Agathe Max: This Silver String
This Silver String is the transformative debut by French violinist Agathe Max. At times her work approaches the supersonic escape velocity of Tony Conrad; elsewhere, she introduces delicate repeating threads, then slowly weaves them into a fabric of vast, billowing sound more reminiscent of Steve Reich. With an elegant command of melody and a strident use of rhythm, Max manages to create a remarkably accessible collection of tracks, one that bridges the gaps between minimalism, post-classicism, the avant garde, krautrock, and plain old-fashioned pop ? there’s even a nod to the High Lonesome Raga as filtered through Henry Flynt. This Silver String is a genre-bender for certain, and a fine debut by any definition.
“Agathe Max delivers a drone to keep the earth turning on its axis, with a keen and romantic sense of swing. Everything you need to have a good time"
-- Jonathan Kane
Jon Mueller / Jason Kahn: Topography
Percussionist Jon Mueller continues his amazing run of releases (he appears on eight Table of the Elements titles in the first half of 2008!) with Topography, a collaboration with Zürich-based sound and visual artist Jason Kahn. As a drummer, Mueller propels Collections of Colonies of Bees and the occasional guitar army of Rhys Chatham; he also finds time to collaborate with artists ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to Swans’ Jarboe. Kahn draws on electronic and acoustic sound sources to create slowly developing compositions imbued with a sense of timelessness.
Topography addresses the entity of sound as both a physical and psychological factor shaping our consciousness, and is a remarkable display of electroacoustic finesse. It’s a joint, limited-edition release with Mueller’s own Crouton label, exquisitely packaged in a debossed, white-on-white jacket.
Various Artists: The Need for a Crossing: A New New Zealand Vol. I
Trapped in splendid isolation on the verdant backside of the planet, the New Zealand scene has evolved into as vivid and unique a beast as any you're likely to hear. Thanks to recent expeditions, you can now hear its multifarious tweets and warbles for yourself, as the intrepid folks at Xeric present NEED FOR A CROSSING: A NEW NEW ZEALAND, an introduction to the latest generation of antipodal soundsmiths. It's a strange and exotic menagerie, and a welcome chance for the rest of us to hear what's happening in the new New Zealand.
Badgerlore: We Are All Hopeful Farmers, We Are All Scared Rabbits
Badgerlore is the great tribal council of the so-called "Freak Folk" movement. The supergroup features Rob Fisk (Deerhoof, 7-Year Rabbit Cycle) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire), with Tom Carter (Charalambides), Pete Swanson (Yellow Swans), Glen Donaldson (Blithe Sons, Jeweled Antler) and Liz Harris (Grouper). Together they proceed with masterful nuance and inexorable tension; We Are All Hopeful Farmers, We Are All Scared Rabbits is the sound of effigy mounds slowly rousing from prehistoric slumber.
Forget New Weird America; forget Old Weird America. In devotional murmurs and arboreal whispers, the denizens of the Badgerlore lodge summon the dreadful, breathing shadow of the Old Weird Universe.
Features original artwork and tintypes by San Francisco artist Allison Watkins; graphic design by Grammy Award-winner Susan Archie.
Hubcap City: Superlocalhellfreakride
BILL TAFT and WILL FRATESI are luminaries of Atlanta’s indie rock avant-garde — Taft’s legacy as a key player in SMOKE and Fratesi’s tenure as the rickety percussionist behind such lonely and urbane Southern specters as CAT POWER and TENEMENT HALLS culminates in HUBCAP CITY with slow, serpentine miasma. Superlocalhellfreakride is a guided tour through Atlanta’s underbelly; a survey of the acoustics found in its burned-out buildings, graveyards and long-abandoned mills. The humid ghosts of Hubcap City’s ancestors, including Smoke, the Jody Grind and Atlanta’s seminal Destroy All Music Festivals in the 1980s all echo in these folkish dirges of melody and noise. With each lazy and uplifting honk of the horn over a clatter of strings and metal the group pushes the old weird Atlanta into deeper and higher levels of beautiful imprisonment, and the only way out is through.
Ateleia: Formal Sleep
Ateleia is Brooklyn resident James Elliott. His music combines crystalline pulse with submerged aquatic drones and subtle ghost melodies. It's not so much oceanic as it is tide pool - the churn of the tidal impulse captured in miniature and crawling with activity. Evoking the grand echo of My Bloody Valentine and the long-standing tradition of psychedelic minimalism, but informed by contemporary electronic music, Formal Sleep is truly immersive. Featuring contributions by David Grubbs (Gastr del Sol), David Daniell (Rhys Chatham, Jonathan Kane), Jon Philpot (Presocratics, Bear In Heaven) and Sadek Bazaraa.
David Daniell: Coastal
Have you heard the raw, minimal howl that rises from the late-night, backwoods campfires at Table of the Elements? If so, you know the work of David Daniell -- even if you don't yet recognize the name. Daniell is the head of both of composer Rhys Chatham's current ensembles; he's the lead guitarist in Jonathan Kane's rollicking band, February; he performs regularly in a duo with Tortoise's Doug McCombs; he has collaborated with the Who's Who of today's finest, including Tim Barnes, Thurston Moore and Loren Connors; and his guitar work with his own band, San Agustin, is the stuff of which fleeting blues-drone dreams are made.
Following a long break after his debut solo release, Daniell now returns with _Coastal_. In all its variety, this record is a focused synthesis of influences. Tracks like "Sunfish" and "Glasswort" use acoustic guitar reminiscent of work by David Grubbs and Mountains, while the thick psychedelic morass of deep electric guitar, synth drone and scattered tribal percussion of "Whelk" brings to mind early Faust, and the long-form tone poem "Palmetto" is pure swirling electronic glacial beauty. Rooted in the blues, American minimalism and post-punk ideologies, Daniell's guitar playing is always inspired; when fused with his intricate electroacoustic compositions, the results are breathtaking.
R. Keenan Lawler: Music for the Bluegrass States
Native Kentuckian R. Keenan Lawler speaks a private, fundamental language via his trademark metal-bodied resonator guitar. With an intensely focused technique, he sets bluegrass- and blues-inflected tonalities against dense masses of harmonic overtones and sustained textures. It is a mesmerizing sound, one that conjures the effect of various global trance-musics and has beguiled a series of collaborators including Pelt, Matmos, Charalambides and My Morning Jacket. Inhabiting the mysterious string-space between Tony Conrad and John Fahey, Lawler's is a wholly original idiom of music that brims with near-religious exhaltation and spectral, gothic dread -- a daring plunge through the darkened brambles of a particularly raw Americana.
Alastair Galbraith: Morse/Gaudylight
Alastair Galbraith is the glue that binds the New Zealand underground. His work ranges from achingly lyrical violin from artists as disparate as Peter Jeffries and the Bats to the feedback squalls he conjures as a member of A Handful of Dust. However , is greatest achievements are the otherworldly miniatures he crafts for his own solo albums. Although the music on the is CD was originally released on the storied Siltbreeze label, it couldn't have cone from anyone byt Alastair Galbraith from anyplace beside Dunedin, New Zealand, or any time other than 1998-1992. Albraith's writing intimates an awareness of oblivion and a yearning to transcend it , These classic tracks - including an amazing selection of bonus material - prefigure a generation of raw songsmithing and offer a spellbinding glimpse into the world of one of rock's great unheralded talents.
Alastair Galbraith: Talisman
Alastair Galbraith/ Matt De Gennaro: Long Wires in Dark Museums Vol. 2
Multi-talented Alastair Galbraith is the glue that binds the New Zealand underground. His work ranges from achingly lyrical violin for artists as disparate as Peter Jefferies and the Bats, to the feedback squalls he conjures as member of A Handful Of Dust, to the otherworldly miniatures he crafts for his own solo albums. However, in recent years, Galbraith, along with American Matt De Gennaro, has developed another remarkable performance idiom, one that is positioned closer to the sounding sculpture of Harry Bertoia. In Long Wires in Dark Museums, architectural idiosyncrasies are transformed into nuanced and hypnotic audio. Wires -- some as long as 100 feet -- are affixed throughout a building. When the wires are taught and stroked with rosined hands or a piece of leather, longitudinal vibrations are sent to the points of attachment, creating a natural resonator. It is not the wires that make the sound, but the wall, railing or window frames at their end; wire length and room acoustics determine the pitch. The result, achieved in a veil of total darkness, is a beauttiful and eerie confluence of chance and accident, architecture and improvisation. As Galbraith himself puts it, "There is some quite magical feeling of communion turning the lights off and making the building sing."
"Life for me has always been an improvisation, but I used to only present a distillation of it, some summation. Now the living process comes to appeal... We love, we klutz, we act, we improvise; in real life we almost always improvise."Alastair Galbraith
"Rich, multitextured... the tonal purity of the sound as it resonates and bounces off the walls of the church is simultaneously soothing and engaging."Austin Chronicle
Gastr del Sol: Harp Factory on Lake Street
Is 90s nostalgia underway yet? If not, this reissue may be just the thing to get it started. In 1994, Chicago is the fountainhead for a bona-fide Scene, in which bands are giving timbre and texture priority over riffs and power chords. To the chagrin of many, the press will label it all "post-rock." It's the definitive movement of the decade, and front and center are Gastr del Sol, comprised of David Grubbs (previously: Squirrel Bait, Bastro) and Jim O'Rourke (subsequently: Wilco, Sonic Youth). Some of their city-mates may shift more units; Gastr, with a relentless drive for reinvention, shift the boundaries of where a band can go. Avant punk, atonal song-styling, musique concrète, delicate piano-guitar interplay, raw electronics and modernist chamber music -- all are fair terrain, traversed with subtlety and finesse. Behind the obligatory horn-rims, Grubbs and O'Rourke have "vision."
A dozen years later, this overdue reissue of 1994's _The Harp Factory on Lake Street_ EP provides the missing piece in Gastr's otherwise available discography. To hear it again is a treat. It's their notorious "big band" record, and the ten-piece ensemble is a veritable All-Star team of mid-90s Chicagoans, including members of Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Shellac, Dazzling Killmen, Brise Glace and the Vandermark 5; through studio maneuvering courtesy O'Rourke and engineer John McEntire, they blossom into a small-sized orchestra. Remarkably confident in the use of space and dissonance, _Harp Factory_ also emphasizes the conceptual "scrape", the friction between nuance and noise, that plays such a prominent role in Gastr's subsequent _Upgrade and Afterlife_ LP. Familiar signposts are still in sight -- O'Rourke's compositional skills, Grubbs' associative, absurdist musings -- but this is definitely their boldest outing. It's a record full of blissful confoundment, one that aptly vivifies the spirit of an era. Gastr del Sol may have lasted a brief five years, but they are to the 1990s what the Magic Band, This Heat and Sonic Youth were to their respective decades: intrepid trailblazers through the backwoods of sound.
William Hooker/Lee Ranaldo: The Celestial Answer
As individual performers, William Hooker and Lee Ranaldo are explosive. As collaborators, they are thermonuclear. A kinetic, avant percussionist and poet, Hooker is one of New York's most important band leaders, having fronted groups that included David Murray and David S. Ware. Ranaldo leads the improv supergroup Text of Light, whose fluid membership includes Hooker, as well as Christian Marclay, Tim Barnes and Mission of Burma's Roger Miller - and of course, he's a co-founder of the indefatigably experimental Sonic Youth.
With The Celestial Answer, Hooker and Ranaldo have created a work of blindingly brilliant, elemental force. Rays of white guitar noise penetrate clouds of analog synth; molten drumming blasts across free-form poetics. The dynamic is beautiful and inspired - a simple cold-fusion of intuitive interaction and boundless sonic freedom. These are thoughtful and emotionally attuned artists. Open your ears and they'll take you on a soaring voyage through an ecstatic firmament, into the howling mouth of infinity.