Mode 7 Project - Transience
Released: April 22
Serving up his fourth EP among a short burst of singles, the latest from Mode 7 Project is another excellent collection of synth-driven tracks that take us on a short trip across time and space. Opening up with "Is It Raining Where You Are," we get a quick intro to the themes of the album with long, drawn-out pads slowly coalescing around a sparse key-like synth and the ambiance of a light rainstorm. As it moves into the next tracks, the once sparse lead synth now becomes all manner of arpeggiated synths that range from the light and airy abstractions of "Horizons Shift In Transit" to the more concise and driving rhythmic texture of "Signal."
Keeping things interesting are some interludes spread throughout the album that focus heavily on field recordings taken from various locations including New York City, Amsterdam, Salt Lake City, and many other various points in between. These field recordings find their way in at various points throughout the album including the previously mentioned "Horizons Shift In Transit," which I would go so far as to say is my favorite track on the album due to that oddly soothing semi-arpeggiated synth playing alongside the extremely airy pads. Truly though, this album is a fantastic trip that chronicles intercontinental travels in a beautifully abstract manner.
Midnight Totem - Confluence
Released: April 29
Confluence marks the first release of French artist Midnight Totem (the moniker of Morgann Tual) on Veinte 33 Records and it leaves quite the impression. The whole album feels hazy and trance-inducing with a wide variety of motifs scattered throughout. For an album that seems primarily ambient, Tual does not shy away from incorporating all manner of percussion and rhythmic elements into her tracks. And not sparsely either as "Badass Jane" really threw me off guard when the rapid-fire breaks started among the deep and dark ambiance of wide pads and softly grumbling basses. It makes for quite an interesting juxtaposition that works extremely well.
This juxtaposition presents itself over and over again throughout the album and seems to really bring light to the name of the album itself. There are a couple of tracks where this dynamic presents itself less openly, including the album's closer "Baikal Waves." This track forgoes the percussion altogether to give us deep ambient pads that are only periodically broken by a sudden build-up of glitchy synthesis that temporarily overpowers and disappears almost as quickly. The overall dynamic of the album is rather odd but it works surprisingly well. Taul has done quite an impressive job getting these otherwise conflicting sounds to play together well.
OTOTOMY - HARD2BAGOD
Released: April 29
HARD2BAGOD is the debut album from Helsinki-based avant-garde noise artist Matti Närekanga under his moniker OTOTOMY. In creating these sometimes ear-splitting and sometimes more subdued but always harsh textures, Matti seems to utilize noise from a variety of sources including raw feedback, weird percussive loops, and even strange vocalizations and screams directly into a microphone. All of which sound like they go through a veritable wall of electronic mangling to create some intense sounds.
The first few tracks lean heavily on the side of harsh noise wall with the opener being a full-on assault on the brain and the second following suit. But then the last two tracks, "HARD" and "2BA," take a more subdued approach with the former being extremely minimalist, seemingly consisting of one single sound that is warped and manipulated in all manner of strange ways. "2BA" takes this same minimal approach but intensifies things a bit, with harsher tones and a wall that rolls in and out and ends with some odd bits of dull percussion. The album is weirdly eccentric in its approach and effectively does much more than simply making some noise.
Envelope Muse - It Will All Be Over Soon
Released: May 2
Stepping away from the harsher side of things, Australian dark ambient artist Envelope Muse brings us his first release on Owlripper Recordings in the form of something that is darkly twisted and genuinely creepy. While deeply in the realm of ambient music, this album ventures well into the territory of industrial and darksynth with its sound design, conjuring up deep-seated fears in the process. It avoids using harsh textures, for the most part, opting instead to use smoother synths with a horror sci-fi vibe throughout.Along with the industrial-inspired synths, Muse also incorporates sounds that are both bizarre and seemingly realistic. A great example can be found on "Ratcheting" in which a sparse synth background is set with the eerie and unmistakeable sound of something, well, ratcheting in the foreground. Then there is the somewhat minimal feeling of "Our Sardonic Grin" which features just a few sounds scattering about with an odd pinging quality to it, almost like some type of strange alarm for a cursed piece of medical equipment which fits in well with the plague-like medical theme of it all. The final track "Analyse Process Automate" takes us out on some searing lead synths that have just the proper amount of bite to them, making an epic end to this genuinely eerie work.
Tanti Algaia - La Mer
Released: May 6
A further side project of Gili Mocanu (a.k.a. SOMNOROASE PĂSĂRELE a.k.a. CENTRUL ISTERIC) this new release See Blue Audio is something to behold. Mocanu is well known for his unorthodox compositions that include all manner of varied techniques, but this nearly forty-minute experimental meander is something quite unusual. Drawing loose inspiration from the composer Claude Debussy, Mocanu takes the concepts of tempo and rhythm, throws them against a wall, and then proceeds to reassemble them in whatever manner he sees fit at the time. And he performs this feat through a small set of percussive sounds that are joined by the errant synth stab and deep drones. The repetitive use of the same elements gives just the slightest bit of familiarity to latch on to, a familiarity that regularly undercuts itself at every possible moment by way of the broken piece of tempo.
Kh3rtis & Willebrant - kW
Released: May 6
It's an odd thing what comes out when two artists collaborate. Here we have two artists, one of whom is well known for his supremely atmospheric drones involving indelible field recordings and the other who is well-versed in creating spacey and psychedelic ambient downtempo tracks with captivating vocal snippets. And in some ways, these qualities come through well. But then things get surprising about halfway through the first track "Glitch'n" when gentle ambiance gives way to a strong backbeat and intensely groovy basslines. It honestly surprised and delighted me to hear the direction in which they went with this collaboration. The last track "Calm Complete" is even more surprising as it feels downright danceable while keeping that same psychedelic vibe established in the first track. Truly a head-turning collaboration that caught me unawares.
Sev - Zero-G
Released: April 29
Zero-G is a fun and enigmatic album that manages to occupy a space somewhere between vaporwave and chiptune. It's a space that I'm genuinely surprised more artists don't try to go to but at least there is Sev (a.k.a. Brandon Sevigny) to take us there. This album has all the right pieces of nostalgia in all the right spots to make for something that personally made me smile pretty much the entire way through. Even the song titles are so aptly named with one of my personal favorites being the short but sweet "World Map" that quite literally sounds like an amalgamation of all the map screens from all of the 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs I played in my childhood.
For the rest of the album, Sev keeps the energy up with tracks that play out like all those awesome side-scrolling shooters you remember from the past. Tracks like "Combat Tutorial" and "Escort Mission" ring true to their names and give you that screen blurring excitement while you desperately dodge shots because you're on your last life and you don't want to start over for the twentieth time. Dig out the old RF switch and turn to channel 3 for this one.