What’s new in experimental music
Wed, Mar 2, 2011 (5 p.m.)
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972
Tim Hecker’s latest has a lot to live up to, and not just the Montreal electronicist’s remarkable back catalog. Ravedeath, 1972 comes equipped with a title and cover image—of a piano being pushed off a rooftop—so evocative, anything but similarly hypnotic music would surely let down its listeners. Never fear. Ravedeath ranks with 2001’s Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again and 2006’s Harmony in Ultraviolet as another prime example of Hecker’s transcendent approach to ambience. At their best, his soundscapes feel simultaneously ominous and alluring, teetering on the line between noise and tunefulness. Hecker recorded it in a church in Reyjavik, Iceland, where a pipe organ created many of its disquieting, next-worldly vibrations. No word on whether the instrument plummeted to its doom afterward.
Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
The psychedelic explorers’ fifth full-length shoots out of its cannon so impressively, it seems destined to be an album-of-the-year contender through its first half. Opener “Silly Bears” is a blur of tribal rhythms and chanted vocals; the paired “A AA O A WAY” and “So It Goes” are a smokin’ weird-blues delight; and “Another Sky,” a trippy late-night campfire anthem if ever there was one, ranks among A/F’s best songs to date. And then … oh, no … Shinju TNT spews out a series of mushy ballads, five in total, that sound like late-era Phish leftovers. File under all-time momentum squanderers.
Peaking Lights, 936
When I placed Peaking Lights’ new album in my PC’s disc tray, the Freedb database identified its genre as “dub.” I chuckled at someone’s apparent misinformation campaign … and then I listened to 936 and realized he or she meant it. Where 2009’s Imaginary Falcons played like a lo-fi space trip, 936 could indeed by classified as a dub experiment—with the emphasis on experiment. Madison, Wisconsin, duo Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis are every bit the sonic tweakers they were before; just now, there’s a reverberating bassline below that could have been ripped from 1960s Jamaican reggae. LA label Not Not Fun calls Peaking’s updated sound “tape-hissy drift-dub haze.” Now that’s a genre tag we can all get behind.