Rounding the Fringes - January 7

Alex Green - Curvature of the Earth

Released: December 15

There's an odd quality to this album in the way it balances the cacophony of some of its field recording with a persistent underlying sense of calm and serenity. You can hear this right off the bat with the opening title track, "Curvature of the Earth." Metallic rattling, ringing, and clattering are juxtaposed with a gentle melody played on what sounds like a tiny piano that prevents the track from being subsumed by the noise. It is a beautiful combination that Green revisits over and over again throughout the album, very interestingly on "Kottiyoor" where a mass of voices all speaking at once threatens to overwhelm at multiple points but it's held back by the odd harmony played on a lush synth.

The entire album is based upon a year of traveling the Green had the opportunity to take across the globe. The various influences of the places he was able to visit shine through wonderfully as he caught a variety of conversations throughout his travels as well as the ambiance of the areas in which he found himself. "Prettier in a Different Context" gives us the most immersive conversation that we are still unable to completely decipher and seems to include communication between air traffic control and pilots interspersed with other bits of random conversation. The whole experience of this album is incredibly immersive as Green tells us the story of his travels through the haze of memory.

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Ballerina in Blood - The Demon of Third Brother Mountain

Released: December 22

A grueling three tracks of harsh noise, Ballerina in Blood's latest EP is interesting in the way it uses lower and more subtle tones in its opening and ending. On "My Proud Mountain" the opening sounds as though it is trying to speak but only gives out muffled and breathy tones interspersed with seeming yelps of pain. This, of course, before the harsh wall of noise comes back to slam you in the face for the final four and a half minutes. The entire album was recorded live and it gives the immediate vibe of being pulled straight from a small noise show. If you are ready for a bit of sonic punishment, I highly recommend submitting yourself to these roughly twenty minutes of pain.

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Bizarre Therapy - PC Suicide

Released: November 26

Weird and sparse little glitchy soundscapes define this brief EP from Bizarre Therapy. It is an eclectic little collection of tracks that cover a surprising amount of ground in terms of variety. For me, the surprising stand-out track is "Courtroom in Session," a big and booming track that comes right after the lighter and glitchier "Pixie Dust in my PC Grew Enormous Fungus." Utilizing heavy bass hits and super crisp drums, this track almost comes across as a semi-nightmarish glitch trap that is undercut at the end as the frequency range shrinks drastically. Much of the rest of the EP follows this motif, minus the huge bass, with glitched-out sequences and odd melodies. It makes for a neat little return for an artist coming back to his craft after several years.

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T e l e + 1 - t e t r i s C D - i

Released: December 12

Living somewhere within the realm of vaporwave, this collection of warm and fuzzy tracks plays like the background music of generic games and late-night community bulletin channels of the early nineties. Each track is named after a level, as the concept is that this was found on an old VHS of someone playing Tetris on a CD-i (if you remember that esoteric piece of failed tech). Each of these tracks is comprised of some beautiful melodies, all of which are slightly buried under the fuzz of analog videotape hiss and static. With the shorter length of most of these tracks, they play out as short vignettes; little clips of the past that leak through to provide the listener with just a bit of nostalgia for a time that they may not even fully remember. Definitely a wonderful late-night listen.

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Art Bears x Petridisch - Retold.

Released: December 31

The best way to describe Retold is that it is an album comprised of three albums that were mangled almost beyond recognition and then pressed together into one album that is both incredibly trippy and curiosity-inducing. The whole album is made of the discography of English Avant-rock group Art Bears. If you are unfamiliar with them (as I very much was), you can read a bit about them here and listen to their absolutely mind-boggling compositions here. After listening to the original work and this rework (remix?), I have to say that Petridisch did justice to the original work. Already bizarre and difficult compositions are twisted even further into nearly incomprehensible soundscapes that push a bit more musical boundaries than I can properly identify.

Each original album is pressed into two tracks each, giving us a part one and two (save for the final track) for each with the albums separated by a scant ten seconds of silence. In each part, we are given the slightest of pauses as one piece transitions to the next. These condensed tracks are morphed in various ways that can either be ambient and somewhat soothing or noisy and slightly nightmarish. I personally preferred the latter and found the reworking of the Winter Songs to be my favorite as much of it was noisy and unnerving in many ways. The fact that I can still make out much of the vocals while recognizing something is so very wrong with them brought me, well, a bit of joy.

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