Watch: Kvien & Sommer “Kwan” (exclusive)

24 Jun 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Kvien & Sommer is the collaborative project of two highly acclaimed Norwegian musicians, vocalist and improviser Mari Kvien Brunvoll and composer/multi-instrumentalist Espen Sommer Eide. We're not sure if Weathering, the duo's four-track mini album, is a one-off affair or even the result of a set of spontaneous creative impulses. But it certainly reaffirms Karelia-based imprint Full of Nothing's position as one of the most adventurous and forward-minded cassette labels out there. Described as containing "four broken suites for voice, modular synthesizers, bagpipe and various sound objects", Weathing is an unassuming yet subtly bold collection of contemporary exerimental music. Of all tracks, "Kwan" is the easiest to access upon first listen, a quiet, pensive movement focused on a fractured rhythm pattern, with melodic fragments merely insinuated at most. The piece only reveals its hidden marvels when taken together with the accompanying video by Piotr Pajchel, an equally abstract series of circles and grainy waveforms in black and white. Watch it below.

Weathering is out now on Full of Nothing. Get the cassette over here.

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Interview: LYKANTHEA

23 Jun 2015 — Henry Schiller

In her video for "Parturition" ambient artist Lykanthea walks slowly from an ancient Etruscan burial ground before settling in the sea. The mythic, almost otherworldy video is fitting: The Rome-based Chicagoan, whose real name is Lakshmi Ramgopal, wrote much of the EP Migration while studying ancient ruins on the remote Greek island of Delos.

Last week I spoke with Lykanthea over email about her time spent on Delos, the Sumerian mythology that inspired her EP, and the difficulties of pursuing a music career and a PhD at the same time. Check out the video for "Parturtion" below, and read my interview with Lykanthea after the jump.


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Stefana Fratila “Tugging”

22 Jun 2015 — Henning Lahmann

According to herself mainly considered a performance-based artist (check out her incredible and important live piece "no history" over here and make sure to read the accompanying explanation), Romanian-born and Vancouver-based musician Stefana Fratila released her latest recording Efemera right in time for summer solstice yesterday. The ten-track work explores intersecting narratives of noise, electronica, and psychedelic pop, all interwoven within and across the individual tracks. Some parts are dominated by straightforward 4/4 beat patterns, while others meander along seemingly unstructured washes of sonic interference. "Tugging", which you can stream below, lies somewhere in between: built around an intricate rhythm that slowly dissolves into a house-informed beat, the song is mainly carried by Fratila's layered, deliberately salient vocals. Originally recorded years ago and then revisited earlier this year, it would be interesting to reconstruct the individual steps of the song's evolution.

Efemera is out now on Trippy Tapes. You can buy it on cassette and digitally over on bandcamp.

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Watch: Katapulto “Blue Eyes” (exclusive)

22 Jun 2015 — Henning Lahmann

There are basically two ways to do an Elton John cover. You can either make an attempt to out-romance the master himself, in which case you should ensure that your video involves tiny cats and Super-8 videography. Or you try something else, like going all meta for instance. Enter Bristol-via-Poland artist Wojtek Rusin, whose work as Katapulto has been described as "kinda like a brighter, ostensibly straighter adjunct to Autre Ne Veut", a comparison not necessarily obvious (or convincing) if the two didn't happen to be championed by Olde English Spelling Bee, still one of the most important underground labels of the last five years. For "Blue Eyes", a song taken from his recently released full-length Powerflex, Rusin not only reinterprets the original itself, turning it into the greasy synth anthem John actually should have come up with in 1982. Almost carrying the joke too far, on top of that he encroaches on the video, extracting the original's overblown white grand piano and presenting it in glaring high definition, before rather literally deconstructing this ultimate symbol of decaying pop grandeur.

Powerflex is out on Olde English Spelling Bee. Get it over here.

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Review: Good Moon Deer “Dot”

22 Jun 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

This past April, at a small venue in downtown Reykjavík, Icelandic producer Good Moon Deer's live setup looked misleadingly straightforward. A small table housed all of the equipment from which Guðmundur Úlfarsson played tracks off his newest album, Dot. He stood perpendicular to the audience’s gaze. To his right, and directly opposite where I sat, a video projection of ballerinas’ legs in faded VHS colors seemed to dance oddly along to the mechanical commotion.

Úlfarsson bounced. Each touch to his equipment seemed a touch of destruction. With every tap, the beat fell apart, the strings splintered, vocal samples abruptly ended. He bowed his head with every stride from right to left, delighting in the tumult he seemed to so easily generate with a touch of the finger. The disorientation was thrilling. And perhaps the only experience that compares to watching Úlfarsson break things apart live is listening to his debut LP, Dot. Ominous and brooding and yet bright, Dot is an opus of the Internet age.

Úlfarsson's background as a graphic designer, and more specifically a typographer, seems worth mentioning. Dot is designer's album, though not in the sense that it flashes or bedazzles. It holds to a minimal aesthetic, though not in the sense that it lacks. Admittedly, words seem to fail me as I attempt to arrive at what it is that Dot does. It is negligent but not under-done, it is ominous but not evil, it is masculine but feminine like a ballerina all the same.

There are eight tracks on the album, each one word long. Strung together, the track-list reads: And be gone after karma run love under. Strung together, these eight words seem to issue a warning, about the inevitable death of love in the face of insurmountable karma, the blindly ruinous forces of nature as they topple over the hopeful intentions of the human heart. Of course, I don't mean to suggest that Úlfarsson planted this message in his track-list, but only that the statement, "And be gone after karma run love under," seems to come from the same world that the album does – a world that is ruthless in its adherence to order (read: composition).

Úlfarsson gives vibrancy to techno, bringing the genre into dialogue with the more contemporary, if nostalgic, synth-pop sensibilities of producers like Nosaj Thing, Shlohmo, and Caribou. Úlfarsson is cautious, however, to conjure up the desolation of tech-age without resorting to the familiar sound of retro-irony. Make no error, Dot is playful, but it isn’t subversive. It merges the bright and the dark, the organic and the mechanical, without giving way to either one, without declaring a winner. It poses a question without succumbing to the pessimistic answers of apocalypse pop.

Part of Úlfarsson's success with this debut album owes to his skillful use of the human voice. On the seventh track, "Love," the bass line in the introduction threatens to evolve into an outdated bossa nova ballad. That is, until a disorienting child-like voice eliminates all hope for easy listening. I found myself laughing all through Dot, especially in moments like these – though here I mean laughing with Dot and not at it. The album has "just kidding" moments sprinkled all over it – moments when you think you know what will happen next, when you say to yourself, "Oh, I understand what's happening here" only to have your expectations dashed by atonal vocal arrays: the sound of karma eventually wreaking its havoc.

Naturally, what is most powerful about the notion of karma is that it is immeasurable. In fact, the saying, "Karma's a bitch" is founded on the false assumption that you can track the karmic outcomes of your actions. Instead yogic philosophy tells us that it is impossible to determine karmic end-results (making the concept all the more terrifying). In the same way, later tracks on the album seem to signal at earlier moments, seem to suggest a cause-and-effect relationship, but never answer the question definitively. The last track, "Under," features decorative flourishes on the piano, just as the first track, "And" does. But the parallel is not so neat as that. "Under" is not a reprise, and in fact the very idea of a reprise – which merely reiterates what has come before – is foreign to the universe of Dot. There are only incomplete connections here, only a riveting simulacrum of the chaos of daily life.

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Reanimator “Damaged Bads”

20 Jun 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Pure abstract electronic music. That's what this full length brought to you by faceless duo Reanimator references: Mouse on Mars, aspects of David Morley, and maybe even DJ Soulslinger. Timeless though it seems, there is a cleanliness to Damaged Bads that simulatenously defends its accurate context of production. Tinkles, thrashing doodles and blasts, as well as familar bass breaks are the meat of this work, one which equates to a serial statements made in a foreign, esoteric language (hence the straightforward reach to abstract electronica). The album is somehow full of personality yet one you can't put your finger on. Dense, dissonant, and aggresively harmless, one might suggest that the best occasion for such a listen is when feeling delightfully insane and anxious free. Maybe something like drinking gin with old buddies from your comp science program you attended at whatever state university. 

The Community Library label is run by Paul Dickow (aka Strategy) and David Chandler (DJ Brokenwindow). You can check out their lean yet attractive discography here.

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Watch: The Horn The Hunt “My Face In Your Eyes”

16 Jun 2015 — Andrew Darley

After a winter spent in Greenland in 2008, Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne decided to try writing music together. The couple’s experiment revealed a creative spark in songwriting and sound crafting. Channeling the genres that inspired them, their band The Horn The Hunt crosses electronic, rock, folk and pop. Now on their fourth album, Wovo, their songwriting has only grown in strength. Both sonically and vocally, they have become more distinguished and tighter as a unit. Their new single "My Face In Your Eyes" highlights their ability to play with restraint; its soothing synth melody rocks back and forth as Clare’s voice heralds the joys and pain of togetherness with others. Its accompanying video sees their live band perform in an unassuming British club hall until there’s only one member left. The video is dedicated to their bassist, Ian Smart, who passed away earlier this year. 

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Interview: GABI

12 Jun 2015 — Zachary Taube

I first listened to GABI’s Sympathy on a ride around Berlin’s Ringbahn. It was one of those bright-yet-cloudy Berlin afternoons where you’re not quite sure where the sun is, and you’re overwhelmed with just how white the sky can be. Sympathy is equally overwhelming; nine tracks of elegant, sensitive, whimsically explorative and intuitive composition, drawing upon an amalgamation of genres ranging from orchestrated minimalism to experimental pop, electronic composition, Balinese gamelan and arcane folk.

GABI aka Gabrielle Herbst is trained in both composition and vocal performance, and it shows; she breaks the voice apart, down into its most basic elements, and composes from that point of reference. Sympathy is less about what Herbst sings (her lyrics are sparse, minimal, and at some points nonsensical) but about how she sings it. She truncates the voice into short bursts or articulation, hocketing with nothing more than a short expulsion of breath to form a skeleton around which the rich fleshiness of her cry, the anxious hesitance of her stringed orchestrations and the eeriness of distant percussion can wrap.

I sat down with Gabrielle a few hours before her recent show at Acud in Berlin to talk about Sympathy, intuitive composition, longing and synesthesia. Check it out below.

Sympathy is out on Software.

Photo by Amanda Hatfield.

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