Abandoned Memory is the fourth album of Heezen, the Spanish sound artist Raül Fuentes, who has been active in sound art since 2003. It was released to Fuentes’s own Feutlab and mastered by Ian Hawgood. Fuentes recorded Abandoned Memory between 2009 and 2013, utilizing found objects and found samples along with guitars, synths, and field recordings.
It’s hard not to be charmed by Fuente’s impressionistic, airy sound collages which, despite his description of himself as a “non-musician”, display his sure ear for creating and sustaining mood and “imagery” with sound. Heezen is situated at the intriguing halfway point between Music for Films and the playful chatter of The Lemon of Pink. On Abandoned Memory, the warm, rhythmic hums and trills of looped sampled strings and faint sampled voices set up the mysterious, cinematic frameworks for his pieces that mesh with waves of digitally compressed and physically degraded noise. This is lovely and evocative hypnagogic mood music– here, the murmurs of the everyday have been spooled to create unique, spacey “electronica” that will pull you into a dream…
Pânico-Ambiente is the newest offering from the drone masters Aires and Rui P. Andrade, and was released on cassette in February through the Lisbon-based Casa Amarela collective. What can I say about these awesome guys that I did not already say in my write-up for their split with Earthly Beasts? Listeners should be warned though– this release stands apart from Aires and Andrade’s previous efforts in that it takes the plunge completely into harsh noise. Pânico-Ambiente is an absolutely bracing half-hour of punishment. A thrilling, and welcome, experiment from two highly original sound artists– some of the most daring brain-fuckery you can hear this side of the golden age of Japanoise.
The Lonely Bell is an instrumental project of Scottish musician Ali Murray. Listening closely to his new release under this moniker (which Murray produced, recorded, engineered, and mastered on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland), I was reminded somewhat of friend Jason Gray’s Weather Exposed. Murray’s compositions are built around his simple but subtle guitar work, making the label “post-rock” seem appropriate. However, the incorporation of field recordings endows these tracks with a strong sense of place. The Lonely Bell is another brilliant contribution to the now overwhelming array of isolation ambient.
This is sad and windswept post-rock…but in the sense of Labradford, in which some primacy is given to sonic experimentation in addition to atmosphere. A wall of static that suffuses, but never completely overwhelms “Frozen in Memory” is just one example of the tempered experimentation that catapults Murray’s bleak vision into the spiritual extremes that isolation ambient and post-rock can reach at their best. And then there are also the faint chimes that can be heard from within the depths of a layered drone on the album’s title track. Murray’s take on this idiom is passionate and rich, and without a doubt leaps and bounds ahead of most of his contemporaries.
Criminally overlooked electronic producer Matthew Mercer has been putting out dynamite for over a decade both under his own name and as one half of the electro-pop duo Microfilm. Even considering the impressive level of quality that can be seen in his numerous techno productions up to this point, his new release Supernatant is a truly jaw-dropping tour-de-force– nearly an hour of mind-bending soundscapes. And to think that for more than half of his career, Matthew was laboring right here in Portland, my town (Ohio-raised Mercer relocated here from Chicago some years ago).
A classically trained musician on piano and organ, Mercer has oscillated back and forth from pulsing, angular techno to more experimental work. What strikes me about Supernatant is the sustained attack of this record– an ever-expanding horizon of tense, spookily beautiful cosmic drones. These immaculately layered and planned pieces have a nonetheless aggressive edge– take, for instance, how the watery ambience of “Somnabulism” lulls you in… only to shatter into broken shards of white noise and disembodied, wailing strings at the halfway point. The atmosphere of this record certainly shows the influence of modern art music.
This is without a doubt one of the strongest releases that could be grouped as “dark ambient” this year…particularly because it is so dynamic and unpredictable. To put it bluntly, I find this record to have such a powerful pull on me because it’s a rare example of a bleak, spooky ambient record that genuinely has some tricks up its sleeves– be they the growling drone that starts us off on “Backsliding”, the ghostly feedback squeal on “Sensorium”, or the flute on “Hive Mind”, the track on which the record’s powerful aura of fear and mystery surely reaches its apex. A minor masterpiece.
Babau, Luigi Monteanni and Matteo Pennesi, remain one of the most engaging and under-appreciated neo-psychedelic groups in action these days. Their new EP Papalagi, recorded at Plaster Recording Studio in Potenza Picena, is pretty damn excellent. My anticipation for a full-length album from Babau grows as they offer me the first flowerings of their vision piece by piece.
Like Shalabi Effect, they’re a little bit post-rock and little bit psych-rock– a bewildering and exotic mixture of styles that betrays their impressive level of technical skill is their most recognizable trait. Out of a frothing miasma of space jazz and ritualistic drones, a vicious, buoyant guitar line will often cut through and remind the listener of the rock underpinnings of this highly imaginative psychedelic band. Papalagi is a tasty concoction to behold, and the juxtaposition is often really fascinating: whether it’s within the ominous primitivism of “Faus” (previously seen on Monteanni and Pennesi’s ArteTetra’s first exotic ésotérique compilation), the ecstatic mindfuckery of “Palo Mojombe”, or the garbled vocals and glittering synths of “Palma Hayek”. There is no time wasted here– the whole EP is gripping and well-constructed avant-prog. It isn’t often for me to feel as though I’m one-hundred percent on the same wavelength with a young band’s vision, and so Babau are really a rather exciting project to behold.
The EP can be streamed in its entirety here:
Also of interest to anyone who has been following ArteTetra’s highly eclectic and mind-manifesting output is their new VHS release “Soundtrack for Acariňo Galaico” by Nicola Tirabasso. This release re-edits Jose Val Del Omar’s 1961 surreal short film Acariňo Galaico to include Tirabasso’s new soundtrack of ominous, atmospheric loops and drones. This release too was previewed on exotic ésotérique vol. 1, on the track “Nostra signora dei turchi”. Tirabasso’s spooky psych-drone is a fitting mate for the strange mixture of religious iconography and leprous human faces in the film’s imagery. Highly recommended to anyone else who thought that the cavernous krautrock doom of Expo 70’s Death Voyage was brilliant as hell.