Rounding the Fringes - September 15

Survey Channel - Catalog Nectar

Released: September 3

The latest release from Survey Channel is a bit a mixed bag of what you would expect from the Buffalo-based musician alongside some new and clever adaptations in his style. First and foremost, there's is that difficult to place sense of nostalgia that permeates virtually all of his work heavily present here, an effect that is difficult to attribute to any one facet of his compositions. It could be the synth selections, the composition itself, or the hazy atmosphere that the tracks are bathed in.

Through the six-track EP, we are given two very kinds of tracks: aural and pillowy ambient as well as beat-driven downtempo tracks that vary in the sketchiness of their rhythms. Of the former we get two tracks - "Time Between Sync" and "Scalar Fields," which is my personal favorite of the two due to the very sparse nature of the track and the fact the it is the near perfect end to this EP with a slightly warbling pad that takes you little deeper in, only to leave you there. But, to start the EP, we have the glitchy rhythms and punchy drums of "Spectrum of a Ring." This track and others, such as "Totemism," are where you can hear Surcey Channel really trying out some new thing in terms of percussion and rhythm. And it all works so splendidly.

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Solemnland - illimitee

Released: August 5

An darkly tinted two piece release from the Canadian ambient composer, this EP is an uneasy listen. The compositions themselves are minimal but flow seamlessly along while awash in subtly clashing harmonics. The first of the two pieces here, "Solaia" is similar is similar in construction to the second piece, yet seems to have a bit more bright spots. Heavy and tense pads take precedence here as minimalist piano lines bathed in delay and reverb play along creating tension that ebbs and flows throughout the run time.

As the piece moves into the second track, "Solus," the tone seems to become a bit darker and the piano pieces less resemble lines and begin to manifest as more like broken chords with repeating structures that never seem to release their tension. The pads featured here are also predominately more like drones as they seem to rarely move too far, dropping in and and as it consistently returns to that same tense broken piano chord. There is a quality to the entire EP that is haunting and contemplative, not quite horror movie in the typical sense but something more akin to dark dramas exploring the human psyche.

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SCHLIEBRANDTON - Showroom Dummies

Released: September 3

Step Gloss is a label with a well-established penchant for just bringing the weirdest kind of sounds and artists to tape. This recent collaboration between Brandstifter and Wolfgang Schliemann is no exception but there is something a bit different about it. While all the expected electronic and synthesized weirdness is there, someone had the good sense to put these two in a big room with all kinds of mundane items such as cheap bells, balloons, pieces of metal, wood and styrofoam then turn the microphone on. The result is nothing short of bizarre and highly entertaining.

Brandstifter takes on most of the electronic sources here while Schliemann accompanies him with clanging on wood and metal, smacking styrofoam, and I'm one-hunred percent sure that he dropped a wrench at some point. The product of this tinkering is often far more rhythmic than expected, although not consistent in said rhythm, and most certainly noisy. I would love to explain more about this but truth be told, you just have to hear the madness for yourself.

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Scarless Arms - naked: nude

Released: August 27

Despite any connotations the title may give, there is little to nothing that is sensual or erotic about this album. Rather, it seems the name is a bit more descriptive of what the compositions are here. Stripped down, bare, and minimal. While Tyves has always included pianos in his previous work, its a somewhat dramatic change from them to take this much precedence in the soundstage as they do here. That's not to say there aren't other elements at play here. However, the pads and the field recording step far into the background throughout, at times being almost imperceptible entirely.

The piano compositions that occupy so much space here are soft, gentle and meandering while also being somewhat disquieting. Chord progressions that end in unique clashes and subvert any expectation of resolution are common. Meanwhile, Tyves does not shy away from some sonic surprises here and there such as loud swooshes the jolt the senses and remind you to listen carefully. And I would recommend listening very carefully and attentively.

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Gabriel de la Mora - Collection of Choices

Released: August 27

Listening to this EP by Mexico City-based artist Gabriel de la Mora, I was a bit surprised to realize that this was made with just two synthesizers and a four track tape recorder. While much of the runtime is devoted to a certain kind of minimal aesthetic, de la Mora is also able to achieve some extremely interesting and complex effects through his process. Two of the most surprising moments for me happened on the the second and third tracks, "We Shared the Sky" and "Drugs" respectively.

Both tracks seem to start with some kind of sampled material, the first being what sounds to be some kind of inspirational speech accompanied by some very late 80s sounding synth music from some lost VHS of bargain bin quality. De la Mora takes this and twists it into a droning soundscape that starkly contrasts with the nature of the original material. He achieves a similar effect on "Drugs" although to much more comical effect (at least according to my perception). The first and last tracks of this release are much more focused on the kind of synth exploration you might expect, but still embraces the same sampling to somwhat less effect. It is truly a trip to take though who knows where you actually end up.

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Brian Sangmeister & Star Madman - Eyes on the Horizon

Released: July 16

Well-known for his dark and tense cinematic compositions, ambient artist Brain Sangmeister teamed up with vocalist Star Madman to change direction a bit and make *checks notes* synthwave-driven pop?

Somehow I must have missed this one a few months ago, but I have to talk about it now. While synthwave isn't particularly my preference, I have to give credit to both artists for really making this work. The vocal performance from Star Madman is superb as always and Sangmeister is really showing off some depth with his compositional skills by making that contrasts starkly with the work I'm familiar with. The synths are all the 80s sounding nostalgia required without going too deep into the cheesiness that much synthwave pop falls victim to. Frankly, it is pleasantly surprising.

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