jason Urick and the full-length Moody Coup, which was Papich’s debut for Software Records. Hegemony of Delete, a six-song mini-album inspired by the rhythms of work and leisure, appeared in 2014 on Primary Information. April 2015 saw the release of 1, the debut album of Papich’s collaboration with Beautiful Swimmers’ Max D, on the PAN label; that October, Co La’s No No, which drew inspiration from the breathless pace of the 24-hour news cycle and Baltimore club music, arrived.
Eli keszler is a New York-based artist, composer and percussionist. His compositions and visual works examine the limits of instrumentation, notation, and space in its institutional, musical and public form.
Keszler’s sound installations, music and visual work have appeared at Lincoln Center, MIT List Center, Victoria & Albert Museum, Sculpture Center, the Kitchen, South London Gallery, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Harvard), Luma-foundation, Tectonics Festival (Harpa Hall) Reykjavik, Centraal museum in Utrecht, Boston Center for the Arts, Barbican-st. Lukes, 3s Arts and Greater New York at MOMA PS1. His writing and work has appeared in Bomb magazine, the New York Times, Wire magazine, Frieze and Modern Painters. He has released solo records for esp-disk, Pan and Rel Records with an upcoming release on empty editions from the empty gallery in Hong Kong. He has lectured as a visiting artist at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, New England Conservatory, Dartmouth University, Washington University, Mass Art, Umass Boston amongst others. He has received commissions from the Icelandic symphony orchestra, ice ensemble and so percussion. Keszler is a graduate of the New England conservatory of music in Boston, ma and is a 2016 New York foundations for the arts fellow.
Keith Fullerton Whitman is a musician currently based in Melbourne, VIC. Beginning in the early 90’s while working on a “Music Synthesis” Degree at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Keith began exploring electronic music’s many facets, eventually yielding dozens of recordings for influential labels such as Kranky, Editions Mego, PAN, Planet µ, Carpark, Room40, Amethyst Sunset, Amish, NNA Tapes, No Fun Productions, Agents of Chaos, Arbor, Digitalis Limited, Ekhein, Heavy Tapes, Rare Youth, Root Strata, and many more.
Lieven Martens Moana (formerly Dolphins Into The Future) is seeking for a thorough aestheticism of the impression. Using analog and digital recording techniques, he creates a form of music that refers to both ethnomusicology and to sound art or modern classical composition. Resulting in a very contemporary dialect, live usually amplified by lectures and slide projections.
Letters 22 is the duo of Italian sound artists Matteo Castro and Ricardo Mazza. As dedicated explorers of contemporary electro-acoustic sound, Lettera 22 combine archaic tape technology with modern electronic implementation to create tense compositions that uphold the history of mid-century musique concrete, as well as noise and industrial music of the 80s and 90s. Their sound is built with a heavy emphasis on texture and dynamics that yields stark and vivid results. Bred in the deep north east of Italy, Castro and Mazza are influenced by the contest of their everyday living in a place compressed between countries, mountains and factories; their sight points directly to men, machines, fields.
William Hutson is an electronic musician, writer, and academic. He is one third of the rap group Clipping, and has released solo recordings under the names Rale, Anthracite, and Tattered Syntax. He has collaborated with Jonathan Snipes on several film scores including the documentary Room 237. He holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from UCLA and writes for The Wire Magazine. (supdocpodcast.com)
Diamond Catalog is a duo of Lala Conchita and Pat Maherr (Indignant Senility, Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting), whose debut LP ‘Magnified Palette’ was released by NNA Tapes in 2011.
As the first molecule was conceived, thus birthing the universe, a demon was born. For eons, the demon existed in a non-corporeal realm sustaining itself exclusively on the vibration semanating from the nebulae as they were consumed by black holes resulting from tears in the æther, which had been created by the violent birth of the universe.
After millions of sun cycles, these tears began to close and the demon found itself confronted with the possibility of having to dive into a new realm even further removed from the known universe. It filled its time with scheming and plotting. Constantly looking for ways to cross the void into the corporeal realm.
After many millennia of searching, the demon came upon an ancient writ detailing a method for transmogrification which would temporarily tear holes in the transdimensional fabric that kept the demon out of the physical universe. All it had to do was find willing conduits who would bring it into the known world via sonification.
It found these conduits in four humans who inhabited a small island on a seemingly insignificant planet orbiting a young sun. These four humans possessed unparalleled conjuration skills, and the demon found in them willing wards who would shepherd it out of the shrinking realm in which it was trapped. These four humans would give the demon safe passage, if only briefly, into the human realm via vibrations visited upon the ears of willing initiates who would carry small pieces of the demon with them.
However, the four were not so easily duped. They had always known of the demon’s motives and had, in fact, read the very same writ and knew that the only way to destroy this demon was to slowly parcel it out across thousands of initiates and eventually create a sonic prison once the demon was split evenly between the astral plane and the corporeal realm.
After a breaking the unwitting demon into thousands of pieces, the quartet was able to create an unhearable sonority that trapped the demon. No human ear could hear this sonority without risking becoming an even stronger conduit for the demon and potentially freeing it. After many hours of fortifying the prison with tritone and tonnetz modulations, they were able to imprison the demon permanently.
At this point, the quartet became a trio as the voudon gnostic mystic among them migrated with a sun priestess to a new realm closer to an astral rift where they could found the new Crow Hill Gnostic Temple and better probe the serpent mysteries that bound their realm. The remaining members began the long and arduous process of destroying the remaining pieces of the demon, which they had spread far and wide.
Quicksails is the moniker of Ben Billington’s densely layered solo electronic music. Influenced by the Kosmische school of krautrock and the organ works of minimalists Terry Riley and J.D. Emmanuel, Billington conjures abstract synth-scapes, hypnotic loops and textured atmospheres punctuated by rhythmic pulses. His background in free jazz and world percussion also lends a heavy hand to create a truly unique project that sets itself apart from the vast synthesizer music underground of today. Billington’s debut vinyl offering Silver Balloons In Clusters (2012) was released through Under the Spire Records. The newest album Mayville Dream (2013) was released by Spectrum Spools, the label curated by John Elliott (of Emeralds) as an off-shoot of Peter Rehberg’s Editions Mego. His solo music has also been released through Deception Island, Digitalis Limited, Discriminate Music, and NNA Tapes.
Along with his bands Tiger Hatchery, ADT and Moonrises…Billington has been lucky enough to also collaborate with the likes of Rhys Chatham, John Olson, David Daniell, Ryley Walker, Josh Abrams, Jeff Parker, Paul Flaherty, Circuit des Yeux, Wasteland Jazz Unit, Ettrick, Akkolyte, Nathan Bell, Chris Grier, many more.
Heavy, mutilated strains of electronic music with influence from the sounds of Detroit, UK and Germany – Laurel Halo’s music is a shapeshifting mess, moody and ecstatic, with flashes of rhythmic brilliance mediated by modal simplicity. The Michigan-born and Berlin-based artist has released both instrumental and vocal-driven records on the London-based label Hyperdub. Laurel also hosts a monthly show on Berlin Community Radio, having originally cut her teeth as a freeform DJ on the legendary WCBN-FM station in Ann Arbor, MI. She has collaborated with John Cale, Julia Holter, David Borden, Daniel Wohl and NH’Koxyen/Terepa, and has recorded a cover of the late folk singer, Karen Dalton, on a Tompkins Square compilation. Her most recent record is a double-pack for the London-based label Honest Jon’s. (Little Big)
Golden Retriever is the duo of Matt Carlson (modular synthesizer) and Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet), two musicians who blur the line between sounds created electronically and acoustically. The pair formed Golden Retriever in 2008 and began to develop a language informed by the practices of free improvisation as well as the tradition of American experimental electronic composers like Alvin Curran & David Behrman. Golden Retriever creates music that is creatively challenging and structurally complex while remaining inviting and emotionally dynamic rather than adopting a confrontational stance toward the listener.
Aguirre is a new handle for Elon Katz (White Car) and Gryphon Myers to cover their curious fusions of moody IDM, Electro and fractal digitalic processing. It’s wildly removed from Elon’s White Car releases, but was apparently pieced together between 2006-2010, which means it likely preceded his more stylish, zeitgeist friendly sound. We’re not sure of Gryphon Myers’ background, but evidently the pair have spent a lot of time absorbing old skool IDM from the catalogues of Planet Mu, Skam, Rephlex etc, hence the hectic beat programming and chaotic sense of melody catalyising these twelve tracks. (Boomkat)
Ken Seeno (born 1985) is an experimental guitarist from Baltimore and a member of the band Ponytail. He began his solo career in 2010 opening live for experimental band Yeasayer. In early 2011 he released his first studio material on cassette. “Invisible Surfer on an Invisible Wave” on NNA Tapes in January, followed by “Open Window” on Water Color Cassettes & Tapes in February.
Robert Beatty is a Lexington, Kentucky based artist and musician. His multi-disciplinary work in the fields of drawing, digital art, sculpture, video, graphic design, and sound often use outmoded technology to yield organic results. Beatty performs experimental electronic music as Three Legged Race and is a founding member of psychedelic noise band Hair Police. Much of his recent work has been executed under the banner of the Resonant Hole, a mutant music/video art collective. Over the past several years Beatty has created album art and posters for countless musical artists in the worldwide underground.
Los Angeles-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Julia Holter blurs the boundaries between indie music, modern composition, and electronic music in her own work as well as her collaborations, which include work with Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez and underground folk icon Linda Perhacs. Holter grew up in a musically inclined family — her father is a guitarist who once played with Pete Seeger — and studied electronic music at CalArts.
After graduation, she began releasing music at a prolific rate: in 2008, she contributed tracks to Monika’s 4 Women No Cry, Vol. 3 as well as a Human Ear compilation and released the CD-R album Cookbook on Sleepy Mammal Sound. The following year, Holter began working with the Dublab collective, appearing on a volume of their In the Loop series of vinyl compilations and performing with the Linda Perhacs Band. The fruits of another one of her projects, phonetically translating songs performed in languages other than English, were on display on 2010’s “Why Sad Song,” her interpretation of a Burmese lament that appeared on the Beater blocker #2 collection (which also featured tracks by Keith Fullerton Whitman and Eluvium). That year, Holter also released the CD-R Celebration on Engraved Glass Records and a collection of live recordings on NNA Tapes. However, all of this activity was just a warm-up for her first full-fledged album, 2011’s Tragedy, which was released by Leaving Records.
Inspired by Euripides’ play Hippolytus, the album melded tweaked electronics with classical and pop elements that earned critical acclaim from avant and underground music publications, both online and in print. Soon after Tragedy’s release came Ekstasis, a lighter and more accessible but still complex song cycle that arrived in March 2012. By the time of that album’s release, Holter already had a third album, tentatively titled Gigi, waiting in the wings. On top of her busy music schedule, she also found time to tutor teenagers in South Central L.A. as part of a non profit organization. Her third album, Loud City Song, was inspired by Colette’s 1944 novella Gigi and arrived in August 2013. On 2015’s Have You in My Wilderness, she took a more intimate, accessible approach that put her vocals front and center.
Pulse Emitter is the musical project of Daryl Groetsch, based in Portland, Oregon. He focuses on hyper-melodic synthesizer music that is calming and transportive. Since 2004, he has released albums on acclaimed labels such as Immune Recordings, Beer On The Rug, Constellation Tatsu, Ultra Eczema, Root Strata, NNA Tapes, and Aguirre Records, and has toured dates and festivals in Europe and North America. His music of late maintains a new age synthesizer styling which is frequently nature and science fiction inspired. Ever-evolving, the recent addition of field recordings and global acoustic elements has lent an imaginary/virtual reality world music atmosphere. Music critic David Keenan has said, “No one is making synth music that feels so organic, so rapturous and so ‘in tune’ with the contours of outer and inner space as Groetsch.”
Catacombs of electronic espionage from former Raccoo-oo-oon member Daren Ho.
Harmonizer is the new duo of Burlington, Vermont residents Greg Davis (Kranky, Carpark, Autumn Records) and Toby Aronson (NNA Tapes, RATS COPS). Future world sample-driven electronic synthesis, heavy rhythms, and total harmonizer worship.