One of the coolest live music experiences I’ve had was seeing Good Willsmith perform at a residency in Chicago where each of the three members was on a different floor of a three story building. I won’t bother trying to capture the feeling with a lot of adjectives, but it was a great show. I distinctly remember emerging onto the floor where Natalie Chami (aka TALsounds) was performing and after having seen both Doug and Max play solo it really hit home how much her vocals and synth work added to the group’s sound. That’s why I was so pumped to learn my local record store Eroding Winds had a copy of her solo record Love Sick from Ba Da Bing Records. I actually received it as a birthday present and when my gf asked about it, apparently the guy at Eroding Winds said he didn’t think anybody in town would buy it. I guess I have some evangelizing to do.
After listening to it a few times through yesterday, it’s hard to understand who wouldn’t enjoy this album, which consists of all improvisations recorded with no overdubs. In addition to performing as part of Good Willsmith and as a solo artist, Chami is also part of another ambient duo called l’éternèbre, which started in Chicago and is now a long-distance collaboration. The other half of the group records under the name grey ghost, and he appeared on one of the first tapes I bought from Hausu Mountain. It was the second volume of their Mugen series, and he actually shares the tape with TALsounds. You can hear more of her solo stuff over at her bandcamp and order your own physical releases of Love Sick here.
While I’ve been a fan of Thrill Jockey for a while, I only recently discovered Mountains by way of the Radio War Nerd podcast. After a few episodes of really good ambient music between segments they finally revealed their producer Brendon as the source, who works at Telescope Audio. Brendon is one half of Mountains along with Koen Holtkamp. They began releasing material as Mountains through their collective/label Apestaartje in 2005, which focused on “gradual development and extremely detailed listening.” In 2009 they released Choral, their first record on Thrill Jockey, and have released four more albums since then. After a few listens, this album in particular calls to mind another Thrill Jockey release by Town and Country, which I picked up on a whim because it was on sale and I have loved it ever since. Looking into Mountains for this post I found that Apestaartje also re-issued Town and Country’s self-titled debut from 1998, proving conclusively that all of the coolest people are friends with each other. You can pick up copies of this and other Mountains records over at the Thrill Jockey site.
At the beginning of February Justin Wright, the brains and brawn behind Expo ’70, sustained a serious injury to his hand. Given that he lives in America and this country’s healthcare is essentially bloodsport, someone has set up a fundraiser to support him while he recovers and to pay off his future medical bills. To that end, I wanted to share one of my favorite tracks off of a tape I brought from the man himself that makes me long for my old Toyota with the tape deck every time I hear it. I’ve written about Expo ’70 on a previous post so I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that he is a good guy who works his ass off making great music and if you can support him with a donation or by buying some of his music I’m sure he’d appreciate it. The Expo ’70 bandcamp page is here but this and many other tapes can be found at Sonic Meditations. If you can join me in donating please do or at the very least pick up some of his music. I have yet to hear anything I don’t like, but this tape is definitely among my favorites.
The Red Line is the final track on the long sought-after gem Ship-Scope, released in 2001 by the enigmatic Shinichi Atobe. Initially released by the German label Chain Reaction, Ship-Scope was reissued in 2015 by DDS, a label run by the experimental duo Demdike Stare. In addition to repressing Ship-Scope, Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker were also able to convince Atobe to release material he had been working on after the 2001 release and he has since put out two more albums also on DDS, World and From The Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art. I couldn’t find much more information about Atobe, and frankly I’m okay with that as long as he keeps making music.
Syrinx was an electronic music group from Canada at a time where the coolest thing you could be doing was experimenting with synths and electronics. John Mills-Cockell seems to have been the prime mover behind the group, and he spent the 60s doing what I would do if I had a time machine: experimenting with tape manipulation and electronics while studying classical composition at the University of Toronto. Well maybe I wouldn’t be in Toronto but you get the idea. Before forming Syrinx, he toured North America with a collective called Intersystems, which combined spoken word, tape manipulation, and other electronic tricks. Check out one of my favorite tracks of theirs here. Mills-Cockell joined up with Bernie Finkelstein to record his music on Finkelstein’s new label True North, and once Mills-Cockell met Doug Pringle and Allan Wells the group was up and running. There is an excellent write-up over at Bandcamp Daily about the group with lots of cool archival pictures and more details about the bands recording history.
This compilation of re-issued and previously unreleased material from Syrinx comes courtesy of Rvng Intl., which still has copies of the release in CD and LP form as of this writing. They also put out a short documentary on the group that is worth checking out too. Hollywood Dream Trip was originally released on their self-titled debut record, but the group put out only one more release before disbanding, with Mills-Cockell going on to compose for film, TV, and theater along with apparently producing techno music. I was torn between Hollywood Dream Trip and this longer track also from their debut Chant for Your Dragon King, which anybody who digs this would probably also enjoy.
After putting out a few cassettes on their own, Houston trio Khruangbin released this track on an EP with the same name on LateNightTales in 2014, where it waited patiently for three years to be discovered by me. The group takes its name from the Thai word for airplane, which originally referenced the shared love of Thai surf and funk that brought Laura Lee (Bass), Mark Speer (Guitar), and D.J. (Drums) together, though it is doubly appropriate now that the band is split between the U.K. and the States. If you’re looking for an entry point in to the kind of Thai music they are influenced by, Sublime Frequencies has put out a number of great compilations of Thai rock from the 60s and 70s. Two good places to start are Thai Pop Spectacular and Shadow Music of Thailand. Khruangbin released their first full-length album in 2015 titled The Universe Smiles Upon You. They also put together a mix tape that highlights some of their other influences which you can find here. According to their website they’re playing a couple of festivals this summer, including Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, and Outside Lands. Because I’m a curmudgeon I won’t be able to see them live, but discovering this group is almost enough to make me take the plunge. Here are some links to purchase the releases I mentioned here if you are so inclined:
This track comes off what might be the best volume in the Air Texture compilation series. For each volume of the series, two artist curate a CD of contemporary ambient work, and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I like Volume IV so much because Steve Hauschildt (formerly of Emeralds) was one of the curators. Schleinz performs on synths be built himself, the schemes of which he shares on his website, which is well worth checking out for anybody interested in technical details of synthesizers and electronic music. He started building standalone circuits from various books and sites and soon graduated to assembling modular synths by putting his “toys” into larger modular cases, with an eye towards portability (no easy task with modular synths). As an amateur musician myself, I’m so thankful for the great resources he’s assembled on his site, including links to DIY synth designs, CD printing services, and resources for live visual effects. Schlienz has released quite a few solo tapes/CDs on labels like Sacred Phrases and Constellation Tatsu, which have released material by other artists featured on this site. As if that weren’t enough, he also runs the label Cosmic Winnetou, which has featured some of my favorite artists including Pulse Emitter, Matthias Grassow, and TALSounds of Good Willsmith. I am always very pleased when in the process of writing these posts I learn that someone who I’ve previously just admired as a musician has been involved with a bunch of other artists who I also admire greatly. To hear more of solo work head over to Bandcamp. He also put out a series of collaborative tapes/CDs starting in the late 90s under the name Navel which have their own Bandcamp page. Just in case there weren’t enough Bandcamp links on this page, you can hear the rest of the Air Texture series here.