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Opus 2

    Developing on the trance-induction and brainwave entrainment techniques explored on the first Ethernet album 144 Pulsations Of Light, Opus 2 moves into deeper, more introspective and emotive territory.

    A stronger focus on melody and harmonic structure results in pieces that almost approach, but never quite arrive at, traditional song forms, while still leaving much to the imagination of the listener, evading mental categorization and revealing new sonic experiences with each listen.

    The bulk of recording took place during the darkest months of winter in the Pacific Northwest, between late-night shifts providing technical support for hospital operating rooms. The pieces on the album each formed gradually and spontaneously during extended improvised sonic meditations as part of the composer's own trancework (or self-hypnosis) practice, this in an effort to remove specific compositional intention from the process, instead just allowing them to "happen".

    If 144 Pulsations... was about expansion of awareness and opening to the light that surrounds us, Opus 2 is intended to induce inner contemplation and internalized focus on the light within us. It is also a statement on the gradual darkening and inexorable decay of our modern world, and the need to look within to find true support and sustenance from one's own energetic source. Patience and perseverance.

    Experiential composer Tim Hecker’s ninth official full-length, Konoyo (“the world over here”) was largely recorded during several trips to Japan where he collaborated with members of the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso, in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo.

    Inspired by conversations with a recently deceased friend about negative space and a sense of music’s increasingly banal density, Hecker found himself drawn towards restraint and elegance, while making music both collectively and alone.

    As with the Icelandic choir he arranged on 2016’s Love Streams, the heights of Hecker’s talent emerge in his manipulation of source material, bending and burnishing it into fantastical new forms. Keening strings are stretched into surreal, pixelated mirages; woodwinds warble and dissipate as fractal whispers of spatial haze; sparse gestures of percussion are chopped, isolated, and eroded, like disembodied signals from the afterlife. Both in texture and intent, Konoyo conjures a somber, ceremonial mood, suffused with ritual and regret. Visions flutter and fade; dreams gleam and decay.
    Hecker will stage a series of special performances in tandem with the album's release, featuring members of the gagaku ensemble on shō, ryuteki and hichiriki, accompanied by Kara-Lis Coverdale. 


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: There is something about Tim Hecker's work that defies description, but I suppose saying that doesn't help you much so i'll give it a bash. Imagine those moments of confusion on waking, trapped between the ethereal bubble of semi-sleep and the crashing reality of your day-to-day chores. Synaptic responses kicking in and the glimmer of light coming through the gaps in your curtain. Imagine every one of these dualities, cold glacial realities and the indescribable wonder of being, plugged directly into MAX MSP and fucked about with. It sounds like that.

    The full-length debut by Julie Carpenter’s Joshua Tree, California ambient orchestral project Less Bells, emerges from the drama and desolation of its high desert origins.

    She cites certain compositions as being 'specifically inspired by August monsoons rolling in over the mountains, others by clear, starry nights.' Utilizing an array of electronic and acoustic instruments, including cello, Optigan, violin, voice, and modular synth, "Solifuge" conflates not only the solitude and refuge of its title but also intimacy and grandeur, fragility and force, 'building from austerity to wild overgrowth.'

    She speaks of a creative process involving cut-ups and rearranging, mapping a melody for strings only to transpose it to synth, or refashioning a rigid classical piece as stream of consciousness soundscape. Carpenter’s versatility and embrace of flux fills these songs with a living, breathing quality, restrained but responsive, adapting to shifting conditions and emotions beneath the surface. 


    Brooklyn trio Forma’s latest LP continues their mission to “broaden the idea of what an electronic music ensemble can sound like.” Semblance emerged from exploratory sessions at The Schoolhouse, the Bushwick loft where members Mark Dwinell and John Also Bennett live, then was tracked at Gary’s Electric studios, where their previous album Physicalist was also recorded.

    Inspired by polyrhythmic composition, the human voice, and conceptual improvisation strategies, the songs are striking in their textural detail and emotional nuance, alternately synthetic and sentient, futuristic and intuitive. Incorporating flute, piano, guitar, saxophone, acoustic drums and cymbals alongside an array of synthesizers, the record persuasively demonstrates the group’s unique playing abilities and fluid chemistry – attributes they credit to “techniques we’ve developed to trick our electronic machines into mimicking the spontaneous character of live instruments.”

    Members George and John Also Bennett also cite as an influence their recent stint in minimalist composer Jon Gibson’s ensemble, performing his 1973 proto-ambient masterwork Visitations. The long- form modal piece requires restraint and deep listening to execute, qualities especially apparent in the more muted moments of Semblance, such as “Rebreather” and “New City.”

    The group states the intent of the new album as “to be more direct and exacting”, which it is. Over half a decade spent writing and recording together has distilled Forma’s hybrid electro-acoustic interplay into an attuned and astounding language, capable of articulating impossible symmetries and reflective states.
    The stunning visuals of the artwork are by frequent collaborator of the group Peter Burr. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: I can't remember a week THIS good for instrumental synth music for a long time, and now to add to the excellence, we have a new one from forma. Finely structured cosmic melodies, perfectly produced to weave its way into your consciousness. Sit back and zone out.

    Tim Hecker

    Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again - Reissue

      Reissue of 2001 debut album of renowned ambient / noise / electronic artist 

      Originally issued on the Alien8 label and now long out-of-print.

      This is the first reissue of Tim Hecker’s classic 2001 debut full-length. The original recordings were remixed by Tim Hecker and mastered by Matt Colton at Alchemy Mastering.

      Press quotes for Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again:
      "Haunt Me is alien, amorphous and occasionally noisy, but always welcoming.” Pitchfork
      "Haunt Me Haunt Me, Do It Again is a brilliant album of subtle, evocative mood music.” AllMusic
      "Hecker was already on a different wavelength with Haunt Me, clearly seeking something that would trigger ASMR-induced enlightenment, and he ran with it.” Stereogum. 


      Tim Hecker

      Radio Amor - Reissue

        Reissue of classic 2003 album by renowned ambient / noise / electronic artist.

        Originally released on Alien8 and now long out-of-print.

        Press quotes for Radio Amor:

        "Hecker at his most painterly and evocative.” Pitchfork

        "Radio Amor has a simultaneous tangible/intangible quality that is both miraculous and enigmatic.” Tiny Mix Tapes

        "Tim Hecker may be the finest sonic photographer around, the re-release of Radio Amor being further evidence for this claim.” Brainwashed

        "Hecker’s 2003 standout is a stirringly emotional narrative, without the slightest aid of a single voice.” Treble

        "A slow-shifting mix of steely headrush and protracted morse code dispatches from the bottom of the ocean.” Dusted 


        Not long after recording her 10th album, Ruins, Liz Harris traveled to Wyoming to work on art and record music. She found herself drawn towards the pairing of skeletal piano phrasing with spare, rich bursts of vocal harmony.

        A series of stark songs emerged, minimal and vulnerable, woven with emotive silences. Inspired by “the idea that something is missing or cold,” the pieces float and fade like vignettes, implying as much as they reveal. She describes them as “small texts hanging in space,” impressions of mortality, melody, and the unseen – fleeting beauty, interrupted. Grid Of Points stands as a concise and potently poetic addition to the Grouper catalog.

        From Liz Harris: Grid Of Points is a set of songs for piano and voice. I wrote these songs over a week and a half; they stopped abruptly when I was interrupted by a high fever. Though brief, it is complete. The intimacy and abbreviation of this music allude to an essence that the songs lyrics speak more directly of. The space left after matter has departed, a stage after the characters have gone, the hollow of some central column,
        missing. 


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Simmering slow piano, beautiful layered vocals and cavernous reverb all form together to make this one of Harris' most enthralling outings to date. Perfectly tender but undeniably hard-hitting, these pieces are brimming with emotional heft and speckled with moments of spine-tingling beauty. Stunning.

        Christina Vantzou

        No. 4

          Belgium-based composer Christina Vantzou’s fourth full-length for Kranky ventures further into the uniquely elusive and evocative mode of ambient classical minimalism which has become her signature: a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance. In regards to the new album she speaks of focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space.”

          No. 4 took shape across roughly two years, incorporating a diverse array of musical and conceptual collaborators, including fellow Kranky artists Steve Hauschildt and John Also Bennett (of Forma) as well as Angel Deradoorian (ex-Dirty Projectors), Clarice Jensen, Beatrijs De Klerck, and members of Belgium’s Echo Collective. During the creation process Vantzou wanted to “blur lines of hierarchy,” and thus allowed all ensemble members and technical assistants to add or delete elements. Despite such a spectrum of input the eleven tracks feel distinctly cohesive, weaving elegant textures and resonant open spaces within a twilit landscape of eclectic instrumentation: piano, harp, vibraphone, voice, strings, marimba, synthesizers, gong, and bells.

          Vantzou describes the recording process as one of prepared spontaneity: that is, “having plenty of ideas ready to explore going into the session, but with enough time to depart from those ideas and see what happens.” This mindset of premeditated exploration informs the album’s emotive textural intuition, with hushed drones and delicate gestures eliding in the periphery of the mix. She cites sleep and “the loosening of time” as two formative practices in her private and professional life, which manifests in the quietly hallucinatory properties of Vantzou’s music. No. 4 feels both endless and ephemeral, immersive and immaterial. It’s a music of horizon lines and half-light, mapped with feeling and foresight.

          Recorded in New York City and Brussels. Mixed in Berlin.


          Stars Of The Lid

          Gravitational Pull Vs The Desire For An Aquatic Life - Reissue

            Vinyl edition of Stars of the Lid 2nd album in print for the first time in over 20 years.

            The release of Music for Nitrous Oxide, the 1995 debut album by Stars of the Lid, heralded a new strain of the american underground music scene, one borne of the heat and humidity, boredom, and the insular, constipated, rockist music scene of Austin, Texas, the home of the duo of Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie. It was a muffled lashing out against surrounding musical conventions, a small middle finger to the local dominant “americana” scene, but one that nobody could see outside the shack of a house in which they recorded or at their occasional sparsely populated live performances. It was as punk a move as anyone could make at that place and in that time. But in a surprise to the two members of SotL, people took notice, as related rumblings and grumblings were taking place simultaneously in other parts of the american landscape.

            Coming quickly on the heels of that release was our current subject, Gravitational Pull vs. the Desire for an Aquatic Life, released one year later. This is a transitional release that travels from the scruffiness of the debut’s ambiance to more extended and subtle undulating tides of assembled sound, yet still dominated by processed guitars as the primary sound source. It also serves as an omen to the mini-orchestral works to come beginning with the Avec Laudenum album a few years later. Gravitational Pull... is a small masterpiece.

            Context:
            The Stars of the Lid’s second full length album was originally published on vinyl by the Sedimental label in 1996, and then issued on compact disc by kranky the following year. It has now been out of print on the vinyl format for more than 20 years and that matter is now rectified with this release. The original album mix has been remastered by Pieter De Wagter, lacquers cut by Chicago Mastering Service and vinyl pressed at Quality Record Pressing in Salina, Kansas. 


            Dedekind Cut

            Tahoe

              Northern California electronic producer Fred Welton Warmsley III’s solo work as Dedekind Cut (pronounced “dead-da-ken cut”) has evolved from fractured industrial design into increasingly subdued and sublime ambient meditations across two years of dedicated activity. His second full-length collection, Tahoe—so named after the mountain lake town he now calls home—swells with widescreen grandeur, evoking vistas both inner and outer. There are echoes of his earlier, more tempestuous mode in tracks like “MMXIX” and “Spiral” but overall the album skews panoramic and pensive, muted synthetic mists contoured with choral melody, field recordings, and radiant drone. His compositional instincts feel alternately classical, contemporary, and conflicted, befitting an artist whose discography spans labels as divergent as Hospital Productions, Ninja Tune, and NON.

              Warmsley characterizes Tahoe as a “time peace,” sifting through “the past, the present, future, and fantasy.” Recorded primarily in New York, with additional sessions sourced from Berlin, Cambridge, and Placer County, California.


              High Plains

              Cinderland

                High Plains is the duo of Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges.

                Morgan, based in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, is predominantly known for his drifting, textured soundscapes released under the pseudonym LOSCIL.

                Bridges is an accomplished, classically-trained cellist residing in Madison, Wisconsin.

                The two met in Banff, Alberta while they were simultaneously there on residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2014. They first collaborated when Bridges contributed cello parts to Morgan’s generative music app ADRIFT, recorded in Seattle in 2015.

                In early 2016, the duo embarked on a collaborative set of compositions in the oxygen thin air of Wyoming, spending two weeks holed up in a refurbished school house in the town of Saratoga, where this album was recorded.

                Inspired by Schubert’s Die Winterreiseand the rolling landscapes of
                their surroundings, the collaboration culminated in a collection of recordings that evoke a shadowy, introspective and dizzying winter journey.

                Cinderland takes cues from classical, electronic and cinematic
                musical traditions but is mostly a product of the rugged, mythic landscape; vast and sprawling with a wild, uncertain edge.

                The recording was made with a portable studio and all sounds were sourced on site, most notably from Bridges’ cello, the resident Steinway D piano, and field recordings collected from the local soundscape.

                The results are a site specific, wide scope view of the high valley terrain the duo worked in, a mix of analog and digital, neoclassical and modern electronic sounds, a complemental series of tracks to become absorbed in, a truly deep listening experience.

                The cover art for Cinderland was created by London-based artist, Peter Liversidge.


                Jacob Long’s newest recordings under the Earthen Sea moniker deepen his compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno.

                “An Act Of Love” follows 2015’s “Ink,” released via Ital’s Lovers Rock imprint,
                and was inspired by internal tribulations and the experience of exploring an empty nocturnal metropolis. Careful waves of tones drift and decay; beats materialize and pulse across twilit landscapes; a noir mood reigns.

                Given Long’s background as bassist for revelatory tribal-punk trio Mi Ami, “An Act Of Love” showcases a musician in the midst of transcendent redefinition, crafting an immersive language of texture and motion.

                From Jacob Long:
                This record was made over the course of the most emotionally difficult and stressful year in my life thus far. As such, it is both a reflection of that experience and also something that gave me space to begin working through issues to see a way forward, to a better place both psychically and physically.
                An idea that was also central to my thoughts while creating the album was the concept and reality of being out in the city at night, wandering around a large urban area after dark – the contrast of empty streets but with life still going on all around, and the openness and possibilities that can bring. This
                music was an attempt to capture that feeling.


                Benoit Pioulard

                The Benoit Pioulard Listening Matter

                The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter is the sixth kranky album from Thomas Meluch under the nom de plume Benoît Pioulard. It arrives on the 10th anniversary of his first LP Précis, and offers a rekindled focus on self-examination, as well as a return to vocal-based pop structures following the mostly instrumental Sonnet (2015).

                Recording for the Listening Matter began during a period of grief, turmoil and self-medication, and continued throughout two years of growth and healing. Reflections on vice (“Layette”, “Anchor as the muse”), virtue (“Narcologue”) and death (“A mantle for Charon”) feature equally in this concise treatise aimed at the flawed-but-resilient core in us all.

                By coincidence this album was completed on the very day Meluch’s only brother died; accordingly, it’s dedicated to him and anyone seeking paths away from their demons.


                Album Nº3 from Christina Vantzou is the result of a two-year process of composing, arranging, rearranging, experimenting, and melding classical instruments with synths and electronics.

                Recorded in Belgium with a 15-piece ensemble of strings, horns, woodwinds and micro-choir, the tracks vacillate between orchestral, ambient soundscapes and more structured works that the composer refers to as "pillars." The internal core of the record, however, is unwavering.All tracks head in the direction of otherworldly drones surrounded by soft, subtle and sometimes intense veils or points.

                The structured tracks mark a new direction for Vantzou. Whereas 100% of the music on Nº1 and Nº2 was composed without time structure or steady click, the pillars on Nº3 adhere to a solid mathematical scheme. Perhaps Vantzou's day job as a math teacher is starting to have an influence.

                Nº3's virtual instruments and voice samples hearken back to Vantzou's time with The Dead Texan, specifically tracks like "Aegina AIrlines" and "When I see scissors I cannot help but think of you". The synths on Nº3 were given special attention and were recorded over a 2 week period using a DX7, Yamaha CS20, Roland Juno-6, and a selection of eurorack modular synths, making Nº3 very much a hybrid record, both symphonic and synth-based.

                To complete the album, Vantzou made 2 slow motion videos using a phantom high-speed camera and a 16mm short film.

                Guitarist Ken Camden returns for his third solo album, continuing his explorations to seek out new techniques and sounds from the electric guitar. By utilizing both a steel slide and e-bow technique, Camden has moved into micro-tonal territory to bridge the textural gap between guitar and synthesizer while examining their inherent differences.

                The palette is further broadened by introducing an organic vocal sampling machine described as a Vocaltron. Much like a Mellotron, vocal samples (contributed by Emily Elhaj and Angel Olsen) are chromatically organized in half steps from the lowest note to the highest possible. Each set is specific to the contributor's range and each note is unedited to keep all original characteristics of that particular individual's voice. This organized organic information adds a contrast to the electric guitar and synthesizer arrangements on the album.

                The development of all of these systems gives Dream Memory a diversity throughout its tracks while maintaining an atmospheric bond that weaves the ideas into a thematic whole. 

                Disappears

                Irreal

                  Irreal, the fifth long player from Chicago's Disappears, is another trip down the rabbit hole. The album plays out as a dream sequence - hazed dub landscapes give way to the groupʼs most experimental and open music yet.

                  If their last album Era confirmed the fact that Disappears are on their own trip, then Irreal is where it kicks in. Eternalism, roboethics, identity - it's a Ballardian mix of imperfect melodies, half thoughts and good ol' dystopian modernity. Itʼs a master class in texture, pace and control.

                  Produced by John Congleton at famed Chicago recording institution Electrical Audio, Irreal sits in the negative space where art rock and post punk collapse onto each other. It's the sound of Disappears reporting back from The Void.

                  Jessica Bailiff

                  At The Down-Turned Jagged Rim Of The Sky

                  Kranky was a bit surprised earlier this year when Jessica Bailiff contacted them and asked they wanted to preview her new album for possible release. They had no idea she had even been working on an album, let alone had completed one, and they were rewarded with a listen to her most compelling album to date.

                  After being in Europe for 5 weeks as a touring member of Boduf Songs, Jessica Bailiff spent much of 2011, writing and recording At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky in her spartan home studio. Sequestering herself through the hot summer months until finished, she then passed the tracks on to her friend Odd Nosdam for final mixing.
                  *Down-tuned, distorted bass guitar adds a new color to her palette, but familiar ones also come into play: fuzzed and delayed electric guitar, organ, piano, cello, and drums. Noisy pop-tinged love songs nestle slyly in a bed of off-kilter lullabies and dark, metallic waltzes.

                  No need to recycle descriptives like “lo-fi” or “hushed vocals” - these are spurious words. This is another intimate collection of songs recorded entirely by Jessica at home, in a room next to where she sleeps. If you listen carefully, you might hear her dreaming.


                  Felix

                  Oh Holy Molar

                    Oh Holy Molar is the second album from UK trio Felix. The group produces a bewitching, minimal chamber pop that works as the perfect framework for singer/songwriter Lucinda Chua's oblique and emotionally immediate stories of superstition and searching for protection against bad omens.

                    As a follow up to their debut You Are The One I Pick, the band return with a collection of songs with a sound stripped back to its very core. Something is said to have "teeth" when it has the ability to make an impact. This record certainly has "teeth", and sharp ones at that.

                    "The album was recorded in a vast, spooky 1940s cinema in Nottingham, England, now converted into a studio. After recording was completed the band discovered that underneath the live room lay an abandoned Dental Laboratory. "Oh Holy Molar" indeed.

                    "Since the release of the first Felix album, pianist/vocalist Lucinda Chua, also an accomplished photographer, has been working on a number of projects, most recently with Wallpaper* in Detroit. Guitarist Chris Summerlin has been recording and touring with his new band Kogumaza. The group is completed with the recent addition of drummer Neil Turpin who, when not performing with Felix, can also be found touring the world with French composer Yann Tiersen.


                    Right on cue, the third annual report from Chicago's Disappears is submitted for your consideration.

                    Following up on the acclaimed Guider album released just over a year ago, and with new drummer Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley now fully integrated into the group, these songs were again forged into proper shape during live shows before heading to the studio and the tape machine.

                    Never ones to dither or be indecisive, it’s a full-bore assault from the opening track to the last as Disappears attack these new songs with their usual relentless determination. Itʼs a sinister proceeding - debut Lux was preoccupied with death and endings while follow up Guider with protection - but Pre Language finds the band speaking on, of all things, love. Direct allusions to Philip K. Dick, James Baldwin, and Joan of Arc sit side by side with songs about the lows of life and the characters that permeate it.

                    Recorded in Hoboken New Jersey at Sonic Youthʼs Echo Canyon West studio and mixed with John Congleton, Pre Language finds Disappears at their most potent and focused. The band has finally stepped into their own world and the results are thrilling.


                    STAFF COMMENTS

                    Darryl says: Now including Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley as a permanent member, Disappears return with their third and most triumphant album to date. Angular guitars, kosmische influenced bassline, post-punk grooves and a half spoken half sung vocal all combine wonderfully, to create this gem on Kranky Records.

                    Greg Kowalsky

                    Through The Cardial Window

                    "Through The Cardial Window" is the first album Gregg Kowalsky has recorded under his own name, however his previous efforts under the name Osso Bucco from last year have been released world-wide to much acclaim. The music he creates is situated betwixt and between textural ambience, psychedelia and pure noise.

                    Fontanelle

                    F

                    Fontanelle's second release for Kranky. The Album bridges the gap between Chicago post rock and alternative rock, like Low meets Tortoise.

                    Aix Em Klemm

                    Aix Em Klemm

                    A collaboration between Bobby Donne from LaBradford, and Adam Wiltzie from Stars Of The Lid. Immediately identifiable by the tradmark guitar of Stars Of The Lid, and Bobby's bass clanks, augmented with a mixture of samples and keyboards. And Adam sings.......Occasionally.


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