My reading fell back this week, I didn't read a thing over the Bank Holiday weekend. For shame. I just finished one book, it's called The Witchfinder's Sister, that witchfinder being Matthew Hopkins, famously portrayed by Vincent Price in Witchfinder General. It was okay.
Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton - Music and Poetry of the Kesh
Sadly I can't say I've read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin. Her 1985 work Always Coming Home tells of imagined peoples in California, one of them called the Kesh. On this album, originally released to accompany the book and now reissued by Freedom To Spend, she performed songs, music and poetry of these people, together with her collaborator Todd Barton. Folk songs, speech, music, it's a magical journey into another world, almost unfathomable how a human mind could create such wonder.
Batu - Live @ P13 X Timedance 24.02.18 - The White Hotel [Manchester]
Two hours of bangers from Batu. Lots of grimey, dark, weird percussive stuff, most of it unknown to my ears, probably unreleased but maybe I'm just out of the (a?) loop. Plenty of zonky rave sounds. A wee bit of baile too. There's definitely some Lanark Artefax (the Intimidating Stillness Mix of 'Touch Absence'), that much I do know.
Norah Lorway - w a v e c h a n g e
This short release from Norah Lorway, on the Canadian netlabel xylem records, is a beautiful shimmer of digital sounds. It ebbs and flows (as you might imagine, from the title of the release), its ideas gradually peeping through. 'wave change iv' really steps away from the template set by the first three tracks, moving from pleasing stillness to awkward tension, while the fifth and final track is more harmonious, albeit expansive in its approach.
RXM Reality - Panic Cycle
Hausu Mountain have three tapes out today, this is just the one I like best. RXM Reality is a Chicago artist. Riotous pockets of noise bounce and explode, opening with the ravey strands of 'Long Hallways'. This comes through a lens of sonic abstraction — it's intense and invigorating but it feels like it belongs in an empty warehouse rather than a sweaty club. Other tracks race ahead at breakneck speed like an Olympic skeleton or perhaps a supersonic future transport that you might find on the artwork of a Hausu release. Beyond those, hefty noises are given space to breathe, intricate sound design poking through, belying the overall ramshackle effect.
Sonae - White Trash Rouge Noir
This isn't the album artwork, obviously. Sonae is releasing an album on Monika Enterprise. It's really good, to say the least. It moves between techno and dense, strange experimentation, folding in on itself with this track somewhere around the middle. It features chilling sounds, rustling noises, unsettling piano and, eventually, abrasive, corrosive percussion that jolts you out of any sense of comfort. There's almost a digital glitch on these scuzzy drums, tearing it away from the natural world, a feeling of uncertainty looming throughout.
P.H.O.R.K. - Spend Less [Void_055]
Also out today is a tape on Pastel Voids. P.H.O.R.K. is a prolific artist who's released on NNA Tapes, Opal Tapes, as well as putting out a tape on Pastel Voids before too. This one seems to alternate between zoning techno and more elaborate messiness. Its opener 'Devil Says OK' builds slowly from a steady beat to a grinding, whirling cascade of noise, while 'Illegible' is framed around an incoherent sample that's pitched up and down in decay. 'Listen' feels like the perfect set opener, awkward beats offset by bleeps of varying pitches and timbres. 'Nobody Breath' could fit alongside melodic European techno, while 'Fear' is sparse and enigmatic. True variety here.
S Katz - Kant Straße EP
I haven't come across this artist or his label before, but I did so through one of my periodic SoundCloud scours this week. He's Japanese and based in Berlin, and makes interesting, exuberant techno. It's playful stuff, taking regular tropes and rendering them, if not new, then less boringly mundane. All that said, I'm not sold on the weird vocals of the last track. The first three are solid though.
Mad Skills: MIDI and Music Technology in the Twentieth Century by Ryan Alexander Diduck
This is not music! This is a book. Ryan A Diduck is one of my favourite writers. On his blog Lunar Lodge he shares thoughts and ideas that are incisive, amusing and enlightening; I regularly come away from his posts with a genuinely new outlook on things. So I was fascinated to learn that he had written a book about the history of MIDI and how it came to prominence/dominance in electronic music. It's both a primer on the technology and how it works and a history of the music industry both in North America and the world. Extensively researched, the book is nonetheless a breeze to read, informed by cultural and political theory yet making room for personal anecdotes and the odd bit of wry humour. The music industry, from the sale of instruments to music itself, is an industry after all, and it's impossible to escape the claws of capitalism. It's just as insightful as any of the posts on his blog, and I think it would be a worthwhile read for anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music.