A CLOSER LISTEN weekly #22
Wrapped, Jessica Moss, Ukraine, and (kinda) leaving Twitter
Dear Listeners! It’s that time again, and another full load of highlights to share with you. Here in Montreal, the semester will soon be coming to a close and I’m starting to come to terms with winter. If anyone reading this is local, Stefan Christoff and I will be playing a show on 15 December at La Sotterenea, with Ida Toninato & Joni Void, as well as a trio of Esther Bourdages / Nicola Di Croce / Alessandro Garino. I don’t have a link right now, but write me for more info.
Twitter has been very Twitter these days. I’ve run ACL’s social media since the beginning. Even if I have a somewhat ambivalent stance towards social media, I guess I’ve always been an early adopter as well. In fact, before ACL, many of us were involved with a blog called The Silent Ballet, and our original crew there came together in 2006 as the result of a particularly active LiveJournal community. It was always that combination of discovery and communication that drew me to the internet. But over the years these online spaces have become increasingly hostile and anxiety provoking, as the big Web 2.0 services have attempted to monetize their services, bombarding us with advertisements and suggested or sponsored posts. Since Twitter’s new owner took over a few weeks ago, we’ve seen a 1.75% decrease in our followers due to deactivated accounts. That’s not much, but it seems many folks are ready for a seachange. So if you’re interested, you can find us at Mastodon @firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re not planning on deactivating our Twitter, and I’ve set it up so that the accounts are synchronized (a post in one place is sent to both services). If you’ve been considering leaving Twitter for Mastodon, or are having trouble getting situated, Max Eddy at PCmag has some been publishing helpful articles. But who knows, maybe we’ll end up on Hive. I’m certainly thinking more about how much of my attention I can give to social media, but we want inquisitive listeners to be able to find us wherever they may be. Will be very interested to hear your thoughts.
Speaking of social media: End of Year List season is upon us. That means we’re starting to see Spotify Wrapped lists. Just today, I saw these two divergent opinions from two friends of the site:
I understand where they’re both coming from. As an artist, it’s great to have anyone engage with your work at all. So on that level, the ease of access Spotify affords is great. I like to see what people have been listening to. That’s all well and good. But Instagram isn’t in the same business as Spotify, so I don’t quite follow Matt’s analogy, and this really matters since social media companies like Instagram are mainly used for sharing user-generated content and circulating links, while Spotify has become a central node in international music distribution. Besides disputes over pay out rates (and how the few remaining Majors and the Big Indies operate as a cartel, devising a system that largely benefits them and not their artists, let alone real DIY artists) there’s a much more insidious aspect of algorithmic content suggestion. We sometime hear about “fake artists,” and that’s a serious issue, especially as AI becomes increasingly utilized to generate sounds and potential game the system. If you’re interested, I’d recommend the book Spotify Teardown Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music, as well as DeForrest Brown, Jr.’s article “How Platform Capitalism Devalued the Music Industry.” And collective action is important, so I certainly support the Justice at Spotify campaign coordinated by the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.
For what it’s worth, I don’t use Spotify personally, unless I’m invited to put together a mix for someone. I don’t begrudge anyone for using it, and as someone who was a teenage music fan in the ‘90s, I really do appreciate the ease of access it provides. Then again, as someone who teaches university students, it hasn’t seemed to make younger generations any better educated in terms of their exposure to music. If anything, it’s the opposite. The Smorgosboard may have discouraged real investment in discovery, and works counter to the kind of contemplative listening necessary to expand our horizons. Today’s music fans aren’t so siloed in terms of what genres they listen to, which is great, but nor do they seem to have the same investment in music scenes, something I think we’re all feeling in our local scenes. At the end of the day, that would be my main advice: invest in your local community, support local artists and venues, and buy music.
Even at the peak of my downloading days, I never stopped buying physical music, and certainly Bandcamp has continued to improve in terms of selection and features (their mobile app is really excellent). But of course the current economy isn’t just about paying for music or not. Artists don’t get a cut of sales from Discogs or from used record stores, but the secondary market remains an essential part of the music ecosystem. Some folks will buy up limited runs and jack up the prices on Discogs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sell used media, right? By the same token, that doesn’t mean that we can’t imagine a future where the moral rights of the artist are respected and part of those secondary market sales go to the artist. The copyright code in France and a few other countries has provisions for this, so it’s not like we don’t have a template to begin working with.
I guess my feelings about Spotify Wrapped are similar to my complaints about Record Store Day. It’s nice to have a dedicated day to celebrate music, but it’s better to make supporting artists and sharing what your listening to a regular practice. And anyway, as is so often the case, the “battlelines” here have us fighting each other instead of keeping our eye on where power really lies. Has average spending on media really declined over the decades? Or is our old music allowance going to our phone bill and internet service providers instead? Anyway, off the cuff thoughts on Wrapped wrapped. We’ll be sharing our own End of Year lists soon enough. But first:
SP* Episode 27: ATTUNEMENT – with Jessica Moss [podcast]
Jessica Moss has just released Galaxy Heart, a surprising collection of ten songs that form a companion to last year’s Phosphenes. The Montréal-based composer, violinist, and vocalist recorded the material for both records (and more) during the peak of early pandemic lockdown, allowing her songcraft to take new forms, as well as welcoming collaborators into her solo music for the first time. Moss, of course, is a prolific collaborator, and we have been a fan of her work for over two decades, particularly her 15-year tenure with Silver Mt. Zion. In this episode, Moss dives into the making of her two recent solo albums, the highs and lows of pandemic touring, the return of Black Ox Orkestar, and her collaborations with Vic Chesnutt and Jem Cohen.
Read more and listen to the podcast here. (Or subscribe to the show for free wherever you get your podcasts.)
Fortresses presents Near Inspirations [mix]
Fortresses is Sam Ashton, a London-based ambient artist who brought us last year’s Eve Inspirations, a delicate mix blending some of the influences that went into Eve, his debut EP for Yann Novak’s Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Fortresses returns to Dragon’s Eye with Near, a ten-minute composition drawing on field recordings Ashton made in Oregon’s marvelous forests during a transformative visit. The Londoner was inspired by the climate and natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest, and the slow undulating rhythms that anchor Near draw on his own explorations with the unfamiliar majestic forests. Near Inspirations presents music from some of our very favorite artists that also play with the listener’s sense of time in a similar manner. In our short interview below, Ashton talks a bit about his personal relationship with each of these tracks. So press play, take a walk, and get inspired. Enjoy!
Ukrainian Field Notes XVII
Unfortunately, Putin’s war on Ukraine continues, and so Gianmarco Del Re’s series Ukrainian Field Notes has had many more installments than we had first hoped.
Episode XVII takes us to Kyiv, Eastern Ukraine, Kremenchuk, Uzhoorod, 200 KM south of Kyiv, and Kharkiv, via Israel, Poland and Slovakia for a healthy dose of field recordings, drone, electronic, experimental, and industrial music with a touch of darkwave and dungeon synth. Along the way we ask Benjamin how vegan Ukraine is, we discuss coffee culture with Data Molfar, we engage in sound funambolism with Oleksii Lupashko, and compare air raid sirens from different parts of the country with Philipp Markovich.
Meanwhile Dahau Holidays bemone parents with dubious taste in music, The House Of The Hidden Light enthuses about Italian comics, tiho tiho surrenders to drone, Wim Dantinne lets a plank of willow wood go through his bone and marrow, and Olga Bekenshtein asks herself, Am I Jazz?
If that wasn’t enough Andrey Petrov journeys through the industrial wasteland of Donbass, and Mykyta Moiseiev takes us to the movies, while Symonenko ramps up the beats with his war tracks. This month has also seen the liberation of Kherson, although the city remains under constant shelling. The Ukrainian singer turned soldier Anastasia aka Stasik is currently there. Her most popular song, “Lullaby for the Enemy,” was remixed by Zavoloka and Kotra back in 2019.
But to begin with: the fourth episode of the Ukrainian Field Notes podcast that aired on Resonance FM on 16-11-2022 featuring Nina Eba.
Reviews are at the heart of ACL. Here are (excerpts from) a few of my favorite reviews we posted on the blog in the last few weeks.
Felicity Mangan ~ Train Tracks Recorded And Edited By Felicity Mangan
The sound of trains is especially soothing, so much so that decades ago one could find a multitude of LPs devoted to their tones. Trains have changed much since then ~ some may say they have lost their charm ~ but Felicity Mangan does much to revive their sonic status by embedding the trains in their surrounding sonic worlds. In “Train Tracks,” one can hear the clanging bell, the sounding clock, the bustling passengers, and the local birds who have made the station their home. In the third minute, some unusual sounds emerge, passing like supersonic takeoffs, backed by local radio. This modern electronic whoosh is far from the chugga-chugga of pistons past.
NO HAY BANDA ~ I had a dream about this place
The logic of dreams turns the unfamiliar familiar. When dreaming about strange scenes and places, they often seem strangely mundane, as if you’d experienced them before during waking hours. By titling their debut album I had a dream about this place, the Montreal-based ensemble NO HAY BANDA seem to be evoking the hazy strangeness that lingering memories of dreams can invoke, the feeling that outside forces are subtly guiding your nighttime ramblings. A collection of pieces by a relatively young, relatively Canadian cohort of composers whose work tends towards the electronic, the interdisciplinary, and the avant-garde, I had a dream about this place aims to showcase the artistic niche that have made NO HAY BANDA a mainstay within the North American experimental scene.
Noémi Büchi ~ Matter
Noémi Büchi may be new on the scene, but she incorporates elements of multiple centuries, name dropping four classical composers and six electronic composers. Her compositional technique splits the difference, as electronic sounds are layered in an orchestral fashion. The drums keep appearing and disappearing, but the sense of high drama remains. The cover demonstrates a mutability that is carried into the tracks. The appropriately named “Measuring All Possibilities” stops and starts while adjusting tempos and expectations.
To Move ~ To Move
Anna Rose Carter, Ed Hamilton and Alex Kozobolis join forces as To Move, their self-titled album an invitation to muse on the nature of change and response. At its core, To Move is an album for two pianos, until (as Sonic Pieces describes it), “the melodies are pulled and dragged.” While tape manipulation threatens to move the notes far from their moorings, an inherent magnetism keeps drawing them home. This makes the set a metaphor. One might think of a couple in love, and all the outer pressures put upon them; or even the stubborn tug of daily life on a person just trying to get by. Either way, the result is encouraging, because not only do the pianos “win,” the electronics do as well.
Vanessa Wagner ~ Mirrored
We’re extraordinarily lucky to have Vanessa Wagner. A first class pianist capable of genuine virtuosity, she chooses to use her exquisite craftsmanship to perform accessible minimalist works that are always at risk of getting dismissed by the snobs as too easy, too predictable. She shows what those in the know already know: this is music worthy of serious consideration. That’s not to say that her virtuosity isn’t on display in Mirrored, her new album: both of the Philip Glass Etudes performed on this album are densely packed, full of both notes and drama, but Wagner plays them with the ease of a master. She handles with similar nonchalance Camille Pepin’s exuberant and physically challenging “Number 1”, which appears just after halfway, and Moondog’s leaping “Seahorses”.
(complete list with Bandcamp links here)
We’re in the end run now. The night air is crisp, the shoppers are out and the holiday madness has begun. While others are writing their Christmas lists, we’re preparing our year-end lists. And while December is not the busiest time for new music, new music is still being released, and many 2023 albums have already been announced. Santa isn’t the only one on his way. New music is added daily; we hope you’ll find your next favorite album right here!
Aviva Endean ~ Moths & Stars (Room40, 2 December)
Benedikt Schiefer ~ Uncertainty (2 December)
Ben Peers ~ Procedure (Elli Records, 2 December)
Christoph Dahlberg ~ Blackforms (Teleskop, 2 December)
Christopher Cerrone ~ The Air Suspended (New Focus, 2 December)
Cloud Management ~ S/T (Altin Village & Mine, 2 December)
Elyse Tabet with Pascal Semerdjian and Yara Asmar ~ Low Toms Bright Bells and Darkest Spells (Ruptured, 2 December)
Frank Carlberg Trio ~ Reflections 1952 (577 Records, 2 December)
Gabriel Prokofiev ~ Strange Blooms + HOWL! (Oscillations, 2 December)
Jameson Nathan Jones ~ Somewhat the Same (2 December)
Laszlo Gardony Trio ~ Close Connection (Sunnyside, 2 December)
LULL ~ That Space Somewhere (Cold Spring, 2 December)
Lunt ~ Remember We Were Waiting for the Snow (Cruel Nature, 2 December)
mHz ~ Same Room, Another Day (LINE, 2 December)
Munchi ~ The Mambo Detanao EP (Nyege Nyege Tapes, 2 December)
Olli Aarni ~ Koko Maailma (Students of Decay, 2 December)
Score ~ Now Here (Cruel Nature, 2 December)
Tapefeed ~ Anterograde (Houndstooth, 2 December)
Terence Fixmer ~ Shifting Signals (Mute, 2 December)
Todeskino ~ MMMiniatures (Cruel Nature, 2 December)
Tokio Ono ~ Individuals (Not Not Fun, 2 December)
Tomáš Šenkyřík ~ Hajú (Slowcraft, 2 December)
u.r.trax ~ third ear (Trip Recordings, 2 December)
V/A ~ Imaginary Landscapes (99Chants, 2 December)
V/A ~ CD/Digital Package Deal (Shimmering Moods, 2 December)
Xao ~ Wirehead (C.A.N.V.A.S., 2 December)
Illusion of Safety & Z’ev ~ S/T (No Part of It, 4 December)
Ben Frost ~ Broken Spectre (5 December)
KEDA ~ Flow (Parentheses, 6 December)
Orphax / Phil Maguire ~ Rimpels / (sang in the wet trees) (Bivalve, 6 December)
The Broken Cradle ~ The Burial of the Dead (7 December)
Lea Bertucci ~ Xtended Vox (SA Recordings, 8 December)
Lord of the Isles ~ Subtle Thoughts (Lapsus, 8 December)
Eli Wallace ~ pieces & interludes (Infrequent Seams, 9 December)
Lichte Raum ~ Hier (iapetus, 9 December)
Mads Emil Nielsen ~ Black Box 3 (arbitrary, 9 December)
Oscar Peters ~ Breath (33-33, 9 December)
This Immortal Coil ~ The World Ended a Long Time Ago (Ici d’ailleurs, 9 December)
Vector Lovers ~ Capsule for One (Lapsus, 9 December)
Eric Van Thyne ~ Tape 1 (Audiobulb, 10 December)
Florence Cats ~ Ys (Edições CN, 10 December)
Silica Gel ~ Wooden Shoe (Sweet Wreath, 15 December)
BJM Mario Bajardi ~ Vortex (16 December)
BVDUB & Netherworld ~ Equilibrium (Glacial Movements, 16 December)
Camilla Pisani ~ Phant[as] (Aesthetical, 16 December)
Phauss ~ Audiodrome (Room40, 16 December)
VÖ ~ The Sounds of VÖ (thanatosis, 16 December)
Marco Chirico ~ Linea Invisible (Kasei Archive, 17 December)
Tomoyoshi Date ~ 438Hz As It is, As you are (LAAPS, 19 December)
Petri Huurinainen ~ Nico’s Grave (20 December)
Francesco Fonassi & Marta Salogni ~ l’ebbrezza delle grandi profondità (Canti Magnetici, 22 December)
Swansither ~ States (Subexotic, 23 December)
V/A ~ 111122 (Stochastic Resonance, 23 December)
Xqui ~ Hymns for Terry Francis (Subexotic, 23 December)
AKMEE ~ Sacrum Profanum (Nakama, 31 December)
Unwed Sailor ~ Mute the Charm (Spartan Records, 1 January)
Russ Young ~ Cloak (Audiobulb, 7 January)
Pacific Walker ~ S/T (Bluesanct, 13 January)
Uncertain ~ The Descending Spirals of Time (Bluesanct, 13 January)
Rainbow Island ~ Moonlit Panacea (Riforma, 18 January)
Lionel Marchetti & Decibel ~ Inland Lake (le lac intérieur) (Room40, 20 January)
V/A ~ Future Chorus (Hypermedium, 20 January)
Ruhail Qaisar ~ Fatima (Danse Noir, 27 January)
Hollie Kenniff ~ We All Have Places That We Miss (Western Vinyl, 30 January)
Grant Chapman ~ Indentations (Métron, 31 January)
Grand River ~ All Above (Editions Mego, 19 February)
Alexander Tucker + Keith Collins ~ Fifth Continent (Subtext, 24 February)
Erik Hall ~ Canto Ostinato (Western Vinyl, 24 February)
John Bence ~ Archangels (Thrill Jockey, 24 February)
Mark Harris / John 3:16 ~ Procession (Alrealon Musique, 3 March)
YoshimiOizumikiYoshiduO – To The Forest To Live A Truer Life (Thrill Jockey, 24 March)