avant . leftfield . post-rock . drone . experimental

WEEK STARTING 30 Sep

Genre pick of the week Cover of Solar Bridge by Emeralds.

Emeralds

Solar Bridge

    Emeralds — musicians John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt, and Mark McGuire — emerged from the rust-pocked, post-millennial Midwest drone/noise scene seemingly unable or uninterested in keeping up with themselves. Their proliferation of material was intimidating; mountains of improvised, home-recorded music were released on limited-edition tapes, CD-Rs, and split LPs. There is and was a sense that the Ohio trio was after something beyond physical mediums. By 2008, their sprawling live sets were a known can’t-miss at any underground experimental event. Tiny Mix Tapes reviewed that year’s appearance at No Fun Fest: “No one’s sawtooths, sines, and other various waveforms were so beautifully sculpted and beamed out into the Plejades as Emeralds’.” These basement dwellers were shaping meditative, psychedelic, arpeggiated electronic music in the veins of German kosmische forebears like Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream. Made primarily with synthesizers and guitar, Emeralds’ music possessed the same astral psyche with a home-crafted punk edge, a distant descendant of that pioneering era, and a bridge to someplace new, someplace scorched. Released on Aaron Dilloway’s (Wolf Eyes, etc.) Hanson imprint, Solar Bridge was the first Emeralds album to receive any kind of proper distribution and represents the first attempt to archivally preserve their fluid craft. The first of an inimitable five-LP run before the band dissolved in 2013, Solar Bridge is a moment of glistening primacy that boots up a catalog and legacy that the heads still grapple with. Emeralds begin to make sense of it in the fall of 2022 with a remastered Solar Bridge LP release on Ghostly International.

    The Midwest leaves an indelible mark on Emeralds’ sound; their debut characteristically vibrates as if from a ghost mall or some other relic of the rust belt. Side A, “Magic,” finds the three young musicians summoning by way of analog synthesis and processed guitar motifs. Though it could be loosely called “drone,” this miasmic wall of melody ripples through dynamics; pulses ebb and flow in and out in a way where every edge disappears. Like any good magic trick, there is something invisible at play here.

    On Side B, “The Quaking Mess,” oxidized squeals and shuddering mechanical whines commingle with square and saw wave pads and flickering guitar details to create a post-industrial parking lot tableau. Eventually, the ground swells up, and a massive firmament trembles below the wobbling synths and rickety electronics. There is a power at the heart of Emeralds’ sound that displays a kind of egalitarian psychedelia, a working-class kosmische, a proletariat trip zone. Everyone is welcome to watch the world fold in on itself as they are pulled into the portal.

    “Photosphere,” a previously unreleased recording included as a digital exclusive, affords a look at a more serene stretch from the same session. A demure guitar loop wafts above slowly shifting tectonic synthesizer drones; the tremendous restraint the trio shows here hints at part of the unique place they would carve out for themselves, both together and respectively, in the annals of American DIY experimental music. Elliott, McGuire, and Hauschildt are known now for being tuned into a mutual vocabulary as Emeralds. They are players that exercise a kind of profound listening. Slowness, as a kind of punk ethos. As the static sputters into the right channel around the twelve-minute mark, the scene becomes selfaware, and we are released into the ether.

    Emeralds materialized as a fully formed entity radiating cosmic potential. Their discography evolved and incorporated different qualities and vocabularies but hearing where it started will always feel different. The density, the patience, and the sheer refinement presented on Solar Bridge legibly demonstrates how and why Emeralds has become a legendary part of the contemporary electronic music canon. 

    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Magic
    B1. The Quaking Mess 

    Oren Ambarchi

    Shebang

      Evolving the tactics of works like ‘Quixotism’, ‘Hubris’ and ‘Simian Angel’, Oren Ambarchi invites an international all-star cast to dialogue with his guitar and triggers inventions.

      Intricate theme-and-variations build upon the staccato rhythms via expansive improvs from BJ Cole, Sam Dunscomb, Chris Abrahams, Jim O’Rourke and Julia Reidy.

      Bridging minimalism, contemporary electronics, and classic ECM stylings, and bringing together a cast of preternaturally talented contributors, ‘Shebang’ is unmistakably the work of Oren Ambarchi: obsessively detailed, relentlessly rhythmic, unabashedly celebratory.

      TRACK LISTING

      I
      II
      III
      IV

      Bjork

      Fossora

        each album always starts with a feeling
        that i try to shape into sound
        this time around
        the feeling was landing
        ( after my last album utopia which was all island in the clouds element air and no bass )
        on the earth and digging my feet into the ground
        it was also woven into how i experienced the "now"
        this time around 7 billion of us did it together
        nesting in our homes quarantining
        being long enough in one place that we shot down roots
        my new album "fossora" is about that
        it is a word i made up
        it is the feminine of fossore ( digger, delver, ditcher )
        so in short it means "she who digs" ( into the ground )
        so sonically it is about bass , heavy bottom-end,
        we have 6 bass clarinets and punchy sub
        i would like to especially thank bergur þórisson and heba kadry
        side project , el guincho , hamrahlíð choir , soraya nayyar , clarinet sextet murmuri , siggi string quartet ensemble , emilie nicolas , serpentwithfeet
        viibra and last but not least : sindri and dóa .
        visuals were made by viðar logi , james merry , m/m , nick knight , andy huang , edda , isshehungry , tomi , sayaka , sunna , sara and heimir
        and my ever so loyal and magnificent team : derek , rosamary , catherine , chiara , hilma and móa

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Liam says: Returning to Iceland during the pandemic, Bjork's tenth record 'Fossora' began as conceptual clarinet album that was in part inspired by the death of her mother. However 'Fossora' ultimately became, as Bjork describes it, an "Iceland album". Much like the volcanic landscape of Iceland, 'Fossora' is a vast, alluring and beautiful record that once again proves that Bjork will always be here to push the boundaries she once set - all whilst dressed as a mushroom.

        Alison Cotton

        The Portrait You Painted Of Me

          Alison Cotton presents The Portrait You Painted of Me, a new 6-track album – her first for Rocket Recordings (released on Feeding Tube in the USA). Like Alison’s previous solo albums, the touchstones of her immersive sound are viola, harmonium and voice, merged together to create a rich suite of songs. ‘Mumurations Over the Moor’ is a wordless piece of layered vocals, drifting like fog towards a sunset over the green undulations of North East England (from where she hails). ‘The Last Wooden Ship’ evokes the shipyards of Sunderland using droning harmonium and viola lines, laced with piano and percussion events, while her voice calls out like one of Tim Buckley’s Sirens urging listeners to a rocky demise. ‘I Buried the Candlesticks’ has a haunted, traditional feel with its dolorously folky viola melody laid across a thick carpet harmonium, and small bursts of percussion that sound like cannonade heard through the thick cold walls of a castle in winter. ‘That Tunnel Underground Seemed Neverending’ is a musical vision of Northumberland’s mining culture at the dawn of the 20th Century - labyrinthine, subterranean, dimmer than night. ‘Violet May’, the only traditional “song” on the album, was inspired by a trip to Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst Castle.

          Its plot deals with a reclusive artist who has forsaken all else for a life of solitary creation in her tower. The structure and sound reminiscent of a post-modern approach to lyrical concerns dealt with by folk singers of the British ‘60s, but the actual arrangement is closer to something John Cale might have done with Nico on The Marble Index. The closing track, ‘17th November 1962’, inspired by nearly-forgotten memories of disaster with a fishing boat, a storm and an ill-fated rescue attempt. The song (and album) ends with what sounds like a forlorn foghorn cutting across waves of night with Alison’s voice again evoking the Sirens.

          As with its predecessors, The Portrait You Painted of Me was recorded at home in London, beautifully produced by Alison’s partner, Mark Nicholas, and it contains all the elements that result in the sombre, exquisite melancholy she creates. This is some serious and remarkable stuff.

          TRACK LISTING

          01. Murmurations Over The Moor
          02. The Last Wooden Ship
          03. I Buried The Candlesticks
          04. That Tunnel Underground Seemed Neverending
          05. Violet May
          06. 17th November 1962

          In the words of Jenny Hval: “Blood Bitch is an investigation of blood. Blood that is shed naturally. The purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers. Blood Bitch is also a fictitious story, fed by characters and images from horror and exploitation films of the '70s. With that language, rather than smart, modern social commentary, I found I could tell a different story about myself and my own time: a poetic diary of modern transience and transcendence. There is a character in this story that is a vampire Orlando, traveling through time and space. But there is also a story here of a 35-year old artist stuck in a touring loop, and wearing a black wig. She is always up at night, jet lagged, playing late night shows - and by day she is quietly resting over an Arp Odyssey synthesizer while a black van drives her around Europe and America. So this is my most fictional and most personal album. It’s also the first album where I’ve started reconnecting with the goth and metal scene I started out playing in many years ago, by remembering the drony qualities of Norwegian Black Metal. It’s an album of vampires, lunar cycles, sticky choruses, and the smell of warm leaves and winter.”

          Jenny Hval has developed her distinct take on intimate sound since the release of her debut album in 2006. For her last two solo albums, 2013's Innocence Is Kinky and 2015’s Apocalypse, girl, Hval has received thoughtful and widespread international acclaim for her fascinating voice, singular delivery and markedly non-traditional arrangements which incorporate elements of poetry, prose writing,
          performance art, and film. She eloquently brings to light issues of both male and female gaze.


          TRACK LISTING

          1. Ritual Awakening
          2. Female Vampire
          3. In The Red
          4. Conceptual Romance
          5. Untamed Region
          6. The Great Undressing
          7. Period Piece
          8. The Plague
          9. Secret Touch
          10. Lorna


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