I absolutely love Joanna Newsom.
I was just talking with friends the other day, sharing our hopes that Newsom would return possibly after winter, early next year. Her last album, the monumental triple-disc Have One On Me was not only a masterpiece; it sustained enough soul-chilling moments to last us the past half-decade.
So expectations are kind of high for her upcoming album, Divers. Announced today along with this video, it’s coming a week after my birthday: October 23, this year.
This album made a spot on my Best of 2014: Honorable Mention list, for a lot of great reasons. Here it is, streaming free in its entirety.
It breaks traditionally stone-faced drone music into wondrous, almost funny eruptions of surprise and joy. Its 83 minute running time seems monolithic and impenetrable until you actually hit play and topple inward. The first track bursts with a mischievous philosophical rant, peaking with the line,
“Grab yourself by the anus and turn yourself inside out. Reveal your inner workings! Put that which is most basic out into the light, and put the decorative outer wrappings where they belong.”
The final track ends in a fever dream of early industrial rock vocals and manicured feedback swirls. A whole lot of really fun, weird music happens in between. Fans of Fennesz, black metal, drone rock, David Lynch, and fucked up dreams: listen now.
Black To Comm is the artist name of German musician Marc Richter. He doesn’t have a lot of pictures online, so I just thought I’d share the album art in high resolution.
It’s been an amazing week for Aphex Twin fans and everyone else with open ears. Still digesting Syro, I feel compelled to share this clip. It features a piano on a swing.
Asiatsana, rendered on prepared piano, sends the listener off on glistening waves of heartbreaking beauty. This spare sound echoes around chirping birds in an ancient, solitary space that Richard D. James gently inhabits on rare occasion (see also: Avril 14th or Jynweythek Ylow).
There are a couple interesting things to note about this tune. First, the name is his wife’s – Anastasia -rendered backwards. That’s easy enough. Secondly, “prepared” simply means that something has been done to a piano to create specific, idiosyncratic sounds for a given piece of music. Sometimes objects are placed on the hammers to mute or otherwise modify their tone. In this case, RDJ has swung a piano on a giant harness to bend pitch via the Doppler effect. It’s gorgeous. It’s over the top. It’s perfect, as far as I’m concerned.
This is a somewhat recent photo of Richard, looking far less crazy than I’m used to. I’m not worried about him going boring, though. I’m sure he’s still got tits and a satanic grimace on the inside!
Remember, you can buy Syro from Warp and probably everywhere else on the internet. Just listen to it. New Aphex Twin music exists!
When I purchased the 2lp edition of Destroyer‘s 2011 pop masterpiece Kaputt, I had no idea that the bonus track promised on side C would slowly become the languid circulatory system of the entire album. It swims in an embryonic well from which the other tracks drink, all held breath and deep plunge. It’s patient and fragile, and just may comprise twenty of my favorite minutes.
If you have only heard the standard tracklisting, press play now. It’s rare when something labelled “bonus” actually elevates the experience of listening to a great album. The Laziest River feels absolutely essential at this point, and while I sympathize with the probable intention of encouraging vinyl purchases, it seems unfair to leave everyone else with an unfinished story. So buy it if you can, but this song can be downloaded and amended to your playlist for a quick fix.
This will loop indefinitely over the Elysian fields of an afterlife of my design.
Actress (aka Darren Cunningham) redefined ambient beauty with this piece, lighting the spiritual wires from the organ works of Camille Saint-Saëns through Brian Eno’s Discreet Music while sparking fresh air to flame. Blooming the color of Arvo Pärt’s devotional tilt in an exploratory space odyssey from the dreams of Oneohtrix Point Never or Stanley Kubrick, N.E.W. is uplifting and warm, alien and awestruck. We’re inside a nebulous pipe organ riding the cusp of a singularity, dancing on the membrane between ascension and obliteration. Let it repeat.
I should mention the video: I have no clue where the footage is from, but it strangely works. This copy was chosen mainly, however, because it can be set to 720p, so the sound quality is superb.
In preparation for last week’s Flying Lotus show, a friend and I were having a youtube-off. Exhausting the major albums and creeping toward the dusty corners of his recorded output, we were constantly surprised at b-sides, remixes and otherwise lost tracks which only one of us (a pair of somewhat huge fans) was aware of. There’s a sublime comfort in peeling up the tiles of artists we know and love, only to find worthy treasure below. I’m trying to replicate that experience with those who will be completely on the same page when I share a given artist.
This is an older piece from a split tape with Caboladies, one which I’d heard years ago when first discovering Oneohtrix Point Never yet never fully appreciated until this autumn. The gelid synth oscillations build toward softly hissing dunes; the song itself imagines low level flight over this alien landscape. It’s a dream of a half remembered childhood science fiction story. Although that description could be shoehorned onto nearly anything OPN has created, it’s especially pointed in this case. I could drift off with this on repeat for hours.
If there’s one piece of advice I can offer those on the perpetual quest to peel back the edges of their musical horizons, it is to subscibe to the mailing lists of shops and labels you trust. I can’t finish a list of the albums and artists I’ve grown to love because someone at aQuarius, Other Music, Forced Exposure, Vertigo or Amoeba simply loved a new or obscure piece and carved out a space for enthusiasm in the weekly newsletter. It’s why I share what I do on this blog. Last week, my email from Boomkat announced what has quickly become my favorite surprise in months: a new 12″ from Bee Mask (Chris Madak), a half hour of bliss spread over two songs titled Vaporware and Scanops.
The simplest of repeating glitch synth motifs tumbles into a spiritual rollercoaster with the crisp lines of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians and the spacey wash of Klaus Schulze, yet it’s the beating heart of Terry Riley sinking in when thoughts of influence sprout during another listen. There’s something bright and pure and novel about his approach here: by stripping his sound to a base element, Madak opens the door to something more pure and evocative than he’s shown before. This is not just a case of his forebears shining through; it is thoughtful composition approaching the level of the aforementioned masters themselves.
I started this post one night while playing this on repeat and simply reached a point where words failed to capture my mouth agape, my lost thoughts, my tingling sense of elevation when either of these pieces hit that moment where time stands still and all earthly concerns lift. I don’t mean to imply that this is more transcendent than anything; most of my favorite music is. There are artists whom I can reliably go to for that spiritual high, that metaphysical flight, and I believe Bee Mask has just been added to the list.
Here’s a sample but nothing short of the entire piece will suffice.
[buy it at Boomkat, and soon, because it’s limited.]