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Elkhorn & Mike Ganglodd

Shackamaxon Concert

    Delicate and beautiful music from the combined forced of the recently ubiquitous East-Coast psychedelic combo Elkhorn and Pelt’s Mike Gangloff, laying down two epic raga-like performances captured on a 2022 collaborative tour. Gangloff—fresh from the triumph of his VHF solo fiddle album Evening Measures—has found a distinct instrumental voice, blending drone music and trad influences in way that really advances the tradition into new areas. “East Dauphin Suite” builds patiently on the interlocking acoustic guitars of the Elkhorn duo, with Gangloff’s hardanger fiddle carrying the melody over the top. The sound is a neat riff on American primitive, with just enough Appalachian-style touches via Gangloff’s careful glissandos cutting through the Vuh-type chords and patterns to create a unique and supremely melodic hybrid. “Summerfield Raga” takes things further out, with more microtonal variation in the embroidery, with assertive bowing and an increased energy level. Pressed in Chicago and housed in an amazing jacket by Jake Blanchard.

    Daniel O'Sullivan

    The Physic Garden

      Third in a trilogy of albums of library music miniatures from composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (Æthenor, Ulver, This Is Not This Heat, etc) following 2020’s Electric Māyā and 2021’s Fourth Density. For heads, the term “library music” in 2021 might evoke dodgy Italian gray market LPs and crate-diggers hunting for “funky breaks”—but London’s venerable KPM Music is working with groundbreakers like O’Sullivan to open up new avenues for composers to experiment. The fifteen tracks on The Physic Garden are fully-formed and orchestrated compositions, which would be highlights on anyone’s release, never mind as incidental music. Of the music, O’Sullivan says: “The Physic Garden is an album of diverse instrumentals inspired by a swathe of verdant vistas from manicured gardens and follies to urban common land, overgrown and forgotten. Convalescent memories in the shape of psychedelic auditory botanics.” Key tracks include the droning acoustic folk of the title song; the Canterbury-esque rolling horn and woodwind melody of “Return The Heart” (with expert drum kit from Frank Byng); the prog-ish odd meter interlude “Buttercup Tea”; The quiet ambience and delicate melody of “Dusty Feather:”; and the Eno-like drift of “Vapourer Larvae.”

      TRACK LISTING

      1. The Physic Garden
      2. Greenfingers
      3. Return The Heart
      4. Ivy In The Holly
      5. Buttercup Tea
      6. Wishes On The Wind
      7. Crawl Under Here
      8. Dusty Feather
      9. The Vine Column
      10. Paul
      11. Perennials
      12. On Lawn Drake
      13. Vapourer Larvae
      14. Axial Flame
      15. The Scented Ape

      Sunburned Hand Of The Man

      Hypnotape

        A genuinely sprawling collection of high-fidelity mutation music that suits the compact disc format perfectly, Hypnotape is the third consecutive Sunburned Hand Of Man album of studio assemblages following 2019’s Headless and 2021’s Pick A Day To Die. Recorded throughout 2021 and 2022, it’s an album possessed with a peculiar runaway locomotion which jump cuts feverishly between unusual atmospheres yet maintains a beguiling consistency—throbbing, twisting, undulating rhythmic blast-offs suddenly kick the door down into serene realms of nuanced acoustic privacy which are unexpectedly plunged back, face first into a miasma of shirtless, raging thuggery, ad infinitum. The album is notable in the group’s monstrous catalog for a few reasons: first, it showcases founding member Conrad Capistran stepping out from behind the keyboards and electronics to spread his smooth, buttery baritone atop the majority of the tracks.

        From his velvet cooing above the pulsing whirlwind of opener “People Person” to his vivid and febrile musings as a trip reporter on the frontlines of the meltdown zone on “Roger” his honeyed vocals guide the listener Virgil-like through the inferno all the way to the album’s finale where he duets with Ron Schneiderman on the old Dino Valenti / Quicksilver chestnut “What About Me”. Secondly, it features the recorded debut of Sunburned’s longtime friend and collaborator Mark Perretta after years of touring with the group. Some may remember Perretta from his days stomping across the primordial Boston underground of the late ’80s / early ’90s with the mighty Subskin Cables or his solo career as Deluxx but most, no doubt, will be familiar with his stint with Lou Barlow, John Davis and Bob Fay as Deluxx Folk Implosion, most notably when Perretta’s whimsical ode to fatherhood “Daddy Never Understood” was used in the opening sequence to Larry Clark’s beloved coming of age tale Kids in 1996. Finally, with Hypnotape, Sunburned steps into the hallowed VHF arena after decades of hovering along adjacent corridors!

        TRACK LISTING

        1. People Person
        2. Roger
        3. Barefoot On Brush
        4. Music
        5. Hypnotape
        6. The Sun > The Moon > The Stars > The Earth
        7. Priest Of The Village
        8. Violate The Silence
        9. That Which Is
        10. Salt Taffy
        11. Sweat Ship
        12. Dragon Drainer
        13. With Zeus
        14. Salad Bar
        15. Height
        16. Edward's Buggy
        17. What About Me

        Black Twig Pickers

        Friends Peace

          Following a series of records with Thrill Jockey (including the sensational Seasonal Hire with Steve Gunn), the Black Twig Pickers return to the VHF mothership to continue their charming and original take on old time and Appalachianinspired string band sounds. Together since 2001, and a continuous presence in the music’s true home of Southwest Virginia, the Twigs represent the actively working evolution of the traditions—learning songs from other locals, playing dances at the Floyd Country Store, etc—without retroartifice or nostalgia.

          The ragged-but-right performances and recording (and Sally Ann Morgan’s perfect cover design) sit at the ideal intersection of DIY / “underground” and local string-sound values. On Friend’s Peace, the band travels a range of styles, from the lovely harmony on the trad-classic “Moonshiner” to the racing fiddle / guitar / banjo on the “Money Musk” medley. Mixed in with the traditional songs are several perfectly-placed original tunes, including Mike Gangloff’s keening “Cara’s Waltz” and Isak Howell’s solo guitar spotlight on “Barnswallow.”

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: Grand strings, plucked banjo and soaring vocal harmonies coalesce over traditional country ballads and southern folk songs, presenting a dynamic but comfortably familiar sound.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Moonshiner
          2. Money Musk/Icy Mountain/Tommy Hawk
          3. Cara's Waltz
          4. Sheets Of Rain, Streams Of Sun
          5. Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?
          6. Roan Mountain Sally Ann
          7. Knight On The Road
          8. Barnswallow
          9. St. Valentine's
          10. March Elliston Joy
          11. Dan Friend's Piece

          Astral Social Club

          Fountain Transmitter Medications

            A boggling and super-fun 100+ minutes from Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club, Fountain Transmitter Medications delivers the head-on collision of classic UK electronic styles, electric grit and the future.

            The LP starts with a set of tight chuggers, the high-end racket of “Infinity Thug” ripping through the speakers before closing the side with the loping “Grisly Terroir.” Side two is comprised of the 20-minute epic “Diamonds in the Dreich,” a mid-tempo journey of Throbbing Gristle-ish lurch-pulse and disembodied voices, giving way after ten minutes to an organ-interlude which accelerates into a full-on rock jam loaded with scathing guitar slashing. It’s unlike anything else in the Astral Social Club catalog.

            The CD (“side three”) offers three lengthy explorations of key facets of the overall Astral Social concept, where Campbell really stretches out and lets the tape run—the rushing sound effects and buried rock of “Sun Still God,” the bristling electric juddering of “Erotic Meditation,” and the blownout space-rock (!) of “Squeegee Anthem #3.”

            Jesse Sparhawk / Eric Carbonara

            Tributes & Diatribes

            Tributes & Diatribes is the lovely second set of tracks from the entirely unusual duo of Jesse Sparhawk (38-string lever harp) and Eric Carbonara (22-string upright Chaturangui guitar, banjo, nylon string guitar). The four tracks here are restrained and unhurried, letting the elegant string flow breathe and build over each cut. Like on their debut Sixty Strings (also on VHF), there’s plenty of virtuosity, but it’s not showy and crass. These guys are more mood-builders (deep, cosmic, meditative) than doodlers. Even though Tributes & Diatribes is immediately graspable by those of us who like “our kind” of music, it really doesn’t sound like anyone else - a rare achievement. Along with the main dialogue between the two players, the arrangements are filled out with percussion by Peterson Goodwyn, giving some of the tracks an overt groove that cuts against the spiraling string notes. Beautiful.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Alemu
            2. Yellow Bird
            3. Twilight Lamento
            4. Hitch And Herrman

            Spiral Joy Band

            Wake Of The Dying Sun King

              "Wake Of The Dying Sun King" is the second full-length of epic meditative drone from this South Western Virginia collective. Like Pelt (with whom it shares several members), Spiral Joy Band uses mostly acoustic instruments to create slow, building pieces rich with human detail. The steady rolling of multiple Tibetan bowls, bowed and struck gongs, hypnotic fiddle, sruti box, and other instruments are recorded live in continuous performances that frequently stretch beyond an hour per piece. The performance aspect is key to Spiral Joy Band's aura - the variations in approach, force, etc. with which each tone is played, and the clear, open recording (mostly in Blacksburg's Glade baptist church) highlight the subtleties of the music.

              Spiral Joy Band

              Lullabies For Jeff Dean

                This long running but until-now-undocumented Virginia group was founded in 2001 by Pelt members Mikel Dimmick and Mike Gangloff with Karl Precoda (Last Days Of May, The Dream Syndicate). Their debut CD concentrates on live performances featuring marathon, unorthodox drone treaties for acoustic instruments, including tibetan singing bowl, gong, sruti, and esraj. The bowed, rolled, and (usually) gently struck metal percussion anchors the sound with rich, resonating tones. The music is a cousin to Pelt's explorations. "Lullaby 1" is built almost entirely on the gongs and bowls, a slowly building narcoleptic trip. The forty-one-minute epic "Lullaby 2" begins with Gangloff on esraj, building up a trance before the shenais and sharply struck gongs take over at the climax of the piece. "Lullaby 3" throws some surprisingly melodic and active piano into the mix, evoking a long-form version of Popol Vuh's "Die Nacht Der Seele".


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