Martina Bertoni – “All the Ghosts Are Gone” (2020)

Born and raised in Italy, Berlin-based cellist Martina Bertoni spent much of her career collaborating with other musicians.  Her first solo release wasn’t until 2018 and up to this point all of her solo work was digital.  All the Ghosts Are Gone, on Iceland’s FALK label, is both her first solo full-length album and her first physical release, FALK producing an extremely limited run of 40 cassettes in addition to making it available for purchase via download.

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While classically trained, Bertoni’s style is anything but classical.  Blending somber cello with electronics she creates musical canvases that slowly stretch against their own frames, creating a tension that threatens to tear the surface and rip the entire thing apart.  That’s not to imply that the songs are in any way frantic.  In fact it’s just the opposite.  The tension comes from an underlying stillness that is disturbed, gently at first but with steadily building pressure, the initial touch becoming firmer as spacetime stretches in response, membrane-like as it attempts to conform to Bertoni’s sonic exertions.  If asked to recommend entry points into All the Ghosts Are Gone, I’d go with “Blu” on the more ambient end of the spectrum and “Invisible Cracks” as the most tense.  “Notes At the End of the World”, the only composition with vocals, is tremendous in its flow and is one of the highlights of the album.

Cassette copies of All the Ghosts Are Gone, as well as downloads, are available on the FALK Bandcamp page HERE.  I also recommend checking out Bertoni’s own Bandcamp page (HERE) so you can listen to and download some of her other solo material.

Subminimal – “Intemperie” Cassette (2019)

subminimalintemperieSubminimal is Icelander electronic musician Tjorvi Oskarsson, and Intemperie is his latest solo release.  While Oskarsson made his name in drum and bass, Intemperie sees him moving in a more ambient, atmospheric direction, a collection of five long, quiet passages that are more about setting a mood than your putting your feet in motion.  The songs take us to peaks of sorts, but there are no dramatic bass drops here, instead a gradual dropping off as each song eventually fades out.  There’s a cinematic quality to the pieces, something perfect for documentary films featuring long, slow, beautiful shots in high definition, the kind usually reserved for nature and space-related themes.

Intemperie is available digitally and via cassette (limited to 50 copies) on Subminimal’s Bandcamp page HERE.

tate/allison – “Jazz Machines” Cassette (2019)

tate/allison is JR Tate and Billy Allison, a couple of guys who met in music school in the San Gabriel Valley, just outside of Los Angeles.  The duo have backgrounds in big band, jazz, and rock, but also an affinity for noise, and they brought all those disparate pieces together on their new release Jazz Machines.

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Jazz Machines opens with the 23+ minute “Rain”.  The first third of the track creates an overall ambient soundscape with a distinctly non-electronic, instrumental warmth about it.  The horn takes a more prominent place as we progress, the composition splintering into different subelements as the intensity attacks and relents.  There are elements of free jazz at play, but much of the vibe remains minimalist and some passages feel quite intentional and not so improvisational, the overall subtlety making the noisier portions that much more jarring.  “Washer/Dryer” hits the listener with more discordant sounds early on, taking a more aggressive stance.  I sense a broader range of instrumentation here as well, including some electric guitar feedback that would have made Hendrix proud.  The track is more reminiscent of experimental rock than free jazz, in part due to the more prominent place of the guitar and other obviously electronic elements.  At 36 minutes it’s a marathon, but one that never gets old or tired.  “Train” opens in a much gloomier place, like a dark night in a run-down harbor district, damp, cold, and dangerous.  It retains that somberness throughout, a film-noir-esque soundtrack (and at 28 minutes, it could indeed score an entire film) to those places that are best avoided.  Compared to the other tunes, “detergent” is almost punk rock at just over five minutes in length, a song that retains its ambient core throughout and serves as a relaxing outdo to the overall Jazz Machines experience.

Jazz Machines is available on limited edition cassette and digital download via the art throughsound Bandcamp page HERE.

Somke – “Somke EP” Cassette (2019)

somkeThere’s a new label in Reykjavik called Eyewitness Records.  It was founded in 2018 by electronic musician Ívar Sævarsson as a means to release his own material as well as that of other less traditional techno artists, and so far this year Eyewitness has put out three limited edition cassettes.  Copenhagen-based Somke was the first non-Sævarsson artist on the label, with a seven-song EP of synthy dance beats and mild chiptune influences.  “Facelift” is my personal favorite, its brisk tempo overlaid with bleeps and bloops, though the darker and more laser-like “Golden Circle” certainly gives it a run for its money.

Danceable?  Hell yes.  So get yourself over to Amazon and order some glowsticks, then head over to the Eyewitness Records Bandcamp page HERE and get yourself some Somke.

Milena Glowacka – “Radiance” Cassette (2019)

milenaglowackaradianceLet’s get something out of the way right up front.  I have no idea how to write about Radiance.  But I also feel compelled to write something about it, because it’s one of the best new releases I’ve heard in 2019.

There’s an undercurrent of ambient throughout Radiance, a slowly drifting foundation.  But on top of that we’re provided a range of different sounds, from the spacey dripping-liquid-mercury of “Try Out On You” to the metronome-like thumping beat that opens “Lusty At The Touch”, seemingly disparate sonic elements that Glowacka somehow combines into a cohesive whole.  “You Are Such A Disappointment” could be the soundtrack to every nightmare I’ve ever had, right down to the title itself, the high pitched buzz punctuated by low end mechanical beats creating feelings of both anxiety and existential dread.

Released digitally and on cassette by the Icelandic label FALK, Radiance is available for streaming on Bandcamp HERE.  The cassette copy comes with a download, so spend a few extra Euro and get a tape for your Walkman while you’re at it.  You’ll be the coolest kid on the block.