COLUMNS

  • Master Blaster

    WHEN APHEX TWIN played Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner earlier this month, it was his first New York appearance in at least twenty-two years. From day one, Richard D. James has used live appearances as DJing opportunities, focusing heavily on the ragey, detailed tracks he and his cohort favor. But these tracks are, and have always been, a fairly narrow tranche cut from his larger body of work. Don’t flip out if you miss his recent shows and are a lifelong fan of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)—that show can happen any time, in your house.

    The sound was clear and not too loud. The big ass, windy

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  • Room and Cord

    There are few sumptuous descriptors that have not already been deployed to describe the sui generis music of Austrian composer Christian Fennesz: Equinoctial. Thalassic. Amniotic. His previous albums Endless Summer (2001), Venice (2004), and Bécs (2014) were duly iconoclastic experiments, marrying honeyed, guitar-based melodies and snippets of field recordings with tesseral permutations of post-techno algorithms. Along the way, Fennesz has become a lodestar of left-field pop, counting among his collaborators Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Peter Rehberg, and Keith Rowe. The sprawling four tracks

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  • Written In the Stars

    SINCE THE EARLY 2000s, Lisa Mezzacappa has worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a composer and in-demand jazz bassist who plays with a roster of free improvisers and maverick composers including Fred Frith, Myra Melford, and Rhys Chatham. She has a knack for conceptualizing and articulating fresh ideas in collaborations across multiple disciplines: Touch Bass is a recent project with choreographer Risa Jaroslow for three basses and three dancers. As well, she founded the live cinema series Mission Eye and Ear at Artists Television Access (ATA), and is co-organizer of the Do-Over Music Series

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  • SO SO DEAF

    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE between being boring and being uninteresting? Panda Bear’s show at Pioneer Works earlier this month, during which he played almost exclusively material drawn from his 2018 EP A Day With the Homies and his 2019 LP Buoys, left me wondering which of those adjectives best describes his musical sin. Noah Lennox (aforementioned Panda Bear, and member of Animal Collective), with the help of Person Pitch (2007) producer Rusty Santos, built the nine tracks on Buoys out of repetitive acoustic guitar strumming, a few samples, a deep, almost inaudible bass, and his wheedling voice.

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  • Idol Hands

    THE MUSIC OF PIANIST AND COMPOSER MOTOKO HONDA is to mainstream jazz what Brahms’s music was to the neatly packaged forms of the Classical period. Following Beethoven’s belief that forms must expand to represent the breadth of human experience, the 19th century composer presented elongated themes with lengthy development, in which melodies were passed throughout the orchestra; he avoided the leitmotifs of Wagner, for whom specific instruments were associated with specific themes.

    Honda has assimilated many forms on her path to the present: early classical piano training in Japan, a move to the

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  • SYNTHESIZE ME

    HOW LONG did an hour feel in 1971? Was it like three 2018 hours? Ten minutes? The music of the eighty-six-year-old French composer Éliane Radigue forces these questions because as much as it’s about synthesizers and magnetic tape and silence and held notes and resonance, it is also about time. Her work cannot be excerpted or sliced into representative swatches or versified. The movement from a piece’s beginning to its end is the motif itself; to lose even a little of that adventure is to lose the music. Œuvres électroniques (Electronic Works), a new fourteen-CD box set recently released by Ina

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  • Tea and Apathy

    SHE APPEARED IN MY LIFE at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Thirty-Seventh Street, the star of a billboard advertising “Martine Jeans.” The seductive arch of her back evoked a nude—but she was completely covered. I wanted that mien for myself.

    A quick Google search revealed that the jeans did not exist—the image was the product. Overlooking Manhattan’s Garment District, the artist—also the model, photographer, and stylist—used signifiers of fashion ads to confront the public with fine art. Two weeks later, I saw her again. This time it was a portrait by Inez and Vinoodh in Candy. My eyes focused

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  • Free Your Voice

    TRADITIONALLY, A VOICE SINGS while accompanied by an instrument, but the members of Beam Splitter and Voicehandler—two electro-acoustic improvisation duos hailing from Berlin and Oakland respectively—dispense with that custom in favor of offering a conversation between sounds. There’s no adhering to conventional roles of harmony and melody, and the results offer balancing acts of sound-grammar pointillism and textural landscape; when the groups shared a bill at The Lab, they offered a study in conceptual contrasts as well.

    The first set featured Voicehandler—Jacob Felix Heule and

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  • Sasha Geffen

    1 SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDEs (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) An emphatic departure from her initial singles, SOPHIE’s debut album deploys the producer’s unique pop vernacular to probe questions of identity, survival, and freedom. Plasticky synthesizer sounds warp around vocals from Cecile Believe as the record proposes an ecstatic vision of utopia beyond the body’s historical confines.

    SERPENTWITHFEET, “CHERUBIM” (Secretly Canadian/Tri Angle) A love song doesn’t have to be light. It can dent the earth with the weight of its singer’s devotion. In “cherubim,” serpentwithfeet renders queer

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  • Vivien Goldman

    1 LUDWIG GÖRANSONN FEAT. BAABA MAAL, “WAKANDA” (Marvel) It is ironic that it took a film (Black Panther) about a fictional country to make much of America embrace the idea of Africa. Nonetheless, Maal’s sustained griot vibrato summons and enthralls on Göransonn’s theme song “Wakanda.” All bow to the handy magic of the imagination.

    CARDI B, BAD BUNNY, AND J BALVIN, “I LIKE IT” (Atlantic) The surge in rich-world collaborations with Afrobeat and reggaeton artists de-exoticizes the squirmy tag “world music.” Are Brits and Yanks really out of this world? Debates aside, it’s joyous when phenom Cardi

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  • Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

    TIRZAH, DEVOTION (Domino) Devotion is refreshingly tender and an exciting departure from Tirzah’s more club-forward work. Repeat listening reveals the intimate complexities of her understated voice, a perfect pairing for Mica Levi’s restrained production.

    JULIA SANTOLI’S PERFORMANCE OF SIREN SORE: BURNING BODY OF LOVE WITH ZACH ROWDEN (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, July 13) Santoli and Rowden really did something special that evening in July. When Santoli dragged a metal ring across Issue’s marble floor, creating otherworldly feedback, my hair stood on end. The frisson of sonic potential

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  • Wander Woman

    MILES DAVIS DID IT thirty years into his recording career, in 1981, on The Man with The Horn. Dylan only needed thirteen years to get from Bob Dylan (1962) to Blood On The Tracks (1975). Chan Marshall took twenty-three to move from Dear Sir (1995) to Wanderer (2018). What these artists found, at the end of the arc, was the moment of synthesis, when the particulars that initially marked them moved across a divide (accidents, taxes, getting high, heartbreak) and reappeared as elements of a vocabulary. The broken and twisted and obscure tendencies were folded in and out of various styles, then

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