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Review: Retribution Body, "Baphomet"

By Steve Dewhurst

For Baphomet‘s creation, Matthew Azevedo decamped to Methuen Memorial Music Hall, replete with its 160 year old Great Organ and famed four-second reverberation.

Pete Swanson
A Folk Music of Sorts: An Interview with Zefan Sramek of Precipitation

By Jason Cabaniss

"For much of my work, both musical and otherwise, the notion of place is very important. That’s one of the reasons I like using field recordings."

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Inbox #10: Real Life Ambient Top 10

By Emmerich Anklam

Greil Marcus, whose books like Mystery Train and Lipstick Traces and The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs deepen the mysteries of rock music instead of explaining them away, has kept up his Real Life Rock Top 10 column with few interruptions for more than thirty-five years. This edition of The Inbox is structured after his column and dedicated to him.

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Guest Playlist #08: H. Anthony Hildebrand

By Steve Dewhurst

“The first album I was given was Rolf Harris’ Greatest Hits... that’s how not cool the music happening at our house was."

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A Half-Imaginary Walk Through 2021 (in 10 Albums)

I made it a habit in 2021 to take long walks around my city, roving in unfamiliar directions, getting just lost enough, and then heading home on a different route from which I’d come. At the end of a long walk I usually felt better than I had when I’d started. I can’t think of any time I felt worse.

I almost never listen to music while I’m roaming around, but something about being in motion makes bits of music flit in and out of my memory, and I start deejaying to myself. Songs fade into each other, lyric fragments loop, the volume goes up or down . . . until those moments when I catch sight of something extraordinary in the weave of everyday life, like the light on the water of the bay – peach and silvery-blue, on the day I started writing this piece – and the radio station of the mind goes almost completely silent.

What remains underneath the juddering static of daily life is a layer of subtle, fleeting resonances and connections. A particular flower at a particular stage of life and at a particular time of year, under the light of a particular time of day – it’ll never look the same again, and I got to see it at that moment. And in another year of such deep uncertainty about the future, those spans of only a few seconds suddenly seem larger than any aspirations or anxieties I could have. So if last year saddled us with more dread and horror, I still ended it feeling even more awed by the world.

Here I’m writing about ten glorious albums that a listener can walk through – music that creates its own landscapes and weather, its own layers under the static. Set end to end, these albums – all released in 2021 except for the last one, which came out in 1980 – form a slightly surreal and richly rewarding daylong excursion. The paragraphs below are notes from my hiking journal through half-real and half-imaginary geography.

22º Halo, “Garden Bed” (Lost Sound Tapes)
Morning. How could it be so bright? “It’s bliss / you’re home playing the hits.” Shoes scraping the pavement, a layer of grit, brick, bags of fertiliser lining the sidewalk. Pollen. Sneezing at the sun. “Is the sun not a warning sign?” Guitar harmonies like gleaming garden wire. Picking up the pace, not for the sake of exercise, but for the sake of possibility. The sound of the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, or the sound of days shortening but still long enough to fit a week’s worth of living in.

Mabe Fratti, “Será que ahora podremos entendernos” (Tin Angel Records)
Walking downtown: buses and cars on a sped-up roll of film. Crowds dispersing from a train station entrance, crows dispersing above them—one person, one crow. Superimposed routines form slightly different patterns each day, and today the people nearly form a parallelogram, then a lumpy star, then atoms of ones, twos, threes. The clock on the train station’s departure-time screen, the near-rhythmic clack of shoes on tile. Under the paving-stones, the beach, and above the ceilings and awnings, the sky! The sky is where Mabe Fratti’s voice drifts, taking in little intimacies on every level. “You can confide / you can believe / you can take my empty hand.”

Karima Walker, “Waking the Dreaming Body” (Orindal Records)
The pavement dissolves slowly into sand. But still: city windows, ten-by-ten-foot squares rising in columns of five or more on both sides of the street. The smaller windows of the passing cars are all open, the sounds of music spraying into the road and increasingly overtaken by radio static. The hint of water, sea breeze or mirage. “Ocean in my window / fracturing the glass.” At the corner of one block, the windows of a building line up so passersby can see straight through to the other side, and the view revealed is of another building, one whose windows are all gray-black and opaque. Music where clarity and mystery play off each other – murkiness and lightness deepening each other’s power by contrast.

namsen, “Thornwood” (Self-Released)
Take a ninety-degree turn just before reaching the shore. At noon, the early crest of the day, translucent green kites circling overhead. Wisps of seafoam tumbleweeding down the beach. A posse of rollerbladers coasting along the empty road paralleling the ocean, blowing streams of soap bubbles that waft behind them like contrails. The freshness of a summer day in its first hours – that’s what this music contains.

Old Saw, “Country Tropics” (Lobby Art)
Back inland, as midday approaches and the heat begins to hang in the air. Sand turns to dirt, blues and golds turn to umbers, reds, and pale straw yellows. Climb a small, parched hill, and from the top, see more hills and fields, architecture giving way to arid topography. To the south, skaters roll across a tilted, slightly elevated monolith of pavement that looks riven right out of the ground. To the south, aluminium bleachers line a dirtbike course, orange dust swirling upward as the racers get air. On top of the hill is a simple, comfortable bench for surveying it all, and listening to these pieces is like sitting on that bench.

Hey Exit, “Eulogy for Land” (Full Spectrum Records)
Down the hill and farther inland, the signs of a recent fire that has burst into chaos. Damaged soil. Heaps of blackened metal and wood. Fragments of wall leaning under bare, dead trees. The remnants of a modern-day California blaze, one fuelled by poor ecological stewardship and aggressive fire suppression. On this land, imagine a society that has learned to see fire not as something that must be eradicated from the earth, but as a vital and intricate part of the ecosystem. A society that follows the lessons of traditional ecological knowledge, that doesn’t wage a war on wildfire but instead stewards it. A society for whom flames mean health rather than chaos and destruction. I grew up in Santa Rosa, California, and I mourn the devastation that out-of-control wildfires have wrought on my hometown these past several years. This album evokes that mourning better than any other music I know. And its bleakness, like burnt earth, might contain the seeds of a renewed land to come.

Lake Mary & Nevada Greene, “Profane Illuminations” (Profane Illuminations)
Late afternoon. The land is now flat in every direction. Grasses rise three feet or more in the air, and their rustling hides the murmuring of creeks that carve across the plain. The wind picks up; an August gust sweeps across the broad horizon. After enough walking, the sound of distant bells begins to rise above the breeze. The city emerges in the distance, and it’s time to make way for home. But before going any farther, stop at one of the streams that curves toward the ocean. Skip pebbles on the amber water, and watch them send out ripples and fade from sight.

Magnetic Vines, “Snake River Improvisations” (Self-Released)
Instead of reentering the city via the main drag, take a side path that winds into the hills. As the roads and the walkways rise and keep rising, pass other people on their own walks to and from everywhere around. From the hills’ highest points, it’s possible to spot the waystations on the day’s weaving path: the city centre, the grassy plains and the scorched land, the bay and the beach and ocean beyond. With evening coming on, the sky turns peach and the water slides from blue to silver and finally slate gray. A wash of ease at reaching the heights, and another wash at the thought of descending toward home.

Adam Pacione, “Any Way, Shape, or Form” (Elevator Bath)
On the last stretch of the walk,surroundings blend into shadows. From the fading light, music rises into the air – a mysterious sound that’s not quite serene, not quite unsettling. This music isn’t joyous or triumphant, but it doesn’t evoke melancholy or nostalgia either. It reaches toward a deeper sense of both life’s brevity and its abiding power.It’s the sound of old trees dying while new ones begin to reach for the sun, old houses and buildings crumbling while new structures emerge, a river flowing from an unknown source to an unknown destination, the sun going down as the streetlights flicker on.

Bill Connors, “Swimming with a Hole in My Body” (ECM Records)
Now home again after a long day’s journey, tiredness gives way to ocean dreams, bay dreams, river dreams, swimming pool dreams, creek dreams. Crossing the waters, following them while sun gives way to clouds and rain and sun again. Swimming over pebbles, sand, concrete. Reemerging on dry land, and walking onward through the night hours.