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Bandcamp Picks: September 2022

New Music from Federico Mosconi, Ewer, Richard Scott, & More

Perfect Circuit · 09/02/22

Bandcamp Friday is back! You know what that means—today, all revenue from Bandcamp sales go directly to the independent artists and labels whose music you know and love. As such, we're sharing some of our favorite recent Bandcamp releases—music that's been playing in our homes and around the Perfect Circuit office. Be sure to check these out, and of course, be sure to head over to Bandcamp for a browse. You never know what you might find...

Effect-Laden Guitar Ambiences: Federico Mosconi's Air Sculptures

As seen in previous editions of our Bandcamp Friday spotlights, I'm frequently looking for works from instrumentalists who are extending their sound through electronic methods and heavy effects processing. As someone existing in this camp myself, I can't help but feel inspired by great music made in this way, and it's a key ingredient in my melting pot of musical influences. This time around, I've stumbled upon the latest release from Italian guitarist and composer Federico Mosconi, entitled Air Sculptures.

Though he's a classical guitarist by trade, Air Sculptures is a fine example of Mosconi stretching his sonic vocabulary, leaning more into the ethereal and experimental for much of this release. Guitars, or at least sounds that can be easily identified as such, appear only on a few tracks, though of course, it's highly likely that they were the source for many of the dense, effects-laden drones heard throughout the album. Beyond the guitar itself, the sounds of field recordings, chimes, and subtle creaks, cracks, and pops complement the haze and pulsating textures beautifully, giving Air Sculptures the perfect flavor of ambient music with a gentle sense of direction and movement that I personally enjoy.

Consider the opening track, "Breath," which encapsulates the sound of Air Sculptures in full. Expansive, swelling drones comprise most of the track, with hints of ocean-like noise peeking through above the chords. Then, at over three minutes in, Mosconi's guitar appears, triumphantly riding the dynamic waves of the piece such that it's clearly the star of the show, yet it still leaves plenty of room for the existing ambiences to fill the gaps around it. "Wandering" is similar, though instead of drones, the gentle fingerstyle guitar playing brings structure to a track otherwise built upon field recordings.

Great ambient music covers the spectrum from light to dark, and I'm particularly fond of works that gradually navigate between different moods without sounding forced. The foreboding, distorted undertones in "Blood" and the title track's haunting drones layered with low-end rumbles and the distant boom of reverberant guitar percussion center these middle tracks in a slightly different space than the others. Middle grounds exist on the record too, such as "Back To Life," which by comparison feels like a slightly overcast day, rather than totally bright and sunny or completely dreary and rainy.

Sound palette and processing techniques aside, the track sequencing of Air Sculptures feels like a sonic journey. Much as I appreciate a singer-songwriter's ability to convey both love and heartbreak, Mosconi's music covers spaces of optimism while traversing through darkness and back again. Whether it's the harmonic progressions of the compositions themselves or rooting moments of effects and texture with clearly recognizable sounds of guitar, Air Sculptures is certainly a satisfying listen from start to finish.

Mossy Textures For Inner Work: Ewer

A collaboration between two experimental electronic artists, Sophia Zhuravkova and Ivan Merkulov (aka erethia) Ewer creates spacious, textural atmospheres that feel like digital approximations of organic life. The opening track of their self-titled album, "Anemour," is a fantastic introduction into this world and feels like a moss covered tunnel or slide gently cradling you through gem-coated caverns before arriving in a subterranean glade. We are then welcomed by "Stains of Time," the second track, which is vast but gives us a deep bass pulse throughout, anchoring the ethereal vocals.

"Love Streaming" is aptly titled, as it takes us on a meandering journey with the familiar textures we heard in the opening track. Satisfying tinkling peppers our journey throughout this ride and brings us back to the gem encrusted lair, this time with a cooling breeze rattling the loose, leaf-like gems that surround us. A cooling fog and gentle rain closes this short, four-track tasting. "Detached Sculpture" is more like a forest walk hallucination, floating you through the shades of green. A clearing leads to the sea as we arrive at the end, overlooking a serene sunrise.

Ewer's self-titled debut is out via surf and is a lovely, short journey that is instrument agnostic, but texture-rich. The compositions are cyclical, yet evolutionary with layers creating interlocking sections that don't shy away from space.

Juxtapositions and Commonalities: Richard Scott's Delirious Cartographies

I've written about synthesist/electronic musician Richard Scott before. He's a fascinating educator, composer, performer, and improvisor, and his collected works span everything from spastic improvisations with modular synthesizers to mixed electronic/acoustic ensemble works to highly-detailed, meticulously composed fixed media. No matter the specific materials of a given work, though, Scott's musical voice is always apparent. Every release is equal parts elaborate, energetic, playful, patient, humorous, and occasionally grave. If you like "classical" electroacoustic music, freely improvised music, and articulate, gestural sound, you'd do well to spend time with any of his releases.

Today, though, I want to specifically bring your attention to his newest release Delirious Cartographies, out today on Danish label arbitrary. While this album is full of Scott's typical gestural synthesized skronks, pings, and gurgles, it takes a fairly different form than most of his works. More extensively incorporating sampled sounds, live recordings, and field recordings than any of his prior albums, Delirious Cartographies explores uncanny conversations between electronic and "real-world" sounds. Avoiding any specific narrative, the works instead draw you in through analyzing textural juxtapositions and commonalities between sounds of quite distinct origins. At one moment, you might be hearing a gurgling mass of Hordijk filter pings, only to realize that slowly, Axel Dörner's trumpet tongue rams and air-through-tubes sounds have been gradually working their way into the texture. You start to ask yourself—is the sound I'm hearing a hydrophone or a bubbling Blippoo Box? A squealing trumpet, or oversaturated delay feedback? A rainstorm, or a giant wash of electronic noise?

Moreover, you'll be stricken by the simultaneous presence of quite distinct sounds and textures: sounds that simply don't seem to belong together, but are there, all at once, right in front of you. The album, in a way, feels like an exploration of the continuity between these two types of sonic relationships, and all of the thoughts/feelings that come along with evolving/eroding these sensations of sameness and difference. As Scott himself says, the pieces are "molecular dialogues between elements and geographies which do not necessarily share organic points of connection, other than my own incomplete experience and memory of them."

I must also mention the album's physical packaging; I personally just took delivery of the 12" white vinyl, and the presentation is perhaps one of the most lovely I've ever seen. The fold-out red folio contains a collection of high-quality prints of some of Scott's own artwork (which may be used as "musical exercises, as scores...as parts of scores" or simply as propositional artworks of their own). It also contains extensive liner notes absent from the Bandcamp page for the album...so if you're looking to dive deeper, I strongly recommend picking up a copy. If you're fond of Scott's prior works or are simply fascinated by the experience of sound, you're in for a treat.

A Blistering Sonic Journey: Sarah Belle Reid + David Rosenboom's NOWS

Speaking of propositional artwork—today is the official announcement date for NOWS, the first ever collaborative release from Sarah Belle Reid and David Rosenboom.

These artists' names may be familiar to you. Reid is a trumpeter/synthesist/composer who we've worked with in the past, including her excellent video on planning your first Eurorack system. Reid's debut album Underneath and Sonder explored live improvisation with electronically augmented trumpet, while her follow-up EP MASS was a meticulously-edited studio recording comprised of the sounds of brass, voice, household objects, and Make Noise's Strega.

Rosenboom, of course, has an extensive history in the world of electronic music; he has done extensive work since the 1960s in the realm of live performance and composition with electronics. His work dives deeply into both the philosophy and practical implementations of human-machine interaction in electronic music, including extensive research into audio-reactive electronic performance systems and biofeedback via electronic interface with the human nervous system. He has previously collaborated with artists including Anthony Braxton, William Winant, and Don Buchla (yes, that Don Buchla), as well as countless others.

The nature of their past work as performer/composers, improvisors, and solo artists might give you a sense of what NOWS is like: a high-energy, intensely detailed rush of seemingly infinite sound-worlds forming, passing, and collapsing right before your ears. It's a fast-paced, dense listen, and you'll find yourself playing and re-playing tracks, noticing new details with each repeat listen.

Interestingly, NOWS was created with each artist operating completely independently in their own home studio. What we're hearing aren't 100% real-time jams—instead, this album was constructed while each performer was located on opposite sides of the US. Each track is an assemblage of sounds from each player, organized and edited by one of the duo. This isn't to say that they were each just editing together sounds from an endless array of samples from the other player, however; throughout 2021–22, Reid and Rosenboom exchanged thoughts, sounds, questions, and propositions, and set specific times and dates to dedicate to recording, editing, and mixing in isolation. They never actually heard one another's edits until relatively late in the process—instead, they were relying on the foundation of shared thoughts and isolated yet dedicated time in order to create the works that now comprise the album.

As it would turn out, this uncanny approach to collaboration seems quite effective in these artists' hands: each track takes on its own distinct character, while maintaining a sense of equal contribution from both artists, as well as a sense of place/continuity within the work as a whole. You'll hear everything from flurries of electric violin and quarter-tone trumpet to field recordings, voices, abrasive electronic feedback, distant swells of noise, and sound impossible to classify. If you're up for a dense, fast-paced, and somehow still playful listening experience, NOWS should be up your alley.

NOWS is available for preorder now, with focus track "Never Know Night Ears" available for your immediate listening enjoyment. Preorders for physical copies will ship on or around September 8th, and the album's full release is September 9th.

A Surreal, Psychedelic Daze: Kadef Abgi's Diva of Deva Loka

Kadef Abgi emerged out of a chance encounter between two artists: New York-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Devin Brahja Waldman (Brahja), and Montreal-based singer Ziad Qoulaii (De.Ville). As the story goes, Waldman was strolling through Montreal's vibrant St. Laurent borough when suddenly, enchanted by a mysterious and ethereal voice, he was hauled towards the bar called Divan Orange. This was the voice of Ziad Qoulaii, who was performing that night at the venue. After the show, the artists talked and decided to start a collaboration.

Shortly thereafter, recording sessions took place at the studio of composer Mathieu Pelletier-Gagnon…and the project's creative current began to pull yet more phenomenal talents towards it, one after another. The final lineup on the debut Diva Of Deva Loka includes Anas Jellouf on guembri and qraqeb, Hamza Lahmadi Kenny on oud, Mathieu Pelletier-Gagnon on keyboards and synthesizers, Ziad Qoulaii lending his magical voice, Devin Brahja Waldman taking over drums, bass, saxophones, as well as all aspects of production, and Anass Hejam, Sam Shalabi (Dwarfs of East Agouza, Land Of Kush, etc), and Vicky Mettler (Kee Avil) contributing their distinctly unconventional, and inventive approaches to guitar.

Musically, Diva Of Deva Loka is quite unlike anything else. Perhaps, you can get a rough idea of what it sounds like by imagining a sort of a hybrid between the kraut-rockers Can and Saharan bluesmen Tinariwen. The album is filled with extended groovy jams, roving improvizations, spastic noisy outbursts, and deeply soulful melodies.

It is worth putting an accent on the decidedly horizontal approach that the band takes towards composition. The description of the record clearly states that the contents of Diva Of Deva Loka could have never been conceived by a single composer alone. Kadef Abgi is, therefore, at its very essence, a collective effort. Embodying nuanced approaches, influences, and inclinations of each artist, the music comes out naturally as a surrealistic blend of psychedelic rock, jazz, funk, electronica, Moroccan Gnawa, and avant-garde music. Yet, despite such a diverse range of influences, the music on the record feels remarkably singular, as if this motley crew of musicians and composers have been honing their one-of-a-kind style for years.

Diva Of Deva Loka consists of twelve compositions, each one special in its own way, yet all working in tandem with each other to make up the unique flow and atmosphere of the record as a whole. From the very first moments of the opener "Rahma" to the last notes of the "La Ilaha Ila Lah Pt. II", the overt chemistry between the musicians takes you on a stunningly beautiful journey, and you can easily remain in a pleasurably hypnotic state for the entirety of this nearly hour-and-a-half-long sonic adventure. I would speculate that what Kadef Abgi have cooked up here will cause many listeners' initial emotional response to oscillate between "something I haven't quite heard before" and "something I would like to hear again." This music is otherworldly, yet somehow profoundly familiar…arcane, yet easy to relate to—a perfect blend in my book.