Rounding the Fringes - November 5

Frank Cogliano - CRT

Released: October 1

On this release that is presumably his debut, electronic artist Frank Cogliano displays a wide range of techniques and moods to create a distinctive album that borrows from vaporware aesthetics while being definitively different. With the opening track "Armada," we're introduced with an old and grainy vocal sample that disappears and gives an ambient track filled with synths that call back to the 80s in a profound way. In fact, much of this album calls back to that period in music, though it never tries to imitate it. Rather, it twists it subtly and gives something that has just even nostalgia to give you a fleeting feeling when you hear it but never becomes the focus at any point.

While much of the album centers around these ambient themes, Cogliano has a surprise or two. By that I mean two specific tracks, "Peace 1" and "Peace 2." These two slightly unexpected tracks don't quite break the mood, but they do introduce some themes that I can only describe as slightly funky. For "Peace 1,' we get that classic blues-rock electric guitar soloing atop a smooth bassline that reminds me of an old song that I can't quite name though my brain is screaming at me that I know it. And that is really the gist of this entire album, an extremely subtle nostalgia that is well-crafted and engaging while effectively distracting you from it while drawing you to it.

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Yol - viral dogs and cats

Released: October 29

I receive a lot of extreme music through my e-mailed submissions so I always like to think to myself that there's nothing too out there to really throw me off. Unholy hell on a buttermilk biscuit was I ever wrong. This album positively scared me and I'm still not sure if I can say that I enjoyed it, though I listened to it in its entirety several times. Regardless, I'm going to attempt to explain why I listened to the whole thing (again, several times) and hopefully you'll understand why I was compelled to write about it.

First, every track of this album consists almost entirely of vocals. Not exactly speaking, but rather just vocalizing. Each track consists of a repeated phrase that has more and more detail added to it as the track progresses. In the first track "chunks of tongue," the phrase is spoken multiple times while being interspersed with screams and pained yelling until the detail is added that he believes he is told that there are strawberries in the ice cream but it is actually chunks of tongue. Yeah. The entire album feels like the mad ramblings of someone who suffered a complete psychotic break and never recovered. All of that being said, I think this is one that I definitely want on tape.

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Mount Maxwell - The People’s Forest

Released: September 29

The People's Forest is something I find to be strangely enigmatic. Composed of seemingly small sounds, this album has an oddly natural quality to it despite being created almost entirely through synthetic means. Subtle synth lines coordinate effectively with bits of sampled audio including vocals and sounds of nature in a way that transports you to another place that feels like a home that you are yet to visit. Subdued percussion carries almost every track through these wandering soundscapes in a manner that gives the listener something to hold onto as they drift along this otherworldly place that resembles Earth.

Some of my favorite moments on this album include"Falling Mountain" in which the familiar rhythms are dropped entirely to give us an entirely ambient album driven by little more than than the ambient sounds of nighttime in the full glory of nature and some kind of traditional wind instrument that is joined by a sparsely strummed guitar creating quite a zen moment. This is in contrast to the busy percussion on tracks that precede and follow it, including another favorite of mine "Ring of Rushes." The rhythm is steady yet complex enough that it never becomes stale and gives a base to the entrancing melody that defines this track as somewhat hypnotic. All in all, The People's Forest is a delightful and light listen that will leave you at peace.

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Daphne X - The Plumb Sutra

Released: October 22

Using a decidedly electro-acoustic and naturalistic approach to her creation process, Greek artist Daphne X's The Plumb Sutra is something of an oddity. Throughout the album, we are treated to a host of experimental techniques that should feel difficult but maintain an air of immediate approachability. It is very uncanny in many places, especially in the track "Halo Dragon." Here we are given a rhythm that is very simple and has a quality that I can only describe as something old and tribal that is joined by a slightly buried vocal that resembles sung chant. It is both hypnotic and off-putting at the same time as you find yourself slipping into it slowly.

Daphne X also makes interesting use of piano in several tracks including "Sourdough's Child" and "Eliseo's Teeth Chatter." In the latter, we have a melody that repeats seemingly endlessly until it seems to abruptly disappear and is replaced by a new melody that is much sparser and leaves its notes just hanging in the air. However, if you listen closely, you can hear that original melody playing very softly in the background in an amazing magic trick of a mixing decision. The entire album seems to carry this odd and ritualistic quality to it. It's almost as if the listener has stumbled upon an ancient world, one with old gods and ritual magic. Absolutely mesmerizing.

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Bless This Machine feat. Alex J O’Brien - Sentient EP

Released: August 31

Soft, soaring, and beautifully cinematic soundscapes define this collaborative album. Each track is delicate, yet solid enough to stand on its own even though it would make for a heartfelt soundtrack to accompany a serious work of drama. The first track "Storm" is almost entirely pad-driven though it is accompanied by powerfully evocative strings that paint an almost lachrymose picture if it were not for the strange sense of hope that also pervades it. An aptly named composition to be certain.

In the second track "Afterglow" we have a similar sentiment although these pads are joined by a wistful piano instead of strings. The presence of the pads is so stunning, however, that this piano seems to just take on the role of providing the perfect accouterment to a spectacularly luscious soundscape with the little ear candy swooshes giving us that little bit extra. The final track "Maze Club" is more difficult to describe but seems to take us in a more sci-fi direction while still retaining that same poignant atmosphere that the entire EP evokes. Truly a beautiful album with vividly emotive atmospheres.

Purchase on Bandcamp

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