Various Artists – Mono No Aware

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[ PAN, 2017 ]

The year 2016 might have seemed for some as some sort of end-of-the-world year with all the major changes going on in the US, Europe, or globally in general. The media were keen to fuel the panic with nearly apocalyptic images of protests, terrorist acts and riot, leading many to believe the next Big War is coming. Meanwhile, the team of the Berlin-based electronic label PAN asked themselves a simple question: What is ambient music in the 21st century? With the help of the musicians who released albums on PAN they answer this question: Well, ambient is still mostly about calmness and atmosphere, but in 2017 it’s stylistic influences are much wider than in the 1970’s when Brian Eno coined the term. The compilations title refers to the Japanese philosophical concept regarding being aware to the passing of all things. The ambience on Mono No Aware is “contaminated” by noise, musique concrete, grime, even ASMR aesthetics. It’s indeniably futuristic but also very traditional at the same time, keeping faithful to the original concept or answering to the question of what ambient music is. Featuring tracks by Helm, Yves Tumor, M.E.S.H., Jeff Witscher, SKY H1, ADR and many more, Mono No Aware is an ecletic, yet coherent collection of the 21st century ambient music. Highly recommended!


Gnod – Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine

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[ Rocket Recordings, 2017 ]

When it comes to clearly state your views, few (or even no) artists this year might come close to the UK psychonauts Gnod. It looks like the tumultous events of 2016 and early 2017 shook the members to their foundations, causing them to get radical and political. Just Say No is a rebellious album, eschewing their open-form drone-psych improvisations for a more coherent effort, fusing fuzzy noise rock with protest lyrics, which sometimes makes Gnod sound like Skullflower covering XTC (at least when the vocals aren’t extremely distorted). The dirty riffs fly like the riot police bullets while the heavy, pummeling drums set the rhythm for one last death march. Resistance music for the interesting times. Recommended!

 


Julia Bloop – “I Gotta Get Outta This Place”

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The spring batch of tapes from Crash Symbols comes spearheaded by Brooklyn ambientalist Julia Bloop, who promotes the upcoming cassette Roland Throop with “I Gotta Get Outta This Place”. Bloop creates a dreamlike atmosphere by cleverly juggling relaxed percussive loops, spoken word samples and delicate melodies, resulting in a calm, melodic microcosm that sounds like a clever quote of late 90’s Ninja Tune and their downtempo classics.

Roland Throop is out March 24th via Crash Symbols.


Hills – Hills

 

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[ Sky Lantern, 2017, originally released in 2009 ]

Here’s an album I totally love coming back to: the self-titled debut LP by the Swedish based psych experts Hills, reissued on vinyl by the American label Sky Lantern (unfortunately not available anymore, sorry for being a slowpoke). Taking cues from their country’s rich tradition of head music and a lot of krautrock rhythms Hills have created a fully captivating and organic album that fits perfectly both for those beginning their adventure in psychedelic rock and the seasoned trippers who went on countless trips into the Great Beyond. Now sit back, light one up and let the Scandinavian psychedelic sensation take over your brain and body. Highly recommended!


Matta Gawa – Tambora

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[ New Atlantis Records, 2011 ]

The free rock tradition is being kept alive and well with the Washington, DC based duo Matta Gawa consisting of the six string demon Ed Ricart and the drum demon Sam Lohman who manage to create dynamic, explosive composition with the use of just these two instruments. Tambora has a much cleaner production than Ba, which allows the duo to fully show their relentless action when it comes to their free flowing tracks which masterfully shift from the moments of silence to the fully articulated blasts of anger. Imagine psych rock, but much more basic and with less stylistic boundaries and less effects and you get Matta Gawa. Recommended!


KURO – KURO

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[ Rocket Recordings, 2016 ]

A primordial fog rises above this genre-bending dark masterpiece by the Bristol based duo KURO. With its minimalistic artwork (and name) referring to the masterpieces of Japanese psychedelia and avant-garde, the thickly layered drones bring to mind the music of Tetragrammaton or Yoshi Wada (although not that minimalistic) with an occult twist. Referring to ancient cults and religions, KURO creates a dense, thick atmosphere that sounds like a preparation for a conjuring of a forgotten deity about to emerge from a trans-dimensional portal. This is a work of psychedelic beauty to get lost in. Recommended!


Rangers – Texas Rock Bottom

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[ Self-released, 2016 ]

A praise of very ordinary living: the newest album by Joe Knight a.k.a. Rangers makes you check all the info on the Bandcamp page twice while thinking: “Wait, is this the same guy who made Suburban Tours and Panama Stories, which shaped hypnagogic pop with its hazy, druggy aesthetics!?”. Yes, it is. At first, it might seem almost dull by comparison – the songs here sound a bit like something a small town rock band might record to be played on a local radio, but with each repeated listening the intriguing stylistic shifts and occasional breaks in almost pop rock song structures become more and more prominent. Turns out, there’s quite a lot of Meat Puppets love under the soft melodies and easy rhythms. It’s a kind of sly, secretive psychedelia that only emerges after a few listens or when one completely blends into the music. A bit underwhelming at first, but very rewarding after a while. Recommended!