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I know these are challenging times for everyone, so I will not bore you with a long introduction. I hope that some of the following releases will help you in momentarily escape from this bizarre reality we are experiencing. So read on, stay calm and stay safe. We will get through this.

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Gerald Cleaver - Signs
March 27th, 2020

The son of the great jazz drummer John Cleaver, Gerald Cleaver was exposed to his father’s rich musical tradition, eventually following his steps and becoming one of the most prominent drummers of the current jazz generation. Throughout the years he collaborated with many of the greats, from phenomenal pianists Tommy Flanagan and Matthew Shipp to iconic guitarist Bill Frisell among many more. A product of his surroundings, Cleaver has always been torn between his native Detroit jazz and electronic scenes, and this dichotomy is now fully exposed through his debut record Signs.

Cleaver views electronic music through a jazz lens, leading to a record that is incredibly adventurous and experimental. Playful grooves and 8-bit inspired sounds come together in “Jackie’s Smile” and “Amidst Curses” to create a joyfully intense ride. Using the free-flowing element of jazz, Cleaver creates intricate and absolutely bizarre progressions, navigating through a video game-like scenery. Still, there is a deeper level here and when the beats relax it is this cool minimalism that prevails. The introduction of “Blown” starts off smoothly, a lounge-like atmosphere settling in before the schizoid beats return. It is finally the “Signs” trilogy that binds everything together, as the abstracted synthetic percussion and the laid back quality co-exist in a phantasmagorical manner, as layers upon layers of sonic textures radically deform the techno norms.

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Collectress - Different Geographies
March 6th, 2020

Chamber music appears,as a concept, rooted in nostalgia. It's a way to transport someone to years past, surrounded by classical instrumentation that builds a serene environment where minimal orchestration strips away the grandiose airs of classical music and instead provides a more graceful offering. Still, despite being a fairly old idea, there have been fantastic artists that have innovated in the genre, with Rachel’s improvisational experimentation and post-rock infusion among the most prominent. Collectress is another act that shares the same point of view, deeply enamoured with the chamber music setting but willing to take things one step further.

The quartet’s latest work Different Geographies, sees Collectress perform a tour de force through the norms of chamber music. The moving classical ideas of “Harbour” come to life through the exceptional strings and the ethereal vocals, while “In The Streets, In The Fields” lets on a more playful sense and the magnificent “Roaming Bones” masterfully awakens a grand essence through its nonchalant tone and beautifully crafted melodies. Having already explored their core aesthetic, Collectress roams further with “Mausswork” gleefully experimenting with intricate rhythmic ideas, something much more prevalent in “Landing” before they dive deep into the ambient realms with “Words (Saturn)” and “Words (Mars)” featuring a stronger synthesizer presence that complete this bizarre imagery. The common thread that runs through Different Geographies is a sense of elegance, which follows Collectress through their unconventional passages, providing this work with its exquisite fragility.

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Luca T. Mai - Heavenly Guide
March 20th, 2020

Italian extreme experimental outfit ZU have been opening wormholes across the fabric of off-kilter music. Through their adventurous collaborations across the creative spectrum, including iconic forward-thinking and extravagant artists like Mike Patton and Buzz Osbourne to jazz legends in Mats Gustafsson, Eugene Chadbourne and Jeb Bishop, they have defiantly refused to be pigeonholed. In the process, they've produced masterpieces in their own right, like Jhator.

Luca T. Mai is of course the saxophonist of ZU, and today he arrives with his solo work in Heavenly Guide, an etude through his feverish and rebellious approach to the instrument. Improvisation is of course at the core of it all for Mai, and through the compositions of Heavenly Guide the saxophone moves and morphs through various moods and disciplines. Noisy and distorted with a playful attitude in “Epistrophy,” groovy and relentless in “Manum and Ferrum”, these are the moments where Mai makes an immediate and terrifying impact. Yet, at the same time there is an inherent psychedelia that defines Mai’s playing, with the use of delays shining in the title track, creating a mesmerizing facade in the process, while “The Sound of His Horn” sees a more dissonant application of this unhurried approach. It is a descent to a lucid, shivering dream, beautifully highlighted through the sharp implosions and elusive background of “Bahr Atla,” before the absolute noise deconstruction of “Celestial Nile” covers Heavenly Guide’s world in utter darkness.

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Helen Money - Atomic
March 20th, 2020

Alison Chesley has collaborated with many greats across the musical spectrum. Her cello has poignantly appeared in the works of Bob Mould, MONO, Shellac, and Earth among many more. In the late 2000s Chesley started experimenting with her solo performances under the Helen Money moniker, releasing excellent works of neo-classical temperament and forward-thinking experimentalism. The music of Helen Money is adventurous and emotive, two aspects highlighted brilliantly in 2016’s Become Zero.

The follow-up to Become Zero comes in the form of Atomic, and here Helen Money trades the ethereal element for an astral projection. There is something much grander and moving with Atomic, the neo-classical narratives tightening the emotional aspect in “Understory” while at the same time the hazy effects manipulation of “Midnight” creates an otherworldly scenery. While Become Zero features punk-like outbreaks of raw power, in the likes of “Leviathan,” Atomic fiercely opens up a post-metal space. It is a blazing approach in “Marrow,” a post-industrial onslaught in “Nemesis” and a grand, majestic manifestation in “Coil,” yet it always retains Atomic’s delicately minimalist core.

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Sary Moussa - Imbalance
March 6th, 2020

In the last couple of years the Middle East and Arabic countries have produced a wave of excellent experimental artists. The mystical jazz of Dwarfs of East Agouza, Maurice Louca’s folk infused electronic experimental investigations, Nadah El Shazly’s avant-garde take on traditional Middle Eastern music and the electronic outbreaks of Carl Gari and Abdullah Miniawy are just few of the instances that expose a rich and vibrant scene. Lebanese producer Sary Moussa is another excellent member of this growing scene, focusing his creative efforts towards an introverted blend of electronic music.

Leaving behind his RadioKVM moniker, Moussa is now releasing his debut record Imbalance through Nicolas Jaar’s Other People record label. Through the minimal, yet electrifying, glacially paced introduction of “In Praise of Shadows," Moussa slowly unveils his immersive form of electronica. Subtle soundscapes are awakened, building a scenery of beautiful solace. It is an amorphous beast, slowly moving through sharp synths and sparse applications, taking a solid form through the rhythmic progression of “Figure,” before again dissipating into the minimal aether with “Distance.” It is also at that point where the otherworldly sense displays a humane touch as vocal chants appear in the distance, before the industrial motif of “Rest” and the playful “Weight” force a return to Imbalance’s center and its perfect dissolution into the abstract “South." The final stretch in “Tides” sees Moussa take on a folkloric influence, infecting his minimalism with a traditional twist, ending the record on a high note.

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Nazar - Guerilla
March 13th, 2020

Nazar is one of the rising voices in this intersecting new wave between grime and techno. Nazar’s first steps found him traversing a subliminal, house-informed electronica with 2015’s Nihil, but it was 2018’s Enclave that exposed the full scope of his underlying vision. Techno notions combined with grime and harsh industrial progressions to craft an abrupt offering, one that was weaponizing the essence of electronic music.

The return with Guerilla is the natural continuation of Enclave, reaching a deeper level of creativity. Here Nazar can offer a hypnotic sense, slowly and carefully expanding synth pads and creating a trance-like state in “Arms Deal” and “Retaliation”. The hectic dance rhythms and the sharper effects are still raging as in “Fim-92 Stinger,” yet there is an overwhelming sense of spirituality that prevails. The trip down this rabbit hole expands, reaching further across the spectrum, coalescing everything from the industrialized machinations of “Intercept” to the ambient bliss of “Mother,” and completes its round trip through an overwhelming tribal spirit spread throughout the likes of “Diverted” and “UN Sanctions.” Still, what makes Guerilla stand out is a profound sense of honesty, with Nazar being inspired by his father’s experiences as a guerilla fighter in their native Angola. It is this narrative that feeds Guerilla and builds such a solid foundation for his extraordinary investigations.

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Nick Storring - My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell
March 27th, 2020

There is no doubt that the classical tradition runs deep in Nick Storring’s creative core. The Toronto-based composer feels most comfortable within a minimal, chamber music-like setting, which allows his delicate melodies to flourish. This laid back approach and its immersive implications have been prevalent in all his output, be it through the impressionistic Gardens or the deeply experimental Endless Conjecture. Yet, Storring has always been comfortable in stepping outside the norms of neo-classical and exploring the adjacent territories of ambient music and musique concrete, a trait that shines bright in his latest work My Magic Dreams Have Lost their Spell.

The beginning is almost surreal, as the classical instrumentation bends time itself in “Tides that Defeat Identity”. The prolonged strings and the constant percussive applications create a hazy offering, swivelling around ambient music traditions. This transformation is further highlighted with “Pretending You And I” as the classical beginnings once more mutate towards their musique concrete calling, yet along the way they also unveil a strange, relaxed jazz sentiment. This improvisational form is further enhanced with “What A Made Up Mind Can Do”, as the classical vibe is left to the background and the stage is set ablaze by a towering bass line that awakens full on jazz presence with a funky twist, not dissimilar to what you would hear in a Thundercat or Flying Lotus release. Further strangeness is still available in the noise induced interlude of “Tonight There Will Be No Distance Between Us”, the dream turned to nightmare that is “No Neither of Us Is Breaking” and the overwhelming title track, sweeping across classical influences and ambient motives with rejuvenated emotion.

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Windy and Carl - Allegiance and Conviction
March 27th, 2020

An ambient inclination coupled with a shoegaze tradition -- that is what has defined husband and wife duo Windy and Carl since they set out exploring their riveting soundscapes. Using the exploratory outlook of shoegaze, morphing their guitars through layers of effects and using ample feedback, Windy and Carl rediscovered an ambient realm that was not constructed through electronic means. As a result, their atmospherics possess a warmer, more humane quality while their extroverted outlook channels a modified space rock essence.

Allegiance and Conviction is the latest chapter in Windy and Carl’s expanding discography and the result of six years of sparse recording sessions, which presents a variation on the duo’s main theme. The duration of the songs is significantly reduced, with the longest composition “Moth to The Flame” clocking in just under ten minutes. This departure has condensed the drone narrative of the duo’s past, allowing for shorter cerebral trips, but not at the expense of their past grandeur. The beautifully glacial progression of “Will I See The Dawn” and the initial, towering presence of “Crossing Over” are not blown out of proportion; their finite time seems always appropriate and filling. At the same time, Windy’s vocals define most of this work. In the past Windy and Carl have featured very sparse vocal delivery, yet Allegiance and Conviction sees a stronger lyrical narrative, highlighted from the very beginning with “The Stranger." Even when the vocals fade into the background they are still a pivotal aspect of this work, as in “Recon” and “Alone” where they appear as an ethereal prayer. It is these subtle changes that make Allegiance and Conviction an enthralling twist on an already great recipe, and it will be interesting to see whether Windy and Carl will further evolve their compositions towards this direction.

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