As it gets colder out and the trees explode in color, you may find yourself tempted to embrace the avalanche of vintage and modern holiday music. Resist that temptation, friends; resist it with all your being. Studies show that much of our collective dissatisfaction with holidays lies in their failure to live up to fantastical, unrealistic expectations. Decorations, season-specific dishes, and “Let It Snow” are incapable of reliably stirring up genuine feelings of warmth and togetherness; why buy into a lie that experience has repeatedly demonstrated to be false? Those guests at your party may revolt when you transform this column into a playlist, but later — once you’ve defended yourself — they’ll salute your honesty. Well, hopefully they will. Pumpkin pie, anyone?
People of the North—The Caul
On this record, NYC’s People of the North get it both ways: The first half stays in that knotty, scuzz-bop pocket the group owned on last year’s Era of Manifestations, with the other side venturing into new territory. Diffuse initially, the twenty-minute title track quickly snaps into a solar-jazz focus, with Kid Millions’s drum rolls and tight fills struggling to find purchase amid organist Bobby Matador’s all-eclipsing vamp fronts. Elsewhere, “Surfacing” sounds almost like a cotton candy machine, its tones puffed, fluffed, and then drastically misshapen. “A Real Thing You Can Know” posits what would happen in church, if a minister allowed the house band to stretch a purely incidental coda — that pre-pulpit warm up — into something politely epic.
Here, Cloaca reiterate that less is more. Pessimists may hear this EP as half empty; optimists will hear it as half full. I would say that it’s just right, a sort of trailer for what this Sanford, North Carolina, project has to offer. The five cuts, each clocking in at a minute, are exactly enough to stoke appetites, from the undulating cosmic shiver of “Anfractuous” to the glacially deep rupture of “Forsworn” and the blaring “Edict,” which in an alternate context might represent a traditional rock ’n’ roll soundcheck.
Khaki Blazer—Gelatinous Ground
As half of Cleveland’s Moth Cock, Patrick Modugno is no stranger to synthesizer histrionics. In his Khaki Blazer guise, he’s equally eclectic but significantly more buttoned-up as a composer. Side A of Gelatinous Ground coughs up arpeggios that are mild and slightly astringent — a vibe suited to chill-out tents and cocktail lounges alike — before popping a series of expressionist wheelies that stop just short of haywire. Side B, on the other hand, celebrates the glorious possibilities of echoes, laser effects, and drill rap production.
C.H.S.—”One More Element Mass Media 1″
So you click Play, and it’s as though someone threw open some awful Pandora’s box: The void just pours out everywhere, merciless and weird. Wild, raw flute bursts, jumbled voice samples, and television-swiped swatches commingle in tsunami debris from this Holyoke, Massachusetts-based mystery project — mass media, indeed — but it’s the sheer noise, velocity, and weight of the surrounding current that keeps our ears glued to the laptop speakers. Over time, you begin to hear things that aren’t necessarily even there. It’s a turgid heave of music that recalls the Dead C’s earliest, least coherent sides. Is that a proper band, lost and laboring under the mix? A goblin? Late afternoon traffic? We’ll never know, and that’s just fine.
Joe Colley—No Way In, Side A
Though the entirety of No Way In — Colley’s first solo release in four years — will be available by mid November, its Side A is streaming now. Here the Oakland, California-based musician cobbles together a shape-shifting din that’s dazzling in its shrill relentlessness. It’s natural to feel needled by this music, to sense that one’s very awareness has been cast through several noxious, psychically disastrous landscapes in a brief period of time. It’s also natural to want to re-take this journey immediately after it concludes. Give in to the impulse.
In Other News
If you’re anything like me, international travel is beyond your present financial grasp. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can engage in a bit of guided electronic noise tourism by diving into Feminoise Latinoamerica.
Save a mint on coffee for at least a week by starting each day with the enervating Demo, from Australia’s Wound Culture.
I’ve also really been enjoying “POTone,” where Greece’s Chris Silver T intriguingly commingles effects that suggest crushed-glass showers and boiling burner spatters.
Perhaps you’d heard that Merzbow had his way with some unreleased Sun Ra material. It’s true; that happened, and Strange City — in somewhat different CD and LP formats — is now something you can buy. Let’s trip out together, shall we?