Anatomy of the Heads - Jungle Cult Terror
Released: March 22
Twisted, dark, and ritualistic excursions into sounds that very narrowly ride the already thin border between music and noise. The backstory behind this album is... odd, much like the back story for most of the Anatomy of the Heads' other works as well as the project as a whole. It's all very slow and grinding, but with a rather chaotic element to all of it, that feels as though we are listening to some very old pagan ritual as it occurs with a definitive overtone of horror.
Much of the time, the album strikes a purely ominous tone with tracks such as "Invoking the Almighty" with far-away sounding chants and dark textures that incorporate distortion and unnatural reverbs. Other times it is much more pointed in its horrific composition with "Towards the Funeral Demon" being a great example of this. This track actually reminds me of the scene in the movie Event Horizon in which the crew fully decodes a transmission only to see and hear the most horrible things. If terror is the point, then they hit it perfectly with this album.
Armageddon Speaking - Just This Restless Feeling
Released: March 25
In this recent release, Ontario-based electronic musician Armageddon Speaking gives us another wonderful dose of his signature off-kilter ambient IDM. Throughout the album, we get a little bit of everything from aggressive synths backed up by pounding rhythms to a more laid-back but still weird ambient vibe with warbly synths. Most notably, Armageddon Speaking has a knack for reprising little themes throughout.
The three tracks that mention butterflies in their titles have this certain arpeggiated synth line that makes its return in each track, each time with a slightly different twist. In the first, "Butterflies in the Winds of Time," this melody is much more upfront with rapid-fire percussion backing it up, and by its third appearance in "Butterflies in the Wind" the percussion is gone and it's so modulated that it's almost something new while retaining just enough to be recognizable. At the end of the album, we are given the wistful "I Can't Remember the Future. Do You?" featuring a different odd melody that sounds as though it was pulled from an old abandoned VHS tape, making for quite the finish.
Cucurbitophobia - Doomsday Clock
Released: March 22
Coming back from a brief hiatus, neoclassical composer Rob Benny has returned with an absolutely grinding industrial metal track in Doomsday Clock. With his Cucurbitophobia project being well-known for neoclassical horror-themed works, this new turn in his work has been quite a shift, one that is very welcomed. The guitars are thick and chunky with a lead guitar that absolutely screams over the top backed up by solid drums giving us that authentic late-90s industrial metal vibe. When I first heard it, I instantly thought back to one of my favorite bands of the era Fear Factory but a friend of mine also said Command & Conquer Red Alert. Both are some of my personal favorites and this track captures both vibes perfectly.
Praying for Collapse + Light Collapse - Sopryahzeniye
Released: March 11
This latest offering brought to us by Bent Window Records, is actually a re-release of an album that was only distributed on about 10 CD-Rs, but has now been made available on digital (and of course CD again). Consisting of two long-form tracks, this album makes for a collaboration between two artists that give us the bleakest of atmospheres. It is never aggressive with its presentation, rather it feels somewhat retrained through not by volition. It encapsulates this feeling of just being crushed under the weight of brutal reality while desperately trying to escape. The best way I can describe what it sounds like is that it sounds a mile wide but only a foot tall, like something trying desperately to crawl its way out from under a giant rock. It's frighteningly beautiful in such a wretched way.
bahía mansa - ausencia o la virtud de los árboles
Released: February 28
On this wonderfully meditative album released on the UK-based Fallow Recordings, Iván Aguayo (better known as Bahía Mansa) puts his typical heavy emphasis on field recordings to the side to focus on creating these stunning and wondrous soundscapes that have an amazingly dreamy quality to them. This dreamy quality is probably attributable to the manner in which it was produced, with all tracks being recorded directly to a four-track recorder, giving it the unmistakable quality of analog tape. At times, it feels very much like watching a nature documentary from the 80s without the commentary, providing a soothing atmosphere.
The themes touched on throughout reflect this aesthetic perfectly, with much of it centering around nature (as many of Aguayo's works do). But just because the field recordings have gone to the side does not mean they have disappeared. Opening the album with "primavera canela," we hear the sound of running water and birds softly chirping alongside the soft saturated pads that play gently. The next track, "maya maya," puts these sounds further to the background as shimmering leads and pads create almost vocal-like ambiances. It almost seems as if you can feel the morning sun shining down on your face and it is absolutely lovely.
Nurses with Knives - Lachesism
Released: March 19
There is something darkly insidious about this album that is impossible to nail down to one single aspect. Rather, all of the elements present here coalesce to create something that is uniquely unnerving without being harsh or aggressive. The atmospheres created either through sampling or synthesis (it is difficult to tell where these sounds are coming from) just hang in the air and dig their way into your mind.
Much of the album is purely dark and airy with these expertly chosen pieces of dialogue that discuss all manner of disconcerting topics, most especially on the "Journal" tracks - 4 tracks that present dark ambient atmospheres with talk of tortured screams, the end of humanity and "Necrobiology" that carry along a weird sort of narrative throughout the album. However, it's not all ambient here as I found out when I was quite surprised by the fifth track "Teething." Though it starts with a creepy ambiance, it quickly blurs the line between ambient and rock as the drums slam life into the track that eventually builds into guitar riffs until the track brings us right back into the darkness we've come to expect. It was certainly one of my favorite moments in the first (and second) listen-through.