Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the the day’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year end list. Enjoy!
Man, 2017, y'all. We realize that it's kind of our m.o. to be proponents of the whole "Golden Age of Metal" narrative and be incredibly positive about the consistently great level of stuff that is being put out from pretty much every part of the musical spectrum, but it's such an easy thing to do when we are so constantly bombarded with new material that utterly consumes our attention. Even in months where one of us might not have as many new albums that really impressed them, without doubt there will be another one who could barely keep up because of all the superb releases from genres they pay close attention to. This April has certainly been no different in that regard, and we have a whole slew of top-notch albums to recommend to you all.
One cannot talk about glitch music without at least giving German electronic project Oval a nod. Before becoming the solo project of Markus Popp (ending with 94 Diskont, strangely enough), Oval was infamous for their methodology—physically damaging CDs and destroying digital audio to extract the skips and distortions created, which were then used to create music. As a result, 94 Diskont is full of clicks and whirrs where said damage was created, and this album in particular is credited with being a pivotal release for glitch music.
At their cores, Desideratum and Below the House are linked; two sides of the same loss. Thom Wasluck has always channeled the entirety of himself into Planning for Burial, and on his Flenser debut with Desideratum, he manifested pure sorrow into a hazy blend of shoegaze and ambient drone metal. Yet, it's on Below the House that Wasluck's music truly morphs into "doomgaze," as his songwriting has taken on a starkly more direct, cathartic approach to coping with life's tribulations. Whereas Desideratum was an ode to internal suffering, Below the House is Wasluck's outward diatribe against a callous world, unwavering in its cruelty but malleable to the glimmering hope lying beneath his lamentations.
One of the most unique and consistent contemporary avant-garde bands, The Necks are perhaps most notable for carving out and perfecting their own meditative niche. On the surface, the Australian group's roster solicits expectations for a standard jazz trio - Chris Abrahams (piano, organ), Tony Buck (drums, percussion) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) seem to hearken back to the golden age of bare-bones bop and bandleaders like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. But these Aussies differ in how far they stretch their jazz roots into the avant-garde, comparable to but far beyond albums like John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and Pharaoh Sander's Karma. Though there's a distinctly transcendental, spiritual vibe to The Necks' music, the trio's approach to this style is heavily informed by the sparseness of artists like Evans and Monk, with a considerable focus on minimalism, improvisation and ambiance that stretches their musical atmosphere from a smoky, luxurious piano lounge into a general ether of organic landscapes.
In their down time from story-boarding episodes of Rick and Morty and Mr. Pickles for Adult Swim, the team at Williams Street Productions has been an odd source of quality underground music compilations and albums. Not only does their catalog feature works from the likes of Captain Murphy (a.k.a Flying Lotus) and Destruction Unit alongside annual, multi-genre compilations, nearly all of these albums are entirely free to stream and download. If you're searching for a negative here, there isn't one, a point the company proved yet again last month with their most avant-garde offering to date. The appropriately blunt title for NOISE should point to the abrasiveness of this collection of tracks; an eclectic range of compositions from an equally broad roster of artists, all of whom approach "noise" as a malleable concept meant to be stretched to its limit.
There aren't many labels that balance consistency and quality quite like The Flenser. Since launching in 2009, the San Francisco-based curator of "dark experimental" music has presented some of the best bands fitting of this classification. And though it was probably due to my own personal taste evolving more than anything else, 2014 seemed to be a particularly phenomenal year for The Flenser's roster, complete with incredible releases from Botanist, Have a Nice Life, Kayo Dot, White Suns and Wreck and Reference. But of all these gems, perhaps the most lasting release from the bunch has been Planning for Burial's Desideratum, Thom Wasluck's captivating blend of shoegaze and ambient drone that feels like an organic, non-GMO version of Jesu's poppy doom metal.
While it's unfair to call the "electroacoustic" tag unhelpful, the meaning of it's name is far more self-explanatory than the works it labels. For those unfamiliar with the genre, the underlying concept is relatively straight forward: electroacoustic music applies any number of digital effects to acoustic (or more accurately, non-electronic) recordings, whether it be instruments, found sounds or field recordings. This method creates a certain detached tangibility - a recognition of the deliberate, musical purpose of sounds which you often times can't quite link to a specific source. Such an odd bricolage may cause some to question the musicality of these works, but to the contrary, it's precisely this careful crafting of disparate sounds which established the genre as a unique art form all its own. The process experimental music veteran David Toop used to create Entities Inertias Faint Beings illuminates precisely why this is: