Staff Picks - May 2020

Staff Picks - May 2020

June 11, 2020

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Summer is here, make the best out of it it with these albums comprising both new and old music released in May 2020. Anything from ambient to psychedelic, experimental, ethnic/traditional, electronics, and much more.

What's new, what's good, what's hot or not, what's obscure or under the radar, music wise, here's the monthly Staff Picks.

If you think that we've missed something or want to send a tip, please get in touch.

From Black Meteoric Star to Christine Ott

Chouk Bwa & The Ångstromers - Vodou Alé (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Chouk Bwa & The Ångstromers - Vodou Alé (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Abaunz - Ilunpean Arnas Hotsa Entzuten (Jollies)
Abaunz resides in a rugged landscape surrounded by Basque mountains. This formidable environment may have played some part in shaping the moods within this release, raw and beautiful, intricate yet reduced. The title roughly translates into English as: "hearing the sound of breathing in the dark", hinting an eerie listen ahead. There is black metal blood in each track, arranged on an alter of adept programming. Blistering guitar textures, and drum blast sit in a bed of gaseous swirls and cinematic dread. A heavy atmosphere gives way to skeletal melody, funky dembow rhythms, and hair raising, barded wire synth stabs.

Audrey Chen / Carlos Quebrada - Audrey Chen / Carlos Quebrada (Buh Records)
Chinese/Taiwanese-American musician Audrey Chen meets Colombian musician based in Buenos Aires, Carlos E. Quebrada Vasquez, for an intriguing seven pieces long play, where Audrey Chen’s voice intersects the bass of Carlos Quebrada, all in a complex process of free improvisation.

Black Meteoric Star - Disco (Voluminous Arts)
Voluminous Arts happily announces its third official release, a 12-track digital album and accompanying 3xLP limited 3 color vinyl edition entitled “Disco” by Gavilán Rayna Russom’s elusive alias Black Meteoric Star.

Chouk Bwa & The Ångstromers - Vodou Alé (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Afro-Caribbean voodoo polyrhythms meet bass-weight dub electronics on Vodou Alé, the debut full-length collaboration between Haitian six-piece Chouk Bwa and Belgian production duo, The Ångströmers. The traditional and contemporary create a powerful nine-track merger of distinct Haitian mizik rasin (roots music) and rumbling electronic production, forging a thrilling and hypnotic dialogue between minimalist sound design and Afro-Haitian drum talk.

Christine Ott - Chimères (pour ondes Martenot) (Nahal Recordings)
This beautiful album was conceived entirely using only the legendary instrument Ondes Martenot. French pianist, vocalist, ondist - a specialist in ondes Martenot and composer Christine Ott discloses a cosmic trip with a deep cinematographic soundscape that delves into profound melody. This is a futuristic story of incandescence. The album was carefully produced by Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf) and Frédéric D. Oberland (Oiseaux-Tempête).

Corps - Ultraviolence (Modern Bön)
Corps have been created as side project of Alexey Tegin, leader and founder of the meditative act Phurpa. With this incarnation, Alexey transports the ritual main concept of Phurpa in a more dystopic, post-apocalyptic and heavily industrialized scenario, through the use of postindustrial looking handmade weird instruments, made out of scrap metal built onto huge supports, whose heavily distorted sounds generate devastating percussion and abrasive, violent industrial flavoured drones.
Dervish Taxi - Round One (FancyMusic)
Dervish Taxi - Round One (FancyMusic)

From Dominique Grimaud to group A

Crazy Doberman - illusory expansion (Astral Spirits)
Crazy Doberman is a rotating collective of musicians that come and go for recordings and live performances. The group is centered around Drew Davis, Tim Gick, and John Olsen of Wolf Eyes. This album features 16 players and they're making some cool jazz.

Dervish Taxi - Round One (FancyMusic)
The Round One album was the result of the first joint session of two musicians: Dmitriy Peitsch (guitar player) and Yan Yamin (drummer). The recording made in the fall of 2018 is the constituent of this record, without any edits, carefully recorded musical experience that gave rise to the new project.

Dominique Grimaud - 19 Feedbacks (Discrepant)
French multi-instrumentalist and sound experimentalist Dominique Grimaud dives into his adolescence and the 1960s, when he discovered music that he could identify with and that would stay with him for his whole life. But “19 Feedbacks” it’s not just about memories or music, it’s about feedback. The beginning of the use of feedback on pop and rock songs throughout that decade and beyond.

Elysia Crampton - ORCORARA 2010 (PAN)
Elysia Crampton returns with a new album, out on PAN, which follows intergenerational trauma, fugitives of Christian violence in a twilight called Puruma, returning to Mama Cocha, the sea that theorists call Nowhere. Dedicated to the life of Paul Sousa, who while incarcerated, worked years as an inmate firefighter across the Sierra Nevada of California.

Filipe Felizardo & The Things Previous - Vol. 9 After the Circle (Discrepant)
Portuguese artist Filipe Felizardo presents here a strangely interesting singular album of 21stcentury loner folk from the confines of his apartment. Performed, recorded and mixed at home over the course of two days during the Summer of 2019, the music captured on this record resonates now more than ever to our current housebound times.

group A - Circulation (Mecanica Records)
This mini album was written and recorded through the winter of 2017 and 2018 based on the recordings of some improvisation sessions at home band's studio since they moved to Berlin in early 2016. The main inspiration was focused on the ongoing threads from the collapsed ecological system and the injustices of Mother nature and animals. “Circulation" was intended to capture their daily concerns and draw the destructive human behaviour through their sounds.
Laverno, Patócrata, Traumadol & Tufi Meme - Improvisaciones de riesgo (Metadioses)
Laverno, Patócrata, Traumadol & Tufi Meme - Improvisaciones de riesgo (Metadioses)

From Jan Jelinek to Karuna Trio

Hessel Veldman - Eigen Boezem (Stroom)
While in the Dutch underground of the early 80’s, Hessel Veldman created his own music world in the small industrial sea town of IJmuiden. It was a world recorded on tapes and reels. A world where things happened according to personal logic based on sonic exploration, electronic sounds and improvisation. The approach was intimate, at times light-hearted, but often following deep inner contemplation and total immersion in the creative process. Above all, music was made according to the Do-It-Yourself principle of the home-taping culture.

Jan Jelinek - Tierbeobachtungen (Faitiche)
Originally released on Scape in 2006 as a CD and download, the album’s six tracks took their cues from Jelinek’s live concerts of that period: dense, slowly unfolding loop improvisations made with a laptop, various effect pedals and miniature synthesizers. In his release notes for Tierbeobachtungen at the time, the late lamented Martin Büsser wrote: “The animal is experiencing a renaissance in music. It provides a reflective surface for our notion of the unbridled and irrational, of that Other the philosophers Deleuze/Guattari – as part of their ‘Animalisation’ – called the embodiment of artistic deliverance. And yet, how much of a liberation can art actually tolerate? To what extent can music truly throw off its fetters without descending into chaos?”

Joëlle Léandre / Myra Melford / Lauren Newton - Stormy Whispers (Fundacja Słuchaj!)
This concert of Léandre/Melford/Newton trio was an epochal event. The 13th International Festival of Improvised Music “Ad Libitum” took place in Warsaw in October 2018 at the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art. The motto of that edition was “Women Alarm!”

Karl Evangelista w/Alexander Hawkins, Louis Moholo-Moholo and Trevor Watts - Apura! (Astral Spirits)
”It is intended with the utmost respect that this album is entitled Apura!, which in the Filipino language Tagalog translates to “Very Urgent” (the name of an epochal record by the Blue Notes, the pioneering South African jazz sextet of which drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo was the heartbeat). The musicians of Louis and Trevor Watts’s generation cast a tremendous shadow over the legacy of improvised music. It’s not difficult to romanticize the era in which these musicians first made their marks, exercising a creative daring and artistic ingenuity that was transformative in scope. For individuals like Louis, who spent so much of his youth fighting the injustices of the South African Apartheid regime, the raging music of the last century took on a kind of political urgency that reflected very real, very personal consequences [...] My Aunt, Miriam Defensor Santiago, was a longtime progressive public servant in the Philippines, a country browbeaten by rampant corruption and staggering inequity. I look to her example, and the example of my collaborators here, as a way to envision a world where the creative spirit and aspirational performance can battle evil and triumph.” Karl Evangelista

Karuna Trio (Hamid Drake, Ralph M. Jones, Adam Rudolph) - Imaginary Archipelago (Meta Records)
In many cultures, performers put on masks to transform themselves into a transcendent/mythic other. Here, sonic masking moves us beyond the familiar and ordinary. We no longer need to hear, for example, a soprano sax as simply itself; the transformed sound expands us into the mysterious and extra-ordinary. This is because, transformed, the linguistic aspect of each instrumental voice is brought more into focus. We can listen with an ear oriented less towards any preconception of virtuosity and more towards the artists' intention of storytelling, song and dialogue.

Laverno, Patócrata, Traumadol & Tufi Meme - Improvisaciones de riesgo (Metadioses)
”Since the beginning of Matadioses Impressum, three premises were tacitly thrown: making music among people who, amen differences form individualities, we are more or less in the same; giving an audible and persistent format in time to that music (that be recorded, not just something ephemeral for ether); and, at least from my particular vision (′′ hello, they call me Loder ′′), always demanding a little more: the ambient and the noise and the whole scene for moments sin a Little bit of ′′ lazy ", from an expression of involuntary dadaism, that it comes out like this because it can't go out any other way”. DJ Loder aka Traumadol
Mai Mai Mai - Isola / Azione (self-released)
Mai Mai Mai - Isola / Azione (self-released)

From Phew to Powers & Rolin

Mai Mai Mai - Isola / Azione (self-released)
”I am taking time to meditate and to imagine possible futures that we are all called to build as a collective, the time given by this Quarantine to rethink the world has we know it.
These two long tracks represent a sound picture of this moment. It's Meditation.” Mai Mai Mai

NYZ - FEF (Fort Evil Fruit)
NYZ is UK Midlands born, New South Wales based Dave Burraston, who also operates variously as Noyzelab, Dave Noyze and Bryen Telko. He's studied and worked with audio synthesis and computer science since the 1970s, culminating in a 2006 PhD thesis on Generative Music & Cellular Automata. Musical collaborators have included Oren Ambarchi, Russell Haswell and Aphex Twin (with whom he conducted the technically revealing 2014 "SYROBONKERS!" interview), and has had releases on labels such as Entr'acte, Fractal Meat Cuts and Important Records.

Phew - Vertical Jamming (Disciples)
A scene-setter for a forthcoming LP of unheard material, Vertigo KO, coming soon on Disciples. Vertical Jamming rescues two expansive longform pieces from a tour only CD released in 2016, and adds a previously unreleased track, “Drone”. Explaining the background to the music, Phew comments: “Drone was recorded in 2014. It is a track that expresses the mood of those days, guided by the sound of a very simple oscillator. At the time of the catastrophe in Japan in 2011 and the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the change of government in 2013, I didn't feel like singing at that time, and instead started making music using a very simple oscillator. Cheers and Encore recorded alongside the album New World using two more complex synthesizers. The content is a sequel to Drone, a sketch of the mental landscape from 2014 to 2015.”

Powers / Rolin Duo - S/t (Feeding Tube Records)
As with his first LP, Rolin’s command of his guitar is quite wonderful to hear. He uses the whole breadth of the twelve-string’s harmonic potential, which creates a wide surging stream of sound. Powers’ work with the hammered dulcimer (an instrument we hear far too rarely these days!) utilizes a similar approach, which means we are afforded access to wide aural river into which we can dip our aching heads. A more soothing splash will be hard to find.

Psycho & Plastic - Placid House (GiveUsYourGOLD)
With Placid House, techno duo Psycho & Plastic deliver an album of ambient music made in and for these unprecedented times. Its eight instrumental tracks artistically reflect our radically altered reality. In the calm surroundings of their homes and with plenty of time on their hands, the duo turned inward making Placid House.
Tidiane Thiam - Siftorde (Sahel Sounds)
Tidiane Thiam - Siftorde (Sahel Sounds)

From Shun Konno to Sote

Ritual Acid - Ritual Acid (Death & Leisure)
A 30 min sound collage and drone release by Oliver Ho, previously only available on cassette.

Samuel Rohrer, Max Loderbauer, Stian Westerhus, Tobias Freund – KAVE (Arjunamusic)
Kave is a new quartet of electronic music made up of Swiss percussionist Samuel Rohrer (on drums, electronics and Moog duty here), the German electronic pioneers Max Loderbauer and Tobias Freund (modular synths, keys, mc 202, syncussions, effect pedals) and Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus. All members of the quartet are equally experienced in the constantly changing dynamics of free group improvisation, as well as in the compositional approaches of ambient / electronic music. ”In the present era of media saturation, the artist's dilemma has shifted away from the question whether to fuse disparate stylistic elements, towards the decision of which energies to draw upon: a situation most rewarding for those who listen to musicians navigating this limitless terrain. One such journey is Kave.”

Shun Konno - 奇葉 (Raash Records)
Double Sided Cassette from Tokoy's Blind Beast AKA Shun Konno, spiraling down a staircase of distorted drum patterns, Massive synth riffs and haunting samples. Rooted in the craft of "Beatmaking" Konno's music drifts far into the Realms of freeform Psych/Avant, all the while maintaining a strong narrative. Resulting in what can possibly be described as "Deconstructed Kraut" or simply a soundtrack that needs no film.

Sote - Moscels (Opal Tapes)
Iranian experimental producer Sote returns to Opal Tapes with Moscels, a haunting, beautiful, melancholic and propitious listen. Synthesized entirely from physical models and oscillators, whose union gives the record its name, "Moscels" sets a completely unexpected sonic terrain. Split in five pieces, this is not an easy ride, so try to be more cautios when playing this album, for many sonic layers are hidden deep in the surface and request a certain kind of attention. Partly melancholic, partly horrifying, partly mysterious.

Tidiane Thiam - Siftorde (Sahel Sounds)
Guitarist, photographer, visual artist, and folklorist Tidiane Thiam hails from Podor, a small riverside town in the far North of Senegal. A self-taught musician who learned guitar from late-night radio broadcasts, Tidiane is a veritable encyclopedia of Sahel folklore. Borrowing from this repertoire, he adapts his own technique of fingerstyle guitar, crafting serene pieces imbued with emotive reflection. Recorded at night on a single microphone at home in Podor, and set against the backdrop of crickets, the recordings on Siftorde are stripped down and informal, without any pretense of a studio recording. The effect is deeply personal and intimate.
About the Author

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

Dragoș Rusu is co-founder and co-editor in chief of The Attic and allround music adventurer.

Victor Stutz is a sound adventurer and music selector based in Bucharest, with a background in Anthropology.

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