This month’s column was being written from a non-harmonious psychic void, as one national party convention wound down and another ramped up; each was horrifying in its own unique way, and both trump (yes) their 2012 equivalents in terms of hopelessness. It’s been a blessing to escape into the sounds below; their cocooning repulsion is comforting in a way our potential political futures just plain aren’t.
Overtone Ensemble — Overtone Ensemble
It is impossible to listen to the Overtone Ensemble’s eponymous second album without thinking about glass: rattling windowpanes, tuning forks on wine bottles, fingertips excruciatingly circling the rims of countless champagne flutes. Stirring together homemade aluminum instruments, re-tuned glockenspiels, bells, and other sonic ingredients, this Australian quartet kick up dense acoustic clouds of no-tone. The aptly titled “Handbells” clusters chimes, then incrementally disintegrates them into horror-flick drones. “Bowls,” a sprawling void with no discernible endpoint, piles din upon din upon din. Bells and metallic reverberations clash on “Eskiphones,” trailing a distinctly analogue feedback; it’s the opening scene from Back to the Future, where a panoply of vintage clocks sound simultaneously, multiplied and intensified. Overtone Ensemble is among 2016’s finest, most fanciful alternatives to real life as most of us must live it, most of the time.
MARTWA NATURA/Schmitt — Solecka — Stadlmeier — II
It takes a few spins to get your head around II. On the first side, German duo MARTWA NATURA are all glancing blows and incidental whispers: mewled voice, sonar quakes, birdcalls, creaking effects. And even when this stream eventually thickens into a cluster of gargled electronics, there’s always the very real sense that everything could collapse under its own lack of weight; that’s the thrill. MARTWA NATURA vocalist Martyna Solecka, who also performs as a member of Schmitt — Solecka — Stadlmeier, is II‘s connecting thread. The German trio devotes its side to the more abrasive sound of scraped guitars and glowering effects, built up from scraps to a raging pyre by midpoint, then consumed by a disconnected ambiance even better than what preceded it.
Ryan Huber — The need of want
The need of want has undertow in spades; to tune in is to sense this EP insistently tugging you into a steep tunnel drilled down to the earth’s molten core. There’s no time to prepare or catch your breath — it’s as though you’re in motion before you even press Play. Huber, who hails from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, proffers a rapidly metastasizing murk: echoing, monstrous murmurs gather snaps, then flushes. A tactile, clawing percussion coalesces in shadow, the aforementioned murk is recast as a humming choir, and the tempo accelerates. Another dozen shifts lie ahead. Dynamic and head-spinning, The need of want never quite stops evolving, constantly on the hunt for new angles. Twenty-four minutes is nowhere near long enough, and I wish Huber would develop this piece into a smartphone app capable of generating infinite algorithms from these core ideas.
White Mary — “To Owe One Six”
L.A.’s Mary Macker — who records as White Mary — mints scuffed, crusty beat-scapes, then funnels talk-sung vocals through them. It’s a simple but daring approach which, while reliably claustrophobic, is empowering, confrontational, and inspiring. Though it’s among the shortest ramshackle jams on Macker’s Soundcloud page, “To Owe One Six” is tough to shake off, its raspy half-raps and flat, strangulated instrumentation engaging in a hypnotic, hyper-economic round of double Dutch.
In Other News…
New Yorkers looking to beat Saturday’s heat should head to Silent Barn, where the one-day Samfest is primed to explode.
The twentieth — twentieth! — Norcal Noisefest runs September 30 through October 2 in Sacramento, CA. An international array of artists will perform at the three-day event, including Bastard Noise, Filthmilk, Mia Zabekla, Xome, and Gas Station of Love. They could use some monetary support, too.
And to conclude, this spastic, physical Mathias Kristersson live piece from May is fierce both in spirit and titular symbolism; right now, this is a struggle we should all be engaged in.