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.
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.
Leo Dupleix & Toshimaru Nakamura — Futaride (2016, Off)
This 2016 collaboration between French pianist and experimental musician Léo Dupleix and Japanese mastermind of the “no-input mixing board” Toshimaru Nakamura, yields four gilt-edged, science fiction electro soundscapes which are sure to be of interest for noiseniks and fans of the avant-garde. The title of the release feels entirely appropriate (seemingly, a portmanteau of the english words “future” and “ride”), as the sounds of this release catapult the listener forward, disdainfully chipping away at the space/time continuum, as unrelenting bursts of moving air hastening one into a temporal purgatory that isn’t quite the present and isn’t quite the future. The opening two tracks (pragmatically titled) “1” and “2” initiate the journey acting as mechanical neuroleptics whose blurry outburst begin to enshroud the listener in preparation for the impending cosmic exhilaration. The twelve minute long “3” is a seismic departure from the opening two tracks, featuring washed out and highly emotive string-like keyboard passages. Remarkably, the track had nearly ended before I realized the soporific and fascinating transformation that transpired: the duo manage to slowly fade in a host of electro-hisses and clangs that sound as if they’ve been culled from a lost Tarkovsky film. The strings are lost in the tempest by the 5:00 minute mark and all that remains is a cacophonous and structureless electronic nebula. At the precise moment that one finds themselves awash in sonic bliss, a blistering wave of what sounds like microphonic stuns the listener, marking the final two minutes of the track with a jolt. The closer “4” is yet another bastard offspring of a 1960s science fiction masterpiece. It is disquieting in its tenor and cinematic in its execution. The duo excel in their ability to riff off one another and on this release, masterfully craft provocative compositions that take place somewhere between the shop floor and outer space. Like the preceding track, the listener is taken on a hellish journey that descends into absolute disarray, only to be pulled from tumult before it is too late. It’s not industrial, it’s not electronic, and it’s not the future, yet somehow, in a seeming contradiction of terms, it’s all of those things.
Aaron Dilloway — Live at a Museum (2016, Hanson)
Former Wolf Eyes noisenik Aaron Dilloway’s 2016 release, Live at a Museum, is a brilliant half hour of loop experimentation, well worth delving into. Comprised of a series of sets, Dilloway ventures through a universe of myriad sonic possibilities vis-à-vis tape loops, minimalism, and manipulation. “Set 1” is comprised of a hypnotic tape loop sputtering restrained panting, click-clacking, and paranoid resonances. “Set 2” is a faster, slightly more abrasive, certainly much more confrontational loop, which, despite its shorter duration, remains simultaneously soporific and aggressive. It sounds as if digital artifacting passes through the tape (or perhaps this is the sound of the A to D Transfer) before at around the three minute mark, Dilloway starts to fade the loop out. Groggy and blunt thuds intermingle with the soft swish of a hit-hat or other similar percussive sound. The loop morphs into a strange and gritty track that seems entirely apt for the end times. “Set 3” is reminiscent of Chris Watson’s later work, with the loop recalling the sounds of a windy day from inside. In all, Live in Museum demonstrates Aaron Dilloway’s mastery of analog tape delays, his patience, and his celebration of subtlety. These traits allow the artist to tap into several sonic realms at once, making for a collage-like creation of something totally distinct. Sure, Aaron Dilloway isn’t the first (or even the best) to forge a body of work relying heavily on analogue tape; he is, however, one of the few people who is capable of merging Gristle-esque discomfort with Harmonia’s pastoralism, all without committing to the musicality of either.
MKM [Günter Müller, Jason, Kahn, and Norbert Möslang] — Instants//Paris (2016, Mikroton Recordings)
Deep and low drones mix with pulsing electronics, crackles, and static on this collaborative release entitled Instants//Paris by Swiss trio Günter Müller, Jason Kahn, and Norbert Möslang (aka MKM). This release bridges the gap between dark ambient and experimental electronics, favoring the sparsity of the latter. In all, the release remains sonically interesting and strange enough to engage the listener throughout. At times the vibes are ominous enough to shake you from your torpor and demand your attention; other moments, the artists are content to leave the listener with ample introspective space. This is the soundtrack from a bombed-out city: fragmented soupçons of radio broadcasts, and distant music(s) cut in and out. Malaise mixes with trepidation — or at least uncertainty. A glimmer of hope appears momentarily in the form of a beautiful, sanguine melody in the final two minutes of the song, but it vanishes as quickly as it appeared. The ending feels a bit abrupt, which is likely the result of rushed editing, more than anything else, and ultimately does little to detract overall from an otherwise solid release.
Tunic — Disappointment (2016, Public Tone)
While the band purports themselves to be fans of the Chicago School of noise rock, they sound remarkably fresh. Making use of the early-Albini’s midwest-y driving, frenetic pace, but ditching all the macho-loner bullshit. Frenzied eighth notes are to be expected on any punk release and are ever-present here, but so too are slightly unorthodox rhythms which manage to bludgeon the listener and simultaneously break with punk’s proclivity toward the straight eight. Among the most appealing aspects of the release are the band’s sheer emotional intensity and the fidelity of the release. It sounds on first audition to be live-tracked and fairly spartan. One hopes for the sake of authenticity, this isn’t some digital gimmick. Despite its brevity, this release is visceral enough to stand up straight and deliver a knockout blow. Done and dusted in under ten minutes. Pop open the deck and the tape is sizzling. Highly recommended.
Magda Mayas and Christine Abdelnour — Myriad (2016, Unsounds)
Pianist Magda Mayas and saxophonist Christine Abdelnour are two of Europe’s most exciting improvisers. Accordingly, this live performance from 2011, released on Andy Moor’s Unsounds, the duo explore a host of textures, volumes, and motifs, resulting in two stellar tracks. Opening with the autumnal “Hyrbid,” Mayas and Abdelnour immerse the listener in a space that is either spatially or mentally remote. One can easily envision this as the auditory phenomena encountered when sitting on a desolate bench in the late afternoon. The piece is tenuous, yet emotive. Abdelnour’s saxophone remains almost painfully restrained. Mayas knocks the piano strings and focuses on every bit of the instrument but the ivories, making for a highly fascinating listen. At around the 11 minute mark, a foggy shroud descends. Mayas slowly introduces some “traditional” playing, while Abdelnour seemingly covers the bell of the sax and begins working through some bits that sounds like the grinding of coffee beans. The final two minutes crescendo into a frightening, horror show-esque conclusion, which dissolves almost as quickly as it appears. The second track, “Cyanide” feels much more mysterious. Abdelnour provides a rhythmic anchor, while Mayas contributes to the atmosphere of the piece, which thematically likens back to the introduction of “Hybrid.” Taken together, the pieces form a strange and slightly surreal sonic daydream. A great work, by two fantastic musicians of international repute.