A bunch of albums I've listened to a lot in the last few weeks
Bjarki - Psychotic_Window
Anyone who bought the special edition box-set version of Bjarki's previous album Happy Earthday, must have been pleasantly surprised to discover an album of originals in the form of two gleaming slivers of clear vinyl, albeit with no track names or further info. Turns out it was Psychotic_Window and a taste of the more recent(ish) material from the Icelandic musical prodigy (the majority of his prior releases coming from a massive back-catalogue-bank of recordings). In much the same way as the music on Happy Earthday, Psychotic Window consolidates the experimental nature of his work in a body of (now familiar) work that covers Ambient, Techno, Breakbeat, IDM and Electronica. He says:
“Releasing this album is also a kind of a farewell to music I made in a certain period in my life. It’s like I’m saying farewell to a grown-up child which is now ready to leave.”
While there's still plenty of BOC and Rephlex references scattered throughout, it remains a strong collection of work, packed with intricate melody and provocative ideas. I do find it a little irkesome that he "gave away" such a strong collection of tracks like this as an Easter Egg but it does suggest that his next release could be a dramatic departure from what we currently know.
Awkward Moments - An Entropic Cycle
Awkward Moments is artist and musician Mimi Xu and An Entropic Cycle is the fifth in a series of six projects that focus on
the emotional, philosophical and metaphysical implications of a biological lifecycle and the eternal recurrence of it. Launched in 2017 the project has evolved with the input of various artists across a diverse range of disciplines (music, installation, dance, mime) and this fifth chapter see Xu team up with classically trained musician and singer Gillian Maguire to produce a 40 minute album and audio-visual performance.
The music is largely electronic with passages of Ambient instrumentation, gurgling and flowing into livelier, throbbing sections before subsiding again; a flow that reflects the repeating biologic theme. Signs of life and death balance precariously, even within indidivual tracks; if the rhythm of life isn't pulsing strongly it's receding. And when life is good, sweet melody bursts forth. It's a neat concept and works.
Against All Logic - 2017 - 2019
Nicolas Jaar has delivered a really strong collection under his Against All Logic alias that I can't get enough of. It's such a wild listen, it's as if he dived into the studio with every great idea that occured to him, whether that was sampling a hooky vocal or constructing a killer loop capable of destroying soundsystems or experimenting with complex rhythms and textures, and cleverly stitched them all together into a one helluva banging mixtape.
If the first half is vocal, then the flip side is Techno: rhythm rules whether that's the restrained Electronica of Faith or the multiple build-and-drops of Penny. The nine tracks flow together seamlessly, sometime merging to the point where start and end is unclear, like the arresting opening bars of Deefers as it kicks in after the raucous cow bells that ring Alarm. If You Can't Do It Good, Do It Harder features a Lydia Lunch sample but is essentially two tracks tacked together, the first half: the build before the second (vocal) half: the drop. The R&B tinge of what sounds like Beyonce on opening statement Fantasy presents the dominant genre of mass music consumption in the US in a highly palatable form and is reprised briefly in closer You (Forever) with a subtle, cut-up vocal, nicely closing the circle.
Hinako Omori - Auraelia
After describing how I imagined Nicolas Jaar electronically scribbling down ideas and stitching them together for his Against All Logic album, it turns out that London-based Japanese musician Hinako Omori did exactly that for this, her debut EP; piecing together four years worth of ideas. Fans of Lamb should be lapping up Aurelia, with its soft melodies and experimental electronica. And while Omori's singing is delightful, the spoken word sections create an alluring, quasi-futuristic vibe that feels cinematic and mysterious.
Borusiade - Fortunate Isolation
Classically trained (musically) with a degree in film direction, Romanian DJ and musician Miruna Boruzescu aka Borusiade is obviously one very talented artist. With several releases since 2016, she's developed a reputation for making dark and brooding electronic music and I can confidently say that second LP Fortunate Isolation is her strongest work to date. With its pleasing arc sequence, it balances proper melody with just the right level of challenge, carrying aloft the spoken-word, Euro-singing style of Miss Kittin as her own.
Nicole Oberle - Skin
Now here's a dark album that slowly lightens... or does it? Opening with scratchy Ambient and haunting synth and vocal manipulations, we eventually emerge with some vision and the simple guitar melody of Cold Metal. A Knot in Twos maintains this revelation with a softly strummed melody, while abstract dialogue (and an actual song: Stay With Me) interspersed throughout the remainder of the album, adds a sense of narrative, like a confessional. Through forlorn piano lines and disembodied vocal drones, fragments of poems and crushing beats, everything is saturated with a palpable sense of foreboding. Is this a reflection of failed suicide? The death of close family member? A first relationship break-up? Whichever, Skin is creepy, cinematic and claustrophobic.