2004 seems to be the year of Fonal. I've mentioned a few fantastic avant folk/drone things these industrious Fins have released in recent months, all deserving of much devotion and appreciation, but had no idea label head Sami's work under the Es moniker was so gosh-darn beautiful in its own right. Sparse chamber music, warm tape noise, samples, guitar, effects and ethereal fem vocals come together in an inspired, glitchy production worthy of the finest in the genre on "Kaikkeuden Kauneus ja Kasittamattomyys." Think Labradford, Islaja (who I believe lends her vocal talents) and Popol Vuh, but maybe released on the Touch label.
More goodies floating up from down below, some courtesy of the PseudoArcana imprint. I'm still playing catchup here, as there's already a slew of newer releases I ain't heard, but that's alright for now, because the "Crescent" CD-R by Claypipe, co-released with Root Don Lonie For Cash, will keep me busy many late nights with it's deep meandering drone swells, archaic hums and bowed strings, all giving way to tonal eruptions of the most brilliant, elusive colors. Fine stuff for anyone reared in the ways of early John Cale/Tony Conrad. Sunken is a new duo of Antony Milton and Stefan Neville of Pumice exploring similar improvised space, but this time via organs, loops and guitar. It's a testament to the players that they can conjure dense, living soundscapes from thin air with such resonating results. Checkout the cyclical builds of 25 min "Spa" to get the gist. The 3" CD-R "Springtime in Saturnalia" is Davenport's tribal entry for the label--opens with muffled noise, vinyl scratching, a jet flying overhead as birds and insects chirp and rustle right next to your ears. From the constant environmental hum rises serene raga-folk workouts and droning ethnic noise that slowly develop into a stately slow groove (Pelt and Jackie-O Motherfucker comes to mind) and totally smokes in a non threatening manner. The Wooden Cupboard apparently has some relation to the Skaters, a mysterious ensemble I keep hearing about but have yet to hear. 3" CD-R "Boiling the Animal in the Sky" is out there garage/free noise comprised of elephantine wails and farting strings, stuttering percussion, ominous sirens and more. Harder to get into than the Davenport. The shrill sound quality and warped cut-up production makes me think Angus Maclise a lot of the way, but I like the crude meditative slant the second track takes halfway through more than the ethnic incantations. And finally comes Keijo and Friends (again?! you say!) with the 2CD-R, "Unfolding Emptiness/Decomposing Dawn and Dew," one a solo slab of post industrial earth drones and broke-dick folk meanderings, the other trio free noise screechiness indebted to early AMM.
"Live at Club Donut" (Holy Mountain) is a fine solo vinyl only document from experimental psych guitar maestro Steven Wray Lobdell. Few today are willing to merge classic acid streaked solos with these kinds of earth-shaking industrial noise squalls. The results thrill across 45 mins of live solo improvs that alternate between searing electric ragas and dissonant looped breakdowns. Lobdell pulls it off in a way that brings to mind both Manuel Gottsching and Keji Haino, among others. Last Visible Dog have dropped a cpl more musical cherries on top of the creamy pop parfait with Peter Wright's "Distant Bombs" and Pumice's "Raft." The former sees kiwi loner Wright weaving cautious spells of layered guitar/drone interactions in an approach that brings to mind a more digital answer to the kind of endless dream-states that Fripp and Eno used to explore so brilliantly in the mid 70s. Best I've heard from him yet. Pumice, on the other hand, is the work of one Stefan Neville, employing guitar, effects, tape noise and voice, in ramshackle home-made pop and noise concoctions that have become far too rare in recent years. Alastair Galbraith and Chris Knox come to mind, which I suppose serves as high praise to some and might register indifference to others. Whoa be to those others. "Live Gyakuryu Kokuu" is a totally killer 2 track live album from dark psych trio Kousokuya, who've apparently been part of the scene longer than PSF Records has. First track is a stomping side long heavy blues thing, somewhere between High Rise and Fushitsusha; the second sees the trio climbing further into the free jazz void with utterly compelling results. In other words: raw garage jams played with the kind of paint-peeling intensity PSF has embodied for the last 20 years or so.