Helena Celle - Music For Counterflows
Released: July 15
Part of a rapidly growing body of work, Music for Counterflows is an ambitious album from Glasgow-based artist Helena Celle that is comprised of a single hour-long track, effectively filling an entire compact disc by itself. The work itself is surprisingly varied in its composition despite maintaining the same instrumentation practically through its whole runtime. Hazy and reverberated sounds ping around and play off one another to create a hypnotic atmosphere that ebbs in and out. There is a certain theme that the song starts out with and periodically revisits throughout. The composition actually ends with a wildly mutated version of this theme that slowly falls apart until we are left in the silent stillness of the end. It's mesmerizing and peculiar in its approach but makes for quite the experience as it never wears out its overarching themes.
Eaters of the Soil - Inedia 1
Released: July 4
Eaters of the Soil's second album is essentially a masterclass in melding together multiple genres through almost pure improvisation. Of course, there are some pre-written elements to this album but they are only the most basic of foundations that provide the grounding for the weird and semi-psychedelic improvisation that makes up the bulk of the album. Combining elements of doom metal, free jazz, and other seemingly random odds and ends, Inedia 1 becomes an almost entirely unpredictable orgy of sound.
Heavy guitars and drums make up the basis for both tracks while the bass, synths, and trombone (yes, there's a bloody trombone and it is as amazing as it sounds on paper) give a lively spontaneity to the two compositions. On the first track, "A Thin Lacquer," the guitar does some improvisation but mainly gives us those heavy doom-inspired riffs while on the second, "The Humility of Service," it is cut loose a bit to provide some more freeform quality. The use of vocal samples is also quite compelling as it has a mildly creepy quality to it but fits in well with the rest of the weirdness. Definitely a unique album with incredibly chaotic energy to it.
Thumos & spaceseer - The Course of Empire
Released: July 4
Another album that incorporates elements of doom and adjacent varieties of metal (I must've been in a mood this week), The Course of Empire is unique in its attempt to blend these together with a bit of space rock influences and purely atmospheric dark ambient music. At times, these two divergent styles create a bit of a clash but other times they work quite well in tandem, most notably when the compositions turn further into a progressive metal direction with soaring leads. I found this worked especially well on "Arcadian" as the ambient contributions of Spaceseer added a tasteful amount of atmosphere to these melodic sections.
Overall, the guitar riffs steal the show on this album with heavy and mildly complex riffs with sweeping melodies sprinkled throughout. However, the ambient nature of the album shines through in the short interludes between the riff-driven primary tracks. These are where the surreal ambiances that are a bit overshadowed on the main tracks really get to shine on their own and provide a short recess from the riffs. There's also the presence of these short breaks in the action during some of the tracks in which these ambiances fill in the sound as the guitar gently plucks along which really solidifies what these two artists were going for. I recommend you give it a listen for yourself though.
Colematics INF present the Gemini Lounge Orchestra - Crypt of the Gemini
Released: July 6
The first time I listened to Crypt of the Gemini, I admit that I was quite confused. The second and third time though, I was only a little less confused. All jokes aside, this is a rather bizarre album that seems to use elements of horror in a campy and creepy manner something akin to what comes about if Tim Burton and John Carpenter had an illegitimate love-child that grew up to write horror movie scripts while out of their mind and LSD. Speech samples, seemingly pulled from countless obscure horror movies, litter the track throughout while the instrumentation feels like a giant mishmash of multiple varieties of horror soundtrack motifs and tropes all thrown together in a wild and sprawling arrangement. With all this, what I mean to say is that I enjoyed this bewildering experience in a surprising way.
Cub/cub - Nothing New Under the Sun
Released: July 1
Filled with hazy downtempo rhythms and intricate vocal sampling, Nothing New Under the Sun strikes a tasteful balance between ambient chill and vaguely danceable that has a strangely spiritual quality to it. Perhaps it is the combination of persistent yet relaxed percussion and the vocality of the synths and sampled bits as they play off of one another beautifully. But for all the seeming focus on rhythm, we are also given two purely synth-driven pieces in "Harper" and "Yr Aran," the latter consisting mainly of thick choral pads that float across the stereo spaces serenely and the former being driven almost entirely of a warbly keyed rhythm with a spot-on amount of wow and flutter.
For me, it's Hughes's use of vocal snippets that seem to blend so well with the vocal quality of so many of the synths used here. It comes across as these little chants that morph and repeat and the synths just under them flutter gently. It creates something that feels oddly naturalistic despite the synthetic quality of the sounds. It's an interesting tension between the desire to connect with the natural world while being surrounded by the technology we have at hand.
Steve Hadfield - See the World Anew Vol. 2
Released: July 8
The follow-up to Hadfield's first volume bearing the same title decidedly keeps with the same themes of rediscovering the wonders that the world has to offer. Though now the setting in which this new exploration takes place has shifted from the reaches of outer space to the more tangible yet still alien world of the oceans. Indeed, the compositional techniques used on this album reflect this change in setting well as the former volume was filled with more sweeping ambiances and this new installment feels much more upfront while still maintaining the abstract nature put forth earlier.
Opening up with somewhat whimsical arpeggios on "Manta Ray," the album keeps this sense of whimsy to some extent all the way through until the last track, especially on the playful and scattering percussive textures of "Spider Crabs," a personal favorite of mine here. However, by the final track, "The Dead Whale," the solemn reality of life is on display and the sense of whimsy has disappeared. But not the sense of mystery and wonder, which is exemplified in the swelling pads and stately percussion to create a finale that represents a firm awareness without being dour or somber.