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Fachada – “Mundos Secretos” – [Electric Cowbell]

humana   7/16/2022   12-inch, A Library

This is Rob Smith, known as Fachada (facade), creating “secret worlds” from his home in Washington, D.C. Worlds filled with his percussive talents and influenced by a bunch of Brazilian LPs he once found in a junk yard. Each track on here is a short delight of Brazilian rhythms, funk, jazz, Afro beats–and it’s his debut release. If you love Brazilian music, you’ll love this.

Cyrillic Typewriter, The – “Buzz” – [Jaz Records]

humana   7/16/2022   12-inch, A Library

This album contains some incredibly mellow music composed by Jason Zumpano of Vancouver, BC. Side A has more of a soundtrack feel to it with the channeling a mellow saloon (A2) or an otherworldly atmosphere (A4). Paul Rigby’s pedal steel contributes to this feeling. On Side B, Zumpano’s rhodes and synthesizers create more of a solemn feeling like wind whistling through a graveyard (B1) or a hushed cathedral (B3), although the pedal steel threads in and out to give an unexpected Hawaiian feeling. All instrumental, this is a pretty, gentle aural experience despite the eerie moments.

Massage – “Still Life” – [Bobo Integral Mountain St. Mtn]

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

Think of how good you feel during a massage, and you’ll come close to the amazing feeling you’ll have as you listen to the songs on this release–nary a track that isn’t upbeat, pure pop joy. The vocals are smooth, the lyrics are sweet, the drums keep the guitars, keyboards, and bass in line. “Somersaults and summer days” (from A3) is about as good a descriptor as any for this entirely enjoyable album. There is really nothing still about the way it makes you feel.

Fisher, Mark & Barton, Justin – “On Vanishing Land” – [Flatlines]

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

Fisher (RIP) and Barton took a walk along England’s Suffolk coast one day, and this album, which is really more of a docu-fictional aural experience, is the result. Barton’s narration of the walk is interspersed with interviews with people encountered on the walk, and all of this spoken word is set into music composed by ambient artists who are listed on the album. It is nearly impossible to figure out exactly whose music is accompanying the different narrations, but this is not of great consequence. The atmospheres are alternately eerie (very appropriate since Fisher, a cultural theorist specializing in hauntology) and calming. Read the liner notes and listen to the “dream within a dream,” and figure out what the sound is that comes back when the radar clicks mentioned at the end of Side B are sent out into the unknown. The land may be vanishing, but are we?

Contranistas – “Center Negative/Memory Divided By Time” – [Killer Kern]

humana   6/2/2022   7-inch, A Library

Although this Bakersfield duo has been called gloomy, I’d say their sound on this release matches the rather bright blue of the 7″ vinyl it’s etched into. “Center Negative” sounds rather positive to me, while “Memory Divided by Time” is bit more intense and you can hear more of the live looping sounds. The percussion, drums, and bass add to the atmosphere. You decide where it leads your mind. Personally, I like it both a lot.

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.

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