Kindly Spoken Thieves - Ill Virus
Released: April 1
Following up from the December release of Resistor, electronic duo KIndly Spoken Thieves brings us a new EP that resembles their previous work but takes on a bit darker tone with titles that name some of the most contagious diseases out there. Which is actually quite fitting given the tone and tempo throughout. Of course, there are those wonderfully processed drums pounding out driving yet chill rhythms and the synth work here is top notch. It is pretty interesting to know that this release came together quite quickly yet was able to stay sonically and thematically on point.
Some of the tracks are a bit lighter than others like "Adeno" giving us something a bit more energetic with a busier beat and wavy synths while "Parvo" starts out the EP with a much more sinister and foreboding tone. Regardless, being dark doesn't seem to be the focus of this EP, rather it just explores a concept lightly without coming across as overly morbid or morose. Is it darker? Yes, but still perfect for that nighttime drive to the airport.
Simon Klee - The Light of Elevation
Released: April 8
After nearly two years, electronic artist and connoisseur Simon Klee comes back to Subexotic Records to bring us a slightly jittery yet cohesive album that touches on themes of mindfulness in odd ways. From the opening track, "Hive Mind" we instantly get the impression that things are a bit intense on this record with crunchy driving rhythms and a bassline that pushes things forward at a pace that feels mild but also uncomfortable at the same time. "(A Night of) Electroconvulsive Therapy" changes things up a bit with a skittish feeling to the rhythm and more atmospheric-sounding synths, but still keeps with that same feeling that I can only describe as slightly rushed.
With all this wonderful weirdness going on, we come to the fifth track and get a surprisingly uplifting and melodic track that feels like a slight break from the jitteriness and into something that is energetic, lively, and dare I say happy. All these varied themes come together quite succinctly throughout the album, though. Even with this happy little break of a track, the energy never really changes. It is energetic through and through with this sense of being hurried and relaxed at the same time. It makes for quite the juxtaposition.
The Unknown Sound Collective - Phantoms
Released: April 20
A new collaborative effort released Xytelon Records, this EP is flat-out haunting in so many ways. The first track is almost purely dark ambiance but by the second track, "Ghost Passenger," it becomes quickly apparent that much more is going on here. Droning and distorted guitars ring out in the background as they are joined by an eerie female voice singing out in a seemingly wordless elegiac opera. This voice follows us through the rest of the runtime, almost mournfully telling a story that is difficult to understand.
Listening for the first time was a unique experience for me as it seemed to dance around this theme of loneliness and longing. The expressive and evocative vocal styling of Elena Botts seemed to stick with me in such a profound way yet I found it difficult to explain how it made me feel in the right words. Her vocals sit in such a perfectly balanced place among the drones and noise of each track, never overpowered and always present. It is quite beautiful in an almost frightening way.
Dunam - From Sand to Glass
Released: April 8
What struck me the most about this recent release through Histamine Tapes is the utter seamlessness of the compositions. Each track leads perfectly into the next in such a way that it really should be listened to as a complete composition. Soaring guitar licks define this album with additional elements taking a purely supportive role. Everything from sparse lightly distorted chords ringing out to the seemingly errant yet incredibly purposeful bits of feedback shrieking out into the soundscape brings an airy and improvisational quality to the album.
While the guitars are the focus, I noticed something about the bass throughout. It seems to just be an amplified low-frequency rumble either from the mixer itself or some other source. This thought led me to listen a bit closer to the low end and notice all the little variations in it as the album progressed. Somehow, it managed to closely follow the guitar in its oscillations and create a deep drone that wobbles and waves at varying speeds, creating a beautiful additional layer that turns into a strange crackling noise in certain parts. It was quite the fun bit of analog-driven ear candy to delve deep into.
NRSV - Walking By My Savior’s Side
Released: April 7
If I'm being honest, I didn't know how to feel about this album when it landed in my inbox. However, after a few minutes of listening, I found it to be intriguing if not extremely off-the-wall. It strictly follows the aesthetic of plunderphonics while simultaneously providing a poignant critique of mainstream Christianity in America. This is kind of what sealed my admiration for the work.
Many of the sound combinations bounce back and forth between a serious and sober aesthetic then switching to borderline comedic and madcap. Solemn hymns are undercut in their seriousness by bits of bouncier music such as the iconic "Low Rider." Then we hear testimonial-style bits of monologue that play out briefly talking about internal struggles and contradictions for followers and critics of Christianity that fade away into these aforementioned bizarre combinations. It's a weird vibe all around but it is definitely one that should be experienced at least once.
Minerva - Filotimo
Released: April 7
Released around the same time as Steve Hadfield's Rhubarb and Custard, Filotimo seems to be the perfect sonic counterpoint with a more dance-ready vibe that avoids many of the club music tropes of similar releases. While the opening track seems a bit chaotic, the next two tracks, "Írida" and "Elpída" solidly cement the distinct Detroit techno style of this release with busy beats and driving bass rhythms that are accompanied by sparser synth work. But then, almost surprisingly, things take a turn to the ambient side with Chalára and we are treated to some beautiful twinkling arpeggios and light pads that send us off.
Along with these four tracks, there are two others that follow which seem to be bonus tracks of some sort. These are older tracks from Minerva that really showcase her style in a more apparent fashion with "The Sultan's Robe" taking us back to those heavy techno influences of busy beats and stabby bleepy leads and "Oligarch" giving us some of the same while including some curiously jungle-esque influences. All in all, it is quite a solid first release from an artist that has actually been with the label for quite some time.
The Creeping Man - Opportunistic Cannibal
Released: April 1
The Creeping Man's work has always been notable for its heavy use of bizarre vocal sampling, but on Opportunistic Cannibal, he leans even further into this technique to create some utterly troubling works out of otherwise seemingly innocuous old material. One of those enjoyably troubling examples of this motif is "Housewife Massacre Kills 37" in which terribly misogynistic coffee commercials from the 50s are twisted, warped, and juxtaposed while cinematic ambient stings that paint a sinister picture of what is to come.
Not all of the tracks on this album utilize this technique. On tracks such as "A Pensive Moment 2" and "A Good Night's Sleep," Creeping Man foregoes the vocal manipulations in favor of painting some chilling atmospheres that serve as uncomfortable intermissions. But as the vocal-based tracks continue, they grow increasingly troubling. The entire album seemingly has this theme of slowly delving into severe mental illnesses including psychosis and schizophrenia. However, these themes are never directly addressed. Rather, they are simply cleverly alluded to and this seems to be what makes this release really excel.