2020 in review, Silver Lining Edition, part 2

by Dave Maier

Not long ago, a reader complained, politely but firmly, about your humble author’s regrettable tendency to post something called “Blah blah blah pt. 1” and then never get back to it for part two, in particular the post about history, wondering if possibly I thought no one would notice that I had left it hanging. I admit the fault, but I assure my patient reader, or possibly readers, that I do indeed intend to finish each and every one of my multipart posts, and even to make clear how they are related to each other. (That’s the intent, anyway.) So fear not! (I do have to read some more history though … !) This time, though, I finish a different sort of multipart post: my end-of-2020 podcast. Plenty of unfamiliar names, even to me, but some great stuff! As always, widget and/or link below.

Jon Hassell – Moons of Titan

It’s no secret that I am a big Jon Hassell fan (see here and here), and his latest does not disappoint (although a *smidge* more trumpet would have been nice …).

“Listen as if you were being told a secret” – Federico Fellini

A companion piece to 2018’s Listening To Pictures, this second volume in the pentimento series presents eight new tracks by the music visionary, continuing his lifelong exploration of the possibilities of recombination and musical gene-splicing. Pentimento is defined as the “reappearance in a painting of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over” and this is evident in the innovative production style that ‘paints with sound’ using overlapping nuances to create an undefinable and intoxicating new palette.

In classic Hassell fashion, the title can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, but perhaps the most pertinent at the moment is the human instinct to sing and play through a rain of difficulties. A future blues of indeterminate and ever-shifting shape. […] Whilst containing seeds of classic ‘fourth world’ fusion, this record finds the artist still questing to create new forms and mutations of music, a thrilling window into what music could sound like in a world to come. 

Jarguna/Uzbazur – Effusion

We heard Jarguna in a previous set, but collaborator Uzbazur (aka Simone Santarsiero) is new to me. The former notes that

In chemistry, sublimation refers to the passage of a body from the solid state to the gaseous state without passing through the liquid state; this transformation takes place with the acquisition of heat and is therefore an endothermic process.

Yet as strange as this reaction is that some materials such as camphor, mothballs, but also pure elements such as iodine can do it, sublimation is not so rare to be found in nature, since even water changes, that is, from ice to steam. and vice versa, even if the latter is called frosting.

The sounds to express and interpret this concept are similar to steam or the crackling of ice, so we used noise, recorded all sorts of mechanisms or natural situations that came to mind, the ice when it splits, the wind rustling through the leaves, rhythms rich in effect, sometimes almost distorted or grainy with glitch effects. The syntheses have been processed several times in order to give a “creased” effect and the sounds of natural origin mix with the synthesis.

Pausal – Apnoea

Pausal are dronemeisters Alex Smalley and Simon Bainton. In American English anyway, the title word is more commonly spelled “apnea” (my limited Greek tells me this means “no-breath”), a sleep disorder which can be fatal and is in any case very bad for you. So not exactly the drifty bliss one might expect – although one bandcamp commenter does note, while citing it as his favorite, that he “snored right through this track.”

‘Melatonia’ is the seventh album from drone duo Pausal, known for their releases on labels such as Barge Recordings, Students of Decay, Own Records, Dronarivm and Infraction. Individually, Alex has released numerous works under his Olan Mill alias and Simon has released on Hibernate Records.

Melatonia was recorded during a period of significant change and upheaval for both members of the band, now based between the UK and Germany. As with much of their music, the material here was initially conceived through lengthy improvisation sessions using various processed sound sources and instruments. These often ran late into the night and their intention was to create soundscapes conducive towards relaxation and to assist with rest and sleep.

Artwork by Natalia Bogdanova

Christine Ott – Sirius

Here’s something a bit different – a contemporary record made only with the Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic instruments, dating back to the 1920s. (The inventor was Maurice Martenot; “ondes” means “waves.”)

Christine Ott’s eight Chimeras are like snatches of distant dreams, whispers of ghosts, echoes of rustle and symphonies that once inhabited the instrument, seeming to have travelled through the ages without losing their power and relevance. The composer Christine Ott tells a cosmic journey with cinematographic colours, which rubs shoulders with electronic stars and caresses incandescent planets. A nebula of layers of waves superimposed and triturated by effects that make her songs sometimes robotic, sometimes celestial. A sonic and sensual magma, radiant, as if weightless.

The original chemigrams illustrating the cover [above] have been made by contemporary artist Fanny Béguély by painting with chemicals on old photosensitive sheets of paper, while listening to the tracks on the record.

Fastus – Dream Theory in Hamilton Park

Here’s the latest from Ian O’Brien, who lives just down the road from me (figuratively speaking) in Jersey City, NJ. We heard another Fastus track on an earlier set, and this collection’s in that same vein: a distinctly modular/Eurorack sound (Ian thanks Paul Schreiber of Synthesis Technology, among others), but Ian puts a lot more compositional thought into his music than do many other such musicians (not that the freeform jam style can’t also work, but it’s nice to hear something different).

Original artwork “Dream Theory” (oil+cold wax+pastel on paper) by Deanna Chilian (all rights reserved)

Lee Evans – Orang Kosmische

I never heard of this guy until very recently. Just clicking around on bandcamp can lead to great discoveries! Some very cool West Coast style synthesis here.

Weaving an intricate web of biomorphic tones, modular synthesist Lee Evans constructs the transportative Aphasic Forest. Improvisational and winding generative structures slowly expand to encompass the chattering of virtual insects and synthesized bird calls in a hypnotic habitat of chance.

Biomimicry is a central theme in Evans’ work from sound design to auto-compositional process and arrangement. Evans sets the parameters for sounds to exist and carry out a life of their own. It’s hard to decipher what is planned in the natural unfurling of the ecosystem, but a sense of lightness in the interplay of every tone and texture suggests the happiest of accidents.

Derived from the word “Aphasia,” a condition characterized by loss of language, the album and its title imply a sense of liberation from order and structure. Aphasic Forest is an upward spiral through a scattering of new symbols of meaning.

Artwork & Mastering by Tristan Arp.

IDRA – The Mirror

According to the Google, IDRA is the NYSE tag for Idera Pharmaceuticals, Inc, (“Transforming Immunity. Restoring Hope.”) which is currently trading at about 7x its low for the year, so if you had invested at just the right time, by now you would have made out like a bandit. Probably not the right IDRA. Let’s try again.

Hmm. Even “IDRA music” takes you to a music store in Saronno, Italy. Ah, here we go: here she is on Spotify:

IDRA is a project based on soundscape, atmospheric, and ambient music. To transport you through spaces where you can feel free to discover worlds yet unknown.

This release is on the excellent Seil label, who also put out the KMRU record we heard in part 1. At their page we read that

‘Lone Voyagers, Lovers and Lands’ is an album about travels of the soul. About discovering your most personal places while your heart leads the way.

Artwork by IDRA

Design by Aoki & Matsumoto

Pascal Savy – Lost in a Mesh of Time

Pascal Savy, his bandcamp page tells us,

is a French electronic music composer and performer based in London. His work lies at the intersection of drone, noise and ambient and has been released on labels such as Experimedia and AUDIO. VISUALS. ATMOSPHERE.

… although I first heard of him from his excellent release on Eilean. At the original release page (2018, but don’t tell anyone) for Colour Fields, one exuberant fan declares that this fine record is a must-have sonic adventure and a staggeringly mindscaping listening delight carved for all connoisseurs of tenaciously deep dronesculpting.”

The original press release is no less evocative:

A manifold of hypnagogic frames balancing wind, wave and star. Symmetric pearl timbres touch the seams of the three-dimensional world.

Volcanic sound transcending its temporal limits, only to be found at the rim of the pyramid. As the wheel turns the balance is attached to the crescentic stone and snow-covered ridges. Sustained pitches acknowledge the spectral phenomena carved in chroma rooms. The mesa of the moon drains diffused energy as pastoral currents break the ocean’s vector.

Powlos – Runanubandhha

Another new name on me. This track is from a collection on the Faint label out of Spain, where I first encountered José Soberanes, whom we heard in part 1. Since then I’ve acquired not one but two further records from this artist on that same label, which we may dip into later on. Here’s his/her/their own page (which doesn’t list the Faint releases … bandcamp can be weird that way …). It says there that Powlos is from the UK, but other than that they seem not to feel that we need to know anything about them, so I guess we should respect their wishes in the matter. (Tempting complete-discography offer there too, with massive discount.)

Brómus – Necessity / va/tʌntrə XI [Neotantra]

By coincidence, almost exactly the same thing is true of Brómus as was true of Powlos. Here the collection was from the Neotantra label, and the artist’s own page is here. And here again the only thing disclosed is a location, which turns out to be Vienna, and once again there is a tempting complete-discography offer. No problem, the music’s all we need, right?

Sunhiilow – Timeless Season

I think we heard Sunhiilow on another recent set, and here’s a typical track from another fine collection of Moog improvs from Ms. Magisson to take us out.

Music and artworks by Valerie Magisson

Instrument used : [Moog] Mother-32

direct link: https://www.mixcloud.com/duckrabbit/stars-end-annex-2020-pt-2/

OK, now I will go back to reading history!