Vinyl Department: Isounderscore

AEMAE & ARASTOO – Ostrakon

LP-sized, EP timed release (22’53” total). Collaboration between Brandon Nickell aka AEMAE and Arastoo Darakhshan, pretty different from their previous solo outings on this very label. The first side finds the latter artist playing romantic piano figures throughout, suggestive reverberations enhanced by an intelligent use of synthesis, adding a few layers of depth and spacey resonance to an otherwise simple (…too simple?) concept. Not exactly eliciting gasps of admiration, but quite pleasing overall. The second part sounds instantly more mysterious, vapours of opaque amorphousness diffusing their influence across the room for a slightly post-industrial atmosphere, which I definitely prefer (although we’re certainly not talking about groundbreaking sonorities), then the piano enters the frame again with echoing arpeggios, somewhat enigmatic. Unfortunately, long segments of my promo copy were systematically ruined by clearly audible defects of the vinyl: pops and distortion a go-go, too bad. A reissue in CD is unquestionably desirable.

MALEFICIA – Maleficia

Debut album by a drone-noise duo from Oakland, California consisting of Ilysea Sunderman (vocals, viola) and Andy Way (electronics). The formula on “Making” is quite straightforward: reverb-drenched prayers for lamenting voice and almost inaudible, yet existing (and decisively contributing to the timbral muscle) viola in parallel with a gradually growing wall of distant-sounding turbulence, more of the roar-and-rumble kind than out-blasting or otherwise chaotic. A semi-controlled racket, so to speak. My preference goes to the second side titled “Remaking”, Sunderman’s tones a little brighter in the mix as Way proceeds to destroy whatever arises in front of his machines with devastating outbursts of electronic wind and moaning reminiscences of some sort of long-gone creature from ancient eras, then suddenly stops and contemplates the results while the chants continue, at times mesmerizingly. The not excessive duration – 33 minutes total – is a clever choice, as one remembers better the haunting parts as opposed to the (scarce, in truth) duller ones.

ATA EBTEKAR & THE IRANIAN ORCHESTRA FOR NEW MUSIC – Ornamental

This is a double LP, even if relatively short at 51 minutes. Ebtekar is also known as Sote, whose Dastgaah on Dielectric in 2006 had left me totally unimpressed. Here we’re offered another type of concept, more attention-grabbing and nicely speckled, as the music was generated after three years of collaboration with renowned Iranian composer Alireza Mashayekhi, who gave the green light to Ebtekar in order for him to alter his compositions via complex arrangements involving synthetic treatments and studio manipulations. Although the results vary in terms of psycho-emotional response to the sounds, there is an unbelievably heterogeneous assortment of settings ranging from seriously misshapen specimens of processed orchestral emanations to out-and-out abstractions based on smudgy electronics and dysfunctional pitches where one might even manage to recognize the sources yet keeps feeling like undergoing reiterated aural hallucinations. A curiosity rather than a masterpiece, Ornamental remains an acceptable product, ultimately offering a few moments of genuine puzzlement together with a couple of gimcrack episodes that, preposterously, add to the captivating incongruity of the release.

Isounderscore

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