If you love John Carpenter’s past work as much as I do, you’ll already be aware of this album. If you are new to John Carpenter (dear god, how could you be???), know this: those late 80’s-90’s synth-driven horror soundtracks to films you grew up with are most likely inspired by him. His latest with his son, Cody and Godson, Daniel Davies is another fantastic entry into his non-soundtrack library. Although this time around, they are spreading their wings a bit more. “Dripping Blood,” “Turning the Bones,” and “Dead Eyes” are reminiscent of Carpenter’s more subtle work on soundtracks like Christine or Halloween III: Season of the Witch, while songs like “Vampire’s Touch” and “Cemetery” reach for the rawness of some of Carpenter’s more sonically invigorating pieces. Highlights include “Weeping Ghost,” “Skeleton,” and “The Dead Walk.” Grab a copy as soon as you can from Sacred Bones. Or, you know, don’t and miss out on some cool shit.
[Mineral Disc, 2020]
As a fan of late 2000s/early 2010s ambient/electronic group Emeralds, I was somewhat familiar with John Elliott’s work in Outer Space. Somewhere in the aftermath of Emerald’s demise, and in the midst of diving into each member’s solo and extended catalogs, I criminally leapt over his outstanding work in his Imaginary Softwoods.
This is happy, hopeful music. Drenched in the bittersweet chord progressions are swaths of glittering, plucking peaks; within the layers of symphonic chorus and floating, delayed swells of ethereal keys, oscillating arpeggios dance as if soaking in the late summer’s dawn.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and finds the beauty in late 70s sci-fi schlock scores as much as in contemporary neo-classical tomes of Max Richter and Steve Reich. There is as much Double Fantasy’s Universal Ave in these pieces as there is Harold Budd’s The Pearl and Reich’s tape loops.
“Aura Show” opens with something that sounds much like a singing bowl. The calm and gently swaying waves soon give way to a deep undercurrent slowly churning up the surface before slinking back into the depths, leaving the sun gleaming off the bouncing wake. The song culminates in the light, its lasting impression a vision of sighing breezes on sheer curtains.
“Destination Stone’s” dreamy, echoing analog synths are bookended by a set of glitchy scratches, distant long-forgotten video game sounds, and off-key carnival ephemera. It’s like stepping though a shattered crystal door, into a hall of mirrors, then back through the crystal door.
All this said, the album is remarkable from front to back, whether actively listening or as a mood-setter in late afternoon—or actively listening in late afternoon, as I’ve found it to be most enjoyable. It’s also a solid notice that I have a lot of catching up to do on Elliott’s catalog. I’m starting right away.
Listen to or purchase the green and red vinyl editions here: https://imaginarysoftwoods.bandcamp.com/album/annual-flowers-in-color-2020-remaster
Found sounds, droney backdrops, natural elements, ethereal woodwinds, and sequenced chimes. Leif Knowles creates a feeling of pastoral mystery—the feeling you get when dusk hits, the fireflies come out, and fog sets in. There’s no dreariness to it. On the contrary, it’s an album overflowing with wonder and intrigue. Leif sounds excited as he weaves these songs together: all pinpricks and dopamine.
“Myrtus” is a standout, with its sequenced African xylophone and humming, softly ringing tones. I absolutely love this album and listen to it on repeat.
Listen and purchase here: https://leifsounds.bandcamp.com/album/loom-dream
[RVNG Intl., 2020]
Russian musician Kate NV’s new album, Room for the Moon, expands on the minimalist synth pop from 2018’s для FOR. As with that album, analog synths garble, bleep, and thump, but this time around NV is much more polished. There is an immediacy to this album that was slightly missing from her previous efforts. The growth is noticeable, her voice is more confident, and her songwriting skills are sharp. As with all Kate NV albums, there remains a level of quirkiness certain to delight fans but risk a widespread embrace. It’s what sets her apart, however, and it is what will ultimately allow her to build an enduring legacy. Check it out if you like Japanese minimalism, Yellow Magic Orchestra, or analog synth pop in general.
Purchase vinyl, digital, cd, or cassette here: https://katenv.bandcamp.com/album/room-for-the-moon
[Unknown Capability Recordings, 2018]
The fourth installment of the, supposedly, lost secret music of Martin Zeichnete, written to provide the East German olympic team music to train to, is once again a stellar example of motorik, electronic music in the vein of Tangerine Dream, NEU!, and Ashra. This time, along with the typical pieces we would expect from this project, side B contains a suite of music composed for a film meant to stimulate athletes. As always, it’s all a little too perfect to feel totally true, but regardless, the music is still well worth the visit, if not repeated listens.
Listen and purchase here: https://kosmischerlaufer.bandcamp.com/album/volume-four
[Castles in Space, 2019]
With Flora, created under the moniker Polypores, Stephen James Buckley crafts beautiful ambient electronic, surrounded by field recordings of bubbling springs, rustling trees, and bird chirps. Yet there’s something other worldly about this music that plucks these familiar sounds from their associated surroundings, morphs them in front of us, and fashions them into an alien soundscape. This disassociation, and the creative employment of analog synths has been my go-to album for the past several days. Exceptional, mesmerizing stuff.
Listen and purchase here: https://polypores-cis.bandcamp.com/album/flora