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KRANKY RECORDS

Earthen Sea

Ghost Poems

    Jacob Long’s third Earthen Sea outing for Kranky, Ghost Poems, further refines his fragile, fractured palette into fluttering arrhythmias of dust, percussion, and yearning.

    Composed during the first wave of lockdowns in New York, the pieces took shape patiently from samples of piano, texture, and domestic sounds (sink splashing, room tone, clinking objects), filtered through live FX to imbue them with an intuitive, immaterial feel. Wisps of melody splinter, shimmer, and refract, like light on water; pulses accrue and dissipate, as if mapping shifting sands. Throughout, there’s a sense of matter made animate, of absences felt.

    Long cites notions of “the studio as a dub instrument” and the melancholy of “7th chords on a fake Rhodes patch” as central elements in his process, transforming raw materials into rare thresholds of symbiosis and hypnosis. This is music for night skies in hollowed out cities, for views across rivers towards unknown shores: restless, placeless, and profound.


    TRACK LISTING

    1. Shiny Nowhere
    2. Stolen Time
    3. Felt Absence
    4. Oblique Ruins
    5. Snowy Water
    6. Rough Air
    7. Slate Horizon
    8. Ochre Sky
    9. Fossil Painting
    10. Deep Sky

    Pan American

    The Patience Fader

      The glacial distillation of Pan•American aka Mark Nelson’s “romantic minimalism” achieves unique fruition on his latest Kranky collection, The Patience Fader.

      A suite of solo guitar instrumentals accented with lap steel, harmonica, and twilit atmospherics, the strings smear and sparkle in elegant, windswept swells, a guitar mode once described by Brian Eno as “Duane Eddy playing Erik Satie.” These are elegies as much as songs, lulling and lilting in private currents of beauty and bereavement. Nelson speaks of the notion of “lighthouse music,” radiance cast from a stable vantage point, sending “a signal to help others through rocks and dangerous currents.”

      Composed during the highly isolated summer of 2020, the pieces took shape as meditations on “roots and mourning, trying to connect with those deep hidden rivers that lead to a greater communality.” There’s something ageless, scarred, and American about this music, both displaced and devotional, the ghost of rust belts and dust bowls looming in a horizon of deepening dusk.


      TRACK LISTING

      1. Swimming In A Western Motel
      2. Outskirts, Dreamlit
      3. Corniel
      4. The North Line
      5. Baitshop
      6. Harmony Conversion
      7. Memorizing, Memorizing
      8. Just A Story
      9. Nightwater
      10. Wooster, Ohio
      11. Almost Grown
      12. Grounded

      Eagerly anticipated new album from Liz Harris AKA Grouper.

      IN HER OWN WORDS...

      Ruins was made in Aljezur, Portugal in 2011 on a residency set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois. I recorded everything there except the last song, which I did at mother's house in 2004. Iʼm still surprised by what I wound up with. It was the first time Iʼd sat still for a few years; processed a lot of political anger and emotional garbage. Recorded pretty simply, with a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano. When I wasnʼt recording songs I was hiking several miles to the beach. The path wound through the ruins of several old estates and a small village.

      The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Made Of Metal
      2. Clearing
      3. Call Across Rooms
      4. Labyrinth
      5. Lighthouse
      6. Holofernes
      7. Holding
      8. Made Of Air

      Grouper

      Shade

        The 12th full-length by Pacific Northwest artist Liz Harris aka Grouper is a collection of songs spanning 15 years. She characterizes Shade as an album about respite, and the coast, poetically and literally. How we frame ourselves in a landscape, how in turn it frames ourselves; memories and experiences carried forward mapping our connection to place.

        — An ode to blue / What lives in shade —

        Songs touch on loss, flaws, hiding places, love. Deep connections to the Bay Area, and the North Coast, with its unique moods of solitude, beauty, and isolation—a place described and transformed by the chaos and power of river-mouth, wild maritime storms, columns of mist that rise up unexpectedly on the road at night. Portions were recorded on Mount Tamalpais during a self-made residency years back, other pieces made longer ago in Portland, while the rest were tracked during more recent sessions in Astoria.

        Throughout, Harris threads a hidden radiant language of voice, disquiet, and guitar, framed by open space and the sense of being far away.

        Echoing a lighthouse, burying the faults of being human / Into things that we project upon the sky at night.


        TRACK LISTING

        1. Followed The Ocean
        2. Unclean Mind
        3. Ode To The Blue
        4. Pale Interior
        5. Disordered Minds
        6. The Way Her Hair Falls
        7. Promise
        8. Basement Mix
        9. Kelso (Blue Sky)

        Ana Roxanne

        Because Of A Flower

          The sublime songs comprising Los Angeles-based musician Ana Roxanne's second release, Because Of A Flower, germinated gradually across five years, inspired by interwoven notions of gender identity, beauty, and cruelty. She describes her process as beginning with “a drone element and a mood,” then intuiting melody, syllables, and lyrics incrementally, like sacred shapes materializing from mist.

          The experience of identifying as intersex informs the album on levels both sonic and thematic, from spoken word texts borrowed from tonal harmony textbooks to cinematic dialogue samples and castrati aria allusions. It's an appropriately interstitial vision of ambient songcraft, a chemistry of wisps and whispers, sanctuary and sorrow, conjured through a fragile balance of voice, bass, space, and texture.

          Despite a background studying at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland, Roxanne's music rarely feels conceptual, instead radiating an immediate and emotive aura, rooted in the present tense of her personal journey. She speaks of the flower in the title as a body, singular and sunlit, as many petals as thorns, an enigma beholden only to itself. But whether taken as surface or subtext, Because is a transfixing document of a rare artist in the spring of their ascension. 


          TRACK LISTING

          1. Untitled
          2. A Study In Vastness
          3. Suite Pour L’Invisible
          4. - - -
          5. Camille
          6. Venus
          7. Take The Thorn, Leave The Rose 

          “I could go on and on about the insane virtuosity, about the rare analog wind synth that almost no one in the world plays anymore, about the most unique intervallic melodies and harmonies, but it’s all secondary to the simple beauty that Justin Walter is able to conjure up with his solo music.” Colin Stetson

          Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter’s solo work centers on evocative, intuitive explorations of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), a rare wind-controlled analog synthesizer from the 1970’s.

          Its unique, smeared tonality allows for an expressive range of glassy, jazz-like textures, which Walter loops and layers with hushed electronics and twilit trumpet, painting opaque landscapes of resonant beauty.

          Walter’s 2013 debut, Lullabies & Nightmares, included a handful of collaborations with percussionist Quin Kirchner but Unseen Forces finds him fully solo, refining the project to its essence: shape-shifting watercolors of pastel haze, lit by the soft synthetic glow of electric breath. It’s a sound both modern and timeless, fusing emotion and technology, gauze and melody, force and fragility.

          From Justin Walter: Unseen Forces is a collection of recordings that document the use of improvisation as a means to create sounds that can either function on their own or serve as the foundation of, or source material for, additional improvisation. There was a definite process used to create this music but at no point was any music ever written or composed.

          When putting this music together I was often aware of feelings related to density, spacing, silence, and the sense of time pulling back on itself, like trying to stretch a scene and pull on it in ways that distort it ever so slightly. This is a record of melodies, alone and in complex relation. This music is a reflection of both feeling, and thought, as much construction as composition. The recordings of the EVI, as well as the sequencing done using samples of those recordings, are mostly the result of exploring melody through intuition. Harmonically simple, but with a complex pallet of texture.


          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: Introspective wandering avant-jazz sections clash with soaring airy ambience and cut-up string sections. Sparse pianos on 'End Of Six' for example are alone but for their own shimmering reverb tails, left to ruminate through the sound field uninterrupted. From the minimalism and fog comes beauty and warmth, presenting as snippets of found sound and crackling pads.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. 1001
          2. Unseen Forces
          3. Sixty
          4. End Of Six
          5. It’s Not What You Think
          6. Isotope
          7. Following
          8. Soft Illness
          9. Red Cabin

          Graceful compositions flow throughout. Steve Hauschildt’s fourth release for kranky following his Where All Is Fled full length from late summer 2015.

          The songs fluctuate from the serene calm of album opener Horizon of Appearances, to the pulsing hypnosis of Ketracel, and on to searing grandeur of album closer Die in Fascination, Throughout, Steve remains restrained and in complete control of his sound.

          Strands is a song cycle that is about cosmogony and creation/destruction myths. The title alludes to the structural constitution of ropes as I wanted to approach the compositions so that they consisted of strands and fibers which form a unified whole. This was so the songs could have the appearance of being either taut or slack without being fundamentally locked to a grid. So the sounds/tones have a certain malleability to them and sound like they're bending through time. It's also grittier and more distorted than my previous albums.

          I wanted to try and capture that moment in nature and society where life slowly reemerges through desolation, so it has a layer of optimism looming underneath. The music represents this by seemingly decaying at times but then reforms and morphs in a fluid way back to its original state. I was also inspired by the movement of rivers, particularly their transformative aspect and how they're in a state of flux and change, in particular the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland where I live, which notoriously caught on fire thirteen times because of industrial pollution in the 1960s and before. I was very interested in the dichotomy of oil and water and the resulting, unnatural symptoms of human industry. It's a very personal record for me as it is a reflection of my hometown where I grew up and where it was mostly recorded.

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: Where 'Where all Is Fled' was nuanced, but rife with confident and optimistic moments, 'Strands' is much more tilted towards the uneasy. Slightly syncopated melodies and growing pads unsettle but never become jarring, merely lending an equally proficient counterfoil to the majority of his already startling oeuvre.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Horizon Of Appearances
          2. Same River Twice
          3. A False Seeming
          4. Ketracel
          5. Time We Have
          6. Strands
          7. Transience Of Earthly Joys
          8. Die In Fascination

          Physicalist is the third album from New York City synthesis trio Forma. Since their acclaimed self-titled debut in 2011, Forma have been perfecting a distinctive style of improvised kosmische and minimalism that blends swirling arpeggios, ambient soundscapes, and driving motorik beats.

          Physicalist is a sprawling, double LP journey featuring new member and multi-instrumentalist John Also Bennett. The first Forma album to include acoustic instrumentation, Physicalist owes more to American composers like Harold Budd or Terry Riley than Klaus Schulze and other Krautrock visionaries.

          The album was recorded during marathon sessions at Brooklyn’s Gary’s Electric studio, and is packaged in a gatefold jacket with original artwork by Robert Beatty and a liner notes essay by writer and critic Michael Barron. Physicalist was mastered by Bob Weston.

          Formed in 2010 by Mark Dwinell in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Forma released their first two full-length LPs on John Elliot’s influential Editions Mego imprint, Spectrum Spools. Physicalist is the first full-length statement from the new lineup, which also includes founding member and percussionist George Bennett.

          The double LP contains two distinct halves; the first consisting of rhythmic compositions derived from the trio’s formidable array of modular and vintage synthesizers, and the second breaking from the grid with ambient, free-flowing experiments on piano, flute and acoustic percussion. The album marks a departure from Cool Haptics, the group’s techno-leaning 2014 EP on The Bunker New York.

          Physicalist takes its title from physicalism, the philosophical belief that all phenomena in the universe are created entirely from physical interactions. Using a synthesizer as its foundation, kosmische music turns algorithms into art by investigating infinite possibilities within a set of physical parameters. The electronic composer Laurie Spiegel once suggested that a looped algorithmic sequence could go on forever, and as long as humans were able to interact with it, it would never cease to interest us. This is the bedrock of improvisation, and it is from this vantage point that Forma have created Physicalist, an American kosmische music in which a boundless voyage gives way to a structured environment—a programmed jazz with the grid as guidepost. “We’re not interested in providing an escapism for people,” says member Mark Dwinell, “We want to instead connect with people through a vigilantly monitored present. To us, that real moment, shed of any fancy, is just as divine.”


          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: One of my absolute favourites, Forma. I remember hearing their self-titled debut album many moons ago and being equally blown away by their follow-up Off/On. This one is just as mindblowing. Kosmische synthplay and driven motorik rhythms abound, chirping pads and reverb-soaked arpeggios come together into a beautiful and melodic scree. The latter half of the album is more ambient, focused on acoustics more than electronics but with the unmistakeable sound they've become known for. Another brilliant showing, and an essential for any electronic music fans.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Collapse Of Materialists
          2. Sane Man
          3. Spin Glass
          4. Ghosts
          5. Maxwell’s Demon
          6. Descent
          7. Wanderer Imitates A Cloud
          8. As If Pianos Grew On Trees
          9. Collapse Of Materialists 2
          10. Physicalist
          11. Improvisation For Flute And Piano

          MJ Guider

          Precious Systems

            Melissa Guion is MJ Guider. She lives and works in New Orleans and previously released the Green Plastic extended play cassette in early 2014 on the Constellation Tatsu label.

            Employing heavy washes of bass and a deft touch in mixing, she uses stark contrasts to construct a semi-surreal aural space.

            What results are songs that exist in a wholly contained sound environment, minimal yet lush, spare yet saturated, and most importantly, entirely compelling.

            “...black syrupy goodness that hits all the right spots.” Fact
            “...swallows up the listener in dark, warm, gooey vibes.” Tiny Mix Tapes

            From MJ Guider:
            “Precious Systems is inspired and influenced by the landscape in and near New Orleans, particularly the juxtaposition of the natural with industrial and commercial constructs as they reflect life here.

            The songs on the album attempt to create contrasts of their own as one means to induce unreality or alter perspective. While it is greatly influenced by science fiction, its sounds and stories often become it themselves.
            The sounds come from a variety of sources, but are anchored by a few aging, outmoded machines.

            A beloved Rickenbacker 3000 in combination with a Roland R-8 drum machine, and RE-501 tape echo set the tone of technology in subsidence.”


            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: Though it might seem unlikely, gothic tinged shoegaze/ambient has seen a bit of a surge in recent years. Tropic of cancer being a notable (and equally excellent) recent addition. Precious Systems is as haunting as it is enchanting, saturated top-heavy drones whirl around Guion's haunting voice, driven along by cavernous guitar, and every so often punctuated by driving hardware drum machines. Spooky and shadowed gothic shoegaze for the masses.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Lit Negative
            2. Triple Black
            3. Surfacing First
            4. White Alsatian
            5. Second Surface
            6. Former Future Beings
            7. Their Voices Clear Now
            8. Evencycle
            9. Fiction Control

            Christopher Bissonnette

            Pitch, Paper & Foil

              Christopher Bissonnette is a Canadian musician/sound artist/designer living and working in Detroit and Windsor. He has released three full-length albums for Kranky and a collaborative recording with David Wenngren (Library Tapes) on Home Normal.

              Continuing the explorations of the analog synthesizer first revealed on his last album, Bissonnette's deft touch in recording and mixing is a joy to experience. While most contemporary analog synth slingers find themselves unable to not overload the sound-field with the endless array of possibilities the instrument provides, Bissonnette provides a master class in economy and control.

              Since his first full album release, Periphery, ten years ago, Bissonnette has been expanding his aural vocabulary and production techniques incorporating elements of concrete, field recording and modular synthesis.

              This new series of works reflects an evolution of my adeptness with modular synthesis. As with my previous release Essays in Idleness, Pitch, Paper & Foil was constructed from a range of synthesis and compositional techniques. The goal with this album was to form a collection that exhibits more restraint than previous works.

              Modular synthesis can be an unruly medium and taming it in order to produce delicate or subtle tones can be challenging. As with Essays..., I have allowed the artifacts of the process to find their way into the finished product. Tape noise, distortion and by-products of the random sequencing method all contribute to the character of the final recordings.

              TRACK LISTING

              1. Epoch
              2. Diminution
              3. Keeping Guard
              4. Shuttering Slides
              5. Surcease
              6. Textbooks Of The Elites
              7. The Rate Of Delay
              8. Dualism

              Anjou

              Anjou

                The culmination of four years writing and editing, Anjou marks the ?rst collaboration between Labradford?s Robert Donne and Mark Nelson since the release of that group?s “?xed:context” LP.

                Combining modular synthesis, Max/MSP programming and live instrumentation, Anjou deftly weaves noise with gentle ambience and melody with texture.

                Guitar, bass and Steven Hess? (Locrian, Fennesz, Pan American) live percussion give the eight pieces an immediacy and create a framework for the more abstract sounds of digital and analog synth programming.

                The product of twenty plus years of friendship, Anjou is re?ned and challenging. An extension of the Labradford sound-world but no mere victory lap, Anjou represents Donne and Nelson stepping out and forward, their eyes ?rmly focusing on the future.

                Context:
                Mark Nelson formed the legendary Labradford in the early 90?s and and started working solo under the “Pan•American” moniker a few years later. Robert Donne played in Breadwinner, joined Labradford shortly after the release of the ?rst album, recorded an album with Adam Wiltzie as “Aix Em Klemm”, and has been active over the last decade in the trio Cristal. Percussionist extraordinaire Steven Hess has collaborated with dozens of artists including Greg Davis and Fennesz, and has worked in the Dropp Ensemble, Cleared, and Haptic to name just a few.

                Tara Jane O'Neil

                Where Shine New Lights

                  Tara Jane O'Neil's music is integrated and contextual, idiosyncratic and deeply psychedelic, akin to a lucid dream journal caught on magnetic tape.She appears to be interested in all sounds equally. In her tireless search for a music that mirrors and re?ects her alchemical, deeply syncretic approach to sound, color, language, surface and texture, she has found herself in a somewhat singular category.

                  Her concerns are free from fussing about form. Her albums posit some free space that owes more to improvisors and painters than singer-songwriters or new age synthesizer baths.

                  She is still interested in songs, and she has always been a wordsmith, but her songs don't need to have words to signify. When words are utilized, she doesn't waste them. They are beautifully mystical outbursts of visionary poesis, but their narrative power is located within and informed by, the space, the harmonic color, the context in which they are sung.

                  Choral voicings spread out across the stereo ?eld like muted cloud formations splitby sudden outbursts of vibrant color, verdant mosses on ancient stones, opalsized windows of clear blue set against a vast horizon. Pump organ drones swell and respirate, patient and slow, with softly resonant gongs from the roof of the world. This is music about healing, about listening, about surviving and transmuting the strange inheritance of language. Moving towards a direct perception of apparent reality through collaboration, breath, sound and song.

                  TJO has always been a shapeshifter. Listen to this new album with open ears, forgetting any previous incarnation, or perception of what you believe this mercurial artist to be or to have been.

                  Using some very basic recording equipment and her vivid musical imagination, she has achieved a rare essentialism wherein all unnecessary elements have been stripped away leaving only the most indispensable sounds. Concise, but expansive, stripped of unnecessary gestures; guitars resonate, amps hum, and an exquisite, languid melancholia appears out of the haze.

                  Press quotes:
                  “There's a characteristic tone that runs through all of her albums-- an elastic guitar reverb that stretches to give a delicate puff to hersongs, drums that rarely go beyond a gentle grounding pitter-patter and, of course, the haunting lull of her voice, which beckons the listener into her world with mellow grace.” Pitchfork

                  Lotus Plaza

                  The Floodlight Collective

                    In 2008, Deerhunter fans were presented nearly an embarrassment of riches with the release of the group's third album, "Microcastle, its pre release 'leaked' companion disc, "Weird Era Cont.", and front man Bradford Cox's solo project debut as Atlas Sound. With a good deal of Deerhunter-related material appearing on the band's web blog in 2008, anticipation surrounding the release of "The Floddlight Collective", the full-length debut of Lotus Plaza (guitarist and co-songwriter Lockett Pundt's solo project), came as little surprise. While the album doesn't stray far from the gauzy, ambient dream pop of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, it comes across as a far more focused affair than either of those group's efforts. Rooted in Pundt's adoration of the wall-of-sound vocal harmonies of 50s Brill Building songwriters and the hypnotic, reverb-drenched haze of shoegazers like the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, the songs are full of shimmering and opalescent melodies that teeter on the edge of something inchoate and chaotic. From the chiming, layered melodies of "Whiteout", which gently accumulate into a blizzard of white noise wash out, to the cresting surf-rock dissonance of "Sunday Night," with its circling microtones and billowing waves of guitar distortion, Lotus Plaza create blissful pop ambience that celebrates the beauty of sound unhinged.

                    Tracklisting
                    1. Red Oak Way
                    2. Quicksand
                    3. These Years
                    4. Different Mirrors
                    5. Whiteout
                    6. What Grows?
                    7. Sunday Night
                    8. Antoine
                    9. The Floodlight Collective
                    10. A Threaded Needle

                    Benoit Pioulard

                    Temper

                      "Temper" is the second album by Thomas Meluch under his Benoit Pioulard nom de guerre. Benoit Pioulard creates crystalline folk-pop teeming with fragile vocals, acoustic guitars, electronics, and percussion in a hazy shoegaze style that's more than a little easy to fall in love with. With a broad palette of instruments that lately includes harmonium and cello, he constructs diverse arrangements that skirt the borders of pop with beautiful, detailed atmospheres. The scope and sonic narratives of songs like "A Woolgathering Exodus" and "Golden Grin" exhibit new degrees of musicality, while the weightlessness of "Brown Bess" or "Sweep Generator" reflects the unrestrained context in which the record was produced.

                      Cloudland Canyon

                      Lie In Light

                        "Lie In Light" is a work of extraordinary, hypnotic intensity and brain-melting beauty. It appears there is a second "kosmische musik" period in full bloom around the world at the moment, not so much 'kosmische' as in krautrock but instead 'cosmic'. You can play pick the influences if you like, but you can do that with any group. Cloudland certainly owe a debt to the German underground of the 70s, but they have also added flourishes of baroque pop and even a tinge of the 80s New Zealand scene into their sound. From the lock down groove of the opening track "Krautwerk", to the dense buzz of "White Woman", through the pastoral psych of "Heme" and on to the gentle wash of the closer "Mothlight", Cloudland Canyon have created an eclectic and rewarding listen.


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