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Price, Michael – “Hope of Better Weather, The” – [Control Room, The]

humana   2/25/2022   12-inch, A Library

This gorgeous album starts out with three beautiful piano pieces composed and performed by Price in 2012. Gradually, other musicians join the British composer with vocals and guitar (“In Spite of the Weather”), cello (“The Warmth of the Sun”), and finally, musicians remix Price’s “The Anatomy of Clouds,” leaving the listener feeling blissed out, calm, and indeed hopeful that better weather feels as good as this music sounds.

Orbit Service – “Door to The Sky, The” – [Cloud City Records]

humana   2/6/2022   12-inch, A Library

Listening to this album is a matter of immersing yourself in synth-laden atmospheres interspersed by the deep, wise vocals of Randall Frazier and the strings of Patrick Q. Wright (especially in “Three Knots”). Electronics are the name of the game, with percussive beats (especially in “How Do I Get Back Home?”) and aural effects that will have you spiritually ascending the ladder created by Elisa D. Canali-Frazier on the inside cover art to achieve the door in the sky. Let the music take you into orbit.

Blackwater Holylight – “Silence/Motion” – [RidingEasy Records]

humana   1/24/2022   A Library, CD

The tracks on this one progress from a “blackwater” feel with the black metal-ish lyrics of “Delusional” to a “holylight” at the end of a tunnel by the time you reach the more inviting vocalizations of “Around You.” The words are dark and depressing, and the four band members from Portland, Oregon certainly create an atmosphere worthy of their name. The rhythms and vocals arise from the murk of the guitars to create a mood worthy of the time we live in–black at times tinged with light.

Yoshimura, Hiroshi – “Green” – [Light in the Attic]

humana   1/23/2022   A Library, CD

This re-release of Yoshimura’s 1986 vinyl album is electronic, dreamy, somnambulant. Harps and strings mix in with other ambient sounds to create relaxing, soothing music like the rhyming track titles that flow into each other. This listening experience makes you feel like you’re walking through a tranquil Japanese garden or spa where water drips gently down a wall fountain. From Japan with love.

Grouper – “Shade&” – [Kranky]

humana   1/3/2022   A Library, CD

Liz Harris is Grouper, and sadcore is one of the ways her music is described. I would say it does appeal to the sadness within, especially “Ode to the Blue” (3). Her folksy, high-pitched voice and lovely guitar (both of which find their element in track 2) will appeal to many (especially fans of Marissa Nadler). The last track is my favorite because it is more melodic and less hazy than some of the other tracks. Although I have no idea whether Grouper refers to the fish, it seems an apt moniker for this music that is “heavy-bodied” and “found in warm seas”–Harris’ voice may stir sadness, but the feelings it stirs are warm.

Platonos, Lena – “Balancers” – [Dark Entries]

humana   1/3/2022   12-inch, A Library

These are poems set to electronic backgrounds that were recorded between 1982 and 1985 by Greek electronic musician, composer, and poet Platonos. The liner notes describe the meaning and inspiration of each song, which is nice for those who can’t understand the very earthy Greek. A couple just have field sounds and electronics, while most of them focus on the spoken words of the poems set to minimal aural backgrounds. These previously unreleased tracks fill a nostalgic niche.

Badge Epoch – "Scroll" – [Telephone Explosion]

humana   11/21/2021   12-inch, A Library

Max Turnbull offers up selections from eight years of songwriting in this wonderful two-album release that he self-describes as “a cosmic hodge podge of funk, jazz, ambient techno, aggressive guitarmonized rawk, musique concrete, and hip hop.” Andrew Zukerman collaged Turnbull’s music into the aural experience that is as varied as the hairstyles on the album cover. You can drop the needle anywhere and find something appealing.

King Champion Sounds – "Between Two Worlds" – [Hive Mind Records]

humana   11/17/2021   A Library, CD

The “Sounds” part of this band’s name is so appropriate, given all the great sounds and genres represented on this album. The band itself is remarkable with its guitars, percussion, horns, vocals, and vibraphone (check out “Libra Libra Libra”). “This Monday Friday” is a real treat. Add to the band an amazing array of guests (listen to Mia Doi Todd on “Remembering Easby Abbey”) and you have a winner with something for everyone. I particularly enjoyed the first half of the album, although all of it is great.

Flowertown – "Flowertown" – [Mt. St. Mtn.]

humana   11/7/2021   12-inch, A Library

Listening to this right after Cindy’s “Free Advice,” I felt right at home, and there’s a reason for that–Flowertown is Karina Gill of Cindy, with Michael Ramos of Tony Jay. These two exchanged tapes during the quarantine of 2020 and came up with this great album. So more dreamy pop with mellow vocals against lovely musical backdrops. Who says good things didn’t come from the lockdown?

Cindy – "Free Advice" – [Tough Love Records]

humana   11/7/2021   12-inch, A Library

This is an entirely mellow album, not sad, but almost…not peppy, but almost…dreamy vocals sung by Karina Gill who also plays guitar, atop cool rhythms by Simon Phillips on drums and percussion, Aaron Diko on synth and keys, and Jesse Jackson on bass and keys. It’s hazy and pleasant, and if you want to read the lyrics, they’re printed on the record sleeve, or you could just let them wash over you with the music, which is an entirely pleasant experience.

Winderen, Jana – "Heated: Live In Japan" – [Touch]

humana   9/13/2021   A Library, CD

Even though this was performed live in Japan, the sounds captured on this disc by Winderen are a balm for our times. This Norwegian seeker of the hidden sounds found in glaciers and oceans gives us a treasure trove of sounds that refresh us in times of drought, creak through our souls, and wash away our angst like so many tears. The first track is a vocal introduction by musician Tetsuro Yasunaga. Ambience and field sounds at their best.

Miralia / Stranahan Duo – "S/t" – [Self Release]

humana   6/6/2021   A Library, CD

These are three long forays that will take you through aural images of whale song and have you experiencing exactly what the terms “crescendo” and “decrescendo” mean. Percussionist Paul Stranahan and electro-acoustic artist Lisa Miralia have composed a sound on this release that ranges from the first metallic sounding cries (that must be one agonized whale!) through delightful atmospheres created by bells, Tibetan singing bowls, and gongs to an cacophonous freak-out of sound that gradually and soothingly diminishes into a dream of wind chimes. Perfecto!

Jeanrenaud, Joan – "Metamorphosis" – [New Albion Records, Inc]

humana   3/14/2021   A Library, CD

Cello lovers are in for a genuine treat with this first release of music played by Jeanrenaud after gracing Kronos Quartet for 20 years with her cello. Called “metamorphosis” to symbolize the change of path in her career, the pieces are contemporary pleasures mixed with that ineffable quality that only a cello can bring to music. So, whether you are listening to the comfortingly familiar-sounding Metamorphosis Four by Philip Glass (which was written as soundtrack for a play based on a story by Kafka) or the Jeanrenaud composition Altar Piece that contains the rather unsettling sound that goes right along with viewing Day of the Dead altars that inspired Jeanrenaud, you will see how successfully she is in transitioning to a solo path. The loops of herself on cello layer the music, enriching it with her estimable experiences.

Sashash Ulz – "Pingvinia" – [No Part of It]

humana   2/14/2021   A Library, CD

I read that this music is Russian experimental folk. The first track starts and ends with what may be field sounds, and they bookend a repetitive theme that is not unpleasant. The second track is a soothing and folkloric-feeling palate cleanser, while the third track is an uplifting hazy-vocal surf-reminiscent outing. Tracks 4 and 5 are definitely folksy, and Track 6 is upbeat strumming. Tracks 7-9 are the noise tracks, while 10 is a field sounds collage. Track 11 gets back to a more melodic sound (sort of like the soundtrack to a spy movie), while 13 and 14 bring back the pleasant haze, and the final long track is a long reverie appropriate to its name, Cannabis.

Quintron & Miss Pussycat – "Goblin Alert!" – [Goner Records]

humana   12/30/2020   A Library, CD

This is incredibly upbeat, catchy dance music with just the right amount of cheesiness added by the Hammond B3. The drum machine has been replaced by a drum kit, and it will all leave you wondering just how awful a baby must look to earn a comparison to a WMD (Stroller Pollution), and also chanting “Alchemy and accessories” (Weaver Wear) while you wear holes in your socks as you bop to the music. Personally, I’d love to hear a new Halloween soundtrack that included Goblin Alert as a featured song. Have fun with this one.

Left Outsides, The – "a Place to Hide" – [Feeding Tube Records]

humana   12/30/2020   12-inch, A Library

Some things that are left outside suffer from the experience, but this is definitely not the case with this London-based husband wife duo of Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton, especially in the case of this folksy, heartening, yet often yearning release. Taken from a warmup to a live show in October of 2018, these songs feature drones, clear, lovely voices, violins, harmonium, and lyrics full of imagery that are the perfect accompaniment to a winter’s afternoon. You’ll want to play this to summon an idyllic atmosphere from another time.

Greenleif, Phillip – "Bellingham For David Ireland" – [500 Capp Street Foundation]

humana   11/23/2020   CD, Jazz

This is a fascinating jazz experience made richer by reading the liner notes as you listen to the 60+ minutes of jazz diffusing throughout the David Ireland House (which is an art installation created by the late artist David Ireland) in the Mission District of San Francisco. Greenlief composed this map-work, which, if you look closely at the album cover, is just that–a score based on the jigsaw pieces of maps of Bellingham, Washington, where Ireland grew up. The live performance was based on the score, but also on the conversations among the musicians placed in various locales of the house, along with the ambient noises such as sirens coming from both the inside and outside of the house. Greenlief set up in the entryway with his sax where he hoped to be able to hear the gongs, percussion, contrabass, violin, voice, tuba, and electronics emanating from different rooms in the two-story house. This is an ineffable aural treat.

WOW – "Come La Notte" – [Maple Death]

humana   11/23/2020   12-inch, A Library

“Like the Night” is the translation of “Come La Notte”–and the sounds of this Italian “garage-pop” duo definitely give off the nocturnal vibe. I put “garage-pop” in quotes because it is as good a label as any, if you have to put a label on it. China Now is the percussionist and vocalist, and Leo Non is the guitarist, and together they create an atmosphere that does sound like their experimental night club Bad Peace. The pace picks up with the last track on Side A, and the first track on Side B sounds like surf guitar at the beginning. I encourage you to experience the music for yourself before boxing it into any genre.

Schrock, Jake – "Omnibus" – [Medical Records]

humana   8/24/2020   12-inch, A Library

Schrock’s songs on here will please anyone who enjoys electronics, synths, and music that flows sometimes like a river and other times has a more staccato beat. They have been characterized as dream gaze and futuristic, and there are certainly elements of both on this album. Listening to it is like feeling a refreshing wash of cool air on your skin after a blistering hot day. Enjoy.

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