Rounding the Fringes - February 15

niwlio - everything is equivalent

Released: February 10

The debut release from niwlio (a side project of Heavy Cloud) is an interesting bit of a departure from Ryan's previous work. While much of Heavy Cloud focuses on odd textures and atmospheric noise, niwlio strikes a slightly more musing tone with the inclusion of guitar and bleepy synths alongside the drones and tones he is already well known for. But what really stands out here is the guitar loops that continually reappear throughout the album starting from the very first track. Each of these loops varies but has a strangely familiar feeling to them, almost something that feels like "home" for lack of a better word.

From the first track, these parts establish their presence as glitchy tonal noise gives way to a slightly distorted acoustic guitar that sounds like something that a solo performer might be playing at a local bar on Tuesday night. These moments are allowed to stand on their own throughout the album until being overtaken by drones, tones, and field recordings that create odd floating soundscapes that wash about. You might mistake this for another Heavy Cloud album until you fully immerse yourself in it and find it familiar, yet strikingly different.

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God‘s Teeth - Everything You Love Should Be Avoided

Released: February 4

Listening to this album was a bit odd for me considering that this is actually a side-project of the man behind the dark and sometimes minimal stylings of Burial Grid and a long list of contributing talent. It's really amazing to hear the absolutely fantastic musical range on display here with the late 80's and early 90's industrial synth influences coming together over an off-kilter hyper-pop background. It almost feels like Muse collaborating with a Nine Inch Nails of the Pretty Hate Machine. What's more, it sounds like the story of how this EP came to be is a long and deeply personal story of time spent and friends lost. And believe me, you can hear it in the music.

"Ghosts" opens up the album with a surprisingly upbeat melody and beat that begins to slow down through the next two songs until we hit the fourth track "Future Tense." This track brings things down to a slow grind as the vocals tell us a lurid story, which seems to be a recurring theme throughout the album despite its often upbeat sound. The album keeps a weird juxtaposition between these weirdly pop-influenced sounds and the lyrical content. Even with the final track, "The Joseph Merrick Blues," almost grinding the album to a halt, these same pop sensibilities persist to the end.

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A Generation of Graves - Agitprop

Released: February 14

This latest release from A Generation of Graves is difficult to categorize because it seems to borrow influences from a lot of different sources including a bit of hip-hip, tech, some ambient, and even a bit of glitch. Despite the wide range though, there is a constant industrial aesthetic overlaying all of it and a healthy dose of angst giving it life. Sparse on lyrics but heavy on vocal sampling, the message is clear and present throughout with tracks like "capitalism death cult" and "the politics of the beast."

Throughout the runtime, A Generation of Graves channels the aesthetic of early industrial acts such as KMFDM and Atari Teenage Riot and fuses it with the political angst we experience today. Which is sadly, still very similar to what it was back then. The use of sampling makes for some of the most poignant moments on the album especially on "they are lucky" which makes use of an impassioned monologue from the racial justice protests we saw in 2020 alongside pounding distorted drums and the weird but fitting touch of turntables. Highly recommend this album if you need to channel your angst.

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Rovox 625 - Cut Into

Released: February 7

Part of a small slate of recent releases from one of my favorite labels out there right now, Steep Gloss, Cut Into is a drone album at its core. But it also goes farther than just a drone album with unique twists and changes that bring new and varied pieces into the fore. Opening up with "Shandophilia Ascendant," gave me the impression that, while a bit noisy, this would lay on the lighter side of listening. But as soon as I heard the heavy distortion ring out on "Occutltural Appropriation" I was suddenly made aware that there was much more to it.

Over the course of eight tracks, the album moves slowly between near-crushing distortion-soaked soundscapes and almost barely perceptible drones. "Breezeblock Tomb" gives us an example of the latter with the name being surprisingly descriptive and we are treated to the drone of wind rushing through a strange and alien cavern with oscillating intensity. By the time we make it to the final track, "Cupisti Arco," it is almost as if we have returned to the beginning as it sounds something like a refrain to the opening track. It makes for a uneasy feeling of some type of completion that feels like things are just restarting. So, of course, I just listened again.

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Rhombus Index - Diatom EP

Released: February 11

Rhombus Index returns to See Blue Audio with a new EP that builds off of what he began on Planar and takes it even further. The same affinity for bleepy melodies and thick pads is still here but now can be found alongside slightly broken rhythms and video game-influenced synths. "Bee Brew Run" sees these synth influences sprout to life in a playful way with a composition that sounds so vaguely familiar to something you might hear on a platformer of the PSX era. Meanwhile, "Automata" brings in those oddly disjointed rhythms with soaring synths rising and falling as pingy arpeggiated synths bounce around in the stereo field.

Despite being beatless and ambient overall, it is surprising just how bouncy and full of life this EP sounds. The closest this EP comes to pure ambient would probably be "Spinor" with its crackly field recordings playing just under the sweeping pads of the track. But even with this one, we can hear the inklings of the life of the EP coming through. Especially as the first clanky pings of "Automata" begin to play and we hear the full life of the EP coming to the forefront.

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Rebecca Wilcox & Hannah Ellul - Seasonal Bodies

Released: February 7

Another recent release from Steep Gloss, Seasonal Bodies is a strange and lurid journey into manipulated audio captured seemingly from the most mundane of sources. With the treatment given to these pieces of audio by Wilcox and Ellul, these unremarkable bits of everyday conversation and pedestrian noises take on a new and somewhat bewildering tone. Distant car horn honks sit behind repeated glitches in spoken phrases that break apart until practically incomprehensible. Even the otherwise normal background conversation in on the street and in establishments seems slightly off in this context.

The contextualization of these conversations is what makes the album. It is difficult to imagine what the original context is but it seems to no longer matter as their complete and utter transformation is all that exists now. Small clinks of glasses and soft footsteps crunching the dirt underneath are amplified and placed alongside the short repeating and broken phrases that ebb in and out. It makes for a sonic journey that is both easy to place in the background yet also nearly impossible to ignore.

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