Hullo there! Quite the aural pick ‘n’ mix, this issue of The Inbox, spanning everything from cut-up bedroom scritch and mystic Mesoamerican tootling to blood-caked black metal and a storm of pine needles. Exactly the way we all like it, of course, and what an absolute pleasure it continues to be finding all these incredible delights in my emails on the daily. I can only hope my attention in some small way helps – please, if you enjoy what you hear below, go out and support the artists in whatever way you possibly can. So without further wittering, let’s go in!
SVR, “Islands” (Self Released)
Whoever’s behind this Glaswegian project sure knows how to drone, having put out a good few hours of this cool, flinty minimalism over the span of the past year or so. Islands, clocking in at about 90 minutes, has already been superseded by the 80 minute Promise in the SVR catalogue, so the artist is working at a rate of knots quite at odds with the stately product, which strays rarely from the solemn path over which it glides. Close attention reveals the lofty central edifice bears rather alluring tendrils, which unfurl with deceptive grace into lucent watery surrounds. I probably wouldn’t touch them.
Subversive Intentions, “What Traveling Through Water Feels Like” (Flophouse)
East Montpelier’s nd dentico (who I believe also runs Histamine Tapes) here bolts together slivers of spoken word, noodling bass, crunchy field recordings and lumps of grinding noise to form lurching collages that claim to draw inspiration from climate refugees. Side A is dry in several senses of the word, throwing grave news reports over various squeaks, groans and thunks; Side B is elevated substantially by the introduction of dentico’s classical guitar, which fights back all manner of sonic violence to break the surface intermittently and serenade the rising of the tides.
Ticoy Kavei, “Star Assa” (Pampsychia)
Muggy excursions through extraterrestrial rain forests here, from Amsterdam’s Ticoy Kavei, although the artist claims it’s a journey inwards. Wherever it is, it smells of damp soil and murderous nettles; for every fresh, crystalline glint of liquid that catches your eye, there’s a nag of airborne allergens flicked from the abdomen of some specious insect; for every bright and flitting wonder, an uncomfortable sense of displacement. Maybe we’re going inwards after all, but I’m glad it’s not my inwards. Oddly sensual, though, if you’re in that kind of mood.
Xochimoki, “Temple of the New Sun” (Phantom Limb)
Recorded in New Mexico in the 1980s, this legendary set of incantations by ethnomusicologist Jim Berenholtz and the Aztec ambassador Mazatl Galindo has just been collected on vinyl by Phantom Limb and it is an absolute jewel. Sung in several ancient Central and South American languages and written at sacred ceremonial sites in accord with the spirits, it’s a treasure trove of devotional magic as haunting as it is beguiling. At its most combative, such as the pulsating “Kokoyo Kayotl,” Temple of the New Sun evokes ancient armies emerging from the forest shadows, but the album largely resides on a more restrained plane; the duo uses a variety of animal hide drums, bone flutes and ocarinas to elevate their holy chanting, mimicking rainforest creatures on tracks like “Tlahuizkalli,” and summoning the dark forces of a foggy dawn with the spine-tingling “Malinalli Koatl.” Elsewhere, “Nah Chan” and “Zan Totemikuiko” drift eerily through ruins long since reclaimed by their rightful owners, whether that be the clamouring vines and thickets of the surrounding landscape or the lonesome ghosts of their original architects.
bleed Air, “time, ferocious” (superpolar Taïps)
A sonic study of the nature of time (apparently), this new one by Cologne’s bleed Air really doesn’t really need a complex concept in order to impress. Fizzy jabs of static perforate squidgy fields of dark matter for “Time Offset,” heralding the start of a slow, globby journey through deep space textures and tangly tears in the stellar fabric. At its noisiest, say the blistering middle section of “Clock Hypothesis,” it is as though reality itself is crumbling, leaving behind the black and wizened shavings of a life we can’t remember as they twirl ever deeper into a vast and frigid unknown. Elsewhere, “The Past (Part I)” and its sequel call upon The Caretaker’s dingy orchestra to swoosh through alien airwaves, and “Raumzeit” counts down time on deathly bells as the squiggly buzz of plasma builds and interrupts. A serious business.
Rupal / Delmore FX, “Quixotism of a Puddle Spoken in the Mind” (Communion)
A side each for Rupal and Delmore FX to take on the strange tale of someone they call Drippy-Droppy and a psychedelic walk in the woods. Rupal’s side, titled Omnidirectional Tempered Floaters, could quite easily have plopped off Ticoy Kavei’s tape, brimming as it is with the dew of ferny gulches. It’s cleaner perhaps, and cooler, with glimpses of starry skies through the canopy and the sparkling wonder of glowworm light shows pricking a rising haze – certainly less threatening, but not without mystery. Delmore FX takes up in almost identical fashion, whizzing squirmy electrics around before dropping in percussive elements and even the sound of typewriter keys clicking busily away as it reaches a glitchy climax. It could be the story writing itself, dreamlike, with cuts and fades between subtly different but discombobulating planes – as the accompanying tale relates, “all of a sudden this changed… none of us knew how but the road had disappeared.” Perhaps, with more listens, the riddles might align.
Bloody Keep, “Bloody Horror” (Grime Stone Records)
One of the strangest black metal emanations you’ll hear this year or any other, this no-fi castigation by Abysmal Specter’s new Bloody Keep project riffs and writhes through Carpathian crevices with obsidian humour, parading pogo-pop smarts and vampyric carnage in equal measure. “Mourning Dawn” is an undoubted highlight, driving surf-tinged licks through its many movements as Specter growls and howls – by the time what I think is a melodica honks into the joint, the atmosphere is akin to a pissed-up slam dance at a backwoods tavern, all sanguineous tankards joyously held aloft and splashing. Wicked.
Home Secretary, “Erly Scratching” (Self Released)
Like a flatlined Jason Williamson joshing with Inca Eyeball, this peculiar little bedroom dispatch from London duo Home Secretary melds deadpan observation with the oink and grind of bust-up instrumentation. Dub elements stir the pot, even promising the odd whacked-out beat here and there, and sly political samples slip through on occasion, but for the most part this is a guy stuttering cut-ups over hesitant bass thrums, tinny percussion and misplaced micro-noise. There are tips of the upturned cap to post-punk in both outlook and aesthetic but no single element sticks around long enough to allow for concrete categorisation. Very pleasing indeed.
Heliochrysum, “We Become Mist” (Bedroom Community)
Owing a huge debt to Ben Frost (who mixed the album) and the general enormity of sound Bedroom Community tends to promote, there’s a strange sense of anachronism to LA duo Heliochrysum’s debut LP so redolent is it of that golden age about a decade ago when every other release seemed determined to capture the sound of a few trillion years hence and the universe itself imploding on tape (looking atcha Emptyset, Roly Porter et al). This is not a criticism, by the way; I’m always here for this drama even if it does occasionally feel like Professor Brian Cox should be narrating it. One half of this monumental pairing happens to be Daniel Lea of L A N D, so there’s form – his Anoxia album was both mixed by Frost and enormously heavy in places, but where that record had recognisable percussion to ground it, We Become Mist is very much driven by the violent vibrations of time itself, pulsating through a vast drone of interstellar emptiness like so many neutron stars detonating. Yet, despite “Infinite Dark”‘s epoch-spanning synth beams, and the ground-splitting rumbles and eerie gusts that shoot through tracks like “Forbidden Structures” and “A Future Unfolds,” there is nevertheless a sense of sonic containment at play – as the enlightened ambience of “We Become Matter” closes proceedings you wonder whether you’ve been experiencing it all via some kind of universal snowglobe.
Earth Speaks, “At Beartooth” (Home & Garden)
An absorbing, occasionally violent field recording taken by Matthew Himes during high winds in the titular Montana wilderness, At Beartooth captures in quite startling close-up the sound of pine needles falling to the forest floor. The label states its intended purpose as being an aid to relaxation, which I have to say I have not yet achieved during the tape’s quarter-hour run time, instead having been cowering for fear of being spiked through the skull – it really is that powerful a sound. Proceeds from this release go to Honor The Earth, a non-profit organisation founded to raise awareness and financial support for Indigenous American environmental justice – all the more reason to indulge. Just make sure you wear a helmet.