Automatisme: Transit (LP, Constellation, August 2018)

This one from William Jourdaine is super hard to categorize. According to the blurb, ‘the sonic material is all sourced from the field, with recordings captured in the forests and caves of rural Quebec, along with ex-urban “non-places”, and various waiting rooms’. This seems to have gone through a whole load of modular synth gear and been ‘rendered through generative and probability-based digital patches’. The result is has an analogue-sounding warmth and a digital-sounding glitchiness. It burbles and stutters along at a nice tempo, though I’d characterize it more as a pulse than a beat. Jourdaine manipulates his material with great skill: there’s always something new happening, new sounds and textures either evolving slowly or bursting into the mix abruptly, but there isn’t a jarring moment on the record. Keeping things this interesting with a palette while making every new element sound so natural and right is a rare talent. This is one that demands repeated careful listenings — and rewards them richly.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Basic Channel / Dub Techno, Electronic.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Luciferian Towers (LP, Constellation, September 2017)


Ah, good old Godspeed. After the epic metal excitement of 2012’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, this is rather more business as normal. Which isn’t to say that it’s restrained, of course…

There’s that perfectly poised counterpoint of resounding melody and screeching dissonance, of guitars and strings. There’s a nice dose of brass this time around. There’s a blend of rock, folk, classical, and drone. It’s emotional, edgy, and uplifting. It has track names like Bosses Hang and Anthem For No State. I imagine what I’m about to say is some kind of sacrilege — after all, this is undoubtedly angry, political, and important music — but twenty years after I first encountered them, this is a bit like comfort food to me. Which is to say, I listened to it on the streaming magic, I thought “very nice, but I don’t actually need to buy that, I have plenty like it”, and then a bit later I found myself listening to it again, and then again, and then I’d fallen for it and I ended up splurging on the beautiful gatefold vinyl because it turned out that, actually, this is stuff still means something special to me after all.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Indie / Alternative.

Jessica Moss: Pools Of Light (LP, Constellation, May 2017)


A fascinating and powerful solo work from the Silver Mt Zion violinist. Each side is a continuous piece in four movements. The A-side, Entire Populations, combines densely layered strings, at times of a sort of middle-eastern-ish folk-ish flavour, at others of a spiky neo-classical, at times densely layered, at others more stripped down; Pt. II is dominated by a repeated doom-laden vocal, the mantra “Entire populations, oh, we can’t see” making clear the eco-warning at the heart of this. The flip, Glaciers, is more obviously influenced by post-rock, you could see it as an extended and more fully developed version of one of the quiet string-based bits from a SMZ record… it’s nice, but it’s not all that memorable. The A-side, though, is great.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Experimental / Electronic.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (CD, Constellation, October 2012)

This record is immense. Let me try that again: this record is IMMENSE. The first track, Mladic, starts out in typical Godspeedy fashion: a crackling loop of vocal sample, a few bleeps and bloops, a distant-sounding folky melody over a buzzy drone, a clanking noise reminiscent of a passing freight train. Then, after a few minutes of this slow build, it kicks in, and before we’ve quite twigged what’s going on, we’re being pummelled by a massive wave of dirty guitars, howling strings, and heavy drumwork. To be perfectly honest with you, it’s more than a little bit metal — in a good way, an unashamed, authoritative, stomping-on-mere-mortals-who-get-in-its-way way, and just weird enough to keep it real. Oh, and it’s twenty minutes long. It leaves me feeling in need of a little lie down, really. Which is a bit unfair on the next track, Their Helicopters Sing, which is a fine piece of blarting dissonance, but doomed to be slightly underwhelming (and a mere slip of a thing at six-and-a-half minutes). Track 3, We Drift Like Worried Fire, is another twenty minute monster, almost as powerful as the opener (and it’s probably lucky that it’s a little more restrained, since listening to Mladic twice — and, in the interests of science, I have done this thing — is not good for my mechanism). It’s also more nuanced, with distinct movements, by turns urgent, sinister, euphoric. The final number, Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable, is another thickly textured six-and-a-half-minute drone job. It’s been fifteen years since their (proper release) debut, F♯A♯∞, and if they haven’t revolutionized their sound, why would they? They keep growing in scale, and here they are on absolutely imperious form. Plus, they keep making me grin.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Indie / Rock / Alternative.