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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)

    Loscil

    Clara

      The latest collection by Cascadian resident loscil aka Scott Morgan is a stunning meditation on light, shade, and decay, sourced from a single three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest.

      The subsequent recording was lathe-cut on to a 7-inch, then “scratched and abused to add texture and color,” from which the entirety of Clara was sampled, shape-shifted, and sculpted. Despite their limited palette, the compositions summon a sense of the infinite, swelling and swimming through luminous depths. Certain tracks percolate over narcoleptic metronomes while others slowdive in shimmering shadowplay, sounding at times like some noir music of the spheres.

      Although Morgan's compositional premise for Clara was quite defined, the resultant work is wonderfully opaque and spatial, equal parts lush and lurking, traced in fine-grained gradients and radiant silences. The album's title comes from the Latin for ‘bright': a fitting muse for this masterpiece of celestial electric currents and interstitial ether, where “shadows are amplified and bright spots dimmed.”


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: I love a bit of Loscil. 'Sketches From New Brighton' and 'Plume' get a heavy workout on my home stereo, and 'Clara' is sure to go the same way. It's a beautifully rewarding and rich collection of textural washes and shifting soundscapes, perfectly in line with the rest of Loscil's impressive canon, but standing entirely on its own. Beautiful stuff as ever.

      TRACK LISTING

      1.Lux
      2. Lumina
      3. Lucida
      4. Stella
      5. Vespera
      6. Sol
      7. Aura
      8. Flamma
      9. Orta
      10. Clara 

      “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

      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

          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

          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

              Tim Hecker

              Mirages

                This is the ?rst vinyl issue for Tim Hecker?s classic 2004 album.

                Press quotes for Mirages:

                “As a follow-up to the sublime "Radio Amor", "Mirages" is an even more majestic album, striding with a con?dent heaviness further out into the wilderness, deep into the night.” Boomkat

                “...the keyboard parts on Mirages are prettier, and the overall mood is more contemplative, but there's a deep pit of melancholy at the center of the record, a mood with a strongly cumulative effect.” Pitchfork

                “The opener, Acephale," ?rst erupts into a teeth-gnashing guitar solo before nodding off into an absinthe stupor, while the highlights, "Neither More or Less" and "Celestina" are both brooding stroboscope soundtracks.” XLR8R

                Ken Camden

                Space Mirror

                  This is the second solo album from Ken Camden who lives and works in Chicago. He also plays in the Implodes sound quartet.

                  Space travel is the dream of many and the reality of few. Since Yuri Gagarin ?rst shed the bonds of earth gravity in 1961, only about 500 humans have made the trip beyond the atmosphere.

                  Ken Camden travels to space while still grounded on terra ?rma. His vessel of choice is a guitar and some effects with which he journeys on fantastical expeditions and surveys the biggest territory of all, the one between your ears.

                  The glimmering sound ?elds he forms could be a soundtrack to an epic 60?s science-?ction ?lm, or a long forgotten grade school educational ?lm strip explaining how humans would be living on Mars early in the 21st century.

                  Camden?s narrative rejects the dominant dystopian view of the future and posits that there are great voyages yet to be made in inner and outer space.

                  The album forms a gravity-free environment in which the listener is suspended, enhancing an aural excursion to the outer reaches of the musical Kosmos.

                  “When I was a teenager the wreckage of a sailboat washed up on the shore of Agate Beach. The remains of the vessel weren't removed for several days. I walked down with my father to peer inside the boat cabin. Maps, coffee cups and clothing were strewn around inside.

                  “I remember looking only briefly, wilted by the feeling that I was violating some remnant of this man's presence by witnessing the evidence of its failure. Later I read a story about him in the paper. It was impossible to know what had happened. The boat had never crashed or capsized. He had simply slipped off somehow, and the boat, like a riderless horse, eventually came back home.”

                  The Man Who Died in His Boat is an album of unreleased songs recorded alongside the Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill album.


                  TRACK LISTING

                  01 6 
                  02 Vital 
                  03 Cloud In Places 
                  04 Being Her Shadow 
                  05 Cover The Long Way
                  06 Difference (Voices) 
                  07Vanishing Point 
                  08 The Man Who Died In His Boat 
                  09 Towers 
                  10 STS 
                  11 Living Room

                  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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