Rounding the Fringes - June 16

Fields We Found - Distance

Released: May 17

Clocking in at around forty-five minutes, the latest offering from Fields We Found is fittingly named Distance considering the breathtaking amount of space that each individual piece is given. Little pieces of melody are just audible enough to shine while peeking out ever so cautiously from a light cloud of warm analog tape hiss. Really, it is this hiss that seems to bring out the character in each sound, giving the proper amount of color and shimmer to each all while further the dramatic yet intimate spaces that the compositions occupy.

From the very beginning of the first track, "Waits," we are introduced to a scene of blissful hum and sauntering ambiance that persists throughout, The synths barely raise themselves above a whisper at most points, but there are a few exceptions in which Fields We Found adds the perfect touch of distortion to bring our attention directly to it. You can hear this executed beautifully on both "Touch" and "Release" with the synths in the higher registers given just enough crunch to be noticeable, but not so much that it breaks the mellow and meandering mood of the album. It's all about these little added touches.


Ven Ether - The Spien Contact

Released: June 3

The Spien Contact was created primarily from raw spontaneity with a selection of custom-crafted sounds and instruments. Ven Ether took much of his time creating these sounds individually and then found a way to tie them all together in a drifting and, well, ethereal manner (no pun intended). Much of the tracks on this album give space to a singular sound, giving it all the space to breathe out its drifting and microtonal melodies. Melodies that stretch out and repeat in only the slightest fashion, giving rise to phrases that speak on their own throughout as they play over a background of electrical currents and simulated natural textures.

Divided into ten parts, the album retains an unbroken continuity to it that sees each track blend seamlessly into the next all the way up until the thirty-three-minute continuous mix that caps the album. The immense variety of sounds is truly staggering for such a short runtime, though Ven Ether shows a particular fondness for subtly mutated and modulated keys, notably with "III" and "IV" playing out their sundry melodies. Furthermore, the pure atmospherics of the album take a small but integral part of the background with hisses, hums, crackles, and static. All this makes for a simply sublime experience.


Schmitz & Niebuhr & Lothringer - Die Lehre vom Großen Rad

Released: June 10

Marking the eighth installment in the Learning by Listening series, Die Lehre vom Großen Rad seems to stand out as one of the oddest entries in the series, which is saying a lot. The motif seems to be more focused on the spoken word than some of the others in the series, but the instrumentation is wildly bizarre yet very fitting for the subject matter of a theory about a great wheel. For most of the album, we are given a calm yet subtly intense voice speaking to us in German. But around the third track "Lektion III," this calm veneer begins to crack as the speaker yells seemingly out of nowhere. This continues on with the vocalizations growing stranger with growls, cackles, and other oddities. Are we listening to a mad genius here? All while this is happening, small instrumental interludes seem to punctuate the air in between each sentence and stanza by alternating between airy plucks and deep drones with bits of other noises thrown in. I do hope that your German is polished enough so that you can learn more about this big wheel.


Distraxi - Green Boots

Released: June 3

Following up on her last release on Bent Window Records, Distraxi (Laurie Church) brings another mind-warping blend of ambient and noise in a longer yet equally brutal album double the size of her previous Castration Fantasy. What really stands out about Distraxi's style is her prominent use of heavily distorted and mutilated vocals, which take even more prominence here. Many of the tracks seem to start out softly, with small bits of ambient noise leading up into full-throated screams that pierce through everything around it. This theme is thoroughly established in the first minute of the first track "Egg (Frozen in Green Boots Cave)" as the ambiance begins and the noise slowly builds until Church erupts with high-pitched wails dominating the soundscape. Even when there are no lyrics to speak of, there is still that persistent sensation that she is still assaulting the senses with her vocals on tracks such as "Terror is Broken China." It is quite a feat to pull off but she seems to do it quite naturally, or unnaturally. I can't seem to be sure at this point.


Broken Shoulder & Expose Your Eyes - Parts Exchanged

Released: June 10

Parts Exchanged is a collaborative effort between electronic experimenters Paul Harrison (Expose Your Eyes) and Neil Debnam (Broken Shoulder) that sits in an odd space between noise, drone, and ambient styles. Consisting of only two tracks that are clever plays on combining each artist's pseudonym, it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. However, what is readily apparent is the slowly evolving nature of each track, with "Broken Eyes" beginning as a static drone that seems to be little more than noise with some minor modulations to it. But this static noise eventually fades away with softly droning pads taking over for the final five minutes of this long-form track, sending us off on a bright yet slightly melancholy note. "Expose Your Shoulder" takes this same dynamic and flips it on its head, moving slowly from droning pads into a noisier conclusion. The result is an odd kind of symmetry that plays out over the course of roughly half an hour that feels much like an ambient time-warp.


Letters from Mouse - Sleep Tapes

Released: May 19

The thirtieth entry in the Cassingle series from Superpolar Taips sees electronic veteran Letters From Mouse make an appearance for two short yet sufficiently warped and weird downtempo tracks. The first of these two tracks, "3 a.m.," focuses on minimalistic sounds drenched in reverb and delay to create an airy and spacey track that is indicative of such a strange hour of the night. The second seems to focus on some interesting vocal sampling that is so heavily manipulated as to be unrecognizable, almost reminiscent of those fleeting thoughts you think to yourself as you slowly drift to sleep. A short, but quite a welcome contribution from the Edinburgh-based artist.

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