Tag Archives: Experimental

Album of the Day: The Physics House Band, “Death Sequence”

The new EP by British quartet The Physics House Band lasts less than 17 minutes, but it feels like an eternity—or at the very least, like listening to a bunch of albums at once. Consider the first five minutes of opening track “Death Sequence i.” The band shift from rising prog rock to cinematic guitar meditation, and then from mathed-out metal riffage to nearly symphonic bombast. They pull off these pivots with the muscular prowess and skillful precision of lab-tested scientists. To say they make every second count is an understatement. Continue reading

The Best Experimental Music on Bandcamp: April 2019

experimental

All kinds of experimental music can be found on Bandcamp: free jazz, avant-rock, dense noise, outer-limits electronics, deconstructed folk, abstract spoken word, and so much more. If an artist is trying something new with an established form or inventing a new one completely, there’s a good chance they’re doing it on Bandcamp. Each month, Marc Masters picks some of the best releases from across this wide, exploratory spectrum. April’s selection includes solo voice calisthenics, four-piece harmonium drones, active percussion improvisations, and the final chapter in a eight-year, 21-part series. Continue reading

For Practically Everyone: The Music of FPE Records

FPE

In a medium-sized suburb on the outskirts of Chicago is a record label dedicated to doing things differently. FPE Records is the brainchild of Matt Pakulski, and although Oak Park, Illinois is the label’s home, Pakulski says the label is really in debt to the creative curiosities and experimentations across Chicago’s unique music scene.

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Album of the Day: Eve Maret, “No More Running”

Nashville-based Eve Maret offers up a vision of electronic music that suggests something that’s often been lost in overly simplified histories of the genre—a sense of the slippery strangeness that the field encompassed in the transition from the 1970s into the 1980s. Whether it’s cryptic prog, murmuring outer space burbles, dancefloor funk, or synth-pop chirpiness, there’s a sense throughout No More Running—initially available last year on cassette, now rereleased with additional tracks and new cover art—that all these derivations and more can be part of one aesthetic.

Maret’s activist work, via her cofounding of Hyasynth House—dedicated to collective creative space and healing for cis female, trans, and non-binary artists—readily frames much of the content of No More Running. Yet the album stands just as easily on its own. Her blurred, treated vocals early into the album help to set stages, often with understated slyness (from the title track: “You can’t help yourself / And neither can I, baby”); it feels like listening in on a strangely inviting conversation as it unfolds, in real time. The instrumentals take over as the listen progresses, ranging from the tripped-out “Cosmonaut” with its arrhythmic tones and electronic sighs, to the free-flowing “Feminine Intuition,” feeling sweetly joyful and warm in its rising and falling melodies. When Maret’s singing fully returns on the sprightly “Pink Ray,” it’s almost like the resolution of a narrative, and the album finishes with multilayered efforts like the shimmering and looped pulses of “My Own Pace.” It’s a song title that underscores No More Running’s communal spirit; with these songs, Maret presents a loving tribute to her community, maintained by a distinct, individual voice that’s impossible to ignore.

Ned Raggett

A Guide to the Discography of Diamanda Galás, Avant-Garde Oracle

Diamanda Galas

Photo by Austin Young

When I spoke with avant-garde legend Diamanda Galás in 2017, she had some understandably harsh words for critics who fail to understand both the deep and intense emotional veins running through her discography as well as the actual musical history behind her work. “People who do not know anything about music—notably, most music critics—really should equip themselves with the changes of the original song and realize that every single one of the chord changes I use are connected to the original chord changes,” she said, speaking about misinterpretations of her performance of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” on All the Way. “It is not a bunch of keys falling down the stairs, and it is not someone who uses the song to her own ends only to destroy it and desecrate it and dismember it.”

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Hidden Gems: Haco, “Secret Garden”

HG-Haco-1244In our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

In the years following her rise to prominence as the lead vocalist of ’80s art pop band After Dinner, the Japanese artist Haco has maintained a prolific output, releasing a handful of microsound experimental recordings and collaborating with musicians as varied as Terre Thaemlitz, Ikue Mori, and Sachiko M. Though many of Haco’s albums conjure up fantastical soundscapes, 2015’s Secret Garden has a stronger focus on that aesthetic; each track plays a role in making sure listeners feel like they’re in some wondrous, vibrant world. Secret Garden was remastered by Haco earlier this year, and now stands out even more as one of her most meticulously crafted releases.

The immersive quality to Secret Garden is achieved through a combination of elements. Haco employs charming vocal melodies and lyrics reminiscent of fairy tales—consider this line from “Linked in a Dream”: “Even after turning into a star, she just kept on sleeping.” The consciously otherworldly tracks never scan as cheap attempts at emotional manipulation, though. By incorporating hazy, enigmatic electronic atmospheres into the mix, Haco balances euphoria with wistfulness, and fleshes out the escapist feel; from the reverb-laden “Whitening Shadows” to the droning mystique of “Waves and Illusions,” Secret Garden evokes a sense of being on the precipice of a dream world, perpetually stuck in a hypnagogic state. It all culminates with standout track “Never Get Over,” a song that astutely samples Stuart O’Connor’s “A Watchful Eye.” In its final minutes, a compounding wall of clipped noise and breathy vocals brings a sense of completion to the album. “(I Won’t) Leave a Trace” closes Secret Garden on a quieter note, allowing for a moment of reflection. “But they haven’t found me yet […] And I won’t leave a trace,” sings Haco. She’s invited us into her own Eden, and we leave knowing that it’ll be just as enchanting upon our return.

-Joshua Minsoo Kim

The Lasting Legacy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago

In May of 1969, a Chicago-based quartet of radically experimental musicians made two decisions that resonate to this day. 

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Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky’s Haunting Joint LP Isn’t As Unlikely As It Seems

Marissa Nadler Steve Brodsky

Photos by Ebru Yildiz

On paper, a collaboration between dream-folk singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler and metal shredder Stephen Brodsky—known for his dizzying work with Cave In and Mutoid Man—might seem a little strange. Beyond the fact that both of them are from Massachusetts, they appear to have little in common. It’s only when you realize that Brodsky has a vastly underappreciated solo discography, which includes soft acoustic material, and that Nadler has previously worked with reclusive former black metal musician Xasthur, that the duo’s Droneflower album begins to make sense. Continue reading