Essential Logic, “Martian Man”
Chaircrusher, “Balsamic Remora 1977”
Butterbandz, “Free Roaming”
Soft Ballet, “Brilliant Fault and the Sky Was Blue (ambient version) remixed by LFO”
Pavel Milyakov and Bendik Giske, “Untitled 4”
Tomu and Kyra, “So Afraid”
Cultural Vibe, “Ma Foom Bey - Love Chant Version”
Roderick L. Jackson and Marty Beller, “Swirl (Small Jumps)
Nigusuu Taammiraat, “Looshaa”
Makers, “Don’t Challenge Me”
Miguel A. Ruiz, “Papua”
Duckett, “Everything Works Backwards”
Pavel Milyakov is better known as the Russian musician Buttechno. He uses his birth name for his more ambient or experimental projects, like his upcoming collaborative LP with Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Giske. Their “Untitled 4” is a strange song, starting with a squall of saxophone that echoes back onto itself. If you’re familiar with the work of Colin Stetson, it has similar properties to his work, pushing the limits of the instrument’s unmistakable tone. It’s like you can see the music notes spinning off into the sky. Keeping them grounded, though, is a quiet bassy pulse that runs along the entirety of the song. In some ways, it’s not a particularly complex track, just those two basic elements abutting each other. But what I especially like is that after four minutes of noodling, the saxophone drops off for a few seconds and you hear the presentation of the electronics in raw form. There’s more than that bassy tone alone it turns out. A nervous flutter of drums that have the quality of something scribbling at the lock undergirds everything and briefly it’s in the spotlight, like the leader allowing a small moment for a drum solo in a jazz band to acknowledge the quiet anchor in the back of the bandstand.
One of my favorite documents of the post-punk universe is Lora Logic’s 1982 album Pedigree Charm. Logic was the saxophonist for X-Ray Spex, punk originators with heaps of flair, largely owing to the spectacular vocal presence of singer Poly Styrene. With her solo project, along with her group Essential Logic, she sands off the edges a bit, while deepening the groove. “Martian Man” starts with a bang: a wildly dreamy guitar riff, tribal drumming, and a short bit of squealing saxophone before her vocals drift in from the heavens. She doesn’t so much sing as exhale rhythmically. The music has the driving force of punk, but not the same spastic energy. It’s like punk scented with lavender. Pedigree Charm, along with Essential Logic’s singles were reissued as one collection by Kill Rock Stars in 2003 and it keeps great company.
I was floored to discover the music of the duo Tomu and Kyla after they were played on an episode of the always excellent Time Is Away show this week on NTS. The track on the show, “The Psychotic Landscape” starts with a gentle little guitar strum, or maybe it’s even a ukulele, which gives way to a harp and is padded by the genial patter of a drum machine. It has the feel of a forgotten IDM track from the ’90s performed with the sonic clarity of today. I immediately searched out information about the song and found it was from an EP called Mental. And as much as I liked “Psychotic Landscape,” I was not expecting to have my brain warped by the track “So Afraid.” The beat is similar in tone, is a bit more pensive, but it adds spoken word vocals, the same lines repeated throughout the song, which speeds up as it carries on: “I need to stop being so afraid, despite having every reason to be/ Time to go to an island faraway/ The moonlight follows the day.” It’s jarring the way the lines are enunciated, somewhere between a personal mantra being repeated and a star turn at the world’s saddest poetry slam. The drums skitter on and off, but a foundational two-note tone, like a metronome ticking, never lets up. I found the song to be deeply moving.
Further exploring Tomu’s music led to an excellent collection of singles on Bandcamp, of which the track “I Love New York” is a just-released highlight. It feels like what I might call “dance music,” a generic term for a strain of music with tinges of house, techno, IDM, even a little disco. It reminds me a bit of some of the early Hercules and Love Affair songs, happy little self-contained worlds that belie the true complexity of their composition.
Three songs on this week’s mix have a similar vibe to me: Chaircrusher’s “Balsamic Remora 1977,” Butterbandz’s “Free Roaming,” and Duckett’s “Everything Works Backwards.” All three tracks subscribe to an airy take on house that straddles the line between devastation and bliss.To do that, they all use straightforward sweeps of synthesizer panning across the channels. Duckett and Chaircrusher but both also utilize pitter patter drums that simulate sustained nervousness. Butterbandz’s track takes longer before the percussion enters at all. When it does, it’s so matter of fact, it reminds you of someone holding the melody up under the shoulder, the way, after a night of drinking, you might support a sad friend.