Christina Carter — L’Etoilles de Mer (2015, Emerald Cocoon)
The notion of a minimalist solo guitar may immediately sound to the reader like a haphazard exercise in amateurism (not innately a bad thing). That said, Christina Carter’s L’Etoilles de Mer does not sound hopelessly amateurish, haphazard, nor flummoxed. Instead, this 2015 release feels deliberate, raw, and at times inquisitive. One gets the impression that the artist has a sense of brooding artistic introspection that must be interrogated and exteriorized. As such, the course of this interrogation unfolds in real time, with a constant and captivating sense of wonder ever-present during the performance. The results are stunning. The opening two tracks, “First performance” and “Second Performance” draw the listener in and take them along on an unpredictable, yet wholly engrossing trip. Much of the remainder of the album consists of solo vocal études, which demonstrate Carter’s vocal control and her dexterity in the brilliant usage of silence. Long, still passages add to the aforementioned impression of introspection and create maximum emotional affect and effect. Fans of everyone from fellow Texan Jandek to Diamanda Gallas will no doubt appreciate Carter’s fascinating work on L’Etoilles de Mer.
Psychic Paramount — Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural (No Quarter, 2005)
Listen [Youtube stream]
Nb. I would strongly urge any visitors to this page not to purchase this record directly from No Quarter; I placed an order through their website and never received my copy in the mail. When I tried following up with Mike from No Quarter, I never heard back. Total drag.
Born out of the ashes of the most-excellent Laddio Bolocko, Psychic Paramount largely abandon the jazz-punk stylings of the former, instead opting for a noisy, gritty form of (post-)prog. While not as daring or demanding as Laddio Bolocko, there are nevertheless, exciting moments throughout their debut album. The atmospheric bombast of the relatively calm two minute opener “Megatherion” quickly gives way to the searing “Para5” where guitarist Drew St. Ivany oscillates between slide playing and some Ron Asheton meets John McLaughlin riffing. The whole album is heavily overdrive and reminiscent of Cherubs Heroin Man LP, with the music crumbling out of the speakers. The result is dirty with strangely percussive overtones throughout. Rounding out the record is the ten minute closer, “Gamelan.” After seven and a half minutes of cascading, delay-heavy guitar looping that creates a schizophrenic and nearly unbearable tension, the band almost seamlessly loose themselves in a groove, before the track cuts out to a distant recording of the group playing something else altogether — delaying gratification and a resulting in an anticlimactic denouement. The record is by no means disappointing, but does feel a bit underwhelming. On that note, their Franco-Italian Tour release by Baltimore’s Public Guilt delivers where this studio album falls flat.
Various Artists — Time to Go — The Southern Psychedelic Movement: 1981-1986 (Flying Nun, 2012)
The subtitle of Time to Go purports the album to be a document of “the Southern Psychedelic Movement” —this seems to be a marketing maneuver hoping to tap into the recently reignited interest in psych and neo-psychedelia. In a decade that produced some of popular music’s/popular musics most banal, forgettable, and ultimately soppy developments, this brilliantly curated compilation (curated by Marginal favorite and Kiwi Kingpin, Bruce Russell) is neither stylistically homogenous nor does it reek of the decades’ excesses. Some tracks are raw and cutting, whilst others are more subdued. Sure, some of the cuts are unabashed in their Syd Barret idol worship; yet many of these tunes harken back to the preceding decade and demonstrate continued flirtations with punk rock’s visceral intensity, whilst also unafraid to embrace post-punk arty-iconoclasm. From the psych-weirdness of Alec Bathgate and Chris Knox’s Tall Dwarfs and the Velvet Underground-inspired Builders, to the jangly-pop experimentalism of Michael Morley’s Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos, the listener encounters artistic pluralism that runs the gamut. If you’re looking for Haight-Ashbury a-go-go from Auckland or Christchurch, look elsewhere, as Time to Go has much more to offer.
Hive Mind — Moment Descended in Blue Ash (2016, Chondritic Sound)
Los Angeles cassette label Chondritic Sound has established itself as a pillar of esoteric electronic experimentation and dark ambient music. This C20 released in 2016 by label founder Greh Holger (aka Hive Mind) remains another strange and interesting release. “Moments Descended” fades in with its post-industrial cadence, treble and mids rolled back to zero. After the listener leaves behind the anxious thuds of the introductory passage, the piece evolves into Hive Mind’s murky variant of ambient electronics. The listener is situated somewhere between a digital jungle and listening to an overdriven loop of a distant helicopter. “Blue Ash” is thematically similar: a dense and brooding jam, that stimulates the darkest reaches of the psyche, leaving the listener profoundly unsettled. Reductive as it may sound, Hive Mind taps into a similar artistic ethos or aesthetic as German pioneers Cluster. Yet where Cluster’s experimentalism possessed a contextual (postwar) optimism, Hive Mind instead sounds fully up-to-speed with a world that has grown increasingly self-centered and saccharine. Indeed, Holger’s project produces (perhaps unwittingly) experimental electronics that are as grim as the age of their origination.
Ute Kanngiesser Geäder (2015, earshots)
Boldly speaking, musical performance reaches its apex when an artist is both able to demonstrate precision and mastery, and more fascinatingly, possess an evident ability to manipulate their instrument in such a way that negates its original functions, thus expanding its sonic capabilities well beyond those initially conceived. On her 2015 debut, Geäder, German cellist Ute Kanngiesser, brilliantly achieves both feats without breaking a sweat. Tracked at two separate locations in London, both tracks show the cellist in top form. “Project Space” demonstrates Kanngiesser’s ability to tease flute-like swirls and harmonic drones from her cello. The final three minutes of the piece feature plucked notes, the tensile strings resist Kanngiesser’s nimble fingers, making for an unnerving but engrossing performance which abruptly ends, presumably when the artist runs out of tape. “Clock Tower” initially saunters out of the speakers, recalling the works of Kiwis A Handful of Dust. Far from derivative, Kanngiesser’s approach to the strings vary wildly from those of Alstair Galbraith and ultimately demonstrate greater range, restraint, and virtuosity. At times “Clock Tower” resembles some lost form of string-based kosmische / psychedelia (far more interesting than John Cale and the Velvets, however). One notable trademark of the second piece is the soft, yet near constant tapping throughout the piece, which provides a loose sense of continuity that wonderfully compliments Kanngiesser’s open and interpretive playing. The second track also ends rather abruptly, which results in both tracks feel a bit unresolved (perhaps the desired effect). Regardless, Geäder remains a great release and would likely appeal to a wide swathe of improvised music fans from drone-heads, antipode-enthusiasts, and string-bowers, to those whose ears, as a rule, generally perk up for marginal sounds.
Listen/Download [free through Pan y Rosas]
Formally trained as a jazz musician, Hanoi’s Luong Hue Trinh, now works primarily in the realm of electroacoustic music. Her digital-only debut through Pan y Rosas Discos, Illusions, is a half-hour of power and arguably one of the most engaging and profoundly engrossing experimental releases in recent years. Startlingly (and most appropriately), the opener, “illusions,” begins with the sound of breaking glass. The track evolves into a 12 minute exploration of non-musical industrial sounds melded with traditional South-Vietnamese music. The result is emotive, captivating, and far from predictable. Whilst the opener positioned traditional musics alongside industrial sounds, the dichotomy between old and new is effectively inverted on “return ii.” Predominately “driven” by electronic musical treatments, the track employs pastoral sounds in place of those produced by industry. The denouement builds anxiously before giving way to fading strings and chants. Despite its brevity, Illusions is not to be missed. Given the strength of her debut, everyone here at Marginal HQ eagerly awaits Trinh’s next release.
C-drík — Multiples des uns (2015, Syrphe)
Here at Marginal HQ, we’ve recently tapped into the vein of non-musicality and been spinning releases from Britons Chris Watson and Jez riley French. Add 2015’s Multiples des uns, a self-described “cinema for the ears” by Congolese-German artist C-drík. Consisting of one, hour long track, Multiple features interwoven sonic phenomena from many broad, often disparate sources. Captured by the artist during travels throughout the Asian continent, the listener is treated to footsteps that intermingle with indigenous music(s), the vibrant and mysterious sounds of the jungle melding with austere heavy machinery, the sounds of children playing which overrun passing automobiles, and many other sonically rich, varied noises. C-drík demonstrates not only an ear for fascinating aural objects, but also an acute sense of cinema-like rhythm and adroitness in their editing abilities. While the continent itself possess a multitude of varying experiences, languages, cultures, topographies, histories, etc. this release fascinatingly documents a few of the sounds found throughout a diverse continent and celebrates the fundamental nature of sound itself, ever present, everywhere. One could also argue that for those with the privilege of audition, listening enables the subject to find common ground in their connection to others and to the natural world. Trains screech, insects buzz, people chatter, and children laugh all the same, regardless of whether your in Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, or Timbuktu. In all, this is a transcendental release guaranteed to lift you out of your seat and take you on a fascinating sonic journey.