Podcast Episode 56 now available!

A great set of tunes for episode 56 of the Words on Sounds podcast, featuring:
--synth zoners for days from Kyle Landstra's side of a killer new split onLillerne Tapes
--percussion-fueled adventures from Booker Stardrum's solo debut on NNA Tapes
--lowercase improv from Ex You on Small Scale Music
--Immersive atmospheres from Grand Banks on Oxtail Recordings
--a piece from the third installment of the La Forêt rouge trilogy, via La cohu
--some americana-infused brilliance from More Eaze on Full Spectrum Records
--gorgeous layers of flute from Paul R. Marcano's side of a near-perfect split on Constellation Tatsu
--Americana released to the brainiac-wolves known to we mortals as Walls Of Genius
--EVI/synth duets from the Bambi Kino duo's excellent tape on International Anthem
--one of 16 amazing "tapestry" pieces from the sprawling, incredible Stag Harequadruple tape on Inner Islands
--and a great synclavier composition from the late Frank Zappa, who would have turned 75 today.
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast episode 55 now available!

This week's episode of Words on Sounds features:
--intense synth-heavy live work from Troum's 7'' on Tourette Records
--harsh percussion manipulation on UOOOU's tape on Full Body Massage Records
--A classic instrumental cut from The Goner's disc on Deep Water Acres
--epic postrock atmospheres from INSECT FACTORY's new tape on Already Dead Tapes & Records
--an excerpt of an '81 home recording by Debbie Jaffe and Hal McGee on the new Invisible Shadows double-disc audio documentary
--a potent film cue earworm from Fuchs & Beckett's Lucky O.S.T. tape on Mirror World Music
--deep listening from the new Loren Chasse tape on Notice Recordings
--a killer chamber work from Qasim Naqvi's new tape/CD on NNA Tapes
--a weird, bouncy ditty from Larry Wish on Orange Milk Records
--heavily edited mysterious vibes from Amalgamated on Bicephalic Records
--new German Army-related work from the s/t debut of Germ Class on Night-People Records/ Wet Hair
--and a great slab of minimalist industrial/punk from aarum on OJC Recordings
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast episode 54 now available!

This week's edition of Words on Sounds features excellent new music including:
--nearly psychic voice/trumpet interplay from Twins of El Dorado on Prom Night Records
--an adventurous synth journey from E GONE's latest tape on Zeon Light Kassett
--dark prog/psych from Chile's incredible Un Festín Sagital, via Black Horizons
--Irish psych freakouts from Woven Skulll's latest jam on Eiderdown Records
--spacious guitar/resonance treatments from Black Spirituals on RATSKIN Records.
--electronics/percussion zones from Brian Osborne's split with Dan Peck onHeat Retention Records
--a new German Army jam from their Opal Tapes cassette
--symphonic textures from the new Head Dress tape on Cønjuntø Vacíø
--fantastic drum/guitar structures from the latest Ahleuchatistas album onInternational Anthem
--moody old-school industrial/psych from the Twilight Circus Dub Sound System/Edward Ka-Spel collab on Tourette Records
--and burning improv from Survival Unit III via Astral Spirits
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast episode 53 now available!

You're in for set of serious textures and atmospheres on this week's episode of the Words on Sounds podcast, featuring:
--an intense introduction to a Dead Voices on Air series on Tourette Records
--tense vibes from the new Grand Mal x tape on Black Horizons
--gritty looped textures from Rigel Magellan on OJC Recordings
--overdubbed violin-fueled grind from Joey Molinaro, now on cassette viaAuris Apothecary
--ominous atmospheres from the new NIKTA tape on Already Dead Tapes & Records
--transcendant, metallic waves from Ant'lrd via Inner Islands
--primal, tribal pop from Diva 93 on the awesome Party Music 4-way split onHairy Spider Legs
--bold synth-ing where no synths have gone before by Three Fourths Tigerson Field Hymns
--more great synths from Spain's Sentionaut on the young Cintas Chromo label
--serious industrial textures from CARTHAGE on a great new label, Still Heat Recordings
--live duo improv from Rafael Toral's Space Collective on Notice Recordings
--and modular mayhem from Mysterious House on Moss Archive
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast Episode 52 now available!

This week's edition of the Words on Sounds Podcast features lots of great new music, including:
--my favorite piece from the great new Giant Claw tape on Orange Milk Records
--heavy electronic textures from the new Big Debbie jam on RATSKIN Records..
--a melancholy tune from John Dillon's tape on the new label Never Anything Records/Tereshkova
--Intense sequencer jams from Volume 2 of Arvo Zylo's sequencer works on No Part Of It
--deep synth zoners from Majeure's beautiful new tape on Constellation Tatsu
--fragmented psych-songwriting from Guide To Bizarre Behavior's latest tape on ShanGORIL La Records
--guitar drones from Bbjr's tape on Warm Gospel
--instrumental transcendence from Evening Fires via Deep Water Acres
--innovative guitar arrangements of Bach via the new Patrick Higgins album on Telegraph Harp
--classic modular mayhem from Richard Pinhas just reissued on Cuneiform Records
--and drum/synth duo adventures from Wume's latest album on Ehse Records
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


A Labyrinth and a Maze: Ariadne and Zeek Sheck

For me, the best music continues to reveal itself over time. Repeated listening sessions tease out hidden meaning, subtle nuances within dense orchestration, a new perspective that connects with a different mood: like any relationship, it’s a process. Two of my most recent favorite albums embody their own paths toward this foundational kind of musical understanding quite overtly in the symbolism of their formal structures. Here are a few of my thoughts about this incredible music, as well as two invaluable approaches to deep listening made easy as pie when the right sounds are made by the right hands.

Ariadne - Tsalal

Ariadne is an immersive “sacred music” project based in Brooklyn, and “Tsalal” is their first full-length. Working with as much attention to detail in digitally rendered video as music, this duo almost needs a new kind of discipline to describe the totality of their work: “sacred multimedia,” perhaps? The band is named after the Greek mistress of labyrinths, and the video for opening track “I Thirst” emerges quite literally with a labyrinth image, slowly descending into an intense multidimensional underworld.

Musically, the assertive melodies of “Tsalal” draw from early music influences, and perhaps a bit from more contemporary industrial/world artists in terms of production and atmosphere (Dead Can Dance and Current 93 come to mind). But flawless production values and rich reverbs aside, this is no pop project: the music is hewn from a wide range of digital electronics, with a devotion to glitches, open space, and jarring percussion textures. “Tsalal” is Hebrew for the notion of “becoming dark,” and the lyrics for these pieces embody the concept with painful clarity, narrating a slow descent from a position of weakness, through death itself, and into a kind of ain that an optimist like me turns into the beginning of another “fool’s journey.” Or perhaps the switch simply remains off—I’ll leave that one up to you, dear listener.

Traveling a long, winding course within a circumscribed space, labyrinths can be a catalyst for focused and ongoing meditation, and this music demands that level of attention. This is a music of extremes, sometimes veering from feeling claustrophobically trapped to larger than the heavens within the space of a minute. The flawless production and skilled vocal work of Christine Lanx contrast acutely with regular encroachments of glitches, cutting through the atmosphere like a peek behind a ceremonial matrix. And as sacred as this music often feels, the emphasis on ominous sounds and stark grayscale imagery in the videos evokes a sort of creepypasta vibe as well. Taken as a whole, “Tsalal” is a potent, mythical journey—not exactly the kind that brightens up your day or pumps you up in some “hero’s journey” fashion, but instead our collective facades and personal prisons are brought into necessarily dim focus.

My favorite piece here, both musically and visually, is “Forsaken.” Both the video and the music investigate a unique approach to light within mostly-darkened space: as a particularly enduring melody slowly unfolds, the companion video focuses on a stray beam of light as it slips into a mostly-enclosed aquatic space. As the visual perspective gradually shifts viewpoints around this scrap of light, the music seems to turn with it. It’s a powerful multisensory experience.

But if you want to share the video vibes of “Forsaken,” you’re going to need to track down the physical edition of “Tsalal,” which was issued on a microSD card by Auris Apothecary. It’s an unconventional media format choice, no doubt—the tiniest conceivable object tasked with containing such a tremendous formal work—but it’s also an effective way to distribute Ariadne’s work with the full-resolution audio and video it demands. You can find several videos for “Tsalal” pieces at Ariadne’s Youtube page, but to experience all of them, as well as a nicely-produced digital booklet, you’re going to want to pick up the physical edition right here.

Zeek Sheck - JOINUS

Where Ariadne’s work is circumscribed within The Labyrinth, detailing a grand descent, Zeek Sheck’s fifth and final opus, “JOINUS,” works in almost the opposite direction: already deep underground in The Maze, whose escape route has been lost to time, ascent is the goal of our heroic Cloud People. 

JOINUS is the story of escape from a maze “built to be super complex,” but the story proves to be an exasperatingly complex maze itself, the culmination of a circuitous mythology leading all the way back to the beginning of the ZS project in the 90s (and even the subliminal-ish healing tapes predating the music). The music is every bit as fascinating as the narrative: veering from off-off-broadway feral chant-alongs to plodding early Ralph Records weirdness, combining an idiosyncratic approach to the folk tradition with industrial textures and acid-psych atmospheres, the songs behind the Blue Door and the Red Door will scramble your inner reception. And that’s just the first LP. On the 2nd record, the Yellow Door and the Green Door open into side-length worlds of modular arpeggios, electroacoustic soundscapes, and aberrant contemporary classical chamber ensembles, getting closer to the surface as each improbable minute passes.

I think I said something like this the last time I highlighted a Resipiscent release, but seriously: when I first got into 20th C. “classical” composition stuff, this music is exactly what I hoped to hear someday. Uncompromising. Unpredictable. Adventurous. Truly free. There are so few albums that can totally nail weird songwriting and ambitious “art music” approaches, and JOINUS makes it sound effortless. And it gets even more engaging with each repeated listen. The more we all tune in, focusing our energy on music that can embody parts challenge, chaos, and redemption, we might collectively have a fighting chance at getting out of our own godforsaken maze and joining up with the Cloud People again.

I suspect that a lot of weirdo music folks are already familiar with the earlier Zeek Sheck albums, especially the first two that came out on Skin Graft in the early 90s. I’m bummed to admit that I totally missed out the first time around, so the whole wild world of ZS has become almost an obsession of mine over the last year. While you certainly don’t need to hear the earlier albums to dig on JOINUS, I’m sure glad I went back to check them out. And this is the perfect, epic place to start if you’ve never met the Beepers or Shecks or Cloud People before.

Seriously, one of the best albums of the last decade, and one that will never live far from my turntable. The beautiful inner gatefold features amazing door/maze/surface artwork, and if you want to dig into the specifics of the broader Zeek Sheck story, you’ll find the finale of JOINUS detailed in full at http://www.zeeksheck.com. But head to Resipiscent Records right now, and get some Zeek Sheck in your life.


Podcast episode 51 now available!

A great week captured on Words on Sounds podcast # 51, featuring:
--new-no-wtf-wave wildness from the lost final le Flange du Mal album, finally seeing the light of day via resipiscent
--a killer tune from the latest Guerilla Toss tape on DFA RECORDS
--environmental oscillations from STRNGLV's side of a gorgeous split on Aubjects
--rapid-fire code-borne oscillations from G.S. Sultan's new tape on Orange Milk Records
--mysterious rumbles from a phenomenal charity compilation by and for Life Changing Ministry, a crucial performance space in Oakland
--one of the coolest things I've heard all year from Matt Weston's new tape onTape Drift Records
--another great cut from the amazing Voicehandler disc on Humbler
--an excerpt from a new guitar/coding collab between Christopher Riggs andCarl Testa
--another great duo, featuring Colin Fisher and Ricardo Lagomasino, onTombed Visions Records
--and an excerpt of the intense new studio album from The Necks on Northern Spy
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast episode 50 now available!

The 50th edition of the Words on Sounds podcast is a heavy one, featuring:
--the latest excellent self-release tape from Macho Blush
--meditative soundscapes from Selaroda's latest tape on Inner Islands
--a classic German Army cut from their new split 7'' with Novy Svet onTourette Records
--intense trio trancework from Tandaapushi on their new disc on JVTlandt
--circuit-bent ivory-tickling from the new Dorosoto jam on Moss Archive
--incredible psych-zoners from Zeta One's new tape on Eiderdown Records
--more impossible-to-categorize beauty from More Eaze/Marcus M. Rubioon Kendra Steiner Editions
--some deep synth work from Andrew Bernstein's amazing new tape onHausu Mountain
--deep listening from the new Small Things on Sundays tape onMetaphysical Circuits
--and a segment from a long-form minimalist behemoth by Wozzeck onspina rec


Podcast episode 49 now available!

A creative and intense podcast on this week's Words on Sounds, which includes:
--beautiful quarter-tone contemporary pop approaches from Erica Eso's upcoming album on Ramp Local
--peaceful piano cycles from Rhucle on Oxtail Recordings
--the latest from Peter Kris on Geology Records
--intense new psych-power-trio work by Dead Sea Apes via Sunrise Ocean Bender
--deep percussion zones from Jon Mueller's latest tape on Rhythmplex
--The hard-hitting return of X__X on Smog Veil Records
--A great extended-technique solo cello workout from Jen Hill's new disc onKendra Steiner Editions
--heavy string improv from In The Sea's new tape on Astral Spirits
--cosmic synths from BABEL's latest tape on Metaphysical Circuits
--and heavy zoners that can't be denied from the new Venereal Crush double-disc.
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Riding the blood moon eclipse with Dan Peck: Premature Burial and The Gate

Premature Burial (photo by Peter Gannushkin)
As I finish typing up this little piece, the heavens are falling into creepy alignment: autumn has just lumbered into place; a total lunar eclipse is happening right now, and it's a blood moon, and it's a supermoon, and the eclipse is the culmination of a tetrad. Holy astronomical Moses! Some folks speculate that the end times begin in mere hours, and if they're right, perhaps we're about to part ways amidst trumpets, angels, and (hopefully) gory bouts of rapture, dear readers.

But if we should be so lucky to live, love and listen another day, may I suggest putting a couple of new Dan Peck-related recordings between your ears? In another feat of astronomical synchronicity, two of this brilliant composer/improvisor/tuba gymnast's most ominous projects are dropping new albums within a rough week of each other. If you're ready to welcome fall with great writing, sensitive improvisation and an embrace of aural heebie-jeebies, you can't do better than The Gate's new album "Chuck" on Astral Spirits and the debut of Premature Burial on New Atlantis Records.

The Gate - Chuck

The Gate started out under the more conventional jazz-act name of the Dan Peck Trio, releasing "Acid Soil" all the way back in 2009. Assuming their current moniker with a pair of brutal albums in 2012, Peck leads this powerful trio (featuring Tom Blancarte on upright bass and Brian Osborne on percussion) into lower, slower, and darker corners than most tuba players or jazz cats have ever gone. Doom and drone metal are the main points of reference for this music, and the concept works wonderfully with the double-low-end attack of Blancarte and Peck. Subsonic riffing punctuates wild rides full of extended-technique playing, and the trio can produce sounds both more caustic and congealed than one might expect to be possible with this orchestration.

The A-side of the new "Chuck" cassette on Astral Spirits finds The Gate in harsh free improv mode, somewhat an extension of their "Vomit Dreams" disc from 2012. Putting the whole doom/drone vibe aside, I think many folks into killer improv will dig this side with or without the metal-band-emulation conceit on their minds. This is simply great playing: dynamic, diverse, full frequency, and high energy. These jams fit perfectly into the Astral Spirits oeuvre, and in case you're not already on board, you should be stalking this label with a passion if you're into improvised music. Astral Spirits is the contemporary cassette label equivalent of BYG/Actuel in my book, their every curatorial choice a revelation.

On the B-side, the core trio is joined by Nate Wooley on trumpet and Tim Dahl on electric bass (as they were on their most recent LP "Stench"), and the quintet turns in a haunting performance of a through-composed piece called "The Huldrefish." Named after an eerie 19th century nautical tale that reads like a surprising antecedent to Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos, this composition perfectly conjures a nightmare-ride into lands of unknown and unimaginable monsters. Following a calm but foreboding introductory section, full of great cymbal work and low oceanic murmurs, The Gate eventually brings you eye to missing-eye with strange, aggressive, and impossible audio attacks, finally coming back to shore with distant brass and basses moving back into the shadows. This is easily the best piece recorded so far by The Gate, a project that continues to evolve and brutalize more effectively with every album. Pick up a copy of "Chuck" from Astral Spirits here while supplies last.

Premature Burial - The Conjuring

Another haunted trio with Dan Peck on tuba, Premature Burial is a new group featuring Matt Nelson on sax and Peter Evans on piccolo trumpet. Where The Gate works to evoke massive external narratives of terror, Premature Burial explores the macabre on a more human scale and in much closer proximity. Without percussion to anchor these pieces, "The Conjuring" instead deploys massive batteries of effects. Like Matt Nelson's excellent sax+effects solo album "Lower Bottoms" from last year, there are many moments where the acoustic sources behind these sounds become very hard to determine: drones become electronic and progress without the need for breathing, sounds distort and mutate through filters, flutter-tongued passages become industrial spectres, and harmonizers turn atonal phrases into intimidating sub-ensembles.

True to the Edgar Allen Poe tale that inspired their name, Premature Burial builds their pieces around claustrophobic, frenzied peaks, their recording cleverly spread across the stereo field to give listeners the perception of being attacked from multiple directions at once. However, in their more subdued moments, the acoustic properties of the church where these recordings were made almost become a fourth member of the ensemble, persistent reverb keeping even the most delicate passages from feeling like they occupy an identifiable location in the mix. Always shifting though never far away, my favorite moments on "The Conjuring" feel like they're an invocation of the voice of this space itself, a lonely place that's seen better days, a voice grown old and unaccustomed to listeners.

Like "Chuck," if you're not into digging the "scary music" caprice behind this album, you'll still find a lot to love in "The Conjuring." Besides the intense extended technique playing and creative effects, all three members of Premature Burial have moments in these pieces where they lay down some seriously virtuosic lines. Though I haven't heard them yet, the download that accompanies each LP purchase of this record includes some additional solo cuts by each member that are likely to include some more moments of instrumental badassery. But if you want to check those out, you'll need to head over to the New Atlantis Records Bandcamp page while you still can: "The Conjuring" drops on October 2nd, and those Ende Tymes may be just around the corner...

Podcast episode 48 now available!

This week's Words on Sounds is a serious treat. I'm having a hard time typing this up, as I'd rather go back and listen to it again myself. Episode 48 features:
--mythically potent-yet-ultra-contemporary sacred architecture fromARIADNE's debut full-length on Auris Apothecary
--doom/drone-meets sharp improv on the latest from The Gate on Astral Spirits
--trance-inducing bellows-driven textures from the new Coppice album on Category of Manifestation
--enthralling entheogenic electronics from Common Future
--shimmering guitar soundscapes from Bbjr's new Boyle/Bucko collab on Personal Archives
--incredible bedroom chamber-avant-pop from Ali Helnwein on Spring Break Tapes
--drone/texture mastery from Mike Nigro's latest tape on A Giant Fern--longer-than-usual early industrial narratives from German Army's short tape/shirt treasure on Castle Bravo Tapes
--rich improvisation from Say Spirit's tape on Small Scale Music
--and wild guitar duo improv from Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields on New Atlantis Records
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Words on Sounds 47 now available!

Episode 47 of Words on Sounds features tons of great new music played from our humble laser-loving compact disc friends:
--drum/guitar journeys from Sex Funeral's latest disc on Bbjr's Personal Archives
--deep listening from More Eaze/Marcus M. Rubio on Kendra Steiner Editions
--fried-treble ritual-club freakouts from The Big Drum In The Sky Religions latest on The Centipede Farm
--positively impeccable microediting composition from Noah Creshevsky's latest disc on EM Records Osaka Japan
--complex compositional forms for piano trio from Jeff Kowalkowski's new disc for New Atlantis Records
--ever-shifting textures from the upcoming White Out/Nels Cline album onNorthern Spy
--low-register tuba/bass doom from The Gate on Carrier Records
--nice piano/synth explorations from BABEL's new disc on Assembly Field
--an excerpt of John Krausbauer's intense new drone piece on Debacle Records
--and gorgeous fretless acoustic work from Jack Mazzenga's new solo "avant-Americana" disc
Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Podcast episode 46 now available!

This week's edition of the Words on Sounds Podcast has a bunch of great new music you need to hear, including:
--pensive song structures from the newest Andreas Brandal tape on Field Hymns
--early industrial textures from German Armys new tape on Golden Cloud Tapes
--frequently funky jams from the new La Forêt rouge tape on Small Scale Music (2nd in their 2015 trilogy)
--insane rhythms from Darren Keen's new LP on Orange Milk Records
--incredibly fluid improv from the Chris Pitsiokos Trio's new disc on New Atlantis Records
--hyperkinetic baroque-core from the Igorrr and Ruby My Dear collab EP onAd Noiseam
--noise walls of the great plains on the new MUSICIAN tape on The Centipede Farm
--retrofuture synth delights galore on MKM's fantastic record on Verlag System
--brilliant early punk/industrial/no-wave collisions almost lost to time from Tools You Can Trust, lovingly brought back to life by BFE records
--and one of my favorite pieces of the year on a recent tape by cinchel
Tune in, turn on, drop out!

Rhucle - Summer Candle

It's been a wild ride here at Words on Sounds HQ for quite some time, and it keeps getting busier. Most days, I get a sense of exhilaration trying to keep up with various responsibilities, but every so often, an overwhelming week sneaks into the picture. You know the routine: time is tight, money is tight, and things start breaking and failing, demanding immediate attention, and your frustration levels climb into the red, and...

Enter the new Rhucle tape on Oxtail Recordings. In the midst of a particularly crazy week, "Summer Candle" arrived in my mailbox, and within a few minutes, gentle synths with a hearty proportion of wind/water field recording sounds had me feeling more relaxed than I had in a long time. Most of the album continues along this path, alternating between synth pads with coastal field recordings and short, very sentimental piano pieces. They create a tranquil rhythm in juxtaposition, nudging your ears back and forth from interior and exterior aural spaces, each with a unique sense of intimacy and unforced immediacy. There are a few other field recordings of unknown origin mixed in as well, like the animal sounds in "Yonder Heaven" that seem to blend zoo and farm sources whose four-legged bleats sometimes sound like they're singing along with their synth pad counterparts.

As centered and refreshed as this tape makes me feel, "Summer Candle" isn't just a new-age mood enhancer. Special attention must be directed to "Glisten," one of the piano-based pieces, for particularly thoughtful composition and arranging. Over its nine minutes, "Glisten" takes a small set of motivic ideas through continuous permutations, uniting mellow/ambient vibes with a more rigorous kind of minimalism--think of those moments where the music of Reich or Glass seems to be suspended in time--and doing it all so smoothly that the compositional technique is transparent.

Check out Summer Candle for yourself here. Or if you need to take two of these and call me in the morning, you can find more at the Rhucle Bandcamp page.