A CLOSER LISTEN weekly #6
Return to live shows, some upcoming events, and another dispatch from Ukraine
Hello, Listeners. I’ve been a bit behind on everything lately, but trying to take it all in stride. At the beginning of the global pandemic, it struck me that this would be a marathon and not a sprint. Despite the current surge, I’m cautiously optimistic that things are somehow improving. Live shows have been happening here in Montréal again, after shutting down during the Omicron surge. Last fall I attended some concerts as part of the AKOUSMA festival, but other than that I hadn’t been to any indoor events since the pandemic began. It’s been wonderful to be part of an audience after so long, but truthfully it’s been a bit overwhelming at the same time.
This past weekend I attended the first night of the OK LÀ! concert series, losing steam for what were surely equally evocative concerts the following nights. After a DJ set in the lobby set the vibe, KMRU kicked off the night with a deep listening journey. [Read an interview with him from our archives here.] Next came a collaboration between local hero Sam Shalabi and Angel Bat Dawid, who first worked together remotely during the pandemic. The two have very distinctive styles, but clearly have a strong chemistry, and the result was stunning. Bat Dawid spoke to the crowd to give some context to the significance of this meeting, and evoking a technique learned from the late Chicago jazz musician Kelan Phil Cohran, led the audience in a collective vocalization to get the room vibrating. That’s not something we could do on a streaming concert. Lee Ranaldo rounded out the live music with a series of compositions for solo acoustic guitar, a Martin he later explained that he’d purchased for just $300 (Canadian!) some years earlier. Like many other musicians, Ranaldo found it hard to be creative in the early months of the pandemic. The first song he played was a longform composition that was the first thing he wrote after his pandemic pause. He also played a few songs from recent records, including one which adapted a poem by the late Michael McClure. Able to finally gather and experience music again collectively, it felt fitting that so much of the evening was dedicated to remembering those who have passed in recent years.
Speaking of which, our community suffered two terrible losses recently with the passing of Philip Jeck and Chantal Passamonte (Mira Calix). ACL extends our deepest sympathies to their friends, family, and fellow fans. I last saw Jeck perform in Torino in the summer of 2018, and had long been a fan of his unique approach to performing a record-player. It was 2008’s Sand (Touch) that first turned me on to his music, although I’d previously encountered some of his collaborations elsewhere. The news of Passamonte’s death the next day just compounded the sense of loss. Her chapter in Tara Rodgers’ Pink Noises made a lasting impression on me, and her catalog for Warp leaves a remarkable legacy. If you haven’t yet, please check out a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin (2020).
If you happen to be in New York, Matana Roberts will be premiering a new work at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University tomorrow, Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 8pm. Roberts is one of our favorite musicians and composers, and she’s assembled an impressive array of musicians for this performance, including friend-of-the-site GENG PTP. Roberts and co. will be making the world premiere commission of a new iteration of I call america: Sandy Speaks, a multimedia work for twelve improvising musicians written in reflection of Sandra Bland—her life and death.
Did you catch our recent review of Sontag Shogun x Lau Nau’s Valo Siroutuu?
Set to be released (on Beacon Sound) this Friday, they’re premiering the record on Blast Radio this Friday at 1pm EST. They will play the full album + bonus unreleased material from the recording session, and you’ll also hear from the artists and label as they discuss the process of making the album. To tune in, download Blast Radio (free on iOS and Android) and follow Sontag Shogun.
A few upcoming releases I’d like to highlight:
Our old friend Alex Gray recently announced he’d be retiring as D/P/I, shortly after announcing the return of his much-loved Deep Magic moniker. LA Tapes was just released, featuring four “ritualistic improvisations” recorded straight to tape in his South Central LA home back in 2015-16, before he relocated to Mexico. Don’t miss it.
One of the concerts I attended last month was the long delayed Montreal show from Armand Hammer (billy woods and ELUCID), touring in support of Haram, their stunning 2021 collab with The Alchemist. A truly gifted lyricist and MC, woods’ storytelling skills have continued to grow sharper over the years as he’s put in the work. Now, we haven’t exactly been starving for material from billy woods, who released a killer record with Moor Mother in 2020, a year which also saw the equally classic Armand Hammer LP Shrines. 2019 also featured the one-two punch of Hiding Places with Kenny Segal followed by Terror Management. Nonetheless we haven’t had a solo woods record since then, and so expectations are high that woods will continue his hot streak with Aethiopes, produced by Preservation, dropping on Friday.
Pow Wow singer Joe Rainey will release his debut album, Niineta, in May 2022 on 37d03d (the label founded by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National). His Pow Wow style descends from Indigenous singing accompanied by bass-heavy production from Minneapolis producer Andrew Broder. Rainey’s singing is deeply expressive and versatile, but regardless of the form each song takes, the message is clear: “We’re still here. We were here before you were, and we never left.” Rainey grew up a Red Lake Ojibwe in Minneapolis, a city with one of the largest and proudest Native American populations in the country, and birthplace of the American Indian Movement. I lived in South Minneapolis for four years, and I was always struck by the important role of the indigenous community in the area, something that may not have been as visible to an international audience during the 2020 uprisings but was still very much a part of that story. Rainey’s first single is “no chants” is out now, and you can check out the video while you wait for the release of the album.
Speaking of Minneapolis, I recently released Water is Life via my bandcamp. The first composition, “Mni Wiconi,” was recorded at various junctures around Minneapolis, including where the highway crosses the light rail tracks, a park under the flight path of landing planes, and several bridges crossing various rivers, including the mighty Mississippi. The piece is a meditation on how the natural circulation and flow of water has been interrupted by the imposition of our modern transit grids, which tend to ignore topology in favor of “rationalization.” “Mni Wiconi” was debuted on CKUT radio in Montreal in the summer of 2018, but otherwise never had a proper release. The second composition is an edited improvisation of my partner and I playing a series of instruments installed in Jackson Square Park in Northeast Minneapolis. The melodic sounds on the first track were sampled from these recordings, but after listening to them again recently I decided to make the two tracks available, perhaps some of you may enjoy them.
Lastly, Amulet’s Blooming was released one year ago, so it seems like a good time to share this conversation I had with him then. AMULETS is the solo project of Randall Taylor, who produces music via an evolving system of tape loop processing in conjunction with his electric guitar. Blooming was written and recorded during quarantine, and the guitar is given a renewed place of prominence. While tape loops are still central to the project, the guitar is the default sound source and key point of continuity across all Taylor’s work. And though produced in isolation, Blooming was inspired by the spring bloom Taylor witnessed on his daily walks. Quarantine had its own distorted rhythms which blurred our sense of time, as our usual habits were disrupted by the pandemic. Taylor was inspired by the contrast between social isolation and the larger natural cycles carrying on, enacting a parallel with his creative use of tape loops, and even a kind of return to musical influences of his youth. A year later, I think it’s safe to say that we’re starting to see that the pandemic has spurred a renewed interest in guitars, and “real” instruments in general. Like Lee Ranaldo’s decision to return to touring with the “simplest means” possible (an acoustic guitar). Taylor’s social media persona often emphasizes his tape loops and tape machines, but when I asked him if he could choose a favorite piece of gear, his answer surprised me:
I think out of all, I’m looking around at all these like machines. I have so many tape players. When I look at the tape players, if I just brought this TASCAM, it doesn’t do anything by itself. It’s a tool. And I think when I look at like my wall, I look at my Telecaster, that’s where music started for me; playing guitar. And that’s where it always starts, not being a machine. I just think it’s funny to look back at time you like that is where everything comes from. And without that, everything else around me, it’s kind of rendered useless. The tape recorder doesn’t do anything without an instrument, without sound that something recorded into it. I bring a guitar. The four-tracks, I use them all the time, but in conjunction with the actual sound making objects.
Read the entire conversation here.
UKRAINIAN FIELD NOTES II
Gianmarco Del Re returns with another dispatch from Ukraine.
According to figures from the UNHCR, almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population – more than 10 million people – have been forced from their homes. Some 3.7 million refugees have been forced to flee the country, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. An additional 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine’s borders, and at least 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation. Featuring interviews with система | system, The Wicker Man, Nata Teva, Hanna Svirska, Undo Despot, Elsa Quintin, and NFNR. Read the entire article here.
(complete list with Bandcamp links here)
Annea Lockwood & Maze ~ Bayou Borne / Jitterbug (Moving Furniture, 21 April)
Awe Kid ~ Body Logic (Atomnation, 22 April)
Glassmasterer ~ Kaossteedeethree (22 April)
James Heather ~ Invisible Forces (Ahead of Our Time, 22 April)
John the Silent ~ Mungo Sessions (Somewherecold, 22 April)
Jon Porras ~ Aroyo (Thrill Jockey, 22 April)
Menhir ~ Geomantic Works (Piano & Coffee Records, 22 April)
Noorvik ~ Hamartia (22 April)
Ohyung ~ imagine naked! (NNA Tapes, 22 April)
V/A ~ Liberty | Compilation of experimental music from Ukraine (Flaming Pines, 22 April)
Instruments of Happiness ~ Slow, Quiet Music in Search of Happiness (Redshift, 23 April)
Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino, Jérôme Noetinger ~ Maiandros (Editions Cave12, 24 April)
Ouseburn Collective ~ April (25 April)
Shonky ~ On the Run (Third Ear, 25 April)
Gintas K ~ Lėti (Cronica, 26 April)
Alex Petcu & Nathan Sherman ~ Totemic (Ergodos, 28 April)
Kiwi ~ Hedonistic Tendencies Pt. 1 (Polari, 28 April)
Audio Obscura vs. Black Sonar ~ A Scream from Outer Space (Subexotic, 29 April)
Civilistjävel! ~ Järnnätter (FELT, 29 April)
Cole Bartels ~ On the Brink (cmntx, 29 April)
Cyrus Pyreh ~ Still Here, Still Ripping (Astral Editions, 29 April)
Dorian Wood ~ Invasiva (Dragon’s Eye Recordings, 29 April)
Erik Friedlander ~ A Queen’s Firefly (Skipstone, 29 April)
Federico Mosconi ~ Air Sculptures (Lost Tribe Sound, 29 April)
Hans Kjorstad ~ Avkjølingshistorie (Motvind, 29 April)
KHOMPA ~ Perceive Reality (Monotreme, 29 April)
KMRU & Aho Ssan ~ Limen (Subtext, 29 April)
Lydian Dunbar ~ Blue Sleep (Room40, 29 April)
Malcolm Parson ~ Letters from Home (Moderna, 29 April)
Pluhm ~ Canzoni Di Buio E Luce (Subexotic, 29 April)
Safa ~ Ibtihalat (UIQ, 29 April)
Soñder ~ Broken in Place (Somewherecold, 29 April)
UFO Over Lappland ~ Spokraketer (Burnt Toast Vinyl, 29 April)
William Basinski & Janek Schaefer ~ “…on reflection…” (Temporary Residence, 29 April)
ξόρκι/ουλφαάμ/αθούρα ~ ΘΕΜΕΛΙΑ (Λα Μουρμίντζ, 1 May)
Matt Christensen & Dousing ~ Unknown Pressures (Profane Illuminations, 1 May)
Quentin Tolmieri ~ Monochromes (Elsewhere, 1 May)
Beneather ~ S/T (2 May)
Crows Labyrinth/Distant Fires Burning/Joe Doe One/Stratosphere ~ Bassbients (Móatún 7, 2 May)
Tomo-Nakaguchi ~ Tayutau (Audiobulb, 4 May)
Adrian Copeland ~ If This Were My Body (Lost Tribe Sound, 6 May)
Andy Cartwright ~ Form Less Ness (A Quiet Room Recording, 6 May)
Floating World Pictures ~ The Twenty-Three Views (Floating World Pictures, 6 May)
Iluiteq ~ The Light Inside, The Dark Outside (n5MD, 6 May)
John Natchez ~ Luzzu OST (Phantom Limb, 6 May)
Kalia Vendever ~ Regrowth (New Amsterdam, 6 May)
Kevin Drumm ~ 120121 (Vaagner, 6 May)
Netherworld ~ Vanishing Lands (Glacial Movements, 6 May)
Reyes/Stokowy Duo ~ Northern: Ashroud Is My Country (American Dreams, 6 May)
Robert Takahashi Crouch ~ Ritual Variations (Room40, 6 May)
Rubin Henkel ~ Restless (7K!, 6 May)
Serpente ~ Dias da Aranha (Discrepant, 6 May)
Spacefood ~ Once They Get In Here (Taps Head) It’s Game Over Man (square ears, 6 May)
Stefan Goldmann ~ Vector Rituals (Macro, 6 May)
TONED ~ S/T (6 May)
Zimoun ~ Guitar Studies I-III (Room40, 6 May)
Manel Fortià ~ Despertar (Segell Microscopi, 12 May)
The Corrupting Sea ~ Talking to Trees (Histamine Tapes, 13 May)
India Galley ~ to you through (Redshift, 13 May)
Martin Küchen ~ Utopia (Thanatosis, 13 May)
Reykjanes ~ Water Wanderings (Piano & Coffee Records, 13 May)
Spencer Zahn ~ Pale Horizon (Cascine, 13 May)
Eric Copeland ~ Spiral Stairs (les albums claus, 15 May)
First Third ~ Salvage (Machine Records, 16 May)
Trance Farmers & Kourtney Roy ~ Queen of Nowhere (IIKKI, 19 May)
Andrew Bernstein ~ a presentation (Hausu Mountain, 20 May)
Automatisme & Stefan Paulus ~ Gap/Void (Constellation, 20 May)
Brandon Seabrook ~ In the Storm (Astral Spirits, 20 May)
Joe Rainey ~ Niineta (37d03d, 20 May)
Jon Porras ~ Arroyo (Thrill Jockey, 20 May)
Leon den Engelsen ~ Home (Piano & Coffee Records, 20 May)
Mary Lattimore & Paul Sukeena ~ West Kensington (Three Lobed Recordings, 20 May)
Matmos ~ Regards/Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer (Thrill Jockey, 20 May)
Peter Coccoma ~ A Place to Begin (Whatever’s Clever, 20 May)
Traverse ~ Slow Moving Apocalypse (Somewherecold, 20 May)
Zoh Amba feat. William Parker and Francisco Mela ~ O Life, O Light Vol. 1 (577 Records, 20 May)
Soft Ffog ~ S/T (Is It Jazz?, 27 May)
Timothy Fairless ~ Rising Water (Flaming Pines, 27 May)
V/A ~ Perceptions Vol. 3 (Bigo & Twigetti, 27 May)
V/A ~ Spring Snow (Mirae Arts, 27 May)
Giacomelli ~ Return of the Return (Somewherecold, 28 May)
Spacepilot ~ Hyaena Worlds (577 Records, 31 May)
Daniel Carter, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver ~ Welcome Adventure! Vol. 2 (577 Records, 3 June)
Jim Perkins ~ Immersed in Clouds Reworks (Bigo & Twigetti, 3 June)
Ralph Heidel ~ Modern Life (Kryptox, 3 June)
MimiCof ~ Distant Symphony (Karlrecords, 10 June)
Yamila ~ Visions (Umor Rex, 10 June)
Yann Tiersen ~ 11 5 18 2 5 18 (Mute, 10 June)
Glenn Jones ~ Vade Mecum (Thrill Jockey, 24 June)
Black Sky Giant ~ Falling Mothership (Made of Stone, 30 July)