Minimal Drone Grl & Belial Pelegrim - Movements of a Cloud
Released: February 25
The latest release coming from Bricolage is a superb collaborative album from Minimal Drone Grl and Belial Pelegrim filled with the most eclectic of atmospheric combinations. Natural atmospheres of the natural world combine with lush pads and airy plucks, strums and keys to create tranquil soundscapes with a surprising bit of movement (as the title suggests). The opening track "A Remembered Land Long Forgotten" begins us on this journey with the sounds of water, birds, and cinematic stings that evoke images of staring upon a brand new world in dramatic fashion. Later on, "The Gray Monks of Citeaux" casts a thick and dense cloud containing dark pads and the faraway chants and bells of an ancient monastery long forgotten by civilization.
It is very intriguing, the way in which these two talented artists play off of one another. Each one's characteristic sound shines through at points with Minimal Drone Grl's long sweeping sounds and Belial Pelegrim's staccato stabs, though it is difficult to tell where one's influence begins and the other ends. I found this combination extremely poignant on "The Myth of Wondrous Things" as the track slowly shifts from a lighter and airier composition into a much more tense and dark drama about midway through. The seamlessness of this transition is captivating and a testament to the integration of sound both artists are able to accomplish here.
PJS - Origin Stories
Released: February 25
A sprawling and spacious three-piece suite from PJS (Patrick Dique and Jordan Christoff) brought to us courtesy of Strategic Tape Reserve, this album is an odd outlier in its composition. What I mean by this is that every bit of sound seems to be in constant flux, both unwilling and unable to maintain sameness for any length of time. This motif is established well in the first track "Source" with its epic thirty-minute runtime and absolute refusal to give anything but the slightest repetition on which the listener has to hold. Tones shift slowly and bounces around the stereo field giving us high-pitched tones that slowly give way to deep bass-driven oscillations until returning to their original form once again.
"Turbo Pause" and "Altitude" make up the second half of this audio experience and give us a more intense version of this motif with oscillations that increase and decrease in speed wildly. The wild oscillations border on tearing the entire soundscape into pieces until calming down enough to once again bring us a slightly familiar landscape. For the entire album, PJS seems to be giving us an experience in compositional chaos. There is the constant sensation that things are going off the rails but they are always brought back to a semi-familiar place. It is in this tension between normalcy and chaos that PJS seems to thrive.
Ordos Mk.0 - Sisyphean Audio Therapy
Released: February 21
Deep and soothing celestial textures imbue Sisyphean Audio Therapy with a quality that is not quite otherworldly. Ordos Mk.0 utilizes a variety of synthetics to create floating soundscapes that soothe and provoke simultaneously. Some of these have a video game-esque quality to them such as "Odyssey" which features prominently an arpeggiated synth that inspires visions of serene deep space travel with some underlying element of tension while others such as "Across the Icy Peaks" gives us a spanning view of a desolate yet beautiful snow-covered land.
The title of audio therapy is well placed as the tones and compositions within feel downright restorative and ameliorative. Soft synths and pads combine with the slightest hints of vocal and percussion in just the right places to create a relaxing experience that takes you away temporarily. The album ends with its most energetic note on "Further Unfolding" as the soothing texture we've become familiar with combines with a racing and slightly distorted arpeggiation. It creates seemingly the perfect capstone to this reinvigorating experience.
Sangam - Hope You Don’t Leave
Released: February 25
Recently released on Decaying Spheres, Hope You Don't Leave is something of a haunting album. Not in terms of being uncomfortable or even disturbing. Rather, there is an overwhelming sense of mournful loneliness that finds its way into every single track on this album. It seems to carry all the energy of a lost relationship, either to a parting of ways or the unfortunate end of a life, but never once feels contrived or saccharine. It is just that raw feeling of suddenly finding yourself alone.
Among the sad and wandering soundscapes, there are two that stood out more than others to me: "The Path to F All" and "Sorry Is Not the Answer." The former of these two breaks the more sullen vibe that begins the album in a way that is slightly jarring with deep low-end hits and a synth (or voice?) that sounds almost as if it is yelling a pained and wordless cry into the void. The latter brings the vocal to the forefront with low melancholic pads backing up the repeating refrain of a simple "sorry," a plea that seems to go completely unanswered. As I said, it is a haunting experience but only in terms of the surprising amount of raw emotion that is present.
Released: February 2
Described as something akin to "Electronic fork horror," Saturnalia instantly struck me as a flat-out creepy album that intricately combines a wide number of influences and techniques that stir up a surprising amount of nostalgia for me. Listening to just the first couple of tracks gave me distinct Castlevania vibes, though a bit more subdued than the original games that I fondly remember. However, once I got to the track "Bright Wave," I was suddenly made aware that there was more to this album as I was suddenly transported to a land of more wonder and curiosity than spooky forests and witchcraft as the rest of the album alternates between this lighter sound and the darker waves we were previously introduced to.
Light on percussion and heavy on floating, nearly-psychedelic synths with a relaxed groove rather than high-intensity, Hawksmoor has created a strange melange of darkwave gothic with lighter synthwave-type vibes placed neatly in a trippy sounding wrapper. Hawksmoor probably could have leaned harder into the whole creepy factor, but instead, he finds an elegant balance that left me conflicted as to how I should feel at the end. And that, actually feels right.