Ah for the pastoral beauty of a quietly unfolding bit of synth wonder. It’s been a great year for that actually, with new releases by icons like Qluster and Klaus Schulze, and dozens of other young players arriving with the modular synths in tow, ready to spread the gospel like pollen. One such musician is Nelson Bean, an artist from up in Seattle who is releasing his latest work as Black Hat on the local cassette label Field Hymns.
I like that someone on SoundCloud likened this track to The Ice Storm. I can see this playing under the scenes with Elijah Wood wandering through the glistening iced over landscape and getting lost in his own stoned thoughts. Makes me strangely wish that the weather outside were a lot more fall/winter-like.
Hidden away in a post from last October was the news that Field Hymns, one of the city’s finest purveyors of cassette goodness, had two amazing releases ready to roll for the early part of 2013. The post in question was a celebration of new tunes from Regular Music, and makes mention of the fact that they will be sharing a cassette with The Cat’s Orchestra, an equally amazing synth and tones creation led by Nicholay Syrov, he of Dumpster Diving Lab and Nisha infamy. Here, for you, is a small sampling of Syrov’s cassette side, a airy bit of keyboard honks and winks.
Also on tap is a 40 minute cassette of new work by Nodolby, the erstwhile noise artist from Italy better known as Michele Scariot. Here, Scariot goes full on melodic, blinging and blooping all over the stereo field, sending deep vibrations into the stratosphere and far into the core of the planet. This new album would have sounded strange if it came out on Scariot’s uncompromisingly noisy Dokuro imprint but the playful tone and bright colors it sparks up fit in so well with the Field Hymns aesthetic.
The man on the Field Hymns website says that Boron’s 2012 cassette release The Beige Album is “WOEFULLY under-appreciated.” I tend to agree with him. The slept-on nineteen track collection (available for download here) is the rare experimental pop that dares to take itself not very seriously at all. The titles of many of the droning, burbling, and flickering electronics-driven tracks should spell that out right away. Examples: “Mountain Dew’d”, “Stop Faking Sense”, “Tomato Upload.” The music has a playful edge to it, as well. That lends the darker moments a sinister, creepy color, but otherwise the mood feels silly and thrilled at being able to goof on synths and sequencers for one’s own pleasure.
You can see it as well in this NSFW clip Boron – aka Dan Nelson – put together for the track “Hamburger Touchdown”, which features a slow Google Earth crawl, pixilated porn that plays backwards, and a few dark blue intrusions. Like many of you, I’m ready to move on to the music of 2013, but you can spare yourself four minutes to look in the rearview mirror for the sake of this singular artist and his audio-visual genius.
I had occasion to sit down with Charlie Salas-Humara, one-third of the dreamy outfit known as Regular Music on Tuesday. And during our chat he discussed the interplay between himself and Marius Libman and Eric Mast, how the key to their sound was their willingness to listen to one another, and find the right instances to add something to the improvised compositions they are creating. I can think of no better example of that idea than this track, taken from the group’s forthcoming split cassette release w/ The Cats’ Orchestra on Field Hymns. You can almost see the three, hunkered down over their synthesizers, ears and hearts open as they raise the stakes even higher with each melody, drone, and squiggle. And right towards the end, you get a small taste of the future of this project, which now includes Papi Fimbres and John Rau playing drums. It’s one hit, but like a good drug, it will leave you desperate for your next fix.
As if this year wasn’t already overflowing with fantastic music, our friendly local record imprints are doing their part to pour even more greatness in our ears. Here then is a small sample of some new releases from a trio of our favorite hometown labels for your edification and enjoyment.
– The mighty E*Rock is already a busy man, performing and recording as one third of Regular Music and creating visual brilliance with the collective known as Plink Flojd. But he’s also found the time to devote some effort towards his other love, his label Audio Dregs. This past month, ADR released a pair of brilliant new albums: the digital version of the first album from E*Rock’s Regular Music bandmate Charlie Salas-Humara, recording modular synth jams as Grapefruit, and gorgeous electroacoustic expressions courtesy of Japanese artist Yuichiro Fujimoto. The latter, entitled Speaks Melodies, is a particularly tasty little collection of found sounds recorded through an open window, slinky washes of acoustic guitar, and downtempo beats. Below you can find a track from that album, an enrapturing composition called “Street Pray.”
– Holy Mountain is one of those labels that never ceases to amaze when it comes to the material that they get a hold of, and how far-ranging their releases can be. It can go from the warped pop of Swiftumz to their most recent coup, a reissue of the very limited edition first release by Yoga. This duo from Sweden (Vattan Hast and Eld Anka) combine forces to create intense, fractured sounds that are as beautiful as they can be creepy and paranoia-inducing. I don’t have access to any tracks to embed here for you; just click on the link above and you’ll find some audio clips. Just be sure to either approach them stone cold sober or with a heady buzz on. Anywhere in between wouldn’t do the songs justice.
– A longtime veteran of the experimental world in his native Norway, Andreas Brandal is never short of surprises. So to find his latest release Staying is Nowhere to be a downright terrifying mix of horror movie soundtrack and meditative ragas was, well, nothing short of an amazing splash of color on our black and white perceptions. The cassette version of this new album is being issued by the hard-working purveyors of magnetic tape Field Hymns who are sure to give a visual presentation as striking and hypnotizing as the music it accompanies.
The collaborative effort by The North Sea and Charlatan (both Brad Rose projects) – recently released on cassette by local imprint Field Hymns – has been gorgeously rendered in visual form by director Clarice Saliby. Made with what looks like colored dye and light, the clip is a nice tribute to the psychedelic light shows that marked many ’60s concerts, while also gently unfolding over the course of this delirious six minutes of ether drift.
Today as we steel ourselves for the aural onslaught of tonight’s Pure Harsh Noise Worship Festival, let us look to the world of the Portland labels to bring you up to date on their comings and goings.
– The great tape label Field Hymns just announced their next slate of releases for fall 2012, and an exciting lineup it is: Italian stereophonic noise monger Nodolby, free jazz synth maestro Jonathan James Carr, our lovely locals Regular Music, and the low slinging drones of Andreas Brandal are just a few of the names they are bandying about. If that weren’t enough, apparently the good people of Japan are going to have a better chance at snagging some of these releases thanks to a deal FH reached with distributor S.O.L. Sound. So, even more people to compete with for these short run cassettes.
– Optic Echo has opened up the pre-orders for their next release - Tessellations, a collaboration between The OO-Ray and Marcus Fischer. We bring this to your attention as only 250 copies of the 12″ are going to be released, and because we find the music on it to be positively hypnotizing. It is the perfect electro-acoustic ideal, wending the wood and wires with the circuit and cable to bring about lush, ethereal vistas.
– If you hadn’t heard already, Soleilmoon is gearing up to release a couple of (and we mean this in the most excited way possible) ridiculous new works by a couple of experimental luminaries. The quite literally biggest one comes from the mighty Merzbow who is re-releasing his Merzbient box set on vinyl. That adds up to 18 LPs, 15 of which carry the material from the original 10 CD set, with the other three being material exclusive to this collection. Too, the label is reissuing Lustmord‘s 1990 dark ambient classic Heresy in what is billed as as “Sixtystone Edition.” That is a two-CD set featuring a newly remastered edition of the album with a second disc of early versions and alternate mixes packaged in a “carved soapstone box containing seven printed inserts.” Enough to make one physically agog, eh?
The work of electronic cut-and-stitch artist Foton would fit comfortably into the burnt edge earth tone sound of a label like Ghost Box. So, thanks be to Portland label Field Hymns that we don’t have to pay premium prices to get a hold of Foton’s work. Omega, the six-song cassette/digital release that the label and band have just made available, is a morphing, pulsing little monster. Something like the music you’d imagine the game pods in eXistenZ to have as an internal soundtrack. The opening track “The Way To Omega” underpins that uneasy idea with the phased out sound of someone walking down a street moved out of the way by channel changing bits of melody and noise. It’s the perfect mix of creepy and beautiful, and just the thing to help clear the palate before tomorrow’s big bang of a holiday.