夏休み - SUMMERHOLIDAY - 高速道路 DREAMS
Released: August 6
Whether I want to admit to it or not, I am a bit of a fool for nostalgia. And this latest release on Aloe Emporium by 高速道路 DREAMS delivers that nostalgia in a beautifully ambient, yet vaporwave soaked way. But the way it does so is a bit more complex than just putting some reverb on some eighties sounds tunes. While those expected vibes are present, they oddly take a backseat to the other sounds here, most of which are the natural sounds of crickets, wind, rain, and other natural sounds.
With the music placed farther into the background, it gives me a true sense of nostalgia for my own past, placing me there rather vividly. I imagine sitting in my bedroom as a kid, music playing from an old stereo, window open to let a breeze of fresh air into an otherwise stuffy room, all the while I am furiously clicking away at my even then dated Compaq PC. And just to add that special touch, there are even those weird random bits of conversation you might hear around the house while you aren't really paying attention. It's true a wonderful trip down memory lane, even if it's only barely recognizable.
Morbid Beauty - For Those Committed
Released: August 5
Most noise albums, EP, and tapes are harsh and unrelenting assaults on the senses that leave you in some weird combination of refreshed and exhausted. The latest release from Morbid Beauty, For Those Committed, is also such an album but with moments of subtlety not often heard. It starts off aggressive but with these strange pauses, almost as if it has to breathe. Then it seems to calm down a bit but leaves a tension that seems to grow until it explodes into a violent outburst of noise that leaves your eardrums pleading for a break. This is is the mode of the entire album.
As an audio representation of being locked away to go completely insane, it is startlingly and disturbingly accurate. What's even more engaging about it is how vocal it seems to be. To be clear, there are no words. However, the whole runtime still manages to sound as though someone is literally screaming at you, complete with the pauses to breathe in between outbursts. It is quite an unnerving experience.
Hans Grüsel & Loachfillet - Lumpy Graveyard Express
Released: August 6
This new release on the Steep Gloss tape label is what I consider to be an incredibly skillful exercise in audio absurdity. While the label is known for the just plain weird aesthetics of the albums it puts out, this one stands out to me due to its bizarre sense of humor. Yes, I said it's sense of humor. Stay with me as I attempt to explain.
The album opens up with an upbeat, almost funky, drum beat and bass combo with an oddly high-pitched voice announcing who the artists are in the format of some strange radio or television show. Once the voice stops, the drums start to go on until they hit what sounds like a standard fill and - surprise! It's suddenly gone with a loud series of bangs. In its place, we are treated to psychedelic arrays of sounds that warp, twist, and bend around us. All this happens as pieces of the weird radio show format attempt to reappear throughout. If there is one thing I can definitively say about this album, it is that it refuses to stop subverting every expectation you have while refusing to take itself seriously.
Scarless Arms & The Billows Burn Bright - Theatre
Released: July 30
I'm not quite sure what it is, but every two-track release from Scarless Arms seems to be a sweet and sour combination. One track always has a soft, more harmonious, and uplifting quality to it. The other gives us a darker and dourer mood, almost as if it is a subconscious statement that the two are inextricably linked. This latest collaboration with The Billows Burn Bright seems no exception.
Conceptualized as a story in two parts, Theatre opens up with the appropriately named "stage... (smile)" that gives a brighter atmosphere with twinkling chimes and airy, slightly mysterious pads. As the track comes to a close, we hear things become just a bit more complicated as a slight dissonance arises and the next track "curtain... (in tears)" begins. On the very first note, we hear the mood change to something that is a complex combination of dark, sad, foreboding, and nervous. This complex combination then joins with dialogue that seems garbled and incomprehensible to provide another layer of intricacy to the composition. I'm not sure exactly what the story is, but the mood of it is crystal clear.
Sku - texting
Released: August 6
Although unfairly short just under one and a half minutes, this new single from Brazilian producer Sku is a wonderfully jumbled mess that managed to maintain a rhythmic and arhythmic quality at the same time. The percussion has a fun and almost slamming quality to it as it is accompanied by sparse pads and glitchy blips. Never giving us too long on a particular rhythm, the beat shuffles wildly and keeps things interesting. The only thing wrong here is that I just wish there were more of it.
Mode 7 Project - Temple of Ashra/Astral Projection
Released: July 23
I remember years ago when I was a teenager, I one day stumbled upon some subgenre of electronic music called psytrance. Now, on the first note of this new release from Mode 7 Project, I felt an instant callback to this teenage discovery, although in a much better format of ambient music. The absolutely psychedelic quality of both tracks here is astounding and both tracks take slightly different approaches to this.
The first track, "Temple of Ashra," is much more lively and utilizes a repeated arpeggio as a motif that shifts and morphs as the track progresses, later joined by some gentle percussion. The second, "Astral Projection," is much calmer and, dare I say, more zen with a more pad-driven approach. Despite this difference, this track also contains a similar arpeggio motif, though it is significantly further in the background. Highly recommend this one for when things get a little too intense if you catch my drift.