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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.

    Earthen Sea

    Grass And Trees

      Jacob Long’s reductionist rhythmic ambient vessel, Earthen Sea, ebbs towards a more purely elemental state on his second excursion for Kranky, Grass and Trees.

      He describes the creative process as one of “simplifying things as much as possible,” designing uncluttered spaces traced in nothing but breath, field recordings, and “sounds that could be played by hand but weren’t.”
      The results feel decentralized but dynamic, low-lit evocations of ambiguous nocturnal environments – dub techno disassembled into stray pulses and spare parts. It’s a music both interior and infinite, languorous yet transformative, made in the outer boroughs of a metropolis but existing in its own liminal wilderness.

      Long’s vision is a grounding one, rooted in the physical body but attuned to larger currents: “In response to living in a fairly hectic city, and at a very hectic time for the world at large, creating something more drawn back and restrained felt appropriate.


      Anoyo ('the world over there') draws from the same sessions with members of Tokyo Gakuso which led to the 2018 work Konoyo, but rendered starker, solemn, and stripped back, with more of a naturalist tint. Hecker’s processing here moves in veiled ways, soft refractions and whispered shrouds woven within improvisational sessions of traditional gagaku interplay, evoking a sense of vaulted space, temples at dawn, shredded silk fluttering in the rafters.

      This is boldly barren music, skeletal and sculptural, shaped from wood, wind, strings, and mist. Modern yet ancient, delicate and desolate, Anoyo inverts its predecessor to compellingly conjure a parallel world of illusion, solitude, and eternal return. 


      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. 


      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

      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 


        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. 


          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.

          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.


            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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