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Month: July 2022

JOYCUT_ and the hope in climate

Climate change is a deeply depressing topic for me, and thus it’s not super fun to engage with. JOYCUT_ make climate anxiety and climate sadness as palatable as possible (and even offer some hope) on TheBluWave [TimesWhenSilenceIsAPoem – TheIceHasMelted – AndBleedingGlaciersFormOurTears​]​_.

The thirteen (mostly) instrumental electronic tracks here range from delicate, nearly ambient, piano-driven post-rock (“NOVEMBRE13_,” “ThePlasticWhale_”) to arpeggiator-driven techno cuts (“SAUN_”). Tracks like “TheFirstSong_” and “KOMOREBI_” fuse these two impulses, creating sweeping tracks that blend elements of CUTS’ dark, stark electronic work with Ulrich Schnauss’ maximalist electronic soundscapes. Each of the three types of track are deftly-handled; JOYCUT_ knows how to handle tension and release in each of the three types of tracks.

While the narrative, facts, and commentary surrounding the record are deeply intertwined with climate, the record doesn’t need to be read in that light to be enjoyed. It does shine some hope on the situation, via the warm, major-key  “Francis&Violet_”; in other places, the light shines through in other ways . So this is not a grim record in the main, although there are moments of gloom. There are moments of hope amid the climate situation we are in, after all.

As a result of their expert handling of mood, the resulting album feels grand and fully-developed. Fans of almost any type of non-EDM electronic music will find things to love in this record. It’s an excellent offering. If you want to support JOYCUT_’s preferred climate change organization, check out Earth Percent.

July 2022 Singles 1

1. “from morning no. 2” – Airport People. An expansive, elegant, languid piano and drums piece that seems effortlessly peaceful and calm. The recordings of rain (or what sounds like rain) plus the piano pedal noises make for a rich atmosphere. Highly recommended.

2. “Rusty Trucks and Daisies (Midnight Version)” – Martin Ruby. A friend dying unexpectedly is a truly awful experience. Singer/songwriter Marco North (aka Martin Ruby) offers a true lament: a deeply aching song of remembrance for a lost friend. The song itself uses a nearly meterless acoustic guitar as the base, with North’s gravelly vocals tumbling out over the chords. A pedal steel guitar floats above the proceedings to complete the instrumental contributions. The almost continuous sounds of late-night street action complete the ambience of late night gloom and sorrow. It’s a good one to grieve to. Highly recommended.

3. “Interstellar Medium” – Lunar Lemur. This fantastic piece lands somewhere between the gentleness of William Basinski’s ambient work, the forward motion of The Album Leaf’s pieces, and the dreamy electro of Teen Daze. It’s evocative without being over-the-top and thoughtful without becoming ponderous. Highly recommended.

4. “At the Harbour” – Velt. Delicate, calming piano work with subtle beachside recordings for atmosphere. Beautiful.

5. “For a Chisos Bluebonnet” – Eli Winter. Winter has employed a collection of musicians to bring this lovely instrumental folk tune to life: the drums, electric guitar, and pedal steel fill out the tune and transform the song (which was previously released as a two-guitar live recording) into a heady, full-band jam.

6. “The Lighthouse of Alexandria” – Beatenberg. Fans of Belle & Sebastian, Vampire Weekend, Wes Anderson, and basically the year 2010 in indie music will be electrified by this floating, charming, walking pace stream of consciousness.

7. “Disappear” – Catherine Campbell. A slow arpeggiator, warm Rhodes keys, and a laidback drum groove give this singer/songwriter track a lightly psychedelic flair. Campbell’s smooth voice fits the vibe perfectly.

8. “New Light” – Stefania Avolio. A dark, dramatic electro/singer-songwriter piece that opens with ominous vibes before blossoming into a soaring, operatic chorus. The song fits emotionally with the strangely mesmerizing video of a dancer in an abandoned, dilapidated building (mansion?).

9. “The Rumination Waltz” – kid null. Primarily gloomy, between the bass and downtempo percussion. The melismatic vocals give it a little levity, which the crunchy electric guitar snatches away. Feels like a fitting piece for a gritty, perhaps even dystopian, street movie.

10. “Headache” – Adam Rich. An old-school rock/metal instrumental that features a winding guitar riff and fun guitar tricks in the bridge. It’s a solid opener to Rich’s latest, Peaceful and with Purpose.

11. “Bal” – Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek. A funky, groovy, enigmatic piece that fuses bits of many different world music styles into a distinctive whole. Fans of Khruangbin will find much to love here.

Andrew Yarovenko’s Start Somewhere delivers beauty, hope, and adventure

A canvas with three smudges of paint and two lines of paint in a haphazard arrangement. Andrew Yarovenko is mentioned in the bottom left hand corner, and Start Somewhere is mentioned in the center-right of the square.Andrew Yarovenko‘s Start Somewhere is a rich, multi-textured record. Yarovenko’s piano-based compositions draw on flamenco, electronic post-rock, chamber pop, and acoustic guitar explorations to create a unique, engaging collection. Yet even through the diversity of sonic touchstones, Yarovenko never loses sight of the elegant, melodic core of each piece.

Yarovenko’s core ideas are elegant, even (post-)romantic. Opener “No Body to Blame,” “Lost in Time,” and “Requiem” each display the ability to write effective, moving pieces in largely traditional modes. “No Body to Blame” carefully delivers piano and strings in a melancholy yet inquisitive piece. The composition is confident and clear; Yarovenko expertly uses tempo and negative space to build productive tensions. The solo piano of “Lost in Time” is a slow, thoughtful rumination on a theme, reminiscent of Ben Cosgrove’s work. “Requiem” is just that: a requiem for string quartet. It is somber, mournful, and–due to a few distinctive choices, such as a pizzicato section–unusually enjoyable for a piece intended to accompany mourning.

As great as those pieces are, the adventurous pieces are even more exciting to me. “The Feeling of Breathing” is a fast-paced, somewhat angular work for piano and strings that makes me think of Oliver Davis’ work. “Negative Space” strongly evokes flamenco songs, even including the iconic speedy clapping. “Cloud Surfing” pairs flamenco approaches with chunky strings that would not be out of place in indie rock for a deeply interesting piece. “Explaining the Joke” is a little darker; it contrasts a prominent, distorted electronic rhythm section with delicate guitar work to land a post-rock take on Yarovenko’s vision.

Of all the pieces here, “The Death of Odysseus” is the one I return to and ponder. It is a subtle piece for guitar and strings that yet packs a hefty emotional weight. The removal of big melodic moves and overt compositional tactics lets the feeling shine through. It’s a piece that remains hopeful in the midst of sorrow, even the grief of death. Hope in mourning is something many of us (I mean, me) need reminders of right now.

Start Somewhere admirably displays Andrew Yarovenko’s ability to elegantly capture moods in traditional and adventurous composition types. The collection holds together well over its whole run time, even with the variety of different feels and approaches here. Those looking for beauty and hope amid evocative pieces will do well to look in Yarovenko’s direction. Highly recommended.