On Friday September 28th, Supersilent – the experimental trio of Arve Henriksen (trumpet, voice and electronics), Helge Sten (Electronics), and Ståle Storløkken (keyboards and electronics) – released a fourteenth album, their second for the label Smalltown Supersound. The group is best known for performances of “slow jazz:” avant jazz that unfurls at a gradual rate. Supersilent 14 revels in slow tempos, as the track “14.7” (embedded below) demonstrates. However, this time out there are a few other components shifted t0 make for a different listening experience.
The recording’s dozen tracks – labeled with numbers and nothing more – are relatively aphoristic, ranging from the horror movie industrial cast of the one-minute long “14.9” to the comparatively spacious and spacey “14.12,” which clocks in at five minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Thus, “slow jazz” tracks and more primarily electroacoustic soundscapes are allowed limited room for development, instead presented as atmospheres that often seem to begin in progress. Some Supersilent releases have hewed towards a lusher palette than 14, which instead tends towards the edgy. Henriksen’s trumpet is frequently distressed and sometimes subsumed by electronics. Sten, who also releases electronica under the name Deathprod, produced and mixed the recording. His approach revels in noise and overtones in nearly equal measure. The result is an impressive amalgam of both ends of the “sound art spectrum.” Occasional moments of recognizable patterning, like the Middle Eastern scalar passages that supply a coda to “14.4,” sounding all the more remarkable for their relative isolation in the proceedings.
At a certain point in their respective careers, most recording artists find it difficult to come up with fresh ideas. With “14,” Supersilent not only seems to have reconsidered their music afresh; they sound like a group just getting started.
Have you heard Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s The Kid (Western Vinyl, 2017) yet? Inspired by the loss of a friend, it is an electroacoustic journey from childhood to the loss of innocence, Armed with a Buchla Easel and supple voice, Smith articulates the experiences of childhood with winsome lyricism and an effulgent palette of synth timbres. It is easily one of the best electronica albums of late, and I’m naming it my choice for Best “Synth-pop” release of 2017.
Two exemplars of heavy electronica have new records coming out.
Borders is out Jan. 27, 2016 via Thrill Jockey Records.
Out this past week on TJ, Radian’s On Dark Silent Off. EU residents should consider checking out their tour (remaining dates below).
Radian tour dates:
Nov. 24 – Paris, France – Instants Chavires
Nov. 25 – London, UK – Cafe OTO
Nov. 27 – Manchester, UK – Islington Mill
Nov. 28 – Bristol, UK – The Exchange
Nov. 29 – Brussels, Belgium – Magasin 4
Perhaps best known currently as the drummer for the James Corden show, Guillermo E. Brown is a fine songwriter, singer, and drummer. I first learned of his work in the latter context: as a free jazz player, he contributed to recordings on the Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series. Recording under the moniker Pegasus Warning, Brown has just released his second EP PwEP2. Inflected with both R&B and electronica, The lead single, “Building a Bridge,” has been making the rounds in the blogosphere: hear it below via Soundcloud.
Daveed Diggs has a compelling post-Hamilton project. Check out the video for “A Better Place” below (and don’t forget to notice the HUGE modular synth rack!).
Sub Pop artists Clipping have recently released a debut album for the imprint.
Leaving Records LP
Japanese compose Seiho combines various sampled elements into his electronic music to make a formidable musical mélange. They consist of snippets of modern jazz, synth riffs, pizzicato string samples, electronic blurts, and tastes of musique concrète such as whistles and running water. The accumulation of sounds is kept from being too heady by an undergirding of dance hall beats, which supplies the work with an immediacy that much latter day avant-electronica eschews. Seiho navigates this middle path between accessibility and experimentation with aplomb, making music that is both serviceable and intriguing: a rare combination.
Ultimate Care II
Thrill Jockey Records
Matmos (the duo of M. C. (Martin) Schmidt and Drew Daniel) uses an unusual sonic palette for their latest Thrill Jockey recording, Ultimate Care II. The sounds of the recording are made with the Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine in the basement of their home in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to a plethora of washing sounds – the spin cycle is quite striking – Matmos enlisted the aid of various artists –Dan Deacon, Max Eilbacher (Horse Lords), Sam Haberman (Horse Lords), Jason Willett (Half Japanese), and Duncan Moore (Needle Gun) – to treat the machine both as a percussion instrument and as a source for computer music manipulations. The clincher: many of them do their laundry at Matmos’s apartment!
Jaded listeners might presume that the results would be gimmicky; they are anything but. To the contrary, one is startled by the array of sounds elicited from the Whirlpool and the thoughtful organization thereof. Who knew that riveting electronica could be made in a laundry room?
Rawhead & Bloody Bones
Dust-to-Digital 2xCD DTD-50
For label Dust-to-Digital’s fiftieth release, they tap composer Brian Harnetty, an artist known for blending vintage spoken word and field recordings with his own music. Rawhead and Bloody Bones features 1940s accounts by young people of scary stories. The contrast between Harnetty’s music, which references both traditional Appalachian styles and contemporary folktronica, and the recounting of often grisly tales in children’s voices, is at times startling. But there’s a very effective haloing of the voices by the music that provides a layer of remove, reminding us that these are “ghost stories” in many senses of the word.
A second disc of instrumentals brings the essentials of Harnerty’s creations to the surface, consisting of gentle electronics, vibraphone and chimes, solo banjo and viola lines, and sustained chords from saxophone and trumpet. Two very different sides of the same coin, Rawhead and Bloody Bones is the better for the inclusion of both CDs.
Most graduate students spend their time studying for comprehensive exams, giving conference papers, and readying their CV’s for the brutal academic job market. As a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, Holly Herndon is likely doing most or all of these things. But she is also crafting music of intense energy and winsome vitality that is being released commercially. It is nice to see the distinction between ‘academic music’ and ‘popular music’, between ‘electroacoustic music’ and ‘electronica,’ being utterly obliterated by her latest recorded outing Platform.
The use of electronic elements sits astride these two genres. There are beats aplenty that bump up against creatively morphed vocals and all manner of synthesizer magic. In terms of creative use of voices, I would put Herndon’s Platform alongside Jenny Hval’s Apocalypse Girl, Björk‘s Vulnicura, and Roomful of Teeth’s Render as this year’s exemplars thus far. It is exciting to contemplate what Herndon’s postgraduate work will look like.
Herndon also has an enthusiasm for the visual. Several of the album’s tracks feature creative videos in which she is the protagonist in somewhat skewed scenarios. For an imaginative example, check out the video for “Morning Sun” below.
A film by Derrick Belcham and Ruby Kato Attwood