Rounding the Fringes - February 21


Lying Cat - With Occult Static

Released: February 18


I find it truly amazing when a work that is purely improvisational at its core can come together to form a unique and cohesive image. With Occult Static stands out to me as one of these works. Comprised of seemingly small and discrete sounds, the attitude throughout is overall very playful. It is as if you can hear the absolute fun and enjoyment of its creator through the music itself.


The heavy jazz influence shines through at every turn, even as the drums in tracks such as "Limlap" glitch, twist, and nearly fall completely apart while maintaining the thinnest semblance of order. On others like "Hanbreya," these drums calm down slightly and are overshadowed by a soft guitar playing subtle improvisations over an equally subtle bass guitar providing a warm bottom end. Then of course there is the darker turn at the end with "The Black Gold Cascaded Down His Bulbous Chin" in which these more playful elements give way to darker and more ominous noises that strike a contrast to what preceded it. Truly a superb work of electronic improvisation.

 

Lack Jondon - Yukon Tales

Released: February 16


The Call of the Wild is a story that holds a bit of special significance for me as I read it myself when was young and then again when I was an adult to my then eight years old daughter. When I came across this album, I was curious to hear what ambient composer Mark Kowalski (a.k.a. Lack Jondon) had created from this inspiration. Wonderfully, this album did not disappoint in its approach to the source material.


Each track has a particular character imbued in it that persists throughout the album. It feels expansive, like a reverb that has no reflection. It is just a pure wide open space that perfectly captures the cold quality of the settings in which London's stories occur. This motif is established early on and then subverted ever so slightly by tracks such as "Setting Up The Camp" in which high piercing drones and soft oscillations are joined by sparse percussive hits that set such a vivid picture of standing in the snowy, icy cold trying to build a shelter for the cold night. But the true moment of this album for me was the next to last track "Call of the Wild," an almost twelve-minute epic that perfectly coalesces the entire album into one amazing extended moment lying somewhere between zen and turmoil.

 

Sub/Orbital - Igniting the Derelict

Released: February 16


Deep, dark and infinitely subtle textures immerse the listener in this haunting album from Sub/Orbital. Coming from Bent Window Records, well known for their noisier releases, this collection of eerie recordings took me on a trip through eerie landscapes that range from a dead planet to being subdued under waves of murky water. Even in the subtlest of moments, the album can take on a menacing atmosphere, such as on "Igniting the Derelict" when a subtle backwash of reverberated sound transforms quickly from subtle background to a near crushing torrent of wind. Other, even more subtle tones take this aura on in "Probe" as I heard the gentle electronic oscillation slowly moves back and forth in the stereo field, as if this lonely satellite is pinging a lifeless void in the absent hopes of receiving a signal in return. It felt remarkably similar to the atmosphere produced by some of my favorite games in the vein of Soma. Haunting and provoking...

 

.cut - Sinistre

Released: February 12


From the very first track, this album made me uncomfortable in the best way possible. Ambient drones provide a surprisingly serene backdrop for the spoken content discussing the discovery of bodies found near the top of Mount Everest. It's almost as if this is a moment in which to take solace rather than feel despair. But perhaps that's just me...


The remainder of the album takes us through even more unsettling soundscapes in a way that requires no words to convey. Using seemingly found sounds arranged into recognizable patterns, we are taken into unfamiliar places that are difficult to comprehend. "Allegiance Resilience" bears resemblance to the real world but is contextualized in such a way that even though the sounds seem familiar, it is near impossible to place them as deep metallic tones ring out from afar and an odd repeating thunk keeps on. "Exotica" continues this odd contextualization with a recording of a robocall offering a vacation to the Bahamas playing over dark tones resembling the sound you hear in your head after suffering a concussion along with the unsettling sound of dripping. It is a strange and uncomfortable journey, but one worth experiencing several times.

 

Trucking to Tokyo - Blood Agar, Home

Released: February 18



In his first release of 2022 and the first in nearly a year and a half, minimal ambient artist Trucking to Tokyo brings us a full collection of drone-based works that span a surprisingly wide variety of styles and techniques that range from dark and static-y to light and spacey with uniquely randomized guitar improvisations through in for good measure. Moments such as the opening track "i can't see the mountains anymore" give us a deep and foreboding soundscape that hangs heavy in the air for an incredible fourteen minutes with the next "blood agar..." lightening things up only slightly. Trucking to Tokyo leans further into this several tracks later with the crushingly static soaked "dendritic holds (intervals of many)."


What really stood out for me were the guitar-based tracks "I.P.C.Y.D. 1" and "I.P.C.Y.D. 11." These absolutely bizarre mangled guitar tracks both seem to start off calm and quickly become more and more unhinged as the track progresses with the latter seeming to pick up a bit where the first left off. It makes for an off-putting and bewildering moment in an album that teeters back and forth into drone territory to suddenly throw this at the listener to make sure they are still listening. It was also one of my favorite moments in the whole album as it suddenly jarred me from complacency and I wish I could get more of these moments.






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