Hellier Ulysses is part of an exploding Atlanta scene that's incubated a new generation of avant-rock acts like Warehouse, Faun And A Pan Flute, and Red Sea (with whom Hellier Ulysses share members). The economy of their songs, averaging less than two minutes, coupled with their thematic disjunction and tight execution jarred me as I devoured their debut self-titled EP. Now they're back with Prime Example, a new tape slated for release on Blanche Blanche Blanche's Zach Phillips' label OSR. The title of "Genesis is Dispersion" references a lecture by poet Fred Moten on recently deceased, self-taught Alabama artist Thornton Dial, whose work often incorporated found objects which he arranged into abstract statements about the contemporary African-American experience. Like Dial positioning driftwood and bone on canvas, Hellier Ulysses build their sound out of the rubble of desperate elements as abstract musical ideas are jump-cut together, becoming hyper-active sonic pastiches that testify to the frustration facing artists searching for new modes of musical expression within well-established forms.
Prime Example is out March 15th on OSR Tapes.
In a video of a live performance at Shanghai’s Rockbund Museum, sound and performance artist Pan Daijing crawls toward a mess of gear, her head masked by a tight black covering, a chain linking her arms together. She is at once restrained and powerful, supplicating and menacing. These dynamics course through her recent work, “The Executioner’s Song,” a primordial rumble laced through with trembling drones. The piece feels channelled, pulled from the universe through the sieve of Daijing’s subjectivity. In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy, she emphasizes the importance of “presenting sound that already exists in nature and machine, that’s bigger than me,” which she describes as a form of sacrifice. In this sense, the title of “The Executioner’s Song” could describe Daijing’s process, the ultimate giving over of self to another force.
“The Executioner’s Song” can be streamed below or via Pan Daijing’s SoundCloud.
Amsterdam's Boris Post crafts spastic electronic music under the moniker Eindkrak. Post's debut album on Unknown Precept, Divine Bovine is a work of jarring complexity. Its slithering synthesizers move in tandem, spawning a supersaturated sonic solution. "The Slow Milk Dance" slowly cools the searing magma that obtrudes from the depths of Divine Bovine. "Ontvreemd" howls with manic ferocity, its muffled vocals bleed through a network of whirling synthesizers and battered beats. The album's title track, "Divine Bovine" crawls as a haunted warble, slowly accelerating into aural equilibrium. The hissing purr of Eindkrak's lofty tones are met with propulsive rhythms from another star cluster. Even through the entangled bones of its aberrant skeleton, it is possible to peer within its preposterous protoplasm.
Divine Bovine is out now on Unknown Precept.
Robbie Basho, pioneer of the American Raga and champion of the “Zen-Buddhist-Cowboysong,” is getting his penultimate album, Bouquet, reissued this year. Thanks to Grass-Tops Recording we can finally reexamine the late songs of the ambitious man who promoted the steel-stringed guitar as a concerto instrument. Basho (born Daniel Robinson) was a student of sarod master Ali Akbar Khan and the most elusive figure among the Takoma label trinity of acoustic guitar innovators. The exact details of his life remain shrouded in mist, although efforts have been made lately (see Liam Barker’s recent documentary) to decode the myth behind the man who managed to evoke the sublime vastness of the American landscape through unconventional tunings. His mesmerizing tracks are characterized by a wide assortment of hues and influences, which include everything from koto and classical, to Hindustani and bluegrass. Each song in Bouquet is a finger-picked hymn, an ode to love and its numerous manifestations. The original recordings, released in 1983, were awash with unwelcomed hiss, but the thorns have been clipped, revealing the stunning beauty of Basho’s voice. The reissue also includes four bonus tracks and a studio version of “Omar Khayyam Country."
Bouquet is out this spring on Grass-Tops Recording.
Sheer Mag have posted a new track to their SoundCloud, titled "Can't Stop Fighting". Fans of their last two EPs will be delighted to see the Philadelphia punks staying true to their fuzzed-out, Thin Lizzy-tinged sound, complete with guitar harmonies. Singer Christina Halladay channels the harsh realities of street harassment into a call-to-arms, imploring the audience to take an active role in combating an often violent culture of double-standards.
"all my life i've felt the eye of the catcall / we're striking back baby, and you can find me in the vanguard
you say you don't understand /
I can see the blood, it's on your hands"
Sheer Mag is playing Market Hotel May 6th.
Boston's Kal Marks are back confronting existential dread with "Loneliness Only Lasts Forever", the latest single from their upcoming Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies LP. Reflecting on a high-school classmate's public suicide, the band confronts feelings of unescapable angst head-on with a chunk of booming, loud-soft-loud rock singer Carl Shane calls "an anti-suicide song". "The world can be so overwhelming and we all have moments where we feel like we have no place in the universe." Shane quipped to AdHoc via Email. "I think when you realize that you're not the only one feeling that way, you won't feel as alone, and someday you'll find the people who love and accept you."
On "Loneliness Only Lasts Forever", the emotional transformation from isolation to acceptance is played out in a three minute jaunt. Shane's vocal croons with subtle Alice In Chains twang, haunting quiet moments that crescendo into a weighty riff-driven chorus. Kal Marks are touring this spring. Dates after the jump.
Life Is Alright, Everybody Dies is out February 19th via Exploding In Sound Records and Midnight Werewolf Records.
Last night, Prince Rama shared a new cut while spinning a set of medieval music titled "Best New Music Of The 12th Century" on Pitchfork Radio's Men's Fashion Week broadcast. As their new record is extreme sports-themed, it's no surprise the nascent stages of western music spark Brooklyn-duo's eclectic interests. "Slip Into Nevermore" is the third single from Prince Rama's upcoming LP and latest installment in a saga of upbeat pop-anthems penned by the band, who, here again, showcase their intuitive grasp of self-aware pop-sensibilities and knack for crafting psychedelic bangers.
AdHoc is hosting Prince Rama's record release show March 4th at Baby's All Right with PC Worship. More American tour dates after the jump.
Xtreme Now is out March 4th on Carpark Records.
Having put out records on labels like Kranky and Holy Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, experimental rock extraordinaires, are expansive but refined on their new LP. Behind uncannily catchy songs, which somehow manage to evoke the deepest Krautrock grooves and the bounciest dance beats, Cloudland Canyon command a mastery of layering and sequencing. The product of highly-collaborative sessions with Memphis rock royalty Lesa Alridge and Jody Stephens of Big Star, psychedelic grandmaster and co-producer Pete Kember, and many more impressive heads, An Arabesque shows a band pushing itself compositionally and instrumentally, willing to share but not compromise its vision. There are a lot of moving parts and temporary instrumental flashes on this record – brief saxophone cameo on “An Arabesque,” anyone? – but it never sounds unwieldy. Frankly, it’s totally tasteful and restrained, Cloudland Canyon's real coup de grace.
An Arabesque is out February 5 on Medical Records.
Following up 2014's "Hexane" cassette, Icepick return with the cosmic Amaranth, the first LP for free-jazz imprint Astral Spirits. Tracked in a single day in Austin, Texas by Ian Rundell (of Ghetto Ghouls), the album showcases the trio of Nate Wooley (trumpet), Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten (double bass), and Chris Corsano (drums) at their most ecstatic. Pulling from the ether in a post-Coleman world, the side A excerpt from track "Rossa Corsa" displays all elements emerging in full form. Corsano's drums pulse with manic energy, while Wooley and Haker-Flaten float above the mix like corpuscular rays beaming down from heaven. Astral Spirits has been a guiding light for the free jazz community over the past couple of years, and Amaranth does not veer from their agenda. By developing an acute awareness of the sensitive balance between channeling the masters while also defacing tradition, Icepick are a truly welcome force in 2016.
Amaranth is available now through the Astral Spirits store.
Chicago label Hausu Mountain continues a streak of offbeat releases with Cables, a new cassette from avant-garde Philadelphia beatsmith Davey Harms. If you're familiar with Harms's bygone Mincemeat or Tenspeed project, you'll know he's cut from the same cloth as Providence-affiliated hardware-based electronic projects Container and Black Dice—disposed to blown-out sounds and pulverizing beats. That in mind, subtlety isn't lost on Harms; Cables is packed with discreet rhythmic and timbrel shifts, creating deliberate sonic adventures that peak at moments of savage unrest, and ease into episodes of claustrophobic anxiety. "Zelo Bloch" is like participating in an aerobics class that slowly dissolves into a bad trip. The pounding four-on-the-floor bass drum pushes on ad infinitum while contrasting jabs of white noise scuttle across the channels, entangling into animated polyrhythms.
Cables is out February 12 via Hausu Mountain.