Deconstructing Interference #21
Many of the mighty return in this month’s feature. Veteran industrialists Kevin Martin and Justin K. Broadrick with the aid of Moor Mother release their debut full-length as Zonal, while Emptyset employ the help of a neural network to continue their extravagant trajectory. Shackleton on the other hand strips away much of his electronic music armour in favour of the meditative tribalistic essence of his latter days with new project Tunes of Negation. In a similar way, Mark Nelson with Pan•American returns to a singer/songwriter point of origin with A Son, while Rachel Grimes unleashes her immersive folk leaning opera in The Way Forth. But, the new blood is also equally represented this month with newly formed label Commando Vanessa releasing works from Mother and Yuko Araki, while SARIN continues to unleash industrial bombs and Velf dives further into her blissful, off-kilter experimentalism.
Emptyset -- Blossoms
October 11th, 2019
The current technological landscape is defined by the emergence of artificial intelligence and its various implementations. The first target has always been automation of simple, time consuming tasks, but the capabilities of AI have already started to revolutionize whole industries from automated driving to advances in medicine. But the more controversial topic is the use of artificial intelligence in creative tasks: machines composing and producing music and other forms of art. Many might shy away from this topic, but some of the more adventurous artists are already toying with such concepts.
Emptyset have always been at the forefront of forward thinking electronic music, being part of a movement that includes the likes of Demdike Stare, Roly Porter, and Vatican Shadow. Their development has been captivating, as they transformed from minimal ambient abstractionists in their debut to the brutally explosive and driven Borders. Yet, the implementation of a neural network system makes their new record Blossoms even more unpredictable and menacing. The harsh renditions of “Petal” open this work like an everflowing stream, with the sonic abstractions spurring out in full force. It is a bumpy ride that is dictated by the whims of a sonic golem, a construction with the sole purpose of giving birth to complex musical structures. Its vision appears to be tilting towards the extreme, with even the subtle moments of Blossoms, as in “Blade” and “Boom,” arriving with a constant tension, always ready to erupt. In this fierce experiment, Emptyset have given life to their musical Boltzmann brain, and are now exploring its capabilities which offer infinite possible pathways for creativity.
Mother -- s/t
October 2nd, 2019
Commando Vanessa is a new and very interesting experimental music label from Italy focusing on boutique cassette releases. Rooted in the Italian off-kilter scene the first release from Commando Vanessa is the debut album of Tomasso Bonfilio under the Mother moniker. Bonfilio is a prevalent member of the Turin scene, mostly known from his participation in new wave enthusiasts Blind Beast and most recently avantgarde industrial dub fiends SabaSaba.
Stepping away from the band structure for his solo project, Bonfilio finds a very dark place where he can build his nest. Opener “Napoleon” sets the scene in terrifying fashion, a place brought to life through field recordings and sparse instrumentation. The vocal delivery ranges from a downtrodden perspective to completely inhuman sounds, but without ever becoming overly aggressive. This is not an album that relies on combative intrusion but rather abstract introspection. The progression is slow, verging on glacial, allowing for a rich collage of sounds to be constructed, while tempering with recorded samples morphs the scenery into a ghostly instrumentation. Pitch-shifted hammer sounds become an anchor in the place of percussion, while the theremin-like notes in “S.I.T.H.” provide a haunting spectral illusion. The desolate noise sceneries of “2252019” and the pensive, almost orchestral setting of closer “Charlee” complete this obscure picture, making Mother’s debut an overall horrifying experience.
Pan•American -- A Son
November 8th, 2019
During the latter days of the great ambient pioneers Labradford, Mark Nelson started to explore a different sonic dimension with his solo project Pan•American. Releasing the project’s debut record in 1997, Nelson elegantly moved from chilled downtempo to the minimal electronics of The River Made No Sound, revisiting experimental post-rock by way of drone in Quiet City to perform glitch experiments with For Waiting, For Chasing. The recent days of Pan•American saw Nelson double down on sonic design principles with White Bird Release and Cloud Room, Glass Room. Point is, Nelson has never remained indel. Yet, Pan•American’s new record A Son still catches you by surprise.
At the heart of Nelson’s music there was always a soft and delicate core. Under the layers of feedback and post-rock structures, beneath the electronic music influences and the ambient overlays, there has always been a fragile sense. That has now become the protagonist in A Son, as Pan•American expose this hidden identity. The whispery vocals and fine guitar lines of “Memphis Helena” mould a desert-like desolate scenery, something that could have come out of Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas. While experiments still roam freely, be it in the crude glitches of “Sleepwalk Guitars” or the shoegaze-infused “Muriel Spark," the narrative never wanders too far from the romantic singer/songwriter- and blues-informed center. It is this approach that grants A Son with its graceful nature, and showcases the hidden truth of Nelson’s creativity.
Rachel Grimes -- The Way Forth
November 1st, 2019
Rachel Grimes is one of the most beloved figures in contemporary music and for good reason. With her band called "Rachel's," Grimes and company reinvigorated the flame of chamber music by introducing neo-classical and post-rock elements, always through a minimalistic lens. Between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, the project remained extremely active and released their pinnacle works in Handwriting, Music For Egon Schiele, and the overly ambitious The Sea and the Bells. This hyperactivity came to an end after the also excellent Systems/Layers and the Technology is Killing Music EP. Rachel's remained silent for the following years, coming to an unfortunate end after the passing of guitarist/bassist Jason Noble. Grimes herself, however, funneled her creativity through her solo project.
Her focal point has always been classical music, and its contemporary interpretations. Grimes' solo works further investigated this area, but now The Way Forth comes along with a distinctly different flavor. It's an album that she has been working on since 2016, a narration through the history of her native Kentucky and especially the life of Kentucky women from 1775 to today. To say the least, this is another ambitious work, and in order to appropriately illustrate the narrative, Grimes calls upon elements of folk music to construct what is essentially a folk opera. Much of the work still depends on the emotive quality of classical music, with opener “Get Ahold of Me” beautifully weaving violin and vocals to stunning effect. Narrative parts with minimal instrumentation provide an additional level of immersion with “Postcard from Pauline," “Patsy," “Dolly,” and “Sara” detailing stories of past times, elegantly playing with your heartstrings.
Still, Grimes fully awakens the gleeful quality of folk music fully with “The Hysterical Society," the jazz cabaret element with “Fontaine Ferry” illustrating passages through time. It shows the versatility of Grimes, who has no issues with mixing most of these elements in the most zealous moment of the album, longform 12-minute opus “End of Dominion” as she masterfully travels through classical music, spoken word narrations, full-on choirs, and violins to reach a moving pinnacle.
SARIN -- Moral Cleansing
November 15th, 2019
Emad Dabiri was born in Iran, where he spent most of his childhood before moving to Canada. The events that he witnessed during his early years can only be described as traumatizing. Secret police, air raids, and bombings are just some of the memories that shaped Dabiri’s world view and eventually gave birth to his industrial project SARIN. Everything that is harsh and direct finds its way into SARIN’s all encompassing big tent, from synth-pop immediacy to EBM volatility. It is a recipe that Dabiri has worked on since 2013, and now with the release of Moral Cleansing, it feels like he has perfected it.
The ominous setting of Moral Cleansing is masterfully applied through samples from news reports archive recordings. Narrations of the death toll introduce the seismic “Amiriyah” as intoxicating beats coupled with piercing synthesizer melodies build the fraught atmosphere. The same ambiance is employed as an introduction for heavier moments, as is the case with the in-your-face attitude of opener “The Culling." The same result by way of techno is achieved through the labyrinthine movements of “Repression” and through experimental means in “Savak." Moral Cleansing does not follow a steady progression, slowly descending into the abyss, with Dabiri instead opting for unpredictability. The dance-infused “Images In Your Mind” picks up the pace only for closer “Inextinguishable Fire” to completely deconstruct all progression and melody, melting the core aesthetics of SARIN in a post-industrial flame.
Tunes of Negation -- Reach the Endless Sea
October 17th, 2019
Paradoxically, although Sam Shackleton came into prominence during the rise of dubstep in the mid 2000s, his relationship with the genre has always felt strenuous. Even in his earlier work in Three EPs, Shackleton refused to conform to the core aesthetics of dubstep, instead venturing into an abstracted techno territory. And in time more extravagant ideas began to form for Shackleton, as he ventured into complete experimental territory, with the abstract notions flourishing through a tribalistic perspective.
Now Shackleton debuts the Tunes of Negation project, releasing its first fantastical album through Shapednoise’s Cosmo Rhythmatic label. Surrounding himself with three exquisite artists in vocalist Heather Leight, keyboardist Takuwi Motokawa, and vibraphonist Raphael Meinhart, Shackleton further dives into the meditative. Tunes of Negation leave electronic music components behind in favor of the transcendental, tribal essence. The spiritual tendencies arrive from the start of “The World is a Stage” with Leigh’s magnificent voice introducing the record. The longform compositions have a hallucinogenic effect, and one that can feel laid back and soothing as in “Nowhere Ending Sky," but it can also take a fiercer and pressing quality with “Tundra Erotic." No matter the case, Reach The Endless Sea is yet another testament to Shackleton’s experimental prowess, as he sets aside his electronic past, diving head-first into the spiritualism of his latter days.
Velf -- In a Sense
October 25th, 2019
Valeria Zaklinskaya is a new voice in the field of experimental electronic music, but in a very short time, she has been able to produce intricate works of the highest quality. The Russian-born LA-based artist released her debut record Pernicious Serenity in 2017. Turning the electronic music concepts upside-down, the record was filled with adventurous progression, extraordinary use of effects, and an ever-mutating sound that could start off with the most maximalistic and caustic quality only to retreat to a state of ambient bliss.
It is the same volatility that now defines Velf’s sophomore record In a Sense. The bizarre, laid-back start of “Revelation” is just the initial lure before an array of brilliant synthesizer melodies arrive only to plunge the track into a state of minimal obscurity. Granular devices and fleeting effects appear with the track finally exploding in abstract fashion into full-on polyrhythmic renditions. In just fewer than six minutes, Velf has produced what typically requires an entire album’s length. Still, In a Sense appears to hold a special place for its ambient settings with both “Chimera” and “Shrivel” resulting in a state of slowly progressing euphoria while exposing the emotional underbelly of this work. The remainder of this work revels in the abstract electronic territory, merging hard hitting and extreme effects with beautiful processed vocal deliveries in “Unhinging” while exploring the implication of heavy drones, noise and rock motifs in “Innocence."
Yuko Araki -- II
October 17th, 2019
This is another Commando Vanessa release, this time from Tokyo-based composer Yuko Araki. Araki is someone that is not defined by genres and boundaries, with her rich array of projects highlighting that fact. She is a member of crazy YobKiss act, which bounces between electronic music and grindcore, as well as psych rock outfit Kuunatic and darkwave project Concierto de la Familia. And yet, it is her solo work that is the most captivating. It is within an isolated environment that Araki descends into the noise abyss, first unveiled through a stellar EP.
The return now with II is even more abrussive, with Araki kicking off the record in epic fashion with “Vermillion Bullets." The slow-moving synths come to a prominent halt, as the looped progressions converge to construct a whirling wall of sound. The feedback is otherworldly, absolutely oppressive, becoming asphyxiating while the background retains a constantly pensive tone. It is not an easy introduction and Araki does not rest on her laurels. “The Lathe of Eden” further exposes this noise wasteland, with the very subtle background electronic leads providing a dystopian illusion. It is the sound crafting of Araki that allows for this scenery to come to life, with “Taklamakan” further showcasing this ability to build entire sonic realms. But it is the harsher moments, the ravaging start of “Marooned on Mars” and the eerily piercing scream of “Blind Temple” that showcase the truly unforgivable facade of this work.
Zonal -- Wrecked
October 25th, 2019
Zonal is the meeting of the visionaries. Kevin Martin has always collaborated with towering figures across the experimental music spectrum, most recently clashing with drone master Earth in Concrete Desert. But, this time Martin joins forces with an old associate, industrial veteran master Justin K. Broadrick, someone he has previously worked with under the Techno Animal moniker, and the two now return as Zonal. Still, in their debut album the two are joined by another unique experimental voice in abstract exploratory noise/hip-hop guru Moor Mother.
For the first half of this record, the presence of Moor Mother alongside Martin’s infectious beats creates an otherworldly experience. Imagine a pitch black London Zoo, where the grime grit and dubstep ideas are drenched in Moor Mother’s perfect storytelling narrative with Broadrick's ambient aesthetics bringing a further layer of dystopian mysticism to the fold. “In a Cage” and “System Error” awaken moments of perfect aggression, while the trio still finds places for extravagant experimentation in the tribalistic “Medulla" and the interstellar “Catalyst." The second half sees Martin and Broadrick reclaiming the spotlight, exposing all the grimy low end that they are known for. The title track finds solace in the industrialized landscape with its disfigured beat progression, but it is the intoxicating rendition of “Debris” that unveils the hip-hop sensitivity of the duo. From that point, the record takes off even higher, moving toward chaotic aspirations with “S.O.S” and finally closes in sublime noise/ambient fashion with “Alien Within” and “Stargazer."