M. Geddes Gengras - Collected Works Vol. 1 The Moog Years

If I didn’t know Los Angeles synth bodhisattva M. Geddes Gengras from his more cheerful work such as Icon Give Thank or his modular improvisation series, and my first contact with him would be through this album, I would’ve had an impression that Ged is an utterly depressed guy. Instead, he’s your favorite astral sonic shaman that unveils sprawling, sometimes highly emotional, even emotionally draining at times, soundscapes which extend to well over 10 minutes. This compilation album, originally released on Umor Rex Records, collects the compositions from his more ambient era, created using Moog synthesizers. There is a breeze of classical, New Age inspired ambience here - real music for airports, open and welcoming.

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D/P/I - Fresh Roses

The way that Los Angeles based Alex Gray went from his beginnings in Dreamcolour and then his early Deep Tapes days with his glassy drones under his Deep Magic moniker to his newest sound collagist project D/P/I (also known as DJ/PURPLE/IMAGE) are like a story of a man who comes from the Amazonian rainforest straight to the Silicon Valley to get employed in Google, Facebook or some other Internet/IT giant with their futuristic, clean offices and imagined spaces for play, rest and work. On Fresh Roses, Gray takes sampled pieces or original collection of beats oscillating somewhere around IDM and twists them around, turning them into glitched-out pluderphonic collages filled with mismatched sounds and stained with digital distortion. Motivational speeches are rained upon with a storm of metallic clicks and cuts with lost transmission of lazy vaporwave and some more clicks and cuts again and so on… Gray definitely gets bonus points for defining a clear and interesting visual side to the project, too - mixing carefully positioned typography with minimalistic layouts featuring screencaps and Google Image Search suggestions.

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Kordian Trudny - Katowice

Originally from Wałbrzych, now based in titular Katowice, Polish plunderphonic songwriter Kordian Trudny drops his newest, and quite possibly, most accomplished work yet. Titled Katowice, it presents Kordian expand even further with his penchant for strangely humorous songcraft and some really nice vocals paired with happy-go-lucky synths and plunderphonic craziness. Whereas his previous works, 58-300 and Odrzuty were more or less disorienting sound collages featuring some really surreal, odd snippets, Katowice is a much more auteuristic work, based less on samples and more on original melodies, which doesn’t mean there aren’t some jagged up, stuttering vocalizations a’la later OPN mixed up within whimsical songs punctured with absolutely nonsensical lyrics. Which are sung in Polish, so even if they were the most beautiful lyrics in the world, they still would be nonsense to you. Shame.

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Review: Datashock - Keine Oase in Sicht

(2 x LP, Dekorder, May 2014)

Among some of the freewheeling psychedelic folk/rock collectives on the scene the German open-ended collective Datashock seem to be one of the stronger forces in shaping the direction in which all the other forest elves should be going. With Keine Oase in Sicht (translated as “No Oasis in Sight”), a lengthy and drawn-out desert folk workout claiming a double vinyl from Dekorder, the same forward-looking label that brought Ensemble Economique or Scuplture to the world, which is always a good thing. Datashock already proved themselves with previous stellar LPs, 2011’s behemoth Pyramiden von Gießen, so with the new release the stakes are high. And Datashock jump through those stakes with ease and bliss.

Since they’re from Germany and they’re a communal, open-ended group with members changing and rotating it’s not hard to think of Datashock as the modern-day incarnation of Amon Düül I or II (or both). The krautrock atmosphere abounds and one of the major explosions of motorik energy comes early in the album, at the end of the opening piece “Mudschahidin der Liebe”, in which they sound more like Agitation Free. Desert themes prevail on the album, reflected both in the music and the track titles as well as the artwork of the album, with a bunch of colorful, strange individuals standing among the dunes. I like to imagine that they’re actually standing near some mine or a huge foundry or at a construction site of a new autobahn and that behind the clear skies are the roaring machines and complicated pipelines with a lovely smell of kraurockish Diesel fuel filling the air. In the meantime, the listeners are invited into the desert tribes’ tents, where the air is filled with spices and incense and the endless winds shape the dunes. Tracks like “Keine Oase in Sicht” are such cinematic, slow-paced spectacles, slowing the pace and taking the path somewhere between early Popol Vuh and less occult-oriented Silvester Anfang. Most jams here are kept in these areas: excursions into the tribal life, re-imaginations of traditional, early music of the desert people augumented with electronics and occasional lonesome drones or distant walls of soaring synths a’la early Klaus Schulze.

However, there are some exceptions from the rule, occasionally springing the listener up in their chair and providing a much-welcome (in the context of such a lengthy album) change of direction. Like the strangely retro-futuristic improv piece “Ekstase der Wahrheit”, which sounds like Peter Brötzmann soloing over a piece of 80’s John Carpenter soundtrack. Or the space-tinged jazz fusion of “Her mit dem Kelch, (das) hier muss es sein”, gradually turning into post-punk dancefloor killer, which kinda sounds like Gang of Four getting high on cheap weed instead of getting drunk on cheap wine. Interestingly enough, even with the most far-out pieces Datashock don’t lose their inherently “Eastern” sound, reeking of sunburned stones and sand. And for the proper bliss-out, the ending burner “Vor den Toren von Gewas” provides a 13-minute foray journey into the self, a hasheeshian meditation with gentle guitar licks and even gentler tape loops.

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Sleeping Orchard - II

Light as a feather and head-nodding inducing, this bunch of “few people experimenting with music” (and something else, I think) called Sleeping Orchard plays a carefree and simple psychedelic rock/folk with a bluesy, distorted edge and a lovely, freewheelin’ harmonica to boot. And they’re from Earth, and that’s a plus, too. I mean, I love me some alien space music from time to time but sometimes you just gotta go back to some Earthy tunes. If you get a little too high on Gobby, listen to this album as an antidote. It’s got guitars & shit, man.

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Gobby - Wakng Thrst For Seeping Banhee

There seems to be some weird weirdo psychic network over there in New York City. Like CHUDs or something, these individuals connect their skewed, horrorific plunderphonic vision and throw it back at us amplified tenfold. First James Ferraro with his post-everything mutant collages and now the mysterious Gobby, debuting with his first full-length on UNO NYC!, titled Wakng Thrst For Seeping Banhee (sic!). Recalling the deeply psychedelic spoken word passages and cut-up samplescapes of Negativland, Gobby collects the resin from the collective mind of the Internet and translates it into digital madness with titles such as “Season 1 Episode 5”, “Kill Dog Because Hungry” or “Like If You Pee On The Side of the Bowl”, recalling Facebook status messages or Google search results. If Far Side Virtual was the glossy mall, then Wakng Thrst For Seeping Banhee is the scrapyard.

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Dahga Bloom - No Curtains

Combining stoner rock distortionado with psychedelic rock’s penchant for effect-laden sound, the Californian bunch Dahga Bloom's debut vinyl LP, originally released on beautiful blue vinyl (sold out already) have managed to create a high-energy cannabis-infused psychedelic like (kinda like smoking weed + snorting coke a moment later), where the infectious riffs get with spaced out synths and mandalalike song structures mix well together with cheap amplifier fuzz and blooze filth. Add an emotional vocalist in the vein of Hookworms of Thee Oh Sees and what you get is a slab of white rock psychedelic rock on the verge of a nervous breakdown with a serious turn towards some krautrocky/indie winning connection they’ve got going in their veins and brains and lungs and what else. Really solid trip-rock piece, recommended!

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Glass House - Keeping to the Void

Don’t be put off by the harsh, glassy drone of “Viral Grief”, the opening piece from Keeping to the Void, the newest cassette from the Brooklyn/Philadelphia duo Glass House (Ian Collier and Eric Brannon), because soon the atmosphere, filled with proto-rock and electric energy overload turns into a floating tank beneath the firmament filled with shimmering stars and milky ways Neil deGrasse Tyson himself would be proud of. On Keeping to the Void, the duo go for a more ghostly and mysterious sound, with tracks mingling monumental, cinematic Eno/Stars of the Lid drones with snippets of conversations or distant voices dying in the waves of delay and reverb. Released on cassette via quality NY label Tranquility Tapes, the label name rarely fitted the music better than now. Highly recommended!

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The giant eye reflecting the sky gives a bit of a R Plus Seven-like totality, the simplicity and the impact. Plus, it is a nice step away from the tired, ultra-kitschy covers of most vaporwave albums, which employ an aggressive, chopped up collage psychedelia to overload the listener already on the visual level, not to mention the mangled sounds within. With ECO VIRTUAL, however, things are far less more on the pastiche/parody side and way more on the affirmation and simplicity side, posting skeletal synthesizer drum pads a’la Purity Rings against waves of Japanese 80’s New Age ambient atmospheres and bits of looping samples scattered across the virtual skies. It’s like arriving at some gigantic mall during the weekend during cloudy weather and then noticing, after a few hours of shopping, the clear crystal blue sky in one of the skylights, and wondering: “Why am I here?”. But you still stay there, sipping a coffee in the mall cafe, drowning in super-crystal natural sounds soaking from the unseen speakers and looking at a dense woodland by the highway from a window.

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Digital Natives - It’s All Point Blank

Among the high output of releases by Floridian native Jeffrey Astin’s Digital Natives project, the demand for suspended and looping funky, sweaty beats never stops, as if this was the height of the disco era and Astin was the top selling, ultimate DJ selling out entire convention halls and stadiums with his concerts, crafting out one infectious, looped antem after another like it’s always 1977. Somewhere between vaporwave and Amon Tobin, it relies heavily on electronic repetitious revelation as well as slow, narcotic mystery unfolding endlessly before the listener in some sort of a haze emerging late at nigth and fitting late night listening. It’s all about mixing bossa nova with funk this time, trying something slightly new, because there’s a plethora of genres to be explored. Sometimes I think Digital Natives is there in order to check the looping and sampling qualities of all the genres that are there. So we might expect some Digital Natives built on emo punk or black metal in the future. That might be great. Loop all music. Recommended!

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Innercity Ensemble - II (Black / White)

The newest album by the Toruń, Poland based psychedelic supergroup Innercity Ensemble was released in two versions (characterized by colors), and are available on CD and in digital form. On both colors of the albums the band takes a different approach and form, going for more amorphous and improvisational, ambient rock approach on White and a more drum-driven and restrained Tortoise-sryled post-rock on Black. Innercity Ensemble is the powerhouse of 7 members, with the additional help by one more creative soul on a few tracks, making it truly a multi-level experience, with each member being an experienced multi-instrumentalist making ripples with their work in numerous Polish experimental bands. This is a tightly woven, richly ornamented and perfectly executed and edited psychedelic rock journey, starting with droney deserts and finishing with glossy math rock halls and progressive electronic phatamorganas. The white disc is good for the introspective journeys, relying on minimal means for achieving soul-enhancing properties, while the black album is meant for more focused adventures, providing a soundtrack for nearly prog-like Ozric Tentacles worship with a bit of jazzy edge to boot. Some of the best psychedelic music coming from Poland right now, check it out!

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Tuff Sherm - Shrapnel Maestro

Sydney, Australia based DJ and producer Dro Carey has been exploring the darker underbelly of the techno aesthetic under the moniker Tuff Sherm. On Shrapnel Maestro, a digital album from 2012, he collects the shards of urban paranoia and dark night pulsations into a blackened club mass with a mutated, ragged edge and a penchant for some bassy filth hidden among the skeletal, Octo Octa-like beats. It’s dark and sinister, but it must be admitted that it’s also catchy and boucny as hell at the same time. Definitely not some shrapnels I’d mind getting hit with.

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Tuluum Shimmering - The Sky Tree

Damn, I knew for a while that Inner Islands label was on the rise, but the newest cassette from the master of all rainforest drone, Tuluum Shimmering, is a total monster - 120 minutes (!!!) of inner temple folk and psych meanderings that any contact with the outside world may not be welcome now. This is no light ride - quite the opposite; it’s a heavy, smokey meditation that drills deep into the unconscious and works well on a threshold between the waking world and the world of dreams. This is music conjured by a bunch of shamans under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms ingested in some pre-religious ritual, when animism reigned and every object, tree, animal, and person had a spirit. So the world was a tight patchwork of souls and spirits, all vibrating with life energy - imagine how intense the world must’ve been for a shaman - something like how Neo saw the world in the Matrix series!

The Sky Tree is a monumental cassette hidden within a more-than-modest cardboard packaging hiding its potential. Two sides, each 60 minutes long (who makes cassettes like these anymore!?), sprawling between several different styles - from primeval moss drone to lo-fi piano minimalism in the vein of Super Minerals’ Clusters tape, then starting side B with meditative morning ragas in Hindustani tradition with drawn out sitar drones and flute music-painting. The slow, ambiental jam get slowly transformed into a huge, long piece of motorik drone folk (is that a thing? If it’s not, it should totally be a thing) accented with looping pianos, conjuring some sort of unholy mash-up between SimCity soundtracks, Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual and Neu! circa 1975. Add some Blues Control-styled cascades of jazzy pianos at the end and what you get is a masterpiece of repetition, a crowning achievement in huge, all-consuming psychedelia that could give a lot of potential to 5, maybe 7 good cassettes. Highly recommended, music to get drowned in!

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Luxury Elite - TV Party

If you’re still falling for the sleazy artifice of vaporwave in mid-2014, there’s still this narcotic looping sex-pop gem from Luxury Elite, a cassette from Orange Milk Records entited TV Party. This is some perfect slow evening/small house party set-up for the relaxed home environment. A bottle of wine, a relaxing screensaver is set up your Windows 95 personal computer. And a woman of your dreams on your side… Except her name ends with a .jpg. Or .avi. Or .mov. Or .gif. But hey, you’ve still got this amazing cassette by Luxury Elite in your cassette player, or at least the .mp3 or .flac version in your tabletop 2.0 speakers! So don’t worry, get carried anyway with your favorite wine and your favorite Evening Relaxation Sound Setup[tm] from Luxury Elite Sound Systems Inc. Download it to your HDD today!

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Orca Life - Modern Living

The former noiseniks and ambient-gazers are getting more and more crafty and tech-savvy, going with the flow of time and the requirements of accelerationism and start in the race to create better soundtracks for consumption and production, which is in result prosumption. Chris Roberts, who is Orca Life, becomes a prosumer, creating music for other prosumers in the endless process of prosumption, making music relaxing enough not to make lot of fuss and too abstract to be merely called vaporwave. It’s more like a deranged, savage synth pop where the circuitry has been fried and the computer went amok. Musique concrete for the Information Superhighway era.

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