Jeremy Harris – Double Fidelity

Ages is the latest in the Echomancy II series from Gnome Life Records. The term echomancy is defined as “divination through music,” and even if I can’t be sure what spell Harris is conjuring here I certainly know that it has worked on me. As far as I can tell this is the first release from Harris, hopefully the first of many to come. This track was constructed using a multi-synth setup and field recordings fed through a series of delays and tape loops, though the sparse technical set up really belies the magic in this release. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact it combines was recordings done during both the vernal and autumnal equinox. Even though I had not tracked Gnome Life before coming across this release, I shouldn’t be surprised that they put out a top notch release like this considering they’ve re-issued a number of Robbie Basho records in the last couple years. As they mention in the write-up for this record, New Age can be thought of as a form of American folk music, even if it doesn’t sound anything like Pete Seeger or Leadbelly or even Robbie Basho. It’s hard for me to put my finger on how, but this type of music seems to amplify an American tradition of transcendental thought in a world consumed by cold electricity and Big Data detachment. Using complicated technical setups to achieve a sound that is so warm and inviting is no small task, and when executed this well it is difficult not to be caught dreaming of an electric City on a Hill.

Opossum Sun Trail – Rest Stop Birds

Rest Stop Birds comes off what appears to be the debut cassette for Opossum Sun Trail, American Chemtrails which they appear to be self-releasing through Bandcamp. This is the type of thing that makes me bemoan my new car’s lack of a cassette deck. The group’s only other online presence as far as I can tell is a video for The Long Valley, a track off American Chemtrails. There wasn’t a ton of information online about these guys, but I did find a Facebook event for a show that that they played with Daniel Bachman. I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for another repeat of that lineup because that would be one helluva time. This whole release exudes the sparse desert vibes that I really love in artists like William Fowler Collins, though in this case Opossum Sun Trail is channeling a bit of Ennio Morricone. And that’s just fine by me.

Klaus Schulze – Bayreuth Return

This track is one half of Schulze’s 1975 release Timewind and while it’s certainly a wonderful example of Berlin School electronic experimentation, one look at Schulze’s discography highlights the difficulty of picking just one release. He performed on Tangerine Dream’s debut album Electronic Meditation as well as on the Lord Krishna Von Goloka release that I’ve also written about here in addition to releasing over 40 albums of his own beginning with Irrlicht.

Part of that extensive discography includes releases under another name, Richard Wahnfried which he described in the notes for Time Actor as a blending of avant garde music and hypercommercial muzak. This appropriation of commercial ambient music in service of avant garde forms influences many experimental musicians today, from manipulating cassette tapes originally designed for corporate outreach by groups like Good Willsmith to the long-form future mall music of Virtual Dream Plaza. Schulze and the artists in his milieu helped to expand the vocabulary of electronics in experimental music and, eventually, music more generally and in my opinion it’s hard to overstate their influence. Since it is getting more and more affordable for people to obtain synths thanks to software-based synth engines, those interested would do well to immerse themselves in the music of this period if they have not already, both because it is good to understand the history and because it’s a sonic treat.

Jessica Moss – Plastic Island

You may not have heard Jessica Moss’ name before, but you’ve probably heard her violin. She appears on Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s album F♯ A♯ ∞, Arcade Fire’s Funerals, and one of my favorite albums of all time, Broken Social Scene’s debut Feel Good Lost, among others.

Under Plastic Island is her first solo release, though she’s also part of At Silver Mt. Zion and Black Ox Orkestar with other members of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Despite her connections to so many well-known groups, she clearly has a highly developed aesthetic all her own, blending electronic drones, violins, and beautifully manipulated vocals. For more information about Moss, check out her site. Though Under Plastic Island was released on cassette, it is only available at performances. Her touring schedule will be updated here in the future.

Lake Mary – Chipa // North Dakota

Put out last year by eilean rec., who also put out Wil Bolton’s latest, Lake Mary’s And the Birds Sing in Chorus First is a treat from start to finish. While his earlier releases blend his guitar work with sustained drones, this release reflects a more stripped-down approach, which could have something to do with the fact that each track was recorded in a different place as the artist traversed the US. Lake Mary is the performing name for Chaz Prymek, who has been releasing music under the Lake Mary moniker since about 2010. The location may have been different, but Prymek’s masterfully contemplative playing remains solid throughout. I’ve been listening to his earlier releases, like There are Always Second Chances in the Mountains and Canopy/Mardotsha which add drone-y experimentation to the mix and they are also excellent. There’s also a live set on his Bandcamp where he performs with the Ranch Family Band, and it’s pretty neat to hear how those sounds are constructed in a live setting. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who reads this regularly that this ticks a lot of boxes for me, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Sabbatical – Sojourn North

So often when writing these I look up an artist that I’ve really been digging but don’t know much about and find a wealth of releases to dig through. While that is always a pleasant surprise, there’s a part of me that kicks myself for not finding them sooner. I’m pleased to announce that this is the opposite case. Sojourn North comes off Sabbatical’s debut, Sundown, which was put out on the label Love All day in January of 2016. Of course the result of finding a group this early is that there is not much information on them, so this comes from the description by the label:

Recorded over a six year period, Sabbatical’s Sundown germinated in the cracks that separate the disparate moments of a life, and found its rhythms nursed in the openings that emerged between other projects. In those spaces – periods of exception from the flow, journeys, downtime, lacunae – Sundown waited for its creator, gathering energy, until it grew to become the centre point around which Sabbatical’s other activities would begin to orbit.

Cheers for usage of the word lacuna! Love All Day has only put out a few releases, including a cassette from Panabrite, but those who are interested in warm, synth-driven ambient drones should keep their eyes on them and Sabbatical in the future.